Sophia D’angelo – Pro/Am Dancer Extraordinaire – (one of) “The Ladies of Ballroom”

Sophia & Ilya 1st Place US Title Open – Ohio Star Ball

The Fordney Foundation had the privilege of catching up with the very busy and lovely Sophia D’angelo.  Not only is she a great dancer, you can see from her pictures, she is wonderfully photogenic too!  No wonder she consistently wins at Pro/AM competitions.  Sophia is also part of the brand

new CD project that we are all very excited about. We think you will enjoy getting to know

Sophia and Ilya

Sophia and will find her dance journey and accomplishments in life quite fascinating as well.

Sophia D’angelo:   Thank you Fordney Foundation for asking me to participate in your interview for the “The Ladies of Ballroom” CD project. I am more than happy to be a contributor and to see that this project comes to its fruition. I look forward to hearing from all the “Ladies.”

Freddie Brock:   How did you first become interested in dance?

SD:   Dancing has always been in some form or fashion a part of my life. Whether it was my early ballet training in Chicago at the Chicago City Ballet and Evanston School of Ballet, or my mid years training and occasionally performing with Gus Giordano Dance or Hubbard Street Dance, or even my dabble in musical theatre.  It all led me down the path to Point Park College where I was to study dance and music. However, one can make plans and then life happens. The summer of my high school graduation I had a life changing moment when my dearest and best friend, who had been my musical partner, she on the piano and me on the flute, was tragically killed in a drunk driving accident. That moment shifted my perspective and my ability to stay in school. I left my flute behind, those dreams, school and at 18 moved to San Francisco on my own.

FB:   Wow, that is quite a lot to take on and there were some dramatic moments for you at such a young age.

FB:   Tell us a little about your dance background, your competition experiences, etc.

1st Pace Open 9 Dance – Ohio Star Ball

SD:   Years past, I met my husband and moved to Washington DC to raise our children now ages 25, 23, and 21. My dreams of being a dancer quickly went by the wayside. I returned to school and received a Masters in Social Work and opened a private practice for couples and families. I became an avid cyclist and swimmer and trained for triathalons. Once again, plans may be made and then life happens. In the early years of raising my children, two of my three children had a life threatening illness which had me refocus once again. Both are well, one road cycling and racing for the Tulane cycling team and the other a professional dancer. But with that shift also stirred the sleeping lion and reminded me that life is short and whatever dreams we have may be muted but they don’t really go away.

Sophia’s Family

FB:   There again, I can see that you were meant to have an exciting life.  Sophia, you can do a lot of things!

FB:   How long have you been dancing in Pro/Am competitions?

Ilya and Sophia

SD:   Years later I met a woman who introduced me to the idea of dancing and competing. I was an avid fan of Ballroom dancing as I grew up watching Ron Montez and Juilet Prouse on PBS. I had no idea that there was a way to both compete and dance. She directed me to the nearest studio in Virginia where I met Mike Baris who suggested I just take a couple of lessons. And off I went!

I have now been dancing with Ilya Reyzin for about 19 months. I am so grateful to have the chance to work with him as my coach and my dance partner. I love the athleticism, the laser focus, and the artistic quality that he has. I think my moments dancing with Ilya have been some of the most difficult in terms of sheer training hours and the quality of perfection that he demands but also the most gratifying moments. Our hard work and dedication have been very rewarding.

Ilya and Sophia

I am also very lucky to be coached by and dance with Michael Choi. We compete in theatre arts together. It is a very magical sort of dance. It combines the elements of my ballet training with my theatre training and my love of being partnered. Both of these amazing men have given me a second or perhaps a third chance in life to do what I think is core to who I feel I am.

FB:   What is your favorite dance you like to perform?

SD:   Some of my favorite dances to perform in the American style dances are Viennese Waltz, Bolero, and Swing. I love the Viennese Waltz for

1st Place – World Championship

many reasons. It combines the elements of fluid motion, and sweeping crescendos. I think it requires the most and best of all the dances from sheer power, to elegance and grace and plays on the partnership in a beautiful way. As it is the last dance, I have learned something about myself in this which is that I love the challenge of feeling tired and pushing through that challenge and how important it is to give it all I have no matter how I feel. I love that it requires me to move fluidly and bigger. As for the Bolero, I enjoy the large sweeping movements and the connection one needs to have with their partner. And I love the quickness and the energy of the Swing.

Ilya and Sophia 2015 US DanceSport

FB:   Sophia, I admire how vividly you can paint a picture.  Through your explanation, I could actually see and almost feel what you went through in your dance movements.

FB:   How did you first hear about “The Ladies of Ballroom” project?

SD:   I first heard of this project while Brent Mills and I were having coffee one day about 2 years ago. He began to talk about his ideas to create a compilation for American Rhythm and Smooth dances. Putting our thoughts together, we came up with the idea of “The Ladies of Ballroom.” I

Ilya and Sophia

2015 US DanceSport

suggested reaching out to women that I thought might be interested in the project. The response from many of the women I called or sent letters to was amazingly positive. I do think that as this takes off, we will be able to continue this project for many years to come. I think Brent is filled with fantastic ideas, is tremendously energetic and creative and is a very talented musician as well.

FB:  How did you decide on the songs you wanted for the project? Is there anything you would like to tell us about song selection for a CD that you discovered?

SD:  Some of the songs I selected for this CD have to do with the timing of when I was asked. At the time I chose the songs, Prince had died. I was listening to all of his songs and some of them were perfect to be made into a Cha Cha, a Rumba or a Viennese Waltz. I do, however, pick songs (I now see) that all have some powerful beat or crescendo.

FB:  Is there anything else you would like to say either about ‘The Ladies of Ballroom’ project or ballroom dancing, competitions etc.?

SD:  I think the “Ladies of the Ballroom” is a tremendously worthwhile project. In all other sports or artistic endeavors, there are ways to insure that those who could not afford to participate get the opportunity.  In this case, it is children, that can now be given that opportunity. The contributions from “The Ladies of Ballroom” project will give children a chance to experience the colorful world of ballroom dance in ways they may have only dreamed of before. I am not sure that I could have been the student in school

Michael and Sophia

that I ended up being or the person I am today as a mother and a therapist, if it wasn’t for my dance training. I think if we can get more children to learn the discipline one needs as a dancer, the coordination with another, the listening skills encompassing your eyes, ears and body, and the ability to train with a coach and overcome whatever personal struggle one might have through sheer determination and focus; than we will be giving a child more of an opportunity than they had even dreamed possible.

Congratulations on being one of the first “Ladies of Ballroom.” We thank you again, Sophia, for sharing your provocative story with us and being an inspiration for others to become involved in this worthwhile project!  Most of all, we thank you for helping the Fordney Foundation bring opportunity to more young dancers out there who want to pursue a career

Ilya and Sophia with Jonathan Roberts US Title Open – 1st Place

in ballroom/dancesport dancing and may not be able to.  A percentage of the proceeds from the CDs sold will be awarded to the Fordney Foundation.  Being involved with “The Ladies of Ballroom” CD project

has definite potential to create a whole new dance experience for many people on many levels.

Thought Of The Week:

A wonderful thing to say every day to yourself is “what can I learn today?”   –  Louise Hay



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