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Interview with Latin and Standard Winners of Fordney Foundation Scholarship Awards 2020

Photo Provided by Sukachov Dance Academy

It is with great pleasure that the Fordney Foundation proudly congratulates Nathan Zaytsev and Annika Mugin for winning both the Fordney Foundation Latin and Standard Scholarship awards for 2020.

In this particularly complicated year where our beloved Ohio Star Ball was not able to go on as scheduled due to Covid-19 restrictions, this did not stop Nathan and Annika. These two dancers proved to excel at their craft time and time again. Due to overwhelming wins throughout the year at various competitions in both Latin and Standard dance, they came out on top of the leaderboard. This announcement came from the Ohio Star Ball final year- end results.

Photo Provided by Sukachov Dance Academy

These two fine dancers are also associated with Sukachov Dance Academy. We would like to give a big shout out to Dima and Olga Sukachov for doing such a fantastic job in coaching Nathan and Annika to go on and continually win dance honors. We also congratulate Sukachov Dance Academy for winning the Top Studio award for the year.

Our readers and dancers are interested in Nathan and Annika’s input in coping with this year’s challenges as well as what it takes to become all out winners/recipients of this year’s Fordney Foundation’s Latin and Standard Scholarship awards, as recognized by the Ohio Star Ball.

Photo Provided by Sukachov Dance Academy of Annika and Nathan at World


Freddie Brock: Please tell us Nathan and Annika what are your ages?

Nathan Zaytsev and Annika Mugin: We’re both 14-years-old.

FB: What city and state do you both live in?

NZ & AM: We live in San Francisco, CA.

FB: At what age did you start to dance and what made you want to dance?

NZ: I started dancing at 8-years-old when my mom brought me to SDA Sukachov Dance Academy just to try it. I really enjoyed dancing so I decided that's all I want to do.

AM: I started dancing when I was almost 8-years-old at a summer dance camp at (SDA) Sukachov Dance Academy. My mom signed me up to work with Dima and Olga Sukachov. I fell in love with dancing and wanted to continue it on a higher level.

FB: How long have you been dancing? How long have you been partners?

NZ & AM: We’ve been dancing for about 6 years and have been partners for almost that long.

FB: Tell us what category you are in—both Latin and Standard?

NZ & AM: We dance both Latin and Standard. Currently we are in the Under 16 year-old category (Junior 2) but always love challenging ourselves to compete in the category above, so we’ve started dancing Under 19 year-old category (Youth) as well.

FB: Since you won both Latin and Standard, what is the easiest or your favorite dance and what is the most difficult or hardest dance for you?

NZ: My easiest dances are probably Rumba and Foxtrot and the ones I find most challenging are probably Tango and Cha Cha Cha.

AM: My favorite dances in Latin are Cha Cha Cha and Paso Doble, and in Standard, I love Waltz and Foxtrot.

FB: To become all out winners in both Latin and Standard, how much training goes into your dancing technique? How many days a week and how many hours a week do you practice?

NZ & AM: Between Latin private lessons, Ballroom private lessons, group classes in both styles, run-throughs and ballet classes, we dance 4-5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Along with training, a lot of other elements need to fall into place to become successful in ballroom dancing.

FB: I think I know what you mean about being successful and hard work, obviously Dima and Olga Sukachov are a big influence in your winning style. Please tell us about your association with Sukachov Dance Academy and what working with your teachers means to you?

NZ & AM: Dima and Olga are truly the best and most dedicated teachers we could ask for and none of our achievements would be possible without their hard work and commitment to us. Their belief that we can be the best really motivates us to work hard. We are very grateful to have them as our teachers. They also introduced us to their mentor and guru Mr. Ray Rivers, who has a huge influence in our dancing. Also, Mr. Ray Rivers introduced us to Mr. Colin James and Mr. Greg Smith.

Dima and Olga made sponsorship from one of the best companies in our industry possible. IDS (International Dance Shoes) is our sponsor and our choice for dance shoes. So, we have a very strong team behind us and we are doing everything to make them proud.

Photo Provided by Sukachov Dance Academy

FB: Wow, this is all very impressive!

FB: How have these pandemic times changed your lives, if at all, in living and coping day to day? Tell us how dancing and practicing with each other had to change?

NZ & AM: Before the pandemic, we traveled or attended competitions every month. It was a big part of our training to dance in a competitive environment. Covid has definitely changed the number of competitions we can attend. For safety, we have taken as many precautions as we can, but we continue to dance and train the same way as before the pandemic. We try to take advantage of all possibilities to work hard and improve, and continue to search for as many competitions as we can.

FB: Did you both take time off of dance to abide by covid restrictions or do other types of exercise or hobbies?

NZ & AM: When "shelter in place" first went into effect in California, we switched to Zoom classes for both regular schooling and dance. It was an adjustment, but we didn’t want to take any time off from dancing because we didn’t know when things would go back to normal. We’re looking forward to the world opening back up.

FB: Can you share with our readers and young dancers, the one thing they would need to have to become winners, like yourselves?


AM: Never fall into your comfort zone!

FB: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?

NZ & AM: We would like to say thank you so much to Fordney Foundation for supporting young dancers like us. We are honored to be recipients of the Top Couple of the Year award in both Ballroom and Latin Styles. We are also proud to be part of the Top Youth Studio of the Year honoring SDA Sukachov Dance Academy.

Special “Thank you” to Sam Sodano who is a big supporter of youth dancing in the United States of America and the man behind the Ohio Star Ball, the most prestigious competition in America!

***We have received contributions from individuals who would like to have a dear relative or friend who passed on remembered that loved to dance or was a dance aficionado. We call these memorial contributions. Perhaps you would like to have someone memorialized in this manner. Make a donation and give us their name. We have on our website a yellow brick road to engrave their name to a brick as a memorial to that person. This contribution will assist future generations of dancers and help keep young people more positive and healthy.

Thought Of The Week:

"Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement." - Aldous Huxley

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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website

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