Interview with Simone & Annette – Part 1

At the Snowball Classic in Vancouver this past weekend, Joel and I had the opportunity to have a chat with two of the couples who were competing in the IDSF Open Standard event. Currently ranked 4th in the IDSF Standard World Ranking List, Simone Segatori & Annette Sudol, representing Germany, were gracious enough to let us publish our conversation together. They were willing to divulge all their ‘secrets’ (well, almost all…) to help inspire up and coming dancers like yourselves! Joel and I used to train and compete with Simone & Annette in England when they were just coming up the ranks, so it was nice to be able to sit down and catch up with them.

simone_annette_joel_clara3Clara: So how was the UK Open? [They just danced it the day before arriving in Vancouver, placing 3rd overall.]

Annette: Dancing was very successful. We felt really good and had good feedback on the night. Some even said that we should have won. We are climbing up, so next time…

Simone: It’s nice cuz it’s always a challenge: a couple in front and a couple behind you. So you always keep with a foot the couple behind away from you, while you’re trying to catch the one in front of you. So in our situation, it’s a really interesting point inside the final.

Clara: At your level, sometimes you are slotted into a position for quite awhile. How do you keep yourself motivated to improve?

Annette: We have really good teachers. Every time we see them when we have the lessons, we get so much inspiration from them. We are actually always motivated. I don’t think there is a day or a practice that we don’t have any motivation. Also, because we like the music, and we like dancing with each other… Of course we keep looking at what other couples are doing, what did they improve, what is the next stage to go to, what is missing in our own dancing… We also look a lot at the Latin competitions and we try to see what is more interesting there than in ballroom…

Simone: And actually it’s not only the place where we are in the moment compared to the other couples, it is also how we would like to dance in the future. We choose something that is not really easy to achieve. We don’t know if we will be able to achieve that, but it is our goal. We also get inspiration from other kinds of dance, like ballet or…

Annette: Our main goal is winning the Worlds. If we are now 2nd, 3rd, 5th or 6th, it actually doesn’t really matter. I mean it’s nice if you climb up regularly, always going up, but at the end, it’s our goal is to win the World’s.

Joel: And you are working with William Pino and Alessandra Bucciarelli?

Annette: Yes, and in Germany Oliver Wessel-Therhorn.
Simone: And of course all the other good teachers in England.
Annette: Yes, like Marcus and Karen Hilton, Gleaves…

Joel: Do you find that it’s difficult to work mainly with two different sets of teachers? Or do Oliver and William/Alessandra work well together?

Annette: They have the same base. Oliver was the teacher of William Pino, so it fits.
Simone: They understand themselves and so they make us understand, so it is actually quite easy. Sometimes we have some, not problems, but some difficulty to join some information that we get from England, but it’s always good because if we can put some of the ideas from English teachers into our dance, it will add something more classical and make a better balance anyway.

Photo taken at the Snowball Classic 2010, courtesy of Ivo Dimitrov.

Photo taken at the Snowball Classic 2010, courtesy of Ivo Dimitrov.

Joel: Do you live mainly in Germany or Italy?
Annette: We keep traveling, so actually I don’t know where we live. (laughing) Some weeks, most of the time at the airplane actually, inside the airplane… but we keep traveling, so it’s half/half I would say.
Simone: I did a quick calculation last year and it was like… 80 days in Germany, 80 days in Italy and the rest we are in England and going around. But it is nice. You’re never bored.
Joel: That’s for sure!
Simone: You don’t have time for it.
Annette: When we get back on Monday, we take the car from England, drive back to Germany, have one day off, repack everything and then we fly to Japan.
Simone: Very nice. It never stops!
Joel: So you do your washing for your clothes in the hotel then?

Annette: No. We have a lot of things, so we keep changing.
Simone: I never buy things single. If I see anything I like, I always buy double or three times! We can leave one at home… Our parents I have to say, they are really, really super-parents! They manage to wash for us and take things back, and we take the other ones. So we have more luggage than normal, because we have everything double or three times. Makes life a little easier.

Joel: Do your parents dance as well?

Annette: No. But it’s the first time Simone’s parents come to Canada tomorrow. They just arrived yesterday.
Simone: I told them why not go to Vancouver? It’s a nice city; it’s a nice competition; so they are coming tomorrow to watch.

Joel: And your parents (Annette)?
Annette: No. Simone’s parents dance social, but not mine.

Joel: So who got you started dancing then?

Annette: I did a lot of sports before. Actually, I started when I was young with tennis. But because I was so tiny always, my spine was very bad, curved, because I was practicing a lot, so the doctor actually advised me to go and have some dancing lessons for the posture and everything. I also played the piano, so I liked music always.

Simone: I had a challenge from my uncle. Because I was doing Judo before, so it was quite a man’s sport. I was going for it, and my uncle said, “You know what? I’m going to this dance studio, so why don’t you come and watch?” And I said, “Come on. I’m doing Judo. You know, it’s a sport.” And he said, “You just don’t want to come because you know you can’t beat me at it.” And I said, “Okay, okay. Here we go.” The next week I was there, and he showed me some steps and he said, “I’m sure that you can’t do these steps.” And I just went there, did the steps and the teacher said, “Actually, why you don’t come?” And from that point, I started my dancing career.

Joel: How old were you then?

Simone: 9 years old.
Annette: And then came all the girls so he liked it even more. (laughing)
Simone: Actually I said, many girls… Yes. I’ll go into that. (smiling)

Clara: I guess there aren’t many girls in judo, eh?

Joel: Just smelly boys who want to throw you on the ground.
Simone: No. That’s no good. That’s not for me. That’s not the life I want to live! (grinning)

Joel: But you should have used your Judo skills at Embassy.
[Joel is referring to when Simone had really bad fall at the Embassy last September, while dancing one of the earlier rounds of Quickstep. It was so serious that they had to stop the competition and wait for Paramedics to arrive to take him off the floor. He ended up finishing the competition, but with great difficulty of course.]

Simone: But the problem was that the floor was a bit too hard. I couldn’t stand up anymore. It was quite tough.
Joel: That was scary.
Annette: Yes. We didn’t dance for 3 and a half weeks. He couldn’t move… because there was one part of the bone that split… in the lower spine… tailbone.

Clara: So is it completely healed now?

Simone: Yes. Now it’s fine. They said what we can do with this small piece? They said actually nothing. Because it’s so small, you will feel pain, but it will disappear.
Joel: So in other words, you don’t need the bone… unless of course you’re going to grow a tail! (says Joel with a chuckle)
Simone: Exactly. There is no plan [for that]… (laughing)

Herman Lak & Michele Garlica from Poland

Photo taken at the Snowball Classic 2009 by David Marasigan of

Joel: 3 weeks off! That’s difficult.

Simone: Yes. I had once with my calf when I was in Japan.
Annette: He always likes to get hurt somewhere where you don’t have any clue of the hospital system. (smiling)

Simone: But that time unfortunately, I couldn’t finish the competition. It was the final; we did all the 4 dances, then we did the solo dance Quickstep. I was pushing a bit too hard. I was doing a jump, and I got a cramp in the air, and then I landed on the side of the foot. The tendon was a bit caught and the muscle was not completely split but almost. Then I was trying to put the foot back on the floor. I said, “Come on, it’s only a cramp!”, but it was the end there.

Joel: Finito.
Simone: Exactly.

Joel: So do you speak German now?

Simone: German, a bit of English, Italian, trying to speak Polish because Annette’s parents are both Polish and she speaks Polish as well… and I’m trying to get into Japanese. Some words are okay, but some are really difficult. I can order something to eat, when I go to the sushi bar. I know all the names of what I want. Then it’s pretty easy.
Joel: Vancouver has very good sushi. Because we are very close to the ocean, it’s very fresh.
Simone: We have to try.

Joel: How long are staying in Vancouver for?

Annette: We leave Sunday.
Simone: Last year we stayed one day more and we went to the aquarium. It was really, really interesting. We went there, saw all these creatures… it was really nice. Nice day. Nice and relaxing.|
Clara: It’s always nice to have a day off.
Joel: Away from the ballroom and the airport…
Simone: And from hotel.

Clara: With your busy schedule, do you get many days off?

Annette: I think in the last 5 years, we did 1 holiday. It was in the first year. And then we only have Christmas off, for 3 or 4 days.
Simone: We try to have a day off, but the problem is the day off is emailing, booking flights, traveling… They are actually not a day off.

Joel: So how often do you get to see William and Oliver?

Simone: I think once a month.
Annette: For one or one and a half weeks.
Simone: We stay for a week in Germany to see Oliver, then we stay in Italy to see William for one week and then we go to England or traveling for competition.

Clara: So how many days a week do you train?

Annette: Every day if possible.
Simone: Unfortunately we have to take the day off when we are travelling. Actually if we go and dance, it doesn’t really work. If we do small flights, then that is ok. But if we do big ones, your body is not going to respond anyway. And you try to find details to modify something here or there. You can’t solve big problems. You have to solve the small ones. With the feelings after the long flights, it is simply not possible.

Joel: When do you have time to change choreography?

Annette: Actually, Simone keeps changing every time. We have some figures that we keep doing and that’s it.
Simone: Because I like to change sometimes. If I do every single time the same routine, I get bored. So sometimes I add something here, something there…
Annette: It’s always a surprise. (smiling)
Simone: It’s always something new, something inspiring as well.

Joel: And where do you get your inspiration from?

Simone: Videos.. old videos. Everyone always says that William Pino has fantastic choreography. I spoke with him as well… and he watched old videos. So he took old steps and made it in a new way, so it’s interesting. I watch some steps, and then change the shapes or timing… always something different and new.
Annette: Some things are by mistake. Something new comes up.
Simone: And sometimes you just don’t know what you’re doing. Afterwards you think it was really nice, but you really don’t know what you did. This is one of my favourite!

Joel: But usually in the competition you will somewhat keep the same choreography and change from comp to comp… or will you change even within a competition?

Simone: Even during the comp, sometimes I forget because I’m inside the music. I was searching in Wikipedia on the internet what the word ‘dance’ means. It’s like… the movement of the body compared to the music. So the music is always the base of it. So I always concentrate there and sometimes I forget the steps. Something is coming, but she is always… okay… It’s a surprise! Here we go… he’s in the music mood.


Continued in Part II…

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