Up Close & Personal with Gleb & Tatiyana Makarov
June 25, 2002
Nine Dances? No Problem!
Back in Russia, Gleb and Tatiyana Makarov, came from two different dance backgrounds. Tatiyana was a very accomplished ballet dancer and Gleb was a member of a world ranked ballroom formation team. Since then, they've been busy... Tatiyana took up ballroom dancing, they got married, came to America, and are working for a Fred Astaire Studio in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Tatiyana and Gleb are shooting for the official Nine-Dance Championship title, which will be held this October. With placings steadily rising for the past year, they're now moving above established couples in both rhythm and smooth. It appears that Tatiyana's decision to convert from ballet to ballroom, and Gleb?s choice to dance American style, have been wise ones for this very talented couple.
Why did you decide to come to the United States?
Tatiyana: We were invited to work at a Fred Astaire studio in Rochester, New York. That was in September of 1996. We stayed there for almost three years. Then we moved to Westchester, New York. We?re slowly moving south!
Why did you decide to leave Rochester?
Tatiyana: To future our competitive dancing.
Gleb: Rochester is in upstate New York.
Tatiyana: It?s a great area, but it was too far away for dancing.
Gleb: Six or seven hours from New York.
Tatiyana: There weren?t enough coaches, and we had to travel a lot.
Did you know what kind of an area it was before you moved there?
Gleb: No. We heard it?s Rochester, but we had no idea where it was.
Did you compete when you were in Russia?
Gleb: Yes. But I had a different partner.
Tatiyana: We started to compete together when we moved here, so we?ve been dancing together six years.
Were you married when you moved here?
Tatiyana: Yes. We?ve been together quite a long time? eleven years. We dated four years before we got married, and then we got married, and then we moved here.
Gleb: We were married in August, and in September we came here.
Why did you decide to compete in the American style?
Tatiyana: I guess because of me. I was a ballet dancer before, and also, I think because of Gleb?s personality. He likes to do something new all the time, and he?d been doing international style since he was four. He wanted a change, and I guess for me it was easy to start with the smooth first. Smooth was kind of close to ballet. Then we decided to do rhythm too.
How long have you been doing ballroom dancing?
Gleb: Twenty-five years. I started when I was four years old. My mom brought me to ballroom.
Tatiyana: In Russia it?s kind of popular. Parents like to see the kids dancing. Here, kids do soccer or baseball.
Gleb: Tatiyana didn?t do any ballroom dancing.
Why did you go into ballet and not ballroom?
Tatiyana: I don?t know. I just liked it! My parents liked it, I guess. When you?re little, your parent decides for you.
Since you came from different dance backgrounds were there problems when you tried to dance together?
Tatiyana: A lot. It was hard for me.
Gleb: The first half a year, it was like shock therapy for her. I showed her cha cha. And she said, ?You?re kidding me! I?m supposed to use the hips? Oh my God!? I said, ?Yes, baby, you must!? That was a funny time.
Tatiyana: The whole aesthetic look of ballet is completely different than Latin. I was always in the first position when I danced waltz. And I would turn my head always to the right.
Gleb: We would go to promenade and she turned the head to the left. We would do a natural turn and she turned her head to the right. I said, ?Beautiful, but...?
Tatiyana: He was very supportive. The students liked us, so it didn?t really matter to them.
Did you teach him things because of your knowledge of ballet?
Tatiyana: I tried! But I have to be very careful because of his personality!
Now that you know more about the ballroom dancing, has your dance partnership changed?
Gleb: She started talking more.
Tatiyana: Now it?s getting more comfortable, but still it?s never enough. Never can be satisfied.
Gleb: When we practice now she talks too much! When we first started, I would say, ?Tatiyana, can you do this and this?? She would say, ?Um hum, uh hum?.
Tatiyana: I would just repeat it and now I?m asking why.
Gleb: Now when I say, ?You should use this muscle and turn it a little more.? She says, ?Excuse me, no. You should stay there and don?t move your hand.? But that?s okay. It?s good.
Since you?re married and you dance together, how do you deal with different opinions about the dancing?
Gleb: Don?t talk about ballroom at home! That?s rule number one. Absolutely. I?m kind of hyper person, and if we had some argument on the floor, I tried bringing it home. I would continue the conversation in the car or at home or wherever. She would completely ignore me! I would say something like, ?Tanya, would you like to talk to me about the cha cha, there was lot of mistakes...? and she would walk around me in the kitchen and living room and she wouldn?t answer me. My dog even looks at me like, ?What she mean?? and then I would start to be a little bit more angry. She would come into the living room from the kitchen and really, really nice say to me, ?You want to eat?? So we never talk about ballroom at home. Never. And I know if I start to talk again she won?t answer. She?ll call somebody or watch TV or do her stuff.
How did you meet each other?
Tatiyana: We went to the same university.
Gleb: Actually, I was supposed to work as a manager in sport culture and tourism. That?s my profession.
Tatiyana: I studied to be a professional choreographer and teacher. Our classes were in the same building so we met.
Gleb: I was on the third floor, and Tatiyana was on the second. The door was always open. I thought, ?Let in those girls!?
If you stayed in Russia, would you be teaching dancing now, or would you be working in your profession?
Tatiyana: He was dancing as an amateur, so it was his hobby. He probably would be working in his profession.
Gleb: I spent more time dancing than I did for my work!
Tatiyana: He also danced in a formation team, and they were fabulous.
Gleb: We were third in the standard at the World Championship.
Tatiyana: They traveled around the world.
Are competitions different in Russia?
Gleb: Russia is huge country, and there are a lot of couples. It?s impossible to get in the final or semi-final if you don?t live in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
Tatiyana: He?s saying it?s political.
Gleb: Very. In Russia, I didn?t see a future in my dance career. I always placed the same. I lived east of Moscow. There were a lot nice dancers from places like Siberia, or further from Moscow. They would never place well. The dancers in the finals now, had to move from other cities to Moscow.
Because they knew that?s what they had to do to be successful?
Gleb: Absolutely. But it?s really difficult to live in Moscow now.
Tatiyana: Moscow is very expensive city. Like a hotel room at the Marriott is $700.
Gleb: Per night. It?s unbelievable.
What do you like best, the smooth or the rhythm?
Tatiyana: They?re both different, so it?s hard to say. I like both, but I guess in the rhythm I like slow dancing more than fast! I guess it?s just my personality or something.
Gleb: I think I?m more of a Latin person. I try to bring the Latin style to the smooth. It works for now.
Tatiyana: I think that?s why we like smooth. There are so many different styles....
Gleb: You can show everything...
Tatiyana: Ballet, jazz, ballroom. Anything you want.
You?ve been beating a lot of the top couples...
How does that make you feel?
Tatiyana: It?s been surprising, first. But we just think, ?It?s competition.?
Gleb: It?s just going up and down.
Is it exciting for you or does it make you more nervous.
Tatiyana: Oh, yes, of course, because we?re going up, it?s exciting.
Gleb: What?s really good is that we?re not thinking about results, like we were last year. We?re just coming and dancing, that?s it.
Tatiyana: At first it was a worry about what place we were going to take, but...
Gleb: When we start to dance at the competition, we can?t do anything. We have to just dance.
What made you able to change your attitude?
Tatiyana: I guess our coaches. They guide us.
Gleb: They see from the outside what you?re doing. They said, ?Don?t think too much. Don?t
compete, just have fun.?
Tatiyana: But show who you are, show you are the best at what you do.
Gleb: The results are always a surprise. Sometimes we stand in the line, and we?re announced first place? Hmmm. We were supposed to be third or fourth. But that?s okay.
Tatiyana: Sometimes, the feeling is completely opposite. You feel, you danced so great, and then the results are completely opposite to your feelings. Other times we feel it wasn?t right and then we?re surprised. We place higher than we expected.
Who are your coaches that have helped you change your attitude?
Tatiyana: Last year we worked with Victoria Regan in the rhythm. Marianne Nicole has been our main coach for six years now. I think she was our first coach in the United States. And we are still working with her.
Gleb: And now we?ve been working with Tony Meredith on some new choreography. So we go to different coaches.
Tatiyana: Try new and different styles.
Gleb: Because every coach has very interesting ideas.
Did you think that you danced really well the first time you beat Michael Neil and Susie Thompson?
Gleb: It wasn?t our best.
Tatiyana: I wasn?t happy with myself.
Gleb: So many people at the competition said, ?That was really good.? Then Tony Meredith came up to us, he had done our choreography, and he said, ?That was ugliest performance in my life!? I said, ?Good, I needed that.? He brought over a big, big piece of paper...
Tatiyana: A list.
Gleb: In the cha cha you lost connection 20 times. In the rumba your feet were the ugliest feet on the floor. That worked for us, the next week there was a competition on Long Island and we danced differently.
Tatiyana: It felt better.
Gleb: It felt much better.
What are your goals for the future?
Gleb: Try to be champions.
Tatiyana: It?s very exciting. In October, there is going to be an official nine-dance championship. The title wasn?t really official before. That will be a good title to have!
What was the hardest thing to get used to when you moved here?
You didn?t know anything when you came?
Gleb: No. I learned it all on my own. At the university I learned German.
Tatiyana: I learned German and French a little. English was very hard.
Gleb: We would just say, ?Hi, Bye,? and ?Yes, No.? That?s it. In two weeks I started to teach lessons.
Tatiyana: I would just hear one long word, like it was sentence. It was so hard. I felt so stupid! I would just smile all the time!
What made you decide to move to the United States when you knew nothing about English?
Tatiyana: We knew we could do it.
Gleb: It was simple, no language? no job. So we didn?t have a choice.
What other things have you had problems with?
Tatiyana: Different lifestyle.... like everything. Paying rent and paying bills. I guess it?s the same in Russia, but it seems different. You have to pay in Russia too.
Gleb: Restaurants are completely different. In Russia, in every single restaurant you can dance. There is dinner and dancing.
Tatiyana: It?s more like a black tie place. Everybody dresses up.
Gleb: People told us, ?We?re going to a restaurant tonight.? We think, ?Oh, really cool!?
Tatiyana: We get dressed up.
Gleb: When we go there and it was like an Applebee?s or Chili?s.
Tatiyana: And I couldn?t believe that people could eat so much!
Gleb: Now she has two plates!
Tatiyana: He?s a good joker!
Do you have a certain warm up routine, or do you have any superstitions before you dance?
Tatiyana: We just warm up alone, to warm up muscles. I like to concentrate, just on my own.
Gleb: I think about what I?m supposed to do, my job. I go through all my routines. I think practice time together should be in the studio. That?s the time when we can discuss what we?re supposed to do. Before a competition it doesn?t make sense. You should go and dance. Whatever you do. That?s it.
Do you eat certain foods?
Gleb: Chocolate cookies. Ice cream.
Tatiyana: No! Not really special. I don?t like to eat really heavy food. Something light at least five or six hours before. Otherwise, I feel heavy. I feel food in my stomach....
Gleb: I don?t care! I can eat three minutes before I dance. I feel more grounded!
How many hours a day do you practice?
Gleb: Two and a half or three every day.
How much do you teach?
Tatiyana: Usually, five or six hours a day. But it can be eight.
Do you teach social dancers differently?
Tatiyana: Yes. We learned through experience.
Gleb: When we first came here my first students were social, and beginners. My experience in Russia was working with competitive couples some were 10 - 12 years old. They were really strong dancers. When I came to America, I was teaching the same way. Can you imagine? people that never danced before? I would teach the basic step of rumba, the box step. In ten minutes they remembered the step, and I said, ?Okay, keep your knees straight, use your hip here, point your toe here. No, no, no, try one more time.? So I spent one hour on the box step.
Tatiyana: And of course, they never showed up again!
Gleb: They would go to the front desk and say, ?He?s really a nice teacher, but we think we?re not ready for that yet.? I lost a lot of students in the very beginning.
Now you feel you do it differently?
Tatiyana: We understand that the social dancers want to enjoy themselves. They don?t care if they?re keeping their knees together or not. They just enjoy dancing together and going out to show off a little in front of friends, or go on the cruise and enjoy the music.
There aren?t any social dancers in Russia?
Tatiyana: I heard in Moscow they?ve started to open up social studios.
Gleb: Before, if you came into a studio, you would open the door and everybody would be flying around. If you said, ?Excuse me, can I learn some dance?? The people would say, ?Yes, but there?s nobody to teach you. You can be in the corner and just repeat steps.?
Do you have any advice to give to someone who wants to start competing?
Tatiyana: Work hard!
Gleb: I think you should practice!
Tatiyana: Just be who you are. Don?t try to look like somebody else.
Gleb: Copying is probably good in the very beginning, but then they should find their own character. That?s what we try to do.
Do you feel that you?ve given up anything in your life to become the Nine Dance Champions?
Tatiyana: No. It?s lots of work and lots of traveling. It?s probably more expensive to dance two styles instead of one, but I think it?s a great opportunity for us to learn so much. I don?t think we?ve given up anything. This is what we choose, to compete right now, and to get our career as high as possible.
Tatiyana: Be more consistent with your dancing. Don?t change coaches because you make a bad result. Don?t change partners if you don?t take a first place. You always can work things out. See the goal in front of you and go for it.
Gleb: Be comfortable. Don?t think too much. Competition is like the final step or destination. It?s supposed to be fun. You are working, but it?s not supposed to show.
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