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Trebunskaya sambas with Detroit ice dancers

Dancing with the Stars pro teaches some Latin moves

Jordan Cowan, Anastasia Olson, Anna Trebunskaya, Zach Donohue and Madison Hubbell.
Jordan Cowan, Anastasia Olson, Anna Trebunskaya, Zach Donohue and Madison Hubbell. (Jacque Tiegs)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(08/18/2011) - During a recent trip to Detroit to do some teaching with husband Jonathan Roberts, Anna Trebunskaya received an icy request -- please work with some of the ice dance teams from the Detroit Skating Club. During two one-hour lessons at a local Fred Astaire dance studio, Trebunskaya, who partnered Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek on season 10 of Dancing with the Stars, gave insight into the samba.

"We wanted to get into the essence of the dance, trying to bring out the charisma of the samba," says Trebunskaya. "I gave them a few pointers and a few technical things.

"It's quite interesting to work with skaters because you can't really talk about footwork," she adds. "They're on the ice and have to keep gliding and doing their proper placement of the blades and all that stuff. It's really working from the waist up. Of course, some partner stuff and some chemistry. Maybe creating a story a little bit."

French ice dancers Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat opted for a private lesson with Trebunskaya. They utilized the opportunity to ask her questions about aspects of Latin dancing that they will use in their short dance.

"They seemed like a lovely couple, both beautiful people," Trebunskaya says. "Great athletes absolutely.

"A couple of the things they said made me understand how serious, athletic and professional they are. They really know what they want.

"That gave me a little extra satisfaction because I don't often get to work with people who know what they want. This was definitely a treat."

That session gave Trebunskaya additional insight to what will and won't work on the ice. She made technical suggestions, but on a couple of them Bourzat was honest to say he wouldn't be able to execute those things on the ice. Among those is hip action, which is virtually impossible for skaters when in motion.

The second session was a group class for several U.S. and Canadian couples including Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue and Anastasia Olson and Jordan Cowan.

"Right away, from the first minute, we could tell that she's the real deal -- her intensity and her enthusiasm for ballroom dance and especially the samba came through," says Weaver. She and Poje are huge Dancing with the Stars fans and were thrilled by the opportunity to work with Trebunskaya.

"We tried to soak it all in as much as we could," she continues. "Even when she would demonstrate an arm movement or something pretty small, we tried to capture it and use that for ourselves on the ice."

Neither Anjelika Krylova nor Pasquale Camerlengo was on hand for the lessons, but Massimo Scali was there taking notes.

Trebunskaya says the ice dancers all seemed to enjoy the lessons, and she hopes they picked up some useful information. Although they'd all obviously taken Latin dance classes -- this was their regular dance studio -- sometimes a fresh perspective can provide additional insight.

With hip action off the table, so to speak, Trebunskaya worked at creating the right look that would be compatible with skating technique. She and Roberts own a dance studio, You Can Dance, in Hermosa Beach, Calif. She considers herself both a choreographer and a technical coach, and she'd love to do more work with skaters.

"I like to see that people are improving and getting better," Trebunskaya says. "Whether they need choreography or technical coaching, I'll do it. If it's talking about chemistry or talking about arm styling, I'm a fan of anything that is artistic and brings improvement.

"I love both performing and teaching. I think those are two essential parts to being a dancer. To be able to perform yourself, but also translate it to other people and teach them how they can do it."

In fact, she's been teaching since she was 12 years old. She says Dancing with the Stars taught her the approach necessary to work with skaters.

"When you're training celebrities and you only have a week to teach them a dance and you're trying to teach them what it's about, of course you're not going to have perfect footwork," Trebunskaya explains. "As long as they're grabbing that flavor, that essence, that image of the dance, they'll be able to perform it.

"In that aspect, I feel I'm quite qualified to teach anybody about the essence of a certain dance or a certain group of dances."

The most important thing, she says, is that the ice dancers enjoy their performances and bring the audience into that enjoyment.

At press time, Trebunskaya was awaiting word about whether she'll be on the fall season of Dancing with the Stars. The season premiere is Sept. 19. The celebrity cast will be revealed on Aug. 29.