In NBC’s third episode of “World of Dance,” the ballroom duo, DNA, takes center stage.
DNA is the stage name for Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina, a Ukrainian-born couple based in New York who have been dancing together for more than 10 years. Drozdyuk is a three-time World Ballroom Dance champion and the 2010 winner of “So You Think You Can Dance Canada.” Together they are two-time USA National Latin Champions and the first American couple to win the Blackpool Amateur Rising Stars Latin Championship in England.
They both began training in ballroom as an after-school activity as children: Drozdyuk when he was age 4 in Chernivtsy and Skobina when she was age 7 in Mariupol. They moved at different times to Berlin, which was popular then among ballroom dancers because it had some of the best training programs in Europe.
Drozdyuk was the first ballroom dancer to be accepted to the Julliard School and began taking classes there in 2005. In 2006, they decided to take each other on as new dance partners.
But a meeting arranged by their German instructor, Janet Marmulla, in 2006 brought them together.
“The first time we touched each other’s hands we both felt it was meant to be,” said Skobina. “It was that instant, indescribable connection. On a dance level, we connected immediately.”
Two months later, then-17-year-old Skobina joined Drozdyuk in New York where she started taking acting classes at the New York Film Academy. Their hectic schedules made it not only difficult to practice, but also to get to know one another. They soon discovered they have very different, but complimentary personalities, which play a big role in the way they choreograph their routines.
“Because Antonina is more spontaneous and bubbly, she can create something on the spot,” said Drozdyuk.
Skobina quickly interjected: “I’m more responsible for the emotional side of it. I always like our choreography to be very emotional and show our soul.”
Drozdyuk says he takes care of the musical side of it: “The layout, the ingredients…also combining more styles and more range of movement.”
Since becoming involved with “World of Dance,” DNA has incorporated a wider variety of elements from styles such as hip hop and contemporary into their numbers, despite their involvement in rule-oriented dancing. Through their participation on the show, they have become a part of an even larger community of dancers, whom they learn from and have grown close with, such as Keone & Mari and Fik-Shun.
The most difficult thing about being on “World of Dance,” they said, was the fact that the cameras were always on backstage, similar to reality TV shows. Because their rehearsals and pre-performance warm-ups were constantly being evaluated or filmed, there was strong pressure to always be on even when not onstage, which can be hard on the body.
The process of recording the show started in August of 2016, just after the couple married in July. They feel proud to represent ballroom on a new and broad-audience platform that encourages more freedom in style and artistry than traditional ballroom.
“The level of talent that on the show is overwhelming because everybody’s so good and everybody’s so serious about what they do,” said Skobina. “You get this one chance: you go on stage and you have to do your very best. You have to wow the judges and hope that everything works the way you practiced.”