Top 10 Greatest Ballroom Couples of All Time
A regular conversation I have with pupils and fellow teachers alike is who are the best dance couples of all time. With Ballroom World Championships being held since 1922, it is always difficult to compare dancers from different eras. As in other sports, how does one compare George Best playing with hobnail boots on mud-fields to Lionel Messi playing on pristine pitches, or Bjorn Bjorg playing with wooden rackets compared to Roger Federer today?
It is generally accepted that the dancing of today is vastly more technical and athletic compared to previous era's. To compile this list, I have taken into account not just technical efficiency, but also titles won, performance level, style, teachings and uniqueness. For fairness, I have decided not to include dancers in this list more then once, instead going for who I thought was their best partnership if they had multiple partners in their career.
So here is my top 10 Greatest Ballroom Couple's of All Time list! As ever, let me know if you agree.
10. Victor Fung and Anastasia Muravyova
Competing between 2010 and 2019, Victor and Anastasia were unlucky to only win one International and one British Open during their time competing together. Much like Andy Murray in the tennis world, Victor and Anastasia were unfortunate to be competing at a time where two of the greatest couple's, Arunas and Katusha and Mirko and Edita were at their peak.
A solid top 3 couple in all major events for 10 years, Victor and Anastasia were admired for their power on the floor and hard-work and determination off it to be the best they could be.
9. William Pino and Alessandra Bucciarelli
William and Alessandra had an outstanding Amateur career, winning all major honours, including the World Championships in 1999. This success did not quite translate over to their Professional career (which spanned from 2000-2006) where they regularly placed in the middle to bottom end of the major finals. However, what they lacked in silverware they certainly made up for in style!
An extremely diminutive and sleight couple, their strength lay in their speed and quirky choreography, which was groundbreaking for the time. Their unique style and flair on the competition floor, coupled with their memorable show-dances have helped them gain a cult like following in the dance world.
8. Christopher Hawkins and Hazel Newberry
A 3 time World Champion between 2002-2004, Christopher and Hazel were King and Queen of the floor during a Golden Era of Ballroom dancing.
With bagfuls of personality on the floor and a youthful exuberance to their dancing, it is easy to see why they dominated the field during a time of some great dancers. Uniquely, Hazel sported a short crop hairstyle which while normal in today's Latin world, was unusual at the time in Ballroom.
7. Richard and Janet Gleave
An 8 time World Champion between 1973-1980, Richard and Janet were somewhat of the 'missing link' between the dancing of yesterday compared to today.
Richard and Janet were one of the first couple's to use a wider ballroom hold, compared to the more compact style of the 50's and 60's. This, coupled with their more expansive movement and intricate choreography, helped pave the way for the more modern way of dancing which was seeded in the 80's, grew during the 90's and finally blossomed in the 00's.
6. Luca Barrichi and Lorraine Barry
A two time World Champion in 1999 and 2001, these victories would have been even more the sweeter for Lorraine, after being overshadowed for so long by the legendary couples of Wood/Lewis and Marcus and Karen Hilton whilst dancing with her former partner, Andrew Sinkinson.
At a time when choreography was beginning to develop to a new level of complexity, Luca and Lorraine championed the basic principles, which allied with their huge wingspan, progressive movement and exquisite body use, made them one of the best couple's at the turn of the millennium.
5. John Wood and Anne Lewis
Audiences always adore famous rivalries. Football has Ronaldo/Messi, Tennis has Federer/Nadal, Ballroom dancing had Wood/Lewis vs. Hiltons during the late 80's, early 90's.
World Champion in 1989 and sweeping all major honors, including the UK, International, British Open and European titles, John and Anne were pioneers in elevating Ballroom dancing to an even higher level of artistry. Renowned for their raw power, strong movement and passion for dance, their rivalry with the Hilton's captivated the dance world. Now both highly respected teachers and adjudicators, they are at the forefront of training the next generation of dance legends.
4. Bill and Bobbie Irvine
Ahh...Bill and Bobbie. One of the greatest compliments you could give this couple is that they could also be included in a list of the top 10 Greatest Latin couples. Completely dominating the 1960's, not only were they a 7 time World Ballroom Champion, but they also won the Word Latin Championships 3 times, the only couple in history to win both titles.
One of the dance worlds first superstars, Bill and Bobbie had it all; an electric charisma on the floor, beautifully soft, flowing movement and tremendous musicality.
Awarded the MBE in 1967, an illustrious career followed once they retired from competitions, becoming highly respected teachers and adjudicators.
3. Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova
Recently retired, Arunas and Katusha had a stranglehold on the Ballroom world for over a decade. Undefeated between 2009 and 2019, Arunas and Katusha won an incredible 132 recorded competitions in a row, including 10 World titles and never finishing in lower than second place during their 11 year partnership.
Somewhat of a throwback to dancing from yesteryear, Arunas and Katusha championed a softer and more flowing type of dancing, compared to the more energetic, choreographically dense dancing of their peers. Blessed with an immaculate posture and top-line, many respected professionals have stated they had one of the best ballroom frames of all-time.
2. Marcus and Karen Hilton
Narrowly missing out on top spot, we have the legendary duo of Marcus and Karen. A 9 time World Champion between 1990 and 1998, Marcus and Karen shared a friendly rivalry with John and Anne, which pushed both couples to their creative limits.
While John and Anne favoring the more powerful style, Marcus and Karen performed with a more classical style, emphasising the gracefulness of the swing dances to maximum effect. Blessed with a beautiful silhouette, Marcus and Karen were able to make even the most complex choreography appear effortless.
Retiring on a high in 1998, they are both still very active in the dance world, with Marcus recently being named the new President of the British Dance Council.
1. Mirko Gozzoli and Alessia Betti
So our number one Ballroom couple of all-time, reigning supreme over all else is the legendary Mirko and Alessia.
A four time World Champion between 2005 and 2008, Mirko and Alessia raised the standard of dancing to a level of which we may never see again. Where their contemporaries styled their dancing on certain attributes such as grace, power, speed etc, Mirko and Alessia simply could do it all. A loping, graceful Waltz, a powerful, dramatic Tango or a light, fizzy Quickstep, they characterised each dance to perfection.
With impeccable floor-craft, a flawless top-line, unique choreography and sparkling personalities, they were the ultimate dancing machine which in their prime, was unstoppable. Splitting their partnership in 2009, you feel that Mirko and Alessia would have dominated far into the 2010's if they had continued together.