Exhibition of DanceSport at 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto
With endless arguments between DanceSport’s governing bodies, over the fact of wether competitive dancesport should or should not be at the Olympics, the demeanour of dancers, who dreamed of one day having to stand on the olympic podium, has been drastically falling. But, with recent turn of events, even though it was not on the same scale as the Olympics, the producers of 2015 Pan American Games have decided to include competitive dancesport into the closing ceremony. Slava Yedlin, a managing director for OLSI DanceSport, had a chance to view it all: from backstage, to the spectator’s seats. And this is his experience:
TOGETHER WE ARE ONE – MY PAN AM GAMES CLOSING CEREMONY
TOGETHER WE ARE ONE – Was the motto of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. When the organizing committee unveiled this motto I didn’t really take much notice to it, but now I really understand how important these words are. Over the past few months I had a chance and privilege of experiencing what it really means to be one – one team, one show, and one city.
I know that some people might think the name at the bottom of this contribution is rather familiar to the ballroom dance world. Yes, Oleg Yedlin is my father. However, I promise you, this “journal” will be a reflection of somewhat of a passenger and a spectator to this incredible ride that I have had a pleasure to experience.
So, let’s begin.
A few months ago OLSI DanceSport dancers and their coach Oleg Yedlin have received a request, a personal invitation actually, to see if they would be interested in taking part in the closing ceremony for the 2015 Pan Am games. This would be something great for us as a team, and of course, our sport as a whole. We are DanceSport, and since this is a sporting event, I figured: If we cannot be involved in the actual games yet, this would be the next best thing.
The producers of this show chose to include DanceSport as a cultural component of the closing ceremonies. It was an acknowledgement and an understanding that, everything we do is worthy of a sporting event. Our craft will have the stage for nearly 2 minutes. This means, for 2 minutes the whole world will see and understand – DanceSport is important and it is here to stay.
Most importantly, in my opinion, is the fact that it is inclusive. People of all backgrounds, genders, and physical abilities are being represented. We were made aware that a group of wheelchair dancers would also be on stage with us. But, besides the fact that this is remarkable, it is truly inspirational to observe the will and capability of the human body. The beginning of a journey that lasted several months opened my eyes to a level of professionalism and creativity I have not seen in a very long time. It showed me the vastness of talent of our team of dancers, and Oleg’s precision, as their coach and leader.
The request from the directors was a “Flashy, formation style tango routine”, set to a specific piece of music that was created for the closing show. The challenge is that, this would need be choreographed and danced on two stages. But, what seemed even more challenging, at least to me, was taking 6 top couples, who are each individually very strong but yet very-VERY different, and putting them all together in sync. Even though each couple brings years of experience and training, they were never part of a formation team per se.
Watching everything come together was phenomenal! Seeing a person, with decades of experience, take a group of strong individuals and make them a single formation. Each of these couples instantly understood that they are a piece of a one single unit and they all took it very seriously. All were organized, professional, and responsible. It is rare to see people so different work together so well in such short amount of time.
With the dancers being busy dancing, and Oleg being busy putting it all together while teaching, judging and everything else, I was giving the role of keeping in touch with Pan Am’s team of organizers. This is where my education began. I believe, this was one of the first times in my life where I have seen such a huge production run so professionally. It was like a machine! Every single person was a gear and everyone knew, more importantly felt and was made to believe, that without him or her, this machine would not work. There were no egos, there was no showing off or “pulling rank”, and everyone was in this together to put on the best show possible. If my count is correct there were over 500 dancers and performers in this show, not to mention, the army of makeup artists and show support.
So, our studio was just one small part of a huge puzzle. There was nearly a dozen “Cultural Groups”, which is what they called us, as we were each to be a representation of the multiculturalism of Toronto. In addition, there were probably another 100-200 core dancers, which were the “fabric” that tied all the cultures together. At first, in my mind I was thinking, “Ok, everyone has a little bit of time, we just go out there do our thing and it’s done”. Boy, was I wrong. Having 300+ dancers fit together, create seamless transitions, match all costumes and have the music blended and have the costumes all match was unbelievable.
All that being said, the thing that stayed with me the most, were the two final days – The dress rehearsal and the show itself. It was the energy; it was the complete and udder positivity of everyone. This is something I have not felt from an event in a while. Everyone was happy to include everyone in everything.
If I “point form” the things I took away from this whole journey, and believe me I can write another 10 contributions like this one and it would still not be enough to describe this experience, they would be this:
• [highlight]Talent recognizes talent![/highlight] – People will want to work with you and believe in you if you believe in them too.
• [highlight]DanceSport is impressive, important and difficult![/highlight] – When a show this huge decides to include us as an industry in it, that means we are credible and worthy of such inclusion.
• [highlight]It takes a village![/highlight] – This is something I heard often from various people during this production, something great, and memorable will only be achieved if it is worked at together, without hesitation or frailty, but together and with perseverance.
• [highlight]Energy![/highlight] – It is so important. If the energy is great, people will be happy to work with you.
To summarize, being part of the closing ceremonies for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto was a huge honor and privilege. We got to experience working with some of the most talented people in the city, the country, and the world. Our sport was represented. Be it even for 2 minutes as a part of a bigger show, but we were there. We got a chance to show the world what DanceSport is all about. Finally, this was an education in what it takes to put together something huge. OUR sport was part of this huge event! Some people may say that it does not belong or shouldn’t belong there. To that I say – it DOES belong and MUST belong!
Each and every DanceSport dancer, at any level, age or gender, is important! I enjoyed my experience and I would do it again a thousand times. Not because I got to see our team on the stage, but because I got to see the industry I love presented on a global scale with the credibility it really deserves. And this is exactly why – “Together We Are One.”
And now, to the opening ceremony of the 2015 Para Pan Am Games.