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The Competition


Twenty-four couples competed in four dance categories and the top three couples in each category advanced to "The Finals."

Four of these couples were named champion of each style and in the end, one couple emerged with the title "America's Best.

 
Male dancer in black pants and white shirt dances the rumba with female dancer in black top and black shorts as she leans away from him.

Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kryuchkova

© Jeffrey Dunn

America's Best

Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kryuchkova
Fords, New Jersey

Elena started as a figure skater and gymnast, but took up ballroom dancing when she was nine. Andrei was studying law in Moscow when he rediscovered his childhood passion for dance. He and Elena met in Moscow, fell in love and became dance partners. In 1999 they moved to the U.S. and were married. In 2001 they were British Rising Star Latin American Dance Champions at Blackpool. Most recently they have twice been named U.S. National Professional Latin American Dance Champions, and three times they represented the U.S. in the World Latin American Dance Championships.

 

Professional American Rhythm

Male dancer in black pants and white shirt dances with female dancer in black dress with a slit up the side.

Tony Dovolani and Elena Grinenko

© Jeffrey Dunn

American Rhythm Champions
Tony Dovolani and Elena Grinenko
New York, New York

This is a new partnership of two very experienced dancers and long-time friends. Tony learned to folk dance as a young boy in Kosovo, then fell in love with ballroom when he moved to the United States at age 15. Elena trained in ballet, folk and ballroom in Russia, before moving to America when she was 21. Tony and Elena have tremendous technique and dance highly creative routines. All their movements are well thought out, and Elena's footwork is exceptional. Both have won many titles with other partners. Elena has also danced on Broadway, while Tony has been a dance consultant for feature films.


Male dancer in black pants and shirt holds on his back female dancer in black cat suit.

Jesse DeSoto and Jackie Josephs

© Jeffrey Dunn

Jesse DeSoto and Jackie Josephs
Buffalo Grove, IL

This is a striking young couple. Jackie comes from a dancing family — her mother also competed in the American Rhythm division. Jesse taught in her studio, where young Jackie also trained. When she graduated from high school, they started dancing together, with great results. Their routines are dynamic and well rehearsed. They look great together, are always polished, and dance with tremendous energy.


Male dancer in black pants and white shirt holds female dancer in red dress upside down while she does a split.

Felipe Telona, Jr. and Carolina Orlovsky Telona

© Jeffrey Dunn

Felipe Telona, Jr. and Carolina Orlovsky Telona
Englewood, New Jersey

Afraid to risk their relationship, Felipe and Carolina avoided dancing together for the first year they dated. But after a series of disappointing matches, they decided to "try out" each other — and have been together ever since. They're known for their speed and challenging routines. Felipe, from California, is wonderfully musical. And Carolina, a Canadian, has exceptionally quick, dramatic movements.


 

Professional American Smooth

Male dancer in burgundy dances the waltz with female dancer in pale pink fringed dress.

Ben Ermis and Shalene Archer Ermis

© Jeffrey Dunn

American Smooth Champions
Ben Ermis and Shalene Archer Ermis
Nashville, Tennessee

Ben and Shalene were married a few years ago, but have been teaching and dancing together since the early '90s. Neither of them danced as kids, but they caught the bug while training to become dance teachers. After a few years of dancing in the Standard division, they switched to Smooth and have been strong competitors in that category ever since. They are very sophisticated dancers with long, picture-perfect lines. When they're not working on their own routines, they both love to teach.


Male dancer in black suit kneels while female dancer in black and red fringed ball gown dances next to him.

Hunter Johnson and Maria Johnson

© Jeffrey Dunn

Hunter Johnson and Maria Johnson
Mission Viejo, California

This is a married couple with a wonderful, playful relationship that comes through in their dancing. Maria, who grew up in California, trained for many years in ballet before switching to Ballroom 14 years ago. Hunter, originally from Texas, has been dancing for 12 years. They actually competed against each other for a while after they started dating, but decided four years ago they were better together. They produce some of the most difficult and interesting choreography done in the American Smooth division. Off the floor, they are avid reality TV fans and own two TIVO machines to keep up with their habit.


Male dancer in black suit lifts female dancer in strapless white ball gown.

David Weise and Valentina Weise

© Jeffrey Dunn

David Weise and Valentina Weise
San Francisco, California

This couple from San Francisco has been dancing together for ten years, and it shows. They are very well matched — tall, graceful, and quite polished. Valentina trained at a well-known dance school in the Ukraine from the time she was five, in ballet and folk dance. She also loves fashion, and usually designs her own costumes. David has a degree in criminal justice from Long Beach State, and has been dancing for 12 years. He's also a singer/songwriter, and brings great musicality to their routines.


 

Professional International Latin


Male dancer in black pants and white shirt dances the rumba with female dancer in black top and black shorts as she leans away from him.

Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kryuchkova

© Jeffrey Dunn

International Latin Champions
Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kryuchkova
Fords, New Jersey

Elena started as a figure skater and gymnast, but took up ballroom dancing when she was nine. Andrei was studying law in Moscow when he rediscovered his childhood passion for dance. He and Elena met in Moscow, fell in love and became dance partners. In 1999 they moved to the U.S. and were married. In 2001 they were British Rising Star Latin American Dance Champions at Blackpool. Most recently they have twice been named U.S. National Professional Latin American Dance Champions, and three times they represented the U.S. in the World Latin American Dance Championships.


Male dancer in black pants and white shirt kneels in front of female dancer in silver dress with one leg in the air.

Maxim Kozhevnikov and Yulia Zagoruychenko

© Jeffrey Dunn

Maxim Kozhevnikov and Yulia Zagoruychenko
Somerville, New Jersey

This couple dances with great speed and energy, especially in their footwork. Max projects a strong masculine presence, while Yulia's movements are very soft, elegant, and precise. They're also known for having wonderfully creative costumes, which add to their routines. They enjoy teaching in America and all over the world, and they will represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Professional International Latin American Championship.


Male dancer in black tuxedo holds female dancer in multi-color sequined dress as she wraps her leg around him.

Andre Paramonov and Natalie Paramonov

© Jeffrey Dunn

Andre Paramonov and Natalie Paramonov
Boca Raton, Florida

Andre and Natalie have been together for ten years, and present a nice exotic look and very creative routines. They've taught and choreographed in a number of styles, which shows in their level of technical skill. They manage the floor very well, and always manage to place innovative elements in their numbers. Their recent accomplishments include becoming Bronze Medalists of Asia Pacific Dance Sport Championships, 2005 Canadian National Professional Latin American Champions as well as South American Showdance Champions, and they are the present Canadian National Professional Latin American Champions.


 

Professional International Standard

Male dancer in black suit holds female dancer in fllowing pink ball gown.

Erminio Stefano and Liene Apale

© Jeffrey Dunn

International Standard Champions
Erminio Stefano and Liene Apale
New York, New York

Erminio and Liene began dancing together in 2004, and immediately knew that they had found the perfect match. Erminio started dancing with his sister in Italy at the age of 13. After a successful amateur career in Europe, he turned pro and moved to the United States five years ago. Liene was also an accomplished amateur, winning the U.S. Amateur title three times. Her discipline and classical training, combined with his musicality and inventive choreography, make them a competitive couple.


Male dancer in black tuxedo dances the foxtrot with female dancer in flowing white ball gown.

Tomas Atkocevicius and Aria Bubnelyte

© Jeffrey Dunn

Tomas Atkocevicius and Aria Bubnelyte
Foster City, California

Tomas has been dancing since he was eight years old, making this his 23rd year in ballroom, and Aira has been dancing since she was six making this her 19th year. They have known each other since they were children in Lithuania, and they have been dancing together for five years. They describe their style as classical, with a quality of action that makes them distinct. Both teach dance, and, in their spare time, enjoy reading, going to the movies, and playing basketball.


Male dancer in black pants and printed shirt holds female dancer in printed dress by the waist as she bends backward.

Igor Litvinov and Julia Ivleva

© Jeffrey Dunn

Igor Litvinov and Julia Ivleva
Elizabeth, New Jersey

Igor and Julia have developed great chemistry during their almost ten-year partnership. They are tall, and glide across the floor with big, expansive movements. They both started dancing when they were young, and have competed in both the Latin and Standard Ballroom styles. They love to travel and try to bring inspiration from other art forms into their routines.


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America's Ballroom Challenge fourth season premieres on:
February 25, 2009
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