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The Unconventional Bruce Lee of Dancers and Architects.

When I was a professional ballroom dancer, I competed against champions who had trained from a much earlier age and many of whom had been formally disciplined through extensive ballet training. My formal training began relatively late at the age of 19, and I could only match up by being unconventional. By this I don’t mean by deliberately trying to be different or strange. Rather, I focused on expressing myself honestly in the moment, with what felt right, and was not afraid to experiment.

In the early 90s your typical Latin American male ballroom dancer looked rather dated in my opinion. There were far too many disco Elvis-like outfits with Ken doll styled hair and makeup. In those early years as an amateur, I refused to cut my long hair and took to the dance floor wearing smart casual shirts you could buy off the shelf. For me, it was about feeling cool, being natural, and dancing for the love it rather than the trophy. I challenged my coaches with new, never before seen, dance moves, not because they looked cool but because they were fun and kept me entertained.

Plastering a permanent smile on your face while dancing was also unnecessary in my opinion. That is not to say that one should look struggling and out of breath, but I preferred to express the emotional character of the movements, which at times even included sound effects. Thus, I was often likened to Bruce Lee who was unique with his Kung Fu noises. While other dancers tried hard to look perfect, I focused on feeling present, having fun with fancy new steps and sound effects. For me it was about expressing myself honestly and this was another virtue that Bruce Lee lived by. In Bruce’s case it ultimately made him the highest paid martial arts instructor on the planet, with a body of work that remains timeless.

The audience gravitated towards me because I was not only different, but entertaining. My pony tail suited the Latino look and other men started growing their hair long, and reducing their makeup and number of sequins on their outfits. I can’t claim full credit as the trendsetter, but I can certainly claim to have been ahead of my time.

The ability to adapt to circumstances and change plans in an instant are an inherent part of dancing as not every detail can be choreographed to perfection. At dance competitions, you aren’t told exactly which songs will be used or how long they might play for. Other dance competitors will also have an affect, depending on their routines and how they are positioned. Floor sizes also vary and could even be slippery or uneven. With so many variables, you can’t be fixated on doing things exactly how they were rehearsed. You need to be at one with “The Force” in the moment. I call this skill “Flexible Adaptation”.

There were two key components to Bruce’s success. Firstly, he had total dedication to his craft, and secondly his style was to consciously have “no style”. He understood that no two opponents are the same and that a fixed form of martial arts cannot successfully counter an enemy who is unpredictable in approach, size, and speed, or perhaps armed with a weapon. The ultimate fighter is the one who can adapt most effectively in any given situation.

As an architect I share a similar view, in that no two clients, sites, budgets, or briefs are ever the same. Flexible adaptation enables me to create truly unique, customised work that responds authentically to both client and environment. With a complete dedication to my craft and by continuing to express myself honestly, my practice will also retain the same unconventional characteristics that proved successful for me in the past. It is my hope that WOLF ARCHITECTS and its work will be as timeless as Bruce Lees’ Kung Fu.

Taras Wolf and partner Latin Dancing
Taras Wolf Latin Dancing
Taras Wolf Dancing