Interview with Mariola and Barry Free from Supadance

Interview with Mariola and Barry Free from Supadance

Posted on Thursday, 13 Aug 2015, 21:56 by admin
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We had a pleasure of talking to Mariola and Barry Free, the owners of one of the most recognisable brand in dance world: Supadance. We met Mariola and Barry when they managed to find some free time in their very busy schedule during the Blackpool Dance Festival 2015.

Every new pair of shoes we have designed and developed had a feedback from the very best and top of the teachers

How did it all start?

[Barry] ...must be when I was about twenty years of age ...

[Mariola] Sixteen, last time I heard that story

[Barry] Oh yes, sixteen. My father and I, we made some fashion shoes at the time at our house, upstairs.

So it was early 1960s?

[Barry] Yes. Then we moved from Hackney to Buckhurst Hill and our next door neighbour was a dance teacher. In England you'd like to get on with your neighbours. One time we were in our garden and he was in his garden and I asked him, what do you do for living, and he said, I teach dancing. So I asked, do they wear any special shoes. No, no, he said, for men we buy any evening shoe in patent and we stick on the sole some suede material like chamois leather you clean cars with. And what about your wife, I asked, she buys wedding satin shoes and she also does the same, she sticks the chamois leather to the sole. Why satin, well, because they can be dyed easily to match the dresses. And I said, perhaps we can make shoes that have suede soles, not the outdoor soles where you have to stick the chamois leather. So, in the other words, you buy a pair of shoes in satin with a suede soles and they are ready to dance. They thought it was a great idea. I introduced it to my father and we decided we would set up a business together.

[Mariola] This is the history now, but I tell you why Supadance has really caught and grown and has been so respected. Barry's father said to this dance teacher, to Robert Morgan, that he would love to learn from the World champions and that would allow him to make the best product that they could dream about. Funny enough that I remember these stories but they are really interesting to me. So Robert said, oh no, you can't do that, they are World champions, I've never even spoken to them. And Barry's father said, that's OK, I'll talk to them. And this is when he went to speak to Bobbie and Bill Irvine.

[Barry] I went to their house with my father.

[Mariola] Barry's father said to them, look, we think that the shoe can be a product for the dancers and we would love to design something and would you be able to test it for us. And they said, yes, with pleasure. So this is how the very, very first, original shoe was created. The first one was for Bill. And for Bobbie, at the time, it was just a court shoe, there was no such thing as a sandal for Latin. Latin and Ballroom dancers wore just one type of shoe which looked similar to the original wedding shoe. That's how it started.

[Barry] When did Bill die, what year?

In 2008

[Barry] Because one night, at the Star, just weeks before he died, he showed me the first shoes we made for him.

He still had them?

[Barry] Yes (laughing). They were over forty years old. He kept them on a shoe tree, each shoe, the left and the right. He still had the exact same pair. They never needed repairing in all those years (laughing). Unbelievable!

Not like your current ones? (laughing)

[Barry] Well, I think if he was alive today he would agree that dancers now are dancing a lot longer at competitions, a lot harder, and more frequently.

[Mariola] The specifications for shoes changed amazingly. With the shoes before every element was like a normal shoe apart maybe from the sole and the materials. But now they request literally a shoe without shanks, that much softer leathers, softer insoles so really you take a shoe out of a shoe nowadays! And if you literally scrunch it in your hand it is expected to get straight back into shape and perform for as long as possible.

So you are saying that shoe technology changed over the years?

[Barry] Absolutely. For men we were the first ones with black soles because before it was almost like a fairy pale blue.

[Mariola] Yes, it was one type of split sole before. It was like light grey. It was ridiculous, men dancing in black shoes as they lift their feet dancing their step you just see these furry rabbits, this pale thing. So Barry innovated black. He innovates all his life.

[Barry] There was a case of heel wearing out on the back of the shoe. Not just for our brand, any brand had that problem. So we came with the concept of cushioned heel. It was a hard plastic heel, then the next layer was a rubber, and the third layer, the ground engaging portion, was suede which was shock absorbing.

[Mariola] Coming back to the origins of Supadance. Bill and Bobbie were famous Ballroom couple, but danced both Latin and Ballroom, and they did have the very first shoes which they used for both Ballroom and Latin.

[Barry] And then Lorraine...

[Mariola] I think your father said, OK, what is this Cha Cha Cha, Jive, Samba, what is this Latin American dancing. It is different to Waltz and Tango, they do totally different steps, but they are wearing the same types of shoes, is it suitable? So again, he asked Robert, who in your opinion are the best Latin dancers in the World? It's Walter Laird and Lorraine. OK, I want to speak with them. Oh, no, you can't!

[Barry] He was so shy to meet them (laughing). Because he considered to be his peers which obviously they were. But because we were just humble shoemakers we were not afraid, we went there.

[Mariola] So Mick, Barry's father actually spoke to Lorraine. She was such a beautiful lady and humble as well. She couldn't believe they want to develop something especially for her. They worked together and became great friends with Mick over the very first pair of Latin sandals.

[Barry] That model was named Lorraine.

[Mariola] Nowadays we just call them numbers. But "Lorraine" was a very first dance shoe in the world which was a sandal for Latin American. Walter Laird decided he liked the idea of a boot, didn't he?

[Barry] Yes.

[Mariola] Very soft leather but higher top. And in many years we made Wally boot but average competitor preferred the lower shoe. But Walter always danced in a boot. He was a very strong dancer, very grounded, and it suited his type of dancing. He was wonderful to watch. So, this is where Supadance strength comes from, from the actual Ballroom and Latin champions.

[Barry] We always listened to dancers. For example, Hazel Fletcher was doing a series of shows which needed quick change of costume. Sometimes she needed quickly to change from one sandal to another sandal to another sandal depending on a dress colour, and she asked, is there any quick way to change shoes without me undoing the straps. So that's when we invented the hook. The hook and the buckle. In the beginning you adjust the buckle to the length you need and you just hook it to the hook on the strap.

[Mariola] It takes a second now, otherwise you have to find a tongue, put it through a tiny hole ...

[Barry] Especially with false nails...

[Mariola] It was totally an original idea. And there were more such ideas, like diamonds in buckles or use of any diamond decoration. We were the very first brand to work with Swarovski stones.

[Barry] We were the first to make teaching shoes. Bobbie Irvine asked for shoe for teaching. She said, most of the ladies that teach wear trousers therefore they don't want stiletto heels. So, is there any way you can make a nice shoe for teaching which will go with trousers. And we came up with the "1026" which was perforated. I remember Mariola put all the holes in a pattern. Then we build the machine which stamps exactly that pattern.

[Mariola] We have this big machine with heavy plates with those little things.

Was it around the mid-1970s?

[Mariola] No, it was late 1970s.

So we jumped some 20 years. Shall we go back to the early days? Tell us more about the first shoes you made for Bill and Bobbie

[Barry] The first one was a shoe for Bill and the second one was a court shoe for Bobbie which is still going. It is "1003".

Really, is it still selling?

[Barry] We haven't changed it.

So what about "1001" and "1002", surely they must have come earlier?

[Mariola] No, there is no rule or reason in our numbers (laughing)

When I hear numbers I am trying to find a logic in it (laughing)!

[Mariola] Me too. When we work on a catalogue, I sometimes want to go by the rule. But you can't, so there is not much of a logic in that.

OK, so how do you come up with those numbers?

[Barry] I make them up. No mathematical logic in it. I think the last one was actually a patent number.

[Mariola] Each last has some kind of the number, manufacturers put some numbers on them. It is usually four numbers. Nowadays when I go to the factory we operate with letters plus numbers. I am still not terribly good at it.

[Barry] NTS32 is "no toe spring" and 32, maybe because the last they used was 2232. And we agreed we will use the letters which describe the type and a part of the code the makers put on the last.

[Mariola] That's what I think most of the models' numbers come from. Various shapes of the shoes require various shapes of the lasts. Easiest thing for the makers, we have the manufacturers as well as marketing department, is to operate with numbers. If we were buying shoes from factories in China or wherever, we could call them what we like because we wouldn't know what lasts they used. Because we work with the lasts we decided to name our models after the lasts codes so we know straight away what we used.

OK, so the first shoes were for Bill and Bobbie Irvine. What was their first impression? Did they like them straight away?

[Barry] After a while. Bobbie was very fussy. We'd make a pair of shoes and she'd say, it is cut a little bit too low, we must go back. And then we'd make another one. It is like making a bespoke jacket for somebody I guess. In about six months we got it perfect.

[Mariola] She loved it

[Barry] We dared not change it. We have not changed it to this very day!

[Mariola] It is still a best seller. For example, it is the number one selling shoe in Japan. Why? Maybe it is the shape of their feet which made this shoe to fit perfectly.

From making shoes for World Champions to creating the company which sells around the world is a long way. How did you get there?

[Mariola] It is a good point. Mick, Barry's father, was brilliant when it came to the quality of his shoes. But he was also brilliant at strategy. He came up with the unique strategy. He decided, I don't want to sell through the shops because you have to give them a set amount of discount, but everybody who goes dancing goes for lessons. It starts with the lesson. You don't find any self-thought dancers really. So he said, I am going to talk to the teachers. So he asked Robert, where are the congresses for the teachers?

[Barry] He went to every congress.

[Mariola] That's where they started with a selection of the shoes. Obviously at the time it was a very small selection, probably four or six pairs of shoes.

[Barry] We never sold the shoes at the exhibitions. We didn't think of selling

[Mariola] I remember the very first Blackpool when they started to attract people to sell. They have not done it before.

So you were presenting your shoes at the competitions or dance exhibitions?

[Barry] Yes. We were presenting a range of shoes, suggesting that teachers introduce them to their pupils. And I think they got 10% discount. They were quite happy. They would have sold them for nothing. They believed if they get their pupils into a pair of shoes they got them committed. If they bought a pair of dance shoes they also bought into having lessons with them, they showed commitment. So every time they lookd at the pair of shoes, they'd think, we must have another lesson.

[Mariola] They were the best salesmen ever because they believed in these shoes. Mick would very cleverly give a free pair of shoes to some top ones again like Anthony Hurley to continue the tradition. We would always ask them to try something new for us.

[Barry] There was a feedback

[Mariola] So every new pair of shoes we have designed and developed had a feedback from the very best and top of the teachers.

[Barry] We always asked how they think we could improve the shoe. We used to say, is there anything wrong with the shoe and some were too polite to say their true opinion, because it is the negative you are asking for. But now we say, if there is any way you think we could improve them please let us know. And they take them away and they threat it quite seriously. Wording it that way encourages people to comment.

[Mariola] What was also unique was a partnership between Barry's father and Robert Morgan. It doesn't matter how they split the shares but Robert owned the sales side, and Barry and Mick owned the manufacturing side. Barry is very clever. I quite often think we have something perfect, don't touch it, but Barry always looks at it critically asking what if I did it this way or that way. It is infuriating! But this is why the shoes progressed. For instance, he was not happy with the heel, that heel was improved by Barry ten times before already. He wanted a lighter heel, he wanted a dance shoe to be quite light. Heels are made out of a lump of plastic so Barry went to the manufacturers and said, do we have to have all this plastic inside? No, you don't have to, but you want a strong heel, you have to have some structure. So Barry designed a hollow heel.

[Barry] Hollow heel with a lid which seals it and you can stick the top piece to it.

[Mariola] His observational skills are second to none. He thinks out of the box. He noticed 90% of people are wearing trainers. What are they wearing trainers? Because they've got a bounce, people started to get used to this nice cushioning. It can't be bad for you so he decided to improve the heel. He decided to add cushioning to the heel. When he first came up with it, it was 27 years ago when I first met him, he's done an experiment. He gave a couple pair of shoes, one heel was regular and one had this cushioning. They looked exactly the same. He told them, don't take them to the competition, try them, practise in them and let me know how you like them. He obviously did not tell them what was in them.

[Barry] We later learned they took them to the show. The show starts and there is no music, only the man walks on.

[Mariola] Walks dramatically onto the floor

[Barry] And you hear click, nothing, click, nothing, what is going on (laughing)! Left shoe is making a noise on the floor, right one doesn't because there is that cushion. Then the music started.

[Mariola] When he told us the story, we said, we told you not wear them on the comp or show. Only practise with them! But he said, he'd never wear normal heels again!

[Barry] do you remember the story about Anne Gleave? She had a back problem. And the "1026" cushioned heel cured her. It definitely helped.

[Mariola] People like her do 10 hours teaching sometimes and when you wear something which is hard it affects your joints, your back.

[Barry] She wrote me a lovely letter thanking me.

[Mariola] The success of Supadance is that we always worked and will continue to work with the teachers. We always seek the advice, we always supported them, we always try to make sure that whatever we do gets an approval from them.

[Barry] Your best customer is an awkward customer or difficult customer. Someone you can never please is the one you work with. So we always work with difficult customers, they don't have to be dancers like Professionals, they can be the members of the public. So we have a good range of shoes for the Professionals and shoes for the public. I like moaners, I married one (laughing)

[Mariola] I strive for perfection. I think we are a good partnership (laughing).

[Barry] She is very good, she is the dancer.

How did you meet?

[Barry] At Blackpool. 28 years ago. I was talking to Carol McRail.

[Mariola] Actually, tomorrow night will be exactly 28 years ago.

[Barry] Carol was a very good friend of Mariola, but I did not know Mariola. I was talking to Carol and I said, Carol, look behind you, who's that girl? That's Mariola, she is Polish, do you like her? And I said, is it possible you introduce me? Yes, no problem, come on. And I said, no, no, not like that, you go speak to her and I'll come over and say hello to you like I've just met you (laughing). She went over, spoke to Mariola, and when I went over she introduced me. We had to talk for a while and then I asked Mariola to come out with me to dinner. Mariola was making dresses at the time. She said, if I do I'd have to be back by nine, I've got to see my couple. So she didn't commit herself. The next day I saw her and asked her again, she said, I'll let you know later. That night Nina Hunt and Bobbie Irvine were in the Ballroom and they were walking towards me at the end of the evening. I was ready to run (laughing) because they looked like they were going to quiz me. They said, don't go, we want a word with you! I said, what have I done wrong now? No, no, nothing, it is just you seem to have an interest in a mutual friend of ours. So I said, who's that? And Nina said, you know who it is! The Polish girl. We are just trying to make sure your intentions are honourable (laughing)!

And your intentions were?

[Barry] I said, yes!

[Mariola] And he proposed on Wednesday (laughing)

[Barry] Yes, I did.

Really, so quickly?

[Barry] I worded it differently. I couldn't say, would you marry me, in case she said no. Instead I said, you know you are the kind of girl I could marry (laughing). I was fishing (laughing).

[Mariola] And we married six months, nine months later.

[Barry] It is funny. I had no family, only my Mum and Dad. I had no brothers, no sisters, no cousins. We had a registry office wedding here but the celebration was in Poland. Mariola has big family. I think there was 75 guests, beautiful wedding. It went up to 4 o'clock in the morning. We had such a lovely honeymoon. We had the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane in London, Elisabeth Taylor suite and then we went to Maldives. Spent all my money, came back broke (laughing)! So we could start together from the beginning (laughing).

[Mariola] That story certainly sounds good (laughing)

It is a romantic story, isn't it?

[Barry] If it wasn't for Mariola I wouldn't be as wealthy as I am now. She is very shrewd and a very good business woman. She invested money wisely.

[Mariola] But the success of Supadance was possible because we have a full control. We manufacture everything ourselves. We've got the factory, four years ago we moved from Hackney to the premises we are in now. We have loyal staff, some of them go back thirty, forty years. The factory is great. We have a great team of people, not only they are good craftsmen, but they have years of experience. Each shoe is identical you know, the straps are exactly in the same place, the tension is exactly the same, the quality of the shoe is exactly the same. We can guarantee that. So this is unique. As well as anything new that we have an idea for can be made the same day. Very often we think of something, some fashion idea comes up, and I say to Barry, this can work for the dance shoe. OK, let's go. We have a machine. It costed £120,000 but we can actually put our thoughts on and it will make a pattern for us. We can then grade it, change it, improve it until we get it to a perfect state. So it was really worth it for that alone.

[Barry] If you draw a design it can cut it for you.

[Mariola] We will make samples my size so I can have first trials to see how far we are to perfection. And then we will have either Joanne or Jagoda or whoever we feel the shoe would suit to make final suggestions and alterations. But it works so well. I'd never compromise it. The shoes, to make them in here, it costs us a lot of money. We are not, like some people think, multi-millionaires. You cannot make millions out of dance shoes, you can make them of properties (laughing). But it is a great job. I like doing it, I like being part of the dancing world. Barry is very respected in the dance world. For one, he is there for many years, for two – he's been in constant touch with top teachers. They don't just discuss the shoes, they discuss the general scene as well. He loves to be able to help. The fact that he was not a dancer or a coach or a judge is a plus. He is a successful business person and that makes people listen. When they hear his ideas or suggestions, the things happen. He's improved a lot of things, for example for the competitors in the Winter Gardens. A lot of suggestions Michael Williams, the Managing Director of Blackpool Winter Gardens, and Sandra take on board. We've organised meetings for the other exhibitors who have not been happy with various things. Barry is quite good at foreseeing things like where we always pick our space to exhibit. We came few months earlier, speak to Sandra earlier, see the plans, hear ideas and suggestions, see if she is thinking of changing something. Well, if you want to change this, we won't come. No one else spent that sort of time when you can foresee things the way he does. So Supadance has benefited from Barry's ability to observe things, to learn from things, to progress a little bit further that anybody else.

[Barry] On Sunday there used to be a competition in a Tower but not in the Winter Gardens. For us vendors, it used to be a crazy day, because we had to pay out staff to do nothing. We arrive on Wednesday, setup the stands, we start selling Thursday evening, all day Saturday and then Sunday – everything is closed. What can you do, you go to church (laughing).

[Mariola] We couldn't understand why the competition cannot carry on through Sundays. Especially as there are so many events going on. So we asked Gillian McKenzie, who run Blackpool festival at the time, this question and the answer was bizarre. Bizarre!

[Barry] Live music was not allowed to be played on a Sunday! So we said, put records on, then!

[Mariola] Why not, couples will probably enjoy it anyway!

[Barry] We said, but there is a competition in the Tower, what music do they play?

[Mariola] Recorded music. So she thought, oh, maybe we'll do that. And she's done it. It was some 14 years ago I think.

Do you know, that if you buy season ticket here it still doesn't include Sunday?

[Mariola] Oh my God!

You have to buy separate tickets for Sunday and separate ticket for Thursday.

[Mariola] I know of Thursday because we get Exhibition passes. This is an example of something we could try to talk to them about. When someone like Barry talks to them they may listen.

[Barry] I was wondering really when the festival finishes on Friday, that Saturday and Sunday we vendors can stay for two more days. When it finishes Friday, we could use that Saturday and Sunday for another competitions like WDSF since we are here anyway. I know all the vendors would put money to rent the hall. You'd have to invite the WDSF judges and WDSF couples and have it run by WDSF rules. So British Open competition would finish Friday, the next day Saturday and Sunday will be dancers from WDSF. I've spoken to everyone like Chrisanne, DSI, International Dance Shoes, Freed, everybody would be prepared to stay on those two extra days. WDSF couples will have a chance to compete in Blackpool officially but not at the British Open. I think it would be marvellous if WDSF were invited here and Blackpool would gain extra money from vending and tickets sales

[Mariola] Everything would be ready, floor would be already setup.

It would be great, people will mix, they would see the "other side" is not devil (laughing). Some people will come earlier to see the others dancing, some people will stay two extra days for the same. It would benefit everybody.

[Mariola] We have noticed that there are less competitors in all the events than it was years ago. There is less variety.

[Barry] We should be looking into the future and how to make it better.

[Mariola] We still feel that Supadance will be very much the part of the future.

[Barry] I've spoken with people in the dance world and there is quite a few who don't like the idea. There is one champion in particular who said to me, Barry, once you invite the WDSF for Saturday and Sunday, after few years they might want to come at the beginning. And they will ask WDC people to have that last Saturday and Sunday. So they will take over Blackpool. I said, who cares as long as they have more members. If they have more members than you, I'd like them to take over Blackpool. This, kind of, upset him. This was not the answer he was looking for. As vendors we don't care.

Tell me how you see dancing changed over the years

[Barry] In those early days my farther used to say when people like Sonny Binick and Walter Laird, the old BDF committee, die out there will be so difficult to replace them. They were really the leaders of Ballroom dancing in these days. They said jump, you asked, how high. There is nobody like that at the moment.

I think there is too many leaders rather than few, and that's the problem.

[Barry] Yes, it is more fragmented. Those days Sonny Binick ruled the roost.

[Mariola] He could do it, because he had personal integrity and he achieved certain things, people use to see he was not doing it for his own benefit but for the benefit of the whole thing. I think this is what changed in the dance world. It started to go wrong because people started to think more of themselves and that created little groups and no one is looking at the bigger picture.

My general observation is that importance of authority seems to be declining in the world nowadays. People believe they know for themselves and don't need to look up to anyone.

[Mariola] Very true. People have access to all the information instantly. Things that happen in the morning are known to everybody five minutes later. There are no ways to hide things when something goes wrong. I think this is why people distrust authorities, because one day something is being said and next day something else has been found out.

[Barry] Our Supadance League which we've been doing for nearly thirty years now, and it is for schools, primarily medallists schools. If their pupils dance in the Open circuit they cannot come back to the medal competitions anymore. It is so restricted. We did not realise that because we were told by their lead members, yes, we don't stop them going out. True, they don't stop their pupils going out, but they stop them coming back. When I told Mariola who has just only taken an interest in the League, she said, I can't believe this. She came to a meeting ...

[Mariola] I just looked at it in comparison to the WDC and WDSF. WDSF says, my members cannot be dancing WDC and vice versa, WDC saying that if you go to WDSF I am not seeing you on the floor next time I am judging you. We are doing the same thing! We'll have a meeting, very shortly, and I am certainly going to put it on a table to them to either change or pull our name out of it.

[Barry] For the last two years I was being criticised at the BDF meetings that we have all the dancers in our League, and they cannot dance the Open competitions. They were saying they can come out but cannot go back. When I checked it they were completely right. So there is a lot of criticism I've taken. So I suggested that Mariola and I will do a Supadance Open Series. Open Series is the next step to the Open Circuit. If schools join they have to be the members and allow their pupils out to the Open Circuit and also back in.

[Mariola] We want them to feel that we can organise series of these competitions. This year we have two lined up, next year we have six lined up and the seventh will be the final. What's' good about it is that the League is very successful for 28 years so we are doing something right. We created a lively environment for the couples, we are giving them competitions as well, followed by a brilliant final, beautiful trophies etc. they are loving it. They don't want to leave the League they want to compete with their friends, not everybody has an ambition to be a World Champion. I did not realise that these poor couples once they competed in the Open competition cannot go back. So, that's why we want to introduce the Open Series where there also will be other couples if they want to, any school can bring their students. We want a nice safe environment which they can grow in. We can give them some ranking, something new for the couples because some of them are getting a little bored. So we want the schools to allow this.

[Barry] We are hoping to get more British couples to get this experience. That's why we want to create the Open series. We want a more liberated League. We want to encourage them to go more open.

How open will be this Open Series? Can anyone come and dance?

[Mariola] Totally open. Any couple can come and dance as long as they register with us.

[Barry] We just want their name, address and email.

[Mariola] So we can then contact them. It happened that for the last 27 years we have put a lot of money into Supadance League but we do not have anybody's name and address. We are not able to contact them. It is our fault that we did not ask people to register with us, we did not take much part in it.

[Barry] We did it for dancing. We have this brilliant guy Neil Brock, he comes from IBM, he comes from the banking background. He has the marketing background. He does great presentations.

[Mariola] He is a very clever guy.

[Barry] His wife is a dancer from Czech Republic. She is so good with Facebook and social media. He have been to some of their comps they organise. They do Strictly Come Dancing for schools and they teach the kids dancing. We went to the final, it was fantastic. These are new people, they never danced. Now they are dancing and enjoying it. They did show dancing on the street, they do all kinds of stuff. Schools like it because the headmasters and headmistresses can see that since they introduced dancing everybody's results went up.

[Mariola] Pupils are doing better at school.

[Barry] So they have schools' backing. So this is how they are bringing new people into dancing. This is their idea.

[Mariola] So Supadance Open Series will be just another competition but it will bring new people in. We will encourage new people, we will look after them. And, as we always have done, we will focus on the dancers. We sponsor events for the dancers' benefits. So I think it is fair to expect people to register with us. They probably belong to some school already. I think very few couples just want to be lone rangers, they love the environment of the school where they have their friends and go to practice. In Europe this is the only way.

[Barry] You belong to some school or a club

[Mariola] In this country, for some unknown reason, there are places you can practise but they do not offer this sense of belonging.

Many coaches work with couples individually

[Barry] There are some schools. Nick Kremishenski and Olga Komarova have one, or Jane and John Byrnes have a nice one as well. They've got proper schools. People from their schools will be encouraged to dance in our Open Series.

It would be great if all the dancers, regardless of organisations they are associated with, were encouraged rather than discouraged to compete together. It would certainly support development of the dance, be it sport or art.

[Mariola] I remember this discussion years ago what is the difference between Amateurs and Professionals. What if Amateurs were allowed to teach? It would give them a stream of income. It would also give them an apprenticeship in teaching. Would you expect a couple who is an Amateur to become a Professional and an excellent coaches overnight? Suddenly they know how to teach because they were World Champions. No, just because they were World Champions they cannot teach anyone. So why not let them practise first? This country is so much against it, but in some countries like Russia they can teach. It gives them some advantage.

But what is the difference between Professionals and Amateurs then?

[Mariola] The distinction is that these Amateur couples will teach beginners and low level couples.

[Barry] A young kid I wouldn't want a distinguished, older teacher. They would prefer to be with somebody closer to their age, maybe an eighteen year old, not a seventy year old. So the youngsters can teach youngsters.

[Mariola] It is worth thinking about, isn't it.

It was a very interesting discussion. Thank you very much for taking time to talk to us.