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Dancing with a JCU star

September 22nd, 2011

At the age of 23, Elizabeth Stark has accomplished a lot when it comes to dancing.

As a John Carroll senior majoing in communications, she has a lot on her plate: including winning a ballroom dancing championship.

Stark said she has been dancing for her entire life. She dances everything from ballet and tap to jazz and hip-hop, and figure skates as well.

At age 16, she took a hiatus from it all, but at the age of 20, she decided to take up ballroom dancing.

“When I decided to come back to it I wanted to try something different,” Stark said. “‘Dancing with the Stars’ was just starting to become popular on television in the United States, so I was intrigued by the dancing style.”

Though she is the only dancer in her family, they show her constant support by their attendance at her competitions.

In 2008, Stark’s mom brought to her attention that there was a ballroom dancing studio nearby, and that is when her interest sparked.

This year, Stark competed in Florida in June and Virginia in July, and has upcoming events in Cleveland and Columbus.

Next year, she plans to do a bit more traveling, as she will be dancing in Boston, New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Hawaii.

“The most stressful time for me is always a few days before the competition – I am nervous, I tend to make a lot of mistakes while practicing, and I just cannot stay focused,” she said.

“Thankfully, I am at the top of my game during the competitions and even the day before. The adrenaline, excitement, and my determination keep me going.”

Those nerves paid off because in Florida, Stark and her partner made it to the finals in all 27 rounds, accepting several first, second and a few third place awards.

Though the dancing couple did not do as well in Virginia, they still competed in 27 rounds, and took home some first, second and again third prize winnings, continuing to beat some of their biggest competitors.

Stark’s favorite thing about ballroom dancing is not even the dancing itself.

In fact, it’s that her Russian instructor, Slava Polubnev, who’s been dancing for 11 years, is her best friend.

“I truly believe that it is the people that make something or an event worthwhile – I would not do ballroom dancing or compete if it wasn’t for him,” she said.

Stark said she had the opportunity to learn from those who inspired her to become a ballroom dancer.

“I have had the rare opportunity of [taking lessons] with professionals from ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ namely Karina Smirnoff and Mark Ballas.”

Even though her best friend is what makes dancing worthwhile, nothing can compare to the feeling after winning a competition.

“When we found out how well we placed at each competition thus far, we felt accomplished – it is a wonderful feeling, being recognized and awarded for something you enjoy doing so much,” Stark said.