March 2008

Jason Taylor & Edyta SliwinskaThe Star: Jason Taylor
This year’s NFL Man of the Year Award winner and last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Taylor has played defensive end for the Miami Dolphins for over a decade. The six-time All Pro formed the Jason Taylor Foundation in 2004 and continues to be heavily involved throughout the South Florida community. Taylor holds the NFL record for touchdowns by a defensive lineman (7) and is the Dolphins’ all-time leader in quarterback sacks (117) and consecutive games played (130). Jason is married to Katina, and the couple reside in Weston, Fla., with their two sons, Isaiah Paul and Mason Paul, and daughter Zoe Grace.

The Dancer: Edyta Sliwinska

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* Emerald Ball Latin Amateur Champion
* 1st Place – 2001 International Grand Ball (San Francisco)
* 1st Place – 2001 Holiday Ball (Las Vegas, Nevada)

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: Polish
Based in: Los Angeles
Status: Not Currently Competing

BACKGROUND:
Edyta partnered boxing champion Evander Holyfield in Season 1 when they came in 5th place. In Season 2 she and George Hamilton also came in 5th. During Season 3, she partnered actor Joey Lawrence and they came in 3rd place. Season 4, Edyta partnered actor John Ratzenberger into 6th place. She is the only professional dancer to appear in all five seasons of Dancing with the Stars.

Edyta comes from a working class Polish background and has made many sacrifices to pursue her dream to become the world’s greatest Latin dancer. She misses her family greatly but feels she is on the road to stardom in the dancing world so the sacrifice is worth it.

Voting information can be found here

Kristi Yamaguchi & Mark BallasThe Star: Kristi Yamaguchi
In Olympic Gold medalist and World Champion, Kristi Yamaguchi is one of the most popular and successful figure skaters of our time. Since winning the 1992 Winter Olympics, Yamaguchi retired from competitive skating, performing in numerous television specials and traveling the globe on Stars on Ice tour. Along with her many awards and accomplishments, she is a member of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. In 1996 she founded the Always Dream Foundation dedicated to fundraising and supporting children’s charities. Yamaguchi is married to Stanley Cup champion and Carolina Hurricanes star Bret Hedican. Together they have two young daughters.

The Dancer: Mark Ballas

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* British Juvenile Ballroom and Latin American dance champ
* US Open to the World, British Open to the World and International Open to the World Junior Latin American Champ
* Junior Olympics Gold Medal Winner
* British Open to the World, US Open to the World, International Open to the World twice, United Kingdom, Youth Latin American Dance Champion

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: American
Based in: London, England
Status: Not Currently Competing

BACKGROUND:
Mark was born in Houston, Texas to Corky and Shirley Ballas, two of the biggest names in dance. When he was very young, they moved to London, England where he began his performing career. He joined the Italia Conti Academy of Dramatic Arts Associate School at age 4, where his training in acting and singing/dancing began. At age 11, he earned a full-time spot at the Academy. He also earned a full scholarship to the college and won performer of the year in 2005.

Mark has also performed in theater. He played the lead in the musical Copa Cabana, as well as playing roles in Maria de Buenos Aires, The Buddy Holly Musical and at the London Palladium.

His dancing partner, Julianne Hough, and her brother Derek Hough moved to England when they were young and lived with Mark and his parents. There, they were trained by Mark’s parents, Corky and Shirley Ballas. They became close friends and still are to this day.

Mark’s biggest passion is his band “Almost Amy.” Together with his best friend and fellow dancer, Derek Hough, they write and perform all their original music.

Voting information can be found here

Mario & Karina SmirnoffThe Star: Mario
Twenty-one year-old, multi-platinum selling R&B/Pop singer and actor Mario is known for such hit singles as Just a Friend and Let Me Love You. He was the recipient of Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year in 2005 for Let Me Love You, and has been nominated for a Grammy, BET Award, Vibe Award, MOBO Award and Soul Train Music Award. His latest album, Go, is in stores now. Mario has also appeared in the feature films Step Up and Freedom Writers.

The Dancer: Karina Smirnoff

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* Five-time U.S. National Champion
* World Trophy Champion
* Asian Open Champion
* Ranked second in the world

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: Russian
Based in: New Jersey
Status: Not Currently Competing

BACKGROUND:
During Season 3, Karina partnered actor Mario Lopez into second place. Season 4, she partnered singer and actor Billy Ray Cyrus into fifth place.

Born in the Ukraine, Karina came to the U.S. with her family at age 12. She began ballet lessons at the age of 5 before moving on to figure skating which she studied for an additional five years. At the age of nine, Karina was introduced to ballroom dancing and fell in love with it.

After high school Karina graduated from Fordham University with a law degree but put her academic studies on hold to pursue her ballroom dancing career in the United Kingdom.

She recently appeared on Hannah Montana with Billy Ray Cyrus.

Karina and her former partner Slavik Kryklyvyy shared tremendous success winning the U.S. Championships and many other world titles and were ranked second in the world in the Latin division.

Voting information can be found here

Marissa Jaret Winokur & Tony DovolaniThe Star: Marissa Jaret Winokur
Marissa Jaret Winokur is best known for creating the role of Tracy Turnblad in the hit Broadway musical Hairspray, a performance for which she won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress. Winokur has since been seen in the Farrelly Brothers film Fever Pitch and the television series Stacked. She just finished filming the series lead in a new pilot entitled Fugly for 20th Century Fox and CBS, and is currently working as one of the leads in the Lifetime movie Betrayals.

The Dancer: Fabian Sanchez

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* 2005 and 2006 World Rhythm Champion
* 2006 PBS American Ballroom Challenge Rhythm Champion
* 2006 Emerald Ball Open Professional American Rhythm Champion
* 2005 Ohio Star Ball American Rhythm Champion
* Current world and undefeated United States Open champion

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: Albanian
Based in: New York
Status: Retired from Competition

BACKGROUND:
Tony partnered the WWE wrestler Stacey Keibler in Season 2. The couple came in third place. In Season 3, Tony’s partner was country singer Sara Evans. The couple had to withdraw in the middle of the competition for personal reasons. In Season 4, Tony partnered Leeza Gibbons into 9th place.

Born in Kosovo, Tony began folk dancing at age three. When he was 15, his entire family moved to the United States and Tony got the opportunity to attend a Fred Astaire Dance Academy. From that moment on, he knew he had found his passion.

Since that time, Tony has traveled the world and won many championships. Tony also had a featured role in the hit film Shall We Dance and spent time coaching Jennifer Lopez.

Voting information can be found here

Marlee Matlin & Fabian SanchezThe Star: Marlee Matlin
Marlee Matlin received worldwide critical acclaim for her film debut in Children of a Lesser God, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Actress. At 21 she became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar and only one of four actresses to receive the honor for her film debut. In addition to the Oscar, Marlee received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama. She has since appeared on a number of hit television programs, including The West Wing, The L-Word, Nip/Tuck and Desperate Housewives. In Spring 2008, she will star opposite Jeff Daniels in the telefilm Sweet Nothing in My Ear.

The Dancer: Fabian Sanchez

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* World Mambo Champion – 2006
* United States Rising Star Champion, American Rhythm – 1999
* 4 x Fred Astaire National Champion
* 3 x United States Open American Rhythm Finalist

STATS:
Style:American Rhythm, Smooth, Standard, Latin, and Rhythm
Nationality: American (grew up in Colombia)
Based in: Alabama
Status: Not currently competing

BACKGROUND:
Dancing came naturally to Fabian because of his culture. There was nothing but salsa and meringue music played in his house every day while his mom cleaned. What started out as just a fun summer job has turned into a remarkable career for Fabian Sanchez. It all started when Fred Astaire Area Developer Al King walked into a Ryan’s Steakhouse in Birmingham, Alabama where Fabian was working. Quickly warming to Fabian’s lively and dynamic personality, King asked him to apply to the Fred Astaire training program. Although Fabian had wanted to go to college with hopes of eventually turning pro in soccer, he agreed to work at Fred Astaire, thinking it would be a temporary job. The chance meeting at Ryan’s was the start of Fabian’s career.

Throughout the years, Fabian became a seasoned competitor, achieving such accomplishments as US Rising Star Champion, four time Fred Astaire National Champion, US Open American Rhythm Finalist, and 3rd in the World Mambo Championship.

Retiring from competitions to dedicate his time to his family and studio, Fabian made a remarkable comeback at last year’s USDSC where he reunited with his former dance partner, Christina Penatello, to win the US Mambo Championship. The odds were not in their favor since they hadn’t danced together for years, were slightly out of shape, didn’t have glamorous costumes, and had only rehearsed together for 5 hours. Almost skipping out on the dance floor in their excitement to be dancing together again, Fabian and Christina swept the competition away.

This is Fabian’s first season on Dancing with the Stars and he is partnered with Marlee Matlin.

Voting information can be found here

Monica Seles & Jonathan RobertsThe Star: Monica Seles
Tennis champ Monica Seles is the holder of nine grand slam singles titles and was the top-ranked player in the world. She turned pro in 1988 at the age of 14 and won her first grand slam championship, the French Open, just two years later. After a two-year absence from the tour in 1993 and 1994, Seles rose above adversity and returned to capture her final grand slam crown in 1996, winning the Australian Open. She holds an outstanding career win-loss singles record of 595-122 and was ranked the13th greatest player of all time by Tennis Magazine. Her accomplishments also extend beyond the tennis court as Goodwill Ambassador for the Laures Sports Foundation and the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Microalgae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (IIMSAM).

The Dancer: Jonathan Roberts

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* 2004 USA Rising Star Latin Champion
* 2003 Blackpool Rising Star Latin
* 1997 USA Rising Star American Ballroom
* 2 times undefeated USA pro-am 10 dance champions
* 3 times undefeated USA pro-am Latin champions
* 2 times USA pro-am American Ballroom champions.

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: American
Based in: San Jose, California
Status: Not Currently Competing

BACKGROUND:
During Season 1, Jonathan partnered supermodel Rachel Hunter into 4th place. Season 2, Jonathan and his partner journalist Giselle Fernandez, finished in 8th place. He partnered charity campaigner Heather Mills into 7th place during Season 4.

Jonathan started dancing 11 years ago, at the age of 20. He is one of the few competitors representing America who was actually born in the United States.

Coming from a big sports background in high school (namely basketball), it was as much of as shock to Jonathan as it was to his family and friends when he discovered a passion for ballroom dancing. Jonathan went to see the Al Pacino movie Scent of a Woman and there was something about the famous tango scene that struck a chord. He took advantage of the free ballroom lesson offered on his movie ticket stub, and the rest is history.

With his first partner, Jonathan won the 1997 USA Rising Star American Ballroom before deciding to focus on the Latin style.

Jonathan Roberts has been dancing with his current partner (and wife) Anna Trebunskaya for six years. Although only having danced together for a relatively short time, they have achieved many high placements in competitions around the world.

Voting information can be found here

Priscilla Presley & Louis Van AmstelThe Star: Priscilla Presley
Actress, producer and entrepreneur Priscilla Presley starred in the Naked Gun films and the internationally popular television series Dallas, as well as guest-starred on TV’s Touched by an Angel, Spin City and Melrose Place. Founder of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Priscilla has also served as executive producer on the feature film Finding Graceland and the television version of her autobiography, Elvis and Me. Presley was married to music icon Elvis Presley.

The Dancer: Louis Van Amstel

ACHIEVEMENTS:

*
* United States Professional Latin American champion (2000)
* 7 Time Dutch National Amateur Champion
* European Amateur Latin Champion (’95)
* World Amateur Latin Champion (’94, ’95)
* Grand Slam Latin Champion (’95)
* World Professional Showdance Champion (’96)
* Professional World Latin Finalist (’96)

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: Dutch
Based in:Los Angeles
Status: Retired from competing, but regularly appears in exhibition performances. Has produced dance shows on Broadway and in Salt Lake City and has choreographed 3 Dancing with the Stars Tours.

BACKGROUND:
Louis began his dance career at an early age, training in a theatre school gaining a solid background in ballet, tap, and jazz. Upon graduating, Louis attended the University of the Arts in Amsterdam to further strengthen his skills in the classical dances and theory.

Upon immigrating to the United States, Louis quickly became the U.S. National Latin Champion in 2000 and founded the company VanDance, LLC. Through VanDance Louis directed, choreographed and performed in Latin Fusion, a feature production on Broadway at City Center in New York City.

Unlike many dancers Louis has a strong psychological approach to teaching. He trains under legendary dance guru Dr. Ruud Vermeij who has a holistic approach towards dancing. Louis is also a student of Laban choreology and is well versed in human movement dynamics.

Voting information can be found here

Steve Guttenberg & Anna TrebunskayaThe Star: Steve Guttenberg
Actor Steve Guttenberg has starred in blockbusters such as Police Academy, Three Men and a Baby, Short Circuit and Cocoon, as well as such acclaimed dramatic hits as Diner and The Boys from Brazil. Guttenberg has starred in a dozen films, each of which earned in excess of $100,000,000 at the American box office. His television credits include one of the highest-rated telefilms of all time, The Day After. Guttenberg runs The Guttenhouse Project, which houses selected children who are phased out of foster care programs.

The Dancer: Anna Trebunskaya

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* International Grand Ball Champion
* U.K. Championships
* International Grand Ball Champion
* 2004 USA Rising Star Latin Champion
* 2003 Blackpool Rising Star Latin Finalist
* 1998 USA Amateur Youth Standard (Ballroom) Champion

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: Russian
Based in:San Jose, California
Professional Partner: Pavlo Barsuk

BACKGROUND:
Anna began dancing at the age of six in her native Russia — her parents owned a dance studio, so it was only natural that Anna took to dancing from an early age. At the age of seven Anna entered her first competition, which she won, and she has been winning titles (first amateur and now professional) ever since.

Anna moved to the U.S. with her parents in 1998 when she was 17-years old. Both her mother and father were professional Ballroom dancers, and her mother still makes her costumes today.

Voting information can be found here

Shannon Elizabeth & Derek HoughThe Star: Shannon Elizabeth
Actress/model Shannon Elizabeth starred in the box office hits American Pie and Scary Movie. Some of her other credits include Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Love Actually, Cuts and That 70s Show. Shannon is also an accomplished poker player, taking third out of sixty-four invited professionals at the 2007 National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

The Dancer: Derek Hough

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* World Under 21 Latin American Champion
* Two-time Open British Champion (Blackpool)
* Two-time International ‘Open to the World Champion’
* Two-time US Open Champion

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: American
Based in: London, England
Status: Not Currently Competing

BACKGROUND:
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Derek has been dancing since he was 11 years old. He moved to London at the young age of 12 with his sister, Julianne, to live and train with his dance coaches, Shirley and Corky Ballas. While living in their house, he became best friends with their son, Mark Ballas, with whom he also started a band.

In addition to a successful dance career, Derek also performed on London’s West End and played the lead in Footloose. He tried to juggle dancing and theater, but found it to be too difficult. He recently took a break from competing to focus on acting and singing.

Derek is young, charismatic, and loves to entertain. He was one of the dancers on the first Dancing With the Stars Tour and is currently a choreographer on the BBC (UK) hit show, Dance X. He’s looking forward to bringing all of his creative visions to the Dancing with the Stars ballroom.

Voting information can be found here

Christián de la Fuente & Cheryl BurkeThe Star: Christián de la Fuente
Having started his acting career in his native Chile, the international film and television star’s Spanish language projects include Univisión’s miniseries Como ama una mujer and Sony television’s Reyes y Rey, which aired on Telemundo. He gained recognition in the U.S. as a series regular on Family Law and CSI: Miami. Recent TV guest roles include Ugly Betty and Psych. He stars in the upcoming USA Network series In Plain Sight. Other film work includes Driven and Basic. Cristián is a First Lieutenant in the Chilean Air Force Reserve and a member of Halcones, the high aerobatics team. People Magazine named him one of their 50 Most Beautiful, and he was the first man ever to grace the cover of Cosmopolitan en Espanol.

The Dancer: Cheryl Burke

ACHIEVEMENTS:

* 2005 World Cup Professional Rising Star Latin Champion
* U.K. Championships
* 4th in U.S. in the Under 21s

STATS:
Style: Latin
Nationality: American
Based in:New York
Status: Not Currently Competing

BACKGROUND:
Cheryl is the first two-time winner of Dancing with the Stars. Cheryl and her partner singer Drew Lachey stole the show on Season 2 and sensationally won the competition. Season 3, Cheryl was partnered with football legend Emmitt Smith, and together they won the competition. Season 4, Cheryl made it to the semi-finals with actor Ian Ziering, placing fourth.

Growing up in San Francisco, California, Cheryl came from a family who all loved to dance. At four years old, she began taking ballet lessons and performed throughout the Bay area until she was ten. It was at that time that she discovered that ballroom, “wasn’t just for old people” and decided to change her focus. She hung up her ballet shoes and began training in both standard and Latin. By 13, Cheryl was competing and traveling all over the world.

Voting information can be found here