We sat with Jacek Jeschke and Valeriya Agikyan in the lobby of our hotel on Monday afternoon, the day after they won Amateur Rising Star Ballroom at Blackpool 2013 and they could enjoy two days break before the next event. Jacek and Valeria started dancing together just couple of months before and it was their second competition together. They represent Poland. See their results page.
It is our second interview with Jacek - we have talked to him and his then partner Hanna Zudziewicz after they won the Amateur Rising Star Ballroom at the UK Open 2011 (see the interview with Jacek and Hanna). It was interesting for us to learn what has changed in his life since.
Congratulations! What a fantastic result after just a short time together.
[Jacek] Thank you very much
Jacek, we know all about you from the previous interview, however it will be interesting to know what happen after that interview (2 years ago at the UK Open)
[Jacek] Yes, it was 2 years ago. After that Hanna, my previous partner, and I won the Blackpool and the International Under21 Ballroom. The next year we danced the semi-final of the Amateur Ballroom at the UK Open and, after we stayed in the 48th in Blackpool, we split up. Then it was very difficult for me to find a good partner. I danced with a Polish girl for six months but I did not feel it worked out for me… so we split.
What about you Valeria?
[Valeria] I started when I was four years old. It was in Tolyatti in Russia where I lived. When I was seven or eight years old my Mum decided to open her own dance club. She never danced herself but she wanted me to be the best. This was our goal. I had a partner, we have already danced Blackpool in Juvenile and we were 4th in Ballroom. My next partnership was very successful. We won World Championships three times in the Junior age category. We also won the Juvenile and Junior in Blackpool multiple times in Latin, and were finalists in Ballroom. We danced 5 years together. When we split up, I moved to Moscow and started dancing in Youth with Viktor. It was also a very good partnership and we had very good results. We were Russian champions and European champions. Then I had another partner but it did not feel good, it was not for me.
How did you two meet?
[Jacek] We already knew each other
[Valeria] It is a long story
[Jacek] We knew each other since Junior. After I split up with Hanna I heard that Valeria doesn’t have a partner. But when I contacted her she had already decided to dance with another guy. So we missed each other that time.
[Valeria] When it did not work out, I said to myself I know one guy from Poland, Jacek, who I can imagine myself dancing with. But I knew he had a partner already. And then Jacek wrote to me.
[Jacek] So finally we found each other. It was the end of January this year. We chatted a bit and I went to Moscow for try-outs. We tried and after two, three weeks we decided to dance together
[Valeria] It was very difficult decision for us. We did not know if this will work out
[Jacek] I live in Warsaw in Poland, and Valeria lives in Moscow. It was travel all the time.
[Valeria] We had school and university. I also have my club, where I work with children.
So do you still live apart, one in Warsaw and one in Moscow? How does it work?
[Jacek] We travel all the time. Moscow, Warsaw, Moscow, Warsaw.
[Jacek] All the time we are on the move.
[Valeria] It proved to be easier that we thought in the beginning. Because we already had to travel anyway for lessons and competitions. So it is similar.
[Jacek] It is not easy but we made it work
What do you do apart from dancing?
[Jacek] We do not have that much time. We both study. I study at the Warsaw University of Technology. I should be finishing now. I also teach dancing a bit
[Valeria] I study Art. In Moscow State University. It is my third year and I now, end of May, is the exams period. I should revise.
[Jacek] I always have this problem, both at the UK Open and Blackpool as my mid-year and end of year exams take place then.
So now each of you is returning back home?
[Valeria] Yes, Jacek is going to Warsaw and I am going back to Moscow to pass our exams. Then we will get together and practise.
Do your friends at the university know about your dancing?
[Valeria] Yes, of course. I study in the Faculty of Arts and Ballroom dancing is what I specialise in. So all my friends who study with me are also dancers. Many of them are here in Blackpool as well.
Can you convince your tutors to move exams because of your competitions?
[Jacek] It depends. Generally it is possible if you explain the situation. They understand.
[Valeria] Sometimes people cannot understand how it works, why you travel or practice the time.
Do you plan to continue living like that for the foreseeable future or plan to move to one place?
[Jacek] It would be better to live in one place. We will see. It will depend on our work, on dancing, on many things. Maybe when I finish my studies in Warsaw I will move to Moscow and continue there. I don’t know.
So it is more likely you moving to Moscow?
[Jacek] I think so. There are more possibilities there for us.
[Valeria] It is much bigger city and it is easier with work. Also, lots of teachers come to Moscow.
How do you manage financially?
[Jacek] We work but parents help. I want to say big “thank you” to our parents because they support us since we were children, they are there for us all the time, for better and for worse.
[Valeria] Both families.
I suppose it is even more difficult in your case Jacek as there are two of you. Your brother Wojciech is also a dancer. What about you Valeria, do you have siblings?
[Valeria] My brother is 34 years old and lives in Israel, he doesn’t really know about my dancing. He sometimes looks up my photos on Facebook.
Are you parents coming to your competitions?
[Valeria] As I am older now, my mother doesn’t come to all the competitions anymore but maybe once every siz months. But I know she really misses that. My father is not that interested in dancing but my mother is a great fan. She was with me all the time when I was younger. She moved to Moscow with me and she now is working for my dancing.
So who was the first person you called after winning Blackpool?
[Valeria] My mother, of course
[Jacek] My parents. It is normal for me to do that. I know that if it was not for my mother, I would not dance, and I would not have these results. I said that in the previous interview that I did not like dancing that much when I was a young boy. I preferred football, I wanted to go out with friends and try other things. But my mother insisted and I started working harder which brought good results. My Mum pushed me all the time. I suppose that my character helped as well, because I always wanted to be the best. It did not matter in which sport. So it helped as well. But I was not really proud of dancing when I was a boy.
What do you do outside dancing, what do you like doing?
[Jacek] She likes playing football!
[Valeria] Yes, I like any sport. I like active life. I also like anything “arty” – like painting, reading. But the best thing which helps me relax is watching a movie.
What kind of movies?
[Valeria] It depends on my mood. Sometimes, when I want to relax, it is an easy watching family film. Sometimes I want something serious. For example I like “Once upon in America”. I like old films, for instance, Audrey Hepburn films. Especially I like our Russian cinema. Old Russian films.
Do you have friends outside dancing?
[Jacek] It is interesting, I must say that after the last interview it really changed. My friends at the university started getting interested in me and in dancing, especially after seeing pictures. It was funny, because I never like to show my photos to friends when I was younger. Some guys would start making jokes, or laugh, which I did not like. But now it has changed, they are interested. They may start talking and asking me about results, or ranking and I get to explain. They say congratulations. The leave congratulations on my Facebook. It is really nice. Of course, we are all much more mature now as well.
Do you meet each other friends?
[Jacek] Well, her friends from the university are also dancers so I also know them. But we don’t really have time to socialise.
[Valeria] Especially recently as we were preparing for Blackpool.
[Jacek] We now want a little bit of rest now. It was a very hard work for the last weeks.
Did you do any specific traning for Blackpool?
[Jacek] We tried to do, as much as possible, stamina practice. Because you need a lot of stamina to dance all the rounds, from the first round to the finals, non stop.
[Valeria] We worked very hard, all we did was lessons and stamina training all the time. Nothing else.
All you do is practice when you are together?
[Jacek] Yes, we usually meet for just two days at the time. Three days maximum.
[Valeria] And we are dancing together for few months only. That’s why we cannot rest but practise a lot.
[Jacek] But I think it is healthy to take few days off.
[Valeria] We will have few days off, because each of us is going our separate ways, home, after Blackpool. Then, again, we will have lessons.
What are your partner’s biggest faults? What don’t you like about your partner?
[Valeria] I don’t know him so well yet. I am really happy with this partnership, I feel we are a team. We can talk about everything, we can relax together after practise. All is really good now.
[Jacek] This partnership felt very good from the beginning. We, of course, met each other before, but we did not really know each other. But I feel like I know Valeria forever, since childhood. We have similar way of thinking, similar characters. I feel this positive connection.
It is interesting, because I asked you about faults in your partners but you both are praising each other! (laughing)
[Jacek] OK, nobody is perfect. One thing I can say about Valeria that she gets stressed out to much sometimes.
[Valeria] Especially yesterday
[Jacek] OK, yesterday I was stressed out myself because of my brother. They did not get a recall from the 48 (in the Amateur Rising Star Ballroom).
[Valeria] There was a period of time, short period of time, when I was really stressed. Before our first competition: Freedom to Dance. I did not know anything about our results, it was out first competition. I felt we were not ready yet. It started to destroy us a bit, we could not practise.
So you are saying Valeria is panicking too much?
[Valeria] This is because I want it to be perfect all the time.
[Jacek] I was saying to her that nobody can be perfect all the time.
Come on Valeria, there must be one bad thing about him
[Valeria] I don’t know, really. I really like him, he is my best partner. I will say one thing about our practice. He doesn’t like repeating things at the practise.
[Jacek] It is because I know that at this moment I cannot improve it. We can try again the next day.
What are your plans after your short holidays?
[Jacek] We plan to go to some camps.
[Valeria] In June, we want to work hard for one month. Then we need to rest a little bit and then prepare for the new season.
Valeria, do you have a boyfriend, and if so, how does he take it when you spend so much time with another guy?
[Valeria] I do have a boyfriend. He is happy for me. He knew how stressed I was when I split up with my previous partner. He knows how much I want to dance. So he is happy for me to see how good this partnership is.
[Jacek] He is also a dancer himself.
[Valeria] He actually takes it very well. He is laughing at me that I cannot say one bad word about Jacek.
OK, another subject: what is your favourite food?
[Valeria] Jacek, you have to say: McDonalds! It is McDonalds all the time.
[Jacek] No! For me the best food is Italian. When I am in Italy I love it. I love all of it: pasta, pizza
[Valeria] Tiramisu (laughing)
Do you like sweets?
[Valeria] Very much so. You cannot imagine how much (laughing)
So how do you manage to stay in shape? Do you diet sometimes?
[Valeria] I am like this: sometimes I don’t eat at all, and sometimes I eat too much.
Who designs your dresses?
[Valeria] I ask my teachers for advice what looks good on me or how they imagine my look. In the end, I design my look myself and have it done.
[Jacek] No, but it would be nice to have some sponsorship
So your immediate plans are to prepare for the new season. Do you know what competitions you want to dance next year?
[Jacek] We will see. We want to do best at the International.
Do you plan to go to some smaller competitions or just the big ones?
[Valeria] We will do smaller ones as well. It is also a good practice before the big ones.
[Jacek] Not sure yet. We saw some competitions in Italy and in Russia but we did not decide yet. We will see how it fits with the lessons, work and practice.
We wish you a lot of success! Good luck and see you at the International.
All photos taken by Peter Suba