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The Competition


In what proved to be an incredible competition, all 24 couples brought their best to the dance floor. It was International Latin Champions Riccardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruychenko who took the title of "America's Best."


Man in black suit dances behind woman in red dress, boots, and hat.

Riccardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruychenko

© Jeffrey Dunn

America's Best

Riccardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruychenko
New York

Riccardo and Yulia have shot straight to the top of the Latin division since forming their partnership in 2007. Born in Italy, Riccardo started dancing at his parents' studio when he was 6 years old. Yulia, a top competitor in this division with her former partner, began dancing in her native Russia 16 years ago and has always had a reputation for innovative and energetic routines.


 

American Smooth

Man in suit holds woman in black dress.

Mayo Alanen and Lisa Vogel

© Jeffrey Dunn

Mayo Alanen and Lisa Vogel
New Jersey

Mayo and Lisa have risen quickly to the top of the American Smooth division. Mayo was a member of Brigham Young University's renowned formation dance team before he partnered with Lisa, who recently graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University. Now based in the New York area, Mayo and Lisa have been training intensively with top coaches and dancers from around the world.


Man in blue pants, white shirt, and black vest points to ceiling while woman in white pants and shirt clings to his knee.

John Selby and Irina Chalkevitch

© Jeffrey Dunn

John Selby and Irina Chalkevitch
California

John and Irina have been competing together since 2006. John started dancing when he was 11 years old, after his mother dragged him into the ballroom to take lessons. Before turning professional, he won three prestigious Pro-Am titles. Irina comes from a family of Russian ballroom champions and has been dancing her whole life.


Man in grey suit holds woman in white fringed dress.

Mikhail Zharinov and Galina Detkina

© Jeffrey Dunn

Mikhail Zharinov and Galina Detkina
New York

Mikhail and Galina, both dancers since their early childhood in Russia, moved to New York in 2006. They began dancing together in 2007 and, since then, have emerged as a fast-rising couple in the American Smooth style. They have excellent technique, and audiences love their creativity.


Man in black pants and turquoise shirt dances with woman in black and white dress.

Tomas Mielnicki and J.T. Thomas

© Jeffrey Dunn

Tomas Mielnicki and J.T. Thomas
New York

Tomas and J.T. have only been dancing together since March 2006. Even so, they have quickly moved up the ranks of American Smooth dancers, taking their division championship last year. Tomas' first championship came 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 his partner. J.T. received a B.F.A. in dance from the University of Arizona and has competed in the Theater Arts and Latin divisions as well.


Man in black suit dances with woman in navy blue lace pantsuit.

Mazen Hamza and Magdalena Piekarz

© Jeffrey Dunn

Mazen Hamza and Magdalena Piekarz
Delaware

Mazen has competed professionally in American Smooth for many years and is a perennial contender for the division title. He has a background in tap, gymnastics, martial arts, and fencing, and he often incorporates these interests into his dancing. Magdalena was born in Poland, where she trained as a 10-dancer. She also has a background in hip-hop. Though Mazen and Magdalena have been together for only about a year, they have had much success in their brief time together.


Man in black pants and turtleneck dances with woman in yellow pantsuit.

Jonathan Roberts and Valentina

© Jeffrey Dunn

Jonathan Roberts and Valentina
California

Jonathan and Valentina began dancing together in May 2008, but both had years of experience with other partners. Valentina immigrated to the U.S. in her teens, bringing a strong ballet background from her native Ukraine. Jonathan, a California native, began dancing at age 20 after watching the inspiring tango scene in the film Scent of a Woman. Both dancers are seasoned professionals who have also competed in the International Latin Division (and in Valentina's case the International Standard as well). With this pedigree, it's not surprising this new couple has soared to the top ranks in American Smooth. They attribute their chemistry to their strong friendship, which began long before they became dance partners.


 

American Rhythm

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Michael Neil and Danielle Wilson

© Jeffrey Dunn

Michael Neil and Danielle Wilson
Florida

Michael and Danielle have spent the last five years competing, performing, and coaching throughout the nation and have participated in many prestigious events. Michael, a Pennsylvania native, began dancing in his late teens. Danielle took up ballet as a child and came into the ballroom world after college. As a couple, they have great charisma on the dance floor, and Danielle's background in ballet and jazz is often evident in their striking routines. When he's not dancing or teaching, Michael likes to spend as much time as he can with his three young children.


Man in black ants and turtleneck holds woman in black pantsuit.

Felipe Telona and Carolina Orlovsky-Telona

© Jeffrey Dunn

Felipe Telona and Carolina Orlovsky-Telona
California

For the first year after they began dating, Felipe and Carolina avoided dancing together, afraid of jeopardizing their relationship. But after a series of disappointing partnerships, they decided to take a chance on each other. Now married, they are still dancing together, widely known for their speed and challenging routines. Felipe, from California, is wonderfully musical. Carolina, a Canadian, has exceptionally quick, dramatic movements.


Man in white pants and shirt dances alongside woman in white pantsuit with fringe.

Matthew Hauer and Karen Hauer

© Jeffrey Dunn

Matthew Hauer and Karen Hauer
New Jersey

After falling in love in high school, Matthew convinced Karen to become his partner on the dance floor as well as in his life. Training in the International Latin and American Rhythm dances, they soon achieved success, winning many amateur and collegiate titles before turning professional in 2005. By 2006, they were the United States Professional Rising Star Champions; a year later they were runners-up in the Open World Professional Rhythm Championships. When not competing and performing all over the United States, they teach near their New Jersey home.


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Jose Decamps and Joanna Zacharewicz

© Jeffrey Dunn

Jose Decamps and Joanna Zacharewicz
New York

Jose and Joanna forged their partnership in March 2007 and went on to win the American Rhythm title at the Ohio Star Ball last year. They returned to this year's competition hoping to defend their crown. Jose was born in the Dominican Republic and started dancing at the age of 18. He is known for his dramatic mambo. Joanna started dancing at age 8 in her native Poland. She moved to the U.S. to further her dancing career and compete in the American Rhythm style. Jose and Joanna live and teach in New York City.


Man in black pants and shirt dances alongside woman in yellow sequin dress.

Steve Vasco and Joanna Siekierska

© Jeffrey Dunn

Steve Vasco and Joanna Siekierska
California

Even though they have only been dancing together since the summer of 2008, this couple is climbing fast in the ballroom world, owing to their strong dance backgrounds. Joanna, originally from Poland, began her professional career in the International Latin division. Steve returns to competition after an 11-year hiatus from American Rhythm. Both have many talents outside the ballroom. Steve has a background in martial arts, and Joanna designs many of her own costumes and has a master's degree in molecular biology.


Man in pinstripe pants and black vest and shirt dances alongside woman in black leotard and hat.

Decho Kraev and Bree Watson

© Jeffrey Dunn

Decho Kraev and Bree Watson
Arizona

Originally from Bulgaria, Decho has been teaching ballroom since he was 21. Before moving to the U.S., he danced at an amusement park in South Korea. Bree was born in Georgia, where she started dancing ballet and tap at a very young age. She attended the North Carolina School of Performing Arts and met Decho at a studio in Phoenix where he was teaching. They also compete in the Theater Arts division.



 

International Standard

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Erminio Stefano and Luana Conte

© Jeffrey Dunn

Erminio Stefano and Luana Conte
New York

Erminio and his previous partner were winners of the Standard division in 2005. Now he's rejoined with Luana, with whom he competed for many years in their home country of Italy. This is their first competition together since Luana took a break from her dancing career to complete her studies in foreign language. Their favorite vacation destination is their house in a small village in southern Italy, right on the Mediterranean Sea.


Man in black suit dances with woman in white dress.

Linas Koreiva and Liene Apale

© Jeffrey Dunn

Linas Koreiva and Liene Apale
New Jersey

Linas and Liene started dancing together less than a year ago, but they have quickly established themselves as strong competitors. Linas was born in Lithuania, started dancing at age 6, and moved to the U.S. three years ago. Liene hails from the neighboring country of Latvia. Her years of training in ice dancing contribute to her grace on the ballroom floor.


Man in black suit dances with woman in yellow and red dress.

Urs Geisenhainer and Agnes Kazmierczak

© Jeffrey Dunn

Urs Geisenhainer and Agnes Kazmierczak
California

Urs and Agnes have been partners for four years. She is originally from Poland, he from Germany. They first met in 2004 when Urs visited Gdansk. Because it was a Sunday, they had to convince a studio owner to let them use his facility while he went to church. Only after they were locked in did Agnes realize she had left her dance shoes in the car. Instead of dancing, they talked for several hours, deciding to become partners. They didn't actually dance together until they arrived in Los Angeles a few months later.


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Mikhail Avdeev and Anastasia Muravyeva

© Jeffrey Dunn

Mikhail Avdeev and Anastasia Muravyeva
California

Anastasia took up dancing at age 3 and began competing at age 9. She and Mikhail first met in their native Russia when they were 14 years old, but they didn't begin dancing together until after moving to America. They became partners in 2007 and jumped to the top of the International Standard division within a year, winning the prestigious British Rising Star championship. They also enjoy skiing and diving, but mostly they love to stay home and enjoy the California sun. In her free time, Anastasia also does embroidery and plays piano.


Man in black suit dances with woman in white dress.

Igor Litvinov and Yulia Ivleva

© Jeffrey Dunn

Igor Litvinov and Yulia Ivleva
New Jersey

This couple has been together for over 10 years, and both started dancing when they were children in Russia. Igor began with ballet and Yulia was trained in figure skating and gymnastics before turning to ballroom. They have competed in the Latin style as well as Standard, and they are noted for their height and power in gliding across dance floors. Both love to travel and try to bring inspiration from other art forms into their routines. Yulia's mother still makes all her dresses.


Man in navy blue suit holds woman in red dress.

Gherman Mustuc and Iveta Lukosiute

© Jeffrey Dunn

Gherman Mustuc and Iveta Lukosiute
New York

Gherman and Iveta are extraordinarily versatile dancers, competing in both the Latin and Standard divisions. Partners for five years, they are the reigning 10-dance champions. Born in Lithuania, Iveta began studying dance at age 5 and discovered ballroom at age 6. Gherman began dancing as a preteen in Ukraine. In addition to competing professionally, the couple dance in tours and teach. Iveta does not have a favorite dance and believes that ballroom's many dances offer an opportunity to express the different emotions we feel from day to day.



 

International Latin

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Andre Paramonov and Natalie Paramonov

© Jeffrey Dunn

Andre Paramonov and Natalie Paramonov
Canada

Andre and Natalie have been dancing together for more than 10 years. As Canadian National Professional Latin Champions, they have developed an exotic look and many innovative routines, and they weave across a crowded dance floor with ease. They are also noted teachers and choreographers. Recently they choreographed My Fair Lady and West Side Story for the National Russian Conservatory — the first Russian productions to integrate ballroom dancing into the two famous musicals.


Man in orange knickers and purple jacket dances alongside woman in peach dress.

Vaidotas Skimelis and Jurga Pupelyte

© Jeffrey Dunn

Vaidotas Skimelis and Jurga Pupelyte
California

Jurga and Vaidotas studied choreography at the Art University of Lithuania, where they learned various historical styles of dance before settling into ballroom. They believe dance gives people skills beyond the body, cultivating a sense of self-confidence, patience, and creativity. Sometimes working from their own life experiences, they strive to emphasize the narrative elements in their routines. They've been partners since 1999, presenting elegance and strong chemistry in the Latin division.


Man in black suit holds woman in black lace dress.

Eugene Katsevman and Maria Manusova

© Jeffrey Dunn

Eugene Katsevman and Maria Manusova
New York

Although they both emigrated from Ukraine, Eugene and Maria first met in New York in 1993. One month later they entered their first competition together and placed first. Eugene had starting dancing at age 11 and Maria at age 8. They became partners and went on to dominate the Latin category as amateur competitors. After winning their record-breaking eleventh amateur title last year, they decided to turn professional. When they are not competing, Eugene and Maria teach in their studio in New York.


Man in grey pants and white shirt dances with woman in multi-color dress.

Pavlo Barsuk and Anna Trebunskaya

© Jeffrey Dunn

Pavlo Barsuk and Anna Trebunskaya
California

Pavlo and Anna started dancing together in January 2007. Anna's parents were both professional ballroom dancers who owned a studio in her native Russia. She took to dancing early and kept at it after moving with her parents to the U.S. when she was 17 years old. Pavlo has been dancing since he was 11 years old and has also studied choreography and ballet. He spent three years teaching and competing in Germany before immigrating to the States.


Man in pinstripe pants and red shirt straddles woman in black leather outfit and cat mask.

Delyan Terziev and Boriana Deltcheva

© Jeffrey Dunn

Delyan Terziev and Boriana Deltcheva
New York

Delyan and Boriana used to dance together in Bulgaria as amateurs. After gaining more experience independently, they became partners again after moving to New York to compete professionally in the Latin division. Audiences love their showmanship and exotic look, which are especially prevalent in their Cha-cha.



 

Exhibition Dancers

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Victor Russu and Elaine Sheresky

© Jeffrey Dunn

Victor Russu and Elaine Sheresky
New York

Victor was born in Moldova and came to the U.S. in 1998 to compete professionally and teach ballroom dancing. Though now retired from professional competition, he still competes with students like Elaine, whom he has taught for nine years. While she works in the legal field by day, Elaine has a great passion for dancing. Together, she and Victor have garnered much praise and collected many awards.


Man in purple pants and shirt holds woman in purple dress.

Forrest Vance and Olivia Anderson

© Jeffrey Dunn

Forrest Vance and Olivia Anderson
Arizona

Forrest is a seven-time U.S. champion in both the American Rhythm and International Latin divisions. Now he returns to the ballroom to dance in the Pro-Am division with one of his students, Olivia. As a child, Olivia trained with the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. Now she is married and has a seven-year-old daughter. Forrest and Olivia have been partners for just two years, but have already won two U.S. Pro-Am titles.


Man in black suit holds woman in white dress with feathers.

Daniel Radler and Deirdre Radler

© Jeffrey Dunn

Daniel Radler and Deirdre Radler
Massachusetts

Before his retirement from the professional ranks, Daniel had a long career as an award-winning competitor in the International Standard division. Deirdre saw Daniel dancing on PBS and went to him for lessons. They fell in love, got married, and began dancing together competitively. They've been an extremely successful Pro-Am couple, winning many titles together.


Man in black pants and shirt kneels next to woman in pink dress.

Hunter Stephens and Inna Berlizyeva

© Jeffrey Dunn

Hunter Stephens and Inna Berlizyeva
Arizona

Inna has had great success since moving to the U.S. from Slovenia in 2003. A former professional competitor in the International Standard division, she is also a 10-dance competitor. Hunter is a student at Arizona State University and has been dancing since age 16. His ballet training helped him become World Pro-Am Latin Champion.


Man in black pants and shirt dances with woman in orange skirt.

Daniel Shapiro and Katya Kovalyova

© Jeffrey Dunn

Daniel Shapiro and Katya Kovalyova
New York

Daniel and Katya are 14 years old and students in the 9th grade. They both started dancing when they were five, and became partners at an early age until life drove them apart. They are happy to be dancing together again. Daniel aspires to make ballroom competition his career, while Katya isn't sure yet, however, she still loves dancing all the same.



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America's Ballroom Challenge fourth season premieres on:
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