Every Saturday we could see him smiling at us from the screen alongside an ethereal being - pastor Martina Viktorie Kopecká. At the popular dance competition StarDance, Marek Dědík is a veteran who knows how it works already. Being the professional he is, he can teach anyone how to dance. His signature traits are a wide smile on his face and an everlasting good mood that he hasn't lost despite the strict coronavirus measures accompanying this year's competition. Although Marek is very busy, he still took the time to talk to LP-Life.com about the joys and sorrows of dancing in the coronavirus era.
You said that this year's edition of StarDance is 250% more challenging than before. How do you perceive it, how demanding is it?
It's challenging obviously because of the COVID, there's a huge risk of infection. The worst-case scenario is having no one to dance live. That's what Czech Television fears the most, so they test us every Thursday with a PCR test and an antigen, on Friday with antigen and on Saturday again with yet another PCR to avoid that. So we're all prodded through and through.
On the one hand, it's good to be sure, but on the other hand, we're obviously stressed. We're not just stressed about the dance and the broadcast, but also how the testing is going to turn out. Every week is like an episode of Survivor. Nobody knows who's going to dance, whether they're staying or not, or whether they're going to have their dance partner replaced because of the infection. The whole thing certainly plays a role. I believe it was pretty mentally challenging as is, but the COVID makes it twice as challenging.
Another challenge is that I'm a bit of an elderly person now (laughs). I'm not twenty-five anymore, so of course, the exertion and everything about the competition is very draining for me; and above all, my family is suffering because of it. These times make it all a bit harder, so that’s why I say it's 250% worse for me than it was in previous years. That's also why I pondered the offer to dance in the show for a long time, but now I'm glad I took it, because I met another person, which is pastor Martina Viktorie Kopecká. I'm glad to be dancing with her. She's so special, someone absolutely outside the world of show business. That's what makes it all the more valuable in terms of life experience, to meet yet another completely different person I wouldn't normally meet.
This year was different, we all met together, VIPs and dancers, but we didn't know who we were going to dance with. And I remember thinking at that very first meeting that I'm definitely going to get the pastor (laughs). Me, the kind of sometimes flippant one who always speaks his mind. I was like, "Well, this is gonna be tough." Because I have some peculiar teaching methods, sometimes I say things like "show me a bitch," but I mean it in a good way. So that's what I was most worried about, whether she would roll with it, or how the training would go overall and how we would go along. But I have to say, she's a very good person, and it's different than before. She's different, a terribly smart person, aware, she's not rash like me, but incredibly patient. So it's a whole different experience for me as well, working with such a distinct personality.
Let's compare it with Jitka Schneider, for example, who is an actress, a show business figure. Martina is already different with how slowly and calmly she speaks. What did your experience with Jitka give you and what do you take home from Martina?
Jitka gave me speed and fire, we were on a roll. There was passion, she had it all set up a bit like me. With Martina it's a little different. What I take away from every training session is that you have to get things through your head before saying anything, and that often it's not the words that are important, but their meaning. That's a big difference.
And then there's also a bit of that spiritual thing. I don't want to sound like Martina is pushing it, on the contrary, she's not imposing religion on anyone at all, but of course you can sense it in her. There's a certain faith in her, and that feeling she prefers things transcendent and gives it more weight and more power. But of course, she lives a normal, real life, she likes to read and do other things, she's huge on helping people and she's awfully nice to everybody. A cleaning lady or a cameraman comes in and we have a half-hour debate with them. She really has such an energy that people come to her, I think especially when they're feeling down.
To confide. Meeting her is really an interesting experience and it's no wonder people want to meet her. Because meeting her is different from seeing her on TV. You can feel it even then, but in person, it's almost twice as impressive. Thanks to Martina, we now do this special "circle" at StarDance before the broadcast starts.
Honza Cina was the first to suggest it, but of course, it's Martina who speaks there every week. She gives this little speech, we hold hands and it's very, very nice. It's emotional, some of the girls are almost crying and all in all, it's such a vulnerable moment. It really takes you to a whole different realm than we normally live in, we're honestly somewhere else. Plus the stress we’re under...
Everyone on StarDance always says "this is my new family." Will that last after StarDance? Especially for you, since you've been doing it for several years in a row?
I think that by being there for the fifth time, I do experience it a little bit differently. But I understand the VIPs, why they're so touched by it, because they're only there once. First of all, it's super emotional, and secondly, they're mostly doing what they can't do or aren't good at. They experience both criticism and success, that's why they bond together like that, because they all have the same goal, they learn the same dances, they're all on the same page.
The relationships are really intense. For a while after StarDance, a whole bunch of people get together, then it breaks into smaller friend groups, some people click and remain friends for a long time, I think these relationships do last. And that's what makes StarDance so magical. I, for one, would never have met all those people in my life. The dancers I do meet sometimes, they teach at studios or we've danced together for a while. But it's different with the VIPs, this is my fifth time at StarDance and I would never meet 50 VIPs any other way. I get to experience them a little differently than I do on TV or on stage. There's that personal connection. And under stress, those people can't pretend anything for too long, you can't play a role or set anything up for long, because we would see it and it would be uncomfortable.
I still do, and I don't think that's gonna change. I think everyone can learn to dance because everyone can dance. The second question, of course, is how well they can dance. It's all about diligence then. But I think even someone who doesn't feel the rhythm, even if they can't dance a proper cha-cha, they can do their moves to some music and they will hit some rhythm. But they can also learn cha-cha if they practice it long enough.
Have you ever had a dance partner or someone you teach, whether in StarDance or elsewhere, where you thought you just couldn't teach this one?
I often feel like that (laughs), but I rarely say it. Being a professional, I only need a brief moment to see where that person is at with the movement coordination that is key for dancing. Many times, though, after two or three months of work, such a person has surprised me that it can be learned. Except sometimes it can't (laughs). But even that I take as a challenge. If they can't do it, I don't force it and teach them some intricacies, rather the simpler things so that they can manage it and enjoy it.
It's like a parent signing a child up for a dance class, and after a while telling them to go play chess instead. The child will eventually be relieved to be able to do something they're good at, something that doesn't feel like a waste of time...
After a while, a good coach should tell you that. Sometimes I have to say - this is going to take longer or this is not going to work. It's a hard thing to deal with, obviously, both for the parents and for me to lose that trainee or that couple. But sometimes it gets to the point where it just has to be said.
I teach dance to professional dance couples, where they train every day and I give them individual lessons, then there's a seminar. This is connected to my teaching at international camps, which are held in summer or winter, for example, I go to Italy every other month to teach. That's my professional side. Plus I judge professional competitions like the Czech National Championships.
And then there is the other branch, where I teach "normal people" to dance, and that is classes for children, married couples or individual classes, some want to dance the so-called Pro-Am, which means that women pay for a lesson with me and I dance with them like in StarDance, but I teach them the harder steps, individually. I can also take part in a competition with them, Pro-Am competitions are a thing. And then I do wedding dances, the choreography. I also perform on balls or parties, whatever there is.
Depends on what they book (laughs). So it's either my wife or a professional dancer, because my wife and I have never danced in competitions together. Or it can be the VIPs from StarDance.
Because my life has completely changed and moved on. Given that I've been grinding non-stop since I was twelve and I haven't had much time off, friends or the normal life that everybody has, I really wanted that. I also wanted a family, and that’s something you have to be there for. I've moved on to another level, and I'm enjoying it. I enjoy what I do and how I do it. And to abuse myself again, to get in that shape, that's not done in a month, it would take six months to a year to get back into the swing of it. I don't feel like doing that anymore, I don't even want it. I don't feel the urge, nor do I miss it, which I'm grateful for. I'm content. Performing is different, I enjoy that. I can do whatever I want there, lifts, pick any music I want, do what I like, and not just slave or grind athletically.
You said earlier you weren't getting any younger either. All the things you're doing that you just listed are physically demanding, too. How long are you gonna go like this?
It's physically demanding, of course, but I have a lot of energy. That's also why my parents signed me up for sports, and they did the right thing. I still have a lot of energy, but it's true that lately, I'm running out of it sometimes. I think the coronavirus stopped it at the right time and cut it off a bit, so that I had time to stop, both to spend some time at home and to realize that it's been too much. Often I would do two performances, then teach, then go on again. The worst part is the travelling, it's not just about dancing somewhere, you have to drive all the way there as well. Then at home, you plan and organize it all, and that also saps your energy and strength.
I was in a constant rush, and I don't want to live like that anymore. So I'm definitely not gonna do it that way anymore. I'm going to cull those things and unfortunately, it means I'm going to lose something, or not get to do something, or not experience it, but I can't do it anymore.
You said your parents were right to put you in sports. How are your boys coming along, will they follow in your footsteps?
The older, Bertram, I don't think so much. Of course, he jumps around some, but we don't see any dancing in it. He likes to run, do sports. He's active as well, because my wife has a lot of energy too, so both our kids are very active, and it's no surprise. Bertram will be athletically gifted, but it won't be dancing. The younger, Dorian, there have been little hints - when we put on some music, he gets interested in it, he starts bouncing around, but we don't support it. We don't want them to do dance, we want them to do some other sport. But of course, if it comes to that, we won't stop him.
I was wondering whether it would be the right thing or not. On the one hand, probably not, let him make his way in the world. I've been through the dance system, so I probably couldn't refrain from giving him some advice, but on the other hand, I'd know what he's getting into. I would know what the environment is like because I've been through it, and for the safety of the child, I would know what to expect. If he was doing judo or cycling, I don't know how the whole thing works. That would be a plus that I'm familiar with it, it would be safer. But you never know.
This is your fifth StarDance, you've been pondering your attendance a lot. If the offer comes up for another season, will you do it again?
I'm determined not to take it as a dancer. If an offer came up for something else within StarDance, to choreograph or be on the jury, I would consider that, I might even take it. It would be a challenge, something different. But not as a dancer. Although I don't know, if Lucie Bílá or Ewa Farna were there and they wanted Marek Dědík, that would probably be a different story (laughs).