Samantha: Welcome back to Ballroom Chat, a podcast about sharing the dance journey. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today, my guest is Izabella Lewandowski. She is a US National Professional Latin finalist, a US National Professional Showdance Champion, and a World Professional Latin Showdance Finalist. She's also the co-owner of several Fred Astaire dance studios and the Los Angeles regional representative for the Fred Astaire franchise. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with her about her own dance journey, overcoming self-doubt in the professional world, and what she means by intention and mindset when it comes to furthering your own dance experience. So, without further ado, let's jump into our conversation with Izabella Lewandowski.
Thank you, Isabella so much for being a guest on today's podcast.
Izabella: Well, thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here.
Samantha: So, for those that maybe aren't familiar with your story can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the ballroom dance sport industry and kind of what led you to the point that you now are an adjudicator, a judge, a studio owner, and have a couple of titles to your name.
Izabella: I started back in Poland where I'm from. I was 10 years old and I went to a birthday party, literally of a friend that was already a dancer. And there was a lot of friends from a studio. And they had fun dancing chachacha and different types of things. And I thought, wow, that would be interesting to try.
I was always a busy kid trying, literally everything from fencing to karate, horseback riding, et cetera. And I decided to try out the ballroom dancing. And from the day one for my very first group class, I got addicted and I knew this is it. This is something I want to do for the rest of my life. And. It took over my life. Yeah. And shortly after you know, I started to go to the group class, and I was lucky to find a partner in the very beginner junior division. And. That's it. And ever since then it was all serious training and dance camps, competitions. And in the year of 2000, my then partner now also husband, Thomas, we've been presented an offer to come to United States and work for a studio and compete for the United States. And we came in and we loved it here. And we've been here ever since and yeah, competed work. Do Pro-Am competitions with our lovely students and work hard and just climb up the ladder like everyone else. And that's how, yeah. And we retired in 2010 from a competitive dancing.
Then we were extremely busy and very fortunate to be traveling the country and coach other students or professionals and visit different studios. We started our judging career, so we've been fortunate to judge multiples competitions, including the United States championships. Ohio Star Ball and amateur national dance sport championships.
And in 10 years ago, actually we've been also approached by Fred Astaire dance studios. And we started to do a little trips and troubling coaching within the studios. And we fell in love with the system of teaching and the family atmosphere and, and we joined the company and became an area representative for Los Angeles region and opened a studio in Redondo beach. And then currently we have four studios in our region, so we're very proud and ready to work and expand and yeah. Create a, more of a community and give other people opportunity whether to work or to fall in love with dance and yeah. So that's my story.
Samantha: Awesome. That's awesome.
So, when you were originally training as a youth amateur, were you dancing 10 dance or were you already specialized in Latin at that point?
Izabella: No. So back in Europe at that time we didn't have the choice to choose the style until we became amateurs. So, everybody from a young age to an amateur category, we had to train in both. So, I've always competed at 10 dance, up until I became an amateur and started dancing with my husband and then we have decided, then, then Latin is something we love the most and want to just focus our time training and our finances on one style. And that's where we started the Latin. But anything before that was 10-dance.
Samantha: So, what was it about the Latin style specifically that That made it such an easy decision for you and Thomas to say, you know what, this is what we're passionate about. This is what we want to really dedicate our time and our effort into pursuing?
Izabella: Well, I love both styles, but when I started dancing with Thomas, his personality definitely was a Latin personality. The energy that he naturally has and the love and passion for the Latin dances made it easier really for me because when we started a dance, I, I wasn't as accomplished as Thomas. Thomas was undefeated Polish national champion at the time. So just the fact that he wanted to dance with me, I first thought he's just being sarcastic.
When he asked me, I'm like, why would you dance with me? I wouldn't even dance with me. I'm not even there in the finals and you're winning everything. And he just really thought that the dedication that I have and the passion for dance was something he admired. And he really loved that. He said I'm winning, but I wanted to enjoy it as well.
It's not just about the result. So, when I started to dance with him, it was very easy in that moment to say, you know, I don't mind doing just one dance. But for him, definitely, he had one direction, the Latin dances with something he was just passionate about. So was I, but you know, I, like I said, I didn't mind doing standard as well.
I loved it. But dancing with Thomas, I felt like, yes, for us, the Latin would be it. And, and also growing up in the country where it was not easy to, at that time financially, you know, we've done what we could. Parents were really sacrificing a lot to provide for us. So, it also made sense financially to be focusing, all of our coaching, our time and money into one style at the time.
So, so kind of few little factors, but. But yeah, definitely Thomas was, I love Latin. So, it was a no brainer for us.
Samantha: That makes it easy.
Izabella: Stick with one. Yeah.
Samantha: I want to go back to something that you just mentioned, which was the fact that Thomas was a little bit higher ranked and that you were kind of taken aback when he approached you to become his dance partner.
What was, what was that mindset like? What emotions were you feeling? Did you have to go through of like a process to accept like, no, this is really happening, and I can dance at this level. I should be dancing at this level. Let's make it happen.
Izabella: Well, there was lot of emotions that I was feeling at the time, because, you know, back in Europe we were, it was very sports-like. It was very competitive. All these championships and I, I Was not a beginner anymore at that time, but I wasn't in that level. So, for me, I would watch Thomas on TV, for example, dreaming about having a partner like that one day that it's so dedicated. So, you know, passionate about dance. And I was in the process of finding that as well.
So, when he did ask me, first of all the mindset was. A little doubt in me. I, I didn't believe that I'm good enough to dance with someone like Thomas who has already accomplished so much. And then after that, the emotion was like, oh wow, there's going to be a lot of pressure, of course, on me to make sure that I can catch on and catch up to that level.
So, you know, someone there was a national champion, or a national finalist is all of a sudden. Change partner to someone that is not as good and now the results are not happening. So, so that was in my mind kind of thing. Well, I don't want to ruin his reasons by not being you know, capable or maybe not as trained, but you know, Thomas is very Well, he's a very people, compassionate person.
And he, once he wants something, he really pushed for it. So, he was very comforting. So, he was like, listen, I don't care about results. I want to enjoy it. And I see your passion. I want to give you a chance. You're good enough. But you won't, you know, resolve is not just, what's going to make you believe in yourself.
And that kind of shaped my mindset into a different level than I was, "let's do it!" And we train before school. After school, during summer, we would spend two months in a dance camp where we danced 12 hours a day, bleeding feet, no one cared. We were just doing the work. And luckily enough, we, we made the final that year just after literally not even six months dancing together.
And shortly after we'd been asked to come here. So, our career kind of unfolded shortly after we started in here. So yeah, there was a lot of. You know, and also during the training, you know, it's not just, okay, now we're training. So, I'm okay. During the training many times, I, I felt pressure. I wanted to do good. I wanted to prove to myself, but also to him that he made the right decision and to our coaches. And I'm going to be honest. The coaches that we had at the time was a little, they were a little skeptical Going like, Whoa. Okay, well, you're representing our studio. You represent the country, are you sure?
And he was like, yeah. If you guys don't agree, I will find another studio that will accept us. And he was very pursuing that. But during that training, I wanted to make sure that now when everybody agreed, that I can actually deliver. That I'm not only good enough, but I, I have what it takes. But you know, after a while you kind of grow into believing that you know what, I can do it.
I work hard, I see the results, I see the changes and we are a great team. And that became enough, like doing it for us became enough, not just to prove to other people that we can do it. So, it was a lot of emotional roller coaster. And it was a process. Definitely.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and that takes a lot of I feel like emotional maturity to look for the intrinsic reward of the process of improving of just enjoying the work and enjoying the journey and not looking for those extrinsic validation markers of either placements or judges like giving you the stamp of approval, saying, yes, you are worthy of being at this level.
It's like you said, enjoying the, enjoying everything and making it fun again, which I think is fantastic. Yeah, that, that mindset that we've, we've referred to it on the podcast as imposter syndrome before I feel like. Whether you're talking about amateur competitors, professional competitors, Pro-Am competitors. That's a constant feeling. I know for me personally, I was, I was on pins and needles waiting for results to come in from a multi dance this past weekend, because I wanted to prove to myself that I did the best I could for my students. So, I, I don't think that ever goes away. But talking about kind of shifting your own mindset, what coping mechanisms or what affirmations, or what mindset shift did you make in your own life to get to that point of just acceptance?
Izabella: Well, some point in my career Thomas and I talked a lot, and you know, you go, like you said, we're very different stages in your career. And of course, when you put in the work, you want to see the reward, but at some point, for us, it became more about fulfillment and growth versus just the result because let's face it.
When we go out there, there was multiple judges. We can't control what they like, what they see. And we also keep control about the competitors, and we know the work we put in, but we don't know if someone looks better or has better abilities or is train a little longer or has a more interesting problem or deliver simply better.
So those are things that it's out of our control. We never guarantee the results. So, at some point it became about, you know, the fulfillment. So, the structure that we had is always setting goals for each competition, which was not result goals. It was the goals that we want to accomplish, whether it is in a dance that we were working on or overall that we wanted, whether it’s better stamina or better the delivery of our intention in each dance or working on energy changes or simply partnership or many different kinds of goals. So once that became a factor, we weren't obsessing about going out there and winning or going out there and, beating someone because then we would still compete, but we would not perform.
And there were competitions that we would catch ourselves winning, but not really, particularly enjoying. We would come home, and the trophy is there, and we were like, well, great. You know, we are, we're happy that people approve or, or acknowledge or reward like, or love, or but we weren't feeling fulfilled because we know in the end that the performance wasn't what we are capable, what felt didn't feel like what we felt the previous time, or it felt in the practice and those little shifts over time really made a big difference in our career because we were going out there not to prove to anybody, anything. We were going out there to really perform and fulfill ourselves with what the goal was for that competition as far as our dancing. And it really was a game changer. You you're not stressing and you're not just doing programs. You're actually dancing. You're, you're, you know, there's a different energy. And as far as us we've enjoyed it, we've enjoyed it so much to dance together, you know, and we actually remembered what the music was or we remembered what we each other, otherwise we felt before, like we're programmed, you go, you do what you've been, you know, wanting to do.
And then. The results. Oh, you know, and that's all you remember that stress before the lineup or so yeah. It changed a lot. That kind of mindset changed a lot for us.
Samantha: Do you see now on the judging side of things, do you S can you tell the difference when a couple walks on a floor and they're just hitting their marks and they're doing their routine versus the couple that's dancing for themselves on a competition floor.
Izabella: Yeah. I think most definitely. And again, I can't be inside people's minds, so I don't know what they're thinking, but I definitely the confidence and the dancing part that comes visible to people versus people just doing the routines comes with the preparation, I think as well. From the practice, the way they practice, the, the, what they're wanting to accomplish.
And once the couple is very prepared, I think it's allowed, they allow themselves to actually perform versus people that just go out there doing routine and it's really mindless. There is no goal in it. There is no intention, there's no story in the choreography. So, I think that's definitely visible, but again, I'm going to say, I don't know whether that's the preparation or the way they think, or the way they stress, because everybody comes with a different mindset or different background as well. There are people that truly just don't care. They want to just go out there and do it. There are people that really just want results. There are couples that really want to dance.
They want people to feel what they do, and then it, you know, it's definitely visible in, you know, when we, when we see couples. There are people that move you and there are people that you will say, well, they're incredible dancers. They have great technique. And, but they're, don't move you the same way. So again, it's, it's visible, but it's hard to tell because you don't know what the mindset is or, you know, the way they practice, the way they what their goals are.
So, we just see the product, but definitely as far as that I can sell, you can see that there are people that just move you, plus they have the, you know, the qualities, you know, you have to master your craft. So, but then there is whole other aspect to it. So, some couples clearly have that work than that and some not. And that's visible on the floor definitely.
Samantha: Absolutely. You mentioned before that, you know, every judge is different. Every judge is looking for something different. And as a competitor, you can't go out and try, and please everyone, you can only do the best that you can for yourself and your, your partner. In the, on the judging side, what do you particularly look for in a couple, you kind of talked about it already and I'm getting the sense that you're, you're wanting that emotional connection when you are watching a couple, but could you elaborate a little bit more about what catches your judging eye?
Izabella: Well, I have to Kind of talk about something here, because for us as judges, we all definitely have a dance background. So, like you said, we do have personal preference, but when you do judge and that's, I think it's a very hard part for us. You can't judge on your personal preference, you have to judge on what's in front of you, and what's better at that moment.
So, for me, that was the difficult part in the very early stages of judging, because I know what I like, but that doesn't mean that that's what should be there. So, I, I don't necessarily judge what I like. I judge what's better and what's in front of me. So of course, definitely you need to make sure that you have your fundamentals.
Then there is a partnership and I like to talk about a package. You have to have the package. You have to make an effort, whether it's the dress you wear, the hair, the makeup your, your technique. If that's how you want to word it, the fundamentals, you know, the, the skills that you have, the programs, the choreography and all the little extras.
Like, you know, intention, it's big one that I love, because I like when things have purpose. That it's not just two bodies moving around to the music. That I actually can recognize that this couple has a style. This couple has a style, they are about this. They are about that, you know? So., I tend to switch off my personal preference unless to a point where there is, let's say two couples that are, so, I can't decide, I kind of switched that personal preference on a little bit and said, okay, what is that I like about that one more than this.
Well, they, they're more dynamic. They're more you know, they're more projecting on their attention. I understand them better. Or whatever that might be at that moment. And that's where I would go with. So, so it's, it's a difficult part. So, I don't think that we all go out there and like, well, I judge feet, I love feet, so I'll pick the one that has the better feet. Well, I love when. There was a purpose. So, I don't care how the feet looks. I'll just go with what moves me. I think, as the judge, you have to put that aside and just judge what's in front of you when, and then go with that, yeah.
Samantha: Sure. No, absolutely. You mentioned that you were very passionate about the idea of intention. In, I believe it was two years ago, actually at this point, there was the Online Ballroom Congress, and you gave a wonderful lecture on this idea of intention and mindset. Can you talk a little bit about coaching intention first from an amateur, professional, high level competitive concept?
And then I want to transition and talk a little bit about the Pro-Am experience as well, but. But kind of on a high level, what do you mean by intention and how can high level couples incorporate that into their, into their program?
Izabella: I think as far as the word intention, it's what a lot of people understand as just artistic. For me, intention is not just artistry. It's re being, knowing what you're doing. Which body part are you using? What energy are you using? What is the particular pattern or step or choreography about? So, for me, choreography is like that little sketch that you and your partner have to deliver on what is the purpose of what you're doing?
So, for example, I've done Latin, so I'm going to bring out a fan position. So, in that fan position, in everybody doing the same way, same steps, same arm to decide in the professional division. I am thinking, why would I like your fan more than someone else's. Is because it's not just fan, it’s your fan, you know, why your move your arm.
Is that just the shoulder that you're trying to show? Is that the arm, where are you? Are you dancing it to the audience? Are you dancing it to each other? Is it the intimate moment or is it energetic moment? Is it you know, what energy going to use, you know, are you accenting the leg or are you accenting the arm or so, so for me is really knowing what you're doing?
Playing with timing. Is it just because the teacher said it should be syncopated or you want to emphasize a particular energy in that moment? So, for me, intention goes from knowing what you're doing, what body parts are you using? What timing. Are you dancing to the audience to each other? Is it about you or maybe it's about your hand?
Is it about your hip? Is it about your rib cage? Is it about the head? What is the intention? And I would say that as detailed as each particular step, because each step in each dance is not the same. We present a different idea of it. The dance might, let's say, be Rumba and it's the love, hate relationship, but each step represents a different type of, you know, or intensity.
And I feel like being clear about what exactly you're really presenting, makes the dancing so much fuller, so much more enjoyable for audience and judges to watch. And it also allows you to express it a little bit different because I know that people talking about expression.
As much as I have to express yourself, the one thing to remember, you're not dancing solo, you're dancing with a partner. So, and you're just doing the social dating, unless that's what you wanted to do. You're performing for the audience, you are performing for the judges, want to make sure that you're rehearsed, and you're know exactly what you're doing because you can't tell them in words, you have to show them through the body together through your choreography. So, you have to kind of be on the same page. And sometimes we take that into like, well, I want to express myself, but it doesn't quite go with what the partner is expressing now for us as judges are like together and during the same page, or what is this supposed to be?
Now, we're not clear. So as much as we enjoy how you move and maybe your physical abilities. And skills, but as far as the performance, the intention, it's not clear. And for me, you know, as much as it is a sport and we rehearse, we do rounds, we train, we learn technique, we master our skills. When we go out there, those type of things, supposed to be a tool to, you know, move the audience with your choreography, move the audience with your dance. So, if you're not clear on the intention, it's very difficult. We see then just the pretty feet or just the great choreography. You know, I used to get upset when people say, well, I love your choreography. Then I would be like, Oh great. They didn't see me.
They didn't see me. They didn't see what I'm trying to do. They see my cool Samba trick. That's not what I want people to see. I want them to see me in it. You know, when people to say, my gosh, when you did that fan, I felt it. Or that was more of a compliment to me then. I love your Samba, or I love your Rumba routine. So, when I say intention, this is exactly what I mean. I hope I'm making sense because I'm talking fast, but, but yeah, but this is kind of where I love to work with couples, knowing exactly what you do, how you go from foot to foot, how you move from one step to the other. How are you doing that with your partner? From, like I said, technical level, the way to the whole artistry or styling, design as you wish. So, yeah,
Samantha: well, and I imagine too, that part of that is having multiple options in those moments to say, okay, if a song that has this quality comes on, we’re going to style our fan in, in the moment to look at each other because it's a very romantic song. Or if it's got a little bit more angst to it, maybe I'm going to look away in that moment or having kind of different emotional colors that you can pull out of the toolbox to also add with the music or you know, to make sure that your semi-final dance isn't an exact copy of your final dance or a qualifying round. Isn't an exact copy of the previous performance.
From a Pro-Am perspective we're dancing, closed syllabus. How can instructors broach the topic of intention and allowing moments for emotional contact or, or connection outside of the technique and the steps in the syllabus?
Izabella: I think it all I think it all depends on the level that you are at as well, because let's face it in order to focus on exact delivering of intention, you need to have balance. You need some fundamentals. So, I feel like there is a ladder that you have to kind of climb a little bit like in everything in life to get to a comfortable zone of thinking, now I can actually allow myself to focus on, okay, what am I really doing? And again, also, depending on where you are at in your dancing and as a Pro-Am world, let's you know, put it this way.
We have people that are really in young age and there are people that are you know, in the very advanced age and They're not maybe capable of thinking of intention because they're still want to master the balance. So, we wouldn't teach. I would not imagine teaching someone while I want you to use your shoulder and focus on that.
Well, you can't yet figure out where your balances at and everybody in the middle as well. Depending on where you are at and whether you're beginning in your career or whether you're in that place where you're comfortable and, you know, know your fundamentals enough in order to now enter that at the level of dynamics, intention, and, and all that and design and, you know, and.
And then it's, it's, it's a whole another world in there because, you know, everybody has a different ability, different skills, different, like you said, emotional I wouldn't say maybe emotional, but mindset, you know, different things that you like within yourself. And those are more like exploration now you're entering the exploration part.
So, it takes a whole another. Sets up skills and is whole another training. And then you have the partner and I always, you know, we've done pro-am with the students when we first came here and I have never treated my Pro-Am as a student, when I went out there to compete, they were my partners.
As well. So, you know we had to at some point talk about it. So even if it's a beginning level, at some point, if we're going to compete, we will talk about the styling, but not just, put your hand to the sec, this is why we're doing it. You know, this is what we wanted to accomplish. So, I approached that from the very early beginning.
If I start working on it on for people to know why things happen and what they're exactly wanted to do out there, not just because I told them, you know, for the sake of the arm, keep it to the side, right? And then as you grow as a dancer, you definitely, you know, you, you learn more about your body and you learn more about yourself and, and if you have the right teacher to take you on that journey of exploration, but then making a mutual decision of what we want to present in this dance and in this figure on this competition. And then I guess it changes too. We're all evolve and change and we're in the different mindsets and mind space. And our body develops, our feelings develop, everything develops. So, it's never quite the same, the choreographies changes. So, once you, you know, climb the ladder in a, in a, you know, particular order on the right order you get to that moment, then that's the time to explore.
Yeah, definitely. Not straight from the beginning. I think it's important to have the right fundamentals and knowing what you're actually doing first, what each dance is about. What not only emotionally, but technically, and you know what energy is important and yeah. And then you go from there.
Samantha: I think that's so beautiful that you mentioned that when you go into a Pro-Am relationship, you think of it more as, as they're your partner, not the student teacher relationship.
I wonder if that comes too, from the fact that you were also a female instructor, because I think it's very. One of the things that that's always kind of fascinated me about the difference between a lead that is a professional dancing with a follow amateur student versus a follow student or a follow instructor dancing with a lead a student is that we are often put in the position of trying to lead without back leading or assist without taking control of the situation. So, it really does put pressure on our students in a lot of cases to take charge and be the lead for us so that we can do our job of shaping and styling and assisting in creating beautiful feminine lines through our, through our program.
Do you think Or, or have you experienced a good way of stressing that without putting pressure on your student or, or making sure that they have the tools capable to be the lead in your partnership?
Izabella: Well, I'm going to kind of give you, and I'm aware me and my husband both come from. So, our mindset, as far as treating our students as our partner is definitely because we're really committed and I can speak freely for him that he feels the same, whether he's the leader and I'm the follower.
I think it's a commitment to your craft and then commitments to your student, which we always have a very high commitment, because I feel like if they're trust me with their time and their, trust me with their money, whether they're trusting me with their future in their hobby, in their passion. I take that very serious. And so, does Thomas. So our commitment to our students was there's always more of like, when we go to a competition, they are our partners, whether with we're there to support them, we are a team. And therefore, whether I had to be a team with my student, who I had to back lead a little bit.
Why? Because they're in the stage of the learning, you know, you can't reinforce everything all at the same time because people have a life before they have habits, they have different interests. And if they're younger and they didn't experience life as much as, maybe a little bit easier but when they did, they've done different things. And our job is they've put the trust in our hands to slowly, slowly develop those skills. So, it's the same kind of ladder as I talked before. If I have a student that I have to go to a competition, I mean, I want to go to a competition and wants to go with me and I have to back lead a little bit. I don't stress the fact that he has to lead me because he might not be there yet with his skills and the training, but you guess what? I'm in your team and I will make sure that I'll get you through that and you learn, and you still look good. And the same for tomorrow as a, as a, as a male instructor. He takes that students into his care. This is not what people did since they were six years old. And his job is to make sure that he does everything for them to look great and learn to follow, learn that skill as well as they learn all these other skills.
And then we go from there and, you know, hopefully If the student is also committed because you have to acknowledge that if they're not, it's very difficult for their instructor to take them on that journey, into climbing the ladder of skills. And you have to make sure that the student is committed, but you are a team regardless.
And you take that journey as we go, and you adjust. And you see where you are at. So, I don't think that anyone should stress that if we go to competition, you got to lead me cause I'm a female instructor and that's what's required. You might not be there yet. There is a lot to learn and there is a lot to overcome and it takes the whole deal of courage to go out there and doing something that you're not used to doing.
You might've been training to be a lawyer, all your life, playing golf all your life. Or football or whatever you've been doing, your mindset was somewhere else completely. You didn't have the chance to develop the skills that we had an age of six or five or 10. So our job as instructors to be a team with people that we teach and, and, and go from there on each competition.
But, you know, I highly encourage everybody to treat them as your partners, they put all the trust in you. So, it's important.
Samantha: No, I think that's great. I tell my students that are preparing for competition all the time. Like our goal is to do a hundred percent on the floor. If that means I'm doing 70% and you can give me the best 30% you can give. That's fantastic. If you can give me 50% and I only had to do 50%, that's even better, but we're going to get to that hundred percent somehow. No, I think that's awesome.
Pivoting a little bit to the business end of things. You mentioned that you were given the opportunity in 2000, was it to come to the U S? So when
Izabella: June 2000,
Samantha: you were given that opportunity, was that through an independent studio? Was that through a franchise studio? How did that process come to evolve?
Izabella: The coach that we've been coaching with back in Poland, been asked if he knew a couple that would be interesting to come to, an independent studio in California.
And you know, we talked after one of our lessons and we got in touch with the studio owner over here and. Within, I want to say two months after, you know, overcoming all that paperwork and immigration stuff we were here. Yeah. And we had agreed to take three months for both sides to kind of see whether this is. Where we fit, whether we fit for them and whether we like where we are at. And after the three months we, we liked to be in United States and yeah, and we started competing heavily everywhere and been here ever since, still in California.
Samantha: You mentioned that you are now the LA. Regional representatives for Fred Astaire. You own several Fred Astaire franchise studios. You mentioned it at the beginning that you just kind of fell in love with the system and how it's laid out. What was the biggest difference that you've experienced coming from a 10-dance youth program in Poland to now presumably working mostly with adults, more social dance with the American kind of dance style?
Izabella: Well, it's definitely a different the system in, in Europe that I grew up with, and again, things might have changed. I haven't been an active coach there at any particular studio, so it's hard to say. But the system is different because it was competition only. Growing up, you represent a studio, you'll pay your tuition monthly to this particular studio you represent in the studio and your regional events, nationals, and world, et cetera.
Now here, there is a big range of different things. There is the competitive dancing, the social dancing, the Pro-Am dancing. So, so it's definitely took some time to understand. How things work in here, but by joining Fred Astaire I definitely, it opened up my mind to, to learn a lot more how to serve people better in every stage, or in every category, so to speak. And, and taught me a lot of how to be a better teacher as well. There is a structure in here that maybe I was a good teacher, but I was teaching what I knew. Now. I learn how I can help people too and cater towards what they need versus just what I like to teach.
And I think that was a big shift for me. And This is kind of how I fell in love by watching how the system of Fred Astaire is designed mainly, yes, for adults. And I want to say Pro-Am students. But it helped me to develop different skills as a coach while I'm coaching my professional couples as well.
I pay attention to different things. I'm more aware of different things than I've been before. So, it's definitely different and I love it. But the whole journey in United States was a big learning experience. You know, I was a young amateur becoming just a rising star. We were just 19 years old and moving in and becoming adults overnight without parents and learning a completely new system and the ballroom world, we didn't know what Pro-Am dancing was.
So, there was a definitely adjustments and it took some time to learn, but I think it's wonderful and I'm really excited that Europe becoming to have a lot more Pro-Am events and, and putting more mind and thought into you know, spreading the range and giving people like my parents who still live there.
Now they go into a Fred Astaire dance studio in there, and they are learning to dance together. They have a passion now and it wasn't what they always say. Well, it's too late for us. It's not too late. So, I, I love that part about America that we can, anyone can do it at any age, in any stage in their life.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. I, I hate hearing when students walk in the door and they're like, I've wanted to do this for 25 years, but I thought I was too old to learn how to dance. I'm like, no, this is perfect. I'm so glad that you're here. Like today is the day we start. Yeah. So, one of the things it sounds like you're hoping really takes off in Europe is this idea of dancing as an older adult, having more opportunities and more events that incorporate the pro-am competitive experience.
What is something that you wish we did here in the us that you had experienced in Europe that you don't currently see us really making a priority or focusing on with our dance instruction?
Izabella: I think I don't think there is anything to be honest, that I feel we should incorporate more only because being here for now 21 years, I have come to witness. A huge shift in ballroom dancing in training. When I came to this country, we had a competition maybe every other month. Now we have sometimes two to three the same weekend.
And when you go to a competition, not only. UCA a lot of Pro-Am the answers. So many more professionals, so many more amateurs, but also the young kids that are developing to be great dancers. And that also tells you that the training is more intense in these divisions, you know, too, to grow our young you know, kids into becoming a great professional someday.
So, when I first came, I would have answered that questions differently because I would say, well, I wish there was more young people coming into the industry and develop their skills and becoming skilled professional dancers. And in the future skilled professional instructors and coaches and judges.
But that shifted, that is what we have now here. So, I don't think I would either change or include or incorporate anything else. In fact, it's the other way around. I do wish that there was more and more Pro-Am back in Europe developing so that we can have these full-on world championships. And you know, now in Europe, the smooth starts to be very popular.
And I love the fact that, you know, Young people there learn what that is. When I came, I had no idea watching my first Smooth competition, Thomas and I was, what do you think that is? We thought maybe it's the show. Maybe it's a formation, but not really. They're all different things and they have no idea what that was. Well, see now. You go to Europe and you ask a young dancer what smooth they know. It's becoming popular. And I love that that the whole world can speak the same language, not just America or Europe. So, you know, I'm a dance fanatic. So, I, I, I love that we all can speak the same language. Yeah, definitely.
Samantha: Excellent. We've had Aaron Pierce and Ksenia on a previous podcast episode and they both spoke highly of you and your team. I wanted to talk a little about the other thing that you kind of mentioned for that Online Congress, along with mindset was this idea of building a good team around you to help support the goals that you're laying out for yourself. So as a coach of several professional dancers at this point, can you talk us through really the importance of building that team and how someone can go about starting to put together a team if they don't currently have that for their training?
Izabella: Well, I, I had a team growing up, both coaches and supporters. You know, I feel like in any field and maybe Aaron shared with you guys, if not, I have this big mantra that I always say I have to very for fame, favorite quotes that I like to use? The first one is "We never finish when we are tired. We finish when we are done." And that was always driving me and Thomas to do more and work harder and get our goals in order.
Another one that I love to say, "You can go fast alone, or you can go far together." And I truly believe and try to live that every day, whether it's in my professional career before or in the business that I'm doing here, because I feel as an athlete or an artist, there is always the importance of having an emotional support people they'll look after you, people that have your best interest in mind, and these are the people that help to mold where you are at.
Like in our real life, we have family, right. And we've parents, or, or we have grandparents, we have people that help us to, to mold who we are help us to find out about who we are or implement some traditions or morals. I think in dance and in businesses it’s the same. We help each other grow and you need, I feel a good base of people that knows where you are at in your career.
They know what you need, and they help you whether make decisions or give suggestions. And, and I'm not saying that this is the only, let's say couple of teachers that you should stick to, but as a team, you decide of who else you bring on board and what you're going to take from that person.
Because you are, and then also as you know, we've talked about it in the beginning, we're going through different stages of our mindset. We sometimes get caught up with results. We sometimes get caught up emotionally or there's things in the partnership you can't resolve. There are so many different things. When you have the right team, this is the people that help to motivate you when things don't go right. Inspire you, help you find the right tools to move forward. And for me, that's, again, everybody's different, but for me and Thomas, that was always very important. Because you do get caught up in different things and there's a people that help you find a way again, they know what you're good at.
They see you develop on a consistent basis. So, they're most likely to give you better advice or adjust their teaching to how you are transforming or how are you changing. And for me, that's very important. So, I, I think for every dancer for every good skilled dancer, I know they have a team surrounding and they make the decision who else and what else we bring to the table.
So, I think Take an Olympic athletes. They don't go just on their own. They have, whether they bring a psychologist to a team or someone else that can help with the specific skill improvement. They have the support system. And I think when you are a competitive dancer it’s very important,
Samantha: who, who was on your team, who in your life were those supportive voices that, that you look back and can really credit some of your success to.
Izabella: Well coaches were always in our team anyways, Ms. Shirley Ballas and the Mr. Richard Porter Mr. Richard Porter was someone that we've coached with, with, from a very young age, back in Europe and the teacher that we had over there. And we stick to that team for our whole career and That doesn't mean we didn't actually have other lessons or didn't need other coaches into in our career.
We did, definitely, but it was always more of deciding as a team, what it is that we need at the time of, we always had a consistent team with this two people that were very important to us and taught us how to climb that ladder and what we need and how we evolve and who we bring to the table in different seasons. Because, you know, we were changing too. So, there was seasons that we need more of a technician. We, we needed another opinion. We needed another, someone that will adjust the choreography. So, we've done that, but those were the two people that we've always kept our team and that helped us to grow and lead us to the finish line.
Samantha: Was there a piece of advice that either of them gave you, not necessarily about technique or performance, but just in general, that you've incorporated into almost a foundational aspect of yourself or your teaching of others? Is there a piece of advice that you've kind of clung on to and said, like this has been super informative for me as a person and me as a dancer?
Izabella: I think both of these coaches, I can't really quote a specific thing at the moment, but the, the, the main thing that both of them gave us was the work ethic. To always strive to master your skills. That nothing is just luck. And if it is, you're not a true dancer, you're not developing yourself as a dancer. You're just going for the gold, which is for some people might be okay, but they're never as skilled. Like you master your skill. And also, how to become a better coaches not just great dancers, but how to become great coaches because they were a great example. You know of how to be a great coach and how to coach and make you who you are just better not to make you like everyone else.
And those were two coaches that always helped us to develop more of what we are then try to change us. And for me, that was a lot too, because we were always. Thomas and Izabella just learning new skills, but never really lost who we were and who we wanted to be on the dance floor. And yeah, like I said, the work ethics it's, it's, it's huge.
We learn to work; we learn to put on the hours and do whatever it takes. And those two people were really very fundamental in, in, in that. Aspect. And we carry that to today, whether it's in coaching others or in business that we do in every area of our life. If we do something, we either all in or not at all, there is no 50% not if you want to be good at it. Yeah.
Samantha: That's interesting.
Izabella: I pass it along anytime.
Samantha: So, you are, are not the first one to make that analogy, that, or to make that statement that you're you are all or nothing. You don't know how to do anything halfway. It's either we're doing it or we're not doing it. Do you think that is a key part of the mindset of becoming a successful person of, of having that drive to say, if I'm in I'm all in or it's not worth doing?
Izabella: I think, I think for me, main thing in life, you can't achieve anything in life unless you know exactly what you want. I think having a clarity is power and I feel like sitting down and writing now what exactly that you want. And if you want to become a dance champion, for example, or an amazing business owner or entrepreneur or athlete or artists, I think if you really put it out there a hundred percent, I know what I want, then there's no shortcut to success. I think you have to be all in and go for that. Because number one, you have to master it to become to where you want to be. Second of all, I always knew that. When I retired from ballroom dancing, or when I finished a season in my life that I've done something or achieved my goal, I want to have no regrets.
I don't want to wake up, wake up one day and said, you know, if I only did a little more or I only I got up earlier that day, or it. If I did that little extra or learn a little more of new skills, I would have achieved it. That's how I am. That's how I always been. And I'm married to someone that is as driven if not more. And I think, you know, any successful person will tell you, there is no shortcuts. You've got to put on the work. But you have to know what you want. If dance is not what you want, don't waste your time. And if that's all you want to do is participate and do it for fun, but then be clear about it. Then you don't wake up and think, Oh, I have to do this.
No. And but if that being a champion, what you want, you have to have a different mindset. You have to put in the work. Yeah. So, I think that mindset of knowing what you want, clarity is power, then you know what to do, but then you have to do it.
Samantha: right, you have to follow through.
Izabella: You can't have someone else do it. Yes.
Samantha: Awesome. Excellent. Well, before we wrap up today is there anything else that you wanted to talk to our listeners about anything that you wanted to make sure was out there for folks that might be interested.
Izabella: I think cover pretty much it and I do love helping people. So, if anybody has any question ever, and Please, you know, you have my contact information or they're on all social media. Please contact me if I can be ever of help of anything. I'm always at your service. I love to help people that share my passion and, you know, share the love for dance or anything.
Really. If there's something interesting that you find me speaking about and you want to know more, please just reach out. That's. You know, I, I would love to help as much as I can to anyone. So. that's it.
Samantha: Excellent. Well, if, if you want to, if you were listening or watching this and you want to find out about how to reach out to Izabella, I will put her contact information in the description below, find her, on social media, or find out her information about her studios, if you want to take lessons. So, I will include that in the description below.
Excellent. Well, thank you so much Izabella, for being a guest on today's podcast.
Izabella: My great pleasure. And thank you for having me again. Thank you so much.
Samantha: Thank you again, Izabella, for being a guest on today's podcast. If you want to find out more about her dance journey or learn how you can take lessons at any of her dance studios links are in the description box below.
Once again, I've been your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. You can follow us across social media at Ballroom Chat, and if you have not already done so please do make sure that you have given us a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice. We really do appreciate that and that really does help us get this podcast out to many more potential dancers that are starting on their dance journey. Thank you guys so much for tuning in. As always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.