By Audrey St. Clair
ORLANDO, Fla. (Orlando Signature) — Couples who dance together stay together” is the philosophy of the sprightly pair whose love of dance and each other is breathing new life into the Orlando dance scene. Through an energetic and disarming approach to ballroom dancing, these two dynamos are shaping their Fred Astaire Dance Studio into one that respects tradition yet embraces change, one that provides a haven from the everyday woes of work and carpool and mortgage payments.
Armenian transplants to the United States Hayk Balasanyan and Emilia Poghosyan began dancing before they turned double digits. Poghosyan always wanted to be a dancer, recalling watching shows full of fancifully dressed women in ball gowns twirling through the Viennese Waltz from her mother’s workplace as a child. The dream of being a princess grabbed ahold of her as quickly as the flicks of the sequined skirts, and she begged her parents for dance lessons. When begging didn’t work, she started crying … and cried for a year until they finally acquiesced; she hasn’t stopped dancing since.
Balasanyan’s parents, on the other hand, forced him into dancing to keep him off the streets. His mom knew that dancing would bring beauty into his life, but he resisted mightily at first, remembering how he just wanted to play soccer. But it wasn’t long until he preferred ballroom shoes to cleats and was well on his way to meeting the woman who would become his partner in dance and in life.
Although the two destined lovebirds had competed against each other in Armenia as children — Balasanyan jokes about how his wife was taller than he was back then — they didn’t get acquainted until years later after both had moved to the States. Poghosyan emigrated in 2008 after accepting an invitation to work as an instructor at a Fred Astaire Dance Studio in New York City, where she impressed the owners so much that they wanted more Armenians to follow in her footsteps. In 2010, Balasanyan did just that.
The pair partnered up on the dance floor first, winning the famed Rising Star competition the first year they danced together before becoming US national champions multiple times and one of the 12 best couples in America. Next came love, then marriage, and it’s the hope for a baby carriage that brought them to Winter Park to start a family and open their own Fred Astaire Dance Studio.