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As the Vice-President responsible for development at the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), Antoni Czyzyk has had his hands full since being elected to the role in 2017.

Over the last three years, Czyzyk has overseen work on a variety of projects aimed at driving DanceSport forward while adapting to new circumstances and opportunities. These include the strengthening of ties with the Special Olympics, a proposed new tournament format for couples outside the World Top 50, and the creation of a new evaluation system for American Smooth, among others.

Czyzyk is deeply committed to the assignment, which he says is vital for the WDSF as a modern, forward-thinking member of the Olympic Movement.

“[Innovation and development are] very important for a world federation, a member of the Olympic Movement,” he says. “We must not only take care of the development of the WDSF and DanceSport, but also react to what is happening in the world, and above all in the world of sports.

“We have to think about how to develop our discipline, how to adapt it to what our audience, athletes and dance enthusiasts expect from us,” Czyzyk continues. “It is also necessary to listen to the needs of our members, athletes and adjudicators … and to create new competition formats, to improve the competition rules, the adjudicating system, in other words everything that not only develops our discipline, but also makes it more interesting and accessible to society.”

One such project is the WDSF DanceSport Proficiency Test (WDSF DSPT), which is aimed at providing students just starting out in DanceSport with a clear pathway to move beyond the social dance level.

Developed in conjunction with select federations, trainers and instructors, including DanceSport Australia President Gordon Gilkes, the programme is the only sports-based examination and training system fully developed and endorsed by the WDSF. The formal, coordinated programme will be directly managed by the WDSF DanceSport Academy and overseen by the WDSF Presidium to ensure efficiency, transparency and the highest level of professional ethics.

“The DSPT is a grading system whereby the student will work towards official recognition of the standard of performance they are looking to achieve,” Czyzyk says. “Beyond that it also challenges the student to work harder to reach a higher technical grade. Through these tests, the student gains confidence to perform in a controlled environment and be more prepared to progress as a competitor in DanceSport.”

The structure of the exam embodies the WDSF syllabus figures in different levels, from basic to pre-competition levels. Participants can start with a solo routine and advance progressively to dancing a competitive routine. The series of tests are the perfect preparation for any student looking to embark on an exciting journey as a WDSF DanceSport athlete.

The WDSF DSPT levels can be used as curriculum or as training guidelines at dance schools and clubs. To assist with this, the WDSF is currently preparing two marketing booklets intended for distribution to studios. The first is for teachers and outlines the medal system, suggested choreography, and the purpose of the proficiency tests. The second is designed for students, providing them with clear guidelines and encouragement to achieve their goals.

“We want to create a feedback mechanism at the same time,” Czyzyk says. “This will allow us to monitor the functioning of the system and, if necessary, make necessary corrections or improvements.”

The DSPT will initially be rolled out in Europe, but Czyzyk says he wants to see it adapted by as many NMBs as possible, all around the world.

The programme was intended to be introduced this year, but the launch was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Czyzyk, however, remains optimistic: “I would like the system to start as soon as possible. I had planned for it to be ready by this year’s WDSF Annual General Meeting (originally scheduled for June in Belgrade before being cancelled), but the pandemic situation has changed those plans,” he says.

“We all had to focus on how to function and achieve our goals in the new reality. I hope the system will be ready for implementation in the second half of the year.”

There is no doubt that the coronavirus has impeded WDSF operations this year, but it is also clear that the federation continues to work daily to ensure that DanceSport is forever moving forward.

And that is in no small part due to the heavy emphasis it places on development and innovation.