Couple to offer ballroom dancing classes
Think you're skilled in ballroom dancing? Russian dancers Misha and Gala Zharinov can likely teach you a move or two.
The husband and wife teach numerous dance forms out of their Florida studio, Fred Astaire Miami Beach. They're also world champions of American Smooth, a style of ballroom dancing that doesn't insist partners maintain constant contact. Gala spoke with Lifestyle in advance of the private and group classes they're offering at Coral Beach next week Thursday and Friday.
Q: You've been to Bermuda a few times now, why do you keep coming back?
A: Yes, in total we've been to Bermuda about four or five times. Besides the beauty of the Island, we love to share our knowledge of the Fred Astaire dance style with people from all over the world. We have found that our Bermudian students really enjoy it and that's why we keep coming back to continue teaching.
Q: What will you teach while here?
A: Most of the time we don't plan what we're going to teach. We go with what feels right and what is needed at that particular time with those particular students. For some of them it's a romantic foxtrot, and for some fun swing and salsa. It's like going to dine — sometimes you go for a particular dish and sometimes you decide on the spot. It doesn't matter what dance we teach, for us the goal is to make it as fun and easy as possible.
Q: Which do you prefer, teaching or competing?
A: We love doing both. That's why we choose to compete and teach. I think that's very common for most professional dancers, however there are some who prefer just to perform or just to teach.
Q: You've both been dancing since you were children. Why'd you choose that style of dance?
A: Yes, we both started to dance in early childhood. I was five and Misha was seven years old. From an early age I started to dream of becoming a ballerina. My mother was a professional dance teacher so I think that made a huge impression on me. Misha has a similar story. Even though his mother wasn't a dancer she was the one who encouraged him to start this journey. But for him it wasn't a mutual decision until he turned 14 years old.
Q: When did you realise you had what it took to become a professional?
A: I think the moment we both think we've become a true professional, that will be the day we retire from our dance career. Until that happens each day is a challenge and pushes us to become better than we were the day before.
Q: Dance has taken you around the world. What are some of your most memorable moments?
A: Yes, we do travel a lot and sometimes to the places that we would never get to were it not for dancing. Most of the time it's not about the places we go, but rather the amazing people that we meet while travelling. It's so interesting to see how dancing connects people from all around the world — people from all different cultures and different genres of dance. The most memorable moment of this year for us was when we had the privilege of representing American Smooth style at the most prestigious ballroom dance event in England — at the legendary Blackpool Dance Festival, which was celebrating its 90th anniversary. This was a dream for us and something that was never supposed to come true. British organisers have never before allowed this form of ballroom dancing on their dance floor, so we were the first.
Q: What part of your career are you most proud of?
A: Of course it always feels great to be winners and hold the trophy, however the most meaningful compliments for us come from people who are not part of the dance industry. When we are able to touch the hearts of the people who are not related to dancing, that's when we know we did a good job. One of the best compliments that I'll never forget came from a person who was just a spectator at a performance we did in Haiti. He came to us afterwards and said, “You made me want to waltz with my wife”. That was really special.
Q: Are there any challenges that come with being a professional dancer?
A: Being a professional dancer is the same thing as being a professional athlete. Being in a good shape and good health, physically and mentally, is very important.
Q: Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?
A: I wouldn't call it embarrassing moments, but sometimes it does happen that a performance doesn't go as you planned. When that happens you just have to save it. Most of the time the audience doesn't notice anything, but you're still not satisfied. After that you just return to the ballroom and continue to practise until you get it right.
Q: What are some of the perks of being married to your dance partner?
A: It does make the dancing easier, but it doesn't make it easier to be husband and wife!
Q: Where do you see ballroom dancing heading in the near future?
A: We have no prognosis for that unfortunately. We can only make sure we do as much as we can to influence the younger generation and help them develop an appreciation for traditional dance.
*Lessons with Misha and Gala are available for $125 for 45 minutes. Telephone 535-0645.