Let the Heated Battle Begin!

Andrei Gavriline

Well, tonight is THE night on America’s Ballroom Challenge! It is my personal favorite competition anyway: the highly competitive, raucously fun, always immensely crowd-pleasing International Latin. Last year at the Ohio Star Ball, where America’s Ballroom Challenge is taped, the crowd was just going crazy showing their feelings — screaming the names of their favorites (forget calling out their dancer id numbers — as worn on the man’s back, which the emcee directs them to do, I assume in order to make the dancers feel less like it is personal admiration for one couple, distaste for another), and booing loudly — and angrily– when they don’t place as well as their fans wanted them to.

Tonight will be hotly contested. Above is a picture of Andrei Gavriline, who, with his wife and parter, Elena Kryuchkova, is the current U.S. National Latin Champion, three years in a row now.

BUT, this couple below, the beautiful, petite, Yulia Zagoryuchenko and her playful, entertaining partner, Max Kozhevnikov

Max and Yulia

may well overtake them. Oddly (some feel anyway), they (Max and Yulia) are currently second in the U.S., yet ranked higher in the World standings than Andrei and Elena. I think Max and Yulia are currently 8 in the world, if I am not mistaken, perhaps 9 after a few notable partner breakups and rearrangements last year altered the world standings a bit, and Andrei and Elena are farther down, past 12th I think. Anyway, it’s interesting that the World judges have consistently felt so differently about these two couples than the U.S. judges, and that has been a source of contention for the past few years amongst the serious fans of Latin, all of whom seem to have a favorite, about whom they are very passionate, to put it mildly! When the winner is announced tonight, there will likely be some kind of outburst, though the sound editor of the show may well cut it out for TV-viewing purposes… We’ll see…

I love both couples, but can’t help be a bit partial to Andrei and Elena. Andrei teaches at my studio, and the first time I ever saw him — when I had no idea who he was — he was teaching Cha Cha to a newish student. He showed her a very simple backward three Chas — three cha chas in a row going backward — a step that is taught in first-level, pre-Bronze classes — a very very simple basic that anyone who has been dancing for a month can do, in other words. But when he did it, he just flew across the floor — and I mean FLEW! It was the most amazing three chas I had ever seen in my life. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him after that. When I later found out he was the national champion, I had to laugh at myself for not knowing. Was kinda proud of myself though for having the sense to recognize flawless technique and star power 🙂 But, seriously, that experience watching him taught me that it’s not about knowing a bizillion steps that makes you a great dancer; it’s how well you can do the steps. Every teacher worth their salt will tell you that over and over again when you want to advance past the level you’re really ‘at,’ and it sounds like a total cliche, but just watch Andrei do a basic and, believe me, that so-called cliche will really hit home!

Plus, Andrei has such an interesting dancer’s body. He is tall and very thin, and this helps him to move so fast and far,and gives him that light, weightless, “flying across the floor” look. And, not that this has anything to do with being a great dancer, but he is just such a beautiful man: very delicate, Asiatic facial features, very fine-boned — kind of reminds me of Maxim Beloserkovsky, from the American Ballet Theater. And his wife, Elena, has a tiny gymnast body. They are such a contrast, and her smallness makes it look like she is just floating up effortlessly into his arms during their lifts.

On the other hand, Max and Yulia do a fast fast FAST mean-ass Samba that is a real sight to behold!

I have met this couple before at Blackpool and they are the sweetest people. So, I’m rooting for them too! I’m rooting for two couples!

Another favorite couple of mine are Delyan Terziev and Boriana Deltcheva.

Delyan and Boriana

I think she is such a beautiful dancer, with long limbs and a balletic body that enables her to make gorgeous lines, especially during romantic Rhumba. Sometimes she just looks like a spider! They are a very dramatic couple, putting a lot of character into their dancing, which makes them compelling to watch.

Those are my personal faves anyway. The other couples, whose pictures I’ve taken from ABC’s website, all copyright of Jeffrey Dunn, are:

Ilya Ifraimov and Nadia Goulina

Andre and Natalie Paramonov (whose picture is currently down on the site)


Vaidotis Skimelis and Jurga Pupelyte.

Upsettingly, absent, due to Pasha’s illness, are Pavel (Pasha) Kovalev and Anna Garnis, probably the most popular overall with the crowd, judging by all the immensely enthusiastic eardrum-shattering cheers they receive while on the floor. I am still so sad that they had to miss this one. I can’t resist putting up a couple of pictures, taken from the Nationals in Florida last year:

Sorry for the crappy, dark and blurry photos. Hopefully I will get a new camera in time for Blackpool this year!


  1. question here…. where do these costumes and accessories come from? they must be custom designed, but by whom?

  2. Hi Marcy,

    Most of them are custom-made, although some dancers do find them right off the rack. At all of the competitions, the vendors — both costume and accessory vendors — set up a booth in an area off to the side of the ballroom. A lot of people get their accessories there and sometimes the costumes too. Most of the dancers have them custom-made, though. There are several seamstresses — mostly Russian — around town, who people use. Some of the dancers even make their costumes themselves. They find their materials — fabrics, beads, rhinestomes, etc. — in the garment district here, and then just make the costumes themselves. I think some of the dancers could have real side careers as costume-makers!

  3. Is it weird I feel guilty for preferring Max and Yulia? I guess that shows I’m not totally biased towards DTS dancers! But that was a great conclusion; it was like both couples got to win, which was nice. And I LOVED Vaidotis and Jurga’s Argentine-style routine – that last position!!!!! Wow.

  4. It’s good to hear from you, Parker! I was getting worried about you!

    I agree it was a great conclusion. Even if Andrei and Elena won overall in this ABC competition, the fact that Max and Yulia won the group dance I think is going to make it a real possibility that they could win the Nationals in Florida in September. I am now going to be really excited for that one!

    And you echoed my thoughts exactly on Vaidotis and Jurga too — wow — I know, that ending position was amazing!! So original! They are clearly going to be a couple to watch!

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re back 🙂

  5. Aww, thanks for worrying, Tonya – I’ve had the flu all this week so I’ve been in a NyQwil haze!

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