You walk into a room full of vendors and are distracted by all of the glitz and glam of the costumes and all the dancers wearing them. All of a sudden, you come upon the AIDA Dance USA banner where the powerful Nikolai Tarasov and beautiful Sarah Nolan are alluring you to head to the AIDA Dance booth, which is exactly where you head.
Nikolai and Sarah met during a blackpool afterparty and just clicked. After 7 months of dating, Sarah moved to the United States. However they did not begin dancing with one another until 8 months later. Sarah explains “We were in a relationship first. We prioritized that as well, like that was important for us that we build our relationship. We didn’t have any idea that we were going to dance together. I don’t know, we just got along.” Nikolai follows up “I was dancing with my partner at the time, and Sarah split up with hers. After a while, it just happened. I remember going to a tryout at Embassy. We had a tryout.” Sarah interjected “We did it the proper way. Even though we had known each other for so long, we were dating, and we were together, we still had a tryout, we still asked for our teachers’ opinion.”
Nikolai and Sarah represent California, but both of them have had interesting journeys to get here. Nikolai explains“I moved to San Francisco from Russia when I was 18, because my first partner in America invited me. Basically, I just saw this advertisement on this Russian Facebook called VK, that there was a girl who needed a boy to dance with, so long story short, that is how it all started. 6 months later, I was here in the United States.” Sarah, born and raised in New Zealand moved to England for dancing and then moved to the United States. Sarah explains what the hardest part of moving was for her,“The hardest part is being away from my family and also being away from New Zealand’s nature and the energy that’s there. Going from England, it wasn’t hard at all. It was quite harsh with the weather there compared to New Zealand and America. I love the people and the friends that I made there, but it’s harder to get people to want to dance there. In America, you can come up to someone in the street and ask if they want to learn how to dance, they go ‘yeah, sure!’ It’s easier to work here because there has been more opportunity.”
Blackpool Dance Festival is an important place to Nikolai and Sarah. It is not only the place where they first met and fell in love, it is also where one of their proudest moments in dancing happened. In 2019, they placed 2nd in the Amateur Rising Star event. Sarah said“I’m proud of all of our little accomplishments like when we have a good practice or when we have a breakthrough or when we figure some little piece out, they’re all little things, but it all came to this huge big moment of that Blackpool final. Even making the semi-final, I was already out of my mind. Then they called us to the final and I thought ‘I don’t even know what’s real anymore.’ When they called first place, I thought ‘No way, that’s even going to be me anyways’,but I am happy anyways. Then they started calling out dance by dance, and Eugene (Katsevman) knew, he knew by the dances what the placings were. He was like ‘It’s you guys’ because they said first in samba and first in paso. I was like ‘That’s not us,’ to a point where Nik started to run on to the floor and I was holding back because I was like ‘it’s not real, it’s not actually us.’ You know, I just couldn’t believe it.” Nikolai continues,“We made the semi at our first Blackpool together. Then we got pushed back to the 48 in Rising Star, which was a big drop, so making the semi-final was like ‘Wow, great we did it again!’ Then making the final it was like what else can we wish for? At the moment, I don’t think you realize it, it kind of comes with shock and excitement. Some of the other finalists had been there already, so for us it was just a fairytale night.”
In addition to being accomplished dancers, Nikolai and Sarah have become successful coaches in their own right with many students. Sarah says that her favorite part of teaching is“Helping someone realize their joy from dancing. Especially with kids and they are first starting, they don’t really know what they like to do or they don’t really enjoy dancing, making them find their spark. Dancing, if you’re doing it with your whole energy and body, you find crazy joy and you can see it on peoples’ faces when they light up.” Nikolai states“I think the idea that I can give someone a tool that they can use to become better, it’s very fulfilling. It’s also a challenge, but when it happens, it’s a great feeling.”
Nikolai and Sarah have become accomplished coaches and dancers, but they still look to their teachers to help guide them on their journey. Sarah says that“We have a melting pot of coaches. We really hand-picked them because they have a quality that we love and they give qualities that we love to learn. There’s people that we see more often and there’s people that we see far less often. They all have a certain role within our learning to help and within our ear to help us.”Nikolai finishes,“People that we call our teachers are there for a reason. I don’t know if it sounds selfish or not, but we picked them for a certain kind of role and we’re really extremely grateful that they surround us, because we never really imagined working with them.”
Other than dancing, Nikolai and Sarah enjoy other activities. Nikolai loves nature, “Lately, like the past two years, I’ve really loved nature. Going out into nature and spending time going hiking or to the beach. We’re lucky enough to live a 10 minute walk from the ocean. When we get a moment, quite often we go and just sit by the beach. The San Francisco beach is not where you go to tan, they were not created for that reason, so you just kind of appreciate the beauty and go home.”Sarah has a passion for fashion, even launching her own award show fashion recaps on her Instagram stories“I love fashion. In my spare time, I enjoy reading the blogs and seeing what the trends are. I started doing them because of The Met Gala, which is the biggest fashion event, and it always has a theme. All the designers dress their favorite muses in these crazy outfits. I just like to post and share. On my Instagram, I really don’t do anything for other people, I do it for myself. If I think something is funny, stupid or whatever, I post it and whatever the reaction is, good or bad, I don’t mind it. I started putting up my favorite outfits and you can let people vote so I was like did people like it or not and it just kind of snowballed from there. Now people are texting me every award season like ‘Do the Oscars, do this awards show, do this one’ Sometimes I miss the awards because I’m not really in the mood and everyone's like ‘please do it more often.’ I just think it’s funny and I enjoy it, so that’s why I do it.”
Nikolai and Sarah work well together, however they are complete opposites when it comes to staying motivated when the results are not where they wanted them to be. Nikolai said“When the results are bad, that’s the best motivation. It sounds like a joke but if you didn’t do well, you want to do better.” Sarah said“We’re different, he gets motivated when the results are bad because he wants to be better and I just remind myself that I enjoy the dancing, I enjoy moving my body, so I can kind of ignore the bad result and I can keep going.”Their key to making it work? Recognizing that each person needs their own space and remembering the differences between each other. Nikolai started out“You have to be aware of the time frame because you don’t have forever in a partnership. If you want to succeed, it does take time, so for me it’s always like in the back of my head that we have to do it. No matter how you feel right now, if you want to succeed you have to do what you have to do. Sometimes Sarah and I are not the most pleasing to each other, but you have to remind yourself that your partner is not always going to be pleasing to you.” Sarah continued“The beginning of our partnership, I was not a permanent resident yet, so I was traveling back and forth to New Zealand. This is when I learned that this is what would make our partnership last was that while I was traveling a lot, I actually learned that even though I missed being home with him, it was so healthy for both of us to be in our own space and then reconnect. The other thing to remember is that we are so different, because as soon as you want the other person to act or think the same way or even do the same technique, it’s not the best. To recognize that you are different and those differences make you successful.”
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