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

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

Interview with Jason Haynes of SocialDanceCommunity.com

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 DancePlanetDaily.com.  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 SocialDanceCommunity.com (formerly LatinDanceCommunity.com). Continue reading

“Work It Out”- Interview With Reuben Avery

Reuben on Trumpet

I know you first as a musician – specifically as a keyboardist and trumpeter. You have been playing music since you were a child, right? 

Yes, I’ve been playing music since I was very young. I grew up on a farm and in our home there, my family had an old upright baby grand piano. When I was a toddler, I would crawl over to the piano and pound on the pedals. This would shake the sound board enough to make some noise. My mom eventually figured out that I was interested in the instrument, so she popped me in my high chair and sat me in front of the keyboard. I would happily plunk away for hours on end.

Wow! That’s amazing.  And kind of adorable (smiles).

Yeah, I think I have improved a bit since those days (smiles), but we’re not sure since we can’t find the cassette tapes that contained my recordings that were made on our small Fisher Price recorder.

Aww… haha (smiles).

I love how it seems that you chose the instrument, and your mom saw your interest in it and just encouraged it, rather than you being pushed into it. I think forcing kids to take music lessons can sometimes actually make them lose all enjoyment in it.

Yes, well I did eventually start taking piano lessons in grade 2, and was off and on with them throughout my grade school days. I always enjoyed improvising on the instrument and creating my own music…often much more than practising what was assigned to me by my various teachers. As such, piano, has always been my first love and I can still entertain myself for hours on it. I just love being able to create lush harmonies and lay creative melodies over them.   Continue reading

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

New Photo Feature- Marilou and Alessandra Quaglia!

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“When I dance, I forget the bad times and I feel free.“- Marilou

Dance Me Free has been on a bit of a hiatus over the past few months. But we are so happy to be back, not just with some new and exciting interviews, videos and events, but also with an outstanding young dancer as our new photo feature for this season!

All the way from Provence, France, the beautiful Marilou caught my attention with her stunning features, her passionate poses and the way she makes dancing look so effortless and freeing. Continue reading

Help Send Ryan to Italy!

DANCING WITH CYSTIC FIBROSIS
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Ryan Morissette is truly an inspiration to us all. This young dancer not only
rips it up on stage when he performs, but he spends time sharing his art through teaching other kids. He also helps raise money for various charities, AND, what a powerful role model he is to guys who might want to dance but are not always encouraged to because of old gender stereotypes.
Ryan dances at a very high level, competing, training, performing, all the while battling a disease that he has had since he was a child.  But Dance, for Ryan, is healing. It is his medicine.
“I have tattooed on my arm ‘Music is my cure’ and that’s exactly how I feel when I am dancing,” says Ryan Morrissette.
[When I am dancing], “I feel like I don’t have CF. I can just be myself.”

Continue reading

Reminisce on VIS- Interview #5- DJ Ricky Campanelli

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It was such a pleasure to find out first hand from Ricky Campanelli what makes a good DJ. He was so down to earth and approachable, and I loved his enthusiasm towards sharing his thoughts.  Find out in this interview what this grammy nominated producer and DJ is working on next, and why Vancouver is one of Rickys favorite cities!

[Note: This is the 5th and final part to a series of 5 brief interviews under the title Reminisce on VIS (Vancouver International Salsafestival). To start at the beginning, at interview #1, and to learn why and where these interviews were conducted, click here: Reminisce on VIS- a series of five brief interviews)]

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Reminisce on VIS- Interview #3- DJ Montuno

montuno8I’ve heard so much about DJ Montuno and his music, and have often been tempted to travel to Montreal to experience his art first hand. Well, thankfully, he has been travelling quite a bit, even outside of his home city, and we were lucky enough to have him join us at VIS!  It was a pleasure to find out a little about how he got into DJing and what he loves about it.

Continue reading