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Fresh from Across the Pond

Vasilii and Irina - A Welcome Addition to Minneapolis

By Lee Wintervold

Dance with Us America’s founders, Gene and Elena Bersten, recently hired Vasilii Platonov and his partner, Irina Panfilova, to teach at their studio in Southdale Mall. Vasilii and Irina both hail from Russia, and before departing to Minneapolis competed in the S-class (highest) level in Russia (and neighboring countries) in both standard and Latin.

I attended a celebratory dance party at Dance with Us America in March welcoming Vasilii to the country, as Irina will be moving here in early April. My arrival corresponded with the beginning of the social dancing, where I participated in some informal cha chas and waltzes with some of the studio regulars. After a bit, we took a break from the dancing to watch a performance by Gene and Elena followed by a solo performance from Vasilii. (Aside: Reader, if you have not observed the Latin routines of Gene Bersten in person, you have not lived. End aside.)

Vasilii performed a rumba routine, along with the first highlight of the paso doble. The observable precision and technique displayed by Vasilii was remarkable. More so, he admitted to having never performed his routine without his partner prior to the event. We were all impressed by his ability.

Following the outstanding highlights of the night from the instructors, we again dove in to the social dancing. While I could not dance with Vasilii myself, he took the time to improve a bit of my standard technique along with a few of the other dancers present. He was kind, to the point, and within a minute and a half of his instruction I had radically advanced my connection in partnership.

Before we all departed for the night, I thanked Vasilii for his help, and his response was gracious and welcoming. I have a great love for standard, and I felt my own enthusiasm reverberated off Vasilii when we spoke and when he instructed me briefly. Needless to say, I can feed off the energy of an instructor, and it was clear to me he shared the passion I have for the dances.

So why do I tell you all this? Because I think the perspective from a recent high-level competitor is invaluable to any dancer who wants to improve their technique. And if that instructor shares your level of passion for the dancing, then you have a fantastic environment for learning dance. I encourage dancers who plan to compete in the future to at least sample the Latin and standard instruction from Dance with Us America. If you do, you’ll find yourself learning from some fantastic instructors.