Mitch Bilic and Ellicia MacDonald, as their bio says, “were simply born to dance”.
Since joining forces a few short years ago, they have truly made their mark on the Latin dance industry in Australia, Europe and Asia as well as dazzling numerous corporate and commercial clients. they are the current WORLD BACHATA CHAMPIONS, the current Australian Salsa Open Champions, the current New Zealand Dancesport Latin Champions for Salsa and Bachata, and the 2010 Australian Bachata Teams Champions.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Ellicia not long ago and let myself be educated in her fascinating world of Street Latin dance…
“There is Street Latin and there’s Ballroom Latin. What we do is Street Latin, which is your Salsa … you still have your Cha Cha, your Lambada which is Street, and of course the Bachata which is what Mitch and I won with. Within the Latin you have the Rhumba, the Cha Cha etc. We won the Australian Title with Salsa which we are going for again this June. Bachata is originally from the Dominican Republic but now it’s recognised worldwide and it’s becoming more technical than ever. All the ballet, all the lines are so important to execute Bachata. It’s slow, it’s more sensual, whereas Salsa is very fast – it’s all about fast turns, it’s very showy whereas Bachata’s more about a lot of body movement and fluidity – the style. So we put more Lyrical based show and trick moves into our routines for Bachata. “
Ellicia has come from a long career of commercial dance with classic all-round dance training from a very young age …
“I’ve only done Latin for three and a half years. I came from the commercial side of dance. I did ballet from age four, did all my RAD exams. When I was seventeen I went to Wicked for 5 months. .. I got into WAPPA, I got into New Zealand ballet. I went to WAPPA for 3 months, came back and decided to finish Year 12 and then I danced commercially in Japan; did Carnival Cruise Lines for a few years and India for three years. I went around Europe and then decided to give Latin a go. It really helped having the ballet base. Once you have that, you can do anything. “
Mitch Bilic was already part of the Street Latin scene when a mutual friend introduced Ellicia just a few years ago. Immediately he said ‘I kind of like her, she’s trained’…
Ellicia says, “If you go back even just five years, the Street Latin scene was very non-technical. Now the dance style is evolving. All around the world it’s becoming a very technical, strong style, so you have to be trained. You have to have your ballet, you have to have everything that ballet stands for – your flexibility, your technique – and of course the lifts, the show moves, and then the real Latino feel for the rhythm of the music.”
Their journey to World Champions has been hard work but relatively swift…
“We started competing within the first couple of months and came third in our first competition for Bachata. The next year we competed again in Bachata and came second in the Australian National Competition. Last year we did our first Salsa comp and won, and we did New Zealand Dance Sport – they added Street Latin and we won both of the two divisions we went into. We went to Puerto Rico last year to represent Australia – that one is the hardest competition on the planet for Salsa – out of 37 we came 14th – there was every single country there literally! Then in February this year, we went to Hong Kong to compete in the World Championship for Bachata – which we WON! “
To see Mitch and Ellicia in action is breathtaking … take a look at the process they go through to achieve World Champion status …
“We do a lot of training – Mitch will do weight training at the gym. It’s a very different form of training to regular weight training for the lifts. I do a lot of pilates – 3 times per week! It’s really important that the girls know what to do in terms of their core because 50% of the lift is the girl. If I’m not strong in my core, my legs and my arms, then I’m heavy for him to lift. I also do ballet each week at Sydney Dance Co and we’re in the studio at least 4 hours per week rehearsing and there is the classes we teach as well. If we have a routine to put together, we do crazy hours of rehearsal … everything has to be completely fluid, completely seamless … perfect… so we will maybe do 45 hours in two weeks to get a 3 minute routine together.”
Their tricks and lifts are amazing! I asked how they put them together…
“Sometimes we fiddle with things we see. We’ll get into the gym and I get on the harness for the big tricks ones, because they freak me out! Mitch gets all these ideas like ‘I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna do that’, and I’m like ‘I’m the one in the air!’
Dimitri (trainer) puts me in a harness so I know he’s got me on a rope which gives me a bit more confidence while we’re working out where I need to be, where Mitch needs to be and the whole mechanics of the moves! I don’t know what I’d do without that harness!
One of the routines we competed with in the Salsa took 40 hours to perfect it! To get it off the harness and out on to the hard floor and then in to my heels! It still freaks me out to this day but I need to train for that one all the time.
A big component of the Salsa is the freestyle division where you don’t know what song you’ll be dancing to. It’s like improvisation but I am led by Mitch. I rely on him to lead and I follow. What will be preset will be the links between each set but I don’t know what he’s going to do so we have to rehearse the turning patterns so if he goes into one set of four, then I know what he’s going to do.”
CHECK OUT THEIR REELS BELOW FOR MIND-BLOWING ENTERTAINMENT!
1. World Bachata Championships- Winning routine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFb3QCAdKoU
2. Bachatango at Sydney Latin Festival http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXfOFFSVWbs
3. Semi Finals Routine World Bachata Championships http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBQEO6a2XUU
4. Puerto Rico Salsa Open http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64gGLymAarM