Champs find ball­room bliss

> BY GAIL JOHN­SON

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

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

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