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Ballroom Kids: Dmitriy and Michelle

By It's My Life on June 15, 2010 4:51 PM | No TrackBacks

This is a really sweet spot of the year for fans of TV dance shows! "Dancing with the Stars" just ended and "So You Think You Can Dance" is getting underway. We've got all the Cha Cha, Waltz, Tango, Samba, and other ballroom dance styles you could possible ask for.

Ballroom dance has been around for a long time but in recent years, has swelled in popularity thanks in part to these television hits. For more and more people of all ages, it's a fun and exciting hobby, and for many, a sport where kids as young as 7 years old, as well as adults and even senior citizens, compete! 

Recently, IML was invited to attend the USA Dance 2010 National DanceSport Championships to watch the country's most talented young ballroom dancers face off in Latin and Standard divisions. (In Latin competition, dancers must perform the Cha Cha, Rumba, Tango, Paso Doble, and Jive styles; in Standard they perform the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep. That's ten different routines!)

We were amazed not just by the level of dancing but also the passion and commitment of these kids and tweens. In the next few days, we'll meet three different pairs of "USA Dance Ballroom Kids" whose accomplishments and dedication we find inspiring.

dmitriy&michelle1.jpgFirst, meet Dmitriy and Michelle. Although they're just 12 years old, they've been dancing together for almost 6 years, during which they've won many awards and appeared on "Dancing with the Stars."  

IML: How did each of you get started in ballroom dance?

Michelle: I got started in ballroom dancing when I was about 6 years old. I was at the age when I was exploring many different activities, like swimming and gymnastics. One day my mom's friend introduced me to dancing and I tried it, and fell in love with it. It felt like I was sort of destined to do it. I was just so fun and I kept asking my mom to go to the dance classes. From that day on I've been dancing!

Dmitriy: When it was my 4th birthday, my parents took me to a dance studio and signed me up for a group class. I really liked it so I kept going week after week, and eventually I got my first partner. We went to a first competition and it was amazing to see how everything worked. I liked it a lot and I didn't quit and I kept on practicing, and now I'm here with my partner, going to different competitions, going around the country...meeting different people and seeing different things!

IML: How did the two of you get paired up?

Michelle: We went to this group class, and our teacher noticed that together we would make a very good dancing couple. We tried it out and it went really well, so from that day on we continued to be partners. And here we are 5 1/2 years later, still dancing together!

IML: That's almost half your life! How has your partnership changed in that time?

Dmitriy: We started off not knowing each other and then as the years went by, we got to know each other more, going to each other's houses. It became a very social and very comfortable relationship. Now we know each other really well and we're really good friends.

IML: What do you think makes a successful dance partnership?

Michelle: We both work together. It's not one person's job. If you don't enjoy dancing together, it shows when you're actually dancing on the floor, so having a good relationship really helps things build and helps you dance better.

IML: Do you think you'd be friends if you'd never become dance partners?

Michelle: We probably would never have met because we come from different areas!

IML: It sounds like dance exposes you to a lot of really great people you wouldn't normally meet. Tell us a bit about a typical day for you. You've got school and social life and family life and dance. How do you balance everything?

Michelle: A typical day would be going to school until 3pm, then we come home from school, eat, do a little bit of homework, and then go to dance at the studio. Usually we dance about 45 minutes each day. After that we come home and finish the rest of our work.

IML: Michelle, your younger sister Madelyne also competes in ballroom dance. Do you give her tips and advice?

Michelle: It's really fun because sometimes I teach her, and she gets to learn from me. I like to be the role model and to show her how to be a successful dancer. Because of dancing we've become much closer. She supports me in competition and I support her in competition!

IML: That's a great thing to share! Dmitriy, what kinds of comments or questions do you get from guys your age who aren't involved in dance?

Dmitriy: Most of them are just like, "What is ballroom dancing?" Other people are like, "We've never heard of this sport, it sounds fun." Some are like, "Oh, I don't think that's cool." I get a lot of different things people say. I just let everybody know how much I like it. Everybody sees my videos on YouTube and I'm cool about people having different opinions and different questions.

IML: Do you feel like you can educate other kids about ballroom? A lot of people don't know anything about it.

Dmitriy: We like to tell people about it, and some people even start taking lessons as a result. We kind of start them on their journey of ballroom dancing, and it's really great to see other people learning what it is. Some people take it to the next level.

IML: In a ballroom dance competition, you're scored by judges. What do they look for?

Dmitriy: They're looking at your technique and your performance overall. How you attract the audience. Like, you can be dancing and nobody really knows you're there, but some people can be dancing and you can just see the excitement in the audience about them. You want to be like that.

IML: When you're competing on a dance floor full of other couples, do you know when you're really standing out and people are noticing you? Or are you just focusing on your own routine?

Michelle: When we go on the floor, it's like we're the only people there. We just pretend there's no one there and that we're just dancing like we do in our studio, because that's where I dance the best. So I just enjoy myself and I have fun with it!

IML: When we watched you in the competition, we thought it was funny how everyone avoids bumping into one another or when another couple gets between you. It's part of the competition that you need to deal with that, right? Is it hard?

Dmitriy: It's sometimes hard to deal with in a big competition, but you get used to going around a person or you can modify a move to make it look like it's supposed to be in your routine. Sometimes it's experimenting with different things. Sometimes it actually makes it better...and sometimes it doesn't.

dmitriy@michelle2.jpgIML: Do you have a favorite dance style among the styles you do?

Michelle: We do Latin and Standard, and my favorite of those is Rumba. It's slow and it's sort of like the lady's dance, so I get to express my feelings and show my lines in that dance.

Dmitriy: My favorite dance is the Quickstep. I like it because it's really fast and there are a lot of really small steps. It's really quirky and there are lots of tricks you can do with your feet. It's fun to do and really fun to watch.

IML: What has dance given you in life so far? 

Michelle: Dance has definitely given me more self-confidence. When we go to competitions we dance in front of a lot of groups of people, so when you go into the world, it's more like you're comfortable with being around people. It's not as stressful. When you dance, you sort of just let go, and it helps you learn to do that in life as well.

Dmitriy: I've become more comfortable around groups of people when I'm performing. I feel like I can express myself more and I'm not as shy as I was before I started dancing. It's just given me a whole new opportunity. Now I'm more open to people because of dance.

IML: Why do you think ballroom dance has become so popular with young people?

Michelle: It's sort of like the new thing, and a lot of kids are trying it. They really like it and they tell their friends, and it spreads from there.

IML: What's your proudest or happiest moment so far?

Dmitriy: My proudest moment is when it's a big competition and you make it to the final, and you feel that adrenalin rush going through your body. Then you just perform everything you know, and you give it all your best. Then later when you're standing on the podium you're just thinking, what place am I going to get? You feel confident and proud that you've made it here, because of all the people who've helped you in life.

Michelle: My proudest moment is probably right before I go on the dance floor. Because I just feel like I'm getting really pumped and excited to show what I've been working for, and I can't wait to show my parents and other family members who support me how much it's all paid off!

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened during a competition?

Michelle: That was probably when we were dancing and I accidentally tripped! I stumbled and I got back up and continued to do the routine.

Dmitriy: My funniest moment was when I was dancing Quickstep and right in the middle of the routine, my shoe popped right off. So it took some time...we didn't totally stop, we kept on dancing. But I just had to take some time to put on my shoe and it was really funny to experience that.

IML: What's something that people might be surprised to know about ballroom dance?

Michelle: It's much harder than it looks. When we're dancing, we're just pretending it's really easy.  A lot of people start doing it thinking it's going to be easy and then discover how tough it really is.

Dmitriy: If you see people practice and how much effort and time people put in it, and how you have to memorize all the routines, you'll see the truth behind it. People get surprised by how hard everybody works.

IML: What advice do you have for other kids and teens who might want to get involved in ballroom dance?

Michelle: Ballroom dance is hard, so you have to be willing to work really hard. You have to be willing to not be afraid to go into a big crowd of people. But it's a really fun sport and out of it I've made a lot of new friends I would never have made if I hadn't been dancing!

IML: Thanks Michelle and Dmitriy! And good luck!

Take a look at Dmitriy and Michelle during a recent Latin competition:



And here they are doing their Standard routines:



Go Dmitriy! Go Michelle! For more information about ballroom dance, visit www.USADance.org.

Next, we'll meet Michelle's younger sister Madelyne and her partner, Ivan. Stay tuned!

 



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