You'd probably think Blackpool or Bournemouth are the most glamorous venues a professional ballroom dance couple would be likely to get to. But Oleksii Ivanets and Lisa Bellinger-Ivanets were spending a few days at home in Southampton between a long weekend in Hong Kong, and trips to France and Dubai. These days, ballroom dancing is truly an international scene.
Lisa and Oleksii have been dancing together for five years having been introduced when Oleksii was visiting the UK from his native Ukraine.
Lisa had been dancing since she could walk - her parents were professional dancers and her Mum Linda still teaches dance in Eastleigh.
|Oleksii and Lisa|
They got married in 2003 - not entirely unheard of in ballroom circles: "There are a few other couples who have got together. We'd been dancing together for about two years - it just sparked with us - love just happened!" recalled Lisa.
The couple were crowned UK Latin Champions in 2005 and have recently turned professional. But how difficult is it to keep the dance business separate from their home life?
"It's one of the hardest things but I think we manage well. We're both hard working and we're dancing at the highest level so it's more than a hobby" said Oleksii "...Oleksii always has ants in his pants - he's always moving around in the kitchen!" joked Lisa.
As professionals, the pair can now teach dancing and have noticed an upsurge in interest since the huge success of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC One:
"It's shown that dancing is for all age groups, for children, and especially boys - which is brilliant as it's showed it's not just a 'sissy' girl thing. It's had a tremendous effect, we can feel it."
The glitz and the glamour of the TV shows is reflected in Lisa and Oleksii's own performances - they both spend hours designing and experimenting with how they look on the dancefloor during highly competitive shows:
|Oleksii and Lisa rehearsing |
"At the top level it's about the whole package - the hair, the dress, trousers, top, as soon as you step onto the dancefloor you are judged before you even start to dance."
Keeping fit for their 2-6 hours a day of rehearsals as well as demonstrations, competitions and shows means regular trips to the physio, running and gym sessions to stay in peak condition: "Every year dancing progresses - people are more aware of their bodies, kinking, jumping or doing the splits, so the physical side is very important." explained Oleksii.
As for ambitions, the pair have a clear set of goals - to become British number ones and move up the world rankings, according to Lisa:
"Anyone can enjoy dancing at any level, from purely social to competing at the highest level. But it's more than a hobby for us - it's something that's so important in our life. In the long term we want to develop our reputation for teaching and hopefully produce some world champions of our own."