Interview: Dmitry Klokotov Speaks About What It Means to Be a Personal Trainer for Dancesport Athletes.
An interview with one of the best personal trainers based in Moscow, Dmitry Klokotov, who works with top-level dancers. He is talking about his career, his method, training plans, and nutrition.
Many already know who you are, but could you please introduce yourself and let us know who is Dmitry Klokotov? How did you get involved with dancesport?
Dmitry Klokotov: Well, first of all I have been a dancer, I graduated from the Igor Moiseyev Academy and I ended up dancing in their ballet ensemble as a soloist for 13 years. How did I stumble upon dancesport? When I was still dancing in the ballet group, I met the one who is now my wife, Anastasia Klokotova. I still remember her coming to watch me dancing after we had just started getting to know each other. Then suddenly I happened to watch her training. For me it was a completely new thing and I thought ‘how can people move in that way?!’
Everything in ballet is ruled by method, by positions, everything must be correct and in line. In dancesport instead… how are they using their body? When I went to a dancesport competition for the first time, I was really shocked! I could not even choose who was the best one, because for me they all looked the same. But I immediately understood that no one had a classical formation. Leg position, body posture, hand usage. I could easily tell that many aspects needed to be improved.
You said that you have been watching some dancesport training, but how did you actually start working with dancesport couples?
Dmitry Klokotov: I started working with the couple Yury Simachev and Anastasia Klokotova. We tried to make some improvements for example if the hand usage was not enough, if there were any out of balance moments, if the body was late. At that moment I didn’t know latin-american technique. But I could easily spot simple mistakes, if the knees were soft, if the trunk fell back when the leg went up, if the body presentation was not enough.
So this for you was like a kickstart, an advertisement that let you begin working as a personal trainer?
Dmitry Klokotov: To be honest, I didn’t imagine that this could become a job for me. I was both dancing and working with Yury and Anastasia in the Forum and Academia studios and I vaguely recall that other couples saw us. They asked me if I would train them. Yes, it probably started like this.
Were you working with both, standard and latin dancers?
Dmitry Klokotov: Actually, no. I remember that at the beginning I didn’t understand at all the standard style. I mean, I didn’t see how I could help a standard dancer. I had no clue what to suggest. Anyway, my formation and my career gave me the knowledge about the look, the visual effect. How the performance should look like to the viewer. Because of this, when the first standard couple asked my help, I gave my opinion from a purely aesthetic point of view.
Can you tell us the name of the couple?
Dmitry Klokotov: We were in a training camp in Crocus and Dmitry Zharkov and Olga Kulikova were also there. They came to me and asked my opinion about a specific movement — if it looked better in this or that way. I don’t recall the actual date, but I know that at the time he was still second in Russia and Sergey Konovaltsev was first. It was before the Stuttgart competition. So, basically he was the first standard dancer I got in touch with. Soon after, we gradually began working together on physical preparation. Later on, other dance couples contacted me.
Generalizations are often dangerous. But what do you think is the most common mistake that dancesport dancers do?
Dmitry Klokotov: Most dancesport dancers can’t separate the upper part of the body from the lower part. Basically, they can’t dance with the leg without involving the top. And, because of that, they quickly start to help themselves with the spine and with the hands. This is for me among others, the biggest problem.
How would you work with a dancer to improve this aspect? Which kind of exercises would you recommend?
Dmitry Klokotov: I try to teach them how to use the leg without involving the upper part. At the same time I work on the general physical preparation. More specifically, I start the lesson with leg exercise like battement jeté and battement frappé. Then I steadily try to work out with them all the parts of the body using classical ballet elements and other physical exercises like jumps, squats and abs.
During training and private lessons we can see many dancers using weights and rubber bands. Do you use any of these tools in your lessons?
Dmitry Klokotov: No, I’m not necessarily a fan of those. We only work with our own bodyweight. Certainly you can use rubber bands, but in my opinion they are not so effective.
Do you think that dancers need to workout in the gym? Are they supposed to lift wights or do cardio, like many other athletes do?
Dmitry Klokotov: If you need to improve your endurance, to hold your performance until the end of the music, the cardio workout is definitely helpful. If we’re talking about lifting weights, yes… men can do it for the beauty of the body, especially latinists (the muscle relief is much more important because they are wearing open shirts). But then, everyone has to be careful not to exceed the limit, so as not to lose the flexibility and look heavy. And remember that as a dancer, you should spend more hours in the dancestudio, not in the gym.
Is there any difference in the way you work if the competition is close or it takes place in a few months?
Dmitry Klokotov: Definitely. If I work closely with a dancer I know what is better for him in that specific moment. So, let’s say, if the competition is in ten days, I will work four days on cleaning up all the parts of the performance that don’t look quite right. After we would have a one day break and again four days of work, focusing on fixing those changes we have made and making sure that everyday we go through all the dances. Many times I see dancers working on only one dance for two or three days, disregarding the other aspects. When they go to the competition, the full performance is not ready. In a nutshell, when the competition is near, I try to clean all the routines from the visual point of view and when we have more time we will work more on the physical preparation.
And what about the day before the competition, is it better to practice or to relax?
Dmitry Klokotov: In dancesport often one has to fly the day before the competition and this already counts as a day off. So if you also relax the day before the trip, I think it is too much. Basically, I think you need to keep the body active as much as you can, without crossing the line of course.
When you were dancing, did you care about food and nutrition? Were there any specific guidelines you were following that you can recommend?
Dmitry Klokotov: I’ve noticed couples starting in the morning with their own practice and then teaching until the evening, without actually caring about their nutritional graphic. You should have breakfast in the morning, and not only sugar, but omelette, cheese, oatmeal porridge. After practice you have a balanced meal with complex carbohydrates and proteins. During the day grab some light snacks, and with that I don’t mean big lattes with caramel syrup and chocolate bars. Have a black coffee instead, you don’t need to add any sugar, if you don’t like it, try to get used to it. Or tea. To be honest, nutrition is a big subject, but in short: just don’t fill your stomach with junk food.
It’s very common when we talk about sport or art to get into the “talent” subject. Do you believe that to become a champion you must be gifted by nature or can anybody reach the top?
Dmitry Klokotov: When it comes to becoming world champion I can’t actually say, but for sure, nature gifted people differently. There’s someone who is more emotional, who is more artistic, who is more elastic, who is more physical, but generally everything is achievable through hard work. For some it will take more time, for others it will be easier, but we all have our chance.
As a conclusion, what are your main suggestions to dancesport dancers?
Dmitry Klokotov: What I can see is that everyone is on his own, just floating without a direction. You should plan and think about all the aspects ahead. For instance, many teachers will tell you quite different and controversial things. If you believe all of them immediately without understanding what you really need in that specific moment of your career, you can easily lose your path and start working on things that actually will not make you a better dancer.
That’s why I think it is important to know your plan and stick to it. Start with making the plan for one year, without jumping from one teacher to another, knowing exactly what kind of work you need to do.
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Italian, dancing since the age of 5 and currently based in Moscow. With his partner Ekaterina Utkina, he is in the top 50 WDSF Adult Standard World Ranking, representing the Russian Federation.