‘Dancing with the Stars’ celeb Anna Trebunskaya leads Ballroom Spectacular, Aug. 12 | VailDaily.com

‘Dancing with the Stars’ celeb Anna Trebunskaya leads Ballroom Spectacular, Aug. 12

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to the Daily
Anna Trebunskaya and Dmitry Chaplin form one of five couples who will command the stage at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater for the Vail International Dance Festival's Ballroom Spectacular on Friday, Aug. 12.
Erin Baiano | Special to the Daily |

Vail International Dance Festival schedule

• Ballroom Spectacular — 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

• Dance TV — 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail

For a full schedule, including Master Classes and fringe events, visit vaildance.org or call 888-920-ARTS (2787).

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Vail Dance.

VAIL — Anna Trebunskaya may have grown up in a family of professional ballroom dancers, but outside the studio, her life was far from glamorous. As her native country fell into chaos with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, her blue-collar neighborhood struggled by, working at demanding jobs such as those at Russian chemical plants. So as a young girl, she found solace in the dance studio.

“It was a tough period in Russia — complete chaos,” she said. “You didn’t know what was right: Crime went through the roof; people would not get paid for months. Dancing was not just my passion but, I guess, my dreamland — a touching of the beautiful. It made me feel there was hope.”

This summer, she and a number of fellow Russians channel the individual “roughness” they grew up around into one passionate, intense ballroom evening.

A Russian ‘mood’

Trebunskaya didn’t consciously choose all but two Russians to perform in Vail’s ballroom spectacular.

“It happened naturally,” she said. “The first thing I thought about (was) each of these dancers are excellent performers.”

She’s the first to admit that Russian dancers aren’t better than any other dancer, technically or expressively. Yet overall, she does admire how Russians carry “a certain moodiness.”

“There is some heaviness,” she said, “some years and years of struggling, and the heaviness allows you to go deeper in your art.”

This summer, her curated dancers — Galina Detkina and Mikhail Zarinov; Artem Plakhotnyi and Inna Berlizyeva; Vard Margaryan and Inga Demetryan; Jenya Shatilova and Vitalii Proskurin; and she and her partner Dmitry Chaplin — will portray the passionate relationships between a man and woman through waltz, rumba, cha-cha, merengue, tango, foxtrot and salsa.

“Ballroom dancing is the vertical expression of horizontal desire,” she said.

That said, the portrayals aren’t always sexual.

“It is the chemistry between two dancers,” she said, “about how they work together and can create that passion, that chemistry, that tenderness.”

While each dancer possesses outstanding technique, for Trebunskaya, technique is merely a tool for portrayal.

“It is what is in between the moves, in between the lines — that chemistry, that charisma, that special energy around them,” she said.

Unlike competitive ballroom dancing, each couple chooses its own music, costumes, choreography and length of dance, based upon what speaks to them.

“Because it’s a dance show, you are in control of the story you are going to tell people,” she said. “There is much more expression. You just do what you love, and you share that love with the audience.”

In a sense, the fundamental story ballroom tells is not just of a man and a woman, but also of a leader and follower. It elicits a nostalgic feeling of a man inviting a woman to dance. And, though the man leads, both sexes are equal, without defaulting to a unisex expression, she said.

“Women are encouraged to be feminine, and men, masculine — neither is more important,” she said. “The man invites the lead, and the woman allows the lead. It is a more classical, traditional way of interacting between two sexes.”

Yet, both men and women must be artistically animated and fiercely athletic — attributes often stereotypically assigned to one sex or the other — to make a name in the competitive world of ballroom.

Trebunskaya’s take

After moving to the United States with nothing but a suitcase at age 17, Trebunskaya went on to rank sixth in the United States in 2004 and second in the Rising Star Professional Latin UK Championship in 2006, the same year she debuted on “Dancing with the Stars.”

While competition places athleticism first and artistry second, with shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” or Vail’s festival, “it’s all about the artistry; the athleticism supports the artistry,” she said.

During the Vail International Dance Festival, Trebunskaya will have one day to orchestrate the couples’ routines they’ve prepared for the evening of ballroom and showcase them in their best light.

“It’s about the progression, essentially placement, of each piece,” she said, explaining how she seeks an ebb and flow of various emotions, rather than an onslaught of one. And that, once again, is where not only her experience as a professional, but also her Russian sensibilities come into play.

“All the dancers with a similar background (have) constant gratefulness for the opportunity to not only be in this country but also do art and be gratified for it,” she said. “Their perspective adds a depth of expression — a little something, something.”