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The Competition


American Smooth competition proved to be an exciting night. Mazen Hamza & Irina Sarukhanyan handily won the showdance competition with their intense and unusual martial arts inspired routine.  However, it was not enough to score them the championship.  That honor went to Group dance winners, and previous champions, Ben Ermis and Shalene Archer-Ermis.


The Finalists

 
Male dancer in black tuxedo dances with female dancer in pale blue sequined dress.

Ben Ermis and Shalene Archer-Ermis

© Jeffrey Dunn

American Smooth Champions

Ben Ermis and Shalene Archer-Ermis
Nashville, TN

Ben and Shalene were married a few years ago, after successfully teaching and dancing together since the early '90s. Neither of them danced as children, but they caught the dancing bug while training to become 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, and frequently compete in Pro-Am divisions with their students. They announced their retirement from competition at this year's Ohio Star Ball.

 

Male dancer in black and white dances with female dancer in red sequined dress.

Kostadin Bidjourov and Carrie Babcock

© Jeffrey Dunn

Kostadin Bidjourov and Carrie Babcock
Upper Montclair, NJ

Kostadin and Carrie formed a partnership the way many other competitors do — they met in a dance studio. Kostadin came in to see about a job in 1998, met Carrie, and they have successfully competed in both the Smooth and Theater Arts divisions since. People love their relationship on the floor, their unique choreography, and costuming. They own a studio together in New Jersey and Kostadin also designs costumes.

Male dancer in shiny grey suit dances with female dancer in red halter dress.

Steven Dougherty and Eulia Baranovsky

© Jeffrey Dunn

Steven Dougherty and Eulia Baranovsky
New York, NY

Steven has been dancing professionally for over 10 years and is very active teaching and choreographing in and around New York City. Both are guest teachers for the Juilliard School. Eulia is noted for her grace and ease on the dance floor. The couple excels in the foxtrot, presenting a great deal of sophistication in their steps.

Male dancer in black suit dances with female dancer in red and yellow dress.

Mazen Hamza and Irina Sarukhanyan

© Jeffrey Dunn

Mazen Hamza and Irina Sarukhanyan
Wilmington, DE

This couple has been dancing together in the Smooth division for four years. While Mazen took tap and ballet as a child, he didn't discover ballroom dancing until he was in college at the University of Texas. Irina danced the Latin style until she moved to the United States from Armenia. She loves to take walks in the woods and enjoys helping her father with his jewelry business. With the help of Mazen's karate lessons as a child, their martial arts-inspired showdance turned many heads at this year's competition!

Male dancer in black suit dances with female dancer in black and blue dress.

Tomasz Mielnicki and J.T. Damalas

© Jeffrey Dunn

Tomasz Mielnicki and J.T. Damalas
New York, NY

This couple has only danced together since March of 2006, but you might think otherwise from looking at their marks, as they've been finalists in most of their competitions. Tomasz's first championship was at age 16, when he danced both the International Latin and Standard styles. He left his home country of Poland in 2001, moving to New York, where he met J.T. She received a B.F.A. in dance from the University of Arizona and has competed in the Theater Arts and Latin divisions as well.

Male dancer in black dances with female dancer in shiny yellow dress.

David Weise and Valentina Weise

© Jeffrey Dunn

David Weise and Valentina Weise
San Francisco, CA

David and Valentina have danced together for over 10 years and it shows! From the time she was five, Valentina trained at a well-known dance school in the Ukraine, in both ballet and folk dance. David has been dancing for 12 years and also enjoys singing and writing music for a rock band. Both have a passion for teaching others the beauty and artistry of dance.


Exhibition Dancers

 
Male dancer in black suit with tails dances with female dancer in lavender dress.

Michael Mead and Toni Redpath

© Jeffrey Dunn

Michael Mead and Toni Redpath
San Diego, CA

Michael and Toni retired from competition in 2002 as one of the top couples in the world. Michael, originally from England, only began dancing when he was 18, after deciding that a career in accounting was not for him. Toni was a successful competitor in Australia and Norway before she became a teacher in England and eventually the U.S. She and Michael met in California, and after setting records as a professional couple, they were married in 2000. They continue to teach and coach competitive couples, and occasionally choreograph for TV and film.

Male dancer in black dances with female dancer in sequined white dress.

Jim Maranto and Darla Davies

© Jeffrey Dunn

Jim Maranto and Darla Davies
Phoenix, AZ and Keswick, VA

A chance meeting at an obscure dance studio in Charlottesville, Virginia brought Darla and Jim together in 2002. Jim, a two-time National Professional Ballroom Champion and a nationally-renowned instructor, has taken Darla from the beginner level to many bronze and silver championships and titles. Darla continues to train hard across all four dance styles. Both dancers also love golf, tennis, and travel.

Male dancer in brown dances with female dancer in yellow and black dress.

Kamil Studenny and Katya Trubina

© Jeffrey Dunn

Kamil Studenny and Katya Trubina
Toronto, Ontario

Kamil and Katya, both aged 20, are Canadian youth Latin Champions. They have been dancing together since September of 2005. Katya was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Canada at age 15, where she continued to take classes in a wide variety of dance styles. Kamil is originally from Poland, but has lived in Toronto since age 3. Although once an accomplished hockey player, Kamil decided that dancing was his true passion and chose to pursue it exclusively after elementary school. Both partners plan to become professional dancers in the future. Currently, they are very active in the dance community in Toronto, doing TV commercials, teaching kids, playing parts in movies, and performing in various charity events.

Male dancer in brown and white dances with female dancer in white dress.

Kiki Nyemchek and Nesya Serebro

© Jeffrey Dunn

Kiki Nyemchek and Nesya Serebro
Teaneck, NJ and Staten Island, NY

These energetic teenagers (aged 15 and 13) have been dancing together for almost two years, and have won many titles throughout the United States and Europe. Dance is a huge part of their lives, and in addition to practicing five days a week, they both travel extensively for competitions. Both study at Rising Stars Dance Studio and are part of DanceTeam USA. Kiki has a long tradition of dance in his family and recently won accolades for sharing his talents with other kids on a "Good Morning America" competition that paired ballroom dance kids with boys and girls who had no dance training.

Male dancer in pink suit dances with female dancer in pink dress.

Winson Tam and Anna Kus

© Jeffrey Dunn

Winson Tam and Anna Kus
Mississauga, Ontario

Winson and Anna are a competitive young couple. Aged 12 and 13, they have recently won major 10-dance competitions in the United States and Canada, including the Ohio Star Ball. Both come from dancing families: Winson's father began dancing in Hong Kong and encouraged his son to get involved at age seven; Anna's older brother got her involved at age three, and now her younger brother dances as well. In addition to dancing, they enjoy playing soccer, and both swim and run to stay in shape.

 
Music
EventSong TitlePerformer
Group Waltz "Kataribe" E. Johnouchi
Group Tango "The Other Tango" Bill Swayze/Brent Mills
Group Foxtrot "Voo It" Lavey Smith
Group V. Waltz "Festival of the Goddess" David Arkenstone
Jim Maranto and Darla Davies (Pro/Am) "Fly Me to the Moon" and "In Other Words" Michael Bolton
Stephen Dougherty and Eulia Baranovsky "Feeling Good" Michael Buble
Kostadin Bidjourovand Carrie Babcock "That's Life" Frank Sinatra
Mazen Hamza And Irina Sarukhanyan "Strobe's Nanafushi (Satori Mix)" Kodo
Ben Ermis And Shalene Archer-Ermis "You and Me" Lifehouse
Kamil Studenny And Katya Trubina (Youth) "In the Mood" Various Artists
Tomasz Mielnicki and J.T. Damalas "Ramalama (Bang Bang)" Roisin Murphy
David and Valentina Weise "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" KT Tunstall
Kiki Nyemchek And Nesya Serebro (Youth) "Hips Don't Lie Remix — Bamboo (2006 FIFA World Cup Mix)" Shakira
Ben Ermis and Shalene Archer-Ermis (Honor Dance) "My Love Is" Diana Krall

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