Who are the 10 best male Ballroom dancers of all time? Everyone of course will have their own opinion and each will be right in their own way. In even attempting to begin to devise a top 10, I believed it was not possible, nor fair, to only factor in amount of titles won.
Throughout the years, there have been many great dancers who for various reasons, never won a World title but added a tremendous amount to Ballroom dancing. Therefore, in creating this list, I have found it prudent to take into account other aspects such as their technical level, their showmanship, style and their teachings. So here is my top 10!
10 - Dmitry Zharkov
First on this list is a young man of dance who I believe will dominate the competitive scene for many years to come. With the dancing world split by the WDC/WDSF dispute, Zharkov is perhaps the perfect hybrid of the two, combining the elegance and tradition of the WDC, with the power and athleticism of the WDSF. Zharkov possesses a fantastic fluidity to his body which allows him to create exquisite lines and shapes.
Some critics would claim that some of the lines and shapes become too self-indulgent, however no couple has perhaps quite harmonised the style of the WDC and WDSF so well.
Along with their breath-taking and creative choreography, Zharkov is certainly a dancer destined for great things.
9 – Peter Eggleton
Ask many dancers of the 1960's who their favourite dancer of the time was and many will say Peter Eggleton. A 3 time World Champion, Eggleton brought an exciting style to Ballroom which had not been seen before.
Known best for his Quickstep, Eggleton combined his ability to move quickly around the floor, with fast leaps and footwork which astonished the audience.
Unfortunately, very little public video footage remains of this great champion in his prime. However we no doubt have Eggleton to thank for bringing a fresh, exurberant style, which has helped to progress Ballroom dancing into what we see today.
8 - William Pino
Pino can be described as the dancing version of marmite; you either love him or you hate him. However, despite his critics, he is a worthy candidate in the top 10. Known by some as the best dancer to never win the World Title, Pino you could say was the Champion of the ‘Smaller Dancer,’ conquering the myth that you need to be a long limbed Adonis to be the best. Pino competed at his peak in the 90’s/early 00’s, a time when Ballroom was going through a period of stylistic change, which Pino certainly helped spearhead.
Known for their quirky choreography, this was best displayed in their Tango which combined fast and intricate footwork, followed by expansive movement across the floor.
Unlucky to not win a World Title during a glittering career, Pino I’m sure would like to be remembered for perhaps introducing the most unique style of Ballroom dancing the World has seen to date.
7 – Andrew Sinkinson
One of the greatest technical dancers of all time, Sinkinson was only denied a World Title by the great Marcus Hilton and John Wood. In any other era, Sinkinson would have been a multiple World Champion. Much like Andy Murray in the tennis world, he was a great dancer born at the wrong time. Rightly praised for his impeccable technique, Sinkinson sadly lacked the missing ingredient that makes a World Champion; showmanship.
Despite this however, Sinkinson should be well remembered for championing basic choreography over flashier steps, proving the point that it is better to do the basics well, then the complicated averagely.
6 - Richard Gleave
An 8 times World Champion, Gleave reigned supreme during the 70's. Building on the legacy of the Irvines in the 60's, Gleave was perhaps the first dancer to bring a 'modern' style of dancing to the scene.
Combining the customary grace that epitomises Ballroom, it was Gleave's ability to effortlessly glide across the floor that made him stand out against his rivals. Equally, Gleave was perhaps the first World Champion to experiment with the hold, preferring a wider and more expansive frame (which is the norm today), to the more insular, compact frame favoured of the day.
5 - John Wood
A man hailing from my neck of the woods, Stoke-on-Trent, John Wood was famed for his numerous battles against the Hiltons in the late 80’s/early 90’s and is perhaps the most physically imposing male Ballroom dancer on my list. With a commanding build and frame, Wood’s raw power was the perfect challenge to the Hilton’s polar opposite emphasis on grace and softness.
Perhaps a true measure of a great male dancer is to be successful with multiple partners which Wood certainly was. Though winning the Professional World Championship with Anne Lewis, Wood was also a great champion with partners such as Heather Stuart and Julie Sohl, proving that no matter the partner, his class and ability shone through.
4 - Arunas Bizokas
The current Professional Ballroom Champion is not to everyone’s taste, but no one can deny that he has dominated the Professional Ballroom category, remaining undefeated from 2009 to date.
Possessor of possibly the best top line on our list, Arunas has what every male Ballroom dancer dreams of, the perfect flat shoulder line, coupled with his ability for it to remain absolutely still from the first beat of the graceful Waltz to the last energetic beat of the Quickstep. It is this stillness which elevates Arunas above all of his contemporaries, giving him the most elegant and effortless look on the floor.
Critics would say that he was Champion at a time when there were few ‘great’ couples to rival him, and that his unmemorable show dances make him perhaps a less likable champion. However, the stats do not lie and Arunas looks set to continue to dominate the field for years to come.
3 - Bill Irvine
Ah, now here we have a man who could dance! Ballroom’s first post WW2 Superstar and King of the 60’s, Bill Irvine. A 7 Times World Champion, he is remembered so fondly for his Ballroom that people sometimes forget that Bill and his partner Bobby were also multiple times World Professional Latin Champion, the only couple to achieve this.
At a time when Ballroom and Latin dancing was becoming really formalised by the technique books of Walter Laird and Guy Howard, Irvine combined the technique of dancing with the effortless grace that it epitomises. The Irvines were perhaps one of the most compact and well balanced couple on this list, which along with their charming charisma on the floor, helped them to dominate the pack.
Compared to modern standards, Irvine’s dancing was not quite as athletic or as complex. However, for their time, they were the best.
2 - Marcus Hilton
Narrowly missing out on top spot, we have Marcus Hilton, the most decorated male dancer of all time. A record 9 times World Professional Champion, Marcus and his partner Karen dominated the 90’s with their flawless technique and outstanding showmanship. Any young, aspiring dancer would be wise to study Hilton’s dancing.
Blessed with a slim build and beautiful posture, this helped to produce the most exquisite top line. Coupled with their excellent choice of choreography and mesmerising charm on and off the floor, the Hilton’s can only be described as the perfect dancing machine.
1 - Mirko Gozzoli
Here we are, number one and few could argue that he is undeserving of such a title, the irresistible Mirko Gozzoli! A four time World Champion between 2005 and 2008, Mirko was King at a time Ballroom had arguably reached its zenith.
Competing at a time of Victor Fung, Chris Hawkins, Timothy Howson, Arunas Bizokas to name a few, Mirko blew away the competition, remaining undefeated with Alessia from 2005 to 2009.
No other male dancer has perhaps combined the elegance, power, musicality and charisma that Mirko mastered. Possessing an impeccable floorcraft, he had an ability to weave in and out of other couples with ease, demonstrating his outstanding awareness of other couples around him.
As well as a flawless technique, Mirko’s was also famed for his revolutionary choreography, which has inspired many competitive couples to this day. Few men of dance can say they have not at least tried a bit of a Gozzoli Tango, in an effort to emulate their hero!
As Ballroom dancing inevitably mutates and progresses into the future, we will perhaps one day look back on his time and call it the Golden Age of Ballroom dancing.
So there we have my top 10. All incredible dancers in their own right and of course, beautifully complimented by their partners! Do you agree with my top 10? Please leave your comments below.