Finnish couple made a historical achievement and earned a WCh gold medal in Boogie Woogie this year. Read about a journey of dancers representing Rock’n’Roll Dance Club Comets. What it takes to become a winner and is there still motivation left to continue and defend a title?
On October 24, 2021, at the Boogie Woogie World Championships Masi Saurén and Anna Tyutyunyuk from Comets made history and won the first position in Kharkov, Ukraine. Masi and Anna have been competing together since 2016. They have won four World Cup competitions and achieved numerous final positions in international competitions. Finns have won medals in the boogie woogie main class once before, when in 2019 Juho Päivinen and Mari Munne danced for the World Championship silver. In the senior class, Tommi and Pirjo Koivula have won a World Championship gold in 2002. The first position in the World Championship Main Class is a historic achievement for Finland!
We got an opportunity to interview the World Champions and hear their thoughts about competing, developing and balancing between important things.
Something must be given up to win
Anna and Masi are both very competitive and determined. They know that dreams and far away goals demand some things to be given away. Anna decided to move from Moscow to Finland to be able to train with Masi, even though it meant leaving her studies at a top university. Masi, on the other hand, had already achieved a lot of success at the competitive level. Dancing with Anna meant dropping or starting from scratch in a way. It took a whole year for Anna to persuade Masi to start competing with her. But giving up on these things, created an opportunity to do even greater ones together.
In addition to hard work, the coaches’ guidance and support are one of the most valuable things. Tommi and Pirjo Koivula have been the couple’s main coaches for years leading them through trainings and competition path. In order to create the top world class couple. In addition, Anna and Masi mention acrobatic rock’n’roll dancer Alexey Kondrashin from Russia, Leo Beck from Germany and psychic coach Sara Kallio, who has helped with the training on the mental side. Anna also thanks her ballet teacher Fatima Witick. “A teacher who knows how to push your limits in a way that helps and encourages you to get the most out of you. Fatima also has a huge amount of expertise in the functioning of the human body and mind”, they both reflect. Witick is also familiar to Masi over the years. In addition to the boogie woogie, both also dance other styles.
"We don't need luck, we need calm"
After months and years of training by the time of the competition, one does not hope to succeed because of luck. “We realized that after all the training, a cold head is what we need the most at an important moment.” The pressures of the World Championship are on the highest. “You have to rest, have a decent night’s sleep, outfits prepared and keep your mind ready but relaxed.”
Masi and Anna had analyzed very carefully their performance at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships and the consequences of the choices made in the different rounds of the competition. The couple strongly felt that in 2018, the mental challenge was “craving it too much” and it paid off badly. In the finals again in 2019, the pair focused entirely on one particular acrobatic figure of the quick round and disrupted the rest of the dance, placing the ranking worse than the pair would otherwise have assumed (ending up on the 4th place).
“The mental side has become a very important thing for us. If we don’t get to calm our mind before competing or performing, the game is already played.”
The couple emphasized the success on the mental side behind Kharkov’s victory. The basics (dance basic technique) were clean and clear, there was quality and a good amount of power. Also an important idea of the couple is that you want to dance, not (only) win! “We don’t want to be perfect because it’s not reachable, but we want to be really really good.” And it requires diverse skills physically, skillfully, and mentally.
Next year, Anna and Masi want to show that their first win wasn’t a lucky one. “The dancers are getting stronger in the top class, but we want to defend our title. We are also interested in what it feels like to be in a position of a winner, what kind of pressure it brings. ”
Masi, who had successfully shown his skills in the junior boogie woogie class, felt for a moment that his part seemed to be done. “It was 2004, time to say goodbye to junior class and move to main class but the motivation was lost.” However, Masi’s enthusiasm for training Boogie got a new spark when he saw Remy Kouakou Kouame seasoning Boogie Woogie with Hip Hop elements. Masi was shocked! He had already danced Hip Hop for years but never thought to insert it to boogie. His spontaneous music interpretation ever since was elevated to a new level with freedom of styles and movements. Music interpretation became Masi’s strength and something that fired up the audience.
What does musicality mean for Anna and Masi? “You have to adapt to the music. Your figures, your emotions and the way you move should change according to the music.” Music is the most important thing. The couple never prepare a plan of figures for the round. So music “leads” Masi’s imagination. All that is agreed in advance is that the final acro will not be made in the other rounds. “We have to feel each other and connect to the song or melody completely to be able to fully adjust our figures to it.”
When Remy Kouakou Kouame’s appearance with his partner Sarrah Montalban opened up a new world of music interpretation for Masi, he said out loud, “one day I will be a world champion”. It took seventeen years for this dream to come true. Is there still enough motivation after this achievement to keep going?
“Our motivation has become even stronger now! The next World Championship will be held in August 2022 in Stuttgart. We want to go there and experience defending the championship, because in the future, when we coach, we will understand how it feels.”
Masi and Anna also agreed that the dance always continues even if the Boogie Woogie competitive career ends one day. There is still enough challenge and learning for Masi in hip hop and for Anna in other dance styles. Also she still has 10 years until she can enter the next age category of Boogie seniors and try herself there. “Let’s see what it means to me when we stop competing, it seems so far away so I can’t even imagine now” Anna said. The opportunities for the future of the couple are coaching, judging and becoming one of the competition organizers. “We want to share our knowledge and experience by being involved even after the end of our own competition career. You always need to be hungry to dance.”
Text: Jutta Kokkonen & Pirja Vitikka-Koponen