International Dancing Minds - Martina Kornett

Samantha StoutFebruary 09, 2022Ballroom Chat: Episode #57
martina kornett ballroom chat

Martina Kornett sit's down to talk about her background, going from ballet to ballroom to now doing counseling, advising and training through the International Dancing Minds. Martina explains her approach to a more holistic training, both in body and mind, including her Expanse program. She and Samantha discuss controlling the things you can control being more mindful in the moment, and knowing when it is time to ask for help with things feel too heavy.

Martina Kornett holds Master's Degrees in Sports Science and in Education Science. She is a former ballerina, trained at the German Opera House in Berlin, and a professional ballroom dancer that represented Germany and Australia in 10 dance. Martina currently serves as an advisor on the Mental Wellbeing Board to the World Dance Competitor's Commission, through her group, the International Dancing Minds. She is also an organizer of the Ice Ball Competition in London.

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Episode Transcript

Samantha: Well, welcome back to Ballroom Chat, the podcast dedicated to sharing the dance journey. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance.

Today, I'm joined by Martina Kornett. She holds a master's degree in sports science and in education science. She is a former ballerina trained at the German Opera House in Berlin, uh, a professional ballroom dancer that represented Germany and Australia in 10 dance. She currently serves as an advisor on the Mental Wellbeing Board to the World Dance Competitor's Commission, uh, through her group, the International Dancing Minds. And she's also an organizer of the Ice Ball Competition in London. We had the opportunity to talk to her today about her background, going from ballet to ballroom, um, the work that she is doing through the International Dancing Minds and the WDCC, her approach to a more holistic training, both in body and mind, including her "Expanse" program, and just talking about how to control the things you can control and be more mindful in the moment.

So this is a really great companion episode, uh, to our previous episode with Jon Osborn, um, about sports psychology. So hopefully, uh, the information that you find is helpful and maybe you take a couple notes. I know I certainly did about what I can do better moving forward for my own training. So please enjoy my conversation with Martina Kornett. Well, thank you Martina so much for being a guest on today's podcast.

Martina: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Samantha: So I mentioned in the introduction, um, all of your wonderful accolades and your background. I want to start first before we get into your current work with, um, the International Dancing Minds.

I want to talk a little bit about your dancing history and your background. So from trained ballerina to professional ballroom dancer and competitor, what was kind of the journey and what was your path to get from day one dancer to, uh, we want to make this a lifelong career.

Martina: Yeah. That's uh, um, well, it's, I just loved it.

You know, my mother tried absolutely everything on me. Swimming, gymnastics, tennis, you name it, I was there. Um, ballet I loved from the first day and, um, no one needed to convince me that I wanted to go back there. I wanted to go back there every day. And, um, so there was never, I don't know, to be honest, I have no idea, but it was easy for my parents to take me there.

I wanted to go there and that did something, which I thought was a good idea. And, um, so yeah, they probably weren't prepared for me to wanting to go professional at some point. And they absolutely weren't, and especially my dad at the time, he was like, what? My daughter is going to university and she's doing this and she's doing that.

Then we're not going to be dancing on a stage. That's not the career path. Um, well I tried my best to combine the best of both worlds, but it was quite hard.

Samantha: Yeah. So at what point do we go from ballet to ballroom? Were you always co-training or was there a point in your ballet career that you had to step away from the stage and kind of go more into the partner dancing?

Martina: Yeah, there was a point. And, um, that also had to do with my dad and I really, really love him, but, I was only 17 when I, um, kind of did my exam and ballet and the opera house actually wanted to have me up to stay, but I was still in school and I wasn't 18. I could not make up my own mind. So actually my dad said, no, you finish school, and then you see what you do. And I didn't take it very well. So I literally finished ballet from one day to the next, after about 10 years. Um, and then my parents felt a bit guilty and um, then enrolled me in the local dance studio, um, and said, well, maybe you want to take a beginners class in ballroom dancing. And I'm thinking beginners class?

Um, but Hey, yeah, I went and I met this really lovely guy who is still one of my closest friends today. Um, Stefan, in Berlin and the dancing school, and he said to me, why are you in the beginners class? Oh my god, what you're doing here? Come to the club, come and compete with me. And I was like compete? Compete? Yeah, that sounds good.

Yeah. Yeah, I'll be there. And so I literally slipped from the beginners class more or less into the dance club and started competing quite quickly. Um, yeah, that was that.

Samantha: Excellent. And, um, at that time, uh, with the club where you doing both standard and Latin, or had you focused only on standard at that point?

Martina: No, I did both and I love the Latin and I did Latin all the way through my amateur and professional.

I was with my German partner before I moved to England. Um, we were in the German professional 10- Dance final as well. So I did actually like both styles and I still like it and I teach both styles. Um, however, when I moved to England, the partner that I found who is my lovely husband today, was just interested in the ballroom. And then I kind of gave up the Latin.

Samantha: As a classically trained ballet dancer. Did you find, um, connection with Latin or standard easier? Or, or were you able, in order to do the 10 dance, did you have to kind of separate a lot of your ballet knowledge in order to embody the way that we move as, as ballroom dancers?

Martina: Yes, a little bit. A few things you have to really change dramatically because I had my feet turned out all the time, which is fine and Latin, but in ballroom, I was also having my feet turned out, especially I was trying to move backwards and my feet were still turned out. So that took me a long time to understand the concept of parallel feet.

That was news to me that something like that existed. Uh, otherwise I thought the ballet was a good, um, basic training because you kind of know your body very well. You know what it does, and you have good control, good balance. Um, but yeah, it's fundamentally not that different, but still there are a lot of differences.

I found to get my center of gravity a little bit lower, dance, a bit more into the floor and not trying to float in the sky. And sort of a few things. Yeah. But I think it's, it's, it's, it's fine. It's a transition. Yes. It's a different style, but wasn't hindering. I think it was actually helpful. And also the way in the ballet, if you get trained well in the ballet, you have a very strong body, you have very strong feet and ankles and, um, I've been injury free my entire dance career.

And I think it has to do with the ballet training, which I had before the ballroom.

Samantha: Yeah.

Martina: I really believe that because it was such a really fundamental training. Um, Lots of my peers though in my generation that have a lot more injuries and problems over the time.

Samantha: Yeah. I think that that alone is a huge statement of success that you have been injury free in your dance career. I don't know how many dancers, um, regardless of how long they've been in the industry can, can say that with a straight face, that they aren't starting to feel the tolls of time on their body.

Um, so, so you mentioned something very interesting, which is that ballet kind of set you up with this awareness of your body and how your body moves and the mechanics of it and, and gave you that really great foundation.

I feel like that leads really well into what you ended up studying at university, which ultimately became a master's degree in sports science. So was the university training a result of finding this ballroom dancing career and wanting to stay in dance and understand it more? Or were you planning on doing something completely different with, with the sport science degree and just, it happened to the paths happened to merge?

Martina: Uh, actually I never actively picked the sports science as being my subject. It was more an accident. Um, I wanted to study theater and I wanted to study, um, artistry. And again, my lovely dad said to me, come on, girl, this is all really lovely but, what the hell are you going to do with this? When you, after you study, I mean, the world doesn't need that many people who are specialists in that. Um, but that's what I really wanted to was what I was interested in. But then, um, we had a family friend who actually was a professor at the sports department at the free university in Berlin, the F U um, that's where I studied. And, and she said, oh, well, you know, if you're not quite sure, and you, you were already a dancer and you love moving around and sports and stuff.

Why don't you give it to go? I mean, you will have me as a professor and that should be good fun. And actually, yeah. Um, I literally had her convincing me very quickly and I said, okay, fine, then that's what I do. Um, and first I thought I wanted to be a sports teacher, like a school teacher, but after the first time I went to school and had to teach, I was like, no, I'm not sure about this.

I think I want to take a different direction. And then I decided on the sports science as a Masters, and also I had educational science as my second subject. Um, yeah, in the end, my, um, masters I did in sports medicine and I wrote a, um, really, um, interesting piece about, um, feet and dancing and, um, the ballroom shoes for the ladies, if they are actually good for what we do or if they actually make our movement more difficult or so, yeah, that was where I ended up.

Samantha: And what was the conclusion of that paper?

Martina: The conclusion was when you really look at how you rolled through your foot and you look at the shape of our beautiful ballroom shoes which are pointed, um, because that's how we like it. And it looks so more elegant when we have our gowns on. But in theory, the big toe is always slightly pushed over.

It's never actually quite straight in line with the foot the way the foot would be in a sneaker or in another, or when you're barefoot. But when you're rolling through, you're always going slightly funny. We'll never go really through because you can't because your big toe will always lay in a different direction.

And actually, my conclusion was the shoes are rubbish. They shouldn't look like this, but they do still look like this because they've always looked like that. Um, and the shoe we would need would have to have the point where the big toe is. So then the big toe would be straight and you could really roll through your foot correctly, the same as the men do in their shoes, because they have more space in their shoes. But, um, no, nobody wants that shoe. It's not pretty.

Samantha: I would, I don't know. I don't know. I feel like I'll lay the challenge out for, uh, the, the shoe companies that listen to this or, or, or the, uh, the, the sellers of dance shoes. Um, if you want to create a shoe for me, that is biomechanically advantageous and allows my big toe to breathe.

I'll wear it. I'll see how it works.

Martina: Yeah, I would. I would, at least for for teaching and for practicing and things.

Samantha: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, absolutely. And especially if, if you have the science to back it up to be like, look, this, if we don't dance this way, if we keep, you know, shoving our big toe over into this point, you're gonna end up with bunions and you're going to end up with your feet hurting and you're not on balance and that's going to impact your back and you aren't going to be dancing at the highest level.

No, I always say form beats fashion. So I am, I am with ya.

Martina: Good, good.

Samantha: Um, so, so you study sports science. At what point do you say, do you decide, okay, I have this background. I understand the mechanics of it both on a personal experience level and also from a textbook, um, understanding of the theory behind it. Let me put that into action with how I coach and how I train individual competitors.

Martina: Um, yeah, sure. I mean, I, I do use a lot of my sports science kind of background, maybe more than other dance teachers, because obviously it's very broad when you, when you study sports science, it has a lot of different subjects, which are under the umbrella. So I possibly was always most interested in sports psychology and then sports medicine. Um, and also in what we call in German, bewegungslehre, which means you are, um, analyzing someone's movement for how correct they carry out their movement. And try to obviously make it, make it better, make it perfect. And analyze where your center of gravity is, how you move through your foot, how you roll, how you drive.

So, yeah, that's, that's always sort of been my little niche where I feel comfortable in assessing movement and make it, make it better and also, um, help people think the right way about what they're trying to do. And, um, I think that's probably how I ended up where we are now. Um, and I put in another degree later onto my sports science, so I became a counselor, an actual counselor.

So I did a psychology, advanced psychology. Um, it was more like a post-graduate kind of extra study, which I just sort of followed on because that was what I was so interested in. And, um, because I felt for myself that the body you can train and, um, your mind sometimes plays tricks on you and how ever much you train, um, you go to the competition or to the performance and still something doesn't quite work out and you wonder what happened. And I trained every day, um, what went wrong. And so, yeah, I slowly got more and more interested in what the mind actually does and how it can help, or really also keep you away from your peak performance.

Samantha: Well, and I feel like this is a really good conversation to have on the heels of our last episode with Jon Osborn about mental coaching and kind of mental the mental mindset of a champion and how to make sure that you are thinking about what you were doing, just as much as you were doing it. Um, so, I noticed when I was kind of looking into, uh, the IDM and kind of your role in the IDM.

You mentioned that you had developed this wellness program called the "Expanse", which is kind of this holistic program. Um, can you talk a little bit more about that and how that kind of blends the mechanics and the mindset of dance into a program um, that kind of identifies a little bit of everything?

Martina: So "Expanse" I use mainly for physical, um, body of work. So what I do, it's a bit like a combination of various things. So. I have a bit of my ballet training, a bit of my sports background, um, a bit of my yoga training and all these things, which you go through, all the phases you go through as a dancer, where you look for things which can help you or inspire you.

And of course, I always felt things like maintenance of your body, keeping your body in the best possible condition, um, and doing proper warm-up and cool down and all these things, which any other sport users, just not the ballroom dance has necessarily. Some of the top, of course they know, and the knowledge is much, much better now than it maybe was 10, 15, 20 years ago.

But, um, still you see these guys that come in their dance and then leave when you think, okay. But this body has just danced for two hours in the practice session, and you just walk out. Um, no stretching, no nothing, no, just no, no, that just leave. And fair enough if you're maybe 20 or 25 or 30, you get just about a way with it. I've always had that feeling that the, you really have to look after your body. Of course, you're a dancer and your, your body is your, your, your assets, your main instruments. So, um, all this exercise, um, but then there's exercise and there's exercise. I mean, lots of them that go to the gym and that do their runs and yes, that's all also important. But, um, and I do that, of course, I go for my walks, for my runs for, yes, you need that type of exercise as well. But, um, now, and maybe when you get a little bit more mature in your career path, you really, even more so have to look after your body, even when you teach or I need to, I literally need to warm up before I teach.

Yeah. Because I don't want to hurt myself when I'm walking into the lesson and I show something and I'm like, ouch. um, If you want your body to, to stay with you for so long and really be functioning, um, you just need to look after it a little bit more, and that's what "Expanse" basically can do. It can be a warmup, but I have lots of clients that do personalized sessions, because they're say to have certain problems or had injuries, or they just need a general, um, improving in their flexibility or in their balance, or, um, maybe for relaxation as well, because I can make it in a way that we're actually taking the energy down and kind of trying to, so I can tailor make it, depending on what someone wants.

I use it a lot for warmup to get the dancers, bodies ready to, to do that practice session or the lesson, or, um, I did a lot of zoom as well during lockdowns and, um, the last two years, um, I still have clients who actually prefer that now there's, they don't even want to come anywhere and see me. They're just come on zoom and they'll do their weekly session and I can still work with them.

So, yeah, that compound combines a lot of things, but mainly it combines the body and the mind. Um, and that's where the mindfulness comes in, um, to focus really and train yourself to focus on the present moment and, um, use that body work to really block out the rest. For the hour you do it, you really fully because I use the breath as well. Um, so the people are for that time they are just busy with themselves, with their body at the time. And this moment, um, there's no striving, there's no challenging, in that sense that we have to achieve something. That's not that type of training. It's um, just stay here, stay with your body and use the body for what it can do right now in this moment. And don't get frustrated if maybe yesterday you were slightly more flexible. It doesn't matte. Every day is different. Yeah. That's what it is.

Samantha: Well, and I love that because I feel like, and I want to talk to that more. Um, I feel like we've had previous conversations with like Natalie Crandall is coming to mind and Luca Barricchi about this idea of, we need to prep our bodies in a way that we can perform at our highest level.

And if we aren't doing pre-care and aftercare, we're really missing a large component. Um, you know, my mind goes back to Natalie talking about kind of the depression slump after a really big high at a competition where you just go back to this empty hotel room and you're like, I just won. I was just in the finals. I just danced the best that I ever did. I've got so much energy. It's 2:00 AM. What do I do? And not knowing how to like, deal with that and process with that and, and having that kind of just bubbling under the surface under your skin. Um, so I think it's really, I love hearing the fact that you're counseling clients to say, okay, let's just take some time.

Let's be very purposeful before you work and after you work to check in with your body and see what my left hip feels like today after skiing, you know, yesterday. What do I need to do to warm that up? Or, okay. I just dance really well. I've got all of this bubbling energy. How can I, how can I transition back into a resting state and how can I come back down and, and tune back into where I am at the moment.

So can you talk to me a little bit more about kind of that process and, and how you talk your clients through their individual needs?

Martina: Yeah. When we all know, we all know that buzz, when you ,after a nice, really good competition or good performance, or even now when we organize competitions and it's a good event and it's all finished and you've worked for 18 hours nonstop and you're totally on your knees.

And finally you sit down by probably 2:00 AM and you've been up since five and you just think, wow. Yes, it's really hard sometimes to, to, to find yourself again, because you're so out there. And so I'm excited and um happy, probably nothing better than you had that experience. And that's why we all do it because we just exactly, that's what we love.

Um, and I think it's easier to get yourself back down from a really good experience, rather than when you had this competition where it didn't work out so well. And you didn't quite get the result you were looking for and you go home and you're really actually depressed. And you're looking for reasons and you're looking for explanations and you're pointing your fingers at anybody else and think it didn't work out because of this and this and this and that.

And then you look back at yourself and think. Okay. What did I actually do today? Um, was I at my best? And I think that's more challenging to then touch base with yourself again and actually think, okay, did I actually do so well today? Did it feel right? Was my mind maybe somewhere else or was I distracted by something or maybe I didn't feel so good today or analyze that.

And that's where the sports science comes back into it as well. Because as a sports scientist, you literally don't leave one stone unturned. You literally have to look at every aspect of your performance. Did the training work out? Okay. Did I eat and drink the right things and this, my mind and the right, uh, set mindset?

And I mean, all these things, have I had enough rest? Have I had enough this and that? You literally have to have it all in your kind of diary or when you know how you can have the charts where you just write everything in on a daily basis. So just try to keep an eye on what's happening and what's working and what's not working.

Maybe if I had pasta, I'm always too heavy. And if I just had a salad, I'm too hungry and I don't know, you just have to try these things and then come to the ideal, or for you, for each individual dancer or sports person to the ideal preparation. And yes, if you were perfectly prepared and it still goes wrong, then it's extra bitter.

But at the end, we're all human. We can only do what we can do. And our body sometimes lets us down and a mind sometimes lets us know. And I think that's where I come in. I try to connect the two, the body and the mind, and try to make it at least have a certain harmony and a certain balance in, in yourself.

Um, still, it doesn't always work out perfectly at all times, clearly not. I can reassure you. but um, still I find you find it. You come quicker, back onto your feet. And you bounce back quicker because you just have this certain, um, connection within yourself where, you know, okay, this is me. Um, I'm only human. I do what I can do. I do the best I can do what I want to do better than I can do, but, and you push yourself to the limits, but you have to also stay connected to what's real and what's realistic have realistic goals and not just dream, um, because then you will be always disappointed or most likely.

Um, so yeah, it's all quite, that can be really complex or it can be really easy. So. I would say whatever happened, go back, connect with yourself, have a bit of a stretch, have a bit of a rest and, and be good to yourself. Treat yourself well. Never punish yourself, even if it went wrong or your partner says to you, this is in the partner sport, like with the dancing and the ballet. Okay. If I get it wrong, then maybe eight other girls in my line will say, oh my God, you did this step wrong, that was embarrassing. But, um, we are so close with these partners to be danced with and not always are there, yes, we try to be friends, but we're not always lovers or so close. We are trying to be on the same page and sometimes it works out well and sometimes it doesn't and, um, but it's an extra, extra added difficulty actually, because it's not just us.

Samantha: Right.

Martina: And we have to fulfill certain expectations, which he has and he has to be what we need. And so that's a whole different thing. And there we get a lot of issues and I think again, then like a counseling session or a good coaching session really helps to talk it all out and make sure that even as a couple, you are on the same page and you know how to talk to one another and, um, not make it actually worse.

Samantha: Yeah, it's it's equal parts, um, competitive athleticism, where there, there are clear, you either took the heel lead or you didn't, right. That's that's in your control. And then also in your control is how you react to your partner and it's it's couples therapy. It's, it's a relationship that you're building with your partner. Um, even even ignoring, if you actually have a relationship, like a real relationship with your partner outside of it. Um, so it's, it gets very complicated. And I know for myself as a dancer, but also myself as a teacher trying to navigate and remind myself, focus on the things that I can control, I can control how I dance.

I can control how prepared I am going into it, and I can control how I react in the moment when something happens, but everything else, that's out of my field of control. So the time that I spend stressing and focusing on things that I can't control takes away from the amount of time and the amount of bandwidth that I have to focus on, the things that I can control and the things that I can influence.

Martina: Yeah. Totally agree with that. I mean, um, we do stress and worry about a lot of things, which is an entire waste of energy because we really have no control over the lighting, the music, the judges. The, how the floor feels, or, I mean, that's things we have to learn to deal with. The more experienced we are as competitors or performers, we learn to just live with that and just take it for what it is and try to make the best and still try to, to, to make the best off of what we can do and how we attack the situation.

But, um, yes, it can waste a lot of time and energy too, but that's not just in dancing, that's in life. The same in real life relationships. There is a lot of that.

Samantha: Definitely, definitely, um, talking about things that you can control versus what you can't control. If you, if I gave you a magic wand and you could just , like, fix two or three easy things about how people prepare for their either lessons or their competitive career. Um, we already mentioned that we would probably rethink the shoes for ladies. Um, are you a proponent of fast floors or slow floors? What's your perfect temperature control in the room? What, what music do you have on in the background? How do you set up a creative space for yourself or for your students that is advantageous to their training?

Martina: You know, it depends on what the goal of the session is. So if it's just like a more or less boring stamina session, then I have to deal with any type of floor, any type of music, they just have to get through it. And I don't care if it hurts. I don't care if it's fun, it just has to be, done. so that's that.

But if of course, its about creating new choreography, then I like a little bit dimmed lighting. I like really nice inspiring music. And I like to be alone with the couple in the room. I hate doing choreography when it's one of these studios where you have six, seven couples and teachers on the floor. I just literally can't think of anything. I need a bit of sort of headspace when I do choreography. I like to book the studio and just, and also not being under time pressure and just come up with really nice things for them and make it suitable for, for the people I work with.

But, um, and in normal lesson. Um, I always tell them because it's practically difficult sometimes, to to actually add the warmup exercise. Or because they're paid just for one lesson or even for two, but usually there's one after the other, there is not much time in between and they don't want to waste the valuable time and the lesson to warm up. And then they don't really do the warm-up unless I tell them come half an hour early and stand in the corner and I want to see you doing it.

Um, but that's always the ongoing practicality. So then people run late and then there's no time for it. And we all know that because it happened to us when, when we were rushing around from one dance lesson to another, and from one competition to the next, and you do neglect your body, sometimes. You just, race around and you want to be everywhere and you want to do everything.

Um, um, but, um, I think the longer you go on and the more, um, mature you get in your own dance career, um, when, when you are a top amateur, professional, um, you, you should have a little bit more sense in how you attack these, um, daily struggles, uh, or to make them less struggle, um, allow enough time and be there.

Um, and don't just rush into the lesson and you don't even know if you're coming or going, and you're wasting all this time and money and you get frustrated and shout at your partner. And then the day is over and kind of. So all these things, which we is so nice, hindsight is a wonderful thing. So if you, if you go to the end of your active, I mean, I still with a couple of students in competitions. I do a few Pro-Am competitions, but you are at that stage where you think, yeah, I wish I wish I would've known all of this about 20 years earlier. And now okay, you have the opportunity to tell people, um, you know, what, and go to the young couples and say, you know, I just telling you, I don't tell you what to do, but, I'm just sharing my experience. And I actually, that's, where it's such a nice opportunity that we have that. And IDM is really there, um, the way we, we feel about it is that we are, we are, we want to help. It's not like you have to be in a personal crisis or you don't have to be in any kind of mental state that it's worrying before you come and see us.

Yeah. Um, that's some sort of a stigma we're working against a little bit because people saying, Hmm, mental wellbeing, oh god, but I'm not crazy. I don't need them. Um, but, but it's not really for that. We want to be the friend. We want to be the one who, who kind of helping to, to make it easier. Um, and we as a group because we have different qualifications, so I am more from the sports science and, um, uh, uh, We have Kristina who is, um, as sports psychologist, just a sports psychologist. And she's very good at, uh, helping the couples to, um, set the right goals and really work with them. So to have successful events. And, um, then there is Terry Hyde and he has a super counselor for dancers and very experienced, um, um, therapist. Um, and then we have Karen who is more coming from a business background, but she is a dancer, but she, she is more with doing business coaching or that is her background, but she is a neuroscientist. Um, so w we'll have all our own expertise and we, we can help, um, dancers, um, not just Ballroom and Latin. Obviously Terry works with the ballet dancers and stage dancers a lot. And, um, we feel where therefore all dancers, um, probably more for the Ballroom and Latin, because that's more our world and our background.

Um, but, um, we, we just want to be. Uh, friendly helper, um, to actually make it easier for them to, to not struggle and stumble over the same hurdles we possibly stumbled over because it can be avoided.

Samantha: Yes. Learn from my mistakes, avoid these things earlier on. Yeah. I love that. So, so with this, this group that you've kind of, um, combined your efforts with, uh, so the International Dancing Minds, you are also serving on the advisory council for the mental wellbeing board for the World Dance Competitor's Commission. So, um, for those of us, and I'll, I'll fully acknowledge my own ignorance on this. What is the World Dance Competitor's Commission?

Martina: Um, so the, um, what I've done is competitors' commission is a, um, independent group. Um, consisting of the top professionals and amateurs in the world. Um, this group has been, I think they started it already in the eighties or something. It goes back to times off Marcus Hilton and Donnie Burns when they were young dancers and, um, they started this group.

And it's just been, um, it's very important that it's there because they deal with any problems. Um, the dancers potentially have when they go to competitions, if there's any issues with prize money or with the organizers or this, or visa or whatever problems, um, they are there to help. So my husband, um, my dancing partner, my professional partner, Michael Burton, and he's been the secretary, um, on the World Dance Competitor's Commission for, um, quite a long time.

Um, so I've always been hanging out there anyway and helping with, um, their fundraising events and things and for many years long before the pandemic started, I, um, always thought there should be some sort of place where the competitors can go. Even more, just not just with these practical problems, but when the actually have other issues, because we all experience, we all have families, we have financial issues, we have health issues and, and sometimes it's really hard and there's nowhere to go.

And you feel embarrassed to talk to your partner or to your coach or to your fellow competitors. So, um, not always have we got that many friends at the time because we are traveling a lot. We're away from home a lot. And it's just so nice to know there is one place ,even if it takes you a little moment too, before you feel okay, I'm ready to email them or something, or, uh, you know there is a place where you can say, I need help.

And then we can decide who is best for them to, to help this particular person. But, um, there's so many issues which, which sometimes you can solve quite quickly or just by listening and, um, that they get it off their chest. Or if we feel it's something which needs to be properly coached, and Kristina can do some psychology sessions on them, or if it's just listening, then Terry or myself, we can just have a counseling session and just listening.

I'm trying to see what's going on. And, um, so, um, I wish that would've been a place like this when, when I first started dancing, because you go through. You lose family members, you lose grandparents or whatever, and school. And then there are so many things which can happen. And you, you know, maybe you have body issues or weight issues, or I don't know this, especially the girls.

We go through a lot of problems. And then, um, there is no one, really, if you're not really strong individual and you just deal with your stuff, um, it can really break you because if you have no one to talk to, and you don't quite know where to turn, and your mother is maybe at the other end of the world, um, the, what do you do?

Samantha: so I, I think that what you just mentioned is super crucial because, I think in, in many industries, ours is not unique in this. There's a feeling of isolation when you don't know to ask the right question, or when you don't know that the resources are available to you. Um, the resources are out there. You have access to people that have knowledge and have experienced and that are willing to help you, but it's, it's kind of this in until you start having the conversations and saying, I need help, you don't know how immediate that help really is. Um, just from a personal standpoint, um, I kind of hit the point in the last month or so, where I realized I needed help. And I, I posted something on my personal page, not even thinking that it was an ask for help, just a statements, um, of, of, I need to start doing this moving forward, and I'm calling on my friends and family to, to call me out when you start seeing this behavior. And that was like the bat signal going out. I suddenly started getting messages from people that I hadn't spoken to in a while that were just like, Hey, did you know, I do life coaching. Did you remember that I'm a psychologist? Do you remember that I have this background and I want to help you and I want to work with you. And I, I, I see this, so when you're ready reach out.

And that was suddenly like, uh, oh, Right. I don't have to feel alone. I don't have to go through this alone. Um, and my worry is that, especially with the way that the last two years have been, that we have a lot of people that are, are reaching the point of burnout, or just emotionally depleted, where we're like we have been in survival mode. We have been in, you know, fighting for our businesses or fighting for our training schedule or fighting for access to just studios and time to, to be able to express ourselves that we've gotten so used to. We've been in that fight mode for so long now that we're starting to lose steam and we're starting to lose power and we're forgetting that we have a dance community around us to support and rally and go through all of this together.

Um, So, so with that, what do you see the ramifications of kind of the last two years being on folks and how can we continue to trudge forward in a, in a more positive and, and kind of ready to continue this way?

Martina: Um, it's really important that we don't stop doing what we love. And that's the most important thing. If we can still remember what it is, what we actually love, but of course our industry was so badly hit. And from one day to the next, um, we couldn't teach, um, studios were all closed and I was away from my family in Germany. My husband is away from his Australian family. We're sitting here all alone in London and it wasn't easy.

Um, I normally used to fly home every month to see my mom and know my German friends and suddenly I couldn't do that. And it was really hard. Um, and maybe because of that, I then just kind of tried to change my frustration into action and kind of the, okay, what can I do, which is actually useful. Um, that's when I did exactly what you said, um, rang up the people that I kind of knew already.

And I had always, I had met Karen before and I knew Kristina and I had spoken to Terry before and I thought, okay guys, should we actually set something up now formally and do a proper thing and some sort of group collaboration and work on this a little bit and, and, and create something instead of just sitting here being really depressed.

Um, so that's what we did. And that's how then suddenly this has actually happens really quickly. Uh, although I, I thought about it for years and years and years. And then that was, we were always, probably too busy to really, really go for it. But that was the moment where we had time, where we could work on things.

Um, and I think for the future now, we, we definitely need the competitions. We need the studios to be open. Yes, we might have to be careful. Yes. We might have to put the mask on or still stay away a little bit and not overdo it, there was a lot, just a lot of competitions here in the UK. We had the UK championships and there were competitions beforehand and there were quite a lot of positive cases around. Um, and even the older generation, some of the adjudicators and judges and, and, uh, uh, coaches. And you think, oh, this is bad. but we need to have these competitions because, um, this is not going away. So. As, as stupid as it always sounds, we have to learn to live with it, with the situation. And it's not our choice.

It's I prefered it two years ago, I just had a photo on my Google on my phone today, where it's at today two years ago. And I see myself in Berlin with my mom, like about a month before lock down. Um, and I'm thinking, yeah, that was the last time I flew to Berlin. And I have no idea that I wouldn't be able to do that for ages afterwards.

And I have this huge smile on my face and I'm thinking really, wow, two years, where has that gone? I mean, Wow, but we need to keep doing what we love. We have to try to run these things safely and, and we had our Ice Ball competition. We were lucky enough to run it in November, last year, in the Chelsea Old Town Hall in London.

And we had lovely, lovely competition. Everyone was so happy and we had huge amount of entries and we had lovely judges. It was a great event and everyone was so happy. Um, and we were buzzing for days, for weeks, afterward because it was so great. And I think we need this and we just have to assess. As organize us as well, how can we keep it relatively safe? Um, that people have the confidence to attend and want to be part of things.

And, um, We have to keep doing what we're doing because we have no other choice.

Samantha: I feel like, and I mean, it's in the best possible, possible way. That is such a German and British way of thinking about it. Like we don't have a choice, so we're just going to keep moving forward. And I love that. I love that energy

Martina: You know what they say? Carry on, carry on and drink champagne.

Samantha: There you go. Yeah. Um, can you, if you're willing to go into it, I want to know kind of the, the mental steps that you went through, if you can talk me through it between I'm in this situation, I don't have control. I can't do the things that I, I want to do that I was planning on doing that I had hoped to do. How can I do something productive?

Because for me, and again, I'm gonna overshare a little bit, my, my mental mindset the last month, or so has been, I'll open up Facebook. I'll see, on my memories, something from two years ago, that's like me posting, "I just went to this awesome small business training and I've got so many plans for 2020. It's going to be a great year." And I just get hit with this wave of almost grief, almost, almost like I'm, I'm grieving for what I lost in 2020. And I haven't been able to switch the, I didn't, I wasn't able to do it, then let me do it now. Or let me channel that creative, positivity that I had two years ago and, and find a way to channel that in 2022.

So I would love to hear just from your own experience, kind of how you came out, the other end of that and were like, yeah, let's put a group together. Let's create International Dancing Minds and let's put this positivity out in the world.

Martina: I totally hear you. And I had that grief. I definitely lived through that grief. And also the anxiety of being separated from the people you usually see all the time. And, um, luckily I was locked down with my husband and not totally by myself. I had some friends who literally. Yeah, well on their own the whole time.

And my poor old mommy at home in Germany was locked down by herself for the whole time. And I mean, I've really, I have a lot of respect for people who were able to do this on their own, because I don't know if I would have actually survived that. Um, two people is always easier in situations like that. And you pick your, you know, each other up when you have a, when I was sitting here crying, like I can't go home and everything is lost.

Then my husband would say, well, I'm never going home because I'm only going home every five years and see my parents anyway. So only because you're usually going every month, you know, keep it real. We, we so easily get, get, get into what we can't do and feel sorry for ourselves. And I know it because it happens to me too.

It's not like, we're all the same. Um, uh, my, I now kind of know, um, exactly what we spoke about earlier of being in control or not in control. I prefer being in control and I actually hate it when, when I it's nothing I can do. And I always think there must be something I can do. Um, but in that sense, that helped me as well, um, to actually find something I could do.

And then just come up with an idea and say, okay, let's, let's do it. And then ring up the chairman from the World Dance Competitors' Commission and see if we want to affiliate. And if we want to really create something real for all competitors worldwide, um, and you know what, even if nobody would ever contact us, I wouldn't care because it's important that we exist.

And, um, that, that is what's important to me because I didn't have that. And when I was a younger dancer, you know, I had anxiety attacks and because I, I was a high achiever, I always wanted to be the best. Um, and I put so much pressure on myself that I literally sometimes have panic attacks before competitions and things.

And I had no one to talk to them. My parents would stand there and go, oh woah woah, what's wrong with her now? And, um, I had to learn to actually control myself first, before I could control anything else. And I think that's, that's where it actually boils back to if, if you learn to control yourself and if you'd know how to bring yourself back to a more or less balanced position again and again and again. Um, when we had deaths in the family, we had people, we lost some people over the years, or, um, you break up with a boyfriend or whatever it is, it just can be so hard. But, um, if you keep doing what you're doing, because you love it and you try to keep, keep check of yourself all the time. You always be kind, and nice to yourself because nobody else will be as nice to yourself.

You know what I mean? I am the nicest person to myself. There will be no one who can do it any better. My husband is trying, but he will never be as good as I am to myself. I forgive myself. I know that I'm only human. I laugh about myself. I know when I'm doing it wrong or I can't do something, I just laugh it off and yes, that's only on the surface.

Of course. I think I should have been able to do this and, yeah. Inside I'll have that conversation with myself, but to the outside and actually have helps because sometimes you act and you believe it and you can look at it from both ways, but it's, it's a strategy we're using a lot anyway in counseling or in psychology where you actually train certain behaviors.

Um, and you actually start believing it because this is how you act, your mind starts believing that this is how it is. Or you can do it the other way around. You can start thinking about something in a different way and then act and behave in a different way. So you can take a look from either end and sometimes it works this way or the other way around. But I think, um, that's how you can maybe turn things which are, um, out of your control back into your control, because you just changed the perspective, you change the viewpoint.

And, um, you turn it, so then you say, okay, but actually I can do something. It's not all lost just yet.

Samantha: I love that

Martina: and find the things, the things you can do and don't dwell on the things you can't do. But that's how I would say.

Samantha: Yeah. I love that. That's the hard thing to do, but ultimately it's what gets you out on the other side is

Martina: that's what they say. count your blessings.

Samantha: Yes. Awesome. Well, Martina, if folks are listening to this podcast and they're like, you know what, I think it's time to reach out for help. And I think we've just found the group to do that, how can they find you and connect with International Dancing Minds?

Martina: So we have a website, obviously, um, And if you want to email us, it's on We have a Facebook and Instagram, um, page as well. And you can find us there and even on Instagram, give us a direct message or something. That's fine. We're picking that up with checking it all the time. Um, yeah, that's easiest. Or if you know us personally, we are around at different competitions and events and just come and talk to us. Um, that's also a possibility.

Samantha: And, um, do you do mainly a one-on-one or partner coaching, or are you available to do like studio wide workshops on these topics?

Martina: Yeah, that's really what we want to start doing more. And we haven't had the chance really yet because the studios were on and off over the time. So, but for this year we said, this is what we actually really want to do. We want to go to studios or even into organizations when they have their big congresses and things, and actually talk to people and do workshops. And even a bit more awareness about mental wellbeing for dancers. Um, of course we do one-on-ones or partner sessions, um, that can be live, that can be on zoom, um, whatever works.

Um, but yeah, that's actually really where we want to, uh, get a bit more active this year.

Samantha: And primarily based out of the UK, so operating in the UK and Europe, or are you available international? If someone wants to fly you out to the states or, or work through time zone issues, uh, for Zoom?,

Martina: we are, I mean, Kristina is in Denmark. I'm, the rest of us is in London, but I'm in Europe or in Germany and in Europe a lot anyway. Um, and if there are events, competitions, we, we used to travel. We haven't really been traveling as much as we used to, but I mean, travel was never an issue before we would be in the states or in Asia or here and there, wherever. Um, so yeah, no where international dancing lines when you're happy to be anywhere.

Samantha: Excellent. Excellent. Well, thank you Martina so much for being a guest on today's podcast.

Martina: My pleasure. It was really fun talking to you. Thank you.

Samantha: Thank you once again, to Martina for being a guest on today's episode, you can find the links that we mentioned, uh, before about connecting with her or with the International Dancing Minds group in the description below.

As always, I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. You can follow us at Ballroom Chat on both Instagram and Facebook. We also have a Patreon page. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, um, that way, we really do appreciate it.

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