We talked to Oleg Skaskiv and Viktoriya Mayster, the young couple from Ukraine, who won the Amateur Rising Star Latin event at the UK Open 2017.
We try not to care about results, but develop our dancing
Allow me to congratulate you on your win yesterday! Happy day?
[Oleg]: Yes, thank you, very happy!
First, can you tell me how it all started for you?
[Oleg]: I started dancing when I was 4 years old. I know, very early (laughing). It was in Yuzhne, a small town in Ukraine where I lived with my parents. My parents sent me dancing to a dance club and I trained there for 7 years with one partner. Her name was Lisa and she has quit dancing since. After that, I joined a club in Kharkiv, a much bigger town, and I started dancing in a more serious way. I had many partners there.
Many? How many?
[Oleg]: Perhaps four (laughing). After that I started dancing with Vika.
[Viktoriya]: I also started dancing when I was 4 years old in Lugansk. I was there for 10 years. After I split up from my last partner there, I searched for a new one all over the Ukraine. Then I learned that Oleg is also looking for a partner. So I went to Kharkiv to meet him and for a try-out. It worked out (laughing).
How did you two meet then?
[Oleg]: First I wrote to her on social media because I noticed she was looking for a partner. I knew her of course as a dancer. And I knew she was a good dancer. So I proposed a try-out and she did not say “no” (laughing).
[Viktoriya]: We knew each other from competitions.
So you met each other before?
[Oleg]: Well, at the competitions, so we knew of each other but were not friends or anything. After we contacted each other via social media we kept writing to each other and arranged a try-out.
What social media did you use?
So how was that first try-out?
[Viktoriya]: I came without my trainers, just with my parents. But Oleg's trainers were there with him and they did a little routine for us to try.
So how was it for you, did you like him?
[Viktoriya]: Of course, I knew that he was a very strong partner. I knew how he looked (laughing), so I wasn't surprised.
[Oleg]: It was really good from the beginning for me. I felt a very good connection. It is extremely important for me. It just felt like I found a perfect partner. It was a happy feeling (laughing). So I wanted to dance with her straight away.
How long have you been dancing together?
[Viktoriya]: Three years...
And how old are you now?
[Oleg]: I am nineteen, and she is eighteen years old.
What competitions do you go to?
[Oleg]: We dance many Ukrainian competitions. We also go to the competitions in Russia or Europe. But this year's UK Open is our first UK Open.
[Viktoriya]: We danced in Blackpool and the International in England before, but not UK Open.
How do you like it?
[Oleg]: Very much. We like the atmosphere...
[Viktoriya]: Bournemouth is a really pretty town as well. Not all the places you go for competitions are like this.
It is a shame you cannot see it in summer, it is much nicer.
[Oleg]: I am sure it looks great in summer, but we like it anyway.
What do you like to do outside of dancing?
[Viktoriya]: Well, if we have time... I like cinema, watching movies, but mainly I just want to relax. I just want to have a break from it all if I can.
[Oleg]: And go to McDonald's (laughing)!
[Oleg]: I know it is a bad choice!
[Viktoriya]: In Ukraine, McDonald's is really tasty. Really, I mean it! You don't get that taste anywhere else.
Are you still in school or university?
[Oleg]: We are studying in university.
[Viktoriya]: Subjects are related to dancing.
[Oleg]: In Kharkiv State Academy of Culture.
Do you have any friends who are not dancers?
[Oleg]: Yes, we do. My best friends are actually not dancers. But we also have other friends through dancing.
So what do you talk about with these friends who are not dancers? I guess, it is difficult to talk about dancing with them.
[Oleg]: Well, at least they have to listen (laughing). But seriously, we have many other interesting subjects, other things we have in common.
[Viktoriya]: Lots of my friends are from school, from childhood, we have many memories together. There are always things to talk about.
Where do you live now?
[Oleg]: In Kharkiv.
Is it dangerous?
[Oleg]: No, it is quiet, it is generally safe there. It is further east, in Lugansk where it is unfortunately a war going on.
[Viktoriya]: My parents are actually in Lugansk... But it is OK.
Do parents help in any way with your dancing?
[Viktoriya]: Yes, they give us a lot of support.
[Oleg]: Both mental support and financial. They gives us any support they can.
Were any of them dancers?
[Oleg]: No, never. The only other member of my family who had anything to do with dancing is my brother Anton. He is a dancer and our trainer. Actually, they are dancing today the Professional Latin.
How do you find money for your dancing?
[Oleg]: Well, first of all, our parents help a lot. We both work as well. And all the money we earn we use for dancing.
What do you like in your partner?
[Oleg]: What do I like? I like everything in her (laughing). I really like that she is patient with me. I understand I can be difficult.
[Viktoriya]: OK. He is not bad, but a little mischievous. But I think I can say the same about myself. And he is also able to stand me (laughing).
[Oleg]: In principle, we understand each other.
[Viktoriya]: Hmm, what else to say... He is very patient with me.
[Oleg]: I forgotten to say, she is a good girl as well.
[Viktoriya]: And you are also a good boy (laughing).
OK, what don't you like about your partner?
[Oleg]: I wouldn't say it is the worst thing, but she is a little too serious.
What do you mean?
[Viktoriya]: He means that I analyse too much, think too much. That I feel responsible for things...
[Oleg]: It is hard to blame her for it, but she should let go a little.
[Viktoriya]: OK, it is the opposite with him. He takes things too lightly, he doesn't care at times.
What would you change in your partner?
[Viktoriya]: I would like him to give me more support when I am worried about things!
[Oleg]: Well, it is for both of us but we need to talk less at practice.
What music do you like?
[Oleg]: I like Ross Mitchell and the Empress Orchestra. And all the English competitions' music.
[Viktoriya]: We often practise to that music.
And what kind of music do you listen to for pleasure?
[Oleg]: Various. I like Hip hop, I like rock.
[Viktoriya]: I like rock music. But not heavy rock.
What food do you like? Besides McDonald's (laughing).
[Oleg]: We eat at McDonald's very rarely (laughing).
[Viktoriya]: I like sweets, chocolate, cakes.
Really? You don't look it!
[Viktoriya]: I also like fruits, vegetables, meat, everything!
[Oleg]: We like Ukrainian foods.
It is quite heavy, isn't it?
[Oleg]: Perhaps heavy, but very delicious (laughing).
You are Latin dancers, but have you ever danced Ballroom?
[Oleg]: We dance now, for fun.
What Ballroom dances are your favourite?
[Viktoriya]: Tango and Foxtrot
[Oleg]: For me, it is Quickstep.
What about Latin dances?
[Viktoriya]: I like Rumba very much.
[Oleg]: Me too, it is such a sensual dance.
Where would you like to go for holiday?
[Viktoriya]: OK, my dream holiday would be in Sri Lanka. I like the rich, tropical forest, full of exotic plants and flowers.
Have you ever been to such a place, maybe to Africa?
[Oleg]: No not yet, there are no competitions there (laughing)!
What are your plans for the near future?
[Oleg]: In few weeks we have competition in Kyiv which is very important to us. In May, we plan to come to Blackpool of course.
I guess now there will be big expectations? Do you think there will be pressure?
[Oleg]: We try not to think about it. We try to focus on our dancing.
[Viktoriya]: We don't want to think about the results.
[Oleg]: We don't care (laughing). I mean, we try not to care about results, but develop our dancing.
What result was the most important for you to date?
[Oleg]: This one! That we won the UK Open Rising Stars.
Did you celebrate yesterday?
[Oleg]: No! We just slept. Maybe we will celebrate when we are back home. Maybe. If time allows...
Who knows, your friends might have prepared some surprise for you.
[Oleg]: We hope! (laughing)
Did you call your parents after?
[Viktoriya]: Yes, of course. They followed the results on your website dancesportinfo.
What other websites do you visit?
[Oleg]: It depends what competitions we dance. Sometimes we look up results on scrutelle or easycomp. But dancesportinfo is the main one.
What about social media?
[Viktoriya]: Facebook, Instagram
[Oleg]: I am not on Instagram. We also use VKontakte.
When did you first come to England?
[Oleg]: It was a long time ago. I was a Juvenile. I cannot remember the first time really.
Anything surprised you?
[Viktoriya]: Very cheap Kinder chocolates (laughing)! I guess they must have been on sale.
[Oleg]: Yes, three for two or something like this.
[Viktoriya]: They don't do this in Ukraine. And that surprised me, very pleasantly. When we first came to Blackpool, I was surprised that there was not that much greenery, no trees. We have a lot of trees, woods and forests in Ukraine. It is beautiful.
What is the difference in competitions?
[Oleg]: Huge. However, it is changing in Ukraine. There are new, very beautiful competitions there as well, with orchestra, with beautiful decorations. We would like to see more couples coming to us, everybody is invited.
[Viktoriya]: Unfortunately, I don't think there are as beautiful big venues as in Blackpool. But when there is a live orchestra, live music, it feels very special as well.
How many teachers do you have?
[Viktoriya]: Our teachers, Anton and Polina Skaskiv, are in Kharkiv. We work with them.
Have you ever had any lessons in England?
[Oleg]: Not in England. But sometimes, when the foreign teachers come to Ukraine, we have some classes and sometimes individual lessons with them.
So you don't have to take lessons with English judges to win in England?
[Oleg]: Not at all. We don't think so! We are the prime example.
[Viktoriya]: We never had any lessons abroad.
We wish you another victory in Blackpool in few months' time.
[Oleg]: Thank you very much!
All images taken by Peter Suba