Sophomore hopes to compete internationally in ballroom dancing

Eojin Choi

On the day of Katherine Calvert ’15’s 12th birthday, she signed up for ballroom dancing lessons shortly after becoming eligible.
“I was doing theatre, and I’d done the acting classes and the singing classes, but my parents wanted me to take dance, and I didn’t really want to be a ballerina or anything like that, so I saw ballroom dancing on TV and it looked fun,” Calvert said.
A couple of years later, she switched to a more serious studio because she wanted to compete.
“One of the best parts of ballroom is being able to compete and win,” Calvert said. “I’ve done social ballroom dancing before, and that was pretty much all I did at my old studio, but now that I’ve gotten older I really enjoy going to competitions.”
Calvert is currently dancing at Nadia’s Rhythm Room on Ventura Blvd, a studio that specializes in ballroom dancing.
She dances every style but considers her best dances to be the Jive and the Tango. For her, the hardest style to dance is the Rumba, mostly because it is a difficult technique that features a lot of hip action, as opposed to footwork, she said.
Her teacher Pasha Balykin is also her partner, and she described him as a “crazy Russian.” She credits the fact that she doesn’t have a partner her age to the fact that not as many boys participate in ballroom dance as girls.
“I feel like a lot of guys that are doing ballroom right now are dancing with their sisters or have had a partner for a long time,” Calvert said.
Calvert started ballroom dancing later than most dancers her age, and she says she probably won’t be able to get a real partner until she turns 18 and moves up a few age divisions.
Because she dances with her teacher, Calvert competes under the category “Pro-Amateur, which consists of a dancer and a teacher.
She has been to competitions all over the country including ones in New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. She hopes to start dancing internationally once she has more experience.
“There’s a competition in Italy coming up that I want to go to, but the big competition that I want to do well in is in Las Vegas in December,” Calvert said.
The competition will feature dancers from all over the country as well as professional performances. Calvert expects to be performing over 50 routines a day.
Calvert says one of her favorite things about ballroom dancing is watching professionals perform because they are the best of the best. She especially likes Yulia Zagouruychenko, a United States Latin Champion.
“I saw her at a competition a while back and had a little fangirl moment and took pictures with her,” Calvert said.
The physical preparation for a competition is unlike a lot of other sports.
“I have the whole sequined dress. There’s tanning involved, the week before and the morning of the competition you become thoroughly orange. And your hair turns into a helmet,” Calvert said.
In addition to competing in ballroom, Calvert also plays water polo and performed in the fall musical, “Oklahoma,” as a featured dancer.