American Rhythm and Dance Daly: Jason and Sveta Daly

Samantha StoutAugust 10, 2020Ballroom Chat: Episode #17
Ballroom Chat #17: Jason and Sveta Daly

Jason and Sveta Daly are former National and World Professional Rhythm Finalists, owners of Dance Daly Ballroom, and co-organizers of the San Antonio Classic. Jason and Sveta discuss their very different paths to becoming Professional Rhythm dancers, and we chat about the challenges of teaching adults, judging pro-am dancers, the evolution of American Rhythm as a style, appropriate fashion for dancesport competitions, and planning for 2021.

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Episode Transcript

SAMANTHA: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today, I'm joined by Sveta and Jason Daly. They are former national and world professional rhythm finalists, the owners of Dance Daly Ballroom, and along with Eddie Stutts, the co-organizers of the San Antonio Classic.

Please help me welcome to the show. Sveta and Jason,

SVETA: Hey guys. Hi everyone.

SAMANTHA: Thank you guys so much for being a part of the episode this morning. How are you guys doing?

SVETA: We're great.

JASON: Yeah very good.

SVETA: We're awake.

JASON: That's always a good thing

SAMANTHA: Yes, you are California based, correct.

SVETA: Right, nine o'clock here.

SAMANTHA: Bright and early.

I like to start off the episode by asking every guest that I have on how you got started in the dance industry. What actually brought you into ballroom dance?

SVETA: Wow. Very different reasons here. So, I'm from Ukraine and you do something there's something else other than school that you have to do. So my parents had to figure out what it is that I was going to be good at. And, the first thing that I tried was piano, and I could not sit still. I think I was pretty good at it, but I just, I kind of kept on dancing around. And so they realized that's not it. And, my dad randomly was at a bus stop or something I don't remember, but he saw a big announcement about new ballroom classes. So we went there and there was, I mean, I don't remember cause I was seven, you know, you over-exaggerate everything in your head.

There was a lot of people there and I was a little nerdy kind of sitting behind my dad while all of these kids were like dancing around this waiting room and doing all this things and meeting each other and just kind of sat behind him like this. You couldn't even see me. And I remember my dad going, I don't think this is it for us.

So got into this huge room. I remember it still, its big. I mean, there's like balconies up there and everything and I was, of course at the very back of the room, hiding. Did our little dancing and it was very like simple, you know, there's some clapping, some step together, step together. The teacher came out to talk to parents and then she spoke to my dad and my dad was like, yeah, yeah, you're right. Probably not the right thing for her. She was like, no, this is not the right class for her. And she wanted me to move up into a different group. And thanks dad for believing in me. I love you, but he was pretty shocked, but, that was it. And I got hooked and it was, my parents had to keep taking me, you know, half an hour away from home on a bus all the time.

And I kept on moving up and was just completely hooked and never looked back.

SAMANTHA: That's awesome.

SVETA: Yeah. And as soon as I came to America, the first thing we did was find a studio. That was my number one priority.

SAMANTHA: When did you make the move from Ukraine to the US?

SVETA: So it was July of 95, so I was 10, almost 11 years old.

SAMANTHA: Okay. Okay. So still in the youth amateur, still trying to figure this out, if you wanted to go with it.

SVETA: Oh, yeah

SAMANTHA: Awesome.

SVETA: Your story's different.

JASON: My turn. So I started when I was 11 years old. wasn't really planning to get into dancing whatsoever. I have three older brothers, so dancing probably wasn't the, in our agenda, basically I just play football a lot. So basically my mom and my stepdad, started once to learn how to dance. And I was too young, so I was dragged along and I thought it would actually be funny, because, my family has this thing about making fun of each other.

So my stepdad's a little bit on the chubby side. So I thought it'd be absolutely funny to go watch him kind of wobble around a bit. So, I actually went, and I was laughing at him while he was dancing, and then the teacher asked me to. Yeah, give it a go if I think it's so easy. So I got up in a group class and I didn't know my left from my rights.

I struggled with it. And so kind of like egg on my face, and then, then we went home. I didn't think anything about it. I thought it was done. and then my mom, then the next week just goes to be, are you going to come again? And I said, no, mom, I'll just stay with my brothers. And she was like, no, you should come. I think it would be good for you. I have a good feeling about it. So then I went and I started getting more in to it. And then within about a three months, they told my mom that they need to send me to a different school because I had outgrown that school straight away, within three months. And I was sent to a school in Wednesbury, which is middle England.

And, the owners of studio is John and Joan Knight. So I was very fortunate to go into that school where people like Donnie Burns and Sammy Stopford, Richard Porter would take lessons before or after me, which is kind of scary when you're brand new.

SVETA: Great start.

JASON: Yeah, So I was very lucky the start that I got. I'm very fortunate that the teachers moved me on and didn't keep me within their school. So that was very, very fortunate.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I know that must have been intimidating being around, you know, the greats of our industry. but do you feel like being in that environment really pushed you to, to continue and, and use it as an opportunity to learn even more about the sport than you would have otherwise, if you hadn't been in that environment?

JASON: Yeah, they inspired me. John always calling my mom on the house phone and saying, Hey, we have, you know, so, and so couple coming in, send Jason down. So I get on the bus and go down and then watch the couples practice. So it was, it was really inspiring to see their lessons. And also watch them practice, so definitely being around definitely helped a lot to keep being inspired because I could see where it was going and not just the group classes that I was in. So the bigger picture was definitely very important. So,

SVETA: meanwhile, I had to beg my parents to buy me the video cassette finals from Blackpool so I could try to memorize their routines and watch it over and over again. That you got to watch in the studio.

JASON: Pretty much. Well, unfortunately you don't realize how fortunate you are until you talk to the other European couples. England at the time had all the great couples. So you don't realize how lucky you are to see these couples.

SVETA: You take it for granted right?

JASON: You do take it for granted.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, when I had Marzena and Slawek on two weeks ago, they mentioned the fact that for them, a lot of their lessons where they would have to fly to England, take a lesson for that weekend and then fly back and then they wouldn't have coaching for several weeks until they could save enough, save up enough money to then fly back to England. So growing up in that environment must've just been absolutely amazing.

At what point for both of you, did it go from we're learning ballroom dance, either international standard or international Latin to, okay, no, we really want to focus on American rhythm?

SVETA: Completely different stories again, isn't it? So for me, I don't think I ever thought of dancing as my career. This was a passion. It was something that kept me out of trouble. You know, all my friends went out on Friday night. I had rounds at the studio. So that was just the life, you know? I loved it and it was great, and I wanted to go as high as possible, but never really, like, I, I know most people say, Oh, I always wanted to be a world champion. That was never in my mind. I still went to school and my passion or my hope was to be a school teacher. So that's what I was studying for. And I loved it.

When I first moved to LA, I remember, I came to dance with someone, and I got a job through friends, and that was very fun for me as parents, but I got a job at a private school and I was in charge of like preschool and kindergarten, and even sometimes first grade, you know, doing little things, but I was a TA. And I was there from 6:30 in the morning until about 6:30 at night, not being able to make rent on my tiny little studio apartment in a pretty bad neighborhood. So, my coach then got me a job in Orange County teaching dance.

I did Latin pretty much my whole life. I did Standard when I was younger, and I thought I was kind of retired somewhat. Still dancing and maybe putting my feet into it. So my coach kept on pushing me, Victor Kanevsky. Thank you, Victor. He got me a job in Orange County and I met great people.

The studio doesn't exist anymore, but one of my closest friends there was Kris Suakjian who just opened a studio in orange County. Congratulations. And, he was doing American rhythm. That was the first time I ever saw American rhythm, and I kept on going to cheer for him. His partnership fell apart. We did a show together for studio. There was all these things. And so I was like, this could be fun, so we started dancing together. Being a Ukrainian. I didn't know what fun was, so I got competitive. Drove him crazy as well I'm sure. And that just fell into it. My first competition, my first American rhythm and my first professional competition was with him, with Chris.

So that's how I fell into it and never left. That was it. I was hooked. And I, I realized that I had to stay with dancing and I love teaching any kind of teacher would do. So I started teaching dance and I got really, really into it. Couldn't imagine it without it now. Now is it your turn

JASON: My turn, again, a little bit, wasn't really planning and getting into American style rhythm. It was, basically we were running a studio. I was a part owner of Londance with Patricia West at one point, and basically, we had a staff member who was getting to American Rhythm, so I decided to start practicing with, her name was Bonny. And so I started practicing with her.

Over time I started actually getting more of my competitive self cause I had retired from Latin about two years earlier. I wanted to start a family and stuff like that. So basically I started practicing, and again the English part of me that was praying to me started coming out.

SVETA: He was very competitive. I had to be in the same studio as him and he loved to intimidate me.

JASON: Pretty much

SVETA: So yes, I saw the competitive side firsthand.

JASON: So then California Open was my first open rhythm competition with Bonny. We danced together until June and then, that's when we split and that's when we started looking for new partners and I ended up with this one.

SVETA: I'm sorry.

JASON: There ya go.

SAMANTHA: Clearly it worked out for the best that you guys ended up together.

That's interesting. I like the fact that both of you mentioned that you were already teaching before you started your professional career in American Rhythm. and that's something that I kind of want to ask your opinion on.

Do you think that there's a difference between dancers that are successful that win titles that then go on to teach and coach or people that enjoy the process of teaching that happen to excel and learn and then dance at a very high level? Do you think there's a difference in how those two groups of individuals approach either the sport itself or teaching itself?

SVETA: That's a really good question. I mean, I started teaching when I was 16. It was like a side thing to make enough money for my private lessons. but I was teaching Latin. I think when you're teaching, you're learning stuff about yourself and I know everyone says this, and I never understood that until I retired. Again, you hear it, and you go oh great. That's great. Until you actually experience it. I think I have gotten a lot better once I retired and just focused on teaching. You learn so much about yourself and what you want to see, especially judging.

I think that really taught me a lot, too. But teaching is definitely a big thing. When I'm teaching now, professional couples, I'd tell them work on this with your students when you're teaching it, when you're explaining it in words, and when you have to try to get someone else to feel that your body finds new things.

So it's okay to just hear it and do it then as kids. I mean, honestly, you would tell us to do something. We just do it. It's all mechanical and just go for it. But, especially as a professional, you want to see that the person really understands their body and you understand the body and how everything fits, and you question things a lot as you're teaching. So I think, teaching is very important, very much so. Do you feel the same way?

JASON: Yeah. Like one of my dance dads, Paul Beaton, when I was growing up with him, when he would have to explain something to the girl, he would always say to me, you have to listen because one day you're going to be teaching. So he instilled that kind of into me from age of 16 onwards. He was very big on, I had to listen to see what the girl's part was instead of just involved in the male parts and what I need to do. So he and vice versa, he would say to my partner, You know, you have to listen to what he needs to do because one day you're going to be teaching it. So he was already like, kind of preparing us.

Within England, as an amateur, you're not allowed to teach. So my first teaching job was actually when I moved to America. When I actually turned professional, flying to America. Like in England, when you're an amateur you have a regular job. So you work a regular nine-to-five job, and then you go practice in the evening. So your whole day is spent by working and practicing. Then you go, then when you turn professional and then you start pass your exams and you have to start teaching. But, I do think learning the trade is very important.

What I do see sometimes as a coach, you do who are just dancers, they turn coaches when they haven't done pro-am. It's very hard for them to understand pro-ams. I think treading the boards, doing pro-am being a successful dancer, becoming a judge, is really important because you're then well-rounded, whereas I do see some coaches who have just never done pro-am, so they have a different idea about it. They struggle a little bit to understand what the teacher's trying to up against in the sense of how they're going to get a beginner to look good and what they want them to be in the future.

So it's a little bit challenging,

SVETA: Well I think also its a big difference between teaching kids and teaching adults. And I find that very fascinating.

JASON: Yeah.

SVETA: We just had a conversation about this with someone, but again, like I said, with kids, you kind of put them into this and they just do it. I mean, we're teaching our kids right now. We can't teach them. I have to give them to someone else to learn. They don't want to listen to mom and dad, but their bodies are able to just do anything you ask them for. They're like little robots sometimes, and that's what we see on the floor sometimes too. And that's okay. They can't find their personality until they develop it. Whereas when you're teaching adults from the beginning, These people, successful people, right? That probably went to college. They've had their whole big life before them. They've learned a trade. I mean, we have so many doctors and, you know attorneys, and there was a student that was the actual brain surgeon thought the dancing was the hardest thing she's ever had to do.

But they learn a certain way. They already learned a trade. And so for us to teach them something new is very different because it's more on an intellectual level. It's not the same. So we have to find a way to explain it to them intellectually. We can't show it and for them to copy it. So it's really, really cool. So learning how to teach adults from the very beginning, I think to me is most fascinating and not injuring them. That's a big one.

SAMANTHA: Yes. Yeah. I think you keyed in on something really important there, which is if you're working with adults, that has to be on an intellectual level. Adults aren't going to just pop into a spot and be like, okay, I'm here. They're going to ask, well, why am I there? What is it? What is this doing? How do I get from foot one to foot two? Okay. Now, where am I looking? Where is my hand going? Whereas with a kid you're just like, okay, hit this line. And they're like, okay, I got this.

SVETA: They stand behind you. And they just do it perfectly.

SAMANTHA: Exactly.

SVETA: But see I like when they ask why. Even with pro couples when they're staying quiet and they just kind of do what they're told, I say ask me why. I want you to understand it. And I want you to make me think about it, too. So it makes me a better teacher and a dancer if you ask me questions. I start developing as well. It's really interesting. I enjoyed teaching pro-am a lot.

JASON: On of my coaches used to always say, you have to always ask what, why, and how. If the teacher can't answer those questions, you have to then, you know, see what you need to do. Why you need to do it, and how you need to do it, and you have to cover those three grounds. I remember a lot of the adults that we teach, their muscles are not made the way we were, because unfortunately we started at a young age where most of us are growing.

SVETA: Oh, fortunately.

JASON: So fortunately, yeah. And we're molded into this stuff. So I remember teaching when I first moved to America. I remember having to kind of go back in my head from when I was 11 years old and try and remember some of those lessons that I got taught. It was very important where sometimes we focus on what we're doing now and we try and put that onto our students, not realizing that they're missing so many layers of dance that they're not going to do it. So it's definitely a slow process. It's taken us years to perfect it. So I don't know why it would be so quick for others.

SVETA: Well also, you have to remember that people that had a big chunk of their life not dancing, they got used to certain things. Like right now we're sitting up talking to you right, I'm at the edge of my seat right now, instead of being back here.


SVETA: Right. Typically, if you were at a keyboard, you would be sitting like this, and I like lay down when I'm driving. I really like that.

JASON: Its because she's from SoCal, like gangster.

SVETA: But, you know, I just have long arms. I know, but there's all these things that we do to our bodies that become natural. And so the certain way that we stand in the back of our feets with a rib cage set back, we have to now undo all of that. Whereas with a child you don't, they don't have those things yet.

We teach them how to do all that.

SAMANTHA: Yup. I don't know how many times in the last several years of teaching, I've called my mother, who's a physical therapist and gone, okay. I'm working with a guy. He walks like a guy. His weight is on the outside pinky toe back of the heel. He's not bringing his feet to close together. So what exercises do you have in your toolbox that I can give to him to get him to be on the center of the foot, inside edge when we're doing rhythm or Latin and for him to bring his feet to brush together because, the gait of most of my older gentlemen is wider and externally rotated. That's never something that when I was going through learning in a collegiate program that we ever talked about, that's not something that we had to worry about because most of us had either a dance background in ballet, tap or, jazz from a younger age where we already knew what first position was and we knew how to hold our core in.

So yeah, I think that the lessons that you have to tailor for older individuals and adults are very different with the ones that you have to do for a youth program

SVETA: Don't you feel like right now, because you had to figure out how to teach him, you just became such much better? I don't know if she's going to love it or hate it that I say this, but there was one particular student that made me re-think the way I teach. Kay Burton. Sorry, Kay, for doing this to you, but Kay has a huge knowledge of body. This is what really interests her. She does RipTonic. She does all this different things. She even came with me to get certified on LaBlast like four years ago, but she enjoys learning about body and she understands how different muscles and muscle groups connect together.

So she always asked me questions and why this and that. I had to really figure it out. So talking to her about stuff and kind of learning on her, I think made me a better teacher. That was, that was really fun. Still asks me why every time, and I love it because like the one person that will always, you know, in the group class, I'll always say any questions, and I look at Kay, and I wait for it, because she asks me the best questions, which make me a better teacher.

I love it. That gets me to open up my mind and realize my body works differently than someone else's. How can I, how can I teach them what I do? They can't do what I do because their body structure is different. What can I do for them?

SAMANTHA: I would definitely agree with that.

JASON: Yeah. I think like a good analogy just to tie on to Sveta is that I think everyone has locks on their bodies and that you've got a bunch of keys and your job is to find the right key to unlock it. I think sometimes you say one thing and it doesn't really work. You have to go throw that key away and then try new a key instead of saying, this is how it is, and if you don't know it, that I think that's the wrong direction to go. Asking your students in the beginning as well if they have any, any ailments, whether they have a hip you know, new hip or shoulder or compressed disk, I think these are all things that you need to take take in consideration.

I remember having a student who, awesome student, she had, bless her soul, had cancer. She was dancing on one lung. She had cancer in her leg. She was like always placed in the top three in the open senior Rhythm.

SVETA: She was amazing, happiest person ever, she's so positive. She's like, Oh, it's okay. I just want to get back to dancing.

JASON: And I remember being at a competition and I had someone come up to me and go, you know, she gets out of breath pretty easily. I'm like you probably would be too, if you had one lung, And they were like, I'm so sorry. I'm like, I know you, but you never know. You know.

SVETA: She started dancing within like two months after surgery and it was her lessons. They would do like five seconds. They would do a few seconds of just moving around. Then she would sit down and relax a little bit. And then a few more seconds. It was building up, but literally a few months later she was dancing open rhythm and kicking butt, she was amazing.

JASON: She was, yeah.

SVETA: She is.

JASON: Darlene is her name.

SVETA: Darlene, we love you, but she moved. We don't get to see her very often. She's up North with her family, which is great for her, but she's a inspiration. Yeah. Yeah. Very much so.

JASON: Just different way of teaching someone and finding out what people's strengths are and what they can do. I think that's the main thing

SVETA: They make us better.

JASON: Definitely.

SVETA: They make us the teachers that we are for sure.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. So taking that experience coaching pro-am and coaching adults, and knowing what folks are struggling with, what the challenges are with adults. When you're now judging or adjudicating pro-Am competitions, do you try to take all assumptions about what people's learning curve has been out of the picture and just see what is it that's in front of me on the dance floor?

SVETA: That is a really good question.

JASON: Yeah.

SVETA: You don't have time to think about that. You don't have time to analyze what's happening. Sometimes, you know, there's like one couple on the floor. I do start coaching in my head. That's a big thing that I did do. I start. Okay. So she needs to do this and, but, no, you don't. It's best not to of course, as well. Especially here in California. Because we're based in California, when we have competitions here, it's like he knows most students on the floor. You've seen them year after year. You either coach them or their teachers. You have to just erase all of that.

So you come out and put an open mind and you literally just, people have to realize we can't stand and watch the dancing. It's not a show you're comparing. So they don't compare their life stories because absolutely every person on the floor has a life story. They've had a car accident, they've had a heart attack. They had, you know, there's things there where someone didn't have anything happen to them. Someone is, was a professional ballet dancer. Unfortunately, they're all in the same heat. And you just have to pick out who you find best at that time. And so it's interesting. And I've had people go well, did you know that this person had this and this happen ? Unfortunately, there's nothing to do. We have a student. We're telling all of their secrets. We have a student who places very well and who competes a lot. She's actually taking a break right now to have a surgery. So she'll be off for what, six months? But, this wonderful girl, when she was 18 years old, the family found out she sleepwalks and she walked out of the second story.

JASON: Yeah, a second story building, off the balcony.

SVETA: And landed like a cat. She landed on her feet. So that means she broke both of her ankles and her spine. So the fact that she could even walk. Now, four kids later, beautiful career and jobs and all that stuff. And a whole big life. She is now dancing at our open rhythm, you know, highest level and.

JASON: Making finals all the time, major finals.

SVETA: Making finals. Yeah. But you know, people go, Oh, well, Her feet are not exactly perfect. You can't possibly tell everyone what has happened to her and it wouldn't be fair and she would not want it. That's why we have not mentioned name, but she would not want you to know what happened to her or what the struggles are because she wants to go against the ballet dancer and win.

You know, so they don't want you to feel bad about their story. They don't want you to know. They want to you compare them to the person dancing next to them. Hopefully they're in the correct division. Other than that, they don't want excuses. They want to do their best. That's their goal. And we have to also remember, I think we forget as well as teachers. This is not their career.


SVETA: This passion for them, this is different goals, a hobby, but also like a skill that they want to learn. A lot of them are competitive and they haven't been able to compete in anything in their lives. So this is how they bring out all kinds of different reasons. None of them are to be a professional dancer. So they're just doing their best. We have more goals for those sometimes as far as placement then they do. They just want to dance well.

JASON: Yeah.

SVETA: But yeah, it's, it's hard. It's hard, especially when you know them. And again, every judge could tell you this. We see people, every competition, you can't possibly erase the fact that you know who they are or seen them, all you can do is compare one to the other at that moment. To that melody with that partner, it doesn't matter on that floor. You just have to stay in the moment.

SAMANTHA: It's good to hear a judge say that because some of the feedback that I've gotten when I was competing as an amateur in pro-am, and then now as a pro with my students, is there are quick assumptions that are made about where the expectation level is for couples as soon as they walk on the floor.

So if you have someone that, I have a student that is very muscular, he's very athletic, but we're still working on a lot. We're bridging bronze to silver, but he's got some work to do, but because he has the physique of someone that can move their body, the feedback has been, well as a judge, I watched him walk on the floor and assumed that he was going to be full silver and then realized that he was dancing pre silver and was kind of let down by the fact that he wasn't dancing at the level I expected him to be. So it's good to hear that, at least when you're on the floor judging, you're trying to just wipe the slate clean and look at what is on the floor in front of you.

SVETA: You know as a judge, you learn a lot too with every competition. I had my first judging job and then I took a break becuase I found that I was pregnant right after the competition, literally the day after I came back. But, when I first came out on the floor, I thought I knew what I was looking for. Like I had in my mind, this is what I see from this guy. You don't know. You really don't know.

You have to come out with an open mind and see what's out there and compare one to the other. And it's like elimination games, especially when you have, you know, a few rounds and you, you do pick on them a little bit because you have to find the best. So you don't go, Oh, that's lovely. That's really nice. You can't get lost in that. Sometimes we, you know, you have to, they're so great, but you have to watch everyone else and kind of pick out. And, every competition, I think that I judge, I change my mindset a little bit. So I know what I've done lately. And I do that with pros a lot is, you know, you have to sign your sheet.

I don't know if people know this, we don't make little stick figures or anything like that. We don't draw around. You have to sign, you have to put the right stuff on the sheet. And I like to do that, not at the end, but in the beginning. So instead of watching people set up. And already think, you know, already prejudged them, like you said. I try to do my sheets first and then let them start dancing. If you have too many couples on the floor, don't have time to do that, but I like to do that. So I look down, I do my sheets. I come up, they started dancing and then I could start figuring it out because you know, someone could be really good on top and set up this beautiful arms and there's all this feelings. If they had, you know, some kind of theater background, they're amazing. Right? And they know how to point their foot just right. And they start dancing and there's no basic there, where someone is very shy and they're a little nervous, but then they do this beautiful box step. You know, I want to say that I want to pick that one, but you never know.

You never know what you're going to see at that moment. It's we're still learning every, you know, it doesn't matter how many years you judge. I think, I think we're still going to keep learning on one to the other. It's always going to be slightly different.

SAMANTHA: So, so with that with kind of training your eye based on what's on the floor in front of you, and then as well as what, what you kind of expect at certain levels to see the dancing at. With American rhythm in particular, I kind of, I view it as the dance that hasn't quite solidified yet. There's still some ever-changing flow and ebb to what is on the floor. What people are coaching, what folks are winning.

Where do you find yourselves falling on the harsh Cuban action or soft Latin leg action debate? And where do you see the style developing over the next couple of years?

SVETA: That's a loaded question, huh?

SAMANTHA: You can dodge it if you want. You can avoid weighing in on that debate.

SVETA: That's a very good question. It's very interesting. I think our dancing went through many changes when were competing. When we first started, again, so he had what, five, six rhythm competitions behind him. I had one, you know, we were both pretty new to the style, so when we danced together, we were still a Latin couple trying to do Rhythm.

JASON: Definitely.

SVETA: And as upset as I was in the beginning for not making final immediately. And like some coaches told us that we would, they made our expectation high, and I thank them for it because they made me fight for it. But now that I watched the video, I was like, Oh, I wouldn't mark that.

JASON: No our swing was too fast.

SVETA: Swing was jumpy and too fast and ended up looking slow because we weren't sure about the actions, my Bolero was popping up all the time, you know, Chacha. It was ridiculous, very high.

JASON: Over choreographed.

SVETA: Yeah. We put everything in there. There was so many tricks because we didn't know what we were doing. So we've made all those mistakes. So going back and you know, of course you don't make a final, Oh, it's politics. Yeah, it's definitely politics. Absolutely. No, noone cares, noone knew who we were yet.


SVETA: It wasn't that, but I understand. And it wasn't musical. So when I watch that now I understand that that's not what we would want to see if we were watching dancing. The whole soft knee, straight knee situation. the hip action. It has to fit the style. It has to fit the music. It has to fill, fill out the room. We also have to remember that at least four out of the five dances are very stationary and rounded. Bolero travels -ish. It's still not traveling around the floor, but it has a bigger movement, but all the dances are very compact.

So if you're popping up on a straight knee and you're waiting for, you know, through the slow on Bolero, I missed all the action. If in the Rumba, you will get on that straight knee. There's so much more action and rhythm doesn't come from legs. Rhythm comes from the center of your body. So if I, what I find now, I think, and again, I still love Latin. I'm not saying, Oh, now, you know, I'm not going rhythm to Latin. Love all styles. I think smooth is actually my favorite to watch at the moment. But, I think Latin was more about lines, strong lines from one to another and action to each other. Rhythm is constant movement. Even in swing, I want to see those ribs move. I want to see the body actions through the music.

So I think that's why the soft knee, it's not about bending and like digging into the floor with your rib. It's it's a soft knee. So you have more time and more space to move your body around. It's not as strict this or that ish, but yeah, so like the delay action back was a big difference for me, even though we always know in Latin, its still a delayed action when you go back, just that going through that checking action. And that was Sam Sodano and Bill Sparks. We actually never took a lesson with Sam Sodano. Everyone always thought we did. And I wish we did.

JASON: But we went with Bill.

SVETA: We couldn't travel very much. We couldn't travel as much as we wanted to when we were competing, but we worked with Bill and we learned this whole checking action to the back. It made sense through the ribs and how you connect to the partner. So all the pieces kind of came together. Linda Dean was our main coach through our rhythm career. And so she was all about movement in your body.

It wasn't about legs so much. Legs are the tool to help you create that rhythm. It's not just about the legs. You have to have beautiful legs and feet to help the rest of the body, I think.

JASON: Definitely. And like for a good, good way of international couples transitioning into rhythm is like a Samba.

It's the easiest way to go. Because when you see a rhythmical body in Samba, it's through soft knees, it's not through straight knees. So I think understanding Cruzado walk is closer to an American action and really is a Cuban action as the ankle, the knee, and the hip arrive at the same time, which does create the Cuban action.

Where, when you think of Latin, its more to me, when I say Cuban action, it's more of a hip action. You see the leg strike and then the hip move later. So I think it's distinguishing when certain joints hit and when delays happen, a delayed action from a bent leg, like will create a Cuban action from the front, just because the ankle, knee, and hip arrived at the same time.

So I think that's, to me the difference a little bit now I've analyzed it.

SVETA: You have to see the beauty on both styles. They have to be different.

JASON: Another thing that helps us a lot was, we are Latin, were Latin trained. And so. What our philosophies are and our views, we had to learn to put them to the side to start off. Okay. So we said to each other, when we hit this wall of what do we do in American, when we, have heard so many bend the knee, straighten the leg.

SVETA: So it was either quit or get over it.

JASON: Either quit or move on. We said to each other, what did we do as kids? We basically got told, do this and didn't question it, in the beginning. So we decided to go with all the American rhythm judges, our coach Linda Dean, and basically whatever she said in the beginning, we just did it. We didn't let our international background try and question it until we had that under raps of this is what they're asking. And then we learned to put back in the quality, the qualities of what we have from the International Latin back into our Rhythm. So we kind of took it away.

SVETA: Training is training, I think, just, just a regular knowledge, of just how to move from foot to foot. You know how to use your ribs, how to use your hips, where the hip action comes from. None of that is rhythm or Latin. It's just dancing. You know how to use your lats, how to open up your arm, how to rotate through the heads or whatever it is. So that's just knowledge and people shouldn't just let go of it and completely do differently. Different style. So knowledge of dancing is one thing, and then understanding what the style it's about. What do you have time for? How does your body move? How do you have to connect? What the, what the actual dance? How do I say it? The atmosphere that you have to create for the dance? You know, we have, we do have two slow dances and American rhythm.

How do you make that different? What's the difference between a sensual Rumba that's more through your hips or a romantic Bolero that's more on top and open. You have to see those differences. And if you put in a lot of tricks in there, I don't see the difference. So that's another thing. I think that's what we did.

If we don't know what to do, let's just throw tricks at it.


SVETA: As a judge now I tend to look away on tricks and then hope that there will be a basic later on when I look back because I can't possibly judge the tricks because its not a show number.

JASON: They don't actually belong with those dances. Cause you can do them in every dance so that they don't actually belong. A trick is a trick. You could do it in smooth. You could do it in Latin and you could do it Rhythm. You can't do it in standard. That's the only way.

SVETA: Well, you could try to.

JASON: But you can do it in Latin as well. So they actually don't belong. Really. They're just things that create dynamical changes.

SVETA: Its fun It gets your eye. And again, it is, you know, you are performing in front of the audience.

Actually. Linda said this to us a long time ago and I loved it. She said it doesn't matter how small the competition. You might not even have anyone else in a floor or might think, Oh, I got this. You can't walk through a competition because the people in the audience paid good money to come and watch it.

JASON: 100% everytime.

SVETA: That was a very good point. It's not about you. It's about the people that you're performing in front of. So you have to give them a hundred percent. That was really good. But, yeah. So you, you do want to give them a little something. Yeah. But a great, basic, a great just action is what they're looking for. We have to also remember that the audience. Is possibly, you know, beginner dancers, someone that's looking for something. And when our students say, Oh yeah, I watched, but I didn't recognize the dance that is not a good sign.


SVETA: You want to see Rumba walks in there around the partner. You want to see the crossovers you want me to see basic things in there, cross body leads. Oh, the students would love it.

SAMANTHA: The dance showcases. Sorry. The dance showcases that I remembered the most, early career when I was doing collegiate and I was at Ohio Star Ball, and I was watching the professional showcase. The couples that I remember performing were the ones that I was like, Oh, I know that pattern. Oh, I know how to do that. Oh, that's really cool how they decided to do that. It's the basics that I think new students latch on to. The rest is just like, Oh, that's really cool, but I'll never be able to do that.

SVETA: The tricks everyone could do though. That's the thing, everyone could do them. Jason has a student not going to say the age, but let me tell you, she does not look her age, She only does shows and she and I, I helped you choreograph and I tell her what the trick will be, but I will never do it because I'm scared of heights. I am not going up there.

So I cannot do what she could do, but he does all this crazy tricks and throws her around. They're tricks. You could learn how to do them. A good dance base is what is difficult. My coaches early on in San Francisco, when I first moved to America were Olga and Dima Sukachov, and they did an Ohio show number where they just did Rumba basics.


SVETA: And it was absolutely beautiful. I remember watching them work on it in the studio and coming together, and that made me fall in love with just dancing.

JASON: And they didn't even use their arms, they arms were next to the sides, it was all about leg action.

SVETA: Didn't they have like, like masks on their faces? So there was no emotion. It was just good actions, just gorgeous. I mean, everything else is a part of dancing of course, but that, that I remember that show just spoke to me because I realized it could be beautiful.

JASON: Going back a little bit when you're talking about with the teachers and, you know, tricks and basics. So when you're teaching, if you know, we're telling our students, you know, you should learn the Bronze, the Silver, the Gold, you know, and then when you then go and compete, you do none of it, then why would a student want to do that? I think it's really important that teachers put steps in that they do from the syllabus. Just like Latin. It has a fan, it has an alamana, it's just basically things that definitely go in. I think with American style, those things need to go in, too, so then, your audience, which is your target audience, that wants to be fans can actually understand it as well. Not go, I could never do that, that's why they're professional. No, look, they did a basic. So I think that's where the international to me sometimes, what should I say, can help because you can see a feather step, you can see a fall away, and then yeah,

SVETA: No one's going to keep that out of the routine.

JASON: They're not going to keep it out of the routine. So I think, you know, with the American rhythm and smooth definitely creates in having those steps in there definitely will help.

SVETA: They're beautiful steps as well. My favorite part of our Rumba was the walks around you.

JASON: Yeah, circular walks and double turns.

SVETA: Silver. That was silver and I loved it.

JASON: Then it goes to the quality of your dancing then not just, you know. I think that's what the level is. It's not about the steps. It's about the level of you being a dancer, that can make a basic step stop the room. And I think that's what I've always been drawn to.

SVETA: I do have to say though, I said this to one of the pro couples, I think a few weeks ago. If I'm walking by, let's say a practice room or in the studio, and I see a couple practicing without music, I should still know what dance they're doing.


SVETA: If I can't recognize the dance until you start the music, that's a problem. You should be able to tell what dance and what style they're doing, and if they're doing a Chacha is it American Chacha or Latin Chacha? I should be able to see that difference. So that's a big one for me when you're not sure. And I've seen, this was actually quite recent. I was judging a competition in the Midwest and there was a few couples. It's not just one couple, it's like a new thing that arrived where they were doing both Latin and rhythm at the same competition. And it was rising star. A couples, I think it was like three out of that final that did both Latin and rhythm. On the same night, because it was all rising stars in same night and some of the routines were the same.

JASON: They just switched it.


SVETA: And that's okay. I guess if you dance them differently, maybe then maybe I wouldn't recognize it. I don't know. I'm not sure. I wasn't sure I kept on. That was the first time I've seen that. And I was like, Oh, I saw that earlier today from your Latin. And are you doing that in Rhythm? And now in Bolero you're just softening the knee sometimes when you go back. But that's not international rumba, but it's very different dances, very different character. So I do truly believe that that needs to change.

SAMANTHA: well, and I understand. I kind of understand that on a pro-am level, if you have students that are dancing 20 dances and you need 20 different routines.Okay, well maybe your American waltz and your international waltz are 90% similar, but we're going to break hold in American waltz, just for ease of teaching your new students routines and getting them out on the dance floor the first time, but high level amateur and high level professional, I would almost find that disrespectful.

SVETA: I do.

SAMANTHA: You aren't giving the credit to the dance style that you're in when you're in that dance style. As you said, there's a huge difference between international Rumba and American Bolero. And to treat those two as identical is kind of missing the point in my mind.

SVETA: Oh yeah. There was some top couples that when they first transitioned they stayed in pretty much the same routine but it was, yeah, it was very, very similar. You have to just kind of move on. If you're doing two styles. You know, that's fine, if that's what you want to do, but treat them as two different styles. If you were doing 10-dance, you wouldn't dance your Latin the same as Standard.


SVETA: So, but, even with students, I think that it's important to teach them the difference immediately. So I'm going to be the bad guy to say this, but if you have to think about them remembering all the routines, then maybe they shouldn't be doing all those styles. Maybe start with one, just to get more entries is just not worth it because you want them to have a correct start.

JASON: And a good experience.

SVETA: Yes. It's not about that one competition where you're going to get a lot of entries. It's about them having the longevity and learning the differences between the dances. So we're teachers, it's a dance school. So big difference between if they want, if they want to go to a party, let's say a student comes to a studio. The first thing we want to know is what their goals are. And I want to be able to go to a party and they say, Oh, I just want to learn salsa. But if you're going to be at a party, you want to know as many dances as possible, right? Because you don't want to sit around waiting. You teach them two, three steps in each dance. So they could just be able to dance around the whole night.

If they want to compete, you explain to them the different styles and what that's like, and that's a whole different story. Then you say, okay, well now we need to work on the quality. Competitive dance is very different than social dance. You know, I wouldn't dance socially like this. So there's a difference and it's up to us to explain to them, and they want us to do that. If I, if I went to the doctor and they would let me do whatever I think is right, now, that wouldn't be beneficial. So I think it's up to us, explain that to them and wait it out.

JASON: And the goals will change. The goals will change.

SVETA: And then you have a student for many years as well. You know, I think both of us have students that have been with us for a long time.

JASON: yeah. And it did, they didn't stop, well where they are now is not what they wrote on their sheets in the beginning.

SVETA: Yeah, that wasn't their goal. No one's goal is to compete at a high level at a dance competition when they first come into the studio. No one.

JASON: And they're like.

SVETA: Meaning adults.

JASON: Yeah, they're like Moby Dick. It doesn't really happen. Yeah. No white whale that comes in and that's it. Generally doesn't happen, you know?


SVETA: So, yeah, I think it's up to us to educate them about it and set their goals with them and show them where they could go from there. But, we have to teach them to different styles right away. We have to teach them the difference. We have to let them know why they're doing this and why they're doing that and how that's different immediately because we're setting up a tone for the rest of their dance career. You know,

JASON: And slowly, you know. They don't have, don't have to be put straight into a competition becuase it can be overwhelming. And I think there's plenty of studio events that you do have team matches, showcases. evaluations, medal tests. There's plenty of that to gear them what, before you even put them in a competition. Cause I've seen a lot of students who get pushed into it and then they quit straight away

SVETA: They burn out.

JASON: So I think it's important. There is a lot of things in the studio to build them up first, before you. Put them in all with the competitions, which we've had great success with basically, where you have, where you do bachata, and salsa, so they kind of see what the competition is like. They get a small taster of it. They can come in the next day and see more, you know, the extreme of what it turns into, but at least. That way that's slowly getting into it. So I really do like the nightclub nights, because I think they, it bridges the gap from your studio student transitioning into a competitive student.

SVETA: Well and they get to dress up. I think, especially for women, this is a big stress. They get to dress up and have that, that whole night out with makeup and hair. But not professionally done hair and makeup.

JASON: Not breaking the bank.

SVETA: That sometimes stresses you a little bit. It's not even that, its not breaking the bank. You don't have to do that.

JASON: 10 minutes, but again,

SAMANTHA: It's the stress of waking up at three o'clock in the morning and have somebody else do your hair and makeup, and then you're locked into this look.

SVETA: It's also very final. You know, that this is something very important when you get into that dress. And we do that makeup and hair, whereas you try, you know, to still dress up and have a great time at a dance floor with social dancing. I think it's, I think that's the best idea. I love competitions that do that. Yeah, that's fun. That's very good.

JASON: When you're talking about preexisting ideas of your students when they walk onto the floor. Costume is important. So I was always taught you dress your level. So I do see a lot of couples who don't dress their level. So I think, you know, regarding the dresses that are over done, like they buy a professional dress from a competitor.

SVETA: There's no newcomer that needs to buy a dress for $6,000.

JASON: You need to dress them to their level. So that way they reflect and also that the teacher also dances down to their level. So I think it's definitely a package that needs to be looked at. So when you're on the floor, they do look Bronze, they dress like Bronze, and that way, when actually clean and they dress their level. Cause sometimes the dress or the male costume can actually overwhelmed their dancing. So I think, you know, just a little tip that I think people should look out.

SVETA: I think newcomers, like we had a student that came out and just a beautiful black practice dress with jewelry. And it was gorgeous.

JASON: She looked awesome.

SVETA: It was so nice. And you know what? It caught people's eye because it was different.

JASON: It was the opposite.

SVETA: She was a newcomer. Why would she, why would she have all this stuff on her? biggest longevity as well as she knows that she will get there someday. It wasn't like one competition bucket list or thing. It was a longevity. She wants to continue through it. And I thought that was great. That was fantastic.

JASON: kind of like earning your belts. And, you know, you earn the dress, you don't get the dress.

SVETA: Yeah, because sometimes it distracts

SAMANTHA: You are now my favorite judges and adjudicators to talk to.

I do want to get, very quickly to your competition. I want to give that a plug at the very end here, but, just as a quick side note, when I went from collegiate into my first Pro-Am competition, I was learning to teach but was not yet teaching full out. So it was still competing as an amateur. I went on the floor in, I believe it was closed syllabus bronze, or I might've been moving to silver. I might've been doing both at the same time. But I had a very simple practice dress that we had put a bunch of AB crystals on just to give it a little bit of glitz and glamour. Went out and danced. I think I placed three out of three in my scholarship event and five or six out of five or six in my championship event. So last place on the podium. I can't remember if it was a judge at the time or another coach, but somebody pulled me aside and said, If you go out there and buy a $5,000 dress and get somebody to do your hair and makeup and come back on this floor, you'll win, but you're never going to win looking like that.

That was crushing. Recent college grad, broke out of my mind, the $2,000 that I spent on entry fees and coaching to get to that competition was all I had in my bank account. I was like, are you kidding me? This is not the sport that I signed up for.

So, to hear you guys say that you want to see folks that are dressing their level in Pro-Am and not coming out looking like professional dancers if they're not professional dancers is so positive. I hope folks listen to that and take it to heart.

JASON: As we say, mutton dressed up as lamb. You have to dress to your style. My mom used to make my costumes, by the way.

SVETA: My mom used to make my costumes.

JASON: My mom used to make my shirts, so I would get my pants done, but my mom would make my shirts.

SVETA: My mom made all of my dresses, till I was with you. Yeah, that's upsetting because it's not just that, but I would want to think this is where I want the dancing to go. Right now, it's kind of a hard time. We're talking like nothing is happening right now. We're talking about competitions, they're not even happening. And, the world is going to change and we know this, but I would like to think that ballroom is going to become available for everyone. Not just those who can afford it. I feel like we need to make this available for anyone that wants to do it. So that's a big thing for us, too, is to have like little memberships for group classes.

It's not just come in, and if you can't afford private lessons, see you later. There's different options. And someday you could maybe afford this, or someday you could swing that, but there's still something for you to do. So even that nightclub dances or at least do one round and then the scholarship should be available for everyone. And no, you can't always spend that much money if you're right out of school.

JASON: Or you got to invest $6,000 in a dress. That's when kind of the juvenile have got it correct. Well, I think they kinda should put that into the newcomer and bronze and silver, where they kind of have a dress code.

SVETA: I like that

JASON: Because that's what kind of allows kids to look forward to dancing with the dresses. Like they're not as expensive as what you're paying. They're clean. There you go, you know, they look really cool on the floor and then as they get better and older, they transition to the more dressy as well.

I think the newcomers as adults should kind of have a similar idea.

SVETA: I do have to say something though, and I want to make sure that we don't leave this point. We're talking about the expensive dresses.


SVETA: Well, here's the thing, but if you are already on a level where you should get a dress. Because you do want to look the part, we want to have nice tan because the lights, you know, it's not, it's not because we just want everyone to look orange. It's the lighting, it's the lighting there that just makes the muscle look more defined. It's not because we're trying to look Latin. I know there's a big conversation about this it's that I don't, I never thought about it.

It's not that, I think it's because of the muscle definition, this is why. You know, the weight trainers do that, too. So to me, that was always the reason, but the hair and the makeup, it is a beautiful sport. And you do want to look the part. You don't want messy hair that's flying around and with the dresses, sometimes when you are at that level where you have to get a dress and people buy a cheaper dress, or they rent online a cheaper dress, that doesn't fit them well. and then they struggle and pull everything up and that is not good. So you went cheaper, but that dress was not made for you. So once our students become a certain level where they need to start looking the part where they're at a higher level of competitors.

JASON: Make the investment into the dress.

SVETA: We talk about getting their dress and most companies, and we were sponsored by Lenique, thank God and love them. Most of our students go with Lenique, and so once they're done with a dress. Lenique helps them sell it and they have money towards the next dress. So you're not just throwing your money away. So it's an investment, but you see it coming back to you, but they feel great and feeling great in your dress.

I remember I had an experience where I did not feel great in my dress. The last time that I went to that person. But that's a lot of it. So you walk on a floor and you want to feel amazing and you don't want to have to think about pulling something up. You want to dance to the fullest and you have beautiful people on the floor that feel great, that feels sexy. As a woman, you know, you come out to a big competition, like Emerald Ball, you want to feel amazing. So that part of it is a big deal. Because we're talking about newcomers that's a whole different, that's a whole different situation. So you do want to make sure that you look the part and to me doing my hair and makeup was stressful.

We would fight because I was too stressed about the perfect way I was going to do my hair. And my makeup is a little easier, but my hair. So that's when I started going and getting my hair done and my makeup done. Because it took away the stress, but again, do it to your ability, make sure you're on the right level, make the right decisions.

And it's up to us as coaches to put our student onto the right direction. Yeah. Sorry. I said that I wasn't like against all dresses.

SAMANTHA: Right, right. The curtains that you buy have to fit the window that you have. It's window dressing.

JASON: Look in the mirror and you like what you see, you know. It's sitting there, the shirt is too tight. It's not going to give you a good look on the floor, but a shirt that is out. And, you know, I could go on. Let me, layers as if you know, there's different ways you can dress, dress yourself up. So when you're on the floor, you look the parts and you feel good when you want to move. Yeah, there you go.

SAMANTHA: so before we end today, I do, I do want to give you guys some shout outs and some opportunities to talk about the things that you're doing. I mentioned at the beginning, owners of Dance Daly Ballroom, and then you are the co-organizers along with your partner, Eddie Stutts. of the San Antonio Classic. Now, obviously San Antonio Classic is normally the first weekend in August and this year did not happen, but we're gearing up for 2021.

SVETA: Yes, absolutely. Our first year was last year, so we only had it one year. This is actually a huge thanks to our friend, Eddie, who, you know, he bought the competition. Things didn't work out with a partner, or she couldn't do that at the moment, which she was a judge at our competition, love her, but, he called her and he called us and let us know and like we're in.

And so thankfully he did a lot of the base work before we got there.

JASON: Yeah, he did a lot of the work.

SVETA: So, I always want to say he is the owner and we are thankfully there as well. so our first year, we bought in in April, the competition happened August 3rd and it was extremely fun.

JASON: Yeah.

SVETA: So fun, It's a one day competition. It's it was a few blocks away from Riverwalk in San Antonio. we had too much fun, we went out.

JASON: We had a party bus on the night before, took them out to dinner, students.

SVETA: yeah. We had a blast and then we had a gala. We had, Alexi and Natalie, there were, nine dance champions. they did a show for the gala and it was a full day.

JASON: Its a gala, by the way (correcting pronunciation)

SVETA: We're not going to do this right now. It was a lot of fun. A lot of fun and a lot of work, but it was great. On the day, we just had a great time.

JASON: We made it a lot of fun and that was the main thing was to have a fun competition.

SVETA: We're very sad that it did not happen this year, but, you know, at first we had to make a judgment call and it was more about safety and just, we weren't sure how things were going to work or weren't sure it was going to happen. and then we realized, Oh, it was definitely not going to happen. Even if we would have said yes, It still would not have happened. So we made the right call, but it was sad and it was last, it was last Sat. It would have been August 1st. So we're posting a lot of like memories and what's great to see is a year later, a lot of the students and the studios and the Pro-Am teachers that were there.

They were posted that they missed it. That was really cool. And they contacted us like, Are you guys doing it? We want to be there. And that, was, I was overwhelmed with that. That was really, really cool because people remembered it. And so, I want to say bigger and better in 2021, it will be August 7th this time.

SAMANTHA: So everybody out there Mark your calendars, August 7th, 2021.

JASON: And the hotel's on the river walk this year.

SVETA: very excited, very excited.

SAMANTHA: Awesome. Yeah. That's a mark of a really fun competition when folks a year later are posting that as memories, because I've definitely been to competitions that have not gotten that treatment. so I think that that speaks to what you guys are doing. If folks are sharing that out a year later, that's awesome.

SVETA: You know, with, with us, the two of us, obviously, because you were just had this whole conversation and same thing with Eddie is all three of us have a studio, deal with pro-ams on daily basis with dancer programs. We talked to them a lot that we know, you know, what they're looking for. I hope. And so that made it easier for the three of us to know what our goal is. We're all on the same page, as far as what the competition was. And it happened to have couples that were a higher level. There was things there that we didn't even really push for. It just kind of happened. But our biggest thing was fun.

It was just enjoying ourselves. It wasn't to take it too serious.

JASON: Making it presdigious too much.

SVETA: we were at a meeting at the hotel a few months before the competition and, Eddie asked the guy and he was like, Oh, can I have a ice cream break? What are you talking about? You need ice cream because yeah. I love ice cream. Okay. Sure. Let's let's go. That was amazing. That was so fun.

JASON: Everybody loved the ice cream break.

SVETA: Just a little break in the middle of the day. And everyone went and made themselves ice cream sundaes and yeah, it was a blast. And I thought it was more going to be like for the kids. No, the adults loved it, loved it were raving about it. So it's little things like that. So I can't take credit for that idea. I was like really, ice cream, really?

JASON: He also got a popcorn machine because he really likes popcorn.

SVETA: That's awesome. It's because it's the experience that matters. that's what you remember, not exactly how you dance and exactly how you place and placement helps and all that stuff, and awards help. But that's not really the big deal there.

It's it's Did you make friends? Did you make friends with other people that live? We are, are able to be friends with anyone around all these United States. Like I know that if we move somewhere, doesn't matter where, we'll be able to be okay. So cause we know someone everywhere, so that's, it's the experience

JASON: it's definitely a bit of building relationships instead of just going to compete and then leaving. So we do want our competitions to be more of definitely, you know, family, fun or just student fun kind of idea where everyone kind of gets to know each other.

SVETA: We had dinner the night before for, a lot of the students went on packages that were arrived early enough. And, we, again, I hate saying this, it was Eddie's idea, but, we had party buses. And that was hilarious and great and wonderful. And everyone couldn't stop talking about it even now. So

JASON: And it had a stripper pole all in there and I'm telling you, people,

SVETA: Oh, Jason has too much fun. He was the only one on it.

JASON: I was not! I just started it and then everyone.

SVETA: But other than that music and just chitchatting and dancing around too. We had songs that everyone knew it was easy and it was great. And then dinner and everyone got to know each other. It was great!

JASON: What was also fun was, or, I, I saw the advantage of it. we would do rhythm and Latin mixed, so that way people wasn't, if they did a lot of entries, I wasn't, they wasn't dying on the floor. It actually was great because you actually saw people who don't normally interact with each other interact. So it was actually, they made friends through different styles who they normally don't see, because on different days,

SVETA: Thats a good point

JASON: So on like a one day, how we mixed it, you got, that was for me a bonus that you don't normally get with a three day. Because you don't, you kind of see where you stand, that people don't even know who they are cause they're not part of the smooth group. So with a mixture, we actually started seeing them actually meet new people.

SVETA: They all made friends

JASON: So that was, for me, a positive of a one day is what I saw.

SVETA: The one thing that we had that we couldn't have right now is a full, full ballroom the full time.

So from the very morning after breakfast was served, we had country Western and it was already full floor. Like it was already a full ballroom of people watching and cheering, everyone was cheering for each other. It was, it was crazy. It was like, like a studio team match, but a competition. It was really high energy the whole time.

Like it was a constant go, go, go. I miss it,

SAMANTHA: something to look forward to next year. I think that's really, cool that you mentioned that you mixed the standard and the smooth and the Latin and the rhythm. because with my students, because they primarily do American style now, if it goes rhythm and then Latin is the next block.

Most of my students head out of the ballroom as soon as they're done dancing. So even though they're back to back on a one day event, you still see that shift of who's competing and who's not competing. So I think intermixing it is really great, especially for new students, because then they get exposed to the other styles that they're not dancing.

SVETA: Yeah. Yeah. This, I mean, no matter how, how high level their dancing is or what their goals are, it's still social. It's social for them. Its what we're missing this year, but this is why this is really important. Dance is important for people

JASON: Interaction.

SVETA: It's social interaction. So the more people that they meet, the better it is, they have friends. They could Facebook each other later on that. I mean, I know people that, that talk to someone from across the country and plan their competitions together so they could hang out. That's great. That's

JASON: its a great environment for people to meet. So I think its good.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. Definitely. any exciting news as far as the studio goes, I saw some Facebook photos of a renovation or an expansion happening.

SVETA: Yes. We're that crazy? yeah. no, we, we, ended up in a great position.

JASON: We're very fortunate.

SVETA: We must say that our landlords, at our plaza are great. They're really good. And they did this smart thing where the places that were empty, they made it as a pop-up. So you could rent it for a short term. And so that's the greatest way to try and see this is something that we want. The studio is like a bittersweet right now, situation with us. unfortunately two studios that were near us that are great friends. They had to close down due to COVID. So that left a lot of teachers without a home. And we were really hoping to maintain just the small studio feel with just our staff. We're we love our staff. Guys, don't take this too seriously. We're still going to be hard on you, but we have the most amazing staff. We have, three, three people on staff. We have a married couple Joe and Sasha. They do American or international, Latin, sorry. and we have a Bailey and then partner practices with her a lot, they do American Rhythm. And, we just love the atmosphere that they create with us. and, but we wanted to create , we wanted to have space for some of these teachers who don't have a home

JASON: Because we were independent one time ourselves.

SVETA: One of the biggest things is when we were independent, after we stopped working for a studio, Pat West gave us a home at her studio. So we were renting space for her, from her for a long time, since 2011. so we wanted to give back to her teachers, especially, and in some of the teachers from Dance United, not all because we just, especially because of COVID, but can't just invite everyone in. We only have a few people on a floor at a time. We have a very strict rule in that. so this landed at a great time for us. We decided to try this pop up and we got a great deal. I'll be very honest. You can't get better than that. So we went for it, renovations.

JASON: Hopefully open, hopefully Wednesday or Thursday, it will be open.

SVETA: So it's gone really fast. We literally started this like a week and a half ago. but this way we have another floor. We have space. We still create the atmosphere of a small studio, but we have a few independents and they're super respectful. And the people that that are in our studio are good friends that we've had for years. That worked well with our teachers.

This is our main thing, making sure that the teachers, this is their home, everyone else is invited into our home, but they've been great. It's been working really well.

JASON: Fingers crossed on that one

SVETA: So this was a crazy time to do this, but you know, when, when it falls into your hand, you can say no to a good opportunity. So. We're doing it. Terrifying

SAMANTHA: That's exciting. well hopefully everything is positive and everything goes well. Hopefully we will be celebrating with you guys in August of next year at the classic. Thank you again to Sveta and Jason Daly for being guests on today's podcast, if you'd like to follow their studio or the San Antonio classic, you can do so using the links in the description box below.

I've been your host, Samantha with Love.Live.Dance. You can find this and all of our other podcast episodes at and you can find us across social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at ballroomchat. If you'd like you can become patron at, where you can find bonus content specifically for our patrons.

Thank you again for listening and as always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing.