Interview with Aleksandr Kalenyuk and Olena Ablitsova

Interview with Aleksandr Kalenyuk and Olena Ablitsova

Posted on Tuesday, 12 Apr 2016, 22:29 by admin
Read: 15,139

We talked to Aleksandr Kalenyuk and Olena Ablitsova, winners of the Amateur Rising Star Ballroom competition at the UK Open 2016, which took part in Bournemouth (England) in January. Sasha and Olena both come from Ukraine but recently moved to Italy and they represent that country now.

If we see something in [another couple] style which we think suits us, we try to absorb and learn from watching them. We don't want to be their copies, we want to learn from them

I would like to start with congratulating you on winning Amateur Rising Star Ballroom which is, I am sure, a significant step in your career. Any hopes of repeating it tomorrow at the Open event?

[Olena]: We hope (laughing)

So how did you start dancing at all?

[Olena]: I started dancing when I was seven years old in Donetsk, in Ukraine. That's where I come from. My Mum always dreamt that if she had a daughter, her daughter must dance (laughing). I started with all 10 dances, with both Latin and Ballroom.

[Aleksandr]: I started dancing from the age of ten. My mother also wanted her sons to dance. So both my brother and I started to dance modern.

So who was your first partner, how was your career before you met?

[Olena]: My previous partner attended the same school. And we danced together for 10 years. When we got to the Junior II he got much taller than me and we split up. We had very good results, in Junior I we were in the final of Blackpool and the International but unfortunately the height difference was too big.

[Aleksandr]: As I said, my brother and I started modern dance class, but I did not like it. That day, my future partner's Mum found me and took me to the Ballroom dancing class. I still did not like it, and did not want to do it.


[Aleksandr]: I did not think it was something the boy should be doing. I also did football and chess and tried many other things at the same time as I did my dancing. But ended up staying with dancing.

So how did you two got together?

[Olena]: Sasha's partner outgrew him actually, so we swapped partners (laughing). So it was easy.

How did you meet?

[Olena]: We knew each other before. We were friends, we lived in the same city of Donetsk. At the International Championships, when we were both in Junior II we realised it makes sense to just change partners.

How old are you now?

[Aleksandr]: We are both nineteen years old.

Are you still in school?

[Olena]: I started the University and studying to be a lawyer.

[Aleksandr]: I am studying to be a Physical Education teacher, teaching dance.

Would you prefer to teach rather than dance?

[Aleksandr]: I prefer to dance (laughing). Much more interesting for me at the moment is to dance. But I would like to teach in the future.

What do you do apart from dancing?

[Olena]: We both study and dance. No time for anything else really. We also teach little kids sometimes.

Do you go to the cinema, or do something else other than dancing?

[Olena]: Seriously, we like to dance and to practise. That's what we do.

So how long do you practise a day?

[Olena]: About 5 hours a day.


[Olena]: In Kiyv, in Ukraine and also in Italy.

[Aleksandr]: Yes, now we do. But before that we danced and trained in Donetsk. But now, it is not possible.

I understand, the situation in that part of Ukraine is very difficult.

[Olena]: Yes, because of this situation we moved to Italy and represent Italy now.

Who are your main teachers?

[Olena]: Caterina Arzenton in Italy.

[Aleksandr]: In Ukraine, it is still out first teacher Maksym Bulanyy and Kateryna Spasitel.

[Olena]: In Italy we are very lucky to work with Caterina. She is also like a second mother to us (laughing). Our parents live in Ukraine, and when we moved to Italy Caterina took really good care of us, like a mother.

So your parents are still in Donetsk?

[Olena]: No, my parents are now in another city but Sasha's parents are still in Donetsk.

It must be really hard for them?

[Aleksandr]: Yes, it is awful. Our house was damaged, they rebuilt it but there are shootings every day. I wasn't there for two years now. They think it is best for me to be someplace else rather than over there.

Couldn't they move to another place in Ukraine?

[Aleksandr]: It would be really difficult for them. One problem is to find a job elsewhere, and also I have two younger siblings: brother and sister. They have a house in Donetsk which they built themselves, all their money went there, they just don't want to leave it all behind and go...

I guess it is not possible for your parents to come and see you compete?

[Aleksandr]: Well, for all my career, my parents come to the competition only once. When I danced with my former partner, her mother always travelled with us. Once I started dancing with Olena, we travel on our own.

Dancing is very expensive, how do you manage financially?

[Olena]: We teach little kids and that gives us some money. Our shoes are sponsored by Supadance which is great. I have a sponsor in Italy for my dresses called Aspesi. Grand Prix, our Ukrainian sponsor, is sponsoring our practice clothes and shoes.

But money for hotels, flights?

[Aleksandr]: We teach kids and save all the money we can.

What do you like doing after practise?

[Aleksandr]: Sleep! (laughing)

No partying, no clubbing, nothing crazy? Come on! You are young (laughing).

[Aleksandr]: I like yoga, I like running, I like gym...

[Olena]: He likes any sport. And I also like sport. We don't like to party really. When we are at home we are usually so tired that we want to rest, or to sleep.

Sasha, you said that when you started dancing you thought it was more of a girly activity. How did you change your mind?

[Aleksandr]: Well, I thought that at the time when I was ten. I was worried that my friends would think that as well. Obviously, when I started to have good results which I had almost from the beginning, I became to see it more like a proper sport activity. I liked it and that's what mattered to me. I did not care what the others said about it. I remember there were some problems in school with some other boys, but I did not really care. I must say it taught me to stop worrying about what the other people around me think about my choices. Of course, people like parents or teachers or close friends were important, but classmates – no.

Tell me, what do you like about your partner?

[Aleksandr]: Let me think (laughing). I like that she is focused on achieving goals. I like that she likes to fight for it. She doesn't get discouraged when there are problems, she pushes forward. She is very driven and keeps to the plan. I sometimes feel like I had enough, but, no, she pushes me to try harder. She is always ready to go again, to try even once more.

[Olena]: I like his strong character. I do get tired sometimes (laughing). When I am in low mood, he gives me his encouragement, his energy. So we, together, move forward.

[Aleksandr]: We don't blame each other, we support each other.

[Olena]: We are a one strong team (laughing). We really are.

Are you one team in dancing or in life as well?

[Olena]: Yes, we are together in private life as well.

OK, so a difficult question now. What don't you like in each other?

[Aleksandr]: I like everything (laughing). OK, I knew you'd ask this question and I really thought about it but simply, and honestly, I like everything in her. There are little things in dancing sometimes which I like her to change, but really nothing big.

[Olena]: We rarely argue.

[Aleksandr]: We practically never argue. There are differences in opinion between us, but not to the point of argument.

OK, so if there are any arguments, are they in the dance hall or home?

[Olena]: Only on the dance hall. Never home.

What would you like to improve in your life?

[Aleksandr]: Of course, the most important thing, I would love the situation in Donetsk to resolve and that we could go back home.

[Olena]: I would like to be able to see our parents more often...

When did you see your parents last time?

[Olena]: Couple of months ago.

Face to face?

[Olena]: Yes, we met them in Ukraine.

Do you use Skype or some other means to communicate with them?

[Olena]: Yes. But it is so much better to meet them in reality. I use applications such as Facebook or WhatsApp.

[Aleksandr]: I don't use social media. I only use telephone or SMS. I don't have a computer just phone.

Really? I am surprised that a young man, aged nineteen years old, doesn't use that sort of thing.

[Aleksandr]: I simply don't want to. I use computer to watch videos and listen to the music but I don't have Facebook account or Instagram account. That's my choice.

What dancing websites do you visit?


Thank you (laughing) but what else?

[Olena]: We also use the Ukrainian dance website.

Do you think we should improve dancesportinfo to be more mobile phone friendly?

[Olena]: Well, I like it as it is...

[Aleksandr]: Perhaps it would be good if we could get some notifications, with news for instance, so we could see them straight away. For example, I could get a notification that my rating has changed or new photos, results are available, so I don't have to go and check it via my profile on the website.

There is something like that available for members. But that you for your suggestion, we will thing about it. OK, do you have many friends?

[Olena]: Practically all our friends are from dancing because all our life is dancing. People around us are also connected to dancing.

How is life in Italy for you? Do you speak Italian?

[Olena]: A little bit.

Do you have friends in Italy as well, how do you communicate?

[Olena]: Some words in English and some words in Italian (laughing).

[Aleksandr]: And some words in Russian (laughing).

[Olena]: Yes, we are learning from each other.

What kinds of competitions do you go to?

[Olena]: Blackpool... European championships....

Do you come to England for lessons?

[Olena]: No, never. I never had any English teacher, but Sasha has some lessons before with his previous partner when they were in Junior. We have good teachers in Ukraine and in Italy and we felt it was good enough.

And you winning Amateur Rising Star Ballroom in Bournemouth yesterday proves that.

[Olena]: We think that our teachers give us what is needed.

Who designs your dresses?

[Olena]: Me, my mother and my teachers. Sometimes Sasha has good ideas as well.

Who is responsible for choreography?

[Olena]: Our teachers. We usually have the same choreography for two years.

Isn't it boring?

[Olena]: No.

[Aleksandr]: When we started dancing together, we had a choreography ready.

[Olena]: It was yours. We dance together for four years now. We kept most of it intact, but changed some elements.

[Aleksandr]: We changed some figures.

What are your favourite dances?

[Aleksandr]: Quickstep

[Olena]: Tango and Quickstep.

Could you describe all the dances in your own words?

[Aleksandr]: Waltz is freedom and lightness, Tango for me is rhythm.

[Olena]: Power and energy for me. Viennese Waltz hmmm.... like a breath, its flow is like breathing, up and down. Foxtrot is...

[Aleksandr]: Continuous movement, moving all the time. Quickstep is energy. But it all depends on the day, sometimes you feel it like you want to hold and sometimes you feel you want to direct the whole energy into the movement.

[Olena]: When you dance, and it depends on the competition as well, you experience different feelings. Same dances, but different feelings.

Do you feel stressed before the competition?

[Olena]: We may be stressed before we come to the competition, but on the day on the floor, when we feel prepared, we don't feel any stress.

[Aleksandr]: I agree. We prepare before competition, and when we are on the floor we focus on our dancing only.

What is the most important thing in dancing for you?

[Aleksandr]: Body movement, musicality and correct technique. In fact, technique comes first.

[Olena]: For me, it is to be able to show our emotions through dancing. To be able to show it to the audience. So I think, for me the technique comes second, after emotions.

Do you dance Latin as well?

[Olena]: We did before, but not any more.

Don't you like it?

[Aleksandr]: When I started as a little boy, I did not like it because it was too fast for me. I like to watch it, but not to dance it.

[Olena]: We don't feel Latin really. We feel Ballroom.

What would you like to improve in your dancing?

[Olena]: I think we are going the right direction. We need to be able to use the power in a better way.

[Aleksandr]: We need to improve our movement, make it lighter. Basically keep on polishing our technique.

Is there any couple, in the recent history, who inspired you?

[Olena]: Every good couple has their own style and character and we would like to develop our own. We don't want to copy anybody.

[Aleksandr]: There are many couples we admire. If we see something in their style which we think suits us, we try to absorb and learn from watching them. We don't want to be their copies, we want to learn from them.

[Olena]: There is no point of copying anybody, you need to understand what your own character is.

[Aleksandr]: We could not do that many shapes, our dancing is slower, more even, and it wouldn't suit us.

[Olena]: We would like to be able to portray the emotions so well though.

Thank you very much for the interview, I hope to see you in Blackpool again.

All the photos taken by Peter Suba