LATIN | SWING | BALLROOM | PRO-AM
“It’s Never to Young to Start Dancing”
I started dancing when I was 11 years old in Sochi, Russia with my brother. My parents put us together to dance. So I started dancing mostly because of him. We danced together for about a year but then he quit. But I got a new partner and I started liking dancing more and more. And as a result I got better and been professionally dancing since about 12 years old. After I went to a championship in a bigger city, I saw the world differently and decided I want to dance more professionally. It was in Siberia and that’s when I asked my mom for me to leave me there because I want to dance more, learn more.
In my little city of Sochi there weren’t many options; not many instructors, no master classes like in the larger cities. There is nothing; there is no way to improve. So the next step for me was to quit it or to keep on going but somewhere bigger. I decided to improve more, learn more so I moved to a different larger city in Russia and started dancing there. Then we started traveling to Moscow a lot to take lessons, go to camps, do competitions as well as learning from other coaches. A year and a half later, I told my parents we are wasting a lot of money and I’m missing a lot of school traveling back and forth to Moscow so much. Since I wasn’t at home anyway that often, I told them we might as well move there. We moved to Moscow when I was 15 years old and I kind of started over with new teachers and a new partner. I was there until I was 19 years old.
A studio in Boston knew me as a dancer and liked me. So, a guy from their studio was looking for a partner and asked if I wanted to try out. And I said yes I will try out. I tried it for a little while when I was 17 but didn’t like it too much. At the time, it just wasn’t right for me so went back to Moscow where I continued to dance and attend college. But then when I was 19 I got another message from the guy asking me to try out again. So, I went back to Boston and this time I stayed. I was there for 6 years dancing and working as a teacher at the studio. My teaching actually started in Moscow when I was 16 as it was the main income for my dancing. That’s partly why I was invited to the Boston studio for my great dance and my teaching experience.
There came a time, when I was again looking for a partner and thought I might want to bring my talents to another state; maybe somewhere warmer and not on the east coast. Then I found Serge Rozhkov who was also looking for a partner and we came to Los Angeles for tryouts. So I left Boston and decided to take a shot in LA as I really did want to move. I was ready for something else; a big city like NY or LA. I really liked LA and started looking for jobs. Through someone I knew here, they connected me with a dance studio and I started there for a short time until that studio closed. Then I was introduced to Elena and Gleb at Pro Dance LA where my partner Serge was also working at the time. And that is how I came to work at Pro Dance LA.
At Pro Dance LA, they offer a Teddy Bear Class for ages 3-5. For these young kids you don’t know as yet if they are going to be a ballroom, jazz or hip hop dancer so it’s important to give them the base knowledge. The base knowledge that is the easiest and greatest to get into their bodies is through ballroom dancing because it includes so many subjects. It includes coordination because as you move your body you have to coordinate left, right and with the music. So you start listening to the beat. We try to teach kids to catch the beat so they match their body movements with that beat which is important.
Now-a-days new activities are popping up like music together activities with parents when they listen to music and clap, snap, dance together and that is what I teach in Teddy Bear class through ballroom dancing. My main goal for them is not to learn the steps as they aren’t going to understand, so for them they just memorized the picture. They have muscle memory but no understanding at that age. The don’t care this is rumba or a cha cha cha; for them they just do movements. It’s about imagination. So they remember everything and keep it in their head with the sounds. So what we do is try to combine three main subjects of coordination, music and imagination together to get the kids a good base for the future. They are learning listening skills and understanding the music and different types of dancing. It doesn’t mater if in the future a kid is going to be a dancer or not there are going to learn good skills. They are going to listen to the beat, they can count and they can understand how their body moves to the sounds. So later on, say in 4th or 5th grade, they can coordinate and fit themselves into the music.
There are many kids classes I teach at Pro Dance LA and it doesn’t matter if you come from the Teddy Bear Class or never danced before. Since I have a lot of experience teaching kids of all ages dance, I have learned what kids are accepting and the different stages by age. Like ages 5, 6, and 7 is one stage and 7 to 9 is another stage. You want to keep their confidence all the time. Ballroom dancing gives them that little confidence so that they can prove to themselves that they can be good in something. Yes, it is about dancing and maybe going into competition. But to make them good enough, they have to try hard and want to be confident. So even if they are lazy, if they want to get first place in a competition they will try harder. But you have to show them the right way to do it. But again, dancing is good for coordination. Ballroom dancing is also good for memory to show them how to be successful in school and in life so they wont be afraid of talking in public, being on a stage and things like that.
For ages 7 and up, we have several options of learning. For kids there is a choice. If they want to continue their dancing and learning more they will learn more steps and syllabus. Then there are many of those kids that want to be the next dance championship. I would say the best way to make a champion is through consistency. The parents have to be patient and consistent too. They might not see results in two months but it’s coming. Sometimes, as teachers, we have the plan. It’s not going to happen right away. For example, if you want to lose weight it’s not going to happen in a week. So you are working so hard for months, then one day you realize it, you lost some weight. But some days before, you are saying it’s not working. You don’t see the results. It’s the same for dancing. You don’t see the results immediately. But if you want to be a good very strong competitor dancer and champion in the future, you have to trust the process. If there is nothing showing right now, it doesn’t mean there is nothing going on. It will kick in one day as you will be working so hard. So, I would suggest, consistency with classes and trust your team of teachers. It’s important to have a team of teachers, which we have here at Pro Dance LA, and that you stick with that crew/team of teachers you have. If you start changing teachers thinking they are going to give you better results; you really don’t know that new person and they don’t know you and how your body works. Teacher need to be learning you and the best way to work with you. It’s not about high level but how you work with your team.
To our current students, I’d like to say that they are improving a lot. The students become like a group all striving for the same target. They are very joyful at the studio. There is a lot of hard work and some issues but there still is that joy. I want to keep that joyfulness for a very long time. There is the next generation now coming up. You start feeling like the little kids, like the Teddy Bear Class are watching the older kids and seeing how good they are. So we have our first generation of kids who have been learning at Pro Dance LA showing what they do to people who are new and maybe never danced before. They can see that joy here at the studio. If someone will spend enough time with us to feel it, they will stick with us for a long time. That’s what people need is this socializing and a good way to improve their body and their dance skills plus having a good company of people.