The Art of Doubles
One can immediately recognize their unique doubles style on the pole… Sometimes it's like dancing in the air, sometimes you are just simply amazed by the creative flow of their elegant combos. Parallel interview with Slava Ruza and Anna Valfsson.
How did you come across pole dancing? What kind of artistic / sports background do you have?
Slava: I always wanted to try something new. When it comes to fitness and self-expression through dance, poledance is the perfect combination for this. I was introduced to the world of poledance by my yoga instructor, it’s not something you expect you to happen when u go to yoga. (he laughs) But I am happy she invited me to the PoleART event where I first time saw the beauty of the poledance and just fell in love with this. How lucky I was to be introduced to the pole world through the live performances of the biggest stars in the pole industry at that moment.
Anna: I have done a variety of completely different activities in childhood from classical ballet and street dance to competing professionally in volleyball and curling. My first meeting with pole dance was due to streetdance courses. The group was renting space from a pole dance studio, so on the way to my own trainings I always passed the big room with lots of poles in it.
Then... how did you find each other and started to create together?
Slava: Me and Anna were training in the same studio when we just started doing poledance. One day we just decided to fool around and try to create something together on the pole. The process turned out to be so much fun. I believe we also have similar styles when it comes to poledance. So, something clicked and since then we never lost inspiration for double pole magic creation.
Anna: I was teaching in the North Pole Studio in Stockholm when I first met Slava who was a teacher there as well. We found the same language pretty fast, same language - literally. (she laughs) Yet the first double play happened few year later when we both were preparing solo pieces for a competition. I recall that it was that kind of day when nothing worked... so we decided to play together instead.
What is your daily job? Would you change it to pole if money would not matter?
Slava: I work in the bank as a risk analyst. Yes, I would switch to pole related work if I could afford to live on that money, but that is way too far from reality.
Anna: I am software engineer by day. For me having love for to complete different activities is a key to balance. That´s why I don´t get bored and keep inspiration flow.
When do you have time to train (how do you squeeze it into 24 hours)? How much you train alone / together?
Slava: If you love something you always find time no matter how tight your schedule is, it's a matter of prioritisation. So, when people ask me that question, I am actually surprised. (he laughs) How can you not find the time for something you love? Those endless hours we spend in front of the screens can be for sure replaced by fun training at the studio. (he laughs again) Personally I try to have at least two solo training sessions per week, and then when there are no performances soon we can have one double session per week. I also teach normally once per week and take other dance classes.
Anna: Early morning trainings are my favourites! A perfect way to wake the body up and charge for the day. I don´t have any specific schedule for trainings but move when my body asks to move, sometimes it can be several times per day - sometimes just few times a week. It of course changes to a strict schedule with pole-food-rest repeat when I/we prepare for a performance.
How do you create? How does the process look like: who brings the idea, how are the shapes being created, what are the discussion points? Also, which one is first: the music or the theme or the combo?
Slava: Creation comes out of everything literally. For me personally when working in doubles everything starts with one or few shapes. I create or imagine these shapes when listening to the music, or observing objects around me, or trying to visualize emotions through movement. When the shape is visualized, we are good to start. (he laughs) Most of the time we start by creating the shape around the pole we imagined and then we just let our bodies fall or lead into any direction to see what happens. no rules no thinking too much just letting it go. It’s never pretty or perfect when first time but eventually it brings us somewhere. Then we normally film it and visualize what else we can add, how to correct or develop the shape. then we go back on the pole and try again and maybe fail and maybe find something interesting. And so on.
Sometimes we don't get the same views on how the shape should be developed and we can argue, but most of the time we are on the same vibe and the process is rather smooth and fun.
If I should answer what's coming first music or combo then in doubles for me its combo, it's different from when I create for solo.
Anna: Usually we start from something we are training on our own and try to do it together. In 99% it doesn´t go as imagined and while failing we fall into something else or just start to come up with the variations of how to make it work. At the end we come up with something completely different from the original idea. The perfect scenario is of course to have the music first yet also is the hardest part... to find something you will still get the “feeling” for after month of training.
How do you motivate each other when you are not in the mood to train?
Slava: We like to work in stress: if we put a clear goal for the training then motivation comes. But that only work for training things that need to be polished. when creating something new mood is the key, if someone is demotivated better not even start creating but rather train some stuff from oldies.
Anna: Food!! (she laughs)
Any moment when you felt magic is happening and you were in flow?
Slava: Every time we create new things magic is there. That moment when you come out of the combo you nailed it brings so much joy and it even gets better, when you see it for the first time on the record. It gives you aesthetic satisfaction and sometimes even chills, you know like seeing the first time that perfect photograph you took.
Anna: Every time I touch the pole it is magic for me-just movement in general.
And the opposite: when you felt very disappointed? How did you come over this?
Slava: We have days that just nothing works and magic is not there. We do old stuff then. Also when "artistic crisis" is coming I believe you should have breaks to let yourself reflect, rest and recover both body and mind to open space for new things. So, training every day is not about us.
Anna: There are times when I feel physically tired and feel like things are not working. The good rest with massage is always the key. Yet I have never felt disappointed. Pole trainings have always been my quality time - the activity I get positive energy from. So my definition of “good” session is simply the one that just happened (and sometimes it can be rolling one the floor without even touching pole.)
What gives pole dancing to you?
Slava: A lot of bruises, ingrown hairs and dry hands, haha:) but on a serious note, it’s just the way to keep your body and mind in a great shape. mentally it’s my meditation space, physically it’s my gym.
Anna: The place where I can recharge my batteries, understand my emotions better and get over things by dancing about it.
If not on pole / at work, what are you doing?
Slava: Travelling, discovering new things in all possible areas - food, people, art, fun.
Anna: (just keeps quiet about this)
Solo pole or doubles? (Considering that you both have a quite impressive solo pole career as well…)
Slava: I would never choose. Both are good!
Anna: Both! impossible to choose!
Competing, judging or teaching?
Anna: Impossible to choose! Every single one gives completely different emotions and different kind of connection with people - wouldn't want to give up any of them.
If you could reach anything during your pole career what would be your biggest dream?
Slava: Create a poledance production to travel the world sharing the beauty of this art.
Anna: My biggest dream would be to feel inspired and challenged by pole for longest possible.