Believe it or not, USA Dance held dance competitions for many years before there was even an official DanceSport Rulebook to govern those competitions. But what led to the development of the first Rulebook and how did it come about?
A lot of the history revolves around my own local chapter, the Nor Cal Chapter #4004. Back in the 1980’s, USA Dance competitors were largely unaware of many of the rules governing their sport, which in my local chapter were affectionately known as the “stealth rules” because they were provided to chapters by our national organization in loose-leaf form only for information and not for enforcement. For example, competitors generally followed the practice of moving up to the next level of competition once they had won a lower level division three times and/or had placed in the finals of a higher level division, or any combination of the two. Because this unofficial format was not provided in writing to all competitors, enforcement did not exist and as expected some competitors did not adhere to this policy. The Nor Cal Chapter had a DanceSport member, Mr. Jose Mandawe, who made a point of remembering and compiling results from a number of competitions and expressing concern when any competitive couple tried to stay in a lower proficiency level for too long. Yet there were no teeth to compel a couple to move up, creating discord and misunderstandings among competitors.
Two Nor Cal Chapter members, Art Lashbrook, then the chapter Secretary, and my husband, Mark Scardina, then the Assistant Regional Vice President for the Southwest Region, went to National President Peter Pover and offered to write a DanceSport Rulebook that could be approved by the Governing Council and sent to all competitors. Peter agreed to let them try to develop that first rulebook, but told me some time later that he did so never thinking that they would actually succeed, given what a complicated task it was.
But Art and Mark threw themselves into the task, reviewing everything in writing they could find on DanceSport competitions, nationally and internationally, as well as provisions in the rulebooks of other artistic sports. Mark and I met Art for lunch one day while they were in the midst of their project, and they engaged in one of the most free-flowing brain storming sessions I had ever seen, and led me to conclude as Peter Pover had, that nothing cogent could come out of this overloaded flurry of ideas. But soon, these ideas would be put on paper, and over the course of several months a DanceSport Rulebook began to emerge that was logical, consistent and included technical rules of competition, rules for competitors, rules for organizers and rules for competition officials.
This proposed Rulebook was taken to the Governing Council in 1993 and was approved. Copies were then printed and mailed to every competitor member of USA Dance. Shortly afterward, Mark was appointed as the first Chairman of the DanceSport Council and Art as Chair of the Rules Committee. They continued to develop and expand the Rulebook for the next five years, and it was during those years that the USA Dance bylaws were entirely re-written by the Executive Committee in order to comply with the USOC Constitution and the Amateur Sports Act, the position of Chairman of the DSC became Vice President of DanceSport, and the first group of DanceSport Delegates were elected by the athlete members of USA Dance.
After Art and Mark left the DanceSport Council in 1999, the revision and expansion of the Rulebook fell to the next Vice President of DanceSport, Gary Stroick, and remained his responsibility through the end of 2006, after which Ken Richards assumed that role, one he holds to this day.
And what are Art and Mark doing today? Art, who moved to the San Diego area not long after his work on that first Rulebook, helped to revitalize the San Diego Chapter of USA Dance and served for many years as its president, and remains a very active chapter volunteer to this day. And Mark has continued to do national and chapter projects for USA Dance as needed, and has recently accepted a vacant position on the Nor Cal Chapter Board. Which just goes to show that for both of them, once a USA Dance volunteer, always a USA Dance volunteer.
One final note on that first DanceSport Rulebook that Art and Mark developed so many years ago – it was only about fifty pages, and in the intervening years has grown to over twice that size today. But many of the key provisions from that original Rulebook still remain, and serve as a testament to the hard work and dedication of the two volunteers who took on a project no one else wanted to tackle and brought it to fruition.
I have received these comments from Art Lashbrook regarding my post above:
“What a wonderful tribute to our effort! Ahh yes.. the Stealth Rules! I didn’t realize that Peter didn’t think we would do it. I never had any doubt.
What was missing from your account was the hostile environment at the time which fueled the deep passion for amateur rights and protection which drove me. The rulebook was very much of a “Declaration of Independence” in my mind and the Rules Committee’s work was like the “First Amendments to the Constitution” for Amateur Competitors.
It is so gratifying that our efforts helped to provide a level of legitimacy which was part of creating the USA Dance of today. Also gratifying was when the Pros copied some sections of our rulebook into theirs.”
And this further comment from Art: “…the rulebook didn’t happen because someone thought it was a good idea… there was deep passion to create a dream!”
I thank Art for his comments, and for all he has done for USA Dance.