We talked to Richard Lifshitz and Korina Travis, the winners of Under21 Latin at 2014 Blackpool Dance Festival. Richard and Korina represent England.
Results come when you start achieving your ideas that you wanted to create
Great, fantastic results yesterday! It is nice to finally see an English couple winning Blackpool. Let's start with the usual question about how you started dancing.
[Korina] OK. I started when I was very young, since I started walking about one and a half years of age. It was a little social dance school in St. Helens. I did every style of dance you can think of. You name it, I did it. I did everything. When I got to about twelve I stopped everything, but Ballroom, Latin and ballet. I was in the Royal Ballet for three years. My Latin started to get more serious so I had to choose which one I wanted and I always enjoyed Ballroom and Latin much more. So I went and took this path.
So did you compete as Juvenile?
[Korina] Yes, but only in Supadance League and in Junior I came into the open competitions. When I was about fifteen years old I started to get better results nationally. And only last year I started to get good results internationally. Obviously this year the best results I had was the best ever! (laughing)
How come you got involved in dancing co much?
[Korina] I just loved it. I have an older sister. My Mum took her to dance classes and I had to go along with her because I was a baby. One day I went through the class in the dance studio to go to the bathroom and my Mum said I did not come back. So she went looking for me and I just joined in with the dance class. And I was only one and a half years old! Since then I carried on. I loved it.
What about you Richard?
[Richard] I did not start as early as that! (laughing). I did many sports as my Dad is a gymnasts' trainer. I did every sport as Korina did every dance style you can think of, I did every sport you can name. Eventually I ended up figure skating and a year later I started dancing. I was about six years old. First I went to a ballet school in Montreal, a French school.
So you started in Canada?
[Richard] Yes, in Montreal. Then I discovered Latin. My cousin used to dance at competitions and I went to watch her. When everyone was dancing I would just, on a side, dance and show off with nothing because I could not do anything but I was playing along (laughing). I loved it. My parents started to take me to lessons and I stuck with it.
How did you meet?
[Korina] Actually, we first met when we were with our previous partners here in Blackpool last year.
[Richard] Yes. Then things went wrong with my partnership and it ended...
[Korina] And mine! After we met we were close friends almost straight away. We did speak to each other on Facebook and things like that. And when we found out we both split we talked to each other about maybe having a try-out. That worked out and here we are!
Where did you have your try-out?
[Korina] Here in England.
Are you living here in England?
[Richard] Yes, I am living with her. I mean, we come and go. We go back to Canada for the whole month of June to see my parents.
Are your parents travelling with you to the competitions?
[Richard] Korina's parents are sometimes, like to Blackpool, as it is very close. They come and see. Mine don't for now. Money is an issue.
[Korina] It is very expensive. Mine live only 40 minutes away. They came to the Under21 on Saturday and the Rising Stars on Sunday.
So they've seen you win?
[Korina] Yes. That was good. It was nice.
I guess you phoned yours Richard?
[Richard] Yes, and they watched the live stream, they've seen us win.
[Korina] They've watched the whole thing
Tell me what do you like in dancing?
[Richard] What I love in dancing is...
[Korina] Music for me
[Richard] Yes, music and to be able to interpret the music with the body. That feeling on the floor that you dance and make people enjoy what you do. That's definitely what I like the most.
Why Latin not Ballroom?
[Korina] It is tricky question. I did do the ten dance up until we got together. I only stopped Ballroom to dance with Richard.
[Richard] Everyone asks us why we stopped Ballroom. This is because I can't do it! (laughing)
[Korina] We did try. But it didn't work out very well (laughing) I probably say Latin is a lot more free. I feel that you can show more of your own personality in Latin whereas Ballroom is more restrictive. You can show you personality as well but it is very static for me. When you are stuck to the partner it is hard to show your real personality. In Latin you can play with the audience, with your partner, it is lot more free.
[Richard] We both have very strong characters and in Latin in stands out. We are a team bit also individual people.
Tell me what is the worst in your partner?
[Korina] We weren't together that long, I don't know (laughing)
I will not accept the answer: there is nothing wrong with my partner! (laughing)
[Korina] I have no idea.
[Richard] I would say stubbornness.
[Korina] Yes, I am stubborn. We are both very stubborn. If we have an idea we are fighting. We both stick to our words very strongly. It is hard for either of us to win.
[Richard] It takes a while to argue and figure out who is right and who is wrong
[Korina] And in the end it is usually him who tries to make it all better! (laughing) I am usually the one who is still grumpy. He often says: I am sorry, OK, you were right. I don't know what his bad sides are!
OK, I don't believe he doesn't have any bad side!
[Korina] Maybe sometimes his forgetfulness. I am asking him to do something and he doesn't do it. That's probably the thing which annoys me the most.
What do you value in your partner?
[Korina] The care, respect. I feel that from him a lot. I feel very safe, I feel respected. Not that I was not safe without him. I don't know how to explain it. He is like my best friend, he is with me through anything I have to go through. We go through everything together.
Same question to you Richard
[Richard] (laughing) Let me think
[Korina] I could not find anything bad and he cannot find anything good about me (laughing)
[Richard] I would say her patience. I can say I am a person very hard to work with in practice. I am very picky, I had trouble with this before. She is definitely very patient with me.
And the worst in you?
[Richard] I want everything to happen now. I am very impatient.
[Korina] I analyse a lot
[Richard] Too much
[Korina] Way too much. I try to work out the step instead of just doing it. He shouts at me then to stop and just do it. If you just do it you will probably naturally do it and fix it. But I always try to think what if I turn a little more that way or put my weight a little bit back, or turn my foot slightly more to the left. I analyse way too much. When I start to analyse and it is not going right I get stressed out and then I get very angry with myself. And he gets angry with me (laughing). And this is when usually the fighting starts. I would like to just be able to do it, just like that. Especially after yesterday's result, knowing that I am better than I thought I was, it is giving me a huge confidence boost.
Usually people think they are better than the place they ended up on. Not many people underestimate themselves
[Richard] She does.
[Korina] We were aiming to win. I was very set to win but when we did win I was in shock! A good shock (laughing). Obviously I wanted it to happen. I knew I felt good on the day. I felt I was the best on the floor, I felt like a million pounds.
I could see that surprise on your face when they announced the winners.
[Korina] yes, I was very surprised. And very happy
[Richard] It was a close competition. We knew that it was going to be hard because there were very good competitors.
[Korina] Couples we've never beaten before.
[Richard] when it did happen it was just an amazing moment for both of us.
Is this your last year in Under 21?
[Korina] No, we have one more year but we are not doing it next year.
[Richard] Not the Blackpool.
So Rising Stars next year?
[Korina] Yes, Rising Stars and Open next year.
Do you expect the same result?
[Korina] Maybe in Rising Stars? But not Amateurs (laughing).
[Richard] We will do our best. May take some time
[Korina] We have a year. A lot can happen in a year! We will see
Do you have any dance idols?
[Korina] I had multiple through the years. My idol right now has to be Anna Melnikova. I love the femininity that she has. But also the strength. Everything is so powerful, but also very womanly. She is very elegant, sexy. I like that look because you can see the difference between a man and a woman. In some couples what you can see is all power. I like to see the male side and the female side and I think she shows that. I love her legs, they are perfect to me.
[Richard] So many.... There are so many people that I love watching. I don't think I have an idol now, I used to have. I just have people I love to watch.
[Korina] We're trying to develop our own style
[Korina] We pick different bits from different people and we are trying to put our own personality into that to create our own style. Rather than trying to repeat what your idol has.
[Richard] There are many people who idolise someone and try to start dancing like that person. Sometimes even be that person. In dancing, if you look fifty years ago or thirty years ago, everybody was trying to create their own style. Everyone was trying different things and now, and I might be wrong here, couples try to watch the good dancers and try to copy them. They try to repeat rather than try to create their own direction.
I see what you mean
[Korina] Yes, you see people who dress and do hair exactly like their idols.
So you are trying to create your own image. Is anybody helping you with it?
[Richard] Yes, our coach, since we live here, is Barbara McColl and she is very, very helpful in every single way.
[Korina] She lets people do what they want to do, and she helps them in their direction.
[Richard] She is definitely helping us with the image, our own style, the partnership, team... she is great.
Do you go to many teachers?
[Richard] We have few. Shirley Ballas has always been my mentor for four years now. So we obviously still see her, she is like a Mum to us.
[Korina] We have Margaret Redmond, who was one of my first teachers when I started Open competitions. She is only twenty minutes away from me. I am very close with her. So we still go to her.
[Richard] There are other teachers we go to. They offer different opinions, different styles. To create your own style you have to taste other things, try everything. So we often go to other teachers for some different input or with questions we have.
Can you describe each dance how it feels for you?
[Korina] Cha Cha is very cheeky, very playful with audience and partner. The music makes me feel like my body goes into this electric state! You still want that classy look though. Cheeky but classy. Samba feels very like festival, fun. You have lots of fun with Samba.
[Richard] Every time we dance Samba it is like no boundaries. Cha Cha is more controlled. There is a woman and man having playful, cheeky game but with Samba everything is out! It is like a party.
[Korina] Rumba is .... cannot find a good word right now (laughing)
[Richard] I would say love between a man and a woman
Love or lust?
[Korina] It is perhaps like a very first date. This is how we put our routine together, it is like we are meeting for the first time. It is like he is trying to get me and I say no... And then I try to get him and he says no. It is like we are teasing each other, trying to get each other's attention.
[Richard] Paso Doble is obviously a bull fight
[Korina] Bull and a cape.
[Richard] In our routine we try to portrait the character of the dance, showing the story of a matador playing with the cape and the bull
[Korina] I think it is one of our best dances.
She doesn't look like a bull!
[Korina] I hope not (laughing)! My character in a Paso Doble is a cape but also a lot of Spanish woman. I do a lot of flamenco moves rather than be a big cape which moves around him and creates shapes. I like to move my body and my wrists like a Spanish woman rather than a piece of cloth (laughing).
[Richard] Jive is a lot of fun, like a rock'n'roll.
[Korina] It is cheeky but in a different way.
[Richard] It is more of us playing with the audience. This is the way our routine is made to take in the audience and not so much between us.
How did you manage financially?
[Richard] For now we cannot afford it (laughing). It is very, very hard.
[Korina] We have a lot of help from our parents right now.
[Richard] I cannot work here. Not yet.
[Korina] He is not a resident here yet. Once he gets visa he will be able to work here.
[Richard] My parents are working very hard to support me now. I would like to say thank you to them. They are the biggest help.
Your father is a gymnasts' trainer, and you mother is?
[Richard] She makes dance costumes.
[Korina] It is very helpful. All the costumes are free.
[Richard] My Dad does the pants, my Mum does the shirt. It is like a family business.
[Korina] I manage to sneak a dress out as well (laughing)
[Richard] This is doing quite well. This is where the money comes from.
You are effectively sponsored by your parents
[Richard] Yes, the name is Alena. She makes dresses as well
[Korina] She made all my show outfits. My parents still help me out. I've been trying to do everything by myself. I do a little bit of a part-time work with my sister in a nursery with children which I love. I love working with kids. That gave me a little bit of money towards hotels and lessons before Blackpool. I am qualified beauty therapist so I started my own beauty therapy mobile business. I tried to work in a salon but people who don't understand what dancing is cannot understand I need to be away a lot. So I decided to go mobile and do my own hours. I can fit my work around my dancing. We can still practise as many hours as we need. I do want to start coming to competitions in that role, so if anyone needs any nails done or make-up I could do it for them.
Anything to earn money for dancing?
[Korina] Anything to survive!
are you staying with your parents at the moment?
[Korina] Yes. We are thinking of moving down to London when we can afford it. It will be a lot more convenient if we did as we wouldn't have to pay for the hotels when going to lessons or competitions. Even living in the Midlands would be a huge help, only two hours driving to London, not four.
You have just started your career and already won Blackpool. Is it going to change your life somehow?
[Korina] Hopefully for the better! Because of this huge confidence boost I feel that I can work even harder now. I can set myself the higher goals knowing that I can achieve them. I did have a little, don't want to say doubts, but lack of belief. I knew there were couples we have not beaten before. But now I know it is possible.
What kind of goals?
[Richard] Results come when you start achieving your ideas that you wanted to create. When you do that and it is solid enough it brings results. Obviously getting good results feels great. We wouldn't say that we're not trying for results because it makes the career. But we want to create something better with ourselves.
Any plans for the nearest future?
[Richard] Go to Canada, see my parents and have a little break.
[Korina] There are couple of competitions we might do when we are there.
[Richard] If we feel like it. The next big competition is UK Closed in July.
[Korina] Then we have British nationals in November and the International.
[Richard] We will be probably going to Assen and Paris. We will try to win all of them if we can afford it (laughing). From next year we will also move to Rising Stars and make our mark in Amateurs.
[Korina] We would love to thank our parents for making it possible for us. I could not have been here without their support.
Good luck with your plans!
[Both] Thank you very much!
All photos by Peter Suba