Ballroom Dancing Moves Online: Marzena Stachura and Slawek Sochacki

Ballroom Chat: Episode #15July 27, 2020Samantha Stout

In episode #15 of Love.Live.Dance's podcast, Ballroom Chat, we talk with Marzena Stachura and Slawek Sochacki. Marzena and Slawek are 4-time undefeated US and World American Smooth Champions, Owners of Dance United Ballroom Academy, Owners of Dance Vision Mastery Camp Las Vegas, Co-owners of The Royal Ball.

We discuss how online dance lessons can be incredibly effective during this challenging time, how Marzena and Slawek credit hardwork and dedication to their successes, how the SRDS is bring the joys of the American Smooth style to Russian dancers, and why they choose to see the positives in cancellations and closures.

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Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Our transcripts are automatically generated from our audio podcast with only small modifications for readability. Since the transcripts are automatically generated from our podcast conversation, they will contain errors.

SAMANTHA: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat. I'm your host, Samantha with Love.Live.Dance. Today I am joined by four-time undefeated US and world American smooth champions, the owners of Dance United Ballroom Academy, the owners of Dance Vision Mastery Camp, Las Vegas, and the co-owners of the Royal ball, Marzena Stachura and Slawek Sochicki.

SLAWEK: Yay.

SAMANTHA: thank you guys so much for being on. Welcome to the episode. How are you both doing today?

MARZENA & SLAWEK: Very good.

MARZENA: Thank you so much for having us, yes.

SAMANTHA: Excellent. And you guys are calling all the way from Poland. So first international episode, which is exciting. The amazing thing about technology is that we can all be a little bit closer in these times.

SLAWEK: The world is getting smaller now

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. So I like to start off every episode by just asking my guests, how you got into the dance industry, what brought you into this world?

SLAWEK: Okay. I will start first. So with guys, usually it's about the beautiful girls, and that's how I started dancing when I was 17 years old. One girl who was already dancing, she was looking for a partner. So she asked me to dance and you know, I tried at first, I didn't really know what ballroom dancing was. I was a basketball player at the time, but you know, slowly, little by little, I liked the atmosphere, liked the trends around and then dancing itself. It's sooner, better hook me. And then almost thirty years later, I'm still there. I'm still doing it.

MARZENA: Yes. And for me, I actually grew up in a dance family. My parents used to compete together. my mom did her last competition, her last night, like a regional championships when she was five months pregnant with me. She kept teaching couples until pretty much the day when she delivered me, she was trying to hold it. she was still at the dance camp in August with her couples and I'm born in September. So even until the end, I was dancing in her belly. And, actually when I was born and my mom didn't have any classes for kids, she started with me when I was in the first grade.

She actually started teaching in our school instead of PE we had two classes per week of ballroom. So we had my mom teaching us, and that lasted until I was 10. And then I decided I don't want to dance, but my mom obviously was having a dance studio. So I had to go to all the practices with her. So like it or not, I was there involved.

I was always participating, but not really competing until I was 15. And that's when I met a boy that I really liked and he asked me to dance with him. So I was like, okay, this is a good way to start again. And that's how it started. He stopped dancing after nine months. Then I had another partner, that partnership didn't work out. And then we met when I was the end of high school. We went to the dance camp to his city. My mom was doing the dance camp and he was the only boy who would practice by himself eight hours a day. And we were like, Oh my gosh, I wish my partner does this. So, luckily he didn't have a partner at that time. So we kind of started dancing together. And, yeah, it's since 95,

SLAWEK: September 95.

MARZENA: We started dancing together and since then it was a great journey. We had obviously a few little moments when there was a doubt, if this is the right thing.

SLAWEK: Most everybody probably has those.

MARZENA: As everybody. Financially, we weren't the richest kids on the planet so we could not afford sometimes pursuing the 10-dance career, but we still like the 10-dance. So we kind of thought that was the hard decision, but then when America opened the door for us, with a hard work and dedication that our dreams came true. So, so that's our little story.

SAMANTHA: Awesome. well I think it's so interesting too, that you both started at very different stages in your life, right? so, for Slawek, starting at 17, I feel like most people in the US when we were talking about the path towards amateur champion or eventually professional champion, you hear a lot kind of between, between rounds or between practices. Oh, you're starting too late. So you can set your goal goals high, but you're probably never going to reach it.

So I feel like you're kind of living testament that no, you can absolutely do this. You just have to put the hours in.

SLAWEK: Yes. Actually, my first teacher, when I started dancing, he said to me, you know what, you're way too old. Because at that time he was working pretty much with the kids between maybe six to eight, nine years old. So when I came, you know, 17 year old, he said, go back to basketball, you're way too old to do well in ballroom dancing. But you know what, that just helped me to actually become even more motivated and just to work harder just to prove him wrong. Of course, I didn't even dream that I'm going to become Polish Champion, not even thinking US, but it's just, just to achieve, you know, goal after goal.It's just like they say, small steps to achieve the big goal, because I was just thinking one step, one goal at the time. And then it happened.

SAMANTHA: Yeah.

SLAWEK: So its actually possible.

MARZENA: There's actually quiet few dancers that started much earlier. Just from the top of my head, I know Carmen Vincelj. She was one of those.

SLAWEK: She was actually 17 years old.

MARZENA: She started and look at her, you know, Blackpool champion, world champion. And I believe if you put your mind into it and you really want to do it, and you put your hard work, you can achieve anything you want.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, I would 100% agree with that. I think that's awesome.

So you mentioned that you started off as 10-dancers. Obviously we know you from your accolades as smooth champions. When did you decide, how did you decide? How did that process go from saying, okay, we're doing this 10-dance thing. We enjoy it, but it's not working for us. Let's make the switch to smooth.

MARZENA: Actually, we, competed 10-dance until around 2005 and then, like I said, it was a little hard. We were still working for a different studio. We used to get paid $25 for an hour to afford coaching in both.

SLAWEK: Styles, costumes, traveling, everything.

MARZENA: Yeah. We didn't have sponsors back then. It was super hard. So in 2005 or 2006, we decided to do ballroom only. Until January 2008, we were competing ballroom only.

SLAWEK: So for like, a year and a half we only competed ballroom

MARZENA: And, already then we thought, okay, you know, we don't have all this money to go to Blackpool. We went one time to UK. We basically had no money left on our bank account because it was so expensive to go, to take some lessons. And like I said, working for a studio that was really hard. It was funny in that we started teaching so much more smooth at those days that we always start feeling that hunger of knowledge of Smooth.

So actually at our wedding reception in 2006, one of the biggest names in our industry, Toni Redpath, she kind of already started asking us to do smooth. And we're like, Oh, after the baby. So that was July of 2006 when we got married and she basically started that. Then when I got pregnant in 2009, eight, that pregnancy then, during Emerald Ball, I was still dancing pro/am.

David Hamilton stopped me on the hallway. And he goes, girl, what do I have to do to pay you to compete in Smooth? And I started laughing. I said, well, you have to stay in line behind Toni Redpath. But because she was the very first one. So that's how we said, okay, after this baby, we will give ourselves one year. And that's what Toni actually said. Give me one year and let's see if you like it or you don't. And we fell in love with the style. We actually thought we were done, this is it, baby time. And just the family, but because we taught so much smooth, we just thought like the worst scenario, we're going to be much better teachers. So that's how everything got started.

SLAWEK: And this was actually the main reason. We just said that we want to be more experienced about what we were actually teaching. So that was the main reason we decided to switch.

MARZENA: And then when we started learning, we fell in love and we're like, Oh my gosh, why did we start doing this so late? We were so like upset a little bit with ourselves. But then when we did our very first competition in Palm Springs, the results came in immediately. We won the first open and we're like, okay, wait a minute. We can do something with this. So the whole family was so motivated that my dad took all four grandparents. He literally sat them down and said, okay, now it's our time to step in and help them out.

So they were basically flying all the way from Poland, all that, the entire five years of our competing in smooth, taking turns to help us with our son. And they actually came with us to every single show, every competition.

SLAWEK: Every teaching job.

MARZENA: Every teaching job, we took them with us. We always spent a couple of days after to kind of show them that place. So we got to travel a little bit together. That's why the family is so close and the kids, they love grandparents. They want to be with them all the time. So that's why during this Covid time we decided to be here, because anyway we can teach online anywhere and the kids, they have a, a beautiful time to, they can see how it is to have grandparents everyday, right?

SLAWEK: Yeah. But that's how it started and without parents, our parents, it wouldn't be possible because we never hired any help,

MARZENA: No babysitters.

SLAWEK: No babysitters. So it's always the grandparents. When we practice, we basically did it by ourselves sometimes or someone in the studio, you know, took our son and just try to take care of him.

MARZENA: We had like Olga Ginzburg running with the stroller when we had the first choreography lessons with Toni Redpath. So it was a lot of fun memories. I don't think anybody from our friends in the studio believed in us because you guys are crazy. There is no way you will compete with a child.

SLAWEK: So it was challenging but I think, like with my beginning, when someone told me that you not gonna make it. I think that's as well, seeing that, you know, in people's eyes that they were sort of looking at us, like, I don't think it's going to happen. It actually kick us, you know, even more with motivation saying we can do it. We can.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel like when the odds are stacked against you, that's when you're like, all right, I'm going to bear down and I'm going to figure out a way to do that. Absolutely. I think too, this kind of echoes one of the early conversations that I was having with Krista Treu Derrington, where there is this stigma of, you can't have kids and have a professional dance career because how in the world are you going to balance it? And the answer is you have a really great support network. You call on family, you call on friends, you call on other professionals in the industry to be like, Hey, I need to spend an hour just going through this routine. Can you please play with the baby?

We all love the studio baby. It's kind of like a toy that we're all like, Oh my gosh, you're so cute. So, I feel like it is 100% doable. And part of that is just talking about it and saying, yes, this is something that you can have. And if you are starting at whatever age, this is something that you can be successful in, you just have to have to find the way and put the time and effort into it.

You brought up online training and the fact that because we're in this kind of weird time where a lot of us aren't able to be in the studio, or we're trying to limit the amount of time that we're spending face to face in the studio, you've taken this opportunity to spend it more with family. But you're continuing your education with your students online. So, What was that adjustment period like? What tips or suggestions would you make for instructors that are moving to that mindset? Or what reassurances would you give to students that are maybe on the fence about, do I want to do online education or do I want to just wait and hope that this ends in November, December, February, March, June of 2021.

MARZENA: Yeah.

SLAWEK: I think the most important thing in our situations that we were already teaching online for about four years now. So we have quite a lot of experience already in that direction. So for us was pretty smooth and natural choice to, since we couldn't organize our dance camp, to start a online project, which really became very useful, I think, for both sides. So that's not sort of the, the reason why we did it then became really, like I said, very successful.

MARZENA: Yeah, but like what we said as well, when you teach online already for four years you see that this actually brings benefits to the people. At the beginning, we had the same response. Oh my gosh. How you can explain that? We normally touch, we go through the motions, but we become so much more precise in explanation. And very often we actually find much shorter versions of what we would show with the muscles and by ourself. And, when we teach these days, Pro-Am students, we teach amateur couples. We teach professional couples that they are on the regular basis. And we are, we started almost immediately when this happened. Maybe two weeks later, three weeks later, we already started teaching online. Basically, as teachers, we not only became so much clearer with the information, but our eye, it's so much more trained. You see all the little nuances that normally before, maybe you wouldn't even and pay attention to, and we see tremendous progress in those people who have been working with us on a weekly basis, biweekly, but it's truly amazing to see how much better they are by themselves and, professional couples. It's easier because they already have much more experience.

But when we talk about the pro/am students and amateur couples that often don't have the luxury of having those lessons so often. we actually see how they improve and that's actually the biggest reward for a teacher. When you see that your students, your little babies, they are doing everything by themselves and they're perfectly balanced. They understand their body. They understand which muscles they have to use because the teacher is not there to support them.

SLAWEK: They become, they become so much more independent. The self awareness is growing so much because now they obviously hear information. They might see a little bit on the computer screen, but its not the same as in the real life. So they have to digest and absorb those informations much more precisely in their heads and then transfer into the bodies into the movement. So, so that's why the learning process actually, it becomes much faster. You know, you would think it's not going to happen like that, but it's actually, we're both amazed how much quicker students improve.

MARZENA: And we work normally, like we've been talking about this yesterday during our interview, when we were actually the one in your shoes. We all, what is very important, we finally have time to work on the details. Where normally we always in a hurry if there was competition after competition, after competition, and this is a great tool to push us to be the best as well. But now it's like, we kind of took a step back to push 10 steps forward because we all put so much more effort into technique and to become much more aware of the internal body, not so much about actual performance and then seeing the routines from beginning to the end.

SLAWEK: That's what we are big believers of anyway. So it probably suits our way of thinking and our way of how we approach dancing in general.

SAMANTHA: Definitely.

MARZENA: So for all the teachers that are out there somewhere and you guys are hesitant, try it. Give the little steps to your students and give them all the technical things. They don't need to run the entire routines to become better.

Most of the time, they're going to hurt themselves doing this. When they work on the little details, they have actually a huge amount of possibility. I would say 99% just to be successful. And they will, when they come back to the studios and you can dance with them, you will feel how much more balanced they are. They're on their feet, they're lighter. They know what they supposed to do, and you can just basically give them timing, direction. And that's all.

SLAWEK: We think for the future, when things will get back to normal, we think that the online teaching world will stay as a very important part.

MARZENA: You don't have to fly anywhere. You're saving all this money. Instead of flying, spending thousands of dollars from flights on a hotel, you can take lessons with anybody on the entire planet. I believe there is 90% of the teachers that they are the best, best in the industry that they are doing that. Camps that there are cost $20 a class I'm like, this is like, if someone likes to go to Starbucks, that's how so you pay four dollars for a big drinks, or if you go to Jamba juice, I think you can afford maybe three Jamba juice, right? And you have a class with a world class coach and listen to their opinion.

In the worst scenario, at least, you know what they're looking for when they're judging you, that's like the worst. You don't understand at least you know what they like to see when they're judging it and maybe why they didn't mark you to win.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. a couple of things that I want to key in on that you mentioned. The first is specifically when you're working with Pro-Am students, I completely agree. I started doing online virtual lessons, just out of survival. I can't not teach, so how can I still connect with my students? How can I keep them motivated? And for my gentlemen that I compete with in a pro/am basis, or I'm working on getting them into the competition world, I have noticed that in the last two months I have used so much of my time and effort focusing on just their ankle activation in the rise and fall in waltz.

That is something that I would never, if I was in a studio with them, I would just be getting them through the paces and like, please learn this routine so that you can potentially lead me someday in the future. But now, because I can't physically be in that space. I'm really pushing them to understand every bit of that process and every bit of those foundational elements that we normally don't get a chance to really dig in deep on. So I would completely agree that switching to that online format gives you such the ability to hone your eye, hone your focus, and really push your students in a direction that is going to make a huge difference in their dancing. The other thing that you mentioned was just access to quality dance instruction at a very high level for a very low price.

I think depending on where you're located in the country and what the size of your student or studio base is, it's very difficult to fly instructors at a certain caliber out to do one-on-one coaching or to do a mastery camp or to do, you know, a short form two-day workshop lecture series. So now that we know that this is possible, now that we know that we can get everyone in our living room, potentially, I think that opens up the opportunity for people in those more remote locations or working with a smaller student base and be like, Hey, no, I can bring up Slawek and Marzena and I can pay them maybe a little bit less because I'm not having to cover airline tickets and hotel, but still, still a good amount, to work with my students and to see in that visual, a virtual world. So I think that's absolutely fantastic.

MARZENA: Even these days people are doing medal tests online. People are passing judging exams online. Everything became so much more accessible.

So there was so many different ways. And at the beginning, when we actually offered to the students that we can do those exams, people were like, Oh my gosh, we never thought about this. I said, there was no way someone is going to lie, cheat, or anything in front of the camera because you can see them. And you know, if they know, or they don't. If they go and they start looking for an answers on the wall, you know that they have no idea what the question is about, right. So it's very, I think this is actually the best time and we've been actually following so many different Professionals that we used to work with. When we used to do 10-dance, we wanted to train with them and listen to their information, to kind of expand our brain and put so much more, new information, new way of approaching certain things from the top top class, class coaches.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely, absolutely really quick from the chat. We have someone from central Asia tuning in. Hello. Welcome. Thank you for joining us. that's exactly what we're talking about. Access is a, is just wide open these days, which is fantastic. so I want to talk, kind of along those lines about listening to the top top tier coaches and getting more access to just hearing how they explained things. The mastery camp, the dance vision master camp typically held in Las Vegas every year, obviously because of current, current circumstances, was not able to be held in person. So instead it was put online. I have a couple of questions about just kind of the behind the scenes of that, but first I just want to say, like, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for doing that.

I went out like the first day that it was available, went ahead and purchased almost the entire series, both the bronze/silver/gold level and the professional series, just because, for that exact reason. I wanted to hear how Nazar and Irina are going to explain a Rumba walk in American, because if I can hear how they would explain it to a bronze student, I can decide, okay, I really like how they said that. I'm going to incorporate that in my own dancing, or, you know what, maybe I didn't really agree with them there. I'm going to avoid saying that. Max Sinitsa, Tatiana, you have amazing American professionals and you also have incredible, international professionals.

So I wanted to ask you, how do you curate the list of instructors that you invite every year to the camp? And then what is your process for selecting what topics are going to be covered in each lecture? Or do you leave that up to, the instructors that you bring in or do you have kind of a master plan of, we want to make sure that we hit all of these topics along the way?

MARZENA: So it's a good question.

SLAWEK: Nobody ever actually ask us

MARZENA: So with the teachers, we try to keep the team, as long as possible for many years, the same team.

SLAWEK: So we try to change as little as possible

MARZENA: Yes. So that's one thing. Every year though, we do a little survey for all the participants and we ask them, who do they like? what did they like about them? Who they didn't like, and why they didn't like them? So sometimes we had some amazing professionals, but they were too complicated for the level of the students.

At the camp we have five ballrooms. We have the newcomer ballroom. Bronze, Silver, Gold, and professional. We want to make sure that the teachers that we bring, they can talk to everybody. If they can only talk to professionals, that's not a good teacher for us. They might be amazing, but for the purpose of the camp, this is not what we need. We need someone who can talk to the baby beginner. The baby newcomer that it's literally on the first plan, 10 lessons, and we need to have the same teacher be able to give the best lectures for the professionals. So, that's very important for us that the customers are happy.

SLAWEK: being very approachable as a teacher. This is another very important subject because it's obviously, you know, we sort of build up like a sort of a family feeling during a camp. So we want to make sure that the teachers are not only about coming teaching the class and leaving. We want to make sure they building the relationship.

MARZENA: The students are looking forward to see them every year.

SLAWEK: Just spend time with them, you know, just to, just to meet them also as a, just a normal person, not just as a champion.

MARZENA: Yeah. As we know, we have all people that they are such a champion that is almost hard to talk to them. And we have people that they are champions that you, you, you never would know that they have won so many titles because they're so easy to talk to. So with, with the students that we have, we have a lot of seniors that they are coming. We have of course, younger professionals and dancers, but we have a lot of senior, dancers that they are coming to our camp.

We want to make sure that they fall in love with the instructors. And when they fall in love, we know that in 95%, they will show up next year because they want to be with them and they want to work with them. So that's our kind of approach with that. Like Slawek said, for the online camp, we expanded the group because we, we didn't have to give all of them, those minimum 20 hours of the classes at the camp that we have to provide, because that's what the contracts says. So we could suddenly open up the door and we invited a few other teachers. That we actually are kind of, for us, there are, we are testing how people really

SLAWEK: So it was a great way for us for the future

MARZENA: so we can hire them in the future. So, that's one of the reasons why we expanded it, to show more knowledge and more variety of different voices. And for us to kind of peek, you know, who people like. It's not necessarily only our opinion. It's exactly what the customers are saying. And who would they like to work with? Because obviously we are pleasers and we have to please them right

SLAWEK: So we are sort of in the middle, not make sure that the students are having, you know, they enjoying what they, what they hear from the teachers. But we also want to make sure that the teachers are happy to come to our camp and to, to teach and to spend time with the students. So now we are kind of in between, so want to make sure we, we please both sides.

SAMANTHA: Definitely.

MARZENA: And in regards of the subject, we try to bring up the best things that the teachers can offer in our opinion. So we obviously, we know all of them for many, many years, we know their strengths, we know, what is the best thing they can offer to the public.

So if someone is amazing in choreography, we're going to ask them to do choreography. If someone is very technical, they are going to get way more technical classes, because that's what they like to do. This is what they are famous about. So we're not going to force them to do something that they don't like because other than, you know, then it puts stress on them and it's no point to try to sell something that you don't feel good in, right? So that's one of the things and we, every year we try, we rotate, the levels we rotate the dances between the teachers.

SLAWEK: So different level of students have changed to meet different different teachers. So we don't always have the same teacher teaching the same style. So also teachers feel more like they have to, you know, stretch their thinking. Sometimes they have to maybe think. What to do very interesting for the very beginner students for next year, they have to do something way more advanced. So I think again, it's just kind of keep it exciting and, and constantly different and new.

MARZENA: Yeah. But overall, we feel so blessed with the team that we have. this, this would be our fourth year, that we wouldn't be running before. Of course, mr. Wayne Eng and Donna Eng owned the camp, then we purchased the camp from them. but the team has been amazing. This year supposed to be 25th anniversary of the Mastery Camp.

Well, we will celebrate that next year. Hopefully

SLAWEK: That's the plan

SAMANTHA: A huge 26th anniversary party. Yeah.

MARZENA: The 25th is kind of silent. It's online, so we don't count it. And, but the 25th will be next year with the big shows. And this year we're supposed to have Victor and Anastasia with us as well. So we hope, you know, next year we will truly have the best camp with the best attendance because, already last year was so amazing and we hope, you know, that we can keep delivering the best camp on the planet. That's our dream.

SLAWEK: That's our dream, yeah, bringing everyone closer to each other.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. Do you think, with kind of the success of moving it to this online format. Obviously once we can be back in person, once we can be back in Las Vegas, we want to move towards that camp. Do you think you'll still keep an online component to it for those that won't, that can't be there in person.

Perfect. Thank you guys.

MARZENA: That's definitely. We know there's a lot of teachers, like you probably, right? That would love to come, but you have to make your living, so we have a lot of teachers that actually come with entire studios pretty much. They bring all their students with them. We do offer a special discounts for those teachers that they bring the team with them. we offer, if you bring enough, then you get an entire camp for free for yourself so that we do a lot of stuff. Stuff like this to work with those teachers, because we really, we were one of those teachers we wanted to train and we want to support those teachers, that they are investing in their knowledge, because with that our community is growing and we're getting better and better, right? But definitely what we saw is that the people that they purchase the camp, especially at first were people that they've never been to our camp.

SLAWEK: No. So that's what I was going to say. It's

MARZENA: like a different crew. Oh my gosh. This is such a different crew that is actually buying because not everybody likes Las Vegas. No, not everybody likes casinos. You know, some people are allergic to smoke and stuff like this. Not everybody has possibility to travel. So we suddenly saw, Oh my gosh, well, this is, I guess our future, we will do a real camp. And we will offer online camps so people can, benefit from both.

We always used to offer the DVD on the end for the us, for, campers only. But with that format, we for sure will give, we will give them access to the online classes. but I don't think the DVD format will work anymore for the future. We will just basically have what we have right now. It's on a platform. You can watch it anytime, anywhere. so we know we had few little technical difficulties at the beginning, like, especially with the single purchases. Cause we added that at the last moment. And even our website designer didn't know why. They would not get the classes that she put in their basket.

SLAWEK: So we apologize.

MARZENA: We apologize for that, but that was our first year. We all are learning. even though Ashley, she was really working to make sure that everything is working. And sometimes she says, Oh my gosh, I thought this was done. And then the platform just didn't understand what we wanted to have.

SLAWEK: But I guess, you know. From year to year, everything will get more and more smoothly because you know, technology will understand technology better and so it will be all much easier.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely

MARZENA: Yes, and I think what's great. You have access to those classes for a year right now. In the future, we need to find out how this will work with all the, you know, fees, that you do to the platforms and everything like this, because obviously there's a lot of hidden costs that people might not realize how much money you pay to have that kind of platform to have all those passes available.

For a month of storage that we need, you know, for all those classes. So, hopefully in the future, we can have those camps available for the people that they purchase for a life, a time, or for five years, obviously that information can change. But at this moment, we know we can offer for one year and then we will learn as well as we go how this will work.

SLAWEK: Its all new, but yes, that's the plan

SAMANTHA: Yes. Yeah, no, it's, it's absolutely fantastic having that in that online format, the platform I found super easy to use. I did not have the technical issues that some people had when they first got it. For me it's been great because I occasionally will have an hour or two in between lessons, just because occasionally I don't have people that want to come back in, in person just yet, which I completely understand. but if I have a weird day where I've got some spacing out, I can just pop up my laptop, put on my headphones and listen to a lecture for that, for that hour that I would normally be just sitting twiddling my thumbs or working on a routine.

So for me as an instructor, I have found infinite value in it, which is just fantastic.

I want to, ask a quick question, which may be not so quick.

I was watching an interview that you both did with Wayne for the Dance Vision series. As part of that, Marzena, you mentioned that from a judging perspective, you would love to see students spend more time working on the foundational elements in bronze. You actually likened it to the five years of elementary school and the three years of middle school that we have here in the US and how you would like to see us spend more time in that bronze category.

It's to both of you, but, but Slawek, I know you are a top teacher in Pro-Am. You have a lot of ladies that are still competing on the circuit. How do you keep students motivated to stay in the bronze syllabus for longer? Because a lot of times as teachers, we run into this, well, I've done bronze for three years or two years, it's time for me to move to silver now right? So how do you stress the importance of staying in those lower foundational levels?

MARZENA: Yeah, I can start first. So for me, what's very important is for them to understand that this is the foundation of their future. So the more they put time into this, the better foundation they will have in the future. Even if someone stays for four years in bronze or three, maybe someone that's a little faster, it's very important that they go through all the steps that are basically on the list. I would not miss a step that we would teach them, and I would want to make sure that they are capable to start dancing those steps by themselves.

So we have to lead them. We actually train our students from the beginning and I do this with my boys too, that they have to know how, how to dance their routines to the music by themselves. Because most of our students are very goal-oriented, especially like Slawek's ladies. They want to win the world title, they want to win the US title. That's one of the steps for them to understand when they will achieve this, they will be able to move up to the next level because by law, they cannot compete at the same level for the following year. Right? So they can change to the younger division if they don't want to move up to the next level, but they cannot compete at that level anymore if they won already that US or world title. So that's one fast-forward step. If they work hard enough and they want to move faster and they win the US title or they win a World title, well, this is it. And you know, we're moving you to silver. But obviously there's only one champion per year, so, well, they have to stay really motivated and work. But we put a lot of, time for the technical stuff from the beginning. We don't babysit them. We don't try to make them learn just the patterns. We work from the beginning. Like we would train any champion with that warmup exercises with understanding of their bodies. And I think they start becoming so much more mature, right, in their mind that this is not just about the steps.

That I already mastered the steps and I know them and I can move up to the next level. So thats like one of the most important things for us. Right?

SLAWEK: You know, I always say there's a teacher for every one, so you know, some of the students, you know, they let's say they see as being successful, you know, as, as a professional and then you know, with our students. So they think, Oh, I want to be one of these students because I want to do well, too. And then after a lesson or 10, they realize, well, they push so hard or, let's say I found out we weren't just dancing around. So they see that maybe we are not the best teachers for them. So they obviously move on to different teachers, but it obviously has to be a mutual sort of agreement.

We sort of attach certain, certain type of students to the way we teach. But, speaking of becoming a, US Champion, and I actually had a situation with one of my students that used to dance with me 10-dance, and she won both styles in the bronze level. So she decided that she wants to learn smooth.

So we kind of sat and started talking, okay, would we start from bronze? Or would we start from silver? So we actually ended up starting from silver, just because we thought, okay, we actually covered a lot of material in both styles. So we started from silver and what's interesting, she actually won right in her first year of dancing. She won the US title in silver, which I was very unhappy.

SAMANTHA: Right!

SLAWEK: She looked at me, well, aren't you supposed to be very happy? I said, I will be the happiest man in the world if you were second, because you still have something to look forward to yet, you already see how much you improved, but because you are, obviously we have to move to the next level.

So then she realized very quickly being in the open, how much more difficult the whole situation became because then I was sort of sometimes, you know, trying to be funny, sarcastic saying, you know, I remember in the Bronze level, we used to talk about this, which obviously we never went through bronze, but you see, even though when she was in the open, we had to still go back to a lot of bronze techniques let's call it. Right? So the point is, they're the easiest to learn things where you have easier steps. That's why I think when students realize that, you know, it's actually very short-term thinking if you rush to the next level so quickly and sooner or later, you have to go back.

MARZENA: You hit a wall and then you just go, Oh, I don't know this. So even when we do our like online group classes, we do it for many different countries. We, people, I think sometimes expendable we'll do like crazy and teach them something. And we are always talking about principle and the level of the steps that we choose to show them that very difficult technical stuff it's on the bronze or silver. We never actually try to show them something fancy because we don't know what level they're in, but we know that information,

SLAWEK: It's always useful.

MARZENA: they can move from that information will stay with them until they are professionals. So it doesn't really matter. So I always say it's like, when you learn alphabet, if you miss couple letters there, you cannot read the books.

SAMANTHA: Right.

MARZENA: No matter what. So that's exactly what we need to understand as dance teachers and as students that we cannot miss a few letters from the alphabet, because you will, won't be able to read successfully the books. So, yeah, it's, it's truly, I believe the foundation. It's the best, the most important, I think for our industry, and unfortunately, quite often we, see how students, students are being pushed to dance way to soon. And sometimes it might be a student who wants to compete in it cause they liked them. And so the teachers are trying to please them, but on the end we're actually hurting them, instead of making their life, enjoyable, we actually make it more miserable.

SLAWEK: The great way of thinking about it is if you have a student who is goal oriented, right. And they want to do well in competition. So you have one great moment when you move on to the next level and then you're gonna, you know, struggle, because usually you're going to be some, you know, probably yeah you know, in the back pack end of the competition, just because, you know, you're not quite there yet, and you're gonna have a students who decided to stay a bit longer in bronze or silver. Well, they have actually chance to do well because you know, they already becoming well known in that level and they have so much more experience. So the confidence is growing, so ultimately they competitive career becomes so much more joyful and successful.

So it's a choice. It's more you which direction you want to go. But I think it's our jobs as a teacher to educate our students because like Marzena said, some of them, they want to go very quickly to the next level, but I think it's our job to explain to them what, what they benefit from

MARZENA: And the first teacher is the most important. When I started working with a lot of students, when we moved from one studio to another studio, when we were still on a work visa, I was struggling at the beginning with quite few of my students because they were taught differently. They were taught after pattern of the pattern, and there was really no explanation.

So some of them, they said, but I come here just to learn those patterns, so I can go and dance the best with the girls on a party. Sometimes it's hard because you have those people who want to come only for social reasons. They want to go and pick up a girl in a bar, in the restaurant, in the nightclub, and that's what they want to show.

So as a teacher, I think we have to be sometimes as well, flexible, but saying that, I still try to give the best quality lessons with those students. So it doesn't matter what their goal was that they want to be the best social dancers or they want to be the best on the competition floor. We both still hear, I want to be the best. And I always keep saying you don't want to be one of those guys, who is yanking the girl and she needs a massage or acupuncture after the party. You want to be the one that she wants to dance on the party, no stop and say no to everybody else. So that's the biggest thing for me.

If you want to be the best in whatever you want to be, you have to put effort into it.

SLAWEK: So I'll just say one sentence. It's not about what, its about how.

SAMANTHA: Yes, absolutely. The thing that I tell most of the students that come in that just want to be good social dancers, is you don't want to be a good social dancer, you want to be a great dancer. Because the best social dances that I've ever had, we just did the box step and a basic underarm turn, but it was with such quality, that I felt like I was just being taken care of. It felt like I was dancing on a cloud because my partner had complete control of every single part of his body and how he was communicating with me.

So if you want to be an awesome social lead, You just want to be a really great lead. And if you want to be a fantastic follow and you want to be the lady that everyone asks to dance with at every social party, you have to be really responsible for your own posture, your own connection, your own awareness. You have to be tuning your brain to listen to all of those little nuances and signals that you're getting from your lead. So you just really want to be a great dancer and the patterns, the patterns will come with time and practice, but the foundation stuff that's, what's, that's, what's really important.

MARZENA: Exactly.

SAMANTHA: Yeah.

A couple of things that I want to make sure that we get to before we end today. I've seen a lot of posts on social media about your involvement with SRDS and specifically bringing the smooth curriculum to Russia and other Eastern European countries that are maybe more in the international vein.

What is it? How did you get involved in it? And what should people know about what's going on?

SLAWEK: Well, we know, a guy named Eldar Dzhafarov. So he's the one with his student Olga, to, to start this project. And that's where, their big dream was to have people fall in love in this American smooth, particularly in Russia. So they put together this organization, and then they started thinking, who will be, ya know, great teachers to help them to sort of grow that whole project in Russia. So, you know, we knew each other for a while, so they sort of look at us and they say, guys, you know, we want you to help us.

So they ask us in 2016, I believe to dance.

MARZENA: A show and a champion's ball.

SLAWEK: So we did a show there so people could sort of learn a little bit more about American smooth itself. And, they, we, we did some lessons at them for the first time. That's how everything started. So recently in last December, we went to Moscow and we actually filmed the entire syllabus for kids.

MARZENA: It's in collaboration with Dance Vision kids. So we did the entire, the way European system works. It's slightly different. We don't have, like in America, most of the kids, they then like the pre-novice level, novice, and then they jump into open. We have classes here. So we basically divided all the patterns that are available in DVIDA syllabus, and we put them into five classes, E D C B, and A. So E is the beginner class and A it's like a already open level class.

So the kids, they have to qualify on special competitions to move on from one level to another level they have to, every country might have a slightly different way of achieving this class, as we used to have to go for the classes that they were qualification classes and only the finalist would be moving on. These days, they have to collect so many trophies, top three places.

SLAWEK: Points, they have to collect points.

MARZENA: So they have to be on a podium plus so many points to be able to move up to the next level. I actually believe that this is a great system for the kids because they have to learn, again, principals, they have to go through the foundation, moving up into the, from the bronze level, through the silver, until the closed gold. And then finally they can move up to the open choreography, which I think, unfortunately, we are missing this in America. A little bit, we are moving kids way too quickly to open choreographies. But I truly believe this is a great thing. I think so we basically did this with Wayne Eng of DVIDA and with Eldar and Olga.

So we had a great two weeks in Russia in December. It was cold, but they took care of us and we filmed all the classes. The website, I think they're still working on this. It's takes a long time to make sure everything is correct.

SLAWEK: to put it all the steps together, we have to do the manuals.

MARZENA: The manuals and all the stuff so its a lot of -

SLAWEK: it a lot of, actually we just, we pretty much just finished like maybe two or three weeks ago.

MARZENA: Yes, we're waiting for the website right now. But, Eldar, is like with Olga, she basically said I love smooth, and I want people in Russia to fall in love with smooth. Right now, they're already expanding. They already start having, studios in England that they start teaching kids and, teaching American style. we are starting to do the same thing here in Poland while we are here. We are taking advantage. I wish that we could have go, go to more studios, but unfortunately we basically have just few people that we work with because of the covid. And

SLAWEK: The project itself was going really well, because this year we were supposed to have first time in Blackpool in the junior Blackpool, we supposed to kids presentation. This is what we had like about I believe four years ago, when professionals at the same presentation where we top six couples at that time, we invited to to dance a non-judged competition. So we were going to have the same this year, a junior Blackpool. So kids were getting ready. They were very excited. Unfortunately...

MARZENA: We were supposed to have like two couples from like five or six countries. Two couples from Ukraine, two couples from Russia, two from Poland, two from England, two from America, and I think two from Asia. So it's supposed to be like a great presentation of the junior and we were hoping that's why we wanted to spend so much more time in Europe to kind of help, to push those kids to dance this style. But overall, SRDS is doing a great job these days because they are doing workshops basically on a weekly basis with the top smooth coaches

SLAWEK: they do online teaching. They invite a lot of great coaches to.

MARZENA: Plus, I think all the top, both of us, Toni Redpath, Jonathan Roberts, Olga Foraponova, Elena Kosovich, Tiana, Sharon Savoy. All of us. We did classes for them. So they are investing this time when everybody are at home to get the knowledge to their houses so they can push and when we work with those kids, it was amazing. Those kids are truly brilliant.

SLAWEK: Even online.

MARZENA: they really want to learn because they're so focused in a few years time, they're going to really succeed if they will stick to it.

So that's a great thing. And a last thing of the SRDS, we were basically getting ready, their team of professionals, getting ready to pass the DVIDA exams. So, on the smooth, right now I know they started already looking into the rhythm a little bit. They already getting some couples that they're getting interested in the rhythm. The rhythm, unfortunately has a little bit more difficulty in breaking into Europe and Asia for now but,

SLAWEK: Hopefully for the future. I hope when they will see American smooth, become more popular. I think that the eyes, after a while, would turn towards American Rhythm as well. That's, that's what I hope.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely.

MARZENA: A lot of project for SRDS, and we are really privileged that they have chosen us to do this. So we're very grateful to Eldar and Olga for picking us from all those amazing dancers in the US.

SAMANTHA: Well, and I think that's fantastic too, that you're planting the seed with the juniors of this interest in let's explore smooth, but then you're also doing the really great job and the important work of making sure that you have professionals on the ground that are teaching them day-in, day-out that are also capable and have the training so that they can continue, even if you're not there. I think that is so very important because it's fantastic to bring in top level professionals to teach for a short period of time, but you always worry when they then leave. Okay. Is the interest's going to go away. Putting in the extra effort to make sure that you've got instructors that have taken their certifications, that you feel comfortable and confident that they know how to teach, I think is, is fantastic. And I can't wait to see where the project goes in, in the next five to 10 years.

MARZENA: Just. Right everybody. But I think Eldar is doing a great job. They build up an amazing studio where they have a Gyrotonic equipment, pilates equipment. It's like, really outstanding yeah.

SLAWEK: It's a dream place to be at to train.

MARZENA: Especially for smooth dancers. It's truly amazing. So they're going to push their couples and he's always kind of asking guys, am I on a good track? Just look what I'm doing. Sending us constantly videos to kind of make sure we are working as a team.

SAMANTHA: Awesome. Two important topics that I want to make sure that we touch on today, that maybe are a little bit less positive, but I feel like for fellow instructors or studio owners that are listening, or competitive organizers that are listening. these are important conversations to have, especially now. So the first is, I introduced you at the beginning as the owners of Dance United Ballroom Academy. I unfortunately saw the announcement that Dance United was closing as of July 1. Is that a permanent closure or a temporary closure?

MARZENA: Well at this moment, the situation was really hard with the landlord, they did not help us at all. They requested 100% payment for all the months that we have been closed by government by law

SLAWEK: We had to be closed by March

MARZENA: Yeah, from March till July. We basically had to pay $10,000. Pretty much, almost a month to the landlords. So as a studio that gives place to all the independent teachers. Unfortunately we did not get any help from the government

SLAWEK: Because we didn't hire any staff.

MARZENA: There's only three studios in orange County that opens the door to independents. We were one of them. The studio kind of fell on us because we didn't plan to open the studio. We took over after somebody else. We wanted to create a home for many independents that they were struggling to find a big space. We would celebrate on August 1st our 6th anniversary. Unfortunately, the life have chosen different path.

The good news is we bought our floor from Dance Vision. That dance flex floor, which is removable. So the floor, the music machine, all in the storage. So right now we're waiting for better times. We're just worried that this might not be the best time to start looking for a new new space, because we don't know how long this will continue.

So at this moment we basically put everything into the storage and we are waiting to see what's going to happen.

SLAWEK: So the studio project is on hold

MARZENA: We will see what will happen with the economy. Unfortunately, America has lost many jobs. So that might affect our industry. We're not something that people must do. We are kind of a luxury, so we just have to be smart with the next step. Obviously we would love to have a studio like we had before, where we used to organize three, four camps a year. We did rounds. We did a supervisor, a supervisor, or rounds for students with the professional rounds.

SLAWEK: It was a place to learn.

MARZENA: We had mainly competitive students, so we never really were there to make money on the studio. It was for us to have a home and for us to have...

SLAWEK: to come any time, to teach however long

MARZENA: yeah. We could organize stuff. We like the training camp, right. To just give back to the industry. Cause we never charged the teachers. If they brought two students, they already had the camp for free. So we always were thinking, you know, the professionals, we need to take care of them to make sure that they can grow as a teachers. Because of this the industry is much better. But unfortunately, the landlord, we tried till the end. we were begging them to help us out.

There were just no. It was the only answer. They, at some point they told us we will have to pay only the operational costs, but then suddenly it has changed that it's still a hundred percent. So unfortunately, out new lease was supposed to restart on a July 1st. And that's why we

SLAWEK: decided not to continue.

MARZENA: And we just had to say no to this project for now.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. And I, and I think, you made an important point, which a lot of studio owners are, are feeling right now. The US has offered the PPP, the PUA. There were small business administration loans that were available, but for students, or for studios that particularly were catering towards independent contractors and independent instructors - so non-franchised - a lot of us are independent contractors. So the PPP you can't apply for because you don't have employees. We know that a lot of the SBA loans didn't really go to small businesses or if they were, they were much, much smaller. So it did kind of, unfortunately leave this gap where the studio owners that were paying rent and utilities on spaces that were closed by the government could not get money then from the government to help cover those rents.

So hopefully, when all of this is said and done, and we returned to normalcy, we'll be celebrating a grand opening somewhere of the new Dance United studio.

MARZENA: Well the floor is available. Yeah. So if you ever plan to buy a studio, open a studio, we are one thing on the, we always thought from beginning to have removable floor. That's the best thing ever that I think we did. It's a little bit more pricey, but you can always take it with you or resell it to someone else. If someone else wants to buy it.

SLAWEK: And also, we can give you another piece of advise, if you are the let's say the teacher who, or the person who is planning to open the studio, try to get a building, try to own the building if possible, because you're going to ultimately pay the same amount.

MARZENA: Or work with a smaller landlord. Our company was actually, it's like they have 1 million properties. We're just a little teeny, tiny fish in a huge ocean for them. They don't really care for people like us. So. yeah. If you plan to open a studio, either a family owned business, something smaller, or if you have any students who can buy a building and lease from them or buy it for yourself, that's even better that you have a, you know, some equity for the future, just in case.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. Yeah. And dance studios. We're not looking for like a little thousand square foot space. We tend to want a larger, a larger open area. And it's very particular the kind of space that we're looking for, which also tends to put you in that higher rental market, unfortunately. So I think you're absolutely right being able to buy or, or at least have a personal connection with the person that owns the building and then make sure that you can remove your mirrors at the end of the day.

Make sure you can pull up your floor make sure that the sound system is yours, all of those things so that if you have to move, you can. On that same note of just kind of how 20 20 has turned all of our plans upside down, you were the co-owners of the Royal Ball, which is a fantastic comp competition. it was unfortunately canceled for 2020. When we look at 2021, which hopefully will be back to normal, knock on wood. are you already starting to have conversations about what changes you're going to make to the way that the event runs for 2021? Just in case, are there going to be extra precautions taken? Or you hoping that if you have the opportunity to run it in 2021, that it'll be just like it was in 2019.

MARZENA: That would be the best. That would be the best wish because we had an awesome 2019, yes, with us and David and Natalie Schultz, we own the Royal Ball. So the biggest thing is we actually were one of the first competitions that had to cancel. Because it was right when the coronavirus was getting stronger. SLAWEK was a weekend before, the two weeks before you were still dancing in Las Vegas. Right? And then the weekend of, it was already when everything was starting to get, he was in BYU, judging the nationals. So that's when everything was going already, the went upside down. We first got approved to change the date to June, to reschedule to June, and unfortunately that day didn't work out either because the coronavirus is still with us. And we already in that towards the end of July, but we were hoping first that this will be over. It will be like two months, maybe maximum and everybody will have a normal life. ByMay, we already were like, huh, this is not going to happen, David and Natalie were like, no, we can do it.

And we were like, okay. Slawek was much more, like, I don't think this will happen. So we had to make an announcement that unfortunately, where I have to cancel this year's event. We did not even cash. We only cash a few checks that arrived in January and the first half of February. All the other checks that people will pay paid or not even putting this money, because what's the point.

We don't even know what's going to happen. In July, well in June, we still probably thought, Oh my gosh, next year we are going to do amazing. We, we will add a few other scholarships. We're going to do this and that. And now when we keep looking what's happening on this planet, we are like, Oh my gosh, are we going to have our Royal Ball?

SLAWEK: So we're still worrying about 2021.

MARZENA: So, if the situation will not get much better, but it will, let's say we can run the event. I'm worried if we're going to have a possibility to run our events in two ballrooms, as we usually do, we have a separate ballroom for the kids and separate ballroom for the pro-am. So we might do everything in one ballroom because I like, I, like I said before, I don't know what will happen with our economy. I don't know if all the people that they are on the kind of permanent leave right now from the ballroom dance industry. Right? Are they going to return or not? There are so many questions at this time that it's really hard to.

SLAWEK: kind of.

MARZENA: We still have like what, 10 months, maybe less.

SLAWEK: I think, we think based on, let's say whats going to happen in the studio, is that for sure, it will take a while before we'll go back to the same traffic in the studios. I think same wil reflect what's going to happen with the competitions. Less people in the studios, less people in a competition. So, so, unfortunately we think that some competitions actually might even change the owners, or maybe then even be completely removed from the calendar because it's a lot of them and, less students will obviously be participating. So, so that might slowly kind of change a little bit. Yeah. Until, until we'll build that back to what it used to be. But so we think for sure that most likely this, this coming year, if we're going to run it, it's going to be one ballroom.

MARZENA: Cause it's cost so much more to have two ballrooms. Double panel of the judges. We have 21 judges on one day event. So some, multiple day events don't have that amount of judges. Then we have everything double, double the DJ, double the MC everything is double. So we, we have to think logically that we have so many expenses with the hotels.

People don't understand what organizers go through. We see those posts that, Oh, we spent all this money and organizer makes money. The organizer needs a minimum of 2000 entries per day to make it.

SAMANTHA: Yeah,

MARZENA: Just to break even because we all have to. The best person is the owner of the hotel, probably, because we need to provide hundreds of nights depending on the event. We'd have to spend so much money on food and beverage. and, after that, there's all the costs of the floor, of the lights, the music, the judges and the judges don't even make that great money on it. Right. But with the amount and with the cost of the transportation, they're often not even in our case,

SLAWEK: but the judges cost a lot, but they don't make a lot of,

MARZENA: yes.

SAMANTHA: Right.

MARZENA: Yeah. So it's, it's a lot of other things, things. So we kind of have to see where we will be next year. Basically, if the, everybody are going to go back to the full dancing and the studios and everything will be great. Yes, we'll have two ballrooms. I will go full on as we did before and even better because we added those few extra scholarships. If not, we will just do what was done before by, both Caleb and Shirley Ballas, before we bought it from them, that event, they had everything in one ballroom, it was still gorgeous. They still had a gala. Everything was done, or we can move the gala to the night before and have a full day off competition. So there is still a lot of possibilities.

Yeah. But at this moment, we will just basically afraid that this virus will disappear magically from our planet and we can all get back our lives. And I think everybody will appreciate so much more everything what we had to before. Right. Because we kind of took it for granted sometimes. And we were just like, Oh, I can go for my lesson.

I can go to this restaurant. I can go to the beach and suddenly we had nothing. So yeah, we were laughing that all this expensive stuff that people buy, it became useless when you're at your home and you cannot go and show everything. Right. So we all had a different, different, For sure. point of view

SLAWEK: Perspective on life itself.

MARZENA: So I think all of us will appreciate all of it.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. It definitely shifts the focus into what's important. What do I want to spend my time? My money, my effort, my energy on. Absolutely. Yeah. Really quick. We've got Morgan in the chat. She says hi!

Maybe going forward we look at venues other than hotels for competition? So that actually leads in really well to the comment that I was going to make, Which is, earlier, very early in the pandemic, you judged an online competition, in Russia, correct? so is, is that a direction that you would be even considering for the Royal ball or for competitions in the US?

MARZENA: Well, that's a good question. The way, you can say how the Russian, how the Champion's ball was run.

SLAWEK: Well, I had a privilege to judge. This competition is called Champions Ball. so the way the competition was held, the students who participate this competition in the past, they had to provide a video of one of the dances they did, for the organizers, but it had to be only from that particular competition.

SAMANTHA: Okay.

MARZENA: So if you never been to the, that was how they limited it, so that was how, but I think that was one, probably one of the very first events like this that was done online, obviously that limits the amount of participants. Right. And they all were marking in a regular

SLAWEK: so we had, actually four different teams of judges. So each group was judging only one particular style.

MARZENA: So they had only smooth dancers judging smooth, latin judges judging latin and so forth.

SLAWEK: We had few not actually in smooth, they were like usually three or four couples, like, you know, in Latin I saw there was like about seven or eight couples entering, so it was actually way more successful. But you have to look at, you know, there was not too many smooth competitions in the past. So, I think it's still good in a sense of providing some sort of activity for the students, I think is there still will be something that people might consider for the future. Obviously it's not going to replace the regular competition. Right? So that's, you know

MARZENA: I would say if I'm, if I would run an events like this, it would have, I would definitely, I would not do it how Russia did that. It has to be only from the Champions Ball or it wouldn't have to be only from the Royal ball. I would say you can prerecord yourself in a studio, you can prerecord yourself. I actually would like to see a current dancing of those people, not from a year ago, from two years ago or whatever, because it's not exactly how we would dance.

I would definitely do much more on the critique level, not on a marks. Well, we could do both maybe, but definitely a feedback to the students, what they could work on because that's almost like a coaching and they could basically choose if they want to do one dance, two dances, three dancers, as many as they want to, and they will get a critique, from certain experts from that style that they dance in. Which will be actually beneficial probably the most. And then they could have a placement against everybody else who entered that categoy. So that's always a possibility. I know, Alex Novikov starting something like this in September, and we were already invited to judge this like five day event when they're going to get different things. I think his system is going to be even different because they're going to get judged on their technical abilities, on a performance, and few other things. I think there's like three or four different aspects and marks. So that's a possibility too, but definitely, you know, that's something new.

We all have to kind of look into it. We know, like Fred Astaire studios, they are doing a showcase of the students when they get critique. So all the different, fields, they are trying to do something to keep the interest for the students, keep the interest for the professionals, because all of us, we kind of live off of this that we can go show ourselves. When there is no point of showing ourselves, there will be only very little percentage of people that they do it for the fitness, or they do it because they see that you get a much better memory because, it reduces dementia. So they will see a different benefits of ballroom dancing. But most people do it for the glamour.

They like the dresses, the hair, the makeup, and this is their dream. This is their Cinderella time. Right. So.

SLAWEK: I think if let's say at some point, let's hope, that at some point, things will get back to normal. And we talk about the online learning, and now we're talking about online competition. So I think the online competitions will not continue to be present while, while you know what go back to normal where the online learning, I believe it will actually grow, just because of the expense. So that's sort of the,

MARZENA: yeah, definitely. I wouldn't do it the same way as Russia did. It just limiting yourself to the people that already participate in at your event. And definitely, I think the students will benefit so much more from a good critique. What I could work on. Versus a, and that's how we did it, our like rounds in the studio so much better to know what the particular judge liked about you and what they don't, what do you need to work on? Yeah. So that say that could be a beneficial for the students. What format? I think it's still a very limited, you cannot do a 5,000 entries because who's going to write all those critiques. Right?

SLAWEK: But you know what, who knows? Most things, I mean, obviously develop, maybe someone will figure out the way, how to, you know, develop this type of, you know, competitive,. Competitive dancing to something working.

MARZENA: Maybe we can have four couples on the screen at the same time and watching who do like the best, you know? Whoever is smart, listen and do it right now, we need you.

SAMANTHA: It's an open call. Put you brain power together and let us know what crazy ideas you have to make this work. I think your point about, we need to find a way to keep the interest going and we need to keep the momentum moving because we know even before the world changed, if you had a student that took a month off and you didn't get them back in the studio and it went to two months and three months and four months, then you might as well just take their binder off the shelf and put it away. Because they were probably not coming back in. We know that this is like everything else, it's habit forming. If you, if you continue to do it, then you're more likely to continue to do it. But as soon as you take time off, Then you reprioritize, or you shift where your time is being spent and the likelihood of picking it back up is difficult.

So, yeah, I think, I think the focus on how do we get people continue to continue? How do we keep people energized? How do we keep people motivated is a really great, great way for us all to kind of analyze what we're doing. we do have one comment in the chat, which I will just quickly read off and then we will ignore and move through. Didn't the, NDCA make some statement regarding judges being involved with online events? Yes, they did. And then they changed their opinion and we are positive with their changed opinion at the moment.

MARZENA: And we liked it, and we are grateful in this pandemic time they were open-minded. Yes.

SAMANTHA: Yes, absolutely. Well, anything else that you guys would like to talk about? Any other tips or tricks or final thoughts that you want to leave people on today?

MARZENA: I would say one thing when we said before, guys take advantage of all the knowledge that is available for you right now, because it's amazing from the top top coaches for 20, $30 or some of them, they are offering a monthly fee and you can watch this unlimited times, or you can give you a want to see our camp.

You get to watch this for a year. All those classes, as many times as you want to, and every time you will find something new. Don't sit and wait for this pandemic to be over and just think, Oh, everybody else at home. No, people are learning. We have people everywhere SLAWEK has another class today for another studio, we have people learning all the time.

This is a time when you can improve yourself. This is the time when, when nobody's watching, you can, you can make the biggest improvement in front of the computer in front of the best in the industry. Trust your teachers. If you don't know who you should maybe work with, ask them for advice. It's not that we're going to lose you guys as a customers if you take a lesson from somebody in England or in Italy. This is just a perfect time when we can all learn from the best.

SLAWEK: And you know, that I will add to it is just because you're going to learn online. Then the only way to actually learn it is then you have to go and try it. Yeah, and you don't have to go to the studio.

So see, I watch some of the students that they will only practice when they had lesson with their teacher and that's it. So now they actually, you know, listen those informations and now they have to practice by themselves. And that time is incomparable to what they used to do with the teacher, because now they let them talk.

You have to find those informations within their own body. So they ended up probably practicing more then they used to, even if they don't have a dance studio, but that just proves that you don't have to have this huge space to dance. So, so, you know, we'll say keep dancing, keep learning no matter what, because that's, that's how you keep yourself excited.

That's how you keep yourself busy and happy.

MARZENA: Yeah. And, there were lectures about everything, about the technique, about musicality, about how to compete. You can find these days on social media, so many amazing subjects, anything that is bugging you. We got questions on our classes, how to practice and people don't know how to practice.

There are certain things people don't know how to, how do we deal with the stress? So we had so many different things that people actually want to listen, and sometimes you don't have access and you don't know who to ask those questions. This is the time guys. And it's literally you watch Brian Watson, Carmen, Rebecca Tuft, They all gave this motivational speech. How this is the time when we don't sit on our butt. This is the time when we work to go and show in front of everybody when the students will open up how much better I got during this three, four or five months time?

SLAWEK: Yeah, we just talked about with MARZENA that we cannot wait when this all will be over and to see how students will look right now, because we know there's going to be a lot of changes. Some students might look way worse then they used to, and some way better than they used to. So, you know, it's going to be sort of, very kind of interesting. And

MARZENA: I believe, last thing is that all the teachers that are teaching online right now, they eyes are going to be so much more picky when we will start judging,

SLAWEK: so good luck students!

MARZENA: Because we see so many more things. We don't just go for feeling anymore, we go for visual. So we pick up some things that before maybe never bugged us and we're like, Whoa, wait a minute. This is something that is visually always has been disturbing, but on the lesson we never had time to work on this. So yeah. So really put your effort $20 for most of those classes.

It's not a lot. It's like I said before, it's few drinks at the, any juice bar and

SLAWEK: Even just one lesson a week just use this time, just try to. Make as much as possible out of this one, one coaching session and then move on to the next one. You can always find the bright side of the sun.

MARZENA: Don't look at the negativity. Just think what I can do to become much better right now.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. I love it. Well, if you are interested in going ahead and taking one of those classes, might I recommend the dance vision mastery camp online, there will be a link down below. I also imagine that if you search hard enough online, you'll find a discount code for some of the online classes too.

MARZENA: Actually, I have a right now because we joined the give back to dance. We offer 25% discount. If you buy any package. So obviously we're already, already almost 2 months behind, but it still gives you a 25%. And I truly don't believe that this is very expensive camp because we have over a hundred, I believe 30 or 40 classes total that you can choose from.

If you decide to buy entire camp or you can buy by level or by a single class or by style. So we made it so many different possibilities for you guys, and you can just find our page somewhere. Definitely we'll find a 25% discount.

SAMANTHA: Yep. Yep. So the link to the dance mastery camp is, below in the description.

There's also a link to the Royal ball, below as well. So you can kind of keep an eye for when we hopefully hear an announcement, that we will be back in 2021, if not 2022, 2023, some point in the future, we will be back on the dance floor together. but thank you guys so much for being on today.

MARZENA: Thank you. We had a great time with you and it was pleasure to talk to you. And I hope people found something useful out of all this talk, because at least we had fun, right?

SAMANTHA: Yes. Yes, exactly. That's the secret to this podcast is I really just want to listen to some of the best amazing dancers in the world talk for an hour. So, if, if no one else found value in it, I certainly did. So thank you guys so much.

MARZENA: Thank you Samantha for everything.

SAMANTHA: Thank you guys for tuning in!

Go ahead and either subscribe, favorite, like, do whatever it is on the podcast platform that you are using, so that we see that engagement. I'm Samantha with Love.Live.Dance. You can find us across the web at lovelivedance or ballroomchat. That's on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Although really, I don't use Twitter that often. If you want to financially support this podcast, you can do so by going to patreon.com/ballroomchat, where you'll find exclusive behind the scenes content there as well.

Thank you guys so much. stay safe, stay positive, and I hope to see you dancing very soon.