You started dance at a young age. Was dance something you chose yourself?
It was definitely not my choice. It was my parents’ decision, but at that time already, lots of kids were ballroom dancing. Since then, I think the interest of kids participating in ballroom dancing has grown even more so. I think the number of kids participating in ballroom dancing in the Ukraine, where I am from, is booming now.
Do you have a favorite dance?
I love Rumba- to teach, to dance, to live it.
I love it when I see male dancers who are great role models for young boys. It’s sad that there seems to still be somewhat of a stigma around boys dancing. Did you ever have to deal with any friends or family having any sort of negative attitudes towards you dancing because you are a guy?
Not at all. I cannot recall even one instance when somebody showed a negative attitude towards me dancing. Even though most of my non-dancing male friends are very macho, they still have always respected and appreciated my dancing career. I do believe though, that in our life we attract people that would match us. Those that do not match us do not stay for too long. However, over the years that I’ve been dancing and teaching, I have seen numerous cases in which the idea of boys dancing has been regarded as being sissy or just not taken seriously.
I find it fascinating that you completed a degree in Criminology and Law and still chose dance and teaching as the career path for you. Is there any part of your education previously that has an influence on your approach to teaching or to dance?
Wow, great question. Definitely so. I do believe my interest in jurisprudence has influenced my teaching style.
I have always been drawn to the little details of everything surrounding me. I love jurisprudence for its precision, clarity, and at the same time, its flexibility and openness to interpretation. It’s exactly the same with dance for me – I am a very technical dancer and teacher. I pay attention to the little details and build them up. That can be regarded as a strength or a weakness. Sometimes, it is easy for me to cross the line and get too passionate about the details and a bit too overwhelming. Being aware of that, I am truly trying to pay attention to the reactions of the students and use that to judge whether I need to balance that out a little more.
Did you find that while you were studying criminology that your experience dancing influenced your approach to studying?
I do believe that my dancing career has affected my learning style.
Studying-wise, being extremely busy with dance training and teaching (I was teaching full time and going to school full time), I knew I had only a limited time to complete a project in my studies. This pushed me to be more efficient. I do think I had a very similar training style in dance– not enough time before a competition- so I had to push it as hard as possible in that area as well.
I think that the more we learn about the outside world, the more we learn about ourselves. And dance helped me to do this. It taught me that it’s about the process, and dance taught me how to become more aware of that process. So that helped me appreciate the process in my studying and learning.
Also, looking back on my decision to focus on teaching, I think it was quite natural for me with my academic background.
I think you are an amazing teacher. You just blew me away at how you were able to balance teaching accurate, clean technique, without losing the importance of expression and passion in dancing. What do you think has helped you maintain this balance?
Thank you, Tasleem. It means to a lot for me to hear that. I think it was built through experience. When I first started teaching, I thought I was much better at it than I actually was. Some lessons were hit, some miss. Even now, I do have to adjust and modify the focus of teaching and the style. But I had to learn to do this with time and experience in teaching.
It is very impressive that you teach students of all different ages. In particular, the way you help youth achieve such high standards in competitions is admirable. How do you keep the training fun while still pushing the kids with the hard work that is required to compete?
I am extremely passionate about teaching and dancing, and music and body movement, which is what I think people are drawn to (or parents bringing their kids are drawn to). I am more “dance” oriented than “fun” oriented. For me, whether they are kids or adults, and whether they are competitors or just social dancing – it’s all about the fun through knowing and being able to dance. Some students do not stay with me for too long because they might think I’m too detailed, whereas others love that aspect of my teaching. For me it is not about pushing people to dance well. For me, it is all about sharing what dance really is. And the rest is absolutely up to the students to decide how much of it they would want, or will be able to do. I do not place any limits on age, natural talent or body abilities.
Speaking of natural talent, in one of your classes, you told a story that really stood out to me. You explained how there were other dancers around you as you were growing up who may have been higher level dancers than you, and could have become amazing teachers.
Yet, they didn’t continue to work and train at it. And eventually, even though you might not have been the strongest dancer at that time, you worked hard and got so much better, while they kind of dropped off the dancing radar and didn’t do much with it.
I think this is a very important lesson and I still share it years later with others around me. What was it about dancing that made you put so much time and dedication into it?
To be honest with you, at different stages of my life there were different reasons why I kept on going. At first – it was about parents and trying to do my very best because they were investing so much into it. Then it was about peers and the competitive nature of dance. Then it was also because I really liked someone and wanted to dance with her. And then it was because of parents again. And only more recently, much later, I have realized, that this is who I am. I love being a teacher of dance. This is how I can be of use to the people around me. There are lots of challenges that come with that. But, at the moment, this is what I believe in.
Were there any teachers who inspired you in a similar way?
There are two main dance figures that truly affected me – my dear teacher Mr. Colin Phillip James, as well as my mentor, colleague, and friend – Mr. Andy Wong. Their presence in my life is most significant. They have helped me to grow and hopefully become not only a knowledgeable teacher, but also a more knowledgeable human being.
Dance and dancing was a way of life for me. Right now, teaching is. So, for me personally, it is not about my dancing any more. Now, it is all about teaching and making my students grow and become better, more balanced, disciplined, kind and caring individuals. It is about helping them to dance to the best of their abilities.
That’s beautiful. Spoken like a true teacher. Thank you.
To learn more about Kyryl, or to find out more about his classes, please visit Kyryl Dance