Interview with Mirco Risi and Maria Ermatchkova

Interview with Mirco Risi and Maria Ermatchkova

Posted on 星期六, 06 9月 2014, 21:26 by admin
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We interviewed Mirco Risi and Maria Ermatchkova the next day after they won the Professional Rising Star Latin at the Blackpool Dance Festival 2014. Mirco comes from Italy and Maria is from Russia but as a couple they represent England.

...the most important thing is to feel emotions, to be emotionally moved, when dancing. I need to feel I am telling a story with dancing.

Congratulations for the yesterday result – fantastic!

[Mirco] Thank you!

How did you start dancing?

[Mirco] I was nine years old. My parents, at the time, started dancing and were going to a dance studio. They took me with them and I watched a bit and played with the other kids there. When they returned home they wanted to practise the steps but could not remember them. I remembered the steps (laughing). So they realised I had this talent for dancing and decided to enrol me in the dance school. It was in my home town in Italy, in Cassino.

Did you start with Ballroom and Latin?

[Mirco] No, I started with a traditional dance. It is called Liscio in Italy. I did some Latin-American dances like Cha Cha and Jive.

When did you start competing?

[Mirco] After five months. We were 5th in the Italian championships. It was quite exciting. About the same time I was doing many other activities as far as I remember. I played the keyboard, played football in a team and also tennis.

[Maria] He was a very busy kid (laughing)

[Mirco] After school I was running right and left! I had too much and I told my parents I cannot do it all. They told me I have to choose one thing. And I decided to go with dancing.

How long did you dance with your first partner?

[Mirco] I think it was three years. Then I had another partner until Youth, then another one for a short period of time. And then, I think it was seven years ago, I met Masha and we started dancing together.

[Maria] Actually yesterday I wanted to check how long we are together. Because I cannot remember! (laughing). Seven or eight years.

[Mirco] Seven and a half.

[Maria] Wasn't it UK Open in 2006?

[Mirco] No, it was UK Open in 2007. It was our first competition.

And what about you Maria?

[Maria] I started when I was five years old. It was before I started the school. Actually I also did a year of classical ballet. My older sister was dancing Ballroom and I wanted it too. I think I was a very active kid so my parents brought me to the classes. It was more like a social dance school, just kids dancing. I loved it and from that moment I was always in it.

Did you have many partners before Mirco?

[Maria] Yes, I think my partnership history is a bit longer (laughing). There were many more little girls than boys. Boys usually prefer football to dancing. So, when I was five or six years old I had a different partner every month. I cannot even count. When I was eleven it became more serious. I had more serious teacher and had a serious partner. I started competing in Junior with that partner. Then I had another one till Youth and then another (laughing).

[Mirco] It must have been your fault you had so many!

[Maria] Maybe. The partnership with Mirco is my longest partnership!

How did you meet?

[Mirco] I was looking for a partner and I came to German Open in August 2006 hoping for some try-outs. Masha and I had some friends in common.

[Maria] Actually, we always say to Nikolai Voronovich and Maria Nikolishina, who are our best friends, that we have to thank them for our partnership because if it wasn't for them we would never meet.

[Mirco] So they gave me Maria's telephone number and I went back to Italy I sent her a message: hello, this is Mirco, would you like a try-out with me? After one day Maria answered that she would come in September to try. She came to Rome, we met and that day, at the try out, we felt we could dance together.

Was it an instant decision?

[Maria] From the moment, when our hands touched and we started dancing, I felt so comfortable, I had this good feeling.

[Mirco] I can understand (laughing)

Modesty... (laughing)

[Maria] It was getting better every day.

[Mirco] The decision was instant but we did not say that to each other straight away as we both had committed to other try-outs as well. It was not easy, Maria was teaching in Moscow and had a regular work there. So to make a decision to move to another country, risk all you have, as you can never be sure it is going to work out...

[Maria] My parents were telling me to consider all the pros and cons, to think about all the things twice before I make the decision. I decided to leave my work and go for it, as my instinct was telling me it was going to be good.

[Mirco] It is hard to leave your solid job, your family, something you rely on and just go. I really appreciated when she did it because I knew it was not easy for her.

How did you meet for the first time?

[Maria] Actually, it is a funny story (laughing). When we met at the airport it was embarrassing. When I first seen him I was not impressed with his looks. But, I must say, as soon as we got in the car and started to talk, I felt like I know him for a long time. He was fun, we felt close.

So, how did your dancing go in the beginning?

[Mirco] When you have a new partner, the first few months are like a honeymoon. You like everything in your partner, you feel it is getting better every day. And of course, that period ends and it starts to be tougher. This is a time you have to practise very hard. We managed to go through it and our first competition was UK Open, in Amateur Rising Stars Latin. It was a great feeling going through the rounds, we did not have any expectations for the result so we were relaxed. We got the second place.

[Maria] It is a great feeling when you have no expectations and you are a new couple and you can just dance. For me it was a new category, new partnership...

[Mirco] Masha was dancing Professional before. She came back to Amateur. She could not came back to Youth because of age. My age of course (laughing).

[Maria] It was great! We were just enjoying the new partnership, we were like flying through the rounds. Getting the second place was wonderful feeling of being appreciated of course.

I guess that there were some results later which you were not that happy about.

[Maria] Of course. It always happens. I remember this first period of time when we just started, everything was open for us, no expectations. After that...

[Mirco] After that came Blackpool where we were expected to win. But we did not get to the semi-final.

[Maria] The next highlight of our career was the final in Blackpool after several years when we were in the top 24.

[Mirco] But if we are talking about bad results that first Blackpool was one. After the 2nd place in the UK Open Rising Star, three months after that, you are expected to win because the couple who won was not dancing Blackpool that year.

[Maria] It felt really bad. But you learn from it.

[Mirco] I think that thanks to that we grew and become stronger as dancers. So we have to be grateful for this bad result that we had then.

From talking to many couples I know that most who are masters now, at some point in the past, had a problem which they managed to go through while many others split up because of that. It is important, when there are bad results, not to blame each other but work through it together as a partnership. That leads me to my usual question: when is the worst thing about your partner?

[Mirco] How much time have we got (laughing)!

[Maria] 3 seconds!

[Mirco] She is a zodiac sign Cancer so when she has to explain something to me she is very detailed on so many things it can take forever (laughing). I guess it is typical for most Cancerians. I am more practical so I need less words to get to the point but it is her way to express.

[Maria] I like to share!

I can see you speak Italian to each other. How is Mirco's Russian?

[Maria] In the beginning it was fun teaching him Russian, but now he knows too much (laughing).

[Mirco] I can understand too much!

[Maria] I have to think hard to use a word he doesn't understand (laughing).

OK, what is his bad side then?

[Mirco] Remember, I was kind with you!

[Maria] He is very detailed in what he does and sometimes he likes to over-analyse things too much. I'd rather prefer to go with the feelings and that's it.

What is good about your partner then?

[Mirco] I like that she can express her feelings easily. She is open and expressive... Actually, I said that was a bad thing and now saying it is also a good thing about her. She like that in life and in dancing. She is very tender, she is a good person.

[Maria] I like his character, I like that he is fun. He has an open heart, he is friendly and sweet. Not always of course! In dancing he has a lot of potential.

[Mirco] I appreciate Maria, as a dancer, for the way she expresses her emotions and how she shows them to the audience around her. She has very expressive eyes.

What is your strength as a couple?

[Mirco] In dancing we like to show the interaction between the man and a woman.

[Maria] We like to concentrate on showing the characteristics of a man and a woman in each dance.

What are your weak points then?

[Maria] Perhaps the biggest problem in our partnership is that we sometimes have different ideas about things. Sometimes we can work it out, but sometimes we are stuck for too long

[Mirco] Yes, it can take a long time. I see things one way and she sees them another way. Meeting in the middle is difficult and we spend a lot of  time to find this understand during practice.

Are you both stubborn?

[Mirco] Yes, we are both stubborn.

[Maria] If I believe something is right, it is difficult to change my mind.

[Mirco] So when we both have the strong belief in our own idea we put it aside and ask teachers to help. Or a friend. Sometimes we ask a friend to watch us and tell us what he things is better.

Do you have one main teacher or many teachers?

[Mirco] We don't have a main coach. I thought about it and decided to go that way because I want to have my freedom in a way. Of course, having one teacher is good sometimes. It is good to have somebody who can advise you but I want to be able to make my own decisions. I want to be making my own mistakes.

So do you go to teachers who each specialise in one area?

[Maria] Yes, our teachers help in different aspects of our dancing. We have somebody who helps us with choreography, some for connection, for emotions, for technique.

[Mirco] We also have somebody who helps us to prepare mentally.

What is the most important element in dancing for you?

[Maria] To be able to express your emotions freely. It is wonderful. I am sure every dancer had, at least once, this feeling that they are free and when you have this feeling you are simply flying on the floor.

When you perform are you showing your own emotions or are you playing a role?

[Maria] I think I am trying to be myself as much as it is possible. Of course, you need to portray some character when dancing certain steps. But you can play with that as well.

[Mirco] For me the most important thing is to feel emotions, to be emotionally moved, when dancing. I need to feel I am telling a story with dancing. Also to affect the audience with it. There are some competitions when you have this perfect balance between conscious and unconscious part of yourself. You feel that you are connected with music, connected with yourself, your instincts and with the audience. This feeling is so unique.

Do you prefer life music or recording?

[Mirco] Definitely an orchestra, no doubt about it.

[Maria] Life music moves you from the first beat! It goes to your heart.

[Mirco] Sometimes you notice a small mistake, some extra strange sound, but it makes it real and unique. You then react to it, then and there.

What do you prefer: shows or competitions?

[Maria] Frome technical point of view I feel better at the competitions. But I also enjoy giving shows because it is more a performance.

[Mirco] There are shows when I feel I can express myself better than at the competition. Competition always brings some tension and stress. At shows I can express myself more.

[Maria] Shows give us more freedom. You are a single couple on the floor, you have your special music and choreography designed to tell a story.

Obviously you have restrictions at the competitions for instance in the choice of steps. Would you remove these restrictions or do you think having restriction improves the overall quality of dancing?

[Mirco] I agree with these kind of rules. Otherwise dancing will go in another direction. I think it is right that if you want to dance something extra you do it at shows. But not during the competition.

[Maria] I agree. On one hand it is good to be free and have no restrictions but on the other hand it can be risky, it can become some sort of circus. As long as you keep some balance, as long as you have some taste and understand what is beautiful and what is too much, then you could try to bend the rules a bit. But people can go crazy, it can be even dangerous on the floor when there are lifts or partners fly around! (laughing)

Can you describe each dance what it means for you?

[Mirco] Cha cha is like the time you meet for the first time and you are flirty with each other.

[Maria] It is playing this kind of game between a man and a woman.

[Mirco] Samba is when you get closer and have more fun with each other. But you are still in a playful mode in Samba. Once you know each other well...

[Maria] Once you flirted then it moves towards real feelings with Rumba.

[Mirco] But then there are always some problems so you start to fight, and this is Paso Doble.

[Maria] It is like a life story (laughing)

[Mirco] Jive is when you resolved your issues and you are happy!

What are your favourite dances?

[Maria] Paso Doble is about the passion, drama. And the same about Rumba. That's why these two are my favourite ones.

[Mirco] Cha Cha and Paso Doble for me.

Did you ever dance Ballroom, do you teach Ballroom? Usually Professionals teach both styles.

[Mirco] I've never danced Ballroom.

Do you like Ballroom music?

[Mirco] Tango is my favourite, maybe because it is really a mix between the Ballroom and Latin in character.

[Maria] Tango is also my favourite dance. I feel it is similar to Flamenco, similar to Paso Doble. There is a lot of passion and drama there.

When you are travelling, who is taking care of tickets, hotels?

[Mirco] I am

Who is driving if you need to drive a car?

[Maria] Also Mirco (laughing)

Who is taking care of cooking?

[Maria] I am.

Very traditional (laughing)!

[Maria] Yes

[Mirco] I mean I can cook. But...

[Maria] He can eat very well. In Italy they have this traditional model where women are taking care of the house and cooking and men just eat!

[Mirco] I am spoilt. Exactly.

What kind of food do you like?

[Maria] I love Italian food. There is so much passion they put in it!

[Mirco] Typical Italian food. I can have pasta any time of the day. I love pizza.

How do you keep in shape while eating these kind of foods?

[Mirco] We try to eat properly. We avoid fried things. I eat pasta every day, but whole-wheat pasta. Before the competition I know I need carbs so I eat pasta (laughing).

[Maria] We both like good food but we know that before the competition we need to be careful. After competition we can go for it if we want to! Some people go on diet three weeks before the competition but this is not good. You should make eating well a part of your life style.

Do you cook any traditional Russian foods?

[Maria] Sometimes I make soups.

[Mirco] She is good with soups.

[Maria] There are only few things in the Russian cuisine which he likes. There are lots of tasty Italian dishes but they are heavy. I would like to cook them sometimes but we need to watch what we eat.

[Mirco] She always uses that excuse for not cooking lasagne!

What Russian foods do you like, Mirco?

[Mirco] I like Ukrainian borsch, I like the "Olivier" salad

Sounds like olive. Are you sure it is Russian?

[Maria] It is funny because in Italy they call it Russian salad. In Russia they call it Olivier. Everybody likes it but nobody wants to take the responsibility! (laughing)

[Mirco] I like pielmeni, blini. I like salmon fish. I like red caviar as well, but not black.

Have you ever tried anything really strange when travelling?

[Mirco] Yes. We tried Chinese food in China but it was too spicy. I don't like spicy food because I want to taste the real ingredient of my food. With spices I just feel burning sensation.

[Maria] I have been to India to a big wedding and had to eat the typical food they served there. I think I lost five kilos during three days I was there! The food was so spicy I could not eat it. I don't normally eat spicy food. I would like to be able to try it all as they had all sorts of different dishes there but I couldn't. It was just burning my mouth and I ended up drinking a lot of water and nothing else.

So you have not tried anything strange for us like snake or crocodile?

[Maria] I had tried a frog in China. This is probably the strangest dish I've ever had. But the taste was OK (laughing)

If you could change anything in dancing what would it be?

[Maria] I think the role of a coach and judge should be separate.

[Mirco] We have some friends outside dancing, who are in the top of their sports like football or tennis. When we said that judges in our sport can also be our teachers they are surprised. Imagine in football that a referee is also a coach of that team! The system in football is such that the professional footballers are paid by the club. They are provided with everything they need to perform their best. While in dancing it is not like this. We have to dance, we have to teach. In some perfect world there will be a federation which perhaps chooses a group of couples and they provide some minimum salary, a hall you can practise in and so on. I know that there are very talented couples in Russia or Italy who cannot afford to dance for money reasons. Our sport is very expensive.

I agree that dancing is very expensive. How do you manage financially?

[Maria] In the beginning we needed a lot of help from our parents. Also, we were teaching as well. But with time, as we got better results and became known better, we started to have more requests for the shows and more teaching work so now the good thing is we do not need support from our families anymore.

What would be your advice to the young dancers to help them manage financially?

[Mirco] Maximise the information they get from their teachers, search the internet for lectures, for information. I don't mean to copy other couples but I remember when I was younger I searched the web for such information all the time. You can find many good examples.

[Maria] In Russia there are lots of talented kids who don't have much money. Their coaches may not be high level but they are very dedicated. They practise till perfection. I know some such people. Thanks to that the kids have very good basics and good foundation.

Who designs your costumes and dresses?

[Maria] Most of the time I do. I like fashion, I like to design dresses. But sometimes it is working together with the designers.

[Mirco] It is easy with me. But Masha is sometimes pushing me to put more stones but I don't see the point of putting so much work for nothing. I always say to her: if I have less stones it shows you sparkling more (laughing).

If for some reason you could not dance, what would you do instead?

[Maria] I would die (laughing)! I don't know really. Maybe I would do interior design or fashion. I'm passionate about it.

[Mirco] I think I would do some other sport. I know what I would not do. My father is an accountant and I even studied accountancy. I see my father sitting on a chair in front of his computer and he loves it but I don't! I like to do something active, something social. I love tennis and football.

So the competitive side of dancing is important for you? Is winning important?

[Mirco] Yes. Results are important as a way to see your improvement or give you an extra push.

[Maria] They are a strong motivation

[Mirco] Motivation to improve.

How do you react to the results you did not expect, for instance they were worse then expected?

[Mirco] We don't complain to judges and we don't blame anything outside.

[Maria] We try to find the problem in ourselves.

[Mirco] Perhaps we could be more committed or practised more and that would have made the opinion of the judges' change. Of course you are upset on the night but they you return to the practice the next day and you have this extra motivation, you want to show them!

Has it ever happen to you that you thought you danced very well but the others told you it did not look good?

[Maria] Sometimes we hear such opinion from our teacher. You feel that you did well but they tell you it wasn't very good. But also I must say that there are competition days when from the very first moment you open your eyes and you feel everything is perfect and these end up in good results for us.

[Mirco] Yesterday was one of those days. Now we feel exhausted. We need a full body massage.

What are your plans for the near future?

[Maria] We feel this is a big step for us in our Professional career. In the very nearest future, in few days on Wednesday, we will put as much effort into dancing the Open event as we did yesterday.

[Mirco] But after Blackpool we will need some holiday on the beach.

Perhaps you can go to the beach here in Blackpool

[Mirco] Oh no. Not in Blackpool.

[Maria] We need more sun.

[Mirco] In Italy.

[Maria] I am not sure, I have not decided where to go yet. But for sure after Blackpool we will spend few days somewhere in Italy with our good friends. We always do so after Blackpool.

OK, have fun and enjoy your well-deserved holiday! Good luck on Wednesday. Thank you for your time.

All photos taken on the day by Peter Suba