As a dancer, we find inspiration in other dancers too. We look at videos, watch shows, and take lessons from people whom we look up to and give us motivation.
In my more than 15 years of dancing and competing in Latin-American Dance, I've had my own favorites as well. I love Dasha Chesnokova, Andra Vaidelaite, Ina Jeliazkova, Ana Melnikova, Karina Smirnoff, to name a few. But among the long list, here are my top four:
4.) Beata Onefater
Aside from a figure that could stop traffic, this lady is oozing with sexiness that is characteristic of Latin-American dancing. Just watch her Samba performances and you'll see what I mean. I admire how she can be so fast but still maintain quality and good technique.
I've had the privilege of taking dance lessons with her. She was good at technique but even better at choreography and I loved the Rumba routine she did for me. It was romantic and sexy at the same time and told a story. That was also during the time when she was splitting up with her then dance partner Michael Wentink and I was overjoyed when she decided to give me her second highlight in Paso Doble.
KEY TAKEAWAY FROM LESSONS WITH HER:
Don't be afraid to break your line, especially during the ladies sit positions. You can exaggerate and create beauty in "ugly" positions too. The key is balancing it and always coming back to your line after.
3.) Yulia Zagoruychenko
Yulia for me is a complete package and total performer. She's got the charming, teasing smile, great dancer's physique and her technique is unquestionable. She's got the strongest core I've ever seen and I can tell she really gives attention to every little detail. All the minute movements and tiniest body articulation is not taken for granted.
One thing I can't forget when having lessons with her is how she would continue to tell me to do 200% in each and every single step in my routine. Even if it was a simple hip twist, she would try and make me do over 100% of what I can. She explains that you have to do beyond your limits during practice and training because when competition day comes, there will always be things that will happen beyond your control. Also, during competition, you need to not think and just dance. If you did 200% during training, your body can still perform at a 100% during competition no matter what happens. I personally call this the "Movement Buffer".
2.) Anna Bezikova
Two words to describe her: Sultry and Fierce. She is a very strong dancer yet still shows softness, fluidity and femininity. Latin-American Dance is a partner dance and it is essential for the audience to see a man and a woman dancing together. Anna is the perfect example of how ladies can be lady-like and still be strong. She exudes the strengths of a woman and gives the contrast needed in a man-woman dance.
I unfortunately haven't been able to catch her and get lessons from her before she got injured and retired from competition. But I am aware she still continues to perform and take lessons now and hopefully I can take some lessons from her in the future. Nevertheless, her aura and amazing work on video is enough to inspire.
1.) Gaynor Fairweather
And finally, the lady who started it all, THE Gaynor Fairweather. For me, most of modern-day style and technique are copied from this amazing lady. From her fabulously shaped legs and ankles alone, Gaynor is incomparable. She was ahead of her time and even up to this day, you can still see traces of her in every latin dancer out there.
Being in the same dance studio with her was already a very big deal for me, let alone taking lessons from this legend. I loved how she focused on polishing all my basic steps. She didn't let a single detail slip. From my footwork, to my leg action, and especially my hips. I think I probably got my hip flexors ten times more flexible after each lesson. I was also impressed by how she gave importance on connection and lead and follow. Last but not least, her choreography was genius. She gave the most unpredictable, creative steps that were still rooted and based on the most basic of basic steps. Unlike some crazy steps I now see on the dance floor in other dance couples lately, hers were creative but still very much readable.
These are the top four ladies who have continued to inspire me in my dancing and teaching. They have forever marked their spot in the pages of Dancesport history and in many hearts of dancers including mine.
How about you? Who are your favorite female latin dancers?