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Brian McDonald

See also: Categories: Dancers, Adjudicators, Organizers, NDCA, WDC, Ballroom, Standard

Born: April 14, 1946
Hometown: Dundee, Scotland
Current location: California, USA
Current status:

Brian McDonald, known for his contribution, devotion and dedication to ballroom dancing in the United States and worldwide, is a former Professional ballroom dancer, specializing in International Style Standard. With wife Christine McDonald, he is a former 3-time Scottish National Amateur Champion, a 3-time European Professional Standard finalist, a European Professional Standard runner-up, as well as a 4-time United States National Professional Standard Champion. Brian has been the President of the National Dance Council of America since 1994 and one of the organizers of the Embassy Ballroom Championships since 1980.


Brian McDonald was born in the heart of Scotland in Dundee, and practically grew up in his parents' dance school. He started ballroom dancing at age four and never left that environment. He started to compete at age 11 as a juvenile/junior, a category that was huge at the time in Great Britain. He was also an ice skater and enjoyed soccer. Dancing became more important than all the other activities by the time he was 15, and until he finished high school, he danced as an Amateur for Scotland with his first partner Sheila Downton.

In 1968, Brian met his future wife, Christine McDonald (known by most as Kristi) at the British Open in Blackpool, England, and they decided to tryout. It felt promising, so Brian left Sheila, his current partner, to dance with Kristi, sensing that she would be the one for him, and not only for dancing! Within six weeks, they were in the top six in the Scottish Amateur Championship and became Scottish Champions in 1969, 1970, and 1971. During all of this, both their parents had supported them and their dancing aspirations, but now it was time to make this their profession. They turned pro in 1971.

Brian's first and only teacher until he turned professional was Mary Buchannon, who had also taught his parents. She was a former Scottish Champion and examiner for the Scottish Dance Teachers' Alliance. When Brian and Kristi made the final in the British Open Professional Championships in 1976, they felt it was time to get more teachers and more exposure. They started to commute to London, a seven hour drive, to work with Benny Tolmeijer and Bill and Bobbie Irvine as their core coaches. They also had some lessons with Anthony Hurley and Peter Eggleton.

As Scottish representatives, they made the final of the European Standard Championship three times, and in 1977 when Richard and Janet Gleave took a one year hiatus, Brian and Kristi came second. Richard and Janet had won the European six times.

The 1977 finalists in the order of placement were:

That same year, Brian and Kristi went to the U.S. and "fell in love".

"At that European Championship in Germany, Byron Charleton, fellow competitor, and second in the British Championship with his wife Dorothy, asked what we were doing the next couple of weeks. He wanted us to fill in for him in a show at the Telemark Ball in Washington D. C. So we gave our pre-arranged lecture for the Scottish Dance Teachers' Alliance, and then flew to Washington. We loved the whole experience and on our flight back, we decided to come back on a tour. We had been invited by John Morton, a Los Angeles promoter, to do some shows."


Before they went back to the U.S. though, Brian and Kristi joined the ranks of their peers as finalists in the World Professional Championship in Tokyo in 1977, and in 1978 in London.

In 1978, the finalists in order of placement were:

In 1978, they went back to the U.S. on a tour of shows they had organized. This took them from coast to coast, and they knew for sure that this was where they wanted to live.

"One of our students in Great Britain came from Oklahoma City and suggested we come there and open a dance school. So we did, and it was a nightclub/dance school, much like today’s Salsa clubs, that we called it Kristi’s. We would teach in the morning and have the club going at night. Occasionally, we got people like Vernon Brock in to coach. We hired bands like Buddy Rich and Woody Herman and also had our own band.”


Running a club and teaching was very stressful for Brian and Kristi. They were up until 3:00 a.m. at the club, got up early the following day to clean and set up again, and then teach. It isn’t surprising that they decided to give the club up.

“We took our two boys, Gary and Jason, and drove to California and that’s where we stayed. We started teaching there, and in 1979, I became a delegate to the National Council of Dance Teachers Organization, (NCDTO), today's National Dance Council of America (NDCA).”


Brian never missed a meeting despite the fact that he and Kristi were still competing. From 1979 to 1982, Brian and Kristi were U.S National Professional Standard Champions.

"Eighty per cent of the delegates were from different performing arts societies and I didn’t know any of them. I knew a lot of people in ballroom dancing from around the world, but the only familiar face was John Kimmins. The Standard and Latin faculties were small back then, but this has changed. The NDCA has three large faculties in the council now, the preforming arts, the ballroom societies, and the teachers/coaches and organizers.”


Brian became U.S. delegate to the World Dance & Dance Sport Council (WD&DSC, today’s World Dance Council, WDC) and their first DanceSport chairman. Before it became the WD&DSC, this council was the International Council of Ballroom Dancing (ICBD). By 1993, the name was changed to reflect the importance placed on the sportive aspect to ballroom, and the council was divided into the social and the sportive departments. The last president of the ICBD after Alex Moore were Bill Irvine and Leonard Morgan. The first president of the newly structured WD&DSC was Robin Short, followed by Karl Breuer.

Brian was DanceSport chairman for three years and then decided to resign. He had also taken on the responsibilities of President of the NDCA and felt that this was just too much. He decided to concentrate on his work in the U.S. Bill Irvine, who was vice–president of the WDC, wanted to resign and recommended Brian. He accepted Bill’s proposal, was elected, and served from 1999 until 2003.

Brian now decided again to concentrate his efforts in U.S.

"The U.S. has over 88 competition events nationally now and generates more than 300,000 entries per year. That’s more than anywhere else in the world. We were and are very fortune to have so many immigrants who settled here. In a big event like Blackpool, 25% of the top 24 couples in every event are from the U.S."


In 1980, Brian and Kristi started to organize their own competition in California, the Embassy Ballroom Championships (Embassy Ball), with John Kimmins and Sam Sodano as co-organizers since 2005. Over the years, it has become one of the biggest international events in the U.S.

Gary McDonald, Brian and Kristi's son, followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and became a competitor and studio owner. With his partner, Diana McDonald, he became a 10-time undefeated U.S National 10 Dance Champion, and in 1997, the World 10 Dance Champion.

Lifetime Achievement Awards

In January of 2008, the National Dance Council of America (NDCA) proudly inducted Brian and Christine McDonald into the United States DanceSport Hall of Fame. This life achievement award was given in recognition of their outstanding contribution, devotion and dedication to ballroom dancing in the United States and worldwide. Their leadership and commitment to excellence in the field of ballroom dancing and DanceSport is an inspiration to all as they have helped in preparation for the successes enjoyed today in the U.S..

2012 also paved the way for husband and wife to receive another Lifetime Achievement Award as they were inducted into the Millennium DanceSport Championships Hall of Fame. They were also the 2016 Honorees of the DBDC - A Legendary Celebration.


As An Official

As an official for both the NDCA and the WDC, Brian McDonald achieved the following in the world of Ballroom Dancing for his federation and his country:

  • 1979: First attended the NDCA as a delegate
  • 1988: Elected to the position of Vice-President of the NDCA
  • 1993-1996: Served as the first DanceSport Chairman of the World Dance & Dance Sport Council (WD&DSC)
  • 1994: Elected to the Office of President of the NDCA, a position he still holds today, thus serving over 28 years as an officer of the NDCA. After having been nominated once again for another term completes over 30 years in service for him, which is the longest service of any elected officer in continuity.
  • 1995: Established the WDC DanceSport Committee
  • 1995-1999: Paved the way for American Style Smooth & Rhythm to represent at the World Showdance Championship
  • 1996-2003: Vice-President of the World Dance & Dance Sport Council (WD&DSC)
  • 1997: Established the U.S. DanceSport Hall of Fame Awards
  • 1997: Sought approval to hold the 50th Gala celebrating the NDCA held in 1998 in New York
  • 1998: Established a Board of Governors approval of the NDCA to present the United States DanceSport Congress; created the Treaty between CDTA & NDCA
  • 1998: Appointed the Education & Cultural Department to continue the NDCA Journal to all registrants
  • 1998: Encouraged the Board of Governors to increase PDF (Professional Dancers Federation) voting to a Full Member voting privilege, 6 votes
  • 1998: Introduced the BYU Scholarship Work Demographic Study, Work on Ballroom Dance Inclusion for Olympic Status
    • Scholarship by NDCA continues to date
  • 1999-2003: Vice-President of the World Dance Council (WDC)
  • 2000: President report suggests placement of a 3 year moratorium on any new events
  • 2000: Expansion of website into Access Dance
  • 2000: Invites Willis Crenshaw, Insurance Broker, to provide information on Medical Insurance for registrants
  • 2004: Establishes World Pro-Am Championships in the USA; ran the first one in 2005
  • 2004: Richard Hopkins, BBC World Wide, flies in from London to meet with Brian at Burbank Studios LA to discuss the beginning of Dancing with the Stars; he provided a DVD and a list of potential Pro-Am teachers, some of which are still with the show today; Len Goodman gave BBC Brian's name
  • 2006: Organized the WDC World Professional Latin Championship
  • 2007: Sought approval for the NDCA's 60th Gala to be held in 2008
  • 2009: Suggested that the previous NADOA group allow the new NDCA organizers the right to use their name. The first officers of the new NADOA present at NDCA: Dan Messenger, John De Palma, Lee Roy Walters
  • April 26, 2011: Established video of the NDCA Syllabus Figures at BYU and appointed R. Booth to oversee the production. DVD's were sent to all teachers and Pro-Am registrants.
  • 2012–2013: Established the National Dance Council for Canada (NDCC)
  • 2013: Organized the WDC World Professional Latin Championship
  • 2014: Projects are in the developmental stage for the Organizers of the NDCA: Premier Program
  • 2015: Established an agreement from the WDC not to run or hold any WDC Amateur League events in the USA
  • 2015: Organized WDC World Professional Ballroom Championship

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