Courtesy photo


When Dmitriy Volodko boarded a plane to the United States from Ukraine six years ago, it was the first time he had seen the inside of an airport, let alone a plane. When he arrived in New York City, it was a struggle to locate his luggage. “I had zero language skills,” he says. It was his skill as a competitive ballroom dancer, a career he began at age 8, that made the journey possible.

After winning an international European dance competition in 2001, Dmitriy was invited by the Ukrainian owners of a Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Greensboro, North Carolina, to take a job as a dance instructor. That’s where he met Oksana Barantsova, another competitive ballroom dancer who had grown up in Ukraine and had been living in the United States for two years. At first simply dance partners, the two became life partners when they married five years ago.

In addition to teaching, the couple started competing in the U.S., and eventually began looking for a place to open their own ballroom dance studio through the international Fred Astaire franchise. They say they felt drawn to Bloomington’s international diversity and general friendliness. Its proximity to Indianapolis facilitates their ability to travel and compete in regional and national tournaments.

In November, Dmitriy, 29, and Oksana, 34, celebrated the one-year anniversary of the opening of their east-side studio, where they offer private and group instruction to everyone from children and adult beginners to fellow professional dancers who are preparing to compete. Latin and swing ballroom dance styles tend to be most popular.

Dmitriy says people get a lot out of their lessons. “Dancing is the main thing, but through the dance, they are finding other benefits,” among them exercise, new ways to listen to and understand music, and adding some romance to their lives. He says the majority of clients are couples looking for a new way to enjoy date nights. Others come to learn or choreograph wedding dances. Many are empty nesters who take classes “so they can meet others again,” Oksana says. “And maybe get a new sparkle.”

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