Florida Times Union/ Shoreline article

Florida Times Union/ Shoreline article

Jacksonville Beach ballroom dance couple are hard working champions.

By  Maggie  FitzRoy

(Florida Times Union/ Shoreline  )

Pavel Cherdantsau and his wife, Svetlana Rudkovskaya, compete in ballroom dance competitions around the United States. They’re among the top professional ballroom dance couples in the country and with their dance teaching skills, they could live and work in many large cities, including New York City.

Instead, since 2003, they’ve lived in Jacksonville Beach and teach at Dance Alday Studio near their home. They teach all week then fly to different cities every weekend to participate in competitions or take lessons from former national and international champions.

With an international airport 30 minutes away, it’s the best of both worlds, Cherdantsau said. “We travel a lot, and we get to live in a warm climate.”

It’s nice living two blocks from the beach, he said. But in the past year they’ve made it there only once because they spend so much time dancing and teaching dances such as samba, cha cha, rumba, waltz, tango and foxtrot.

“Because of them, we’re known to have a high quality of teaching in Jacksonville,” said Dance Alday owner Allan Alday.

“They are one of the hardest-working professional couples in Jacksonville,” said Ralph Ramirez, owner of Boleros, a cultural arts center in the Regency area. “You can see their passion.”

Saturday, April 17, the couple will display their passion during a live dance and video show at Boleros to celebrate the center’s 10th anniversary. The hour-long multimedia presentation will feature the dances for which they’ve won awards.

Interest in ballroom dancing style competitions has grown in the past several years, thanks to the popularity of television shows such “Dancing With the Stars,” Alday said.

“This is going to be a great show that Jacksonville has not seen,” he said.

Cherdantsau, 33, and Rudkovskaya, 34, grew up in Minsk, Belarus, where ballroom dancing has long been popular and where parents sign their children up for lessons at very young ages. When they were children, Belarus, between Poland and Russia, was part of the Soviet Union. It became an independent country in 1991. Cherdantsau began taking ballroom-style lessons at age 6, and began competing at 10. He soon started winning, and from age 14 to 18 he was the country’s champion in his age group. Rudkovskaya didn’t start taking lessons until age 13, but soon began competing as part of a formation team that danced choreographed routines.

By that time, Cherdantsau “was already a star,” she said.

“I was coming up, and we were competing against each other with different partners.”

About that time, their country split from the disintegrating Soviet Union, which threw the financial system into chaos. Parents could suddenly no longer afford the luxury of paying for dance lessons because $100 in the old currency was suddenly worth about a penny in the new, Cherdantsau said.

Cherdantsau and Rudkovskaya each worked several jobs to pay for lessons after spending an entire day at school. They completed their high school-level educations, then enrolled at the Belarussian University of Culture to study dance.

At that point, they were still competing with other partners, but as they grew older, their peers gradually dropped out of dance. By the time they graduated from the university, both of their partners had quit.

“We’d known each other for a long time, and there weren’t any other partners at our level,” Cherdantsau said. So they danced together for a year, then opened a dance school together.

At that point, they were friends and dance and business partners, but didn’t date.

Their school attracted many students, but the economy in Belarus was still unstable. So they accepted an opportunity to move to South Korea to teach dance in 2001.

“Then we started dating,” Cherdantsau said.

They traveled to the United States two years later to compete in California. Soon afterward, they met Alday, moved to the Beaches and married in 2005.

In 2007, they placed third in the United States in the 10-dance category, performing samba, cha cha, rumba, pasodoble, jive, waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot and quick step.

In 2009, they placed third in the show dance category, featuring their choreographed routine.

Rudkovskaya makes all of her own costumes, including the slinky pink satin dress with ostrich feathers that she’ll wear in the Boleros show.

Cherdantsau created the show’s video component.

The show is unique, he said, because it’s “just two people doing a non-stop one hour show with multimedia.”

Cherdantsau said they love living in the United States, in Jacksonville Beach, two blocks from the ocean. Even if they never have time to relax there.