Dancing in the City — A Love Story

Anna Martynova Bernard is a house dancer and Marty Bernard is a popper. Together they are Millenium Funk’n crew and the most romantic dance couple I’ve ever met. Spending time with them gets you into magical situations: we were sitting in a coffee shop, talking about dance and incredible incidents that bring people together and right at the end of our conversation, their wedding song started playing.

Sveta: How did you two meet?

Marty: I remember like it was yesterday. It was July 1st, 2014. And I remember that day because it was Anna’s birthday. So we met at the club called Revival. There was a house dance event. So there were two DJs playing, and a lot of house dancers were getting down. It was one of those nights when I was thinking, like, You know what, I’m so tired. I don’t wanna go out. But something inside told me, Just go. So I peeled myself out of my bed and went out. I met our mutual friend Mugabi who invited us there. I finally made my way into the centre of a big group of people. They just were getting down, dancing. Mugabi introduced me to Anna. And then, BOOM! That’s how it happened. And she was dancing in the circle at that time, so I just was like, wow! 

Anna: I was supposed to go to another party for hip hop dancers. And I had a lot of friends who were going there, but something inside me just told me, I just don’t wanna go there. And I decided to go to the house party even though I didn’t even know who was going there. I didn’t wash my hair. I didn’t have any makeup on me. I was wearing a T-shirt that I wear at home [both laugh]. So, for some reason I left my condo and went to that house dance party. That’s where we met.

S: What were your first impressions of your Valentine? 

Marty: I had the feeling of being impressed and being blessed. So it’s like being ‘imblessed’. That was what I felt when I saw her.

Anna: I never felt that way before. When you just see the person, and you’re just smiling for no reason. And then you realize, Ok, there’s something wrong here [both laugh]. And my second impression was that he’s a really DOPE dancer. That’s like two in one. That’s perfect.

S: Do you remember your first date?

Marty: Oh, yeah [laughs]. I remember picking her up at her place. And I still remember the outfit she wore. She had this pink — like a peach colour — top and white shorts. We saw a party on Facebook. And it was like a Motown Party, where the DJs were going to play Motown all night. And we were really excited ‘cause Motown is DOPE. So we went to this party. It was on Queen Street, and it was in a basement. We went downstairs, and there was only the DJ and not a single person. But the music was so good that we ended up battling each other. Even though there was nobody there, I didn’t even care. I was so happy. It was perfect. And the DJ was loving it too. After, we went to another place in Parkdale. And that club was packed. And we danced there too. And then we went to the rooftop.

Anna: We were dancing and we didn’t even realize there was no one around. Time flew so fast. I wasn’t in a dancing outfit. But he was. What happened next… It was very late, and I was like, I had so much fun. I didn’t want that night to end. So I was like, Ok, what are we gonna do next. I had this beautiful rooftop in my condo that time. We were just sitting and talking. It ended up so romantic.

S: When you think about your relationship, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Marty: God. For sure, I think of all of the incidents in my life and in her life that connected us, and it can only be God. There was a dance battle a year before we met and she took a picture of the dance circle. And I’m standing right there. She came to California all the way from Ukraine. I was in California visiting family. And we were at Universal Studios at the same time in August, 2011. I was walking in Universal Studios, and my wife was somewhere around.

Anna: God — a hundred percent. We’ve even been to the places at the same time in the past, and we didn’t know each other. Apparently, we went at the same time to Universal Studios in California. And I saw his picture on Facebook. It says the date — August, 2011. And when I looked at my pictures, it was the same date! And I even didn’t live in Canada at that time.

S: How would you describe dancing together?

Marty: I feel like for me dancing together restores a part of dance that I lost for a long time. There is so much pressure in the world. You gotta make money. You gotta live. And sometimes doing that pulls you away from art. And sometimes you are trying to manage two worlds. But when we met and started dancing together, it created a perfect version. I don’t have to struggle between two worlds anymore. I felt like it is the right place to be, and I got that young, fun feeling back. Everything else just disappeared.

Anna: I’ve never felt so comfortable dancing with someone. I was more like a selfish dancer. I was enjoying myself in the studio — just me and the mirror. I tried to dance with other people, but I’ve never really showed myself truly. But with Marty…you just wanna dance with him. It’s a good feeling.

S: Have you ever tried to choreograph something together?

Marty: For the battles. Usually in the battle world, when another crew poses their routine, you are trying to respond with your routine. So we like to have something. Other than that, we haven’t done any choreography.
Anna: Together as a team we’ve been very much focused on the battles and parties.
S: What was the most romantic thing your Valentine did for you?
Marty: Oh my gosh, where to start. I feel like Anna is doing romantic things every day. But if you force me to pick one, it would be when she said yes when I asked her to marry me.
Anna: Oh, that’s not fair. That’s what I was gonna say [all laugh].
Marty: That’s why I went first.
Anna: Ok, you tell the story.
Marty: Oh my gosh, I’m getting shy now. It was Saint Valentine’s Day of 2015. I was planning for so long and trying to keep everything in secret. I felt like I was a spy. I was hiding while getting the ring and the diamond, talking to her parents. They speak Russian, so I had to call her best friend, and we Skyped them. She had to translate everything for me. We had to do it without Anna knowing anything about it. That was not easy.
Anyway, when Anna and I met, we often walked around UofT campus ’cause I was going to school there. One place we liked to walk to was Trinity College. That part of the campus was our favourite. We would walk there and then go to the church. It’s just incredible and so beautiful. A lot of the times, we would sit there and just be one, peaceful and relaxed. I set it up so that we would take and walk all the way through the church. I had rented out the church, so no one else could come in [laughs]. There’s usually no one there anyway, but just to make sure. And I got her best friend to come with the camera and hide in Trinity College. So if Anna says yes, her friend would videotape everything. So we were there, and finally I asked Anna to marry me. She said yes.
S: What are some qualities you admire about your Valentine?
 
Marty: There are so many. I think anybody who knows Anna agrees that she’s somebody who constantly pursues truth and knowledge. She makes me better every day. I think as people we try to become the best version of ourselves. And I feel like Anna keeps me focused on that. So the best quality of her… she’s just a good person. She has infinite love.
I remember once we were in a laundry. And an elderly lady was trying to get in with her stuff. She was struggling with the door. Without even thinking, Anna just ran and helped her to get in. And the lady was so grateful. I was just looking at this, and it hit me what kind of a person Anna is. Sometimes people would help other people because it helps them. Someone treats someone kindly because it’s their boss or just a popular and influential person. But I think you see people’s true characters when they help somebody who has nothing to give them. There were so many moments when I witnessed Anna just being so kind to people, who really had nothing to give her. She’s the kind of person I wanna be.
Anna: Probably his most impressive qualities are kindness and generosity. The way Marty treats other people is just inspiring. He always tries to see the situation from someone else’s perspective, and just tries to be himself. He’s an example for me of how to treat other people.
[Etta James’s At last starts playing]
Marty: It’s our wedding song! [both look at each other surprisingly and give each other high fives].
Anna: That’s so awesome! I’m shocked.
Photos by Sveta Soloveva
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