Ballroom placed centre stage

Aric Yegudkin choreographed the moves in Ballroom Blitz to take ballroom to the next level. Photo...
Aric Yegudkin choreographed the moves in Ballroom Blitz to take ballroom to the next level. Photo: supplied
Australian choreographer and three-time Dancing with the Stars champion Aric Yegudkin’s dream to choreograph and create his own stage show has come to life with Ballroom Blitz. He tells Rebecca Fox about his dancing journey.

If his mother came looking for him at a party, a young Aric Yegudkin would be in the centre of things doing his Michael Jackson moves.

In his bag for kindergarten would be his favourite music cassette tapes that he had collected.

"I loved music and movement — I was always dancing. It was without reason — it happened naturally."

So it came as no surprise to anyone — except maybe his dad who wanted him to play tennis — that Yegudkin became a dancer.

"Dancing won over."

His dance career headed down the ballroom dance route after his mother took him to dance classes a Ukrainian woman was teaching in a church hall down the road from his home in Bondi, Sydney.

He admits it was a challenge at the start.

"It takes a lot to get the steps and stuff."

Then in his teens his teacher paired him up with "a little red-headed girl" he had a crush on, and the rest is history. They became a successful competitive dance team and off stage ended up marrying in 2019 and now have twin girls.

"Within one year we won everything."

He went on to become Australian Dancesport Latin champion, South Pacific champion, national champion and state champion.

Yegudkin has trained all over the world, spending most of his time in London, and represented Australia at world championships multiple times.

Aric Yegudkin and his dance partner, now wife, have won many national dance titles over the years...
Aric Yegudkin and his dance partner, now wife, have won many national dance titles over the years. Photo:
Latin dancing, "the sexy stuff", has always been his specialty. At the British Open Championships, he and his now wife placed 13th out of over 250 couples from all over the world in the Youth Latin.

"I love the cha-cha. I always had trouble with it as a kid. I loved watching it but never did well in it but as I got older and learned more about it and practised it so much. I love choreographing it, I love everything about it."

At just 19 years old, his life changed when he auditioned and got into Australia’s most successful reality television series, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). He won his first series with his dance partner, Ada Nicodemou from long-running television soap Home and Away.

"That was pretty good."

Since then, he has been a regular finalist on the show and achieved the highest overall scores in DWTS Australia’s history. He finished with another win in 2015, partnered with TV and radio personality Emma Freedman, making Yegudkin the reigning champion.

He and his wife also opened a dance studio in Sydney where they both teach.

Along the way Yegudkin got involved with stage productions, choreographing Shake Rattle and Roll and Ultra Swing Lounge which sold out across Australia. He also toured with Burn The Floor, and was the lead dancer and supporting act for Human Nature’s national tours in 2015-2017 along with his wife, Masha Belash, who was resident choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance Australia and a DWTS finalist.

"I’ve always wanted to do my own show."

So when he was approached by Shake Rattle and Roll producer Anthony Street to do a show he grabbed the opportunity. While it took about 18 months to get Ballroom Blitz off the ground, it only took six months to get it to stage complete with 12 dancers, a live five-piece band and two vocalists.

"I wanted to create the show, make it. So there was a lot of brainstorming. There were a lot of ideas I’d had in my head since I was a kid that I put out there."

There was also a lot of work put in to making sure the show was balanced and worked as a whole.

"We kept changing and changing things right up to just before the show. We took a number out and changed the order of things just a few days before. It was super important."

He also bounced ideas off his wife at night after they put the children in bed.

Aric Yegudkin and partner dance in the South Pacific championships at the Sydney Convention...
Aric Yegudkin and partner dance in the South Pacific championships at the Sydney Convention Centre in 2004. Photo:
"She helped with the show a lot. We’ve always worked everything together. The last year with this show it’s been quite a lot. We don’t really stop working."

As a result he believes he has taken ballroom beyond where it normally sits on the dance spectrum.

"It’s always been an older style dance. It’s something my grandparents used to dance during the wars. That is what ballroom is but we want to take that and bring it into today."

The show has definitely taken it to the next level, he believes, by taking old dances and putting them to modern music, giving it a more contemporary feel.

"We’ve got a tango with chairs, a samba with feather fans. There are some crazy tricks — people being flipped. Everyone has so much passion and emotion. It’s a rollercoaster, very dynamic. "

Finding the more contemporary music numbers was not hard with plenty of modern music just calling out for dances.

He has not forgotten the traditionalists though, incorporating some old favourites such as a waltz to Kissing You from Romeo and Juliet and a jazzy tap number to Putting on the Ritz.

"Some of the old stuff is really great to dance to."

Ballroom dancing as a whole has become more mainstream due to the popularity of television shows like Dancing with the Stars.

"The popularity of dance itself through social media as well. Dancing is timeless."

It is a show he is proud of, recently having his parents over for Mother’s Day to watch it with his children.

"It’s very rewarding, one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. This has been a longtime dream for me. When I saw it for the first time it was very emotional. I was buzzing for a few weeks. I was on high."

Reviewer Greer Robertson recently described the show under Yegudkin as "witnessing true commitment".

Aric Yegudkin, three-time Dancing with the Stars Australia champion, in rehearsals at Auckland's...
Aric Yegudkin, three-time Dancing with the Stars Australia champion, in rehearsals at Auckland's Bruce Mason Theatre for Ballroom Blitz. Photo: supplied
"A lifetime of hard work, sweat and tears is visible in every stitch, every polished move, every line, every look and every note."

The show was also a milestone in another way as it was the first time Yegudkin had totally stepped away from the dance floor to concentrate on the choreography.

"It’s the first time I haven’t been on stage with my dancers. It was awesome — I could sit back for the first time and really enjoy it."

It was also good as he had just come off two months of filming for Dancing with the Stars.

"I felt like I’d got it all out of my system. I was ready to be the creative.

"I’m not hanging up my shoes but it is a bit of a transition for me."

His body is holding up and he works hard at "preserving" himself for when he needs to perform with regular gym workouts. He also continues to dance while teaching at his studio.

"All I’ve had is two hernias. I had operations eight years ago. That was hard, recovery from that, but that wasn’t from dancing, it was from the gym. Dancing’s been pretty good on my body but I’m only 38. We’ll see when I’m 45; that’s when I’ll know the real effects." 

He is really excited for the show to go international and he is coming to New Zealand to help prepare the cast, which includes three new cast members among them Shae Mountain, a New Zealand-born dancer who teamed up with Kiwi comedian Laura Daniel on Dancing with the Stars in 2019. 

After the quick turn around of the show in Australia, Yegudkin is looking forward to seeing what the existing dancers can do following the Australian season.

"I want to get the show to the next level."


Ballroom Blitz: Civic Theatre, Invercargill, June 12 at 7.30pm; Regent Theatre, Dunedin, June 14 at 7.30pm

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