Teaching and Learning - Yuriy Kravets

Samantha StoutApril 21, 2021Ballroom Chat: Episode #47
yuriy kravets ballroom chat

Yuriy Kraveys discusses his journey from amateur to professional, from Ukraine to the United States and everything in between. Yuriy and Samantha analyze the structure of ballroom dance education in the US and in Europe, and chat about how instructors and pro-am students can approach the different levels of competitive dance.

Yuriy Kravets was awarded the Master of Sport of Ukraine from Lviv State University of Physical Culture for his performance in ballroom dancing as an amateur and then professional. After he turned professional, he represented Ukraine at the World and European championships for a number of years, and then eventually moved to the US and began his work as a professional dance instructor through Fred Astaire before going independent, He is currently teaching and competing with Pro-Am students based in Denver, Colorado, although he has students all across the country.

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Episode Transcript

Samantha: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat, the podcast dedicated to sharing the dance journey. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today I'm joined by Yuriy Kravets. He was a awarded the Master of Sport of Ukraine from Lviv State University of Physical Culture for his performance in ballroom dancing as an amateur and then professional.

After he turned professional, he represented Ukraine at the World and European championships for a number of years, and then eventually moved to the US and began his work as a professional dance instructor through Fred Astaire before going independent, He is currently teaching and competing with Pro-Am students based in Denver, Colorado, although he has students all across the country. And I had a chance to sit down and talk with him today about his journey from amateur to professional, from Ukraine to the United States and everything in between. So please enjoy my conversation with Yuriy Kravets.

Well, thank you Yuriy so much for being a guest on today's podcast.

Yuriy: My pleasure.

Samantha: So, um, the question that I, I kind of like to start with all of my guests is how did you get into the dance industry? Where did your dance journey start?

Yuriy: Uh, my then journey, start in Ukraine, my older brother, who also happened to be dancing instructor right now. Uh, he started earlier and he really get involved into that. And. He decided, okay. My brother also will go and dance. So at the time I was 13 year old and my brother was 25. And so he started a bit earlier and then we danced basically together. But. He started to be a bit more known faster than me. And so then the, actually, even though your brother, we rarely practice together because he was always traveling and then coaching and this, and then lived in different countries. But he was the one who introduced me to ballroom dancing.

Samantha: Okay. So did that a little bit of sibling rivalry encourage you then to, uh, train harder and compete harder. How did you kind of get from I'm going to take dance lessons cause my older brother is taking dance lessons to, no, I think I'm going to be a professional dance, professional ballroom dancer?

Yuriy: It was good, because we had some gap in age. So when I was dancing, it was either level was not there or then age. So because we have different. So when he will become Ukraine, national champion, I am still was dancing in the youth. So then it was a little bit harder, but some competitions, we do dance together and it was fun. Of course it's for me was always to have a brother to look up to him. And of course always like, okay, maybe one day I'm gonna dance that level. And, but it was not always that I had in my, okay. I had to be better. It was just somebody to share it with and also he was guiding me through um, his journey, how he did. So he introduced me to different coaches and even went together to different competition even though we dance in the different groups. And so that was a lot of fun.

Samantha: Okay. Yeah. And then at some point you become a champion dancer, yourself. You're representing Ukraine in the World and European championships. Um, were you dancing 10 dance at that time? Had you specialized in either Latin or standard? What were you dancing at that moment?

Yuriy: I was dancing 10 dances, but then later when I started dancing more and more and more, so it was was a choice given. Okay. You have to do this or this because there was not much time in 24 hours. So then I switched to dancing just ballroom and, um, for a little bit, I danced 10 dances and I also was representing Ukrainian in 10 dances. And, um, later only ballroom.

Samantha: Okay.

Yuriy: Until I get to the United States. Now I dance all four styles.

Samantha: Yeah. I was gonna say, as soon as you start dealing with the pro am, uh, experience in the US it's like I, I now dance everything. Um, so I want to talk a little bit about kind of the structure of, of dance and dance sport in Ukraine.

Um, when I had Boyko on, he was talking about the fact that in Bulgaria, you could actually study and get a, um, a advanced college degree or a university degree in ballroom dancing up until a certain point and then they kind of phased that out. Um, we were talking a little bit before we started recording that you were awarded this master of sports.

So can you tell me a little bit about what the dance sport industry is kind of structured like in Ukraine and how that, um, is intertwined with the education system.

Yuriy: Well, it's actually, I would say that normally when you start to dance in Ukraine, we always started very early, especially right now, when I started, I started at 13 age, my brother started after 20 at that time, it was okay. But now it's so many young kids though. Five six year old, they're already dancing. I don't even know what they're going to dance when they're going to be growing up. So, and after that they have some choices to actually continue the education. If they want to become not just only professional dancers, it does not require actual actual education, but if they want to be more educated in as a, like get Bachelor continually in that way, so they can go to the university. And there is few in Ukraine. And after that, you just get in just a regular education, but your physical education or bachelor or master.

Samantha: Okay.

Yuriy: And then when people competing, so then they can be recognized as a sportsman. So same, like let's say Olympic, they have certain grades and the same for the ballroom dance in Ukraine, you can get the master of the sport of Ukraine or international master of sports have different levels though.

Samantha: Interesting. So it sounds like, um, the, the kind of structure behind either the levels or, um, the graduation through the different levels is much more, um, formalized and, um, kind of uniformly held, um, in Ukraine versus what we have here in the U S. Would you agree with that? Or do you see there being a little bit of difference

Yuriy: To my knowledge, yes. But there is maybe some other university, which I don't know. So you can basically can get state recognized education and degree. So let's say you want to work with the kids in the school and just specialize in the ballroom dancing. That's possible.

Samantha: Interesting. So, um, at some point you moved to the US, I was kind of reading a little bit about your history and it sounds like your first job in the US was through Fred Astaire franchise. Is that correct?

Yuriy: Yes

Samantha: So how did that come to be? How did that whole transition happen for you?

Yuriy: Oh, well, I meant to. Some friends from Fred Astaire. And then I started to work there. So it was quite different transition because at that time in Ukraine, the pro-am was something never heard about, so that was totally different than first time I saw it when I went to uh USDC at that time and I saw it kind of was mixed feeling, I guess. For the person who is only working, dancing, either professional-professional or am-am, or just with the kids as a couple. So I started at Fred Astaire and I worked for a couple years and that's when I get a little bit more immersed in that whole pro-am. Learning a different style, let's a smooth was my second style and probably rhythm was my last one.

So, and that transition is always, I would say it takes time because sometime we are kind of resistant to the changes. So, um, let's say myself, I know that it's my first always idea was I'm going to teach only international style and this is it. And a lot of people actually do that. And some people are just become more diverse and starting to learn different styles, especially if they open-minded. So, I think it's great opportunity. And also as I work in, I can see that people like different styles sometime they have, like to have all four styles and then you have something to offer always in that case.

Samantha: Yeah. Um, I want to talk a little bit more about that just your own experience and kind of my experience with this idea that, you know, if you want to be successful, especially with beginner students, you kind of have to have at least a basis in all four of the main categories.

Um, definitely do have instructors that specialize, where they say, you know what? I am a Latin dancer through and through, and that's my home base and that's what I'm going to teach. Um, I personally see the benefit of learning all four styles as being able to find connections between them. And then at a certain point, I'm like, you know what, I'm not, I'm not a world champion standard dancer, but I know people that are so I can kind of put you in that direction if you get to that level.

So, um, what do you kind of see as the benefit of going ahead and doing all four of those styles rather than, like you said, just saying, you know what, I was a 10 dancer, I'm going to teach 10 dance.

Yuriy: I would totally agree with you that it's better to have all styles and at least to start with the students so they can actually decide. But usually what I see with my experience, because students are leaning toward the teacher, like. So if the teachers are, let's say international Latin, so more likely they start to feel that they are, they want to do that because they want to do what their teacher, um, do. And usually students are admiring their teacher and that's why they actually take a lesson from them, right?

And so that's usually that's for that way. And of course, if somebody wants to continue in different style and there is a possibility in the city, I don't mind if some of my students will dance other styles with somebody who is great at that. So that's what,

Samantha: So do you think that the average student that walks in the door is seeking out an instructor based on their reputation on a given style? Or do you think that they are molded into a certain style because of the reputation of the teacher?

Yuriy: I would say that if we talk about complete beginner, they don't know. They don't even know sometime, but actually they want, they just want to learn something for different reason. Say moving exercises, just some new hobby.

And let's say for myself, I always liked to introduce in different styles. So the person can learn different dances and then see, okay. I actually have inclination for this one and usually it's either latin style or ballroom style. So it's either they like to move their body a lot, or they actually like to stay more with the teacher or in a closed hold and be a little bit more, feel like a princess, I guess, or queen.

And that's basically their choice what they like to do. I think,yeah. And when the student, already dance for a while, so they actually know what they want. So then they come to the teacher just because what he's doing. For them it's matter who is their teacher, but if the beginner, they don't really mind to dance with any teacher. And then later they become competitive dancers, they might think about to change teacher. Of course, it's a very painful process and understandable. But if somebody wants to be the best of the best. So then of course they trying to change partners, same way, like professional amateur are changing.

Samantha: Yeah, that's a, it's an interesting thing that you just brought up. So, um, I was, I forget which guest, we were talking about this on, but w uh, the conversation had previously come up that, um, instructors probably need to be a little bit less precious or protective or onerous about their students. And students should feel empowered to switch instructors.

If either the instructor that they're working with, isn't a good fit, or if they have goals that their instructor can't necessarily meet. So, um, do you really look at the, at the, the instructor and student relationships similar to you, how you would with an amateur - amateur or a professional -professional relationship where, you know, it's, uh, try out based. We want to make sure that we're moving in the same direction. We want to make sure that we're having the same goals. And then if suddenly there's a schism, we need to go ahead and break apart and find different people to work with.

Yuriy: Let's get, can be, can be a scenario for that. But usually is not as dramatic unless you know. Usually people are finding the way to coordinate that. And if they are both have flexibility, especially I would say on the both sides. It's not really like if student is demanding, then no teacher wants to teach them in a sense demanding unreasonably. And then when the teacher is too demanding, unreasonably, there is no, no fun for the student, because I think it's also important to have, um, to enjoy the dance in either your professional or amateur. And I think the professional, they should guide their students to then, to wherever they decide to be there to goal. If they want to be on the top, so that's the teacher goal to do that.

Samantha: Yeah. Are you working with mostly competitive ladies right now? Or are you working with kids? Are you working with social students? What is kind of your average day look like as far as students go?

Yuriy: Right now, in the United States, I'm working only with adults. So I don't have any classes with kids somehow it didn't work out that way. But back in Ukraine, I was working only with the kids. So that's in Ukraine is different because mostly, at that time only kids were dancing, so the parents were bringing the kids and staying at the door, making sure the kids not leaving and doing all what teacher said.

So once I moved here, everything's changed. So I become, I started to work with adults and yes, all my student, say 90% are competitive dancers.

Samantha: Nice

Yuriy: They like that.

Samantha: When they first walked in the door where they competitive students or were they social students that have now caught the dancing bug and want to compete

Yuriy: Some of them, yes, some just wanted to learn, but I think it's a process also. I don't think that students, I mean, majority of the student never come and say, okay, I want to compete. I don't know any steps yet. I don't even know what the name of the dance is. But once they are exposed to the competition, they're like, Oh, I like it. Well, often it's, let's say just going to competition and see the energy of the competition. See their friends dancing and see themselves being on the side, like, okay, next time. It's my turn. So it's kind of all that way.

Samantha: Yeah. So something that we, I don't think we have really talked yet about the, about, on the podcast is making that transition. Um, both from a like student mindset, walking in the door, saying this is a hobby. I saw it on Dancing with the Stars. I want to feel like a queen. I just want to have fun. To, no, this is something that I want to actually like be on the road and compete and try and get that goal. Um, and also from the instructor mindset about how do you convert someone that is a social student to a competitive student? And how do you kind of like, navigate when and how and where to bridge that gap? So for you, um, what is the typical conversation look like when you have a student they've expressed interest, they're progressing. You're like, you know what, I, I can see the spark in this person. So let's, let's kind of test the water and see if that's something they'd be interested in.

Yuriy: I think that the first that's always start from person actually attending competition as a just audience. So they look how it's look like then they probably have the chat with their friends who already dancing. And so far it's like, I would say that every student I met and they compete, they always love it.

So they are definitely, always recommending. And for me, I always say, okay, it's might or might not be your pot of tea, but, if you try, you know, for sure if it is or not. So usually it's a small competition and kind of comfortable and definitely not USDC when you have so many competitor all the best and they're super competitive.

So that's will be probably a little bit too much for the first time. So it's always started with this smaller competition just to have get comfortable. And of course you want to put your students into environment which it's fit them. So if they are only starting, of course, they better start with people who are starting, so they feel comfortable. And as they progress, well, usually after first competition, they ask then, where is the second one. So it's not really much of, guiding. Okay. Let's do it. Let's do it. So usually people like it, then the feel and the, every queen needs a dress, right. And so perfect opportunity to actually do that. So all these dresses, it's just amazing. And everybody wants that.

Samantha: Yeah, that is, that is something that I definitely miss. Um, I have not ventured into the in-person competition realm yet, uh, since the pandemic started, but I'm desperately missing being in a room and smelling nothing but hairspray and fake tan and seeing all of the glitzy dresses. It's a weird thing to miss, but, but I do. Um, we were talking a little bit earlier that you had just gotten back from Beach Bash. Um, Was that your first competition back with students, or have you been able to do a couple of other competitions?

Yuriy: Did a couple before. And I would say that Beach Bash was nicely organized and organizers were taking care of the, making sure that everything is safe, everybody wear the mask. So I think this is, I think it's also important from the point of student, if they are not sure, then knowing that everybody will wear mask, maybe not only when dancing, it kind of gives a little bit, little bit peace of mind that, okay, at least everybody wear mask.

When the competition is where it's not really forced. I think it's from that point is not so easy for students to decide to go, because nobody wants to get sick. And usually pro-am students is already grow up.

Samantha: Yeah.

Yuriy: So they are not the kids. And of course they care about their health. So I think at that point from any. From me as a competitor, I would say, I appreciate if they let's say, if they check the temperature once a day, it's kind of nice. Of course, when you go in the right of the practice room and you're all sweaty and you have to do temperature check, like, okay, wait a minute.

Samantha: Yeah. Where's, where's the large fan that I can just stick my face in front of it to cool down? Yeah.

Yuriy: But I think it's possible to do it and seem it's working.

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. And I, and as the, as we progress into summer and more people get their vaccinations and things start, um, hopefully calming down and we don't see another spike. Um, that, that means that hopefully we, we can return to more normalcy, which I feel like at this stage in the game, we're all kind of begging and ready for. Um, so the way that you and I know each other is through the Baricchi Institute. Um, so what, uh, what first got you interested in kind of that methodology and how do you kind of shape your instruction based on not just the technique book, right? Not just the blue book, not just, um, the syllabus, but also thinking about now working with older individuals and making sure that you, as you are progressing through your own dancing are doing it, um, with as much information and knowledge as possible?

Yuriy: Well, I think that's a very good addition to just blue book, like you said. So, and I think it's, that's when it's become very, actually handy. So when I was dancing it's was the actual, probably the same time, like Luca was dancing. So it's always at the same time and you always look up for the current champions and it was always inspirational. And then when he retired as always, I actually had a couple lessons with them.

So that was, he was always inspiring in the lessons. And, um, so I was following what he's doing. He was doing some video production, so that was interesting at that time. And when this Institute came, I tried personally in the private lessons and I really enjoyed it. And then as I get a bit more involved into that I really enjoyed to develop it. And right now I'm trying to work with the students with this. And it's a great addition to technique for sure, because it's, um, allow each person to actually feel their body, which I think is a bit lack of that for the students who are starting in the, um, how would I say that? Other in the, uh, higher stage of the life

Samantha: They've had previous life experience.

Yuriy: Not kids anymore, because when kids have the natural ability and they respond and pick up all the movements, basically instantly. For the adults, since we are already thinking so much and the dancing, how to do it, it's often the image of the dance makes person actually not using their body as it's supposed to do.

And let's say all professions, good professionals and amateur couple already have it in their body. So through the different way to do it. So they discover where they are in the space rather than. Pro am students they're actually looking for that, but not always is possible for them to find it. And I think this, what Baricchi Institute is offering is a good way if instructor uses, which is great.

Samantha: Yeah. It's um, My experience with it has been interesting. So, um, I really love the concept behind it and I love the information that we're learning through it. Um, I'm kind of looking at it through the lens of; A, how to make sure that, you know, I'm teaching my student, my older students in a way that is going to be to their longterm benefit and not create more problems for them later on.

But also it's kind of reshaping my own awareness of how little we normally teach about body awareness. Um, to your point, if you're working with kids, I feel like, okay, they just, they mimic the movement, they know it, they can feel it, they've got it. Um, but I don't feel like even in, when I was growing up in ballet, I ever had an instructor go, okay. Where is your spine? Be aware of your spine? How, you know, when you're, when you're taking your hand into first position, how are you, how is that timing be, you know, linked with your plié? It was just, okay. I watch it, so then I mimic the movement and I've got it so I can do it.

Um, so, when you are teaching now, are you going back and thinking about how much we've previously missed in previous discussions? Or are you just taking it as an opportunity to say, okay, this is where I'm at so moving forward, this is how I'm going to teach it?

Yuriy: Well, I think it's, every dancer has own experienced their own bodies. And of course, I would say if that information would be available earlier, it would help me for sure. I definitely can see benefits even now, as I am developing all the skills I feel have is changing my perception of the moment and also how do I feel my movement. So, and I think it's would be great if it would be there, but everything comes at a certain time. So it's all it all. It's all already be here, that's great. And now I'm just using it as I am learning as well. And I would say that, all the students I'm trying with, they're quite satisfied and it's actually nothing super hard. It's quite easy, actually, quite natural, just bringing awareness to own body.

Samantha: Yeah. Um, I feel like, um, and I'm very excited to move to, to move forward, uh, and get more information. Um, but I feel like from an instructor standpoint, Um, between techniques certifications, or sh, or I should really say syllabis certifications, physical therapy, understanding the human body, biomechanics, psychology of movement, these are all topics that I feel like as the industry progresses, we're having more conversations about, but no one really wants to say if you're going to be an instructor, the expectation is to do, you know, X, Y, and Z. Um, we were talking a little bit before about kind of the structure in Ukraine and there being a little bit more emphasis put on if you want to do dance education, here's a track in order to do that.

Do you see something like a standardized education process for instructors ever happening in the US? Or do you think, because we've all kind of got our own thing going on, it would be difficult to do.

Yuriy: I think everybody has own agenda on that subject. Well, I think it's why it's in this sport is easier because, well, it's Olympics. There is the whole set of the different organizations that are behind that. It's, uh, probably a lot of funding involved into that. So, and it's on the government level. So it's a prestige of the country to winning the Olympic. And also, I would say in the Olympics, in the Olympics sport is already probably exists and psychology of everything or the sport have to compete. The biomechanic is developing that way that let's say if they can slow motion of the world champion, and then they analyze in their mechanic and then have the athlete practicing. So they do the same and see, okay, here, you're missing then, and dadadadada. and that's how they improve it. So it's a lot of science and a lot of people involved. And there is like, I would say maybe pyramid involved in this.

But, in a ballroom dance, I think it's more like flat. So meaning in the sense of the everybody functions independently. And, um, um, probably until that point, maybe will not happen. So I think everybody will, well, right now. It's 2021. So I think it's, this is what it is. So every teacher has own way to do it. Otherwise it's either don't even imagine how it would, how long would it take to actually make it happen? Even let's say right now, not every dance instructor is certified, whereas the whole, any of the organizations. so it's sometime that also issue.

Samantha: So thinking about kind of the analogy that you're making with Olympic sport, um, do you think that is a athlete driven move? Do you think that's a country and, uh, national pride driven move? What, what progresses in industry such as ours to become more unified in its direction? You know, cause if you look at something like, um, ballet, which obviously has a very long history. Um, ballet, there's a structure to it. If you walk into any dance studio in the country, You know, every, every first position, second position, third position, fourth position, demi plié, relevé.

Like it all looks the same. It all has the same technique to it at all is taught the exact same way. And then choreography can change from studio to studio, but the structure of the dance is the same. Um, if you look at gymnastics, right? Uh, there, there are certain moves, there are certain figures. There are certain, um, mechanics of the movement that are structured in such a way that it doesn't matter if you're training in China or in Moscow or in New York, you're going to be learning it roughly the same idea within the same context.

But as you just said, that's not the case with ballroom dancing. So,

Yuriy: well you have, I mean, you have the position that we have, the moves, we have the, the books are written in stone in international style. A bit less in the American style, in a sense of uniform. There's only one book in Latin, in one book in Standard, so that's gonna make it easier.

But, um, well I think it's an, this sport comes more of the kind of artistic, so, and it's come to the point. I like this, or I don't like this, or I like this better than this one. And you have so much possibility for expression and then inventing something different. And then it's only depend if people, or judges, let's say will like it, and then it's, can I get some, direction can be changed.

So let's say between when I started and right now it's quite different, even in a position is different in the moment is, I mean, everything has just expanded, it's greater. And they think because of that, this like this, or like that, it's so many opinion and it's not maybe so easy to come to the same way, like in the gymnastic and you have certain.

But I think gymnastic also progresses just only, maybe not as wide and different just has its own shaping, but it always will somebody come and doing something different and then they change it. So I think it's possibly in the ballroom we will do the same.

We have quite a good structure in a sense of the, there is a World Dance Council. And then there is a national, so there is representation of the countries. So it's always kind of structured very nicely. There is different organization. Of course, there let's say two or three of those. And, but the we have structure there only is not, not like any other sport. So that's kind of a mix of the sport and art.

Samantha: Definitely, definitely the mix of the sport and the art and how those two intertwine and diverge is always interesting. Um, what has been the biggest change that you've seen over the years? You mentioned that from where you started to where the, the dance is today that you see it growing and expanding. What's the biggest thing that kind of stands out in your mind as, um, development over the last couple of years?

Yuriy: Well, I think it's, um, it's become a little bit more complex in terms of the moment. I would say that there is more into the body movement in general. Let's say there is more, more usage of that range of the movement and in the ballroom it's more shaping and the latin into a bit more speed. So I think it's all changes. Not, sometime people like this, sometime not it's all depend. So cause it's like, if you will become too sporty, then it's become also very athletic and then maybe we'll lose this point of artistry. So when you become maybe sometime too artistic, we might be too artistic and then you will lose that enough tone to do it. So it's always trying to improve doing better, doing more, but at the same time, not only that physical aspects should be involved.

Samantha: You mentioned that you see it more being in the body. Can you elaborate on that when you say, what, what do you mean by when you're looking at dancing, it looks more in the body? As in they're taking moments to be more internally aware or it's more in the person, in the couple. What, what visually is that kind of cue for you?

Yuriy: I think maybe more internally aware. Let's say if it can be compared to video from the other, maybe it's just more pronounced right now that, and you are dancing. So it's, the body has more movement inside let's say in ballroom than it used to be before. So, and also in the Latin it's feel it's more internal, but again, probably depend on the dancer.

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. Um, you mentioned before that you are dancing a lot more smooth, uh, obviously than you were previously, because smooth hasn't really made its way over. Well, it's, it's starting to make its way over to Europe. We're starting to see the explosion of that happening. So, uh, what about smooth do you, like, what do you wish there was less of, or more of? What do you kind of see the direction of smooth moving it?

Yuriy: Well, I would say that I really like smooth. So I would probably not be an expert to say what I like or I don't like, I think it's everything about Smooth is great. So it's a different style, which it's has both being possibility of dancing in closed hold and also express yourself apart. And I think this is a good part of it. So I think generally I like smooth, so I don't think there is anything which I say I don't like about smooth.

Samantha: Um, when it comes to pro-am competitors, do you find that most of your students are drawn in a particular direction? Or like you said before, try all four styles and then see what they kind of like?

Yuriy: My student, mostly either going with a smooth or a standard, which is like me mainly. Um, but again, then it's depend on their preferences. So some of them just like to dance standard, and that's it. And some of them like to dance standard and smooth, so both styles. Some of them that's only Smooth so that has become more personal preferences.

Or, how much time they actually have in their head because it's, if they want to be competitively good. So then they have to dedicate some more time because there is many good teachers, many good pro am students, and not always easy to stay good in the finals.

Samantha: Yeah. That, that can always be a tricky conversation to have with students too, which is ones that are competitively motivated. Um, you know, is it advantageous to specialize in one style or because they like, you know, standard and smooth, let's dance standard and smooth. Um, you know, the, the conversation of if the more styles or the more dances that you take on the more time you have to commit to still having it at, at a certain level.

And then also the, uh, interesting way that competitions tend to be structured so that, um, from competition to competition or event to event, depending on who who's there, it could be a more difficult final, or, or maybe an easier final depending on your students. So, um, Especially as you move into, I feel like there are, and I'm going to try and say this as politically correct as I possibly can. I feel like there are certain pockets and certain levels where, um, people tend to, to live in for a while. They tend to enjoy their time at certain levels and certain check points. So moving past and moving through those levels can be a little bit tricky if you are someone that you know, really takes a second placement more difficult than a first.

So how do you kind of have that conversation with your students? How do you mentally and emotionally prepare them for the ups and downs of competition?

Yuriy: Well, the ups and downs have to happen basically. So it's sometime you doing better, sometime not. Sometimes I have one set of competitors and you have different set of judges. And that's that's. I mean, even though these, every judge are supposed to be very objective, not subjective, but let's say dancing one final with one set of judges and different final with second sets of judges, then we can sometimes you can see, if you're dancing in the top or maybe not making the final.

So, it's sometime again, it comes to the, somebody likes, somebody doesn't like, or whatever, there's agenda, right? So then the result cannot be guaranteed for sure that somebody will win or not. So I think dancing better, it's kind of good remedy for that. So somebody dance well and dedicated and has the opportunity to dance more competition, to just be a bit more recognizable, because that's also part of it.

People dance more, they have more exposed to judges that way too. And I think, NDCA is doing some good job with the trying to clean, clear all those pockets for people who are staying there too long, but it's still not so clear that how to do it, because I think there is also say you have somebody who is dancing nicely they're going into their Silver, let's say, and they started to win left and right. And then half a year. I guess, they're supposed to move on and then, but the Gold has become too hard. So that's also something which it's not so easy to justify that if you win some competition, you have to move.

So I guess it's moving forward. But I think in general, having that conversation that people staying for a years in the same group should be changed. And I think what's, what is working well,is adding the gold or promoting the closed gold division. It's makes also better for the people to move. Let's say from the silver to the gold first and then from gold to Open gold, because in an open gold, there is no where to go.

So everyone is in, is ending there, and then they can compete for 20 years. And if they win 20 years, well, this is like in professional. Somebody stayed long and they're multi time champions because the second couple might not be as good or, yeah.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, it's also tricky too, because obviously as instructors, you know, there's only one of us. So if you are an instructor that has many students. That are all in the roughly the same age category or roughly in the same level category, you then have to kind of pick and choose and, you know, figure out what makes sense to, to get everybody the, the competition experience that they, that they want and that they wish for.

Um, was there a moment when you, you were competing as an amateur or early in your professional career that you can kind of look back to, uh, a conversation with a coach or a judge or an instructor, and say, you know, this conversation really set me on the path to getting where I am today, or this conversation really changed the way that I look at what I'm doing so that I can be better prepared for teaching or for competitions or for working with students?

Yuriy: Well, probably it's most accumulated over the years. Not like in particular, let's say one conversation made a big turn. And I think I started to already teach a little bit early, well, relatively early like in my twenties because often dancing and competing. So it's usually, that's how it works. First you compete and then you start in because what's happening is if you're involved in dance a hundred percent, so then, your income has to come from the same source if you have to work.

So then you starting to teach and that's starting. So as you teach in you're learning your experiences, working with different students, teaching different couples. So that's, and also continue to work with different teachers and just make an observation of how they teach and how they making student have to be motivated. So then you just kind of making the notes and, over time is accumulates and shape you as a teacher I think.

Samantha: Um, when you first came to the U S were you in Denver or did you start on the East coast and then eventually move out here?

Yuriy: I started on the East coast and yeah, well, the transition was a little bit, well, not say painful, but not so easy. I guess my, a lot of, um, teachers, the first thing, they first speed bump is the language because it's not so easy to start, right away to speak different language. Unless they already have that fluent. So that will be probably the best part that I like let's say in the United States is that people are very friendly and they didn't really care much of, if you don't speak well, but they were willing to help and was always very supportive. So that was great. So that's first I started on the East coast.

Samantha: Okay. And then, um, so, so you spent some time in the U S you kind of get acclimated to everything that is different about the US. Um, what, what led you to Denver? How did you finally get to Denver?

Yuriy: Well, I was for a while, traveling in different places as a traveling coach, and that was kind of spread. It was in Denver and it was in Virginia and it was also in Costa Rica. And then in New Jersey. I travel a lot, but then at the somepoint, I just it's just took some toll on me because it's traveling every month in every place it's takes a lot of, I would say effort in terms of the being all the time on the road. So then I decided, okay, it's time to just pick one place. And I decided to go to Denver.

Samantha: So, so that's actually something that I don't think we've, we've kind of touched on yet is, you know, when we think of dance instruction, for most people, it is a brick and mortar studio that they have dedicated instructors or independent instructors that are based in a physical location, but there is this whole side to the dancesport industry of like you said, traveling instructors.

Um, so for you, how did you get into kind of becoming that traveling coach. Um, how did you structure, were you doing, did you have ongoing, uh, students and clients in those different locations or were you coming in and teaching like workshop and lecture series? What did that actually look like?

Yuriy: Well, I was actually invited by studios into different locations and over time I developed, I mean, not develop the clientele because it was the studios clientele, but I developed this, the relationship with the student that they like to compete with me and take lessons. So it's the studio for studios was very good. And for me it was very good. So it's, everybody was happy at the end. So, and since it's this kind of collaboration worked very well, so I was going there on a constant basis. So it was, um, because sometime let's say you have coaches and they traveling also different places, but sometime they travel into one place and then coming back, let's say in two, three, four months, or maybe next year, depending on the coach, of course, sometime they are busy.

They're not available that much. So sometime more. So it's developed some relationship with the studio owners and then it was for me kind of possible to travel different places. And also I had constant always clients who wanted to continue to dance and they didn't mind to actually wait one or two weeks. So kind of work this way.

I was surprised too actually, but in terms of it was, I would say that it would be hard for student to wait for a long time, but I guess that's was the best for them. They decided to do that.

Samantha: Yeah. So, so if you were traveling to say Virginia for a week to teach students and to train with them for competition, and then you, weren't going to be back in Virginia for two or three weeks where they just left on their own to kind of practice. Did they have an in-house instructor that they would work with as kind of like a gap filler? Um, did it really just depend student to student studio to studio?

Yuriy: It depends studio to studio. Sometime people just doing their homework and that's all. And sometimes they had different instructors sometimes even for different styles.

So they were busy with other stuff in the meanwhile. And it's, let's say, I would say that some dedicated pro am students, they actually, used to travel to the instructors. So that if they have, let's say they 're picky on some, one instructor they want to compete with. So usually they decided to come and of course they come once in a month or once in whatever they're time is and that's also working very well.

Samantha: Yeah. Do you think that with kind of the last year adding, um, having more people become aware of online format and the availability of online instruction that you will see more students that are willing to work with coaches that are in remote locations or in different locations around the country in that sense? Or do you think that it really won't have a long-term impact on how we seek out training and coaches?

Yuriy: In-person training is always in person, it's always much more beneficial because your coach next to you and can show you and actually do it with you. So I would say that's what will be always the more desirable way. And what I think that was good for the pro am student with the zoom, who was trying that actually they could figure it out now that okay, we need to do something on our own. So you have to learn what you do, how we do, become more aware about our own self when we're on the dance floor and be able to actually deliver it. Not only because instructor is pushing us around the floor or telling us what to do, if it's, let's say it's Latin or the Smooth, but actually knowing what exactly they should do, or they could do, or have the better idea of what they want to deliver. And I think that that's part of it is really good.

Samantha: Yeah. That's um, that's definitely a component I feel like that amateur, especially youth amateur competition is trained a little bit more, is having that individual responsibility of, you know, your routines without your partner, but in Pro-Am we kind of let it slip a little bit more.

It's like, I got you. I got you. We'll let this go. Um, and I, I do agree. I think the last year has put a little bit more of that individual responsibility back on the students to make sure that they do have the technique and they do know what their routines are and they are moving themselves. So it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

Yuriy: Yes. All my students, I was, uh, coaching on the zoom. They actually saw the benefits and they like it, but you're right. It's, again, the same time, the person just only started to dance, the teacher is the only hope for them. So then of course we have to just be able to be patient with them too. Slowly develop their independence because sometime they just need it. And as a time it's changes.

Samantha: Yeah.

Yuriy: That's that's time made them realize, okay, this has to actually change. Cause if I know what I'm doing, actually doing much better.

Samantha: Right. Right. Well, and it feels so much better for both partners if you're both, you know, responsible for yourselves, you can give more to your partner that way, rather than just relying on them. So. Yeah.

Excellent. Anything, um, that you would like to leave our listeners with any words of wisdom or anything that we didn't get a chance to talk about that you want to make sure that they are thinking about as we move forward?

Yuriy: Well, I would think that whoever will listen, is already connected to the ballroom world? And I think this is a great place to be because of the, um, surrounding and the, all the community dancers. And I think it's great place to be. So I think it's working on, uh, on themselves and developing their own dancing. It's always important. And always ask, let's say, I like when my students asking me questions, that's actually helps a lot. In regards to understanding what they actually know or they don't know, because sometimes we assume that students know always everything, that we already told them. And in reality it's might not be the case. And I would say stay healthy for sure, for everybody. And hopefully this is all going to come down and we will be able to do it like we did before.

Samantha: Agreed, agreed. Yeah. When, when your instructor asks you, do you have any questions. We promise we're not doing a pop quiz. We aren't like waiting eagerly for you to give us back the question that the, you know, we know that you need to ask. We're opening that as an opportunity for you to clarify, and we mean it genuinely. Excellent. Well, thank you Yuriy so much for being a guest on today's podcast.

Yuriy: Thank you very much.

Samantha: Thank you again to Yuriy for being a guest on today's podcast. If you want to follow along with his dance journey, you can do so using the links in the description box below.

As always I'm Samantha, I'm your host with Love Live Dance. You can find the podcast versions of these episodes at ballroomchat.com and you can follow us across social media at Ballroom Chat. If you've not already done, so please do make sure that you have hit the subscribe button, give us a thumbs up and turn on the bell so that you get notified every single time we post.

As always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.