Coaching The Best: Talking To Asis Khadjeh-Nouri.

Text: Kerstin Lange       Photography: Courtesy of Asis Khadjeh-Nouri / Processing: Helmut Römhild

We talk on the phone and he is about to travel to Vienna where ‘his’ dancers will compete at the IDSF Austrian Open Championships — 

commuting on a plane is nothing unsual for him, his dancefloor is about the size of Europe and beyond: Asis Khadjeh-Nouri is training Roman Mayer and Sirek Siilak, the Austrian Champions, and coaches top athletes from Slowakia, Moldawia, Poland and Spain.


Asis Khadjeh-Nouri

Eleven times German National Champion, second place in three World Championships und one time European Champion. Since 1996 National Youth Coach and Coordinator of Youth Coaching activities in the German Dancing Association (DTV). Member of the team of National Coaches.

Sami Vainionpää and Merje Styf from Finnland, Dmitri Zharkov and Olga Koulikova from Russia, Hungary's Csaba László and Anna Mikes, Ukraine's Volodymyr Liatov and Veronika Myshko: they all listen to what he has to tell about dancing.
He is the coach of Sabine and Tassilo Lax, second in the German S-Level Ballroom Championship, and of Sabine Jacob and Thorsten Strauß from Lübeck, who made third place in the German S-Level Ballroom Championship.

Some of them will travel to Vienna just for the opportunity to see him and get his advice.

Where is a coach like Asis Khadjeh-Nouri at home?

A brief glance back in time is all it takes to know, where his roots are.

Asis Khadjeh-Nouri was born in 1964 in Germany, in the City of Hamburg, spending his childhood in a part of the City called Fuhlsbüttel.
And in the matter-of-fact way of a true Hamburg citizen he made career decisions from the very start:
“Before I began with competition dancing I was Youth Chess Champion — which, I felt, was a dead end.”
Asis Khadjeh-Nouri is laughing.
“First and foremost because it didn't help to meet nice young girls...”


And the first steps as a dancer? Rather unspectacular.

When his sister started dancing at the TUS Altertal clubs he also became interested in what happened on the dancing floor.

“At the age of thirteen I also joined the club. It became more and more fun. In 1981 my sister and I took up competition dancing, working our way from B-level upwards and eventually reaching S-level.
My parents weren't interested in dancing but had to cope with children who had a totally different attitude. My brother became a dancer, too. He is now the owner of four dancing schools.
My sister had to quit dancing, the strain on her health was too much. Andrea (Kiefer) became my new partner and we were quite successful.
Our decision in 1992 to turn professionals was not at least motivated by commercial success and financial considerations. We simply couldn't decline what was offered to us for show dancing and other performances.”

His career as a coach started,

when Asis Khadjeh-Nouri was offered the job of coach for Saxonia. Then, in 1996, the leap to National Youth Coach.
“It was not easy for me to quit dancing. But my partner and I were beginning to struggle to stay successful. I was very pleased to be offered the job of National Youth Coach and was looking forward to the challenge of passing my knowledge to young people, of helping them.”

A dancer is shaped by the coaches.

Asis remembers: “The first people training me were Winnie und Uschi Bruske. The most important coach, the one I loved most, was John Little.

After John Little came Peter Beinhauer, Werner Führer and National Coach Wolfgang Opitz.
On the international level I was coached by Bill und Bobbie Irvine, Anthony Hurley and Benny Tolmeyer.”

One more thing is still fresh in his memory:
“In 1990 I became the first German Champion with a foreign name. That caused raised eyebrows, believe it or not. If the political situation in the former Warsaw Pact area had been more advanced, I would have decided to work in the East.”

Asis Khadjeh-Nouri is deeply committed to his role as National Youth Coach in Germany and is doing his job with enthusiasm. At the same time he frequently is abroad, often in Moscow.

“Fifteen of the top twenty on the World Ranking List are from Russia.

I like the young people's attitude towards training and their relationship with the coach.
They show respect, they listen to what the trainer says.
They feel privileged to be a dancer because they see it as a part of a higher education, as a part of being a person of culture.”

Dancing in Germany

is supported by organisations and officials. And without doubt such a system is very profitable for the dancers: It provides financial backup, medical consulting, career promotion through cadres.

It is different in other countries. In Italy for instance there is only the dancer's initative and private sponsoring to build a career on.
And where the dancer has to rely entirely on his or her own means to move forward, all depends on the true grit.

The true grit: This is what he is after.

“I'd like to make very clear that the foundation for competitive sports is within the individual:

initiative, effort, disciplin and respect. Selfrespect, respect for coach and dancing partner.”

Und what is his signature?

“I'm straightforward. A person who cannot take a simple truth is out. My training method is very personal, it aims at the individual skills and possibilities. My advice for those who want to go to the top: Shut up and listen!”

Dancing is not getting easier, despite improvements everywhere in dancesport:
“Modern training is very different from what was done during my career. Sports Science has advanced considerably and the results are available for everyone. We know about warming up, stretching, intervalls between and frequency of exercises, aspects of nutrition. There are consultants and medical experts.”

The dancer today has to face various challenges:

“Thinking outside the box is a must if a dancer plans a dancesport career. The dance floor is international, if not global.”

And the dancesport language is English. Staying in touch, training with dancers from other countries, knowledge transfer like the IDSF Congress of Judges: Without English nothing goes.

The modern professional has to have many skills,

and Asis Khadjeh-Nouri is the perfect model: He was a judge in Sat 1's dancing show ’You Can Dance‘.
“I really enjoyed it. It's too bad that dancing is only marginally present in the media.”

But there are other ways to reach out to people:
“In parallel to my activities as National Youth Coach I organized the Saxonian Dance Days in Leipzig for four years. And now, on top of that, the Saxonian Ten Dance Cup, which took place this year in Zwickau, Dresden, and Chemnitz.”
And each year he holds the DTV-training camp in Wuppertal, this year 110 pairs took the opportunity to learn from him and the co-trainers about the true grit, 150 are expected to attend in 2009.

We are running out of time, and I ask just one last question — 

and get a last, final answer:
“Sure, I have some spare time, now and then. But where I spend it and what I do — well, I have to keep a few secrets, haven't I...?”

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Aktualisiert: 19.02.2009