Interview with Diego Arias Prado and Ekaterina Ermolina

Interview with Diego Arias Prado and Ekaterina Ermolina

Posted on Τρίτη, 22 Ιαν 2019, 16:51 by admin
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We talked to Diego Arias Prado and Ekaterina Ermolina, who debuted in Professional ranks by winning the Professional Rising Star Ballroom event at Blackpool Festival 2018. Diego is from Spain, Ekaterina comes originally from Russia and they represent Spain but they work and spend a lot of time in Hong Kong.

Professionals have energy, but it comes from within. It doesn't matter whether it is Latin or Ballroom. You create a movement, rather than just do it

Let's start with congratulations!

[Diego]: Thank you!

Are you happy with the result?

[Diego]: Very happy. It was always a dream to win a title in Blackpool.

[Ekaterina]: It was our goal. And we reached the goal!

Tell me how you started to dance, what were your beginnings?

[Diego]: I come from Spain. When I was a kid I did not really have any information about dancing. I started dancing when I was twelve, and I did not do any travelling outside of Spain. Then I stopped dancing because I was also playing football and to achieve the high standard I could not do both. But, at some point I decided that football was not for me.

What position did you play?

[Diego]: Midfielder, like Xavi (laughing). It was a dream, but not successful (laughing). Anyway, I had a bad injury so I couldn't continue and decided to go back to dancing. Not only did I came back to dancing, but I also decided to move to Italy. For about eight months I danced with an Italian girl.

And now you have an Italian accent (laughing)

[Diego]: Because I lived in Italy for five years. And that's where I can say I really started learning dancing. I was twenty one! After my first Italian partner I met Ekaterina.

[Ekaterina]: I started dancing when I was eight years old, in Russia, in a Siberian city of Chita. I danced there maybe for a year and then moved to Moscow. I danced 10 dances there for a while and made semi-finals and finals of the Russian competitions. When I met Diego I was actually dancing only Latin (laughing). Not that I wanted to dance only Latin but I had to because could not find a partner for 10 dance. I went to Byelorussia looking for a partner and while I was there I had some lessons with Massimo Giorgianni. I liked that a lot. When I met Diego and we both did not have a partner we did a try-out. I was really after a Latin partner, but I said to myself, maybe we can do 10 Dance (laughing). And we did 10 Dance at the beginning.

[Diego]: But we were not very successful

[Ekaterina]: So in the end, we dropped Latin (laughing)

So how did you meet for the first time?

[Diego]: In Italy. I was moving to Italy, because I was really inspired by Massimo Giorgianni. I wanted to learn from him. So I decided to move to Italy without speaking any Italian or English (laughing). Just adventure!

Crazy!

[Diego]: Yes, crazy. My family thought that as well, but I wanted to learn dancing and that was it. It was my dream. I was attracted to Italy as a country as well. I was watching the video from the World Superstars and all these successful Italian dancers. It was wow! In particular, Massimo and William Pino. And Luca. It was something I was looking for but Massimo was a priority. When I was dancing in Spain with the Russian girl, I did two trips there, because Massimo was a teacher of my partner at that moment. I really liked it.

[Ekaterina]: For me as well, Massimo was special. I really enjoyed the lessons. I went to Italy just for lessons, not for try-outs as I was not looking for a Ballroom partner. And that's where I met Diego.

Did you know him?

[Ekaterina]: No. Our paths never crossed before. I was only dancing in Russia. I went to Italy to have some lessons with Massimo and Alessia and then I saw Diego practising there. I asked if he had a partner.

How did you notice him? Is it because he is a handsome man?

[Ekaterina]: That as well (laughing).

[Diego]: I was practising

[Ekaterina]: He picked me up from the airport so I already had a good first impression (laughing). Now I knew he was also looking for a partner. He was also studying with Massimo, who I wanted as a teacher. He had no partner, I had no partner and could not find any... He looked good, was charming and funny, he was good height for me, and he was a nice guy... it made sense to have a try-out.

[Diego]: I was charming (laughing), good to hear that!

[Ekaterina]: But the first time was not good. Actually, it was horrible.

Why??

[Diego]: It felt horrible, I still remember. We were not matching, totally different styles.

[Ekaterina]: I think he was very sophisticated, elegant. I was strong and powerful. It was a horrible feeling. But we took a video and it looked good. So I said, I don't care how I feel, it looked good so it made sense to try again. And maybe do something different. He was from Spain, I was from Russia and these are two different cultures, different mentalities. So it could be an interesting combination, Russian planning and Spanish artistic spirit. And here we are (laughing).

You are together in private life as well?

[Diego]: Yes, very much so. We are married.

[Ekaterina]: Almost six years.

How many years are you dancing together?

[Diego]: Nine, ten...

So you have waited five years to marry?

[Diego]: Let's say the relationship did not start straight away. When she moved to Italy she was still fifteen and she was alone. She looked more mature and I continued to ask how old she was. But neither she, nor her mother wanted to tell me. I thought it was strange. Later I learned she was very young, almost sixteen. But at the time I did not know, but I thought something was not quite right.

[Ekaterina]: There is eight years difference between us. I was a bit worried in the beginning...

To the sixteen year old girl, somebody who is twenty four years old looks like ready to retire (laughing)

[Diego]: And I started dancing seriously when I was twenty, twenty one. I felt that I did not have enough knowledge. I was just doing it because I liked it, I did not know whether I wanted to do it for life.

[Ekaterina]: He was passionate about it.

[Diego]: I was worried about her young age. I asked many times whether she was sure about her choice. We got married when she was eighteen.

[Ekaterina]: When you dance, and you spend nearly 24 hours together, and you get to know your partner quite well. I was sure.

[Diego]: I think it is especially important in Ballroom. To know each other. And for that, you need time.

Definitely when I watch Ballroom couples I appreciate maturity, while with Latin I prefer young and fresh

[Diego]: Yes, it is different. When we first started with Ekaterina I have seen maturity in her even if she was so young. That was the unique thing about her. I even thought she was my age. Even now, people think we are the same age.

[Ekaterina]: When I started to dance, I always danced in the age category higher than mine. I never danced in my age category. I always had an older partner, and I never actually wanted to dance with the younger dancers. I always felt more mature, I felt I had a different, greater understanding of the movement.

You are both still very young for the Professionals

[Ekaterina]: Maybe me, but not Diego (laughing)

[Diego]: It depends how you feel. If you feel that your body can manage... The moment we want to retire is not yet in our mind, but it will be when my body says stop.

Do you see a difference between dancing in Amateurs and Professionals?

[Diego]: A lot

[Ekaterina]: Very big difference.

[Diego]: When we dance Amateur we were always told we look more mature in movement, more like Professionals. We had no idea what it meant because we were Amateurs. If I look more mature, I thought, I should have more success. But, not necessarily. For the last few years when you look at the young couples they go for the power. They are told what they need to do, they do it, and that's it. I don't know if they really have the knowledge to understand he movement, to dance with the maturity we are talking about. They just go for it, it is the energy, the power.

[Ekaterina]: Professionals also have energy, but it comes from within. It doesn't matter whether it is Latin or Ballroom. You create a movement, rather than just do it.

[Diego]: Yes, sometimes the Amateur couples are just too busy

Do you think you will do better in Professionals than in Amateurs?

[Diego]: Yes, hopefully. It is always good to have a dream (laughing). OK, my dream was to dance in Blackpool and we've done it...

But you have not won the Amateur title?

[Diego]: No, but looking back 10 years ago, I would never even imagined it'd be possible for me to dance in Blackpool! So I was taking it step by step, like in football, match by match. When you learn to do something correctly today, there is a chance you will achieve success in the future. So I was patient. When we ended up in the final, it happened faster than I expected (laughing). What do I do now? (laughing)

So when you were walking onto the floor yesterday you were not confident you'll win?

[Diego]: We decided to turn Professional on the last day we could enter the Blackpool competition. We always said if we do it, we wanted to do it in Blackpool. Historically, it has more importance, maybe just in my mind. So when we were waiting for the competition we did not know how it will go for us. We were starting from scratch really. But when we made this decision, already the next day I felt a different energy. Maybe in Amateur there was too much pressure, trying to achieve something which was not that important... I don't know.

Imagine you dance a competition where, in addition to the adjudicating panel, an audience have a power to judge as well. Which vote would you prefer?

[Diego]: It was one of the things we were asking ourselves as well. I love when I see the audience, the crowd is going crazy for me. People want to be affected by emotions, touched. When you buy a ticket to the theatre or cinema you want to feel something. So in dancing, I believe, it is the same thing. I don't want to have a result just because the judges say so, I want to see that effect in the public as well. So I would prefer the public vote.

[Ekaterina]: Definitely, for sure

I think William Pino was like that...

[Diego]: Yes, he could bring that effect on people. That special feeling when you saw him performing.

[Ekaterina]: Goosebumps! It is amazing when you get that energy back from public.

[Diego]: I am very sensitive. It is easier to feel something when you do a show than when you dance a competition. But I see couples who were very successful trying to affect me, telling a story at the competition too. You can see the reaction in the public.

What do you prefer, a show or a competition?

[Diego]: Always a show. I enjoy that very much.

So when you do a show, is it classic Ballroom or you break the rules?

[Diego]: In the past, we tried that at Cheam party. As the word was “party” we decided to do the funny show. It was very successful. Difficult, but I liked it a lot. I discovered something in my personality that I can bring into my dancing.

Have you ever tried American Smooth?

[Diego]: Yes. A little bit.

[Ekaterina]: Very little (laughing). When we do a show we feel it should not be about the steps and rules, but feelings you can transmit to the people. So when you asked if we break the rules, yes, we do, but for the purpose of conveying some message, some feeling or emotions. Not just to do some crazy movement. We do it for the purpose of giving something to people, that they can remember.

Changing the subject, tell me what you don't like about your partner

[Diego]: I don't know, but I am sure she will have a lot to say about me (laughing). OK, hard to pick something up because many negative things are also positive. It is true! She is very hardworking, always wants to practice, and sometimes it is just too serious. I need fun when I practise because otherwise the day feels too long! She is very persistent, if she feels she needs it, she will repeat something hundred times. I don't like it. So sometimes, she just needs to listen to me and do what I want. Maybe I'll be wrong, but at least just try. Sometimes I want something, I say it to her but she doesn't want to listen. That communication needs to be there.

I can see she is very serious

[Diego]: Once she puts her shoes on, she changes into that serious, determined and focused person. Too serious. Too Russian (laughing).

Maybe she is simply a responsible person

[Diego]: Honestly, she is too serious. You need more fun in life, and in the competition as well. A teacher once said to me that he was not sure if I have the competitive streak in me. She has it. So I asked, what do I need to do to be competitive? In football, or another sport, I know what to do. But dancing for me, it is too sophisticated, not a simple “go for it”. I still don't understand what it means to be competitive in dancing... For me, I have to have fun. And I want to be able to affect people with my performance. That's why I do it. So perhaps it is a different type of competitiveness, not who is stronger, faster.

Now you can say positive things about her

[Diego]: I like everything about her! I wouldn't want anybody else. I stayed with her, and married her, because she is who she is. She is wonderful, beautiful. She is just a little too serious about practice. Maybe because she is Russian, I am Spanish so I am a little bit lazy...

[Ekaterina]: This is one of the negative things I wanted to say about him (laughing).

[Diego]: This is my weakness and I know that. But if I decide I need to work hard, I can do that. It is not happening very often (laughing). When I have the moment of laziness she is always there to say to me, come on, move your butt! I may want her to leave me alone, but it is necessary.

[Ekaterina]: First of all, for the last ten years he was away from his family and his home. Now we dance for Spain. So when we need to practise before the competition we go there to practise.

[Diego]: We have just changed the country, we represent Spain. First competition. So this Blackpool is special for me for that reason as well.

[Ekaterina]: So when we are in Spain and we practise it can take a whole day. Sometimes he wants to stay with his family and we can practice later. Or maybe tomorrow (laughing). This is what I don't like but I understand knowing he was 10 years away from home. In the other hand it does me good to take a break, because I take it too seriously sometimes. We are balancing each other actually.

So you admit you take it too seriously?

[Ekaterina]: Yes, I know it. It is hard for me, because I feel I need it. Another thing I can find to criticise Diego is that, at competition, he is not believing in himself

[Diego]: I am not competitive enough

[Ekaterina]: Of course, you always see couples around you who are great and you have this doubt whether you have practiced enough, whether you are good enough... You have to squash these negative thoughts and start thinking positively.

[Diego]: We won't have this problem anymore (laughing)

[Ekaterina]: Not after this win. Hopefully (laughing)

What don't you like in dancing nowadays?

[Diego]: I am missing the personalities on the floor. Many couples look similar to each other. Before, there were very strong personalities on the floor. Maybe the technology is to blame. Everybody has access to videos from competitions and they can copy... Before, you had to discover many things by yourself. You needed to work harder to make it work for yourself.

[Ekaterina]: There was no video recording and sharing on YouTube so people had to make an effort, to go and see the competition with their own eyes. Then they would take what they remembered, what inspired them, to practise. And they would become creative. Now they can simply copy.

[Diego]: I am criticising YouTube but I am the one who uses it too (laughing). You look at the old videos, for example a feather step, a basic step which is in all the routines. But one by Andrew Sinkinson looks different to the one by William Pino. Different styles but both look attractive. The put their own personalities into executing this step. And you can see there is something different. Now, it is all mechanical...

[Ekaterina]: People copy everything, also dresses, choreography... Oh, I like, so I'll do the same. It should be about what makes me look good. It should be about me transmitting something through how I look. Diego. Even the shows. I remember that Professional couples could maintain the same show for years. People were looking forward to see the same show. Now, they have to change every year because straight away it ends up on YouTube and people can watch without paying for a ticket!

But surely you want to see it live, it is different

[Diego]: Yes, it is but you can see it live once and then you go to YouTube and that's it! You can see it however many times you want. So it loses its value. I feel, in my opinion and from my point of view, that's one of the reasons why dancing is losing personality.

Apart from YouTube, what else do you use your smartphones for?

[Diego]: Emails, contacts

[Ekaterina]: He watches a lot of YouTube. I don't.

[Diego]: But I use it for watching movies, films, music.

[Ekaterina]: We don't watch much dancing

[Diego]: We travel a lot so we spend a lot of time in the airports. I don't want to think of how many hours we spend in the airports. And what do you do, you use phone!

Have you consider talking to your wife (laughing)?

[Diego]: We are 24 hours together! But it is true, sometimes I spend too much time on my phone.

Do you visit any dance related websites?

[Diego]: Dancesportinfo!

Thank you, but what else?

[Diego]: Sometimes we want to see the detailed results and we go to scrutelle. I am not fanatical about it though.

[Ekaterina]: Or dance-news for the entry forms for the UK Open...

Which one of you is booking flights, hotels?

[Diego]: She is the boss (laughing). She does it all. She makes me focus completely on dancing. Because I am very... special (laughing). Sometimes we book lessons together.

[Ekaterina]: Mostly it is me who organises all these things.

Who is driving?

[Diego]: Me

Who is doing cooking?

[Ekaterina]: Me

[Diego]: And me. In the beginning I was but once she learned I was happy for her to do it (laughing).

What type of food are you cooking? Russian, Italian, Spanish?

[Ekaterina]: Mostly generally Mediterranean. Lots of vegetables, fish, lean meat.

[Diego]: She likes to experiment

[Ekaterina]: Yes, I like to mix things. But I don't cook much Russian food. Too heavy.

How often do you see your family?

[Ekaterina]: Five times a year. Sometimes I fly to Russia, or my parents meet us some place, or even we go for holidays together.

[Diego]: The reason is that her Mum is into dresses. So she has an excuse to bring a new dress with her to the big competitions like UK Open or Blackpool or the International.

I see, is she here now?

[Diego]: Yes. She is coming every time.

[Ekaterina]: Yes, she always comes. And this is a good excuse for her to come to see me (laughing). We don't like to send the dress by post or courier so she always brings it in person. Other times my parents come over to Spain because they really like Spain.

Where is Spain?

[Diego]: In Tarragona. It is an hour drive from Barcelona.

[Ekaterina]: It is really nice for holiday, there is beach, it is pretty. Actually, we spend our holidays mostly there at Diego's home.

[Diego]: We don't take many holidays, only few days at the time. Normally, after a big competition, she goes to Russia for few days and I go to Spain, just to see the family.

If you were to describe each dance in one, two words what would you say?

[Diego]: Waltz ... delicate

[Ekaterina]: Lyrical

[Diego]: Romantic. Tango, maybe a passion?

[Ekaterina]: It can be sensual

[Diego]: You can use many words, depends on how you want to interpret it. Another good word is angry. But for me it is more sensual. Actually, we take lessons in Argentine Tango and if we show our Tango to them, they say it is not Tango (laughing). They take their hands to their heads and cry! For them, it is needs to be a very close dancing, very delicate. What we do it is too drastic, too strong. The music is similar (laughing).

Yes, the performance is totally different

[Diego]: Viennese Waltz for me is an art of repetition. Always the same steps. So when you do it correctly it looks good (laughing).

[Ekaterina]: For me it is a little like a rainbow, colourful. It is a happy dance.

[Diego]: Foxtrot for me is jazzy, playful. And Quickstep is fun.

[Ekaterina]: Rhythmical

What is your favourite Latin dance?

[Ekaterina]: Rumba

[Diego]: I don't know. It depends who dances it.

I meant, which one do you like to dance?

[Diego]: None (laughing)! I tell you nobody wants to see me dance Latin, it is not a pretty sight. But if I was to decide to dance one Latin dance with my wife, it will be Rumba. But don't look at my technique (laughing).

What do you like to dance when you party?

[Diego]: Salsa! I love Salsa. My brother teaches Salsa and Bachata.

So you like Salsa but don't like Latin?

[Diego]: When I was a kid I did not spend much time learning Latin. Maybe it was an influence of my teacher because he was always saying I look good in Ballroom. So it was always Ballroom, Ballroom, Ballroom. When I was a kid I was doing what the teacher said. And I did not have this hip movement, or Latin hands... I did not feel it. I felt more comfortable with Ballroom. But with Salsa is fun!

[Ekaterina]: When we go out, we dance everything

In your spare time you like watching movies?

[Diego]: Yes, last Friday I watched three.

[Ekaterina]: We also like series

[Diego]: But it is dangerous for us. Once we start watching we can spend a lot of time on it. So we have to be careful.

Do you watch it on the phone?

[Diego]: No way! When we go to Spain, we sit in front of the big TV and watch Neflix. We like Castle, do you know it?

Yes, a very nice watch. She is a policewoman, and he is a writer...

[Diego]: The other one was Breaking Bad

Oh yes, very good.

[Diego]: We saw the entire series in one week or so. It was intense! But we need to be careful not to spend too much time because next day there is work...

Books?

[Diego]: I don't read much. I was not a good student at school. I was good in one subject Physical Education (laughing). But if I read, it is always something about psychology or something like this. Something which can help me with my dancing.

[Ekaterina]: To get some information, something which will help us. Not for relaxation but for information.

[Diego]: Also for motivation or to learn about other people experiences. But ideally in Spanish. The second preference will be in Italian. My Italian is better than my English.

[Ekaterina]: English version is OK for me. Or Russian of course.

Do you speak Italian?

[Ekaterina]: Yes, it was quite easy. And I learned fast. I am getting better in Spanish as well.

Do you have your own dance school in Spain?

[Diego]: No, but we have our own studio at our home. It is not open to public yet, we use it for our own practice.

It must be a huge house!

[Diego]: In Spain it is possible. It is not huge, but it is OK. Michael Barr gave me this idea, when I went to have some lessons. He has a dance floor in his house. So I was thinking, imagine how good it can be to wake up in the morning and be able to have a breakfast and then dance in the same place. You don't need a car.

[Ekaterina]: When we were preparing for this Blackpool, we were doing it in our house.

[Diego]: It is great because when you want to eat, you eat, when you want to relax you use the swimming pool, when you want to practise you go and practise. All in one place, your own home.

So you can spend 24hrs in your own house and you have everything you need there?

[Diego]: When we prepare for a competition, yes, always. We go out just to do some grocery shopping in the supermarket.

Do you go to restaurants?

[Diego]: In Asia, every day. It depends on where we are. We live in Hong Kong and the kitchen in the apartment is small, or in some of the apartments they don't even have a kitchen. Sometimes it is not convenient to go to the supermarket because it is quite expensive. So it is convenient to go out, eat and go back to the apartment just to sleep. And that's what we do: we teach, lunch outside, practice, dinner outside and back to the apartment to sleep.

Are you spending a lot of time there?

[Diego]: Yes, quite a lot.

[Ekaterina]: There are many competitions in Asia, in China, in Hong Kong.

[Diego]: In Singapore, in Taiwan, Japan. So in the end in makes sense to be there, you see many top couples there.

What are you plans for the nearest future?

[Diego]: Continue to work hard, even harder. Ten years ago I did not even think it was possible for me to win the Rising Stars in Professionals. But we did. So everything is possible, you don't know what will happen in the future. So hopefully, through hard work, we can achieve more.

Any personal plans?

[Diego]: We want to expand our family, but not sure when. We have talked about it, and we are not sure what is better, have a kid and a break, or continue dancing until you want and then have children... I wouldn't like to be an old father. I want to be able to spend time with my child, be for them, play football with them. I love sports.

If you had all the power in the world, what would you change in dancing?

[Ekaterina]: Unity. I hate when people or groups of people fight with each other. It is not necessary...

[Diego]: Love and peace (laughing). But seriously, I would like all couples to have more personality, to treat dancing more like art, not like a physical challenge.

[Ekaterina]: I wish all dancers who love dancing were able to believe in themselves... That they can achieve all they want rather than give up. And the competitions to be truly unpredictable, so all the couple who come there have equal chances to succeed. It will be more exciting.

How were you able to finance your dancing when you danced in Amateur?

[Ekaterina]: I was lucky to have help from my parents.

[Diego]: I was not that lucky. It was very difficult in the beginning because, financially, my parents were not in the position to support me. So when I was fifteen, sixteen, I started to work for money, not in dancing. When I made a decision that I'll move to Italy I knew that my parents will not be able to support me. I was working and saving money for few years so I will be able to move and survive by myself. I hardly ever went out with friends, I was already thinking ahead knowing I need to save all I could for the future.

[Ekaterina]: It was hard until we moved to Asia where you can dance and earn money. It was either to do this or to stop dancing because we could not survive on what we had.

[Diego]: We had to sacrifice a lot. Our parents couldn't support us much longer and we had to do something. We were living in Italy, and there was nothing there we could do. We had three choices, stop dancing, move to America or move to Hong Kong.

Do you have any friends outside of dancing?

[Diego]: My closest friends are not dancers. I know them from my childhood and we maintain contact, we are very close. When I am in Spain and we meet, it feels like no time passed.

What about in dancing?

[Diego]: Maybe Ballroom dancer can have Latin friends but, in my experience, not really happening amongst the Ballroom couples (laughing).

Fierce competition?

[Diego]: Maybe.

Sometimes you see couples, especially in Ballroom competition, being quite aggressive towards each other like blocking one another in the corner...

[Diego]: Yes, but I am not like this. I am busy thinking of how I want to perform. How is it even possible to be able to think of how to disturb other couples!

[Ekaterina]: We don't agree with this kind of behaviour.

Have you ever experienced this problem?

[Ekaterina]: Yes. Many times. It is bad when it happens accidentally, but even worse when you understand they did it on purpose.

[Diego]: I don't want to play this game. The thing is that to fight you need two people. When one doesn't want to fight, it will not happen.

Is it better in Professionals?

[Diego]: People were saying to us, it will be easier, calmer... But no, in the first round it was quite aggressive (laughing).

First rounds are special... And anyway, you see a lot of couples in the first round of Professionals who would never qualify in the Amateurs.

[Diego]: They turn Professional just to earn money. One of the teachers said you'll never be successful in dancing if you do it just for money. You must do it for the love of this art.

[Ekaterina]: It must be passion

And anyway, it is not like there is any real money to be earned at this competition...

[Diego]: This is what I would change! (laughing) This competition is for the prestige. I remember when I first learned that the prize money is very small it was a big surprise for me. It is such a well-known competition, so prestigious...

[Ekaterina]: It is great to be able to say: I won Blackpool!

All the best for the coming Open event! Maybe a final?

[Diego]: Thank you!

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