We talked to Marek and Kinga after they won the Professional Rising Star Latin at the UK Open 2014 but before the Open event where they were in the top 15. Marek and Kinga are Polish Professional Latin champions.
Of course, we don't dance to show technique but it allows us to express our emotions through dancing
Congratulations for winning the Professional Rising Star Latin this year. What a fantastic result. It is not the first time for you Kinga, I still remember the UK Open when you won Amateur Rising Star Latin with Przemek.
[Kinga]: Thank you
How did you feel dancing the Professional event? It was a first time for you.
[Marek]: There was no that much change for us. Of course, it is something new, so it is nice. I enjoyed it a lot.
[Kinga]: I enjoyed it as well. But I must say I expected to feel different in some way. It wasn't that much difference for us. After all, there was the same Cha Cha Cha (laughing). I loved to dance in Amateur, I love to compete and I enjoy every competition really. So there was the same enjoyment. Maybe the Open event will be different, dancing amongst all those stars. But maybe I will be so focused on my own dancing that I will not even see them around us.
[Marek]: For us, it was just a competition where we need to focus on our own dancing regardless if it is in Amateurs or Professionals.
Let's start from the usual question: how did you start dancing?
[Kinga]: I started dancing when I was in my third year of primary school. I was 9 or 10 years old. My mother said I always liked to move to music. So she brought me to the school and I loved it. I started in The Sakowskis' studio which was the biggest school in Warsaw. I was quite lucky to be in good hands from the beginning. I developed there, I was there for 10 years. I never did any other style of dancing before.
So, before you started dancing with Marek, what was your dancing story?
[Kinga]: In Juniors I danced with Piotr Woyda, a really nice guy. We won all the Junior championships at the time. We also had good results internationally. I was actually more of a Ballroom girl. I used to have lessons with Markus Hilton and he still remembers now that I was really good in Ballroom. And not so good in Latin (laughing). After Piotr, when I was only 15, I started dancing with Przemek Lowicki in Amateurs. And, as you remembers, we won the Amateur Rising Star Latin. We only danced together for two years and then I had a break. After a year of break, and a short partnership with another guy, I met Marek.
[Marek]: I was trying to remember when I started to dance. I think I was 8 years old. It was by accident because I did swimming at the time. I had some problems with my knees and somebody suggested to my mother that I should take some rhythmic dance lessons to develop better posture. The lady who run these lessons told my mother that I have a very good sense of rhythm and it would be good for me to continue some sort of dancing. I was not that interested at first.
[Kinga]: You wanted to become a tennis player
[Marek]: Yes but I was too small and too slow basically (laughing). So I joined the dance club in Poznan. My first teacher was Mr Mieczyslaw Grzeskowiak. It was fun and I did not treat it seriously. I was lucky when I met Waldemar Ziomek and had some private lessons with him. I started to treat it seriously. I changed the club and represented them for the next 10 years. We were Polish champions but I still say that I started treating dancing really seriously when I met Kinga. Before her I never had any foreign teachers, I was in Poznan all the time.
How did you meet?
[Kinga]: Of course, we knew each other from competitions in Poland. But we did not really spoke, we certainly were not friends. When I split from my partner I suddenly had a call from Mark if I would like to have a try-out with him. It was a nice surprise, because I actually though he was one of the most talented dancers in Poland. So yes, I was really open for it and agreed to have a try-out. It really was the first time we talked to each other.
[Marek]: I was scared of her (laughing). I always thought she was so much above everyone else. I loved her dancing but never was brave enough to talk to her. On one competition, Grand Prix in Leszno, I broke the ice and spoke to her which was nice. I still remember it.
So she did not bite? (laughing)
[Marek]: No, no. But she had an opinion of a very tough girl. But surprisingly she proved to be a very nice girl when we started to talk.
[Kinga]: And then you called me
So why did you call her?
[Marek]: I always thought she was one of the best dancers in Poland. My biggest dream was to dance with her.
You are obviously a couple in private life as well.
[Kinga]: Yes, we are married for over three years.
[Marek]: We are together for nine years.
[Kinga]: Yes, since we started to dance together. I think after three months we fell in love!
So, Marek, I guess one of the reasons you called her was that you were attracted to her?
[Marek]: For sure!
[Kinga]: And because I was tough. You like challenge!
What do you dislike in your partner? Perhaps it will not be easy to answer since you are married (laughing)
[Kinga]: Oh no, I am quite open to say what I like and what I dislike. I was thinking about it because there are many things which I don't really love in Marek but in the same time, I love him because of this. I like imperfections in life. I sometimes wish wouldn't it be nice if he was less stubborn, he is Aries by the way, but in the same time I love it in him. I am often changing my mind, but he is solid and it is really good. So that's why it is hard for me to answer this question.
Come on! There must be something
Nobody is perfect
[Kinga]: He is not perfect and I like imperfection. This is beauty of it that he's got something which is not perfect!
Marek, now it is your turn
[Marek]: My answer is simple: nothing (laughing). We are a really boring couple! There is nothing I would like to point out here. I like the way she is.
What's the best in her then?
[Marek]: Kinga is very creative and beautiful inside and out. She is very intelligent and has a really good attitude to dance and to life. She is also funny girl and has nice sense of humour.
[Kinga]: Wow! Now it is my turn. Marek is very creative. It is really hard to be bored with him. There is always something to do with him. He is a kind person with a good heart. He is easy going and positive. He is also very sensitive. And what I like, he is very masculine and handsome (laughing) as you can see. He is a gentleman, and knows how to treat a lady. A lot of female friends of mine are jealous that I have that kind of husband. In the same time, as I said Marek is sensitive, he has a feminine side which I love. He understands me, understand women really well. I think this is his strong point, and because of that he knows how to make me happy.
So you are both artistic and creative. Who takes care of choreography then?
[Marek]: I think both of us. Part of the success of this partnership is that we communicate really well and we are a team. When I have ideas she helps to develop them. It is all about the dialog between us.
[Kinga]: The communication, interaction...
[Marek]: So I cannot say one of us is really responsible for this or for that.
[Kinga]: Of course, there are areas when one of us is responsible more than the other. But we always seek each other's opinion or a third person opinion. When we create some choreography together we ask a teacher and maybe develop his idea. Often, with costumes, I see a dress in the film or newspaper or magazine and I say to Marek, I have this and this idea and he adds something and we build this idea together. He never says, I don't care, do what you want or you look OK in it. He always offers suggestions, it is always a dialog. One thing Marek is much better than me is make-up. I have two left hands! When I found out that he's got talent for make-up it was such a relief for me. It was like: Yes!, I don't have to do it myself anymore. So I don't do any make-up myself, only eyelashes and lipstick which I can do. Before the competition I feel like a star, I sit and he does the make-up for me. I am really grateful for him giving me so much of his preparation time, I like this a lot. He hates to do hair, but Boyko is now at all the big competitions and he can do it for me because I am also terrible with hair.
Who is cooking?
[Kinga]: If we are talking of making breakfast and maybe dinner once a month than I am cooking. Marek doesn't do kitchen but we both clean the house, he is doing washing and I am ironing.
So there is partnership in your house as well.
[Kinga]: Very much so.
Let's go back to dancing. Do you have separate teachers to help you develop different aspects of dance?
[Kinga]: We have our team who we work with for a long time now. We are very happy and don't want to change that. We have Bryan Watson, Carmen and Hans Galke. I've known Hans for a long time as I was his student since I was very young. I think we work with each other for twelve or thirteen years. These are our three main teacher. To that group we added Ruud Vermeji some time ago and also Tone Nyhagen, Richard Porter and Graham Oswick.
[Marek]: We have Juuka Haapalainen who is helping us with an artistic side
[Kinga]: Yes, Juuka is very artistic. We love to work with him.
How would you describe an importance of technique in dancing?
[Kinga]: It is very important. Of course, we don't dance to show technique but it allows us to express our emotions through dancing.
[Marek]: This is something you start learning from the very beginning. You develop footwork, body actions, everything is built on it.
What is the most important aspect for you?
[Marek]: I think the magic is in the mix of it all. You have to have everything.
[Kinga]: The technique, the desire for dancing, the feeling, the charisma, partnership, the energy, all is important.
How do you develop all of this?
[Kinga]: It is important to know what you are good in, what your strong points are. You need to believe in it as well. And then you can win. I think I am good in interpreting each dance character. I am good in changing the moods. I am quite rhythmical and I am good in partnering.
What are you good in, Marek?
[Marek]: I cannot tell. You need to come and watch me dancing and you can decide for yourself!
So what is your biggest problem?
[Kinga]: Don't say! (laughing) We don't want our competition to find out.
[Marek]: I am really boring, because I don't have any problems with my problems. They can always be solved. I am working on myself. It is a process.
So what do you think you need to improve to make your partner happier?
[Marek]: I have to develop and keep on working all the time. The key is to keep on doing that.
[Kinga]: I never work to improve myself to make him happier. It never is to prove anything to him or to judges. It is always for myself. Of course I listen to feedback, I trust my teachers and I trust Marek. I dance because I love to dance and I work hard because I want to become better dancer.
You are teaching young dancers. What is your advice to them, what do they need to start with?
[Kinga]: I would say: never lose the desire and love for dancing. There will be bad times and good times in your career but don't forget why you started dancing in the first place. Always remember why you loved to practise, why you loved the partnering, why you loved that feeling of being on the floor and that will help you go through everything. It gives me strength, it makes me feel like I can move mountains!
How competitive you are?
[Marek]: It depends. Deep down there is a desire for winning. Of course I want to win. But it is not the most important thing for me.
[Kinga]: Since I was a child I was always encouraged to try to improve myself. I was told it is nothing wrong to want to be first. I was encouraged to be ambitious. So it is important to me to develop myself, to aim higher, to try to win. So this desire and my love for dancing is also a good mixture.
Do you have friends outside dancing?
[Kinga]: Yes, we have a lot of friends outside dancing. The support us, the follow us sometimes and they cross their fingers for us. They are quite fascinated about all this.
What else do you like to do?
[Kinga]: We love to meet with friends. The best friends we have are also dancers. We like to spend time with them. We love to party as they very well know. We like cinema.
[Marek]: We also love to spend time together, we do everything together. We have holidays together and travel and do shopping. We both love fashion.
[Kinga]: Sometimes we think it is surely too much, so we try to do things separately. But we miss each other straight away. I miss Marek after two hours of not being together (laughing)! Once we tried to go on holiday alone, just for three days. It was quite OK but not that great. In the same time each of us needs their own space. I know him so well and I can understand that he wants to be alone sometimes. So when he says: Kinga, I want to be on my own, go shopping, it is perfectly fine for me.
I can understand that
[Kinga]: Some people say: oh, how sweet. But this is not about being sweet, this is about this incredible closeness. I really like to spend time with him, even without talking. Sometimes we drive back from teaching and we don't speak for three hours but it doesn't matter. It is funny really.
What do you like to eat?
[Marek]: We love to eat, we love food
[Kinga]: I eat more than Marek, for sure.
What happens to all this food? You are both so slim!
[Kinga]: I know, I think it is in our genes. I don't have problem with my weight and I am grateful for that. But of course if I put on 2 kg I know something is not right and I know I need to burn it on the floor. But somehow, my weight doesn't reflect the amount of food I eat. Marek likes sweet things. I am not so much into sweets. I like steaks, sometimes fast food, something concrete. But he can live on Nutella. When I eat some Nutelle I have to have something savoury after that.
[Marek]: I cannot eat it all the time. That's the problem. I am on salads now. Especially before the competitions I go on diet.
But you are not a vegetarian?
[Kinga]: Come one, you also eat meat and pasta. Don't exaggerate!
[Marek]: I like drama (laughing)
Any foods you hate?
[Kinga]: I generally like everything. I am not keen on onions, garlic and leak.
In the near future you plan to concentrate on your dancing or perhaps on teaching?
[Marek]: Dancing, definitely
[Kinga]: We will be focused on our dancing until we decided to retire from competitions.
[Marek]: It is always the first priority for us.
[Kinga]: We are always open and honest with our students about it. Our dancing is always the most important thing for us.
So it is difficult for your students to book lessons with you?
[Kinga]: Sometimes it is as we travel a lot
[Marek]: We might not be in Poland or we might not be available for other reasons
[Kinga]: But we share our diary with them so they know. Once a month we are in London with our teachers. Other days we are available.
What are your favourite competitions?
[Kinga]: For me they are the three big English competitions: Royal Albert Hall, UK Open and Blackpool. I like Assen as well
[Marek]: It depends on the atmosphere. I always like the Royal Albert Hall, and now I also like UK Open as we won the Rising Stars here (laughing).
[Kinga]: I like all three competitions. Each of them has its own magic. Each of them is different and that's the beauty of it.
Can you try to describe each dance in one word or few words only?
[Kinga]: We generally don't like to label things like that but we will try for the sake of this interview if this is necessary.
[Marek]: Jive is not necessary...
[Kinga]: What? You always said you like this dance! And Samba.
[Marek]: Not so much...
[Kinga]: I love it. How to describe it...
Come on, first thing which comes to mind. This is a psychological part of this interview
[Marek]: She studied psychology so it should be simple for her! Or maybe that's why it is a problem. Pick something!
[Kinga]: Let me think! Let's start from the beginning with Samba. I like what Alan Tornsberg said during the dance camp in Assen last year. He described all five Latin dances. Samba is, and it is not my own metaphor but his, like you go to the club which is full of nice people and you just say: hi!. Cha cha is when you already made connection with someone so it is more fun. Rumba is like you getting closer to this person, holding hands and you are leaving the club. Paso Doble is making love, and Jive is how you feel afterwards (laughing). I think it was nice the way he described the character of each of these dances.
[Marek]: I agree!
Some people use colours to describe these dances
[Kinga]: I don't. For me both Jive and Rumba can be black. Jive can be white another time. Depends on the music and where you are, what are the surroundings and what mood you are in. That's why I don't associate colours with dances. The Rumba can be blue and can be red, even green. I can imagine you give me the colour and I can interpret Rumba to that colour.
So how would you dance Rumba to green colour?
[Kinga]: It would be warm, it would be freedom. It will not be hot but peaceful. I would be relaxed and easy. If you say red – it would be totally different.
So how do you choose colour before the competition then?
[Kinga]: I never thought like this before. It is a nice idea actually! I could have keywords like this for each round. I could for instance choose white for Rumba in one round and red in another. Good idea, thank you.
[Marek]: Hmm... no comment from me.
I see, you think your role is to just show your lady?
[Marek]: No, I think both man and a lady are equally important in dance.
[Kinga]: Both are 100% important
How important for you is connection in partnership?
[Kinga]: Very important.
[Marek]: By definition, without connection there is no couple.
[Kinga]: Connection as conversation, dialog, as two people together
[Marek]: Connection in a sense that both are sensitive to each other and are prepared to listen, have their senses open.
You talk about it like it is obvious but when I watch competitions I see many couples where partners are dancing like separate entities.
[Kinga]: I know what you mean. One of my good friends, she is a great actress, not a dancer, she watched a really good couple dancing Rumba and she said: oh, it is nice, but these people dance like they don't sense each other. The idea is that they don't have to look at each other but they have to be aware of each other, feel each other. And you, as a spectator, can see this connection. While we are talking now I am not looking at Marek but I still sense him. That's the connection.
Sometimes you see two fantastic dancers dancing together but no chemistry. Yesterday when I watched you too I could sense that connection.
[Kinga]: I am happy to hear it.
Will you be dancing Rising Stars in Blackpool as well?
[Marek]: We have not decided yet. We will be in Blackpool for sure though.
[Kinga]: We are still at the UK Open and we are dancing the Professional Open tomorrow. This is in our head. We will think of Blackpool after that.
So winning tomorrow is on your mind now? (laughing)
[Kinga]: Come on, we are realists.
OK, but what place did you see each other before the Rising Star competition? Did you expect the first place?
[Marek]: OK, I saw myself in the final. The winning is a goal, surely. But I cannot say I will be on this or this position tomorrow. As I said earlier, this is not the most important thing.
[Kinga]: The most important thing is to be able to create a performance we are happy with. Focus and concentration on dancing helps with that and it helped us yesterday. You need to concentrate on dancing and not to think of what position you want to end up on. If I think of that I am not able to dance. That's why, long ago, we stopped to think about which place we want to get.
[Marek]: We stopped when we realised it didn't help us. I hated it.
[Kinga]: We didn't enjoy competitions at all. It was long time ago. And the moment we think only about what we want to show on the floor.
[Marek]: For now, that what works for us.
Do you prefer shows or competitions?
[Kinga]: I prefer competitions
[Marek]: We don't do so many shows. I also prefer competitions.
[Kinga]: Maybe in the future it will change.
Many couples say that they prefer shows because they can present what they want. In the competitions you have restrictions.
[Marek]: But I feel there is still freedom in these restrictions. You know, you can have your own show during competitions, you can have your own party.
[Kinga]: You never know what music you are going to get. There is always an element of surprise and freedom.
[Marek]: At least we are searching for this freedom.
[Kinga]: You do a lot of preparation for the show, you know the song, and you play the same music all the time. So you say there is freedom but from week to week you do the same thing. Depends how you look at this. But I can see what you mean. We did shows only few times so perhaps I cannot compare. When we danced shows I was more stressed out than during the competition. But I can imagine if I had more practice with that I would learn how to deal with it and I would enjoy them.
During competitions, do you prefer to dance the first heat or the last heat?
[Marek]: I don't remember if we ever danced in the first heat. For some reason we are always at the end.
OK, do you prefer to be the first on the floor, or rather watch the others first and then dance?
[Kinga]: It doesn't matter. It never mattered to me. It is not something I ever thought about.
[Marek]: I can go first, last, doesn't make any difference.
Some people are superstitious and, for example, want the same number
[Marek]: Once I had number 88 and somebody said it is Chinese lucky number. And I said, OK, nice but so what. I don't believe in these things.
What would you change in dance world, if you could?
[Marek]: I would make people to be nice to each other. I would like less “ego” but more open mindedness and friendliness. I would also leave more freedom to the dancers in a sense that it wouldn't matter what federation or organisation they belong to.
[Kinga]: I like the freedom to choose what competition we dance, that's why we decided to go with WDC. I don't mind whether couple choose to be with WDSF or WDC, it is the decision and they are free to make it. I have friends who chose to go with WDSF and it doesn't matter for me as long as they made this decision with their own mind and heart. I would hate if somebody forbade me to go to the UK Open or Assen. I work hard, earn money and pay for my dancing, I pay for my dancing, I am free person and somebody forbids me to go? How can somebody stop me competing where I want? I'd hate that. I am with WDC now because this federation allows me to compete where I want. I like that.
Are your parents coming to the competitions to see you?
[Kinga]: They do sometimes, in Poland, and then they and Marek's parents have a party together (laughing). They don't speak English. Once they came to Paris to see us dance World Championships and it was nice but in the same time, we had to be with them all the time and take care of them. I wouldn't want my Mum to feel alone and not able to communicate and I know I would be thinking all the time if she managed to get herself a coffee or something like that. Of course, they travelled with us when we were kids.
[Marek]: We are independent and we don't need them to support us. In a sense we are more stressed when they are with us.
[Kinga]: Sometimes they are stressed out for us and that affects us. When I don't see my Mum's stressed out face I dance better (laughing).
Thank you very much for talking to us. See you in Blackpool in few months.
Photos taken on the day by Peter Suba. Action photos by Thomas Morton