It was a pleasure to speak with Valerio Colantoni and Yulia Spesivtseva the day after they had won the Rising Stars Professional Ballroom at Blackpool only weeks after forming their partnership. They represent Russia - see their profile page.
...First you work and improve your dancing and then you think about the result...
First of all may I congratulate you!
[Valerio and Yulia]: Thank you
As it was not a long partnership it makes it an even bigger success. Please can you tell us about you and your dance history and if we start with the beautiful lady first.
[Yulia]: I started dancing many years ago. My mother and father were dancing together and they wanted that I continue to dance. I started when I was 8 or 9 and continued right up till this period.
Where did you start to dance?
[Yulia]: I started to dance in Belogorod. This is the same place as Yulia Zagoruychenko started. She is my best friend and we stayed together in the club for many years. Then Yulia went off to Moscow and after 3 or 4 years I also went to Moscow. There I found a partner who is now my husband, Evgeni Kazmirchuk. We danced together for 7 years but recently we decided it would be better for us if we continued dancing with different partners (laughs). It would be better for our careers and for both of us better results.
This does not interfere in your private lives?
[Yulia]: No, of course not. We stay together are still married and everything is great.
Did you start dancing Ballroom and Latin?
[Yulia]: Yes, we danced the two programmes. With my husband I danced 10 dances and we had very good success.
Valerio, and you?
[Valerio]: I started to dance when I was 12 and I started to dance because I followed my parents who were at dancing school. I started to dance with Sara (di Varia) when I was 21 and it changed my life because I transferred to Florence. Now my life is there, the club is there, my best friend is there. Now, I dance with Yulia and yesterday we had good result (laughter).
So Yulia is your 2nd partner?
[Valerio]: No, my 3rd partner. Before Sara I danced with a girl called Manuela.
So not many partners! (Yulia laughs) You both danced Latin in the past
[Valerio]: Yes. I danced Latin until 3 years ago, but his was just for the 10 dance.
So why did you decide to go Ballroom only?
[Valerio]: I like Ballroom much more than Latin.
[Yulia]: Yes, that is true for me too
So what it is it that is great in Ballroom that you did not get in Latin?
[Yulia]: I think it is a question of your character.
[Yulia]: For me, it is more of a pleasure to dance Ballroom. It is calm and not such a lot of expression to show you are a lady. For me it is to dance in a different way, elegant.
[Valerio]: Yes, I prefer to dance Ballroom. For me it is easier because my body cannot dance all the Latin moves.
Elegance over Flamboyance.
[Valerio and Yulia]: Yes. True. Very true.
Which of the dances do you like the most?
[Valerio]: Waltz for me
[Yulia]: For me I think Foxtrot
How do you practise!! (laughter)
[Valerio]: In this 20 days to practise for Blackpool we did 6 hours each day.
[Yulia]: Non-stop practice
How did you come to form your partnership? How did you hear about each other?
[Yulia]: We stay in one club, one system, so we know each other a very long time. So when I learnt Valerio was looking for a partner I asked him and he said “OK we must try”.
[Valerio]: Yes. Come. Yulia came and we just started to dance no try out. (laughter)
[Yulia]: It was a joke many years ago on a train journey.
It is incredible to win Blackpool after 20 days. It must be a World Record!
[Valerio]: It felt immediately good; the way of dancing, the principles they were the same. For 7 or 8 years we both had the same teachers Mirko Gozzoli, Fabio Selmi, Roberto Borelli so all the ideas were the same. It was to get the body connection because I do not know her body, she does not know my body but the ideas they are the same.
Do you think it is better for dancers to have many teachers so they get a different point of view or just a few.
[Valerio]: I think it will depend upon the character of the person. Some people feel comfortable with one or maximum 2 teachers and some not, they need more. It depends on their character. We have many teachers and we have the ideas of Mirko, the ideas of Fabio and we follow this line. This is our idea.
What do you do apart from dancing. Do you have another hobby?
[Valerio]: I do. After I split with Sara, after the UK, I worked out a lot. Twice a week I go to play football. I like football so much. So this was like a holiday for me.
[Yulia]: For me there is no holiday. In Russia we have a very big club and we must work to improve the couples, so for me, it is only dancing.
What would you imagine yourself doing if for some reason you could not dance. If dancing was forbidden in the world.
[Yulia]: (Laughing) Very good question. At this moment I could not answer the question because I must think.
Where are you actually based at the moment? You (Valerio) are in Italy. You (Yulia) are in Russia so how do you practise (laughter)? By Skype?
[Valerio]: In the 20 days before Blackpool Yulia came to Italy. In July, Yulia will come to Italy for 20 days and then I will go to Russia for the whole month of August.
[Yulia]: We decided that for the moment it is not possible to stay in only one country. So it will be better if we spend one month in one country and one month in the other. I have a husband (laughter) and I cannot live in another country.
[Valerio]: Of course.
Could you describe what are the best and worst points of your partner. What you like about your partner and what you do not like?
[Yulia]: I think in this very short period it is not possible to say, but I feel very comfortable with Valerio and his character is very good for me. I feel good and feel no problems about anything. For me at this moment everything is good.
Except that he lives in Italy.
[Yulia]: (laughing) Yes.
[Valerio]: (Laughing) And I continue to live in Italy. For me for these 20 days Yulia was perfect. For this 20 days (laughter) and I hope also in the future.
So hopefully when you win the Blackpool Professional then we can do another interview and ask this question (laughter)
[Valerio]: Yes, I hope so.
What is the most important thing in dancing for you.
[Valerio]: Good question. I think everything is important in dancing. The technique is good and very important but once you arrive at the top level then you must dance what you want, what you feel. The technique will help you, help your body, help your mind to understand what you do, the mechanics of the movement, but at the top level the aesthetics are the way.
[Yulia]: OK. (And laughs)
Will you tell your pupils that?
[Valerio]: I said, when you arrive at the top level.
When we interviewed Michal Malitowski he said that when he wins a competition if the audience does not come up and say you were fantastic then he feels he lost the competition. If he has not reached the audience and drawn them in, then he has not succeeded...
[Valerio]: Yes, Yes, of course.
You probably feel the same way, that you must reach the audience.
[Valerio]: Yes, exactly, the audience is very important.
[Yulia]: Yesterday the audience for us great, very great.
So did you count how many people came to congratulate you afterwards?
[Yulia]: A lot of people but cannot tell the number.
[Valerio]: For the first time there was a lot of people who came to congratulate yesterday.
[Yulia]: It was very nice.
[Valerio]: Yes, very nice and there was a very nice atmosphere for the competition.
Do you find the sporty side or the artistic side more important?
[Valerio]: The artistic side.
[Yulia]: Maybe... Yes.
Do you always agree like that (laughter)?
[Valerio]: Yulia is Russian, she must confirm what I say.
How do you see your future with the difficult situation which is in dancing today.
[Valerio]: Really for me, I don't know what we must do in the future. We have only been together 20 days and thinking only about Blackpool. Now, after Blackpool, we have to consider what is the best for our career and for our Club.
[Valerio]: At this moment we don't know.
It is bad that dancers are placed in this position...
[Yulia]: It is not a pleasure to have to choose in which direction you must go. This, for us, is a very big big question but we have concentrated on Blackpool until now and we don't know what we will do.
[Valerio]: I think that the job for the dancers is just dance. The political side, the fight between the Federations of course it is our problem and now we have to decide.
Were any of your couples dancing at Blackpool?
[Yulia]: Yes. One of our couples will dance today and I am very nervous because I know that afterwards there will be disqualification and at this moment I do not know what is going to happen.
Is this a Russian or Italian couple?
[Yulia]: It is a Russian Couple.
I am so sorry that you are in this position.
[Yulia]: Thank you.
So in terms of what is happening many of the couples say the dancers should just be dancing and the Federations are there to help dancers over all. Has anybody tried to explain or do you understand why the situation is as it is and how it will help dancers in the long term.
[Valerio]: We feel that the atmosphere is not clear and I have only just turned Professional, this is only my second competition as a Professional. Before, when I was an Amateur, the situation was more clear. Now there is big problem in Amateur. Now we don't know what to do so we just concentrate to dance.
[Yulia]: Few years ago everything was clear. One Federation - one way and we did not need to choose.
One of the questions we ask the couples is about the experiences but in your case the experience is short.
[Valerio]: (Laughing) For sure
So for the last 20 days (laughter) do you follow any special diet or regime to stay in shape.
[Valerio]: No, except maybe more protein than carbohydrate before the competition. Although I am Italian I do not like the pasta so much (laughter). Strange for an Italian.
You are sure you are Italian?!
[Valerio]: Yes I am Italian but I eat pasta only once or twice in the week otherwise it is beef, chicken.
[Yulia]: We eat no special food. We eat like normal people (laughter).
So you are trying to convince the readers you are just normal and they can win Blackpool as well (laughter)
[Valerio]: The sport is our job but in the rest of our life we are very normal.
It is difficult asking question because you are such a new partnerships many of the normal things would not apply. However in the 20 days did you argue very much.
[Yulia]: In 20 days there was no time for that.
[Valerio]: It was a case of make the routines and go.
Do you think there will be times when you argue?
[Yulia]: I am not sure about that.
Did you use to fight with your husband when you were dancing?
[Yulia]: (Laughing) Sometimes yes. You must understand this is very difficult; 24 hours we are together. We teach, we practise and then we go home together it is very difficult when you are always together and sometimes it was necessary to have a rest. At this moment I must say thank you very much to my husband. I am very grateful and glad that he gave me this chance to dance and improve my dancing with another partner. I hope for him that he finds a very good partner has success and in the future we have two very good couples. I think it will be better and I think that our lives will also be better because we will not always be together but we will have lots of time to be together.
So in the future there may be a competition where the husband and wife will dance against each other and who will win.
[Yulia]: Yes this is very interesting (laughing)
Is your husband here at Blackpool?
[Yulia]: Yes he came yesterday because he wanted to see us dance and all yesterday he was helping us. I am very happy.
It must have been tremendous for him to see you on the floor and then to win.
[Yulia]: Yes, but he was very nervous.
If you were going to give advice to young dancers for their future what would that advice be? You have a club with young dancers
[Yulia]: Yes. A big club with a lot of young dancers and I think it is better if they concentrate on themselves and their own dancing. Maybe things will be different but you cannot change the world and so think about yourself. I think a high person can help a young person, but a young person trying to do it is very difficult.
You just switched from Amateur to Professional so do you find it different dancing as a Professional.
[Valerio]: Yes, very different, a lot different (Yulia starts to laugh)
[Valerio]: In the amateur I feel there is a more athletic way of dancing. If you dance the quarter, semi and final in Amateur of course there is quality but there is too much energy. It is different in the Professional. With Sara at the UK in the first round it was very calm, no rushing and crashing. Of course in the Professional there is more quality and in the Amateur there is more energy.
Were you teachers changing some aspects of your dancing because you had switched to Professional.
[Valerio]: (Laughs) My teacher, when I was an Amateur, would say “Go, Go, Go” then in the UK for the first time he said “No. No. Go slowly” (Laughter) “ Stay calm, dance calmly”
Presumably when you spend the complete month in Russia you will also be teaching.
[Yulia and Valerio]: Yes.
If you were given Gods power to change one aspect of dancing what would it be.
[Valerio]: Hmmm... another good question. (Pauses) I think many people think first about the result and not how they dance and I would like to change the idea. First you work and improve your dancing and then second you think about the result.
[Yulia]: I have a very big club and I think if the young couples start to think about other things and not about their dancing it is not so good. They must first of all think about their dancing and how to improve their physical qualities, how to improve the muscles to make their dancing better.
Michael Barr once said he does not like the way dancing is developing with so many couples looking exactly the same and he does not like quickstep which is becoming like a jive.
[Valerio]: (Laughing) Yes, too many flicks.
So do you prefer more of a swing dance or a flicky, kicky quickstep
[Valerio]: I prefer a more basic dance and in fact in our routine there is many basic movements.
[Yulia]: I don't think there can be one side and another separate side you must combine a little bit of this style and a little bit of that style so that you create a picture that is interesting and not boring.
In your Clubs have you noticed an increase in interest following the Dancing with the Stars type TV Programmes.
[Valerio]: Yes. Definitely. In the social class there are more people coming. What you see on the TV you want to do.
Did you find that on the Professional side it had a beneficial or detrimental effect? For instance did couple who dance in the programme become celebrities and stop dancing as happened in England.
[Valerio]: Yes, this happened, especially with the girls.
So what should we wish you for the near future in your career?
[Valerio]: I hope in the future to improve our result in every competition and of course to improve our dancing.
Will you be dancing the International?
[Valerio]: Yes, of course, but now Rising Stars is finished. Main competition only.
(Laughing) So after only 20 days you are no longer Rising Stars.
[Yulia]: For me, I have been dancing many years so when it was suggested we dance Rising Stars I thought for me this is like going back to Amateur and now that we won the Rising Stars at Blackpool that is enough. For me it is much more important to improve in the main competition.
So we would like to thank you very much for talking to us and we wish you every success and especially for Friday night.