Originally from Detroit, MI, Rachel moved to Memphis in 2014 for work. She is a Biomedical Engineer and works on the design of orthopedic implants and surgical instruments for a living. And, she owns a cat. With her big smile and an incredible energy level on the dance floor, Rachel has been a regular at Ultimate Ballroom. But, don’t let her petite frame and a super infectious laugh fool you for a moment. This girl is a definition of beauty and strength as she is able to combine the athleticism of the dance sport (as a powerlifter herself) with the beauty and artistry of various dance styles – all into one perfect package.
Speaking of her strength, Rachel has just recently qualified for an invitation-only powerlifting competition on stage at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH, at the beginning of March. The Arnold is a prestigious competition featuring top athletes in the country.
Tell us about your dance experience. How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing since I was 3 in various styles, such as jazz and tap, but mainly with a focus in ballet. In college, I joined the dance team and, when I moved to Memphis, I began ballroom dancing as a way to continue dancing and meeting new friends!
Smooth or Rhythm?
Latin! I’ve practiced both American Smooth and Rhythm but was always interested in learning the International Latin style. The lines, the technique, and slower more romantic expression of International Rumba is what caught my interest at first (My favorite couple is Yulia Zagoruychenko and Riccardo Cocchi). So, I decided to pursue Latin about 2 years ago with Yura. The more I learn about Latin, the more I love the style. My favorite dance is the energetic, flirty Jive followed closely by Cha Cha. This year, I decided to add American Smooth back into my lessons so that I can have a full set of choreography for when I compete and am learning to enjoy it.
What makes ballroom different from other dance styles?
Ballroom dance is different from other dance styles because of the connection to your partner. Ballroom gives you the opportunity to connect with someone. Whether you are dancing socially, getting to know someone through conversation, or while practicing with your instructor/partner, you get to bond on a deeper level.
“Dance gives me the ability to express my emotions. Whether I’m excited, passionate, or perhaps even melancholy, there is a style that can communicate that feeling. When I walk in the door to dance, I’m in an awesome mood because none of the stress of life can affect me. I’m happy and living in the moment of dance.” – Rachel
Favorite memory at Ultimate Ballroom Dance Studio?
It’s so hard to choose! I can’t pick a single favorite because I love all the memories and the people that create them. From Friday-night dance parties, to showcases, to group classes – I just love and appreciate everyone that makes UB such a great community.
Tell us about your dance instructor
Yura is my dance instructor! He is very knowledgeable about technique and constantly challenges me to become better and believes in my potential. He is very patient too. Trust me, we have spent entire lessons just working on basic Samba walks. Most importantly, we share a lot of laughs dancing together, and I can always count on walking out of the studio with a smile on my face.
What do you find challenging while taking dance lessons?
I am a classic Type A perfectionist. It can be frustrating when I don’t get basic technique correct as I overanalyze all of my dance videos to see what I can do better next time. I can get in my head and be hard on myself. But it’s part of the process and, when I am getting close to a show, I let go and have confidence that my technique is there and just enjoy the dance.
How has ballroom dancing enriched your life?
Ballroom dance is how I can get away from the stressors of life and be my true self. I can channel my thoughts and emotions into my dance expression or I can leave the outside world at the door and just be present in the moment and be happy!
What advice would you give to someone who has never danced before but is willing to give it a try?
Go for it! Do not worry about perfection. You will surprise yourself with how much you can learn in a short amount of time, especially when you have such great instructors at UB! You just need to take that first step.
Do you have another secret talent or hobby?
It’s not so secret, but I am a competitive powerlifter. It seems odd to most people that I am highly involved in such opposite activities, but the skills, athletic abilities and life lessons are similar and benefit both of my passions.
What gives you inspiration?
Seeing the benefit dance has in my friends’ life makes me want to work harder. Especially the impact ballroom dance has had on my best friend Lizzie’s life, and how she has grown as a person and has become such a talented dancer through hours of hard work and dedication – that influences me to get on her level.
Watch some of Rachel’s Ballroom Dance Showcase performances:
by Ballroom Butterfly