Interview with Kyryl Dudchenko: Paying Attention to the Details

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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.

Beautiful.

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.

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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?  

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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.

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To learn more about Kyryl, or to find out more about his classes, please visit Kyryl Dance

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Interview With Nipa Rassam- Dance= Connection. Conversation. And it’s Contagious!

Nipa4What got you into dance?

I was always interested in dancing in general. And partner dancing came along for me about fifteen years ago.  A friend asked me to go to a salsa night. I had no idea what to expect.  We took the lesson. I thought it was pretty intense. I didn’t know what to do.  And after that, the floor opened up for social dancing.  I saw people were dancing together in a way that looked as if they already knew each other, like they were actually couples.  But then when they finished the dance, they said thank you and then went their separate ways.  And I thought how did that happen? How do they know how to dance with each other, without knowing each other? How do they know when to turn and what to do?  That was my first exposure to partner dancing. And so I wanted to learn. Continue reading

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

Dancing’s Appeal to the Senses- Interview With Danielle Felices

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I know you dance a few different styles of dance, but … is Zouk your favorite (smiles)? 

Oooh that is a loaded question! Currently, yes, Zouk is my favourite. I guess that is pretty clear to people who have met me. (smiles)

 What it is about Zouk that draws you to it?

When I think about what draws me to Zouk, I think first about what draws me to dance in general, and a few things come to mind. To me, dance is about passion, connection, emotion and technique. I was drawn to Zouk because it really resonated with me in those three areas which are important to me. I have found a new level of passion in myself and my dance through my journey so far in Zouk. I am passionate about the music, my personal development, the growth of the Zouk community, and I love learning more about myself and others through this dance. 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

Interview with Bellydancer Ashley Rhianne

Ashley3What sparked your interest in bellydance?

I saw my first bellydancer at age 14. It was at a goddess fair in Langley.  Being a Bohemian hippy teen, I was super inspired and wanted to learn how to dance like those women.  I had studied ballet for several years and then jazz dance, and bellydance was something totally different and up my alley.

I had also been fascinated by Egypt since I was little, and the music seemed to touch a chord deep inside me.  I started to look around White Rock, where I grew up, for classes. And I came across a teacher named Nahida who had danced in Egypt. I started taking her classes in 1995, and the rest is history!

Was dance and performance part of your upbringing? 

I was a natural performer since pretty much from the time I could walk.  My parents and younger sisters don’t dance, but my father loves to perform and be on stage.  He was often organizing lip sync contests at his work where he was the lead singer, and was quite addicted to karaoke for a while!  My paternal grandmother was a dancer and danced pretty much up to her death at 85.  I definitely take after her.  She was one of the brightest sparks I ever knew.

Continue reading

Our Perception of What We Can Do

“Dance can be very frustrating if you feel that you can’t get a Ashley4- by Daudimovement. 

But we have all been there!

So, as a teacher, I want to try to limit that kind of discouraging experience as much as possible.

The frustration can start to limit our perception of what we can do.

Dance is supposed to make you feel good, at the end of the day.  So I want THAT to be the strongest take- home feeling for my students.”

                 ~Ashley Rhianne

 

 

 

The Signs Are Everywhere!

Thank you to my beautiful friend Michelle for connecting me to the Sufi Poets again, particularly Hafiz’s collection- “I Heard God Laughing”.

How fitting that the very first poem focuses on the Freedom to Dance!  Dance Me Free- I’m telling you, the signs are EVERYWHERE!

“You are with a Friend Now

Hafiz describes some of the preparations required for the inner ‘Journey of Love’. He urges us to let go of habitual negative attitudes and unnecessary attachments, which only weigh us down.  To make this Journey, we must be light, happy and free to go Dancing!” by Daniel Ladinsky- translator

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I wish I could show you

When you are lonely or in darkness,

The Astonishing Light

Of your own Being!

~ Hafiz

…I say use dance to not only help you bring out this light in yourself and others around you, but to also dance out the darkness.

Even the Sufis, from hundreds of years ago, knew the power and magic of Dance to Heal!

Jessica Lamdon- Why Zouk? Photo Feature

I love how my passion for dance has allowed me to meet people from all over the world-people who, I’m sure, I might not have met otherwise. Some of these individuals are inspiring teachers, others literally take my breath away on the dance floor, and a few have an infectious energy about them that is so uplifting for any who are around them.

Jessica Lamdon happens to be one of those rare souls in the dance world that demonstrates all of these qualities.

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Not only is Jessica a beautiful dancer and performer- invited to congresses and dance festivals throughout many different countries, but she is also an encouraging and warm hearted individual. Her personable, welcoming nature motivated me to want to learn Zouk more.  But it also helped me feel connected to something at a time when I was feeling lost and heavy hearted.

Sometimes, the right words at the right time can lead us to places we didn’t even know we would go. Continue reading

Showing Me the Way… Through Dance

“Good Lord, show me the way.”

Thank you for choosing Dance as one of those ways…

This video is beautiful. It truly embodies what I think Dance Me Free’s Message.

(Please note, Dance Me Free is not claiming any rights to the video. We just want to share it to thank the creators, choreographers, and artists behind it. Thank you for inspiring more writing, more dancing, and more magic with this breathtaking piece).