Samantha: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today, I'm joined by Ksenia Stavrica. She's a professional rhythm finalist, and we get to talk all about her journey from being an amateur competitor in Russia, to now being a professional dancer and teacher in the States and the differences that she's found along the way.
Before we get started. I do want to give, two quick thank you to our partners. Once again, the Ballroom Box and The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. If you've not already heard of either of them, the Ballroom Box is a quarterly subscription service made by dancers for dancers. They are currently preparing their holiday box, which, from what I have already seen of it looks pretty fantastic. You can use the code "BallroomChat" to save 5% when you sign up for the Ballroom Box. The Girl with the Tree Tattoo, Katie Flashner was an amazing guest. She is also an amazing blogger. she also has some published works, including her solo practice guide and for listeners and viewers of the podcast, you can save 10% when you go to practiceballroomdance.com and purchase any of her materials.
Both links, for the Ballroom Box and The Girl with the Tree Tattoo will be included in the description box below so thank you both for supporting the podcast. And without further ado, let's jump right into our conversation with Ksenia Stavrica.
Well, thank you. Ksenia for being a guest on today's podcast.
Ksenia: Thank you for having me, Samantha.
Samantha: So, I had the pleasure of speaking with your professional partner earlier in a previous episode. I want to hear kind of from you, how you got started in ballroom dancing, and then specifically what brought you ultimately to American rhythm.
Ksenia: So, let's see, I started when I was, five years old and then I saw this show on the TV. it was like all girls dancing, in actually standard dresses. So, it was like long and pretty. And then suddenly I imagined myself, Oh, like, I want to do the same thing. I want to dance. And then for six months, my parents didn't want me to bring to dance because, you know, they were thinking, Oh, she's just a child.
It's just like, you know, one, one time she wants this, then another time she wants this, and then I have an elder sister. So, she did gymnastics like for three months. And then she did like art school and something else. So, they were thinking, okay, like, well, we already went through this. We don't want to go the same route.
And so, for six months I was telling them maybe not every single day, but quite often. I want to go dance; I want to go dance. So finally, they get, give up and brought me to dance. So it was, I think, what I was five and a half years old. So, I started dancing and obvious I started with, standard and Latin.
And that's how it went. I had a lot of dance partners. and then let's see, I think it was 2012. no, wait. It was 2011. We had a dance competition in my city, and then there was a judge, actually Olga Foraponova, she's a U S Smooth champion. So, she was judging this competition and then afterwards she came to me and then the other girl and asked the question, would you like to live in America?
So, for a moment that was a little bit shocked, but then I'm like, okay. Yeah, sure. I would like to. And then six months I came and, that was, that was it. That's how I came to the States.
Samantha: That's amazing. So what level were you competing at the time where you met Olga? Was it, was it, presented to you as a teaching opportunity to move or more as a training in the U S opportunity?
Ksenia: actually, you know what, we didn't really talk about it, but I knew she, she wanted a teacher. Because before, me moving to the United States, we a chat through Facebook couple of times because, you know, I also kind of wanted to know where I'm going. Like, what is it there? I knew she had a studio. She said, you know, like you can compete.
we have a dance partner for you here. and also, you can teach. So that's what it was. And then. Honestly, I was thinking more, Oh, I want to compete. I want to compete. But then the thing is I came, and then this guy who I suppose to dance with, he was leaving to New York to live in New York. And basically it was just me by myself there, at the studio.
So, I just started teaching and there was like a, I guess, so it's, I don't even know how to call it, like, Craziness of mine. So, I was in Seattle for 20 days and I really wanted to dance. I really wanted to compete. So, this guy through Facebook, he contact me and said, Oh, you know, let's dance together.
And then he was in Boston. He was living in Boston with his wife. So, he was doing Latin. I'm like, well, why not? Because here I don't have a dance partner. There are not a lot of students at the studio. So, I'm not really losing anything. And I left. So, after 20 days of being actually in the United States and in Seattle, I left for Boston, danced with this guy for, I think maybe three or four months.
We, we just couldn't connect. Like he didn't like what I was doing. Like I do not like something. And it was also expensive to live there. And then at the time my parents were supporting me, but then they're like, you know, you have to find something. And obviously I didn't have documents rather than just a tourist visa.
And, so it was, it was a hard time I would say. So, I was there for three, four months and then I left, I came back to Seattle. I asked Olga if I can come back. So when. That's what it was. I came back, started teaching and then, didn't really compete for a while. went to college because I needed to switch my visa to the student visa.
And, then I think in about a year or two, I started dancing with, with my rhythm dance partner, Johnny O'Brian. So, we did, I think two years we danced. And then, then he moved to Colorado actually. So, and then, yeah, that's how I started doing rhythm.
Samantha: Okay. So, rhythm really came out of that first partnership with, with Johnny.
Ksenia: With Johnny, yeah, it was because we were thinking, you know, I was thinking to do Latin and then really loved Latin because that's what I did almost all my life. And, and then, you know, I was thinking maybe I should try something new. Plus, at that time, the competition was, not at that level in rhythm.
So, I was thinking, you know, it's of course nothing is easy. But maybe, you know, you start with this and then you move to something else. Maybe you come back to rhythm one day. I mean, sorry, to Latin and, that's how we decided. Okay. Let's do Rhythm together.
Samantha: Nice. What was the, most challenging thing or what did you find the most difficult switching from your Latin style to now competing in rhythm?
Ksenia: I would say, I think, my answer is not going to be something different from all the other Latin dancers. I think Mambo timing because, you know, obviously there are similarities with Samba, but then in Mambo, there is this time difference because, and to this day, sometimes I still make this mistake and I starting on one, but in reality it should be two.
So, I guess that is the most challenging, just the Mambo timing. But everything else, I think it's, I love it. I do miss it. Like if I would compare Latin and then Rhythm, I do miss jive and, and Samba there. I miss it a lot,
Samantha: do you find, with your current partnership with Aaron, that your, or with your previous partnerships, that you try to style your East coast swing too, to have some of that, that Jive-y feel or no, do you want to keep the two styles completely separate?
Ksenia: No, we actually, we, so when we just started dancing and then obviously, I'm coming from Latin, Aaron is coming from, he, he did Rhythm, but not for a long time either. And I remember working with Isabella and Thomas. And they're like, okay, so guys, you're totally two you're coming from totally two different, you know, styles let's change it.
So, we started with, like with Cha-cha, cha-chas I mean the same, but then swing. I started doing Jive because like in Jive, there is, level of how would I say it? Height level or. so, so
Samantha: It's very upright and lifted.
Ksenia: Yeah, because, you know, I, like, I started listening to the music and like I have to go up and down, up and down. So, for a long time, we were really, and we still working on it. So, we trying to actually get rid of it. So, we, we really want this instead of jumpy, East coast swing, just create more rhythm. Like more body and then just the reason I'm in the feet rather than in the whole body,
Samantha: in the period of time that you were teaching and you're still teaching, I presume. What coming from a very, I presume strict 10 dance background in Russia, teaching for an American audience, what has your experience been? Has there been a change? Have you altered your style at all or no? Is, is there consistency across both cultures?
Ksenia: I don't think there is a consistent, I agree with you. It was more strict in Russia.
Like when I was doing Latin, it's like, you know, you practice this basic step for two hours, then you dance with your partner. And then, I remember when it was, was living in Russia, I didn't have the opportunity to, to do like yoga, ballet, jazz, because like all these things and I'm just learning right now, they all help dance. So. I was noticing that some of the other girls they were doing like on top of dance, they were doing some other things, but they also paid money for this. So, it wasn't like, like long time, I can't say long time ago, what? 10 years ago, there was no YouTube or, I mean, it wasn't popular, so you can just, you know, hop on there and then do yoga yourself, do jazz, do a theatre arts and something.
So, but it was more strict. So, it wasn't just dance and that's it. Here, I find that, like especially, you know, so teaching, teaching style, it's less, I don't think the consistency is the right word. Like late, like less strict, I would say. Oh, it's okay. Like if I, if I don't want to do this, it's okay.
Or if I can't do this basic step it's okay. Let's just change it to something else. So, it's definitely less, More freedom. I would say here. And like, if I would compare Rhythm and then Latin back in Russia, but I'm still trying to figure out what is better. I do like structure. I feel like in Russia, sometimes we go overboard and it's too strict because I remember even when I was a girl, like I had a teacher with, a with a stick.
I mean, she, she wasn't hurting us, but we were working on this, Cha-cha-cha, a lock step, and then I really needed to straighten my knees. So, she would, you know, if I wouldn't, then she would have to, kind of like help me out with the stick. I mean, she wasn't hurting us, but it was pretty strict.
And then if you didn't do it right, okay. Like you practiced another 30, 40 minutes by yourself. And, and then you can go home, but if you're not going to do it, then you, you, you might as well, you know, sleep here at the studio. Here there is, of course. nobody's forcing you. I feel like what also in Russia.
Yes. So, there is structure and then there is, So different because we have a dance clubs there. So, you competing for a, for a club. Here in the States, your kind of on your own, like you have your, you have teachers, but then there is no dance clubs. So that's what was shocking for me, because in Russia, I was actually doing Latin in amateurs, not in professionals in, in amateurs.
And like I had my teacher, like we had a, you know, Group classes, private lessons, which here we do have here. It's the same thing, but there it's more like a teamwork here. It's kind of like you're on your own. You create this teamwork yourself, I guess this is so the difference between the dancing, competing in amateurs and then also in professionals, because in professionals you're more, you're more on your own.
So that's, that's what I think.
Samantha: Yeah. coming from that dance club atmosphere where you kind of have this built in community. Did that, did that foster, the positive aspects or the negative aspects of competition in your experience? Was that a support network that lifted everyone up or did that create more of a pecking order to see who could be on the top of the leaderboard within your club?
Ksenia: I would say 50 50 because, I really do like teamwork, you know, you, you come to dance and then you, also like socialize, chat with other people, go to competitions together. And then I remember we were taking this train trip to Moscow, to the Russian Open and it was, I think, four couples. So, you know, we all together, we, we'd take a train in the evening and then, sleep and then go in the morning, take a subway to, to this, B how would I say it like a stadium where the Russian Open was happening and we were doing it all together. So, we would dance and then. Like we would go out, eat, socializing.
But then on the other hand, I remember also competing with other girls because, these girls, she has one dress, Oh, I want to have this same dress. Like, because I want to be better than everybody else. It's like this, you know, comparison, which is, I don't know. I don't think necessarily it's a bad thing.
It's neither, but that I would say it's like 50, 50. So I remember even myself saying, oh my mama, mom, I want to do have this same dress as this girl. Like, let's go make, make dress in Moscow because this is where. this girl got this dress. So, I and it was happening. Like, and then my parents, like, Oh, I don't know if we can afford it.
But then there was a period of time when my parents had had enough money. So, they're like, okay, let's make a dress from the same, dress lady and let's go to Moscow, make dress. So, you know, you can be, I guess, better. Or at least you. You'll have the same opportunity as the other girls. So, there was this always comparison and, you know, trying to be better be there, everybody.
So not only just like how you look, but also how you dance. So, I would say it's like 50, 50. But when I came to the United States and I did miss this, this, this team. Like a dance club that you come, that you have, like, you know, specific times when like three times a week you'd have group classes, you know that like at 5:30 you started the group class and then you have a private lesson afterwards.
So, it was like more structured as you said. So, I do miss that.
Samantha: Do you think that's a product of, and maybe this is just, American perspective versus the world. do you think that's a product of, other international countries really pushing the youth amateur side of our sport versus American dance tends to be for more older adults, we tend to equate ballroom dancing with the Pro-Am experience rather than really pushing, you know, 5 to 15 year old’s into the sport?
Ksenia: You said comparing to the other, countries, right? On an international level.
Samantha: Do you think that having that dance club atmosphere is a product of having more of an amateur component to the sport versus an adult component?
Ksenia: I think its part of it. Yes. Because like, as I said, like in Russia, I wasn't competing in professionals and they know like right now I'm looking at it and I know my teacher, so he was a professional dancer. And then right now, I understand how he felt because you know, he, he, wasn't the one who was coming to the group classes, maybe taking private lessons, but he would need to fly either to Moscow, St. Petersburg, you know, some centers where there are, different levels of, teaching.
So, I would say it's like, it's, More of the amateur side of this, you know, teamwork and it is good. So yeah.
Samantha: With your teaching now, are you teaching youth? Are you teaching adults? Are you teaching everybody?
Ksenia: Yes. So, I started like, when I w when I came to the States, I started with, teaching kids. And I did love it, but then the problem is, and it's, it's probably not going to be, I won't be the first one who is going to tell you, there is a difference between again, American kids and then Russian kids because American parents.
And so, they bring their American kids and they, they, you know, more, not that they don't care. They, again, they, they give more freedom to their child. Like if he doesn't want to dance today, it’s okay, like we will come back later. With Russian parents and you know, it's with American parents. I do understand them.
So, so they give this freedom to their child. Right. But then with, Russian parents, they come and then they sit, they watch, and then they tell me as a teacher, okay, you're doing this wrong. Okay. Maybe you should do it like this, like this. And then after the lesson, you have to talk to them for a little bit.
And then they saying, Oh, you know, we don't think, I would try to learn anything today or he didn't pay attention, or I think you should be even more, much more strict with them. So, and the, you always like from Russian parents, you always get this. I don't even know what to call it. what's the right word for that?
Like they always trying to tell you what to do because they, they, they are more, they are like more on the strict side. They want their kids to grow and they do, I do understand where it's coming from. They don't want you to know, just spend money and then their kids will come and, you know, won't learn anything and just sleep.
So, I do understand that. So anyway, I started with that. I was teaching both American kids and Russian kids. And then after a while I said enough, as much as I love teaching kids don't want to teach kids anymore. American kids are okay. Although I, what I didn't like again about American kids, you know, we started working on something.
We started doing shows or, started working on this basic step and then. In my head, I'm thinking, okay, let's continue working on these basic steps so we can finish by Friday. So, I'm doing, I'm making the schedule in my head, so see how they're going to progress. And then next week we'll do something else.
But then, you know, next time they don't show up and then next time they don't show up and then they won't show up maybe for a week because maybe they went for vacation or their kid didn't want to come to dance. And then we lose this momentum. And, you know, they come back and we, we don't even remember where we left.
So, then it's again, we started working on basic step and then it happens again. So, there is no, again, consistency. and with Russian parents, there's sometimes there were problems when they were coming to me and, and. Like, okay. Like, we, we, we think you should do this, this, like, you can even, not really like punch them, but be like more strict.
So, and then after a while I said, no, that that's enough for me. And then I just started teaching adults. I started making shows and not really competitions, just like a dance show at the studio, or we would rent some stage and then do the shows with them. That's what I loved. And these guys were coming like, since I live in Seattle, like Microsoft, Google, so they, you know, they're all programmers and they, they needed something so different. So, so some of them started dancing and it was fun. I love that time. I stopped teaching. let's see, in March because of the quarantine. Cause I was also teaching at the smallest studio and then I guess it was hard to keep up with the business. So, I don't think, I don't think they open up yet.
Samantha: Yeah, obviously, everything post March is like dramatically changed our industry. I want to talk a little bit about the clientele that you mentioned. So, you talk about having, Older gentlemen that are programmers or software engineers, very analytical engineering mindset. Obviously being a dancer yourself, more artistic, more creative.
what has either been your biggest success or your biggest challenge bridging the gap between the creative mindset and the engineering mindset?
Ksenia: I think the first one is actually it's, I'll come back to creative and engineering mind. It's also, these programmers who come to me, they all very shy.
So firstly, it's actually stepping out of their comfort zone. Because, you know, w they come, they already know like their beginner level, they already know some basics. And then afterwards, we need to do the showcase, even just like a bronze level showcase. And then they start freaking out. It's like, no, like, how am I going to go?
Like, here at the studio, I can dance because you know, I dance with you, but. I don't, I can go and dance on the stage where a lot of people are watching me. It's like, you know, totally different when you dance by yourself or with your teacher that you've been dancing with for years at the studio. And then on the stage.
So first I would say it's like, breaking this comfort zone. So that was, I would say. I think it was success with, with this, guys, from tech industries for firstly break their comfort zone comfort level. So, I guess we would, practice, practice, practice. yes. And then sometimes I would ask them, can you bring your friends over, like you coming from work?
That was back a couple of years ago when I was teaching in the different studio and they would bring their friends, they would watch them and, you know, on their first try, it's like, Oh no, like I'm losing my concentration because you know, they watching me it's, it's not, it's not the same as I would just dance by myself or just with you.
So, and then, you know, with practice, it becomes not perfect. I would say with, with pro-am students, but it's definitely getting better. So we would do that. And then when we went to the stage, I tell them, you know, if you mess up, it's okay because I'm here for you. But, you know, I don't think there was a couple of times when my, When these guys, they would forget the routine, but then they would pick up because I would tell him, I would tell them, okay, if you mess up, stand here and then we'll start from this piece.
So they would already know. So there was like option a and option B, if you mess up here, okay, we'll do this. If you mess up here, we'll do this. So, so they were prepared. So I guess that was success. breaking their comfort zone. And then you mentioned about a creative and then, engineering. Can you repeat your question one more time please?
Samantha: Yeah. Before I repeat the question, I just want to say like that what you just talked about was awesome. that is definitely something that I myself try to do with, with, students that are coming from the similar place where. Very uncomfortable. They're very shy. Maybe they're doing it as a way to break out of their comfort zone or, or the first step to become more sociable out in public. so yeah, a lot of practice, a lot of encouragement and kind of slowly cranking up the heat to be like, all right, we, we made, we made it to this checkpoint. Great. Now we're going to make it a little bit more difficult. Okay. We made it to this group. Exactly. so, so the question that I asked was, having more of a creative, artistic background yourself, how do you bridge the gap as a teacher when someone is coming in with more of that analytical engineering mind?
Ksenia: I think for this one to answer this question, I feel like it comes with the time because they coming and they, they are very, very like this, so they can't even, you know, hear the music. So it's, as you said, it's baby steps. First, we were first, we learned basic steps and then, moved to the different level and next and next.
And then, you know, especially when, if you like showcases, they, they do, they do help to bring creativity. Cause you know, you showing them some videos, then they start looking for costumes. Then they really like that music that they're going to dance to. And then when you do it the first time, it's, it's still a little harder, second and third and fourth time it's getting better.
And then, you know, students are coming to me saying, Oh, you know what? Like, I really like that guy from this, I don't know, star Trek movie. Can we do the show like this? Like I want to be him. So, and I feel like it's, you know, creativity, we all have, it is just some people, they had an opportunity to grow it more.
And then some people, you know, they, they chose to do either for the money or just because they don't know what to do, or that's only one thing they know like how to program and, and, all these things, but we can, Make it better each time. So I think we all have creative minds.
Samantha: Well, and I, I love that too, that you're using the showcase concept as kind of the starting point.
I feel like it would be very easy, for someone with a competitive background to encourage their students to be Pro-Am competitors right out of the gate. But I feel like that can be very overwhelming and scary. So if you just focus on one dance style and one set of choreography, you're building in those basics, you're building in the foundations, but it's just a thing to focus on, and you can incorporate some of their personality or their other, you know, hobbies. You mentioned, maybe like we can do a star Trek themed, you know, showcase, or if there's a movie or music that you really like, we can, you know, pretend to be Elvis or whatever it might be that they can connect to.
Then you can slowly build, okay, we did one showcase this year. Maybe let's, let's take on two new styles or let's take on three new styles and then you're building that foundation so that they can, can be long-term dancers, not just a short-term experience.
Ksenia: Right. And this is actually the one thing that I've learned. Like when I, again, coming from Russia, like we were doing the showcase and then of course in Russia, I wasn't teaching. So somebody else would teach me, but then as an amateur, I would have this like one goal, so, okay. We're doing the showcase and we would practice it every single day, but it's. But it's different when you teach the students, you can't really, you know, practice this one thing every single day, first it is going to get boring and then they they're going to lose interest.
Right? So you have to throw all the different pieces, maybe even different styles in creating the showcase. And you can practice a showcase every single day, but it's not just that it's like you, you maybe start with warming up with, the dance that they already know, or just warming up with the basic step and then, and do something else.
And then at the end, let's review our showcase. And if you practice every single day, you know, every single day is different, but then at the same time, you're still practicing the showcase. That's what I had to learn because like, when I started teaching them, especially adults, because for kids, I had more structure.
Okay. If we're doing the showcase, let's practice from the beginning until the end. So it's different. For adults? No, they get, they get bored and then they don't want to do it. It's just too much focus because they're already coming from work. They want their brain to rest. I mean, it is still work, but it's a different kind of work, creative, right?
But you still don't want to, don't want to overwhelm all them, overwhelm them. So, and, yeah, that's the thing. They, they come and then you have to throw all the different pieces at them, all the different, styles. And then in the end, they, they're going to be ready and they're not going to get bored and overwhelmed.
Samantha: Yeah. It's, it's a hard balance to figure out, okay. I want to not bore them. I want to, I want to keep it interesting. I want to keep it exciting. I want to keep it fresh, but I also want to make sure that we're actually making progress towards an achievable goal at the end of the day.
Ksenia: actually my, so that was my challenge because when I started, I started applying the same technique from, teaching kids or from dancing myself. Okay. Drills, drills, drills. We have to do this show routine every day. And then I started applying it to them. But then my, the owner of the studio, he's like, no, they just, these guys, they just want to, you know, they come here, they want to have fun, like let's mix different styles.
So that's, that's how I learned it. And then I decided, yeah, that's how that actually works. And you know, they started leaving more happier, like when they would leave the studio, they were not overwhelmed, but before I went and started teaching them, like we were doing drills and, you know, they, they were getting out of the studio all sweaty and, and sometimes, you know, they wouldn't come back because it was too much.
Firstly, they have to do work and then dance work. So it was too much. But then I had to change my, technique on teaching, I guess.
Samantha: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I want to pivot, and talk about your current dancing as a professional. we talked a little bit about. Kind of how you're, changing your own style to be more, in this new rhythm partnership with Aaron. I want to talk about the amazing year you guys had in 2019. When Aaron was on the podcast, we talked a little bit about the fact that just kind of right out of the gate you guys got in front of the judges and the judges appreciated, what they saw from you guys. But I want to get your perspective on it.
What were those first couple of competitions? Like when new partnership, new routines, in front of judges it's for the first time
Ksenia: Everything started just like, so fast, because I think Aaron already mentioned on the podcast that I listened to it, that we, we met in November or something like this.
And I was quite depressed because Johnny left and then, I was thinking, well, great. Now I don't have a dance partner. So I went to Italy, to visit my, my friend there. She, she had a wedding. So, and then I'm there and then, I'm thinking, okay. Like I'm having a great time here in Europe and Russia having spending time with my parents.
And then when I'm going to come back to, to the States, what am I going to do? Okay. I have school, but that's not enough. Like I want to continue dancing. And, as he mentioned, so I texted him or emailed on Facebook, at, on Facebook saying, Oh, let's meet, let's have a try out. Cause I saw his small advertisement with his dance video and then that's how we started.
So we started I guess in December and then our first competition was already in February, California Open. In fact, no, in January it was a Fred Astaire competition first. So that was, little practice there. I think it was like three couples in there. And then first a normal competition was California open.
It was, you know, everything was separate happening so fast and we needed to create all these routines, totally new, five different routines. For me, I don't think it was shocking because I remember, well, when I was switching dance partners back in Russia, I really liked that idea that my coaches there, they, they didn't tell me, Oh, you know, right now you have to have this connection with your dance partner.
You're going to practice like, I don't know, from three to six months, because you need to start feeling each other, you need to get comfortable. We need to change all the routines and all these things. It was never like this. because I, I do, I'm very well aware that some couples they do that.
Which I don't know if it's right or wrong, but with me it was always like, okay, new dance partner. We have two weeks. This competition is coming, but we have to change not only five routines, but 10, because I was doing a standard and Latin. So. I think I've had like overall, I don't know, I would say at least 10 dance partners back in Russia.
And then every time we would have like two to three weeks, we would have this goal. Okay. This competition is happening here. like on the Saturday or Sunday. So we have two, three weeks we need to get ready. So we would make all this totally new routines. And it was at first, you know, when you start doing it, it's quite shocking.
And then when you go on the floor, you'll obviously. It's not enough time to practice all the routines and remember them. But then on the other hand, mentally, you already broke this, How would I say it like line and fear, because during this three or six months, when you just started dancing with a new partner, you're thinking, Oh, it's going to be my next competition.
And then you having all this thoughts and then you start to get worried. But when you do it in two weeks, all you have time to think is about the routines. That's it. You don't have like, you, you practice, you go, you go, you go home, you sleep, you'll come back in the morning. You don't even have time to fear to have this fear.
And, so I had that experience and that's why here in the States I don't think it was that shocking for me. So, but it was quick, but I'm glad we did it. So I'll go, first competition was California Open. And then we started with Vegas and we were basically doing, I think, like two competitions a month, which that's what I was always dreaming of.
Because like, again, comparing to Russia, with Russia, we would go actually every weekend out of town to do competitions. So we had total of like three or four competitions a month and I loved it because, you know, you have this goal, like you come, but you come to the studio, you practice for five, six days.
Then you go to competition. Then you come back. So you always in this, like kind of like go, go mode. And you have, you have the goal. You don't just. Come to the studio and think, Oh, you know, I have a month or like a month and a half until my next competition. I have time I'll, I'll practice it tomorrow.
So it was always like this, and this is what I, what I loved. So my dream was actually to even doing more competitions. I know sometimes it can be overwhelming and you have to be careful what you wish for, because you might get it one day. But I love what we did. It was quick, no time to think about any fear.
So, yeah, two competitions a month, I thought it was good. I would personally do more if we could, but also because I live in Seattle and then he lives here in California. it's been, a little, I guess, tough to do more competitions. So but two competitions in one month is good enough for now.
Samantha: And so, At the time of recording, the episode has not aired, but, for folks that are listening to this, when it's been published, I had Katie, The Girl with the Tree Tattoo on and we talked about, her guide to solo practicing. and we talked about it from, her being an amateur in a pro am, partnership, mindset. I want to talk with you about how you structure your practices when you are in Seattle, because obviously you are in a long distance, pro partnership, so solo practice is going to be super key. So how have you structured that and how have you found success with it?
Ksenia: So I actually, right now, they closed. So I live in West Seattle and then all the studios they're like totally on the different side. And then they also closed the bridge. So right now for me to get to the studio is like, Probably not two hours, but less than two hours to get to the studio. So what I do right now is I actually go to the gym, which is like 15 minutes away from me.
And it has the floor, the mirrors there. And nobody's there and it's great. And then you can use music all you want. So that's what I do. I go there, I wouldn't say every day, so maybe every other day, usually start in the morning for me personally, if I don't start in the morning, that's it. I'm not going to go into any class.
You know that it's, there are more people in the evening because somebody wants to do aerobics or they're a good group classes, not during quarantine, but before. so I usually go in the morning. I have all the mirrors with the music on. And, and dance, but usually what I do is I actually choose, so I don't do all five dancer in one day.
I pick two, for example, I started with Cha Cha Cha and then moved to Rumba. And then if I have time, I'm going to review, the other three. The next day, I start with Rumba with my second dance work on that more because on my first day, on my first day, yes, I did focus on chachacha and Rumba, but then Cha Cha Cha usually on your first dance, you spent much more time, a lot of time, and then you kind of, you know, running out of time.
So it's like, okay. And then I have to do Rumba, but it's not as, as. There is not much of the detailed work I would say. So I would say one dance you choose for your main focus. And then the other one is not as much details. And then second days, okay. I'm focusing on Rumba and then review what I did yesterday in Cha-Cha.
And then, so basically I had one new dance and then focus on details. Cause you know, I, I tried before doing like, even back in Russia, all five dances, but all you do is just, you know, drill yourself. That's it. There is no detailed work, nothing. And then sometimes there are days when I pick, okay. This day I work on where am I going to look okay? This is the audience. There is my imaginary dance, dance partner. It is hard because I don't know. you, you did compete before, right?
Samantha: I did, yes.
Ksenia: Or you competing. So it's, it's, it helps, but it's a totally different experience when you have an actual dance partner that you can touch and the imaginary dance partner.
But I do it because there is some benefit to it. So one day I choose, okay, here is where am I going to look? Here, or my dance partner, or maybe somewhere else. The next day I, I work on my footwork. The third day something else. So I rotate, plus I think I do more. In fact, I started like a, I would say a year ago, started doing yoga, which helps a lot, and I'm not really a fan of yoga. I don't really like all the stretching and everything, but what I realized is that it helps your body. It helps your body. And then when you go on the floor, you feel more free. Because, you know, your body is stretched from the inside. If I can say it. I also try the Gyro tonic.
If you heard about it. It's like you come to the studio, they have this machines and then you have to work on your like flexibility, so on your back or if you want to do splits. So it's, it is a little bit expensive. So I did it. I don't do it often enough, but hopefully in the future, maybe someday I can even have this machine at home, but it helps a lot.
Like you do one lesson. Next day, you, you go dance and you feel like you flying on the floor. Like there's so much freedom in your body. So that's what I do when I practice on my own.
Samantha: So I want to dig a little bit deeper into that. So with yoga or with gyro tonics, are you finding the benefit from a physical aspect, as in you, your body is more stretched or warmed up or loosened or the joints are moving in, in a particular way? Or is it more an internal body awareness that you're finding the benefit from.
Ksenia: I would say it's, it's, it's both because for gyro tonic or yoga. It depends what, for example, if we take yoga, it depends what kind of yoga you're talking about because there are different ones.
There's one on balance. there is one on, flexibility. There is, something else. It depends what you choose. I'm mostly, I personally do it for, just like flexibility and for me, it's, it's easier to dance. That's what I'm doing. I wouldn't say, as you said, more like internal work. So, so it's more physical, I would say.
So that's, that's my, my preference, but people are different.
Samantha: Sure, sure. No, I was just, I was, I was curious and I wanted to hear a little bit more about, that, whether it really was the physical aspect or if there was something else going on, but it sounds like it really is just that working your body in a different way.
Ksenia: Yeah, because like back in Russia, I did myself a little bit of yoga. I did even ballet for, I think four years or five years. And I did not like ballet, but, I remember one of my teachers said, Oh, you know, she's not flexible enough. So she needs to do some stretching. So that's why my parents, they like, okay, let's do ballet because in ballet you do the stretching.
But then what happened is we did the stretching, but we also had like for dance, a little bit of that, and obviously the ballet. After doing it for, I don't know, six months. Yes. I stretched my body a little bit, but there, it was more like ballet focused. Okay. Here is the pirouette. Here is, some other moves and then you have to walk like this.
So I came back to dance and my desk teachers, they were shocked. I started dancing like this. So, so it was a little bit helpful, but like they stretched me a little bit, but it wasn't, wasn't a lot of it. So in Russia, I learned that you have to be careful what you, what you choose. Like if you want to really help your dance, you have to choose specifically.
Okay. For now. I know that yoga helps for me, gyro tonic helps. maybe some people will like prefer jazz or, modern dance, something like this helps them to, you know, keep quote free, free, their body. so what I found is yoga and gyro tonic, but then when I was doing in Russia, ballet, it actually helped a little bit.
Yes. My body started to feel more stretched and warm, but on the other hand, they started dancing like this, like a ballet girl. So you have to be very careful.
Samantha: How old were you when you were taking those ballet classes?
Ksenia: let's see, as though I started dancing when I was like five and a half, I would say around 10, around 10 years old.
Samantha: I, I wonder in, and, you'd have a little, a better perspective on this having started ballroom dancing so young. So I started with ballet tap and jazz when I was in that like five to six age and didn't get into ballroom dancing until college. one of the things that I would say can be, problematic is, maybe not having the awareness or not having the understanding at whatever age you are that like your Cha-cha technique is not necessarily going to impact your waltz technique or your waltz technique needs to kind of be separated from your Rumba technique.
So I was the reason why I asked about your age was I was wondering if you were young enough at the time that there wasn't a clear separation of like, this is what I do in ballet and it's only impacting ballet. And that's why there was kind of a crossover that you were running into.
Ksenia: I think you, you might be right, because the thing is like, with this, it was, like a ballet school and there at the ballet school.
It's again, it's not just ballet it's. and I did not know that I was thinking ballet it's all about, you know, yes, they, they do dancing, but it's mostly, they spend a lot of time on stretching their bodies, doing the splits and everything. That's why my parents brought, brought me to this dance school, but then in reality, It's a totally different, area, because ballroom dance is one thing and then ballet is a totally different dance, because in ballet we had forked dance. We had the stretching class, which was like, Maybe three times a week, which is not what I would expect, because I was thinking it's going to be every single day and it's all about stretching. And then we had ballet dance.
There were some other classes that I don't remember. Okay. Here on this lesson, we were working on the spins. Great. But it's, it's a totally different area. So, I think you're right. So, I. I guess I got lost. So, I finished school. I did not, I did not like it. So, I think it was for four years. And after that you could, compete in like ensemble or like, we would have a dance team and then you would travel, around Russia with, with your team performing in the fork dance.
Then after that, you could actually choose, you know how in the ballroom we have standard, you choose rhythm, Latin. After you already danced at a young age or, you know, two categories. So, in ballet, it's kind of the same thing. You, you, you have to choose either you go to ballet or you can do a fork dance for dance, or there, there were other options.
So, you have to decide. And then after four years I said, it's enough. I don't want to do it. I'm not really interested in that because in reality, I just wanted to come and to be more stretched. That's what it was. But after that, I think my parents also figured that out. So, then I had a, teacher who would only work on my splits and yes, yes, the stretching itself.
So that was, I would say was very helpful.
Samantha: Yeah, just to focus on specifically the flexibility that you need. Yeah. That makes sense. anything else that you wanted to talk about? Any tips or tricks or any other, kind of learning experiences coming from Russia now, living in the U S that you want to share with our viewers and listeners.
Ksenia: I think probably I would say a live without, without any fear. I feel like, What I had to go through, like, I was depressed for some period of time because I did not have a dance partner. I did not have coaches. don't have anybody to, you know, sponsor my dresses and all these things. So, it was like, almost like a dream for me.
And before I was thinking, Oh, what am I going to do with my life? I, I don't have a dance partner. How am I, how am I, how am I going to find anybody? And that. It was this constant fear for, I think like, couple years over the period that I did not have a dance partner. And then I was thinking, okay, I guess my, you know, my dance career is done.
I came to the, it brought me to the United States, but it's over. I mean, what can I do? I can't find anybody. And at that time, I did not have money, you know, to take lessons with different coaches. So, at some point I was thinking. Okay. That's the end of it. But then I feel like if you love something, because I still, I kept practicing on my own, maybe not every day, but sometimes.
And then I would come to the studio in Everett, practice by myself and imagine, and I guess, imagine myself one day having a dance partner, having a team of coaches, taking lessons with a top coaches in the industry. So, I was coming to the studio, imagining myself, being there. So I was, dreaming, I guess.
So then one day, hopefully it will happen, and it did. So, I, I feel like the lesson is you have to believe in yourself and then you have to believe in your, in, in what you want out of your life. So that's, I guess my, I guess, advice for to everybody else. And then the other thing is, again, as I mentioned, do not fear because in the end I feel like if you, if you love what you do, maybe not right now, but there will be a chance for you to take the opportunity yet and then, show it to the world.
What you're, what you're good at. If you're, if you really love what you're doing and imagining that this, this is your life.
Samantha: Yeah. Well, and I think, I think there's a third part of that, right? So, there's, there's believe in yourself, there's follow it fearlessly and then there's continue to pursue it or continue to persevere. Because it would be very easy to be like, okay, well I want this to happen, I believe that it could happen, but it's not happening right now. So, I'm just going to take some time off rather than I'm going to continue to work at it. And I'm going to continue to better myself. And even if I don't have a partner to work with right now, there's still things that I can do on my own to get me to that next step.
Ksenia: No, this is absolutely right. And I remember like when I was getting married, I was 21. And then at the time I was so scared, I was thinking, Oh my gosh, that that's it. My dance career is over because you know, it's family, family life. And then there was going to be kids. And then my parents are going to come over.
And then, that's it, that's the end of it. I was so scared. And then I told my husband. I don't want, I don't want to stop dancing. And then you're not going to tell me that I have to stop dancing because there are, you know, husbands who don't want their girls to, or wives to, to dance. And then there was the first thing I told my husband, if you're, if you tell me don't dance, that’s it like, there is no marriage.
There is nothing. So, he's like, no, no, I want you to dance. So, so that was a good, I guess, a big plus and a big encouragement for me because I knew that, okay. Hopefully I'll find somebody, the dance partner or team. Nobody can tell me, no, you can't dance just because you married, and you have a family now. So, but by that time, I was a little scared, but now, living with it and then, having pretty much everything I dreamed of, like in a dance industry, having a team, having a dance partner, dance sponsorship right now, I feel like I.
I have no fear. I do have some, I still have to work, work in it. I'm not perfect as, as nobody is. but it taught me a lesson. So again, don't fear and everything is going to be good. If you're good at something, somebody is going to, reach out to you or you will reach out to somebody. If you love what you do, you'll succeed.
Samantha: I love that. I love that. Well, thank you so much for being a guest on today's episode.
Ksenia: Thank you so much Samantha.
Samantha: Thank you again to Ksenia for being a guest on today's podcast. If you want to follow along with her dance journey, you can do so using the links in the description box below.
I'm Samantha, I've been your host with the Love Live Dance. You can follow us across social media at Ballroom Chat. if you want to support the podcast, you can do so by purchasing a Ballroom Box subscription, or by picking up the solo practice guide by The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. Links are also in the description box below for those as well. As always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.