Two of my favorite ballroom dancers are Alec Mazo and Edyta Sliwinska.
The husband and wife team represented the United States at many International dancing competitions before they took on the daunting task of teaching celebrities how to dance on ABC’s hit show: Dancing with the Stars for a combined 15 seasons.
After the couple left the show, the duo formed their own company: Dancing Pros, Inc. that specializes in television content development but have also conceived and choreographed stage shows including Dance Temptation and their upcoming show: Dance Star.
I had the honor and privilege to sit down with Alec and Edyta and we talked about their ballroom beginnings, their time on Dancing with the Stars and their shows.
Jacob Elyachar: When did you first get into ballroom dancing?
Edyta Sliwinska: I started when I was 10-years-old and lived in Poland. I loved to dance and I wanted to do something in the field. I registered for a ballroom dance class and that was how I started. It was not unusual for a child to start ballroom dancing in Europe; it is pretty much common for kids to take a couple of courses while they are younger.
Alec Mazo: I started when I was five-years-old. My mom put me in it when I was in Belarus and then I moved to the United States and we had a dance school for a long time and Edyta came over to dance with me.
JE: What were some of your professional highlights?
AM: We were six-time U.S. finalists and represented the country at many international dancing competitions. We have captured many titles in the Untied States and then after that, we started doing Dancing with the Stars in 2005.
ES: I think the highlights from Dancing with the Stars for us was when we got to dance together to some of the most amazing artists in the industry including Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Colbie Caillat and Adele, who all performed live on the show.
JE: How did you get contacted by “Dancing with the Stars?”
AM: Several producers contacted us in 2005, when they were looking for professionals to appear on a show. They knew of us because of our competitive status and they basically asked to do an interview with them and we flew to Los Angeles to meet with them. I believe that the producers chose us due to our competitive results, how we looked, our personalities and to see if there was a match between a professional and a celebrity who they pairing up with us.
ES: It was basically a regular casting process and we did it because we were at a point in our careers where competing was not satisfying anymore. We were looking at some other outlets and this show came at a perfect moment for us.
JE: How did “Dancing with the Stars” helped your careers?
ES: We gained a lot of exposure because of the show. In addition, before the show, competitive ballroom dancing was a very closed and kind of limited circle. After Dancing with the Stars aired, a lot more people got interested in competing and recognized us. That led us to receive lot of opportunities outside of the show, which included our own theatre show, which we are producing right now. It has given us a lot of opportunity to meet a lot of people and work with some of the most amazing choreographers, artists and singers in the industry. It had opened a lot of doors.
JE: When did you decide that it was time to leave the show and start other ventures?
AM: We had 15 seasons between us and it was a great experience, but it became very repetitive. We had done four tours of Dancing with the Stars and developed a pretty decent network of connections and we just figured out that by the end of the day, it did not matter if we did 15 or 20 seasons, we had to move on from Dancing one way or another. We had an opportunity to produce and that’s when we decided when it was time to leave.
ES: By the time of the tenth season, it felt like Alec said, repetitive and we thought that we were not developing. We were not interested in staying on the show just be remain popular and stay in the limelight, we really wanted to do something for our future that was inspiring.
JE: How did you guys form your company Dancing Pros, Inc.?
ES: It was kind of a necessity. We started to work with other people and they started asking us to produce events and shows. We had to create a company that would bring all of that together plus in a capacity to produce a more integrated venture.
AM: We were able to take the experience we had on Dancing with the Stars and link it to the dance base that we have in San Francisco with our dance school. We have a very deep roots, contacts in that world and, as a result, we were able to take on much bigger productions where we could bring 20 dancers together for one show. Instead of Edyta and I dancing, it is a one-and-a-half-hour Broadway style show, which contains both singers and dancers.
JE: Your production company currently produces two dance shows: “Dance Temptation” and “Dance Star.” What are the similarities and differences between those two shows?
AM: Both of these two shows are story-driven. They follow an arc of a character, which is narrated by a celebrity narrator. The reason why we do that is that we want to link the character to a certain sense of attachment with the audience, so that they can see from beginning to end: a transformation of a character. Dance Temptation is a show that is about a couple that falls in love and gets married at the end, while Dance Star is a show about a young girl who becomes a famous star.
JE: Let’s talk about the choreography. How long does it take for you to choreograph the routines from start to finish?
ES: It minimally takes half of a year to do choreography for an hour-and-a-half show. We want to make every show number special, so there has to be an idea of what it is suppose to look like, how many dancers are going to be on the floor and which dancers will perform each number.
JE: Why should people come see “Dance Star?”
AM: It is a very high quality show. If people want to see a mix of their favorite shows including Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice and American Idol, this is the one show that you have to see. Dance Star has a story from beginning to end that develops. We are very lucky to be in the Avalon Ballroom Theatre at Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, which is very well equipped and the stage is going to be great. I think that the entertainment value is tremendous because of the high energy of the dancers.
ES: You get incredible talent that is onstage for an hour-and-a-half plus you will get a storyline that you can actually follow. We have put together a great collection of amazing dancers that people can actually identify and get attached to plus root for that character. Even people who are non-dancing fans will find something interesting about our show.
JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring dancers, what advice would you give them?
ES: First of all, if you love to dance, be ready to work very, very hard. Talent is maybe 10-percent of the success and the remaining 90-percent is hard work. Dancing is a physically and emotionally exhausting thing and you really need to be very strong to work as a dancer. Another piece of advice, I would like to share is that if you love and believe in what you are doing, I think that you can pretty much accomplish anything.
From our personal perspective, dancing is absolutely amazing. If you love it, dancing gives you a totally different world. But, the truth is like any physical sport or activity; you cannot do it your whole life. As you are dancing, be ready for the day to come where you have to transition out of it and do something that will help your future.
For more information about “Dance Star” and Alec and Edyta’s company, visit their website: http://dancingprosinc.com/