Pro and amateur meet in a large nightclub-lit room spiced with Latin jazz music, partnered for ballroom dance as they glide effortlessly across smooth hardwood floors in practice.
Professional instructors guide and dance alongside at Dance Street, the new studio and dance space directly across from PCC on Colorado.
The studio is co-owned by eight international and national professional competitive dancers whose circuits allow them to rotate and work the space outside of their individual tours.
Although smaller than what they initially hoped for, the studio space is intimate with dressing and lounge areas decorated with antiques and unique furnishings constructed and collected by the staff and owners, including those of co-owner and Dance Director Sean Brunell.
Traveling often, Brunell competes throughout the U.S. in up to 30 competitions per year with dance partner and co-owner and Dance Director Laurel Rose and students as well. With a solid eye on their demographics, the studio is looking to focus on bringing dance instruction to current PCC dancers, dance teams, clubs and the curious students wanting to know more.
“We came to PCC two weeks ago and taught the Salsa Club. And we had a fantastic time,” said Brunell. “When the new semester starts, we are hoping to get out there more regularly.”
The studio teaches all styles of dance, with an emphasis on ballroom and the social dances.
Co-owner and Dance Director Mikhail Avdeev moved to the U.S. in 2006 from Russia, where he began his dance study and career at the age of five. He travels internationally with his dance partner, Olga Blinova, participating in up to 60 competitions per year and has been dancing for 25 years.
“Here in America, we have at least four different styles,” said Avdeev. “What we call ballroom dancing is smooth, rhythm, ballroom, and Latin American dancing. In Russia, especially at that time years ago, there was no such thing.”
Coming to the U.S. as a professional, he had to learn some dances fresh. In Russia the primary dances were Latin and standard ballroom, where he began with Ten Dance.
Ten Dance includes five international ballroom or standard dances: waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, tango and Viennese waltz, and five International Latin dances: rumba, samba, paso doble, cha-cha-cha and jive.
“American rhythm tries to use more of the traditional body movements from whichever culture they got it from,” said Brunell, which he said includes styles from Latin dances such as rumba, cha-cha-cha, swing, bolero and mambo and the social dances salsa, bachata, hustle, west club swing, Argentine tango and all the country dances—just to name a few.
Co-owners, Dance Directors, and partners of 14 years Nikolay Voronovich and Maria Nikolishina also come from Russia and professionally perform in national dance competitions.
Studio Manager and PCC student M Marie Gallego, 24, dance, has been working for the studio in its various incarnations for over four years. Looking to transfer to Cal State Long Beach, Fullerton or Chapman, she has been studying dance at PCC with professors Cheryl Banks-Smith, Robbie Shaw, and Richard Kuller and credits them with keeping her major in focus.
Beginning as a receptionist at Rose City Ballroom, the studio’s previous location at the Paseo Colorado, she was soon trained as an instructor as part of their 60-day program with Rose and Brunell.
“M is the perfect mix. You ask and she’s gets it done,” said Brunell of Gallegos. “She’s just as talented and educated as the rest of us. She’s just chosen a different facet of this business.”
Already with a background as a gymnast, a competitive belly dancer and a dance team member in High School, Gallegos worked the program for nine hours a day, five days a week, to become an instructor. When the studio owner sold to Dance Street, Gallegos eventually joined to follow Rose and Brunell and is now looking to learn more to compete in ballroom, where she hopes to eventually break out on her own.
“So I am focusing on my own dancing a little more. I want to get to competing with a partner,” said Gallego. “Eventually I want to open my own dance studio. So this is a really good foundation.”
Instructor Justin Bracks, who also followed from the Paseo studio, came on from working as a professional musician after relocating from San Bernardino.
“I took about six month of ballet, just to supplement my formal education. I took about three months of contemporary, and the rest has been learning as I go in ballroom,” said Bracks, who has only been dancing for five years.
With the same initial intensive training as with Gallegos, he recalls the challenges once becoming an instructor.
“I sell mostly international style Latin. But that’s not because necessarily my specialty. It’s just because frankly, I’m brown, and it’s just more fun to dance Latin with a brown guy,” he laughed.
Bracks looks to share his skills at the studio to inspire men to partner dance more and to be more comfortable.
“I had no talent or skill or this, only necessity. And I think the ability to relate, especially to men, has been a big difference,” he said. “Girls, when you see a guy learning to dance, he is ten times more frightened of this than you are … more terrifying that getting into a fight is having to ask somebody to dance.”
With famous dance teams competing from schools such as BYU, USC and UCLA, the small studio hopes to partner with PCC and clubs to form such a competitive team in the near future.
“We would like to create a competitive formation team. And we would like to host part of it here, and part of it there because we do need a bigger space once everybody learns their stuff,” said Brunell. “Servicing the students from PCC would be an honor, at the very least, to help them experience what ballroom is about. It changed my life.”