Interview with Michal Malitowski and Joanna Leunis

Interview with Michal Malitowski and Joanna Leunis

Posted on Sunday, 28 Mar 2010, 13:32 by andreSoares
Read: 35,845

We met Michal and Joanna at their Bournemouth hotel the morning after they had retained their United Kingdom Open title and enjoyed talking with them, listening to and learning from these great dancers. At the start Joanna was busy with her dress sponsors and we talked just with Michael but for cohesion we have brought Joanna's words forward to fit within the framework of our questions. Michal and Joanna are the Polish Professional Latin Champions, European Champions, World and Blackpool Champions. See their results page and photos in our galleries.

...still at the moment we feel challenged and inspired to improve and with the great field of dancers behind us

We would like to begin by congratulating you on your win and wish you the best for the future. Please can you tell us now a little about you and how and where you began to dance, and your career to date?

[Michal] I started when I was 8 years old in Zielona Gora. I was living in a communistic style apartment block. Iwona (Golczak) was living in the same block. She was on the 10th Floor and I was on the 5th floor. Our parents knew each other and as there was not much to do in Poland at that time they had this wonderful idea that we should dance together and so we joined a club. I was playing football then but I also liked to dance so we went to the club and then to a school and so we started and we began competing.

[Joanna] I started dancing when I was 10 years old. I had started dancing other styles of dancing from when I was 6 but I always had dancing in my blood. When I was 3 years old I danced with my grandfather. He was in a wheelchair and I was dancing with him and then my Dad, he would hold me in his arms and dance. I have loved dancing from the moment I could walk, and I always wanted only to dance. So this style Ballroom and Latin I started when I was 10. It was not very popular in Belgium. Even today it is not so popular but then it was not advertised but just by coincidence there was an advertisement in my primary school, an invitation for like an "open door". I had just recovered from being very ill and my Father knew that I always wanted to dance so he found this invitation and he said "If you want then we can go and have a look". Immediately I fell in love with it. So that was how it all began. At that time it was difficult there were no partners. There was one boy but he did not want to dance with me because I was a beginner.

And now he wishes!! (much laughter)

[Joanna] After a few months he was watching me dance around and he thought OK maybe she has got talent and so after another few months watching he said "OK, maybe now you are ready to start to dance with me". So we began to dance together and we began to compete because his parents were in the competitive world. Actually his parents were our first teachers and so I came to competition dancing because of him. We danced together for more than 2 years but his real passion was ballet dancing. He was always dancing ballet and so after the 2 years, he stopped dancing with me and went to the ballet. There were no other partners but I kept going and I finally found some partners. But this was still at the beginning and you know how it is, nothing was serious or lasted long. Then there was one boy who was really good and we became partners and won Belgian Championships. We were doing ten dance and we were champions of Belgium in both Standard and Latin. We carried on dancing together until he decided he would stop dancing because of University.

So I had to find another partner. At that time because we were doing International competitions I had already heard about and seen some great dancers. At that time Louis and Julie (van Amstel & Fryer) were dancing and they were my idols. Olga Muller was another idol and I was so impressed and I wanted to be as good as they were. I heard from Louis and Julie that their coach was Ruud Vermeij and so I got his book from him and I became really interested in what he said and what he did. So somehow I got a connection with him. At that time I think I was 14, I begun working intensively with Ruud Vermeij and he began coaching me and he helped me to find my next partner. He was from Slovakia, Mario Wild. I danced with Mario and we started becoming more famous on the international scene. We were doing more competitions and that was when I first met Michael.

We know very well about your partnership with Michael and the many great successes that you shared with him but how did you meet and dance with this young man? He was not as famous as you

[Joanna] The moment I had the try-out with him I felt good and that this partnership could be great. I was becoming unhappy with Louis and how things were going with our partnership. I already had some doubts and felt I needed to make it happen for myself. Louis was more into the theatre and Broadway and the showbusiness side of things. I was not really into it and still wanted to compete.

[Michal] And your coach thought I would be fantastic for you.

[Joanna] Ruud hinted to me that he saw a very good Polish guy and I should look at his face (laughter). I remember being at Blackpool with Ruud sitting on the front of the short side and he was dancing. I was impressed and thought "Wow he is quite nice".

Quite nice as a boy or quite nice as a dancer?

[Joanna] Both. I thought he would be a great partner for me but he was dancing with Iwona and I was dancing with Louis, so there was no question of changing. Because I was not so happy with the way things were going I was open (little laugh). It was a month later when I decided to stop dancing with Louis because it was going in a direction that I did not feel comfortable with. Then Michael e-mailed my coach, my teacher, and asked if I was available. Then we got together and we had a try-out and from the beginning it was the same as with Slavik, I had this feeling this conviction that it was going to work.

[Michal] We knew each other from the various competitions. I had been a fan of her dancing when she was dancing with Slavik. After they split I had a phone call from her coach Ruud (Vermeij) who somehow had always liked my work, how I was dancing and wanted me to dance with Joanna. At first I said No because I was still at University studying and I was happy with how I was. Afterwards though I was thinking about it and then we met again in New York. I had moved to New York when I split with Iwona and I wanted to stay in New York and study other styles of dancing, contemporary styles. Then I found out that Joanna had split with Louis (van Amstel).

Michael you of course had your Blackpool success with Iwona

[Michal] Yes probably that was the highlight of our partnership winning the Under 21 at Blackpool. That established us. It was only a short Amateur career for me. Only 2 years. I was dancing in Amateur with Iwona. Then our paths separated she found a partner and I found Joanna. Iwona wanted to continue to dance Amateur but I was ready to go to the Professionals. Joanna had already won the World Championship with Slavik so I decided it was time to move on and join the Professionals. I could become something in the Professionals then the Amateurs coming to Professional would have to "catch up" and so that plan worked.

When you met was this a perfect match from the start or were there problems to synchronise yourselves, etc

[Michal] I had only ever had one partner before, I had never danced with another partner and I was only used to that one thing but with Joanna that first day was unbelievable, it was just "Bang. That's it". By the second day we already knew we were going to dance together. There were no doubts. I had had other try-outs, Joanna had had other try-outs, but this was different. Even on first day we began improvising. I think we had similar backgrounds, University then I had contemporary dance styles like jazz and Joanna had her ballet and jazz and so we clicked and began throwing ideas on the table. The dance feeling was there straight away and we talked how we wanted the dancing to go, the direction for the career. There was no rocky start, we just clicked. Three weeks later we had put a show dance together and one month later we won the World title in Showdance. So that was really quick. We created the material within a couple of days and were ready to perform.

That was very impressive. Michael which competition stands out in your mind the most? The most important for you?

[Michal] There are a couple of highlights and the first one for sure was winning the Blackpool Under 21 title in 1999 when I was young. I was 19 and to see all those people clapping for me that was very nice and special. Then with Joanna, each of the wins carries something special. Most of the wins are tough. All the English titles, the Europeans, the Worlds they are each very special, personal and individual. When you look at the Programme at the end there is only your name but every year carried different experiences, was different with different preparations, and different things you go through. The sickness, the fighting, all these together make every win something special to you. The competition I will always remember was the breakthrough, the time when we become Champions. That was 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall. That was the first time that I won a major Professional event and I thought "Now I could be a Champion". This was the moment of realisation. In a very short time from Amateur boy, very quickly in to finals and then to win what you could call a "Grand Slam" and to win in the Royal Albert Hall and from then that moment stays in my mind. Winning everything for the first time is special. I remember when Bryan and Carmen retired and we won the Europeans in Kiev and Slavik was dancing and that was his home town so it was a very big and special moment. It was a case of The Big King has retired and now will a new King come through. That was 2007.

Joanna and of your many successes with Slavik and now with Michael which is your most memorable?

[Joanna] With Michael it was definitely when we won Blackpool for the first time. Everyone who was close to us was there, Ruud was there and Peter too. It was wonderful and also the dancing had felt so good so it was an accomplishment from all aspects. Of course also the first time I made the final at Blackpool as an Amateur. That was a shock and quite something for me. Our first World Championship win was another special highlight.

Yes I remember watching on Eurosport and how you both reacted with so much emotion

[Joanna] Yes but it was a very stressful competition and with the open marking also, it is a bitter sweet feeling. Also the World Championship in Blackpool last November was very special. We had all the family come over and all the fans came over so it was a very warm and comfortable feeling. To win the World title for a second time that was also special.

Yes, to be a multiple Blackpool winner is a different group of people

[Michal] It is a nice and very satisfying feeling to do it all over again and be able to defend the title. It is like you defend yourself.

[Joanna] I had that experience of winning once and then stopping. I always felt that I did not profit from the experience. I don't mean profit so much as proving to yourself that you are capable. To do it once is quite easy but to be able to do it again is really hard.

Quite Easy! (laughing)

[Joanna] Well to be able to win once is one thing but to repeat it again is different.

[Michal] No disrespect to those who only won once because it is extremely difficult but being able to do it a second time is a special feeling. You cope with the extra pressure and there are those who want you to be beaten so you fight against those too.

No I was just thinking about the many thousands of dancers who don't find it "quite easy" ( more laughter)

[Joanna] I am thinking more for myself. To face my challenge. To be able to do it again and win it again which I never experienced before but I have managed to do with Michael. I think that is a strength in our partnership that we don't just do it once. We are really hard workers mentally and physically and that is our strength.

Talking about stress did you feel greater pressure as a challenger or as the Champion

[Joanna] Definitely there is more pressure now. I am becoming more experienced in dealing with the stress but there is much more for us than before. When we were challenging there always seemed more freedom. However as you become more experienced and learn to cope it starts to feel manageable.

[Michal] Definitely as a Champion. There is no comparison and people do not understand. There are few people who know the pressure on the champion. For the challenger it is so easy I have to say. But it depends how you mentally prepare for the competition. The best competitions I remember were when I felt I was only challenged by myself, I was having a competition with myself.

But I am becoming better at dealing with the effect of the challenges and it is strange how it changes. For instance at the International it was Riccardo and Yulia but at the Worlds it was Franco who took some dances off them so suddenly a different scenario. As challengers they are being challenged. It becomes different and changes the feeling for the UK for instance. You know though there is always someone at your back and you are never safe. If you are No.1 then you are challenged by everybody.

Do you ever think of yourself as being a part of dance history now?

[Michal] More and more actually. Now I feel it more. It is a funny thing becoming a part of "the establishment". When you win one title you think "OK, so it happened" but then you win a second and then another. When I look in the programmes now and see our names and I think "Wow, we are up there with the Stylianos, the Fletchers, Laird, Donnie, Stopford and Bryan". Some titles like International we have already won more times than some of these people and that is special.

Do you have any disappointments? Do you remember any competition when you were disappointed with your result?

[Michal] Yes, many. I, as a dancer, experienced everything. I am a perfect example and when I teach, probably this is why I will be a good teacher, because I experienced absolutely everything. First I was a nobody and I was out first round, then I was a semi-finalist and so I was a challenger, now I am the Champion and I am being challenged. So I experienced the competition from many different perspectives. That is one thing but for me there was also disappointments even when I won the competition. That happened a few times when I was disappointed with the dancing and that is the biggest disappointment you can get. I can remember one experience in Blackpool and we were 4th and people were stamping their feet not agreeing with that result. So although we were only 4th I keep it in my memory because of the way the people reacted, and our dancing. Other competitions we have won and yet not one person has come and said anything to us. This is a disappointment because I am losing the competition without losing.

When the prize giving is over do you enjoy the public coming to you or is your feeling I am tired (laughing) I just want to get away from here

[Michal] Yes, it is the demands. It is the extra demands which come with the success. Some people like it and some people do not. More and more I am becoming a different person. I am a very sociable person I mean from my background, being Polish, raised in a community life style with my sister, my cousins, my friends. I was a very sociable person but now in the position in which I am it becomes more like Nureyev. He was saying "last one in, first one out". He just wanted to arrive do the job, be fantastic, and then get out. I am becoming more and more like this. So to answer your question. No, I do not really enjoy having people all around me and people talking to me between the rounds. I find this so distracting but I am becoming better with it. What we are doing I treat seriously and I do not see it as social dancing. You need so much mental strength and focus and to be Professional and people can be distracting.

I have noticed this how with other couples I can have a few words between the rounds but with you it is like "Go and do not disturb me".

[Michal] Yes, absolutely. I am really concentrated before dancing. You are getting ready and it is interesting how the mind goes and the mind is very quick and sometimes just one comment can throw you out so much. Of course we have to deal with this. Competition dancing is happening and it is all around you not like stage dancing where you can isolate yourself. I don't really enjoy this social part, all mingling, standing around where the judges are, where the people are. For that reason I like the International Championships the best. You go out and do your thing and do not see anybody. Some people are very sociable but at that time everyone is stressed and one is talking, one is screaming, one is overly happy, one is posing, I do not know anyone who is not stressed out but we all handle it different ways.

As the Champion do you feel any obligation with the work that you present? You must know that others particularly the younger ones are going to think, yes, we have to dance that too.

[Michal] People say this, some teachers say this but I do not think that I am any sort of icon that other people will follow. I don't feel that. I remember when I was younger looking up to great dancers but, no, I don't feel any stress because of that.

How do you feel when you go to watch some Youth competition or younger Amateur and you see 3 or 4 little Malitowskis on the floor?

[Michal] To be honest I don't see that many followers of our style.

But even your look, your hair, or Joanna. It is like your copy on the floor.

[Michal] I think that is a shame because everybody should find their own unique style. That was always our point. I think we managed to achieve that. As Champions we are probably the least copied couple mainly the work we are doing is quite difficult to copy. For some reason it was easier to copy the previous Champions. For instance Bryan. I remember when I was dancing a few years ago there were many more Donnies or Bryans on the floor. I do not have a problem with people copying, I just think it is a shame because you should find your own identity.

The real shame is that they don't dance as good as you (laughter). When a dancer is on the floor how much of a different personality do you think they portray is really them?

[Michal] To some extent everybody is really different, because the things that we do we would not do in normal life. It is weird what we do. You want to be true to yourself but definitely, for me, there is a shift in persona. I put a different hat on. I think this is true of the best dancers. It is yourself which speaks through you but definitely it is a different personality out there and thank God. Thank God, we are not bringing that off the floor!

Some of the dancers are as arrogant in their private lives as they are on the floor

[Michal] That is a different issue. It happens sometimes but it is over identification with your persona and who you are and how you behave. I am not going to the grocery shop with my Blackpool hat on. I am not asking the shop assistant for the carrots as the World Champion. That would be ridiculous.

Joanna, how do you feel about the "on floor" you and the private you? Is there a difference?

[Joanna] In normal life I am a very shy person. I am an introvert.

(Surprised) You are introverted?

[Joanna] Yes. The dance floor is a way of expressing myself as I would not do every day. This gives me scope for different emotions and different ways of expressing myself.

[Michal] I saw that, when I first started dancing with Joanna. There was a total shift from one persona to the other. Her character is the same, very strong, but it is the personality which really changes. When she is on the floor it is like someone from another planet!

Joanna, as we sit here talking, your whole demeanour is so quiet, your voice is so quiet I am worried that the microphone will not pick up your words. I will say one thing. On that dance foor they should give you an Oscar (outbreak of laughter)!

[Michal] Yes it is good acting!

What for you is the most important thing about dancing?

[Joanna] For me, it is to be able to dance to my best. Every time I experience that. I have done the best to my abilities mentally and physically. That I was totally free and "in the moment" to be really into what I have chosen to do. So, it is an accomplishment. Every competition this changes and becomes for that competition alone. I cannot say what is going to be the main focus for the next competition but when I know it that will become my idea for the competition, my motivation and inspiration. If I achieve that, then I am happy.

We were talking earlier about the disappointments, so how would you advise a couple to deal with it? Some deal with it an easy way and split...

[Michal] And sometimes that's a good idea. It is complicated but I think that sometimes people misunderstand what is happening at the competition. It is a happening, a big event - it is very easy to be missed. The judges must see you to mark you and there is a whole crowd, it is a jungle out there, and you can be missed. So, if it happens one time, well, that is bad luck but if it happens more then have a look and think. Perhaps the judges might be right not marking you. I always felt that somehow the result was secondary that I knew better if I did a good job or not.

If you want to be true to yourself, watch the competition, not even the next day when you are still emotional, but a week later. I remember there were times when I was so angry about the result and then I did this and I realised, Yes the judges could be right.

Be more modest?

[Michal] Yes, be more modest. Be more realistic and actually put the work in, and even if you did, then ask yourself did the product deserve to be in the next round. I think people are too big headed about it. I am not saying this now because I am winning. I remember when I was expecting to be in the next round and I was not and I thought "How is that possible?". I remember at the International I went out in the 48 and I was expecting to be in the semi-final. I remember those moments but if I look back I think "Oh well, I did not dance all that good". I was counting on all the Latin judges who knew me, but then when some Ballroom panel was on, I was just dancing bad. As simple as that. So my advice would be: be more realistic, put much more work in, demand more from yourselves and not from the others. Do not blame the judges, do not blame your partner, or the costumes, or something else. It is all just excuses. People have excuses for everything, but generally the work has not been done. It is what we call a make-up. Make-up excuses. Everybody has them.

Will you try to go to Blackpool with all new choreography? Do you prepare for Blackpool in any special way?

[Michal] We prepare for every competition differently even if it is same result. For instance now we just spent 3 weeks in Australia working with our coach Ruud Vermeij. It was over Christmas and we did not have a break. We were changing choreography for the UK. For us every competition is a new re-assessment. We are assessing and preparing, checking who is dancing, what are the possibilities, what we should do and, according to this, we are always flexible in our planning. We don't just take a competition because it is there. We are always planning, checking if we are fit and the stamina is there and if changing choreography can bring improvement to the dancing. Definitely Blackpool will be a lot of preparation and a lot of new thoughts and ideas. It is not just another competition and this is how we work.

Talking about Blackpool we hear so many people say they do not like the Latin Music at Blackpool. How do you feel about it?

[Michal] Love it!

[Joanna] Yes, I love it.

[Michal] I love it and I like the new orchestra but with the old songs. This new orchestra is very good orchestra but the new songs are not the same, not so good.

Even though you are a champion you are at the same time a student. What do you believe is a better strategy for couples, to have one coach, 2 or 3 coaches or go to many of them seeking information from any source. Which works the best?

[Michal] It is a very personal thing I think. Whatever works for you. I believe that the best coach is you, yourself anyway. Master the coach inside you, because you do not see yourself alone on the floor and that is something you must do, because you teach yourself the best. If you do not have that strong identity of who you are and know that feeling of self improvement, if you do not understand the information and what you are doing with it and teaching yourself during practise then there is no way you can make it. So that is No.1 advice, be the best coach for yourself. Then only starts the other people who can help you. Those who can help you with your style. I find that loyalty pays off. What I see now, as a champion, is, that those who have been loyal to their teachers have more success than those who were jumping. There are these people who have been around they tried this and that, they try something else and years later they never make it. We would need to do real research on it but my feeling is, that those who have been loyal and have one coach have been more successful. We have help from few teachers for which we are very grateful, people who are helping in different areas, but at the end it is Joanna, myself and our Coach Ruud who make the final decisions. That's how it is and it is working and if you put it like this then other teachers will respect that. If you are honest about it then they do not feel jealous.

What is your feeling on the subject of coaches judging? Should they judge or should they only coach?

[Michal] That is a complicated and difficult question to answer. At the moment we are searching for perfection. At the moment we really only have opinions but somehow we all agree with, say, 90% of the results. We have likes and dislikes but I always felt that basically the decision was right. Whether I was winning or not winning I always felt that somehow the results were normally OK. We can all have different opinions but overall the system is not so bad. We could have some improvements. It is a little bit mixed really. We have some established English judges that are coaching, teaching and judging. This group does everything. Then we have the group who are mainly judging. They are English champions who are now not teaching so much, but they are judging, so already we are starting to have those who are judging and not teaching and then more and more we have the people who are great coaches but they are not judging. Our coach is never judging. This is his choice, he has his plans and this is what he decided. I am comfortable with it and like it as it is his choice. So actually already there is an element of what you suggested. I myself have no hard opinion on it. But then there is another matter. You want people to be only judges but the fee is not good enough. So how do you expect these people to survive? It is as simple as that. On the other hand, if your judging is a vehicle for your business as a teacher, then that also is not good. At the moment, although it is mixed with all variations, somehow it works. I know there has been a lot of criticism about the English establishment controlling it, but everyone comes here and gets a fair result. The English couples are not doing so good. In England nearly all the teachers are involved in the judging and yet the results are fair.

There are those who disagree with that...

[Michal] Such as?

Mainly those who are not getting the results they think they should. They say they are not coming to England again. Possibly that is down to dance politics. But it is a good question, are the politics going this way because of the feelings?

[Michal] I think if it is up to young kids that they take so much of the lesson to tell me about all the politics. I am shocked that they know so much about the politics. That scares me. I had no idea when I was dancing. These kids who should be working to dance better tell me all these stories, whether they should dance this, not dance that, and I am wondering "Do they have time to think about this?" Being 17 and 18 shouldn't you be practising your rumba walk? It scares me that they are so concerned and have such strong opinions about it. I do not know whose fault this is. Is it their coaches, or something they do on their own? I just feel that it is too big a deal that they even think about these things when their dancing is not good enough to be in the next round.

Is it not a good excuse for a coach to use? Why their pupils are not getting better results...

[Michal] It could be. That could be the explanation. I know this is a very old fashioned idea but to me the best dancing always wins. End of story. If people have tears in the eyes and they clap for you that is it! "Bingo", it is finished. It is a success and you are going to be successful. If you are not good enough then it is easy to talk politics a few marks here or a few marks there. If you are really great, if you are outstanding, then you will be surprised who will mark you. I thought people who were marking me 6 hate me, and then one day I have a great competition and I find they have marked me much better. How did that happen? I did not have lessons with them. What has happened in the past you can turn around by good dancing. It is not necessary to have lessons with that judge and so many people misunderstand that. Judges are only people, they can also feel, they listen to the music, they feel the dancer, they feel the audience. They also get emotional. People underestimate that.

There is the discussion is dancing a sport or an art, do you have an opinion on that?

[Michal] Well, you know after doing 5 rounds yesterday and by the end feeling dead, that it is so physically demanding that is sport enough. The body is working, the muscles are working, the fitness is needed, the stamina is needed, it is no joke. The preparation is very sporty, the body aspect is sporty but the attitude is not sporty. I think the attitude towards dance should be artistic, should be aesthetic. That is misunderstood by many, I think. I do not think those two things go against each other. I think they complement each other. What we do is a very combined activity. When I am competing, I feel like I am a competitor, like I am a sportsman and I am an artist all in one. I feel no distinction between them. I have to be fit to do the 5 rounds but if I show only the physical side in competition that does not look good. There has to be the beauty; the aesthetic quality this has to be the goal. To achieve the art and aesthetic qualities is the goal but if you have not got the stamina you cannot do it, so what is the point.

[Joanna] It is both. You need to be fit and physically prepared for the competition but then there is the artistic performance with the movement and the different styles you can play with and include in your performance. We take a lot of classes in contemporary and modern dancing. The Art side is very important. Michael often gets inspired by books or paintings. Really artistic influence.

Changing topic a little bit. Are you a couple in private life?

[Michal] Yes

You looked at Joanna as you said that (laughter)!

[Joanna] (with a little laugh) He is so private about it. I never know if I should say it.

Do you think that it helps you or disturbs the dancing?

[Michal] Very much both. It does not make any real difference. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it disturbs.

Do you have time for a private life?

[Michal] Yes, we have a good private life. At times you feel a little bit tired from all the demands.

So you still have time for friends and family?

[Michal] Definitely I have a strong bond. I am a family guy really, so I try to do as many family things as I can. My family is in Poland and tomorrow I will go to see them.

The temperature is minus 28 c (18.4 F) there, now in January

[Michal] That I don't miss. I much rather have the sun in Australia. But I am very close with my parents, with my sister and all my cousins. I love them dearly and they have sorted me from when I was little. I am very grateful that I have a strong connection with my family. I try to have them at events whenever I can. They were not here yesterday but I will take them to Blackpool. I really enjoy having them there, it gives me a sense if normality. It is strange. If I talk to my Mum for 5 minutes then I always dance better. It reminds me it is all a little game it helps me to identify who I am and how people see me, because I do not see myself as others do. I walk onto the floor and I am just a normal guy who other people see as a World Champion. Talking to my family and how they talk to me is different to others and this gives me a very nice balance. What I do is just a cha cha cha. Yes, I do it very seriously, it is very serious and important for me. I do what I do very seriously but I do not take myself seriously and my family make it normal. I have many friends in the dance world but a lot of friends from outside. I finished University in Poland it was a Dance Certification M.A. And I have friends from there and friends around the world.

You are one of the few dancers who have a higher education

[Michal] Yes, it was not easy. I am very lucky because my father was very pushy for it. And I am grateful to him now. When I was travelling he would make so many arrangements. He would take my student book that needed completing and drive to the University and explain that I was in, say Japan, but I had read the books (laughter). And he would make them listen and he would convince the Professor I had done the work because I need this MA. (Laughter) It was hard but it was good and I have a Master Degree because of my parents and this has made me a richer person for sure.

You have to think about a life outside dancing?

[Michal] For sure. Competing is for a very short time in comparison with your life. It is a shame that we do not have an Education System within the dance structure. Joanna and I were talking about it and how nice it would be if people could have both. I was very lucky but I was doing real Amateur (almost part time hobby) dancing until I was 22. I was not really a Professional dancer I was at school and then University. Now it is so different, really professional, and I feel for a lot of people it would not be possible. It is not because they are stupid or lacking intelligence, it just is not possible. I was very lucky. I was not a specialist, I was just lucky. There is the situation when to achieve something in the dancing, the education must stop.

Do you have a Fitness Regime and Eating Regime?

[Michal] More or less, yes. If there is anything that comes on the market or is written about with regards to fitness we are having it. Any new ideas about how to get fitter or have more energy is important. We are on top of that all the time. We speak to sports people, we speak to coaches, we speak to people in football, we speak to people in the theatre. We want to know it all. We have special diets, we have special methods of preparation. More and more what we eat we basing it on our own experience. In the past, it was about how is it done and now it is OK, we have done it. It is our experiences what has worked best for us, what we did for that competition. We ask ourselves: did we overtrain, did we undertrain? Let's eat that in future because you felt better. Or for jet lag, let us go for a week in future, because 5 days is too short. So in the end you are following what has worked best for you. You want to be the best on the floor and at that moment you want to know what it is all working for you and if you feel good and it has helped. If it means we must train 6 hours a day, then we train 6 hours a day. If it means we must relax for 5 days before the competition, we do it.

We were talking to a couple yesterday and they said that you have this incredible ability to dance even better in the final. I mean you will dance well all rounds and then even better when it matters most. Is this intentional, maybe save energy, is there some method in it?

[Michal] It depends on the competition. Sometimes the feeling is not the same as the look. I have people saying the final was great and I am thinking it was my worst round. Maybe in the final the feeling, the costuming, etc. come out better. Maybe it is the others are not rising to the final. We try to treat the whole evening, the whole competition, as equal and equally important. We never intend to underdance the first rounds. Our intention is never to save energy and give it only in the final. This has never been our style. If anything, we want to have the best first round possible and then assess the title is ours. That is always the idea. If it does not go like this then we have to prove it over and over again through every round. If people see it like this it is not our intention. Perhaps there is the realisation, well, this is it now. This is when the comparison becomes the reality. This is when they put the marks down. So perhaps, yes, the feeling is a bit different because this is the time. Even if it was in judges mind that you were 1st in 1st round now is when they have to do it.

If you had power over the dance world and you could change anything that you wished, what would you change? The Rules, the Judging, the style of dancing...

[Michal] There would be a slight change in everything so the list would be very long. For example, after dancing 5 rounds yesterday I think why do I have to do 5 rounds. As a champion, why do we have to be assessed against couples in the 96 for instance. The way the comps are you are always busy. So if you wish to stay at the top you constantly are travelling and dancing, it is not just the 3 English competitions. If you add the Nationals, the Worlds the Europeans and a few others and you are chock a block. There should be a season. There should be much bigger prize money so that we do not have to kill our bodies after a big competition by teaching and doing shows.

[Joanna] You would get a higher standard of competition if there were not so many. We dance only the minimum.

[Michal] We do only the minimum and we improve. We see others who do a lot and don't improve. So, I would put a lot more money into the competitions and not have so many in the "off season" periods.

The Judging System?

[Michal] The judging system is very good.

[Joanna] I like the judging system in England very much. I like, for instance, the International where you have so many judges. There may be judges judging who have couples but with so many it does not matter. When you go, for instance, to World Championship or European it becomes far more risky with only 9 judges and you find very nationalistic markings. Judges going for their own country...

[Michal] As I said somehow the best always wins; there seems to be some sort of fairness about it. Maybe they could have something like the Police of the Police. Some sort of Forum or group which could control the judging a little bit. Everybody can have their own opinion but if he is marking 6th when everyone else is marking 1st he has to take some responsibility. Not be punished, but simply asked to make a report. People are judging but carrying no responsibility. All comments and things are done in a gossipy way. It should be done in an official way.. If complaints are going to be made then this should be proven. For instance you marked your couples. I think the competitors would feel a little bit better if they felt the judges were also being judged.

[Joanna] I agree that if one judge marks 6 and all others are marking 1 then that Judge should be asked to make an official report as to his reasons for the markings. Justify his placings and maybe that could be a learning point for other judges.

What is your opinion on the new IDSF Judging System

[Michal] I do not know much about it

Briefly, each couple has to dance separately. They get a mark rather than a comparison placing.

[Michal] I would have to see it. I would have to talk to the couples and see how they like it.

Of course this is done only in the final because if it was done in every round Blackpool would take a year and a half

[Joanna] Exactly

[Michal] I can see a whole lot of hassle to only see the same results. It seems to me to be a whole lot of paper work for very little assessment

Do you feel that it is better for couples to be marked ice skating style with a score dancing solo or to be judged on a comparison basis and being placed 1 to 6.

[Michal] There is something beautiful about our dancing. And that we are dancing together. I personally enjoy dancing solo for shows but it is exciting and beautiful and adds something when you have 6 couples dancing against each other. You need to be careful, it could change things. We were dancing show dance and one couple who were in no way comparable with us, received the same "score". What criteria were being used in this instance?

[Joanna] It is like IDSF have laid down clear criteria by which they must judge.

But how can you say which criteria are most important?

[Michal] It would make sense but then you would have to have laid down figures that must be danced. If you change things and lay down the material, say those figures, this and this, then material, the music, the costumes, then it makes sense but the other way no.

In dancing you have achieved everything that is possible. Every title that is important, even multiple titles so what is your target, your dream?

[Michal] With me, it is a case of trying over the next few months to come out from the competition only environment. We want to reach out and communicate more with our fans, with dancers, with people. We have launched a new web site www.malitowskileunis.com. Through that web site we want to communicate more with the people with the fans that we have built. We want to put there to share videos, experiences, so it is not only about the product but the experience, the stuff that we like, the tastes that we share. We want it to be very interactive with our fans and with the people who really love dancing. We are working on the movie that may, only may, be released this year. It is a Danish company making the film and they were here in Bournemouth filming as well. They are making a film about competitive dancers and there are a few people involved. There is us, Stefano, Slavik with their partners. So there is this project going on so we hope that something will come from that. We want to be busy dancing all the time with our shows. We are looking into maybe in the future doing some stage dancing, we are more and more on television. It is happening for us but not only the competitive dancing.

[Joanna] But still at the moment we feel challenged and inspired to improve and with the great field of dancers behind us as we saw yesterday we need to re-assess ourselves. We need to work with our coach. We need to isolate ourselves in Australia because he lives there, but we really do our best work there. We concentrate on our dancing and do many things to improve and that is inspiring. That is our target.

[Michal] We do not feel we have achieved so much. Maybe on paper it looks impressive but we still feel we have a lot to achieve. It is strange even age wise. I think we are the youngest couple in the final. It might feel like we have been there a long time but there is still a lot ahead for us. We feel that as long as the progress is there that the dancing is happening then it is fun. It is fun to work and to achieve a new quality of dancing and we want more titles. I must say, I still enjoy winning very much. I take great pleasure from every victory. I might feel stressed but I like it.

Thank you!

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Comments

 
andreSoares Sunday, 27 Mar 2011, 21:52

love the interview.

natty Sunday, 09 May 2010, 04:52 they look ssssssoooooooooooo cute together , i love them!!
sevrin13 Friday, 02 Apr 2010, 22:49
diamondgal Sunday, 28 Mar 2010, 16:56 Great interview.  Congratulations to the photographer for some excellent pictures. 
diamondgal Sunday, 28 Mar 2010, 16:56 Great interview.  Congratulations to the photographer for some excellent pictures. 
diamondgal Sunday, 28 Mar 2010, 16:55 Great interview.  Congratulations to the photographer for some excellent pictures. 

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