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  • Writer's pictureKora Stoynova

Interview with Brian McDonald Part Three

Finally, the last installment of this great and informative interview with NDCA president Brian McDonald! In Part One, Brian and Maria started off by chatting about the history of the NDCA, as well as the history of Brian’s involvement with the organization. If you haven’t read Part One yet, make sure you check that out as well.

In Part Two, Brian and Maria dug into the structure of the NDCA, and how the voting structure works. If you missed that part, make sure you read it here. But that wasn’t quite deep enough. Maria wanted to get deeper, and also get a sense for how the NDCA sees its role in the 21st century:

Maria: Do you think the structure of the NDCA makes sense today? For example: is there a need for more Member Organizations in the future or should existing Member Organizations be scrutinized more closely on actual involvement [or] member of registrants and possibly that number be reduced? In other words, what is better? More Member Organizations or less bigger ones? Or is the way that it is set up now satisfactory?

Brian: I don’t really know how to answer that….

Maria: Let me explain where that question comes from, actually… and you’ve already kind of answered it with the explanation on the voting structure. I think that one of the things people were having issues with was the idea that some members would have 6 votes and others would have 1 and sometimes it seemed like the members with the largest votes didn’t even have to follow the rules that were passed for an NDCA sanctioned event. For instance, when I went to judge a Fred Astaire event, I was surprised that female teachers were allowed to dance with female students, which is not allowed in an NDCA sanctioned event. But they have 6 votes compared with NADOA, which represents all competition organizers, who only have 1 vote.

Brian: Yes, Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray run closed events with their own rules and structures… yes, they do. Why do they sit at Council and have votes like that? They sit there because many of their couples, many of them, dance outside at NDCA events. Not all of them, but many of them do. And at the same time, we do try to encourage Murrays and Fred Astaires and on many occasions, they do adopt a lot of our rules into their closed events. But at the same time, they are private organizations and they run closed events and have their own set of rules for those closed events. But they don’t allow outside people to dance in their closed events, only their staff members. So yeah… there is a difference, but the structure has always been like that, for a Full Membership you would have like 200+ members and then apply for a Full Membership and certainly have to qualify and certify qualified people, and we had to oversee the syllabus and how you qualify people and approve it. And we have done that with Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray.

Maria: Yes… and I noticed that the votes were changed for organizations that didn’t really have as many members like Boston Teachers, etc, so now they don’t have as much voting power.

Brian: Yes, it was changed a number of years ago. I’m trying to remember why it went up to 6 votes for Full Members and 4 for Associates. It was only there for maybe two years and then it went back. It just didn’t work out properly, so we just reverted back to what had been there before and that’s what the Council voted on. And you have to remember too, and what is confusing to many individuals: the NDCA, just like the World Dance Council, and just like many dance councils throughout the world, does not have individual membership. We are an organization of organizations. The organizations have individual membership. We apply licensing based on rules and so on that the organizations have agreed to for their members. A lot of people don’t realize that. And to be honest with you, I think it’s the best system going. I really do.

Maria: I do think that this is exactly one of the biggest misconceptions of the NDCA. People think it’s just an individual, or individuals, making decisions and they don’t realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with one individual… it’s the Member Organizations that have the votes.

Brian: I think to finish off on the original question to whether the structure of the NDCA makes sense today is this: the NDCA is not limited and every organization to apply for membership is given due consideration to its qualification to be a member and what it can bring to the table. For instance, when Dance Vision came along, they started as an Associate Member and built up to become a Full Member. Wayne [Eng] and Dance Vision is a good example of this.

Maria: Where do you think the disconnect is between what the NDCA does for our industry and what people think they do?

Brian: Well, to be really frank, people do not read! They are so used to having information fed to them on their phones that they do not read and ask questions of the people who would know the answer. Instead, they listen to anyone who says anything, and especially if it’s negative! Also, in today’s world, anyone can say anything without a single shred of truth or foundation. And the NDCA is very often the recipient of such attention. That is really the truth.

Maria: I agree with you. And then it’s like a band wagon starts.

Brian: With social media, that’s the truth with our whole lives today. It’s sad….

Maria: What will help to change any misconceptions?

Brian: A major miracle….

(both start to laugh)

Maria: Well, hopefully this interview will help. I think education is important!

Brian: We have tried. I’ve gotten on social media, but when I saw how it was going, all the gossip and everything, I just felt that I didn’t want to be obligated to do that. I know that’s the way of the future, but it bothers me.

I think there is nothing wrong with some of your members coming forward, posing questions, putting them on the agenda, having them properly answered, and if not answered, then brought to the table again at the next meeting to find out what we can do.

I think one of the things that might be interested for you, it might be old hat and not mean anything, but we did publish a history of the NDCA starting from the beginning, and if you remember, we used to have a journal. Curt Holman used to do that on a monthly or bi-monthly basis and send that out to every registrant. But to be frank with you, again, people don’t read. They get so much documentation of dance competitions and advertisements. I remember my first term as president when I took over from Vincent Bulger… I was Vice President under Vincent and then became President. I thought, I am going to get people a copy of everything, everything! And I did. And then, when the meeting was over, I got up and they were walking out, and I looked and half the stuff was lying on the floor under the table. They never took it with them and it shocked me, and that’s going back to the ‘90s! I hate to sound this way, but generally, people in life are only interested when thing affect them personally and then they get involved.

Maria: That’s so true.

Brian: But the NDCA is not about that. The NDCA is about helping everybody in the dance world as best we can and try to encourage everyone to belong to the NDCA because it is a good body. I think it is the best one in the world… and I have sat in meetings with 60 different countries and when you talk about body structure…. How would you feel about Israel having 4 members and having the same vote as the USA? It’s what you brought up about the difference between Affiliate and Full Members. One has 4 and one has thousands!

Maria: Yes….

Brian: A lot of the world follows our lead. The British Dance Council, on three different occasions, asked for a copy of our rulebook, which we gave to them. I think you, and every professional in this country that has been involved as a competitor, a teacher, a judge, or an organizer, should be very very proud of the way dancing in the USA has developed and continues to develop. The success we have with so many great dancers, great events here in the USA… I think it’s fantastic. It’s something we should all stick our chests out and say, “Hey, great!”

Maria: That’s right, I agree!

Brian: By all means, have different opinions. Agree and disagree. That’s good! It’s healthy. So there you go!

Maria: I really appreciate your time, Brian!

Brian: No worries… hopefully as time goes on you will get this interview written up and then you can use it and get more of what you need.

Maria: Yes… and hopefully people will read!

Brian: Yes, I guess a lot of it is people not knowing and I understand that. But I’ve tried over many, many years to find a solution to that problem and there is no easy solution to it. I just want people to know that the NDCA works on their behalf and we do the very best we can.

Maria: Thank you so much, Brian!

As the Education Department of the PDF, we do hope to catch up with Brian again in the future. If you have any particular questions you would like us to ask him during our next interview, please let us know! Our goal is to spread education throughout our ranks, so the more questions you have, the more able we are to spread clarity amongst the professional dancers of our industry.

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