How big is ballroom dancing?
"Oh it's big time," said Sandro Virag, who almost seemed startled by the question.
It's so big, that the five-time Hungarian dance champion proudly points to a recent New York Times article and a three-part PBS series on ballroom dancing.
In fact, as co-owner of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bluffton, Virag said he and fellow business partner Armando Aseneta have noticed an uptick in the number of people wanting dance lessons of all styles in just the last few years -- a trend he's attributed to such popular TV shows as "Dancing with the Stars."
"We've noticed people are more likely to try it who were not as willing as before," he said.
So naturally when his path crossed fellow dance champion Karina Smirnoff from the hit show, Virag jumped at the chance to invite the five-time U.S. National Ballroom Dance Champion to Bluffton.
Smirnoff, who has won a number of other world and national titles competing, happened to be coaching at a friend's studio in Virginia when the two crossed paths, Virag said.
"It's a small world but it's a big world too," he said, laughing. "We have thousands of dancers but when it comes to competitors, there's not that many of us. You run into each other all the time."
When not taking the famous through their paces on the hit show, Smirnoff continues to compete, has her own dance studio and can often be seen gracing the cover of health and fitness magazines.
Not only did the Ukrainian-born beauty agree to come to Bluffton, Smirnoff will conduct one-on-one private coaching sessions to competitive-level dancers and will lead a workshop designed for the general public at Virag's studio.
The dance instructor who specializes in International and American-styles of dance couldn't be more pleased.
"She is a world class dancer," he said.
And as the most Googled dancer on "Dancing With the Stars," Smirnoff is also an audience favorite.
Virag said his students are already jotting down notes on what they want to ask when she's in town.
In addition, Smirnoff will help choreograph part of a show the studio has planned for May at Hilton Head Island High's Seahawk Cultural Center.
"They totally respect how talented she is," he said. "Everybody will take something away from it. ...Some people will come just to meet her as an icon. But I think, pretty much, our people are looking to learn."
If You Go
The Fred Astaire Dance Studio, at 1300 Fording Island Road, Bluffton, will host Karina Smirnoff of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
Private coaching sessions will be Jan. 13-15.
A special workshop designed for all ages and skill levels will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 14.
The workshop cost is $50.
For details or to register call 843-837-6161.
Follow reporter Mindy Lucas on Twitter at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.
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