Interview with Kyryl Dudchenko: Paying Attention to the Details


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.


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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.

Kyryl2Studying-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


Interview With Sia Kaskas- Revolutionizing Aging

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I really admire you for your strength and agility as a kickboxer, but also for being in a field that traditionally might have been thought more ‘suitable’ for men.  

Did you find it hard to work your way up in kickboxing, especially as a female, in terms of having support and being taken seriously?

Staying at Champions Martial Arts Academy for all the years that I did- from being a novice student to becoming an instructor and employee- had its challenges. I would say it made it easier having female role models around me- such as Master Ingrid Katzberg and Sensei Anita Katzberg. These two sisters own and run the school (along with Master Farid Dordar). Their strength was so inspiring and motivating for me and thousands of other female students in the city.

Yes. I remember them being highly regarded throughout the school and community. 

Yes, and Master Ingrid and Master Farid welcomed all genders to train and compete. I never felt any judgement from either one of them. The only challenges I encountered were from a minority of younger males who felt uncomfortable around me. I competed early on in my training years in eight tournaments and in five ring-fights and I was always the oldest female among the fight team. So that was tough in terms of judgment. And I later faced another challenge when I began instructing. Once again, some males found it difficult to be instructed by a female. This led me to train harder and to show them I am not as limited as they think. Of course now, after fifteen years of instructing, one builds a reputation and I have not had any issues with this in a long time.

Continue reading

Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 2: Letting your energy be free

(To read Part 1 of the Interview, click here: Homeopathy recognizes the individual)

Herbal Essence Dropper

What do you think makes some people believe in natural medicine and homeopathy, while others just would never even want to try it?

It’s hard to tell.  Some people already find it easy to accept new concepts.  In the beginning, I thought maybe that comes from their level of education.  But I realized that that’s not the case.

For example, a couple of years ago, I had a patient.  She asked me to see her husband.  He’s a professor.

He had some insomnia case and lots of stress at work.  So she convinced him, after many years of bugging him, to come here and to give me a chance (smiles).

He came in and he asked me, “So, Vladmir, how does this work?”

And I tried to explain it to him. But what do you say?  Meridians? Chakras? How can someone believe in meridians and chakras if they are very scientific in their thinking?  He wanted scientific proof that he could see, but it doesn’t work that way.

That must have been hard.

Well, for him it was hard. And for me, it was very hard, because we don’t have scientific proof. So I understood why he wouldn’t believe it.  I tried my best to explain it to him.  And eventually, he told me “Vlad, I am sorry, if you don’t have proof, I can’t accept that. It must not exist.”  So, we just shook hands, and I never saw him again (smiles).

But a couple of months later, I get a janitor from the same university come in to my clinic.

She never heard about homeopathy.  But she said, I really don’t even care how it works (smiles).  My sister got better with it so I want to try it.

Haha! That’s brilliant! (laughs)   Continue reading

Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 1: Homeopathy recognizes the individual

“In homeopathy, the personality of the individual determines their prescription,.. because Homeopathy understands that every person is different.


Dr Shmitsman

I think some people might be surprised that you began your medical career with more conventional medicine.  

Yes.  In the beginning, I was a nurse.

I like that your grandma was one of the first to plant a seed for you very early on in terms of natural medicine.  

Yes.  She used to take me with her when she would pick plants and berries in the forest.  She was around me until I was 16 or 17 years old.  So it was a fair amount of time that I spent with her. (For more details about this story, please visit Dina’s Homeopathic)

And you had other people along the way who opened your eyes up to homeopathy?

Yes. It wasn’t just my grandmother’s influence that made me make my change from conventional medicine to homeopathy.

I finished nursing school, and then I went to the military for two years. The doctor who I worked with there was Russian Japanese.  That was a third generation of people who used to practise acupuncture.

For the first time in my life, I saw someone using acupuncture.  This man was a doctor in a hospital, but almost every day, I saw him treating different guys in the military using acupuncture.  He practised acupuncture as he felt he needed. Continue reading

Interview with Jason Haynes of

Haynes Photo 8I was so honored by your message to me a few years ago, reaching out to see if I would be interested in being part of collaboration project between a group of other writers of Dance.  What made you decide to create a site with this kind of collaboration in mind, and with writers from all over the world?

I love being part of the social dance community, and I’m a journalist at heart.  These two personal interests are the fuel that keeps the fire burning.  Around 2013 I started seeking out Latin dance themed sites that I could hopefully join and contribute to.  I was interest in learning more about the culture and influential dancers within the Latin dance community, and I wanted to share my findings with others.  I found a few sites that contained interviews and blog posts.   I was looking for a site that felt more like an online magazine and wasn’t aligned with any particular organization.  I didn’t find one.  I did, however, find one writer named Tasleem (smiles), who had produced wonderful, in-depth interviews with several influential dancers.

That is very sweet. Thank you so much. It really meant a lot to me. Sometimes, especially as a solo writer, I never really know who, if anyone, my pieces are actually reaching or resonate with. So your message to me helped to encourage me and remind me that what I am doing actually has a purpose.  

Well, what you were doing was exactly what I wanted to do! I read several of your interviews, and during this time, I had a lightbulb moment:  I got the idea to build my own website.  So, I brushed up on my WordPress skills and started a site called  My goal was to produce an online magazine catering to the interests of the Latin dance community.  The site had a magazine style feel, but the content was from a single source (me) and lacked the community feel that I wanted.

Haynes Photo 5Yes, I could tell, even from your initial message to me, that you are definitely a people person. I loved the way you obviously enjoy bringing people together, and I imagine you contributing greatly to the welcoming  and friendly atmosphere to dance communities around you.

Thank you.  Well, I knew that if I ever wanted to create a site with global appeal, that I would have to collaborate with others.  I simply couldn’t do it all myself and accomplish my greater goal.  This was the inspiration that led to (formerly Continue reading

Strength in Diversity- Interview with Gabriel El Huracán- Part 2

In Part 1 of this interview- “Why Tango?” Gabriel El Huracán  discusses what it was about Tango that drew him into the dance so deeply.   I have begun this second half of the interview with some of the words Gabriel left us off with at the end of Part 1. They just seemed so fitting to the theme of Part 2 of this interview:  celebrating the beauty of differences, the strength of diversity.

Gabriel:   In tango, you’ll have a kid who is twenty years old who is still in college or university and he’s beginning his life. And in the same room, you will have this older tanguero who might be eighty years old, dancing right next to him.

And you might meet a lawyer and a plumber and a stay at home mom all in the same room doing the same dance, sharing the same passion. You have people from all social classes in the same space. You have people from all ages, and people of all different cultures connecting through this common passion.

Tango allows me to make these unlikely encounters that I never would have made in my daily life otherwise. Continue reading

Choosing Music Over Meds

One man’s quest to retrain his brain- through movement and dance-to overcome a severe movement disorder. Federico Bitti suffers from dystonia, a disease that affects a person’s ability to control their muscles. He is using a new therapy involving neuroplasticity, and specific exercises to retrain the brain, which for Mr. Bitti, includes …DANCE!

It’s stories like these that keep Dance Me Free growing and remind me why the site was born in the first place. There is proof, all over the globe, of how Dance and Music really do heal. You’ve got to watch this one! Incredible! What an inspiration.

And Dance, you’ve done it again!

A Heart to Heart With Charles Ogar

charles10“Dancing with the heart” is a phrase that has been so overused that I think it had lost the depth of its meaning for me over time, until… people like Charles Ogar came along. Charles not only reminded me of the true meaning and feeling behind those words, by the connection he creates in his dancing, but he also put a whole other twist to it as he opens up about matters of the heart in this interview.  After learning about some of the journey Charles’ heart has been taken on, – from having faith in his passions, to leaving his old career behind, to enduring heart surgery, and following a new path by trusting in where the universe is taking him- I have  a whole new appreciation for the power of the heart. Thank you Charles Ogar for opening up with such honesty and authenticity in this interview and allowing us to know a little more about the heart that lies within you as a dancer and teacher.

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How Art Inspires Art- The Depths of Dance- by Linda Strathdee

DANCE1-INKOver a year ago, I had participated in a master class blues workshop in which each of us were critiqued individually about our dancing by both the instructors and the other participants.  We were then given tips on what improvements we could make and then were to dance in front of the audience again, this time keeping in mind these suggestions in order to see and feel how they could transform our dancing.

I learned so much from that workshop, but unexpectedly, one of the most memorable components of it was a dance by two student participants I had never met before- Patrick and Linda.  They didn’t do anything particularly fancy or flashy in their dance, but their connection to each other and the music was so sweet and heartfelt. Continue reading

Healing helped by your passions, healing helped through dance…


… And sometimes, that healing comes in the form of something that lifts your spirit, something that makes you feel alive, something you are passionate about.  Sometimes, that healing is comes in the form of Dance.