Response to USA Dance National Championships

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Letter to the Editor: Re. USA Dance National Championships

The following letter to the editor from Ken Richards, a former President of USA Dance, is in response to an article on the USA Dance National Championships 2018 by Susan Silva.

(You can read this article here).  Also included is a response  to this letter from Gary Stroik & Michael Murphy on behalf of the USA Dance Governing Council.

May 24, 2018

Dear Dance Beat Editors:

I submit the following detailed response to the closing paragraphs of the recent article published online by Susan Silva, in her coverage of the 2018 USA Dance National DanceSport Championships. I believe I am the most qualified person to respond as I ran the USA Dance DanceSport program during the time of the spilt between the NDCA and USA Dance.
I also note that prior to this article, Ms. Silva, wrote a two-page spread interview with the current President of USA Dance after he assumed office on the resignation of Glenn Weiss.  (Read this article here) Soon thereafter, she was hired to judge Nationals (without any previous judging experience inside USA Dance) and given a new position, that was not openly advertised, as the Chair of the new Theatrical Dancesport Committee.

While I was certainly opposed to the actions of many years ago by the NDCA and fought to keep the longstanding cooperative relationship we enjoyed for many years, I also never used words like “war” to describe what transpired. I also know firsthand the issues with which the NDCA leadership was dealing, for example: an attempt by the WDSF leadership to change the minutes to a meeting with the NDCA leadership and the WDSF’s insistence on modifying an existing agreement over the Grand Slam in the USA. Both of these were major catalyst to what followed and Ms. Silva has none of this perspective.

I don’t feel the narrative about the letter Ms. Silva received from the NDCA serves any purpose in either healing wounds or allowing the two organizations to move forward. She should not be surprised that the NDCA followed their rules, the same as they did with many that came before. She was not “threatened”, she was informed of the consequences of breaking the rules she previously agreed to abide by. If she wanted to avoid this, she should have resigned her registration with the NDCA in advance of accepting a judging job with another organization.
Ms. Silva and for that matter Melissa Dexter, Giacomo Steccaglia, Maya Serve, and a few others have jumped over to USA Dance for the promise of work and positions not afforded to them in the NDCA. They were not supportive of USA Dance when the issues were happening. They were not vocal, took no stance or lobbied their member bodies for change. In fact, some even resigned from USA Dance to stay active in the NDCA.

USA Dance survived through the efforts of the Board, a number of loyal adjudicators and coaches and the WDSF Adjudicator Licensing program. Together these people rebuilt the stable of USA Dance Licensed Adjudicators. Sadly, many of these same people are now ignored for a group of people that recently became members. These new members were immediately given jobs judging nationals, chairing committees, acting as national team coach and promoted as premier coaches during company sanctioned training camps.
Glenn Weiss launched the professional division in 2017 and stated that USA Dance was a competing organization to all others. Instead of building a program as an alternative or parallel organization to the NDCA, they jumped into a position of control of all our competitions and kicked off their first activity by running six National Professional Titles. There was only a total of 8 couples competing for those six titles, not something to brag about in my opinion. Nevertheless, it was certainly something that takes the attention off the Amateur Division and the Social Dancers, while driving a renewed wedge between two organizations that were finally co-existing again.

As for some historical clarification for Ms. Silva and your readers, USA Dance spent over $10k on lawyers chasing the antitrust angle of this argument. It went no place because the NDCA has a clear different position in its structure that was not worth challenging. Why mention what you think and then follow that by saying it’s not your fight. Best of luck to Ms. Silva in her new choice – but in the future and for the sake of the athletes, please keep divisive sentiments, politics and self-promotion out of your competition reviews, if you are sincerely interested in helping to reunite our industry.

PS – I would be more than happy to elaborate on what really happened with the WDSF meeting and between the NDCA and USA Dance during a time the WDSF was pursuing banning policies and developing its Professional Division.


Ken Richards
Former DanceSport-VP & President of USA Dance
WDSF Examiner
Licentiate USISTD
Studio Owner

The following is a response to Mr. Richards from Gary Stroik, current President of USA Dance.

Dear Editors,

Ms. Silva and Mr. Richards are both welcome to their personal opinions.  However, Mr. Richards’ comments depart from a response to Ms. Silva’s views, and devolve into a disagreement with the current direction of USA Dance.  A few facts should put Mr. Richards’ comments in perspective.

In the period of 2012-2016, Mr. Richards held the roles of USA Dance’s Vice-President of DanceSport, Senior Vice President, and ultimately President.  During this same period, USA Dance saw a decline in membership of over 30%.  Similarly, the number of USA Dance National Qualifying Events declined from a high of thirteen in 2012 to a low of eight in 2016.  This trend called for a drastic change.  Change is not always easy.

Fortunately, many changes implemented since the beginning of 2017 have been effective.  The number of NQEs is now increasing, with ten scheduled for 2018, and twelve anticipated in 2019.  There are also new registered events on the competition calendar, and we are currently aware of six dance camps scheduled for 2018.  To support social dancers at the chapter level, the new administration led a membership drive in 2017, and has instituted policies to increase engagement between local chapters, athletes, and professionals.  While one chapter disbanded this past year, at least two new chapters have been formed.  Similarly, since adding a professional division, USA Dance’s roster of adjudicators has significantly increased.  These are signs of an organization moving in the right direction.

Mr. Richards states that Ms. Silva, Melissa Dexter, Giacomo Steccaglia, Maja Servé, and unidentified others joined USA Dance for the promise of work and positions – with the implication that this alleged promise included compensation.  This is untrue.  USA Dance is a volunteer organization and does not pay people for their work on USA Dance’s various councils or committees.

Mr. Richards implication that Ms. Silva obtained an adjudication position at the USA Dance National DanceSport Championships due to her publication of an interview in Dance Beat is untrue, offensive, and shows Mr. Richards’ desire to undermine the current USA Dance administration rather than obtain the facts about a situation. To set the record straight Ms. Silva volunteered her adjudication and workshop services (i.e., she was not hired or paid for her services) to the USA Dance National DanceSport Championships in order to assist USA Dance in building the Cabaret and Theater Arts styles of dance which had been eliminated under Mr. Richards leadership as USA Dance DanceSport VP.  Moreover, Ms. Silva was a Professional Cabaret, Theatrical, and American Smooth Champion who has vast experience judging competitions as well as her Licentiate in Standard, Latin, Smooth, Rhythm, and Theater Arts.

Further, Mr. Richards’ suggestion that adjudication and coaching work should go to “loyal adjudicators and coaches” is contrary to the values of USA Dance.  USA Dance is an open organization that strongly supports freedom to dance for all its members, does not require a loyalty oath of social dancers, athletes, or adjudicators, and USA Dance does not penalize members for dancing, coaching or adjudicating in other organizations.  That Ms. Silva, Ms. Dexter, Ms. Servé and Mr. Steccaglia may have been invited to adjudicate USA Dance competitions, coach at dance camps, and/or provide unpaid work for USA Dance administrative committees is based upon their experience and expertise.  As mentioned above, Ms. Silva was a Professional Cabaret National Champion and is an experienced adjudicator.  Ms. Servé was a Professional Standard World Finalist, has coached top competitive couples and Olympic athletes, and has judged many competitions, including World Championship events; Ms. Dexter and Mr. Steccaglia were Professional Latin World Finalists, have coached national and world champions, and have judged competitions around the world, including World Championship events.  Their involvement in USA Dance strengthens the entire organization.

Mr. Richards carps that USA Dance’s first Professional National Titles were too small.  However, one must start somewhere.  Creating a professional competitive category provides a place for high-level amateur dancers to move up while continuing to participate in USA Dance.  USA Dance’s professional events offer bona fide National Titles from a US Olympic Committee recognized organization, and some competitors may go on to compete in world title events.  We expect the professional events will grow, and that professional competitors will interact with amateur athletes and local chapters.  This will strengthen the entire organization.

Contrary to Mr. Richards’ suggestion, the new professional division is not removing attention from amateur athletes or social dancers.  USA Dance amended its Bylaws to strengthen the structure of the Social Dance Council, social dancers and amateur athletes make up the vast majority of USA Dance’s Governing Council, a membership drive was held that returned a percentage of membership dues to local chapters, and members of the professional division are already supporting and interacting with amateur athletes and local chapters.

We view the goal of the current administration as building an integrated organization where all divisions are engaged and mutually support each other.  This will take time and effort to accomplish, but it will ultimately provide more opportunities for members to dance, coaches to coach, and adjudicators to judge.  While we, and others on USA Dance’s Governing Council, believe that improved cooperation with other dance organizations is in the best interests of all, USA Dance cannot refuse to move forward because of the fear that positive steps for USA Dance’s members will displease other organizations.  Dwelling on the actions[1] and concerns of other organizations will not advance the interests of USA Dance or its members.


Gary Stroick                                                         Michael Murphy

President                                                             Current member of USA Dance’s DanceSport Council

USA Dance, Inc.                                                   Collegiate Committee and Senior Advocacy Committee


On behalf of the USA Dance Governing Council


[1] Mr. Richards is not an attorney, and we will leave it for those better versed in the law to decide whether Ms. Silva’s description of anticompetitive activity or Mr. Richards statement of alleged structural differences is more consistent with the goals and operation of antitrust law.

  • Report by:: Ken Richards + a respnse from Gary Stroik

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