Dirk Heidemann – “After 38 Years I Still Love to Teach”

The Teacher’s Corner is a series that is addressed to… Yes, you guessed it right: teachers. Today’s world-known teachers are letting you in on their secret weapons and presenting the roadmap of their inspiring life journeys.

For more about the topic presented in this article, listen to the Dancesport Life Show podcast with Dirk Heidemann.

“After 38 Years I Still Love to Teach”

Dance was my second nature as a child. I simply loved to dance. My parents were very hip people that threw lots of parties – parties were in vogue back then. My bedtime was set to 8 o’clock and until my parents sent me off to bed I was dancing my heart off on the carpet in my parents’ living room in front of all the guests. 

And that’s how an entertainer was born! 

My mother noticed that I had something in me and enrolled me in the famous Richard Keller school in Berlin. I started in 1970 and I had my first competition at 10 becoming a Juvenile Champion soon after. As a matter of fact, at that time it was called Pupil, not Juvenile. In 1993, I reached the Finals of the World Championship in the Freestyle World Cup of Latin-American dancing.

I Am A Man That Wears Many Hats

I am still a work in progress, I never stop. I’m a native West Berliner that splits his existence between Berlin and Connecticut because I have a studio there as well: “Dirk Heidemann – Studio of Ballroom Dance”. I mostly work for WDSF as a trainer worldwide so being a traveler is an extension of myself. 

In the past 10 years, I was a choreographer for the German Idol and I had my own television show. Now I got the opportunity to be a part of the adjudicating jury on the Austrian Dancing With the Stars TV Show.

Waking Up Each Day In A Different Place

I’m like a gypsy, I have a nomadic lifestyle. Everything’s an adventure! I’m 3 days at home and then I go on the road. I wake up and I don’t know where I am. I keep falling off the bed because I’m always on a different side. 

One thing that I never lose sight of my rituals that have a lot to do with taking care of my body and soul. I love to take care of myself. That’s why I go to the gym every single day, I go to my hairdresser, I keep informed – I read newspapers, I’m a very political person, I listen to music, watch YouTube at videos from present or older competitions. 

I look to another kind of dancers so that I could get inspired. It has always been a dream of mine to travel. I was 25 and I started to travel. It was my biggest wish and I am grateful it got accomplished. I consider myself a happy person but I always worked hard for what I got.

I Received A Stellar Education

After finishing high school I switched gears to studying Fashion. Since then I have a signature that stuck with me: I’m the colorful one in the room. Although I loved Fashion I decided to stop and take classes to be a dance teacher at the time the WDC was educating teachers. 

I learned behavior, how to treat a woman properly at a ball, how to present in front of people, both standard and latin with technical or popular variations. Now people have it easy. In Germany, you take classes for 10 weeks, pop in some seminars and you’re a dance teacher. Back in my day, it was not possible for an amateur to teach which I believe it’s a sensible thing.

A Never Dying Love – Teaching

I started as a professional in 1979, at 18. After 38 years I still love to teach. When I started to teach I was more interested in my young couples than on my own dancing. I got an invitation to be a latin trainer at a famous club in Hamburg where I met Marco Sietas, the former Sports Director of WDSF. He was 12 years old. He was my first Champion and I was very close to his family, still am.

My Three Teaching Principles

1. Positivity
I’ve been a student, a dancer, and a teacher. Want to know what I realized?  The most important thing is to be positive. Showing negativity is harmful and stands in the way of progress. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very frank person! I won’t say something is wonderful if it’s not, but I encourage my couples to improve and acknowledge their successes. I always say “I like you very much but…”. It would be great if everyone had the same approach to life as well.

2. Quality and good taste
I motivate couples because I put emphasis on the couple’s positive skills. I am looking for quality, a good taste in everything and great movements in the outfits. It’s a package. You can’t have one without the other to be excellent. Everything has to fit together and that makes a star. It’s a symbiosis!

3. Love It or Hate It, nothing in between
When they see a couple dancing people have to say ‘I love that couple’ or ‘I hate that couple’. Saying a couple is ‘nice’ it’s worse than saying they hate it because they are not interesting enough for the audience. Their personality and presence have to fill the room. It’s better to be polarizing than to attract indifference. The couple has to make an impact!

Believing In Yourself

At a lecture I had, I asked  people if they liked my outfit, most of them said “Yes” and then one senior dancer had the courage to say “No, I do not like your outfit.” A very nice man nonetheless. I told him “I do not care”. The name of the lecture was How to be Yourself.

I’m always myself. When I’m on TV, of course, I will have a different demeanor. But I didn’t change as much over the years, I always stand for what I believe, some people my age stop but I just get better with age like wine.

I have a lot of friends in dancesport, and surely people that don’t like me. But I’m happy. Of course, every human being wants to be loved, but I don’t need to be loved by everybody. There are some people I don’t want to be loved by. Not everyone’s my cup of tea. Some of them are anti-gay or have obsolete ideas that don’t fit the 21st century.

Ups & Downs In Life

I have enough of a strong character and a very strong personality to not care and also pull through the difficult times. I took that from my mother. She was a very chic, city woman, with a Marilyn Monroe style and I’m a little bit like that in personality. At the same time, although I love buying Gucci, Luis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana and other brands I am always grounded, I save money, I’m German after all.

In life, I had my ups and downs. You do a lot for people: some of them don’t return the favor, and the rest are with you until the end.  Life is lessons. If you don’t learn, you get old.  

I have 56 years now and I had both bad and good experiences. I’m a survivor and I am also drawn to survivors. You should be the same especially if you are in a profession when you can change people. So, I’m leaving you with this:

Be the person you see in the mirror, act accordingly, express yourself and offer positivity and support to your couples!

He's a typical Berliner - an open person and a fast-talker with lots of charm. He keeps a suitcase in his basement with trophies he earned over the years. A Dancing with the star judge, a TV presenter but most of all a champion maker!

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