I turned professional at 22 years old. Quite a young age for a male dancer in the modern ballroom dance reality.
To switch from Amateurs to Professionals was a very easy decision for me for several reasons. (Especially, in comparison to my decision to move to a foreign country without any kind of preparation.) First of all, I saw the opportunity to work and earn more money. Secondly, I absolutely loved the idea of competing against many people who I was looking up to in the past, be around them and test myself among the best ballroom dancers in the world. I also knew that I would have better quality lessons and gain more respect from my teachers. For God’s sake, everybody sooner or later turn professionals, so why wait?
Somehow at that time I was friendly to more professional competitors, then amateurs, so to be among friends definitely sounded like a lot more inspiring idea. Last but not least - having the toughest competition meant I would perform my best, which is very natural for my personality since I was a kid.
I was really excited for this new chapter of my career and with this mindset I began to prepare for our first competition in San Diego. It was very easy to work together with Olga. I got a lot of freedom from her in choices of choreography and different ideas about musicality which was very cool and inspiring. I wanted to improve and use as many opportunities as possible to become the best dancer I could. I think, Olga wanted to prove herself after a few last partnerships that didn’t go very smoothly for her and show to everybody that she deserves better. Considering her experience and my natural talent of being a good competitor we had quite an interesting mix.
We were all fired up to start and...... we got 4th place out of 6 couples at a very small competition. The main confusion was that we really did our best and we had no idea what went wrong that night. I remember I was devastated (and very naive lol), which was normal for me at that time as I used to be a real drama queen.
I know how difficult it can be when you start as a young professional, competing in Rising Stars. I have seen tens of couples over the past 5-6 years doing the same mistakes over and over again. Some of them I made myself and some I was lucky to avoid. Experiencing hardships in the beginning of my professional career I would like to share with you some ideas so you can avoid doing those mistakes.
No matter how well-known you are of a dancer in your country, when you move and turn Professionals you have to treat it like no one knows you in US. And most likely that would be a true statement. It is just a reality whether you like it or not. Industry is very big, there are many world famous couples who reside here. They are proven to be consistently good and producing extremely high level of dancing at every event. So you have to do your best to stand out among them absolutely every competition and give your 200% performance. And then after some time you will be noticed and recognized.
You can’t be too selective in events you are taking part in, you have to try to do all of them. Often couples are dancing only Rising Stars category and would skip Open Professional category at a competition, which I think is a big disadvantage.
Meet and talk to as many new people as possible and be nice to them. It’s not a secret that many dancers like myself are coming from Eastern Europe and we tend to seem not very friendly. Sometimes it gives a very wrong impression to the people around. There is nothing wrong in being serious, but not to a point when dancers act very cold socially.
Treat your first year in Rising Stars group as an investment. There will be many things you will need to learn and it requires both time and money and you should be ready for it. And don’t worry, hard work always pays off.
But the biggest lesson I learned was to keep going and work even harder and give it a chance no matter what. Everything needs time. In a four months time from that competition we became US National Professional Rising Stars Champions and a few months later UK Open Professional Rising Stars Champions and we laughed about our first competitive experience. I am very grateful to Olga and all the students who supported me at that difficult time. It was a tough transition on many levels, but it taught me valuable lessons and I gained a lot of experience that helped me to understand things better and build up a solid foundation for the future. I used to live by myself 5000 miles away from home from paycheck to paycheck still trying to keep myself inspired to be able to inspire others on the dance floor. But I made it. I remember Olga used to tell me to buckle up because a year of partnership with her counts as 7 years regular partnership and I have to say she was quite right!
To conclude I want to say that Liliia and myself are very grateful for your responses after our first blog post and we are very happy to share our story with you and some of the valuable lessons we have learned. Please subscribe for our newsletter for free down below not to miss the 3rd part of the story where Liliia will tell her story of moving to California.