Interview with Aleksandr Zevelev and Alina Agarkova

Interview with Aleksandr Zevelev and Alina Agarkova

Posted on martes, 31 mar. 2020, 07:52 by admin
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We interviewed winners of Amateur Rising Star Latin at Blackpool 2019, Aleksandr Zevelev and Alina Agarkova from Russia.

You have to think big to achieve great results. You have to go beyond. You have to find new strengths within yourself!

Let's start with the congratulations. You were in the final of UK Open few months ago, and now winning Blackpool! Well done

[Alina]: Thank you

Can you tell me a little about yourselves? How did you start dancing, and where?

[Alina]: I was born in Ukraine, and started dancing in Donetsk. My family moved to St Petersburg so of course I continued my dancing there, in Russia.

Why did you start dancing?

[Alina]: OK, I was born on the 29th April and it is an International Dance Day


[Alina]: Yes, really (laughing). So I think I was bound to do that (laughing). So I was seven years old, and my school organised some dance classes, I joined. We did all the ten dances, I dance both Latin and Ballroom and actually 10 Dance all my career. Only when I started dancing with Sasha I concentrated on Latin.

Did you have any successes before Sasha?

[Alina]: I danced in WDSF. With my former partner we reached semifinals of Russian Championships in 10 Dance. It was very difficult.

How many partners did you have before Sasha?

[Alina]: 3 partners. It is not too bad. Ask Sasha (laughing)

OK, so what about you, Sasha?

[Sasha]: I started dancing in St Petersburg in Russia. I was eight years old.

Why did you start dancing?

[Sasha]: My Mum liked Ballroom dancing and she shown me. I saw it, I tried and I liked it (laughing)

How did your school friends react to you taking up dancing?

[Sasha]: Mostly OK, but there were some boys who did not, shall we say, understand (laughing). I did not care. When results came, I gained respect actually. My teachers understand how hard it is. We also danced 10 Dance.

How did you get to know about each other?

[Alina]: It is funny, because we knew each other for a long time. All the time we both danced, we knew each other, we were friends. I knew Sasha's Mum, I knew him, so we were really destined to dance together!

[Sasha]: Yes! And we even look alike.

[Alina]: We had a lesson with Gaynor Fairweather and it was the first time she saw us as a couple. And she asked, are you a brother and a sister. Yes, yes, for the twenty five years we know each other we did not know that we were related (laughing)! She looked at us funny. Had to say it was a joke (laughing)

Are you also a couple in private life?

[Alina]: No, we are not

So how come you only started dancing together that late?

[Sasha]: After my last Blackpool I split up with partner. I knew that finding a right partner is really hard and complex process. I started writing to various girls but one of my friends says, why not Alina, she is a good dancer. I remember I was on my way going on holiday when I wrote her a message asking if she is still looking for a partner, and maybe we could try together. And she answered (laughing), yes, but only for serious commitment.

[Alina]: I answered that because I had a break from dancing for year and a half. I couldn't find a right partner. I did not want to just dance, I wanted a right partner with the right commitment. During that break I did some coaching, training kids, but I did not dance myself. So I said to him, yes, but only if it is a serious, full commitment for working hard and getting results. I did not want to waste another year of my life.

[Sasha]: I answered, it suits me (laughing)

[Alina]: So I said, OK, let's do it (laughing). It happened fast, arranging it all was easy because we both knew each other and our coaches and teachers worked in the same system. So we were a good match from all points of view, from life, dance career and our goals for the future... What I mean is that we had matching personalities, similar approach and opinion of how dancing career should progress. We both believe that we should be unique as a couple, not trying to copy anybody. We both believe our teachers give us all the tools which enable us to grow as a couple. We both believe in hard work and that all our successes and also failures are attributed to us only.

[Sasha]: There are some couples who look elsewhere, blaming others for their own problems and failures. We try to look at ourselves first and we believe that results will come.

[Alina]: You know, few months ago we were seventh the the Russian Championships. We were fine being seventh. We just decided to prepare for Blackpool and try to get a better result.

[Sasha]: We thought if we truly deserve to be seventh than that's fine with us. You have to dance as best as you can on the day, so you do not have any regrets later.

[Alina]: We try not to be affected by anything like that. We need to take care of our own destiny, develop our dance, work on things we have control over. We have no control over political things, or judging, we cannot do anything about it.

What are you favourite foods?

[Sasha]: I love meat, steaks.... (laughing) but try not too eat it too often. Otherwise I eat everything which makes me feel well.

[Alina]: I love food very much. For me eating well is one of the pleasures of life (laughing).

What kind of food? Chocolate?

[Alina]: No. I like pasta, pizza (laughing). I like fresh ingredients. If I eat anything it must be very tasty. It doesn't have to be a lot of it, but it must be very good.

[Sasha]: But she likes cakes (laughing)

[Alina]: My problem is that I need to eat often. Not much, a little, but often.

You don't look it (laughing)

[Alina]: Good metabolism (laughing)

But you do not need any diet?

[Alina]: No. However, we were laughing, because my dresses were very heavy this year, seven kilos every dress...


[Alina]: Yes, seven kilos, all the stones and ornaments. Anyway, it was hard for me to move in the first round becasue I was not used to it. So effectively I was seven kilo heavier and I realised if I ever put on weight it will be really hard to dance for me (laughing)! So I decided I will be very careful not to put on weight ever!

What do you like to do when you are not dancing?

[Alina]: I like to spend time with my family. I have a brother, and he has a son. I have my Mum and my Dad. I love my family. We like to sit round a big table and have dinner (laughing). I also have lots of friends who are not dancing. We meet whenever we can. I miss that, and I always dream the day I am back there from Blackpool I will just walk to the park, sit on the bench and enjoy! It really is a dream (laughing) and has not happened yet. My favourite things in life are simple: good food, walk in the park and family.

And what about you, Sasha?

[Sasha]: Generally, I also like spending time with friends and family. I am mostly a late night person. I like watching films, playing FIFA on PlayStation... Boyish games (laughing). I like spending time with Mum and my sister and just do normal things just like ordinary people do. It is just because we always have to follow schedules, dancing controls our lives, doing ordinary things feels like luxury!

So you like to have a rest from dancing, right?

[Sasha]: I think it is good to have some life outside of dancing. I treasure these moments, because they are so rare! I guess they feel special thanks to dancing (laughing). There were times when we practised so hard preparing for Blackpool, that simply driving a car felt like an escape from it. I literally enjoyed just driving and being able to see the sun outside, green trees, streets full of people.

What movies, films do you like?

[Alina]: Sasha watches more...

[Sasha]: I watch films on YouTube. For instance, Whiplash. It inspired me.

Do you read any books?

[Alina]: I like classics, like Chekhov. It has comedy, wit, irony, everything. I never watch TV series, as I never have time. When I am back home from working with kids, all I want to do it go to bed and sleep (laughing). From films I like dramas. Recently I watched The Professor and the Madman with Mel Gibson.

Can you describe each dance in few words?

[Sasha]: Hmmm... Let me think. Rumba for me is romantic

Romantic or erotic?

[Sasha]: Romantic, definitely

[Alina]: Karina Smirnoff always calls Sasha a prince! Because he is so elegant, so classy

[Sasha]: So definitely my Rumba is all about romance.

[Alina]: For us, it is important to understand and agree how we want to portray the interaction between female and male. This is really important for us. It doesn't matter which dance. I always imagine myself as a lady and Aleksander as my knight.

What about Paso Doble? Aren't you supposed to be a bull?

[Alina]: No, I can never be a bull (laughing). I can be a cape, maybe. I always see myself as a beautiful lady.

[Sasha]: Yes, in Paso Doble there is also important the interaction between the man and he lady. We try to show the equality between them, that the lady is equally strong, equally powerful. We try to show, through our dancing, that she can be a leader.

What about jive?

[Sasha]: Maybe it sound weird but for me it is a bit of a silly dance (laughing)

[Alina]: We just dance the choreography. Many time we say to each other perhaps we work on jive specially today? And then we say, no, we will work on Rumba or Cha Cha or Samba (laughing)

[Sasha]: We don't treat it seriously. In my opinion you don't need that much technique there, just maximum energy. So you just need stamina. That's all you need and that's what people like. That's it.

What does your family and friends think of your dancing?

[Alina]: I remember, in the beginning, my Granddad used to say to my parents what a strange sport it is where you keep on spending so much money. In other sports, Olympic sports, you are helped or sponsored when the results come but in dancing it is not. My parents always believed that to get results you have to put a lot of time in, money as well, you have to be committed and work hard. Now, he is pleased as we won (laughing). Now he is happy. For the last few years he is happy that I am doing what I love, what makes me happy and it brings results as well. And that it all worked out for me. But my parents always supported me, regardless of results. And still do.

[Sasha]: My family always supported me, from early days. They always helped. That's why I always say my family comes first. For me, the most important thing is that we are a team. Obviosuly when you are very young your parents are your team. But even now, they are important part of our dancing. My Mum makes my costumes.

[Alina]: You can check Z_DesignSPB on Instagram

[Sasha]: It is my Mum. She used to make costumes for Smagin, Pasha Zvychaynyy. In Russia, she is really popular. Now she is trying to expand further. She already made costumes for dancers in England and Ukraine. I am obviously her ambassador (laughing)

[Alina]: Sasha dances well and shows off his Mum's costumes well.

[Sasha]: When I have good results it should also reflect on my Mum's (laughing). She can count on more work.

Who makes your dresses Alina?

[Alina]: Azure Designs. They are based in London but also have a branch in St Petersburg in Russia. I would like to say big thank you to Alina Kazachenko who we work with and come up with designs for dresses. I would say she is one of the main people responsible for my look.

Who is responsible for your choreography? I know you are for jive...

[Sasha]: Our teachers help a lot, but the last word belongs to Evgeni Smagin and Polina Kazatchenko

[Alina]: The most interesting bits of of choreography always comes from Mirko Saccani. He's the best in it, no question about it. He always comes up with millions of ideas just like that.

You don't need millions, you just need one good one (laughing)

[Sasha]: We have to be ready for it, we need to be shown an idea. And it is up to us how we use it. So our teachers come up with ideas for our routines, and we try to add something of our own.

If public were allowed to vote, who's opinion matters to you more, public or judges?

[Sasha]: Good question!

[Alina]: In my opinion the results are important as you are taking part of the competition. We are athletes taking part in the dance sport competition. Winning is important. But on the other hand, whoever knows me they will confirm, I am a very emotional person and I react emotionally to dancing. Many people know that and they give me feedback about my performance, and this is very important to me. I love to hear that they liked my dancing or they were touched by it.

OK, but what is more important?

[Alina]: We are lucky that WDC values both sides. For instance, this competition is so beautiful and the audience is so giving, and that's what I need! And at the same time you are judged by very knowledgeable panel, people who I trust and respect and their opinion is important to me. When I look at the adjudicators I know everybody and I trust their judgement.

If you were able to change anything in dancing, what would you change?

[Sasha]: I would make more such competitions like Blackpool where dancing is the most important thing! Not money.

Well, yes, dancing costs a lot of money. Lessons, dresses, travel...

[Sasha]: There are many talented dancers, many young people who have no chance to develop because of lack of funds.

What kind of music do you like?

[Alina]: I don't like listening to music, for instance, whenever I am in a car I like silence. Maybe because I spend all day in a dancing studio, practising and then working with kids, and I have to listen to music all day. So once I am home I am happy to have nothing but silence so I can think, plan and relax.

[Sasha]: I, on the other hand, love listening to music in a car. I have big speakers in a boot and put the music on maximum! I like to drive fast and I listen to the loud music.

What kind?

[Sasha]: Classic like The Eagles, AC/DC, Freddy Mercury, Michael Jackson... I also listen to music which is popular in Russia, sometimes Eminem, sometimes some hip-hop. Depends on mood. Also the way I drive depends on the music I happen to be listening to (laughing).

What if you in a car together? No music or lots of music?

[Sasha]: We are lucky because Alina can switch off...

[Alina]: I can literally switch off and sleep. TV can play, music can play, and I can just fall asleep. If I feel safe (laughing)

[Sasha]: When I have a passenger sitting next to me in a car, my driving is safe and steady. I don't speed.

What music do you like to dance to?

[Sasha]: Love Potion No 9 for Cha Cha, Hotel California for Rumba...

With vocal?

[Sasha]: Yes, I like vocal music.

[Alina]: I like music they play in Assen at Dutch Open. I actually work on myself to be able to dance to anything whether I like or not like it. I mean to be able to perform equally well, independent of the choice of music. This is because we have no control over what is being played at the competition.

So do you like the music here in Blackpool?

[Alina]: It is different.

[Sasha]: Honestly, when I first practised to it, I did not like it. I could not understand it at all. But this music in this hall with this atmosphere is something else! If you were not in Blackpool you probably won't get to understand it, and I get that. To have an opinion about it, you have to come here.

Maybe to win as well (laughing)?

[Alina]: Hopefully (laughing)

Tell me about each other, what do you like about each other and what do you dislike?

[Alina]: Sasha is a very good person and he has very strong principles. I know I can trust him. I know he will never act in some sort of non ethical way. He is very honest. I like that. What I don't like i that he is very much affected by his mood, very emotional, his face is telling it all (laughing). But he is working on it.

It is not a big fault

[Alina]: We do not have many disagreements. We usually come to some sort of compromise. Also, for me, practise is like work. I don't come to work affected by my own mood. You have to be professional. It is not about liking or disliking anybody.

[Sasha]: We both understand there is no point of prolonging any arguments or disagreements because it would affect our work. So we never come to the moment when we lose it.

How do you do it?

[Sasha]: Sometimes it is about swallowing your own pride, or simply do not say one word too many... Just leave it for five minutes and it usually works. And then carry on working.

[Alina]: People often are surprised that we never argue.

[Sasha]: We trust each other. We simply two people who happen to have the same goals in life. I know she knows what to do to achieve that, that she is as determined as I am. If it comes to disagreements or differences we try to talk.

[Alina]: I often like to say let's ask the coach (laughing). But Sasha often says we should resolve it between each other (laughing)

What don't you like about her?

[Sasha]: I don't know if this is a bad thing, but she talks a lot (laughing). On one hand, it is good, but on the other hand... sometimes one should simply stop talking. I know she knows that (laughing). I can see she is working on it (laughing). How you are seen depends on what people you are with, what the circumstances are, what company you are in. You need to adjust. For instance, when Alina is with our kids students' parents, it is good she can easily communicate. Because I simply hate talking to parents! I tend to be brief, direct, while Alina tends to talk at length and emotionally and she is able to manage parents so much better.

[Alina]: Parents are the whole different story (laughing)

What are you plans for the future?

[Alina]: After our Blackpool results, we want to discuss our plans with our coaches. Maybe our plans will change. We are in the process of working it all out.

Maybe holidays?

[Alina]: Maybe we will take a week off to rest (laughing). It would be great not to da anything! But unfortunately we have work planned.

[Sasha]: Our plans before were to win the Rising Stars. It's done now. Obviously now we are preparing for the Amateur Open event which will be on Thursday. We know that there is no guarantee from year to year. There are people who reached semi-finals and then the next year they were in the top 50. It will take work not to waste that chance we have now. We will try hard to get better and better. We were noticed here and we want to be consistently noticed at the coming competitions. It is not easy. On one hand I want to enjoy the moment, be proud of what we have achieved so far, but on the other hand I know it is just a beginning and it can only get harder now as we will be feeling more pressure (laughing).

Everybody will now expect more from you...

[Sasha]: Yes, the pressure gets harder. You feel you cannot perform any worse, you are constantly under scrutiny. But, it is important to enjoy our win and be proud of it. Live in the moment. Two years ago, I would not even dream of getting so far. It was not even a distant goal to win the Rising Star in Blackpool. Evgeni Smagin is our coach. I started working with him before Alina, some three years ago. I remember the first question he asked me was, what is your goal. And I remember what I answered him. Makes me laugh now. I said I wanted to get to the top 48 of the top competition, like UK Open or get to the Royal Albert Hall.... And then he asked, why so small? But for me it felt at least remotely achievable. Later my goals changed and that changed the way I worked towards my new goals and how much effort I put into it. You have to think big to achieve great results. You have to go beyond. You have to find new strengths within yourself.

Which webites do you like to visit on the internet?

[Sasha]: I like YouTube very much. It has improved a lot in Russia.

Isn't it the same everywhere?

[Alina]: The content, new YouTube channels. It is nice to watch now. I use internet a lot actually, for all the information, for Instagram. I watch a lot of YouTube for fun, I like to watch funny things, not necessarily dancing. I also like to watch interviews with people who were successful in various ways. I like to hear their stories. For instance athletes, sportsmen. I recently watched hokey players and it was really interesting when they talked about how they prepare for games, how they react to successes and loses.

[Sasha]: Instagram is really important for us, we are very active there. I see it a good tool for advertising us, and as I mentioned, promote my Mum's business.

[Alina]: It's great for exchanging information, for keeping in touch. We had people congratulating us within 5 minutes of us winning the competition!

[Sasha]: Our parents were checking our results on dancesportinfo. Because you publish results so fast. Also we like the rating system. I am really obsessed with it, keep checking (laughing), keep analysing. When we were about to dance I found myself looking at the list of couples and the rating figures next to them and thinking in my head who will be dancing with us, you, you, not you, you (laughing).

What other dancesport websites do you visit?

[Sasha]: Easycomp, scrutelle for marks... But we use dancesportinfo a lot. I like that you can check history and also check people who danced years ago. Just put a name in the search box and you get all the results and competitions they took part in.

[Alina]: There was a small glitch yesterday. There were 26 couples in the final and somebody took a screenshot to Instagram (laughing)

Mistake happen sometimes, we worked till 5 in the morning that day (laughing). Sorry about this!

[Sasha]: And we ended up in the semifinal.

[Alina]: Polina Kazachenko's Dad was closely watching these results and phoned to asked what happened.

We had a massive issue with servers on that day. I hope it will not happen again.

[Sasha]: It is simply the best dancesport website and a great source of information, for photos, for archives. But why are there some competitions missing? Are you intentionally excluding some?

No, we try to add everything we know of. We add around 3,000 events a week. If you know of any missed competition simply send us an email and a link and we will try our best to include it.

[Alina]: I guess it is easy to miss some. Thank you for explaining.

Thank you for talking to us. All the best for the future.