Jacksonville dancers take on the world
The Jacksonville duo will represent the U.S. in a competition in Russia.
January 24, 2012 – 06:48am
Move over to the slow lane, ballroom dancers. There’s a Jacksonville Beach couple who wants to pass you, and they plan to toot the horn with gusto. Beep, beep! Beep, beep!
Pavel Cherdantsau and Svetlana Rudkovskaya are preparing for a championship with the world’s best ballroom show dancers, and they qualified with a comedy routine to the 1950s novelty song, “Beep, Beep” by The Playmates. Yes, indeed, the song that gets faster as a little Nash Rambler driver speeds up next to a Cadillac because he’s stuck in second gear.
The professional dancing couple gave nearly all their competitors the shake at the U.S. Dance Championships in September. They placed second, winning one of two classic show dance spots representing the U.S. in the 2012 World Dance Council’s championship in May in Omsk, Siberia, in Russia.
Next month, a 1950s-theme costume party, dance show and silent auction at Boleros Dance Center will help the couple raise funds for that trip. A live performance and video show incorporating “Beep, Beep” will be followed by a dance party.
Cherdantsau and Rudkovskaya, originally from Belarus, have know each other since childhood. And they’ve been dancing since childhood. Cherdantsau started at 6 and Rudkovskaya at 13, despite there being no other dancers in their families. Now in their mid-30s and married, the two have been dancing partners since 1999.
Their lifelong drive to dance is simple: “We just love it,” they said almost in perfect unison.
Nothing fanciful; nothing starry eyed.
They’ve been in the area about 8½ years, since taking teaching jobs at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Jacksonville Beach. In addition to lessons they teach there, they offer private lessons, and Rudkovskaya teaches ballroom dancing at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
They do it all — classic ballroom, American rhythm, cha-cha, rumba, salsa, you name it — but say they spread the love equally between the dances.
“We do them all, so we have to like them all,” Cherdantsau said, chuckling slightly.
So, no favorites. Though he did admit that modern dance, perhaps, suits them better than Latin dance.
Ballroom dancing competitions have a strict and lengthy list of rules, typically with 10 to 20 judges who look for technical skills and creativity. Presentation is also an important aspect, including costumes, which Rudkovskaya makes.
As professional dancers, there is one paramount, crucial key to competing, Cherdantsau said.
“We just have to do it right,” he said. Again, a slight chuckle followed.
The scoring system is number-based, comparable to the way it is in Olympic ice skating. The two sports share something else, too. “To fall on your butt,” he said, is the worst possible nightmare.
Making it to the world championship in May has taken them a few years. After trying twice before at the U.S. championships, the third time proved their efforts worthy. They practice three to four hours per day, with no days off. Add up all those hours, days, months, years of practicing — and to what end? The prestige of being world champions, they said. People don’t start dancing as a way to get rich.
All their efforts will culminate in about 3½ minutes on stage at the world ballroom championships for classic show dance. That’s it, 3½ minutes.
Talk about pressure. A make-it-or-break-it moment of looming proportion.
But in past competitions, that element hasn’t fazed them much, they said. When you’re so intensely focused before and during a performance, there’s little to no mental opening for nervousness.
If at all, “it depends on how tired we are,” Rudkovskaya said.
So forget saying, “break a leg.” Say “sleep tight” instead.