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If you’re in need of a pep talk during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is arguably nobody in the DanceSport community more appropriate to speak to than recently retired dancer Ashli Williamson.
She remains as effervescent as ever despite the negative impact of coronavirus on her work as Chair of the WDSF Athletes’ Commission and as a dance instructor in Denmark, and she has plenty of good advice to share with anyone struggling with too much time on their hands.
Read on to discover what Ashli has been getting up to under lockdown and her tips for coping. We’re sure you’ll be as invigorated by her responses as we were!
How has COVID-19 affected the work of the WDSF Athletes’ Commission?
It has affected it a lot. All of the meetings where we have opportunities to get things changed within the WDSF have been postponed until further notice. This means we have become more of a source of information to the athletes instead of trying to improve the ongoing system (adjudication, scrutineering, competition rules and regulations, organizational issues, etc.). And as all competitions have been postponed and there is no possibility of travel to meet and continue our development, our work has been delayed a bit. It's difficult to speak about competition rules when the survival of your family is the most important thing on the agenda, either in the form of health and well-being or economic existence. This time has made people realize what is important in life. It has also reminded us why we love DanceSport: because we love dancing.
What has been the biggest setback brought about by COVID-19, and how are you attempting to overcome this?
One setback we have had is the cancellation of both the Sports Commission meetings and the 2020 Annual General Meeting. Of course we understand completely and know that it could not be any different, but it is still a difficult time for everyone. Another issue is the effect that it is having on the dancers all around the world. As we are hearing, it is very difficult for everyone to maintain their motivation to do their exercises, stay in shape and practice their technique, just to name a few. In many countries we do not even know when things will open up again and this creates a huge mental challenge as many dancers can stay motivated for a certain period of time, but when that period keeps getting extended it's difficult to sustain the motivation.
What are the top priorities for the Athletes’ Commission during the pandemic, and what are the main tasks to tackle once things return to normal?
Our main priority in this period is to stay safe and to help as much as we can the dancers from our region (the region or discipline we are representing). We have regular Skype meetings so the whole Commission is informed of the decisions of the WDSF Presidium, so they too can pass the word along to their respective athletes.
You recently retired from professional dancing, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t staying in peak shape anymore. What have you been doing under quarantine to keep fit?
Yes, it's true, I retired in November 2019 just before the crisis hit. [Dance partner and husband Bjørn Bitsch and I] are very privileged. We built a private studio next to our home some years ago to be able to practice more and have less travel time in our day. So this hall is used now for playing badminton, table tennis, pool and of course we still practice several times per week. There is no other sport in the world like dancing and once you have been a dancer you never stop. Dancing is not something we do, being a dancer is who we are!
You teach at the Just Dance Studios in Denmark. How has the pandemic affected DanceSport at the grassroots level? How are studios such as yours coping with the lockdown?
The clubs in Denmark have now been shut down since 11 March and there is talk that they are not allowed to open until aften the summer, but nothing is for sure yet. This has had a major impact on the studio. We and the other instructors are doing online classes, but it's not the same. I'm sure this will have a huge economic impact on the yearly accounting. But for now it’s about surviving the rest of 2020 and making the most of the situation and staying positive.
What advice do you have for all the dancers out there, from beginners to the elite, who are stuck at home without access to dance classes, their partners, gyms, etc.?
Great Question! My advice would be to set a daily routine so you have something to wake up to every morning and accept that you have more time off than normal. Enjoy the time off and do the things you never normally have time to do, for example: