Champs find ballroom bliss
> BY GAIL JOHNSON
Life’s busy for most university students, but for Zika Trajkovic and Scarlett Liaifer, it’s especially so: when they’re not cramming for exams, the two spend hours and hours each week in the dance studio, nailing styles like cha-cha, samba, and rumba, rehearsing for amateur competitions that take them around the world.
Their specialty is Latin ballroom, and they’re currently the best in B.C. It’s a title they’re hoping to defend at Dancesportbc’s upcoming Snowball Classic, an annual world-ranking ballroom-dance competition.
Trajkovic is in his second year of civil engineering, while Liaifer is finishing off a science degree with a major in chemistry and already filling out applications for med school. The Vancouver natives discovered ballroom when they were in elementary school, after having taken classes in other dance forms, such as ballet and jazz. It took no time for each of them to fall in love with it.
“I started dancing at age six, initially doing ballet,” says Trajkovic, 19, talking to the Straight from campus via speakerphone alongside Liaifer. “I started ballroom a year after and switched over. Latin ballroom is just more exciting, more energetic, more active, and more appealing to me.”
Says Liaifer, who was in ballet slippers by age three and learning ballroom at age eight: “I love the costumes and the music and all the glitz and glamour. And the competitive nature of it is awesome.”
The two have been dance partners for the last four years, training primarily at Broadway Ballroom with coach Maryana Dudchenko, a former Canadian amateur champion who started dancing at age four in her native Kharkov, Ukraine. They frequently travel for training, while coaches from other parts of the world often fly in to give them lessons. This summer, the couple competed in the Empire Dancesport Championships in New York; just this past weekend they travelled to Los Angeles for the Hollywood Dancesport Championships.
Just as at those competitions, when they hit the floor at the Snowball Classic, they’ll be joining several other couples, simultaneously performing the five styles that make up Latin ballroom: cha-cha, rumba, samba, paso doble, and jazz. The dancers must also compete in ballroom’s standard discipline, which consists of waltz, tango, slow foxtrot, Viennese waltz, and quickstep. Pairs that impress the judges the most will return to the