Interview with NDCA President Brian McDonald: Part One
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
In early 2019, the PDF formed the “Education Department”, a department of our organization designed to help educate our members about various subjects and important aspects of our industry. As an Affiliate Member of the NDCA, we represent professional dancers by attending all NDCA meetings and voicing the opinions of our members. As a result, we frequently find ourselves in the position of trying to help our members understand how the council works and why some of the issues discussed at the council meetings turn out the way they do.
Therefore, for our first article and interview, we wanted to sit down and speak with the President of the NDCA, Mr. Brian McDonald. Upon graciously accepting our invitation, PDF member Maria Hansen had a great conversation about the structure of the NDCA, and dug into many of the misconceptions, misunderstanding, and rumors that tend to get circulated about. Our goal in this interview was to help bridge the gap between the NDCA registrants and the council members, themselves. Maria found Brian to be very open about his thoughts and she enjoyed the conversation very much. The conversation was so helpful in clarifying what is happening currently in our dance world, and what can be done to tackle many of these misconceptions.
The interview ended up being quite long and extensive, so we’ve taken the liberty of breaking it up into more sizeable chunks. In Part One, Maria and Brian discussed the role that the NDCA and those sitting on the Council actually do for its members:
Maria: What exactly does the NDCA do for dancers?
Brian: Over the years, the NDCA has built and structured a system wherein the standards and practices of [dance] events can be assured. What does this do?
1. Customers can feel comfortable knowing how [dance events] will run, who will run them, and most importantly, what rules will be applied and how they work. They know that their teachers is registered with the NDCA and [can be] held accountable. They know that they will receive their scholarships, have good changing rooms, water available, invigilated categories, a good sized dance floor, and qualified and registered judges and officials.
2. The NDCA maintains a roster of qualified… NDCA-examined adjudicators and makes this list available to all sanctioned organizers, giving event organizers the ability to find qualified adjudicators.
3. The NDCA maintains a strong calendar to ensure all of its sanctioned events have a level playing field. The distribution of the rulebook and limitation in the number of events has allowed sanctioned events to become very valuable. If the calendar was not maintained in this way and the number of events not restricted, the value of these events would be severely limited.
4. The NDCA qualifies teachers as well. Qualified teachers have improved their credentials as shown on the NDCA roster, thus allowing students to [be able to] find them.
5. Scholarships! The NDCA donates over $60,000 annually to Youth, Amateur, and Professional dancers who represent the USA overseas.
6. [We have a] Grievance and Disciplinary Committee. The NDCA Grievance and Disciplinary Committee resolves complaints such as students whose teachers have not provided what was paid for, vendors who didn’t deliver the merchandise as contracted, teachers owing fees to sanctioned events… the list is endless and even includes dealing with predators, which is a very important one.
7. The Competitors Commission: the CC administers to the concerns of the competitors, whether professional, amateur, or pro/am students. It has been remarkably successful in bringing forward new legislation to help our registered dancers. Anyone can bring their issues to the CC chairman or any CC member and it will be taken up and resolved.
8. The NDCA powerfully represents our competitors who dance abroad and fights strenuously for their rights and vigorously defends our organizers from outside attack. Let me elaborate on this one.
Very recently, one of our major top competitors in the ballroom division, they make the top six… I won’t mention their names, but they had an incident where they were in an accident on the dance floor and then competed to represent the USA in a World event. The NDCA is a member of WADA (the World Anti-Doping Authority) through the WDC (the World Dance Council)…. At random, certain competitors are selected to be tested by a professional doctor and [tests are sent to a] professional laboratory. This particular professional was tested and regrettably was found positive for a substance that was not allowed. We fought strongly for that person at the WDC meeting because the WADA rules are extremely [strict] when it comes to penalties for someone like that. Now, in fairness to the competitor involved, the banned substance was not listed on the box of medicine that she took for her injury. Now, WADA penalized this person by removing their result from the final, by removing them and insisting that the prize money be returned and a 2-year suspension from all events. And normally it’s 4 years! WADA oversee many different sports. Now, I went ballistic and said that there was no way that I was going to support that and…no way that I would allow someone’s professional career to be affected in this manner. As a result, the Board of Directors of the WDC agreed with me and have withdrawn their membership [of the WDC] from WADA, but will continue to do anti-doping under the same system as WADA, with the same doctor, the same professor; but I managed to get the penalty reduced to… yes, the result would be null and void and the prize money returned, but the suspension was reduced to 6 months back-dated to the time of the incident, and this couple is now able to dance.
So, that’s a good example of what we do for our competitors.
In addition, I think [this is] very important for [competition] organizers; it came to my attention last year at Blackpool that a new organization had been founded by several overseas international events wanting to run the World Pro/Am Series. I immediately approached the individuals involved and explained to them that in America, for 19 years, we have had World Pro/Am Series with over 90 events involved in it and it is a trademark here in the USA. I explained it would create a major problem for us and for them. On my return, I spoke to Sam Sodano and John DePalma about this and as a result, I received telephone calls for these major events in England and elsewhere apologizing and immediately changing the name for World Pro/Am Series to another name. So that is a way of looking after the interests of our organizers.
I summarize by saying that the NDCA provides quality events with a level playing field. It is watched over and administered by a group of experienced people who are, or have been, champion dancers, pro/am teachers, competitors and organizers. These professionals work extremely hard to ensure that every dancer has the best experience.
Maria: Brian, how long have you been president of the NDCA?
Brian: To give you a background, I first got elected into office as a Vice President in 1988 and I was been an elected officer ever since. I became president in 1993, I’ve been 25 years president of the council and 6 years before that as the Vice President. So 31 years as an elected officer.
Maria: Wow! That’s amazing!
Brian: Every two years, there is an election and to be honest with you… I tried to, in the past, to step down, but I was encouraged not to. And right now, it’s become a very very big job because I am also Vice President of the World Dance Council. I served four years as the First Dancesport Chairman of the World Dance Council, I served six years as the Vice President of the WDC under Karl Broer, I served under Robin Short and now, I have been 9 years Vice President under Donnie Burns. So I’ve been over 20 years as Vice President of the WDC, as well.
But my main goal, individually… my whole life I’ve been going to the council meetings since 1979… that’s 40 years! My sole goal has been to work for and on behalf of the USA. That’s why, when I immigrated here, I started the PDF in 1979. The first people on the committee were Jeanette Ball, Stephen Cullip… that goes back a long ways!
Maria: It sure does! So Brian, the reason that I asked how long you have been president is because I remember that way back, when I was taking lessons with you, you were always busy with NDCA business. But now, it seems like there is just so much more that you have to take care of.
Brian: Yes, the NDCA has really become a full time job. I love to teach dancing… I always have… but this has become 7 days a week; this is the job. I don’t get a salary, I get a stipend. I have to say that on the behalf of the Executive Board – Judy, Tom, Denis, Cassandra, Lee – these people work incredible amounts of time on behalf of the Council. And it’s a fantastic team of people with great experience. They ensure, at all costs, that we take care of our people at home and look after the interests of our dancers, teachers, competitors, and organizers.
Maria: That’s kind of where I was going with my question. It just seems, at least to my eye, that the NDCA has brought us to be more at the forefront as to what is going on in the world.
Brian: Yes, that’s true. During these times, I go to Blackpool, but I never get to really watch dancing because I literally have almost two weeks of meetings there. But the truth is, you have to look at the NDCA – and this is really what people should be proud of – the NDCA is one of the oldest dance councils in the world. It was formed in 1948 – two years BEFORE the formation of the WDC! When I immigrated here in 1977, I think there were only about 20 events in the USA. Now, we have almost 150, and the world is following the example of the NDCA and the pro/am divisions and using our rules, which
helps conformity through the world in pro/am divisions.
That's all for this week! Don’t forget to read Part Two of this great interview with Brian McDonald, in which we take a look at the direction of our dance industry, and where we dig deeply into the voting system of the NDCA.