Interview with Valeriu Ursache and Liana Bakhtiarova

Interview with Valeriu Ursache and Liana Bakhtiarova

Hinzugefügt: Donnerstag, 09 Mai 2019, 15:22 von admin
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We interviewed Valeriu Ursache and Liana Bakhtiarova the winners of Professional Rising Stars Ballroom at the UK Open 2019. Liana comes from Russia and Valeriu is originally from Moldova, but they live and work in the USA. 

Dancing is a challenge of constantly being out of your comfort zone and trying to be better in pretty much every aspect

Let's start with the congratulations! You are not dancing for a long time but I can see you are making a great progress

[Liana]: Thanks you.

I can see you were tenth in Blackpool last year

[Valeriu]: Yes, we were in the semifinals in Blackpool in Rising Stars which was actually our first UK competition.

And then a semifinal at the International... and the first place at the UK Open! I guess it must have been a happy moment

[Liana]: Yes, we were very happy and we did not expect it

You've got a long history of dancing, each of you had a number of partners.

[Valeriu]: it is true (laughing)

...and one of these partners was third at this competition

[Liana]: Yes, a good research (laughing). I won't say how many try-outs I had!

So how did you start dancing?

[Valeriu]: I started when I was ten years old, which was considered pretty late. I am originally from Moldova, and I danced in Codreanca. It is probably the biggest and best known dance club in Moldova. The country is pretty small and this is the place where all dancing was happening. So I danced in there till I was sixteen. I had quite good results over a course of these six years. After that I moved to Ukraine

Did you do just Ballroom, or other styles of dancing?

[Valeriu]: I competed in both styles and 10 dance as well. Never did any other forms of dancing. So when I turned sixteen I changed partners and moved to Ukraine. At that point I only danced Standard. We won the national championships there. And after two years we split, and I started looking for a partner in Europe and then in the United States. That's how I actually moved to the US.

When I was eighteen I found a partner there, we tried-out and all worked out. We danced for two years, we competed in Youth and Under 21. Then I actually took a break from dancing for a year and a half, but realised I missed it too much and had to come back (laughing). I had a partner from Israel and then from USA, it was quite a few of them (laughing). I was probably about twenty three or four when, through a friend, I've heard of Liana who was also looking for a partner.

[Liana]: I am from Russia, from a town in the west of Russia, called Kaliningrad. And I started dancing when I was five years old. Because Kaliningrad is really separate from the main body of Russia, and quite small, I spent most of my dancing life in the nearby countries like Poland and Lithuania. It is much easier to get to Poland or Germany from Kaliningrad than to fly to Moscow. So all those years I was there my main coaches were from Europe. I had one partner for a very long time when I was younger. I was about seventeen years old when I turned to Standard. I stayed there until I graduated from the University. I was not really sure what to do next.

What did you study?

[Liana]: International Business. I think my parents did not want me to continue dancing, they would rather want me to do some office work in some international company. But dancing was always my passion and at that time I wasn't sure what I should be doing, continue there or move someplace... For summer I came to US, not for dancing, but for university, actually summer college classes. It was five years ago. You know, I used to dance in WDSF, and when I moved to US I did not know anything about WDC. I only knew one side of the world. So when I was studying the summer programme in LA, I started doing some research trying to find out more about WDC federation. And actually realised that it might be better than what we had over there. I also realised that I would have to move from Kaliningrad if I wanted to dance seriously.

In the end, I stayed in LA, and Marek Klepadlo was my first partner. Marek was third at the Rising Stars few days ago. I am very grateful to him because it was thanks to him I stayed in the US. He showed me everything how it works. I moved to New York to dance with him, it was Jonathan Wilkins who put us together. We were there for some time, and then moved with Marek back to LA. We danced in Amateur. When I moved to Professionals I got another partner. I also had tried with a guy from WDSF who came to US from Europe for few months, but he did not want to stay there after all, so we just danced one competition. It just did not work out for us. So I started looking again and then Valeriu came along (laughing).

OK, how did you meet?

[Valeriu]: Actually, as I said, I found out about her from a friend in LA...

[Liana]: Who was also dancing this competition (laughing)

[Valeriu]: Yes (laughing)! He said to me she was looking for a partner and she was a very good dancer.

Did you know each other?

[Valeriu]: No, we actually did not know each other.

[Liana]: Because I was Professional and he was still in Amateur. Our paths never crossed...

[Valeriu]: We contacted each other and I flew to LA. We had a try-out there.

[Liana]: You lived in Boston at the time?

[Valeriu]: Yes, I lived in Boston since I moved to USA. I was there for five years.

So, let me get it right, you flew from Boston to LA, across the whole of the US, to dance with a girl who you did not know before...

[Valeriu]: Just for a try-out. Not that I made a decision yet (laughing)

[Liana]: I was told by our common coaches that there was a guy who I never knew, and that was not a pleasant surprise because I thought I knew every dancer in US so home come there is that guy I've not heard of. OK, if he comes to LA, we can meet and have a try-out, why not. I already had a number of try-outs at the time, I flew to Russia for one, and to New York... So it was a busy period of trying-out for me and he was one of the guys who came over for it. I had nothing to lose.

And how was it?

[Valeriu]: It was OK. You know, like a first try-out with a person you have not danced with before. But overall it was good, like height-wise because there was a concern that I might be too tall for her, and she is too short for me. Height-wise it felt good right away. It felt good, light.

[Liana]: I think you told me you can agree right away.

[Valeriu]: Yes, I think I said that it can work because I was planning to move to LA anyway.

Why did you want to leave Boston and move to LA?

[Valeriu]: Dancing community in Boston is not that big. Job opportunities are not that great as I would have in LA. So I made a decision that I wanted to move even if it did not work out with Liana and I had to look for another partner

[Liana]: For me, it was a bit different because I was not sure in the beginning. I still had some more try-outs. I was talking to my coaches a lot and one of them, Charlotte Jorgensen who lives in Boston and knows Valeriu, convinced me to have a second try-out with him. But this time I would have to come to Boston so she can see both of us together. So I flew to Boston and we had a second try-out over there. I actually felt really comfortable dancing with him even if we, visually, did not look that good in the beginning.

So it was better than in LA?

[Liana]: Yes (laughing). I think Charlotte actually helped us by looking from the side, tweaking positions a little and so on. Valeriu danced a slightly different style before.

[Valeriu]: The styles were different because I was dancing in WDSF and Liana was with WDC for a long time. Our styles were quite different. It wasn't clicking at the beginning...

[Liana]: But she helped us, she put us together. I also had different coaches, sent them videos, asked their opinion as well. Most of them were very positive because the look was good. He was slim, he had a perfect position as most people in WDSF have (laughing), and I was soft... so from the visual perspective it looked positive. Also other opportunities I had meant I'd have to move somewhere, or leave the country, while this guy was ready to move to LA where I had a job and I did not want to move. Interesting fact is that we actually drove to LA from Boston.

From Boston! How long did it take?

[Liana]: It took us three days (laughing). It was Charlotte's idea. She said we will know each other better, find out things about each other and work out if it is going to work personality wise as well.

[Valeriu]: If you can stand each other in a car for three days, then there might be a chance the partnership would work (laughing).

Did you take the famous Route 66?

[Valeriu]: There was a lot of Route 66 but not that interesting... we drove through the northern part of the USA so there was a lot of driving... You know, at some point the GPS said there is 800 miles of straight line (laughing).

[Liana]: We had a plan that we had to do 1,000 or 1,200 miles a day so we were switching every three hours. At the end, we drove twelve hours a day. We tried to do the fastest possible.

[Valeriu]: One of the reasons we did it was that I had to take my car with me. If I did not take it I'd be without a car in LA and still had to pay to keep it in Boston. In LA you cannot really do anything without a car.

[Liana]: So this is how we moved him to Los Angeles.

It was a good test for your partnership

[Liana]: Yeah, it was. It is interesting that it went well. We both have quite similar personalities, we are not very open. It was fine. No issues there.

[Valeriu]: Not at all. We found out about our dancing, because we did not know each other's backgrounds.

Was it the summer 2017?

[Liana]: No, earlier

[Valeriu]: It was actually a year ago. Christmas 2017.

Was it cold, how was the weather when you were driving?

[Liana]: Yes, it was very cold

[Valeriu]: But we were lucky when we drove through Colorado. It could have been scary but it there was not much snow there. Journey through the mountains was OK.

[Liana]: It was beautiful actually

[Valeriu]: If it was more snow we would have been stuck there (laughing).

You've mentioned that the styles of dancing in WDC and WDSF are different. How are they different?

[Valeriu]: WDSF is focused a lot on the upper body, on spacing, position and the shape. Of course, they pay attention to the leg action and body movement but I think it is mainly focused on the top line, on how it looks and what shape you can create. I think WDC is opposite, they focus on the basic principles of weight movement. Also they have different systems and different coaches. We did not really have the same coaches and that is also a factor. Different coaches teach you different positions, different body connection, different frame, hold. So because we did not work with the same teachers it was difficult in the beginning.

[Liana]: I think it is actually quite good that we tried to combine both styles. Everybody who sees his posture says it is looking very good and we do not have to work on it that much right now. I come from the other site where I was taught about movement quality and the natural action of the body and he can catch up from me.

Do you think it is more to do with a difference between Amateurs and Professionals, or federations?

[Valeriu]: I think it is both but mainly because of the organisations to be honest. As far as I know, there are separate group of teachers who teach WDC and WDSF. They focus on different set of things and that's the result you see on the floor.

[Liana]: But in the end I would say that good dancing is good dancing. You can have great competitors in both organisations, and within Amateur fields and Professional fields.

But judges are looking for different things...

[Valeriu]: Yes. They judges and teachers from the same organisation focus on things they want to see later on the floor. So obviously when they see these things at the competition they mark them. So, switching between the organisations is difficult, especially in the beginning. It can be a little strange.

One good example is Viennese Waltz where WDSF introduced a set of new steps. Are you missing them?

[Valeriu]: Hmmm... No, not really. If I have to think about it I probably don't miss them. I understand the part where it makes it more interesting because how much more can you do a natural and reverse turning over and over again for a minute and a half. But, on the other hand, this is what the Viennese Waltz as a dance is. I guess what I have to say is that there are some things that I like what WDSF does in Viennese Waltz, some steps that actually work with the music and the way it looks on the floor. And some that are a bit too much, too crazy, and it is turning it into Foxtrot or something different altogether. I would say it is fifty-fifty.

[Liana]: I wouldn't want to try all those things (laughing). I think it is pure dance and I rather keep the tradition of it. And I hope that in WDC they don't change it. It is one dance where couples can be compared directly to each other because every couple dances the same steps. Often you see couples have completely different, very good or very bad, result in Viennese in comparison to the other dances. It is how it is, and I actually like it.

What is most important in dancing for you?

[Valeriu]: For me, it probably is the process of practising and always trying to improve, make improvement in yourself as a person, as a dancer and as a competitor, and as a dance partner... it is a challenge of constantly being out of your comfort zone and trying to be better in pretty much every aspect...

[Liana]: I would say I love everything about it. It has two sides to it, the sport side where you have to train yourself to be physically strong and the art side where you have to express yourself in certain way, to be different and to stand out from other people. And every time you have to show the best of both sides. That's the challenge we are facing and I really enjoy going out there and trying our best, as a couple, to perform better that the last time.

Are you a couple in private life? Both: No

OK, so it should be easier to answer my next question. What don't you like about each other?

[Liana]: Let me start the other way round (laughing). I like that he is very calm person and not confrontational. It is hard to have any fight with him. It is good for our practices. But sometimes it is too much, and I have to take him out of it so he can express more emotion in his dancing.

[Valeriu]: So from I understand I am too nice (laughing).

[Liana]: Honestly he is a good guy with a nice personality. But sometimes he needs a little bit extra to push. So far, during the competitions when we needed it the most, he was able to pull this strength out and show he is the best. I wish it can happen more often (laughing) so I don't need to try to find out how to pull it from him.

[Valeriu]: For me, it is kind of the other way round (laughing). Because she is so dedicated, goes 200% for her goal every time, pushing so hard, which is great for me because it takes me out of my comfort zone. But if we are talking about negative things (laughing) sometimes it can become too much. She can be obsessed with doing something right at this second. It can be frustrating, and pushing too hard. Sometimes you need to take a step back, take a few breaths and look at it from a different perspective rather than just trying to push through...

So you are trying to make less aggressive, and she is trying to make you more aggressive?

[Valeriu]: I guess I am saying she is helping me to overcome some weaker parts of my character (laughing) and I can help her the other way round.

What about your friends? Do you have friends?

[Valeriu]: Friends... (laughing). Well, there are school friends back in Moldova where I come from.

[Liana]: You've been lucky. You have few friends from Moldova, from the same club...

[Valeriu]: True, because there is quite a number of Moldovan guys over in Los Angeles right now. We all grew up in the same dance club. We were taught by the same teachers from a very young age. They are now in LA, and it is nice to have familiar faces around. Especially as I moved to LA only a year ago, it was very helpful to be able to spend some time with them and get some advice.

[Liana]: I would say that the best friends are back in Russia. These are friends from school and the university. As you know dancing takes a lot of time and most of our free time we spend practising or teaching, preparing for competitions, doing some workout other than dancing. The focus is there. Of course we have some friends, but we don't spend much time with them, unfortunately.

Is it possible to be friends between competitors?

[Liana]: Of course.

[Valeriu]: Yes, yes. Of course, on the competition floor you have no friends because everybody wants to do their best and to win. And it is totally fine. But outside the floor we are the same community, the same people, dealing with the same kind of issues, with drive to improve. I really like the people who are friendly.

But you do hear stories about couple hating each other...

[Liana]: Yes, but I wish this happens less. We are in the same boat really, we are doing the same thing...

Yes, but there is this strong competitive element in dancing, you are all fighting for the first place

[Liana]: We all motivate each other. The more you see others working, practising, giving their best, the more you want to do the same. So it can be not about fighting but trying your best on the floor and seeing the outcome of it. I don't think about it as a fight honestly.

[Valeriu]: I think we can use each other as motivators to practise harder and become better. I cannot see a reason why you should be hating somebody just because you are competing against them. On the floor I don't think see them as friends, I am thinking of doing my best for our couple, but outside the floor is a different story.

[Liana]: I did not know that about you (laughing).

What do you like to eat?

[Liana]: I am not picky with food, I can eat everything in small amounts. We work a lot, and we have not much time to think about food. Normally I just have breakfast and another meal in a day. I don't have a favourite type of food... Of course, every time I am back at home in Russia I enjoy Russian food. And in LA there are lots of types of restaurants that I enjoy.

[Valeriu]: I also can eat pretty much everything... but my favourite is anything spicy. What I really love is probably Indian food. Not the spiciest curries, not the ones which make you sweat, but there is this restaurant in Boston owned by the Indian family for thirty years and they make the best rice and chicken curry. That's is definitely my favourite food.

I am sure you can find a good Indian restaurant in England as this type of food is really popular here

[Valeriu]: Yes, we did go to the Indian restaurant in London and it was really good. You can tell it is authentic and very well cooked.

How do you prefer to take information? You rather read or watch?

[Liana]: To be honest I prefer to listen because the most time I have is when I drive a car. You know, LA is a big city and sometimes you have to drive for hours for coaching or to teach or to get to practice. So it is the most convenient way right now to put on some podcast or video where you can listen to it. But if I had time I'd prefer to watch a video about it.

[Valeriu]: I prefer to watch, as I can understand or relate to it better.

What do you like to watch for fun?

[Liana]: Besides dancing (laughing)?

[Valeriu]: Besides dancing (laughing), I love Hollywood movies obviously. I grew up watching all these Marvel or DC cartoons and now they have a lot of movies coming out. Not all of them are great. Some of them are made really great, some not so well, but this is what I probably like to watch. It is quite entertaining. Lots of CGI (laughing) but very, very entertaining.

Favourite character?

[Valeriu]: The Joker from "The Dark Knight" from 2008. I really liked how the character was played by Heath Ledger. The character is a crazy clown who doesn't like anything and doesn't care about anything and the way this guy played him was amazing. I thought it was the best performance.

[Liana]: My favourite genre is documentary movies and I watch them on the planes when we travel somewhere. I like documentaries about anything, it can be about people, or places around the world, or science... I love to watch movies about sports people and how they lived and trained to achieve their success. I can relate to that because of what we are doing here. I also like to watch documentaries about other successful people, in business or in science. It is always interesting to see what was so special, what make them succeed. Sometimes if I am in a mood I could enjoy some silly comedy or romance.

Not action movies?

[Liana]: No. One time he asked me to go watch some of this kind of move... "Venom", I think it was. I did not like it (laughing). I would say they are my least favourite movies (laughing).

What about any films about Ballroom dancing?

[Liana]: I watched some old videos, and read some books but I don't think I have seen any documentary made about Ballroom dance.

[Valeriu]: I would watch if there is one.

Who was your inspiration?

[Valeriu]: For me, Luca and Lorraine. They are one of my favourites "old masters". And Mirco and Alessia.

[Liana]: As a woman I always admired Anne Gleave. Then I would say Lorraine and Alessia Betti of course.

What kind of music you like for dancing?

[Liana]: We will have opposite answers (laughing). It brings me back to our practices right away (laughing)

[Valeriu]: I am more fan of more modern type of music. When I say modern I mean music with Foxtrot or Waltz timing. But I also enjoy the old school or classic music when it is played in Blackpool by a live orchestra. It is very inspiring and energising and creates a great atmosphere. But will I listen to it on my phone... no, it doesn't inspire me. Michael Buble has a few Foxtrot sounds that I really love.

Do you like vocal?

[Valeriu]: Yes

[Liana]: I am the opposite. I like Blackpool sounds and you can listen to it all year. I guess that from now on till Blackpool we will play it more often. I like some old school songs that the orchestra played at the International or at the UK Open. About modern songs... I would say it depends on the mood or when I am teaching kids. But there are only few such songs I really like.

Do you put on modern songs when you teach kids because they can relate better to music like that?

[Liana]: Yes, and they prefer it. I asked them to play music from their phones and this is the only type of music they had. This fashion comes from Europe, or from Russia. They watch more European style dancing and they listed to the same type of music. Unfortunately (laughing). The new music has stronger rhythm and it is easier for them to catch the beat, especially younger kids.

What music do you like to listen to, not necessarily dance music?

[Valeriu]: I do listen to hip-hop music, or pop music. I love the hip-hop dance style and like the music. It is strange because every time somebody gets into car with me, they kind of expect me to listen to classical opera music (laughing). So I like both hip-hop and pop dance styles and watching them you listen to music and grow to like it.

[Liana]: I would agree to this one actually (laughing). I also like rap, even Russian rap. Perhaps because when I was growing up it was very popular. So I like to play old rap or R&B or hip-hop music.

What language do you use between each other?

[Liana]: Russian and English

[Valeriu]: She is trying to make me speak Russian and I am trying to make her speak English (laughing).

[Liana]: He is originally from Moldova and his language is Romanian. But he can speak Russian as well.

[Valeriu]: I spoke Russian from young age, but my first language is Romanian and then I learned Russian. And later I learned English. Living in United States I speak so much English that switching to Russian is harder.

[Liana]: We switch back and forth

What type of phone do you have?

[Valeriu]: I have Apple IPhone

[Liana]: The same

[Valeriu]: And I am really annoyed that they changed the charger (laughing). It is driving us crazy, you have to buy an adapter to plug in auxiliary device for music or to record. It is all extremely expensive.

[Liana]: We actually even thinking of switching but we did not do it yet

[Valeriu]: I mean, it works... We have been recommended Android by some of our students.

What dance websites do you visit?

[Liana]: Dancesportinfo is a main one for the international competitions. We visit for our local competitions. It is nice because you get reviews on certain categories from judges and it is always interesting to read about yourself or others.

[Valeriu]: Outside of that I use wdsf website to look at the results of some of my friends. But dancesportinfo is always the first one I go to check my results. It was curious to see my results from when I was younger.

What can we improve?

[Liana]: First of all, not all the US competitions you have recorded. You are missing two of our competitions we danced. I am not sure why. You know, you are waiting and waiting and want to see the rating points and you don't find it.

Send us a link, not sure why we missed these two

[Liana]: They were actually two good competition results for us (laughing). There is rating common for the competitors from both sides. I am not sure whether it is fair to compare them...

Yes, the assumption was that these couples will compete together at some point, like Blackpool few years ago...

[Liana]: Yes, I know... And there are couples who never competed against each other and they are from different federations and have the same rating.

What things do you use your phones for?

[Valeriu]: Watching other people dance videos. Recording ourselves to improve later. Reading news, Twitter, Instagram

Do you use Facebook?

[Valeriu]: I have an account but there is too much going on there. Not my favourite app.

[Liana]: We actually use Facebook for work, it is to meet teachers, dancers and our students there. So the content of posts is our dancing. While Instagram is more private life.

[Valeriu]: Not a lot of dancers that I know of use Twitter so for me, it is more sports news.

Do you watch TV?

[Liana]: I don't

[Valeriu]: I watch sports but on my phone via applications. I connect my phone to the TV set, using Apple TV, and Xbox.

Which one of you makes decisions of what competitions to go to?

[Liana]: Both. We made a list of all possible competitions and in our first year we tried to do most of them. We discussed it together and decided we do all the locals which is LA and California. Then we chose the big English ones. They were a must. Then we discussed which ones at the East Coast we want to do, and we chose the biggest ones. If we have a disagreement which rarely happens, we go to our coaches. We ask their advice, we ask few of them and if they agree we go, otherwise we don't go.

How do you choose you dresses?

[Valeriu]: Not me (laughing)

[Liana]: I am sponsored by an American company called Dore Design. Honestly, I give them ideas of what I would like to have and sometimes they do exactly what I want but most of the time they put their own ideas into that. So at the end I have a dress no matter if I want it or not, and it is my choice if I want to wear it or not. So far, this year, I have been lucky with that and I liked all the dresses they made for me. If I have a question if I should wear it or not, I sent a photo to few of my female coaches that I trust and check their opinion but so far all the dresses were successful I should say.

[Valeriu]: I have an opinion, of course, I know if I like the dress or I don't like the dress.

What about your tail suit?

[Valeriu]: I did have a problem... or maybe not a problem, but you know, you want to have a perfect tail suit which is a very rare thing nowadays (laughing). Currently I have a tail suit with RS Atelier and I am quite happy with it. We had to do some changes only because I tried it in Blackpool and then they send it to me after one measurement only, it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. So we did some changes and now I am happy with it.

Who is booking flights?

[Liana]: You will be surprised, we both do it.

[Valeriu]: True (laughing). We do it separately because we pay with separate cards.

[Liana]: So I book my flight and he does his.

[Valeriu]: We are sitting down together in a studio and decide now we are booking the flights. So we look together for the best tickets and we buy them at the same time.

So you don't have a join account for your business expenses?

[Valeriu]: We are not together in private life so... But maybe we will do that in the future

[Liana]: It would be simpler. But we only dance for a year so we did not think of everything yet (laughing).

What do you prefer: dancing a competition or a show?

[Valeriu]: At the moment I prefer competition. I like the challenge, the atmosphere, the drama the competition creates. When it is going well it is a lot of fun. Shows are interesting because you don't have to worry about anybody else, how you going to get placed and what the judges think.

Don't you feel more restricted in the competition? Can you express yourself freely in the competition situation?

[Valeriu]: I understand that point. But you are still out there expressing yourself within certain rules. I have to say that the challenging part is driving yourself to try harder, to do better. So it is still about expressing yourself within the competition situation, not just going out there to win. It is not just about the energy.

[Liana]: I agree that competition gives you challenge, and show is easy because it is just you and your own choreography. Of course, in a show you can do something different that you cannot do at the competition. This is what I like. But if I have to choose, from the point of view where we are in our career, I'd say I prefer competition.

Which vote matters more to you: public or judges?

[Liana]: I'd say public... because at the end you are dancing for the audience. In the end it is an entertainment for the public who came to watch you, including judges of course. Judges are also our audience. If you get some appreciation for that it is really encouraging to do better. You know when you dance a certain piece and it goes well with the audience, you get applauds, it is very, very inspiring. It is a great feeling when people like what you do. You don't want to hear comments, even after winning, that you were boring. There are couples, even in Professional Ballroom, who never won but they are remembered by everybody. They were not marked well but the audience loved them.

[Valeriu]: Yes, you want to inspire people with your dancing. They are there to watch and get something from you. You are there to show them a little bit of your world while you are dancing. If they are moved then you've done your job well.

What are you plans for the near future?

[Liana]: We have few competitions in Los Angeles area right now, we are going to dance California Open in February. Then we may go to New York for New York Dance Festival. So we have a few before Blackpool.

Rising Stars as well?

[Liana]: We haven't discussed it yet. I assume that we will do the Rising Stars in Blackpool.

[Valeriu]: There will be pressure on us, but this is what we are here for (laughing). If we can't handle pressure it is not worth it (laughing).

[Liana]: Blackpool is usually stronger, more couple coming in, so that's great.

[Valeriu]: It will be a good challenge so we need to prepare quite well.

What are you favourite competitions?

[Valeriu]: I think, so far, it is Blackpool. I have been there only once, but the venue, the atmosphere, I was quite impressed. I was really young when the federations split, and I was dancing WDSF so never had a chance to do Blackpool before. All the amazing legends of dancing sit in the front row and you get a chance to dance in front of them. It is quite special.

[Liana]: I love Blackpool as well. I think it is my favourite from the major English competitions that we have. The International is amazing though, the atmosphere in the Albert Hall is special. UK Open is also beautiful. They are all different. I enjoy all of them in a different way. You can feel the difference physically as well. In Blackpool you have four dances, in the International you have breaks between the rounds, but the UK Open is the hardest. In the final you have five dances in a row, no breaks in the middle, so physically it is hard to dance six rounds a day. From American competitions my favourites are Embassy Ball and Emerald Ball in our home town of Los Angeles. Also Millennium Championships is always great, every year they have some theme and that is special.

Thank you

Majority of images by Peter Suba taken on the day. Some pictures by Dancesportinfo.