Russian ballroom champions bring Latin performance to Bridgeport

As a young child, Aleksei Shipilov’s mother would take him to his sister’s ballroom dance lessons in Russia.

Shipilov didn’t like to dance himself but his sister needed a ballroom dance partner, and he filled the role beginning at age 5.

Dancing with an older sister wasn’t much fun, he said, but ballroom instructors soon separated them because of their age difference and Shipilov was given his own dancing partner.

“This is how it began,” Shipilov, 29, said of a ballroom dance career that has brought him many Russian and international championships. He has won competitions in Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania and Belarus as well as the United States and his native Russia.

At about the same time Shipilov’s mom was taking him and his sister to lessons, Julia Mitina’s mother would walk her to ballroom dance school elsewhere in Russia.

Shipilov and Mitina first met in Russia when her mother brought Julia to his ballroom dance school because one of the country’s best teachers was there and her mom wanted Julia to be taught by the very best.

After years competing against each other, Shipilov and Mitina, 28, now are ballroom dance partners and based in the U.S. They are considered one of the top professional Latin dance teams in the world.

They won the Pro RS Latin Philadelphia Dancesport championship in April, where noted they “have great energy [and] lots of power.”

The pair are coming to Connecticut to perform on July 27 at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church ballroom in Bridgeport. They will be featured at Premier Ballroom Dance Company of Connecticut’s monthly dance show. The pair will perform presentations in the samba (Brazilian), cha-cha-cha (Cuban), jive (swing), pasodoble (Spanish double step) and romantic rumba styles at 9:30 p.m. They will also give a dance lesson at 8 p.m. and there will be general dancing for attendees from 7 to 11:30 p.m.

Event organizer Bob Beslove noted Shipilov and Mitina had competed against each other for many years as youngsters and young adults in Russia and around the world. “He’s a very powerful dancer and she couldn’t beat him,” Beslove said of the past competitions.

Beslove, a Bridgeport resident who once was senior pro-am ballroom dance champion, said the sport continues to gain in popularity in the United States. That’s been partly fueled by the popularity of ABC-TV’s “Dancing With the Stars,” which premiered in 2005 and pairs celebrities and dance professionals.

“People who dance together, stay together,” Beslove said.

Shipilov said he enjoys ballroom dancing and going to competitions. “It’s different than regular life,” he said. “I can express myself more through dancing.”

Shipilov previously was a dance and pro-am instructor in Russia. In 2011 and 2012, he was the main instructor and choreographer for “Stars on the Dancefloor,” which was a local “Dancing With the Stars” program in his Russian hometown of Nizhny Novgorod.

He came to the U.S. a year and a half ago to teach ballroom dancing at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in West Chester, Pa. “I really like being an instructor,” he said.

It was at a dance training camp in Russia in 2012 that Shipilov and Mitina realized it was inevitable they would unite on the dance floor, although each had successful partnerships with others at the time.

Then in 2018 they were both invited to the Pennsylvania dance studio, owned by Russian dancers they both had competed against.

For more information about the ballroom performance, call Beslove at 203-374-7308.