Jake and Alyona have been here, there, and everywhere. Their dance journey began in London, England, where they met after a chance encounter on Dancesportinfo.net. At first Alyona was a little hesitant to dance with Jake.
“When Jake asked me to dance with him, he was professional, and I was amateur. For me, it was so scary. I thought of professionals like Sergey and Melia, Michael and Joanna, all of them, and I was like ‘I am going to turn professional? No way! I don’t want to be professional.’ but then when I decided to dance with him and turn professional and I see the other couples, I realized that the top is just six of them and that’s it. The rest of them are normal guys like us who are trying to get better, do the best in their dancing and just slowly improve. So, I never regretted turning professional.”
From there, the decision was made. Two weeks after meeting, they decided to dance together and the rest, as they say, is history. Alyona says that the key to having their partnership last as long as it is having is
“To leave everything at the studio. Practice is not fun, I don’t know many people who would say that practice is fun. We love to practice, but it is work, so you argue, but the important thing is to leave everything on the dance floor. When you come home or you start teaching, you can’t hold on to it for the rest of the day.”
“At the end of the day, it’s just dancing. You work hard and you give it your all, but at the end of the day, it’s just dancing. No one is going to die.”
However, after moving into the UK, they encountered a problem. Alyona could only acquire a sport’s visa, which prohibited her from working and teaching. Realizing that they needed to find a solution, they decided to look at other opportunities and made the decision to move the U.S. Now the issue was, where to move to? Luckily, Jake remembered a place in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It just so happened that a place in Charlotte, North Carolina I remembered the name of from somewhere and I actually Googled it, saw the website and whatnot, and sent a message to the owner. That was it! She was the one who responded very quickly, and she was very interested and keen. I was over there within two weeks to check it out. I talked and met everyone a little bit and thought ‘Wow, this is actually quite nice.’ If you had asked me before about Charlotte, North Carolina, I would have been like ‘Where?’ you know, living in London England. I had to look at the opportunity for us to basically make a living and compete.”
Jake and Alyona have been fortunate that they live in such a great area. They say that the best part of living in Charlotte has been the people.
“Our students are really first-class, very nice people, very generous. When we go away on trips and stuff, they are understanding. I have to say it’s been very good.”
However, even though they live in the United States, they have recently gone back to representing England. A big factor in their decision was the fact that they have recently been traveling more to Europe in order to receive their training.
“We made a choice to travel more to Europe for our lessons with Hans, Lena and Colin and all of these people, so our team was kind of more in Europe. We were traveling there anyways, so it just made more sense. We travel to England 6 times a year at least, we go for lessons and do the competitions, so it’s better for us.”
Alyona and Jake also take health and fitness, along with the dancing, very seriously. Both of them are vegans. Jake says,
“I have been fully vegetarian for about 10 years now. For me personally, it’s about the animals. That’s number one. I do not want to kill something just to fill my stomach. We live in America, greatest country in the world, there are plenty of options. I come from South Africa, we eat a lot of meat, very traditional, but I’m over that. I never even think about a piece of steak or something. It’s just not even an option and I don’t miss it at all.”
The two did a lot of research into veganism before deciding to commit. They watched many documentaries and docu-series such as “What the Health,” “Earthlings,” and “Vegucated,” the latter which explores people from all different kinds of backgrounds try going vegan for a month and educating themselves about what the food industry is all about. The result? Most people stay vegan after the month is up. Jake and Alyona have decided to stick with it because it is very healthy because it’s all plant based. So, what about the naysayers? Jake says
“People say where do you get your protein? And I just point them to a mountain gorilla and be like ‘Well all this thing eats is grass and he’s fine.’”
Alyona added in that,
“We don’t really need as much protein as everyone says we do. We feel strong and healthy and we don’t get sick. We don’t crave, like I never feel like I want to try an egg, or I smell chicken and decide that I like it. Your taste changes so you start tasting the other foods, like vegetables, in a different way. There are so many things that I started liking that before I wouldn’t even try because the meat kills all of your tastes.”
As an added bonus to their healthy lifestyle, Jake also enjoys fasting.
“I like to fast. No food or anything. The most recent one I did was 5 days. No food, just water. It’s tough if you’re practicing and teaching, I will say that. The first day is the hardest, but after that it gets easier. Once you’re on the 4th day, you’re like ‘Ah I can do this for another 4 days. It’s just mind over matter. One of the keys to it is to re-charge your system and re-boost your system so it feels you’re really detoxing and your cleansing yourself. Kind of like emptying the system. Now I know that’s not for everyone, but for me, I like to do it 4 times a year. It’s really helpful.”
Besides dancing, Alyona enjoys doing other physical activity in order to stay in shape.
“I quite like to do boxing. I have a neck problem, so I get injured quite often. I have a very good chiropractor who I always use, and I found out that he owns a gym, where he teaches boxing. So, he recommended that I try his classes, and I did. I really fell in love and it’s so great. Since then, I have really started feeling better and have had less injuries. I’m really into it and I love it. I have also just started taking Pure Barre, which I do 3-4 times a week. I go early in the morning, because we have practice, so 3-4 times a week my day starts at 5:30 A.M.”
It is evident that Jake and Alyona have very busy lives. They typically wake-up and get a move-on, practicing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then teaching till 10 p.m. with very few breaks. Even on competition weekends, there is not much slowing down. They will get up, do a round or two, fly to a competition, dance with students, compete, fly back the next day and then start teaching when they get home from the airport. It is a busy life, but they thoroughly enjoy it.
Outside of dancing, the one thing that they enjoy the most is traveling. They recently traveled to Iceland. Jake planned the trip.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland because it is so different. There’s fire and ice and the moon and it’s sort of weird and wonderful. So, I thought ‘Ok, let’s do it!’ and so I put it together and I told my students I was going, and they were up for it, so they came.”
While they were in Iceland, they did many different activities.
“It was really great. We did inside volcanoes, the blue lagoon, tried all of these weird and wonderful drinks and food, saw sheep, just everything. We even tried geothermal bread that they bake in the ground, it was amazing. We went on a glacier walk too. It was a great way for us to travel, be with friends and see the world.”
As experienced professionals, they have some words of advice for young dancers who may want to turn professional. Alyona says
“Do what your passion is and do what you think is right for you. Don’t think that you have to be ready or you have to wait, or you have to get better. If you feel like it’s time, then go ahead and turn professional.”
“First, if you’re going to do it, you have to do it 200%. There is 50, 69, not even 100%, it has to be 200%. You’re all in or nothing. You cannot be a part-time professional. The other thing is never, ever forget why you started dancing. This has really helped me a lot. There have been times where things haven’t gone well, you’ve been depressed, you don’t get a good result or the partnership is not going well, it’s just a down time. I always think to myself, ‘Why did I start to do this?’ I didn’t start dancing to be professional, and to earn money as a teacher doing pro-am. I started because I love to dance, and I wanted to be better and it was exciting. So, to me, never ever forget that reason why you started. The last thing is if you’re going to do something, do it properly. Know your craft 100%. If you’re going to call yourself professional, get your head in those books and do the exam. You know, the IDTA and the ISDT, get your qualifications, get licensed, become a qualified judge, which is part of being a professional. You can’t call yourself a professional if you don’t know the book. You don’t need to know verbatim, but you need to know what is a fan, what is an alemana, what is a spot turn. I think for yourself, you need to have that.”
It was a pleasure to interview this beautiful, dedicated, and talented couple. Please let us know who you want to be interviewed next!