About Corky Ballas
Despite his immeasurable success in the field, Ballas' ascension into the world of ballroom dance was anything but traditional. Unlike many other competitors who enter the professional ballroom world as young children, Ballas did not start his training until the age of 18. However, his dedication and talent made him a winning competitor, skilled professional judge, and successful entrepreneur in the world of ballroom dance.
With a father who owned the largest dance studios in his hometown of Houston, TX and with a famous flamenco dancer mother, Ballas was always around dance as an art form. He started dancing at the age of six, beginning with flamenco dancing and then moved into American Style Latin dance - referred to as Rhythm. However, Ballas found his passion for competitive partner dancing as a disco champion at the peak of the late 1970s "Saturday Night Fever" (1977) rush. As that era came to an end, Ballas yearned to continue competing in partner dance styles. In his search, he came upon International Latin Style dance competition with circuits in the US and abroad. At the age of 18 years old, Ballas immediately started training in this style and tried his hand as an amateur competitor.
His first title came soon thereafter when he - with his partner, pro dancer Patrea Lockie - became the U.S. Pro/Am Champion and held this title for three years. It was not long before Ballas decided to compete in the professional circuit. After watching a pro dancer Shirley Rich compete in a national competition, Ballas decided to convince her to train and partner with him for professional rank competitions. Within eight months of working with one another, Ballas became the United States Champion; subsequently holding that national title for eight years. Ballas and Rich, who later became his wife, continued as dance partners, winning numerous titles. Over the years, they also performed on numerous local and national television broadcasts, including PBS.
In an effort to compete on a more international stage, Ballas moved to the UK and studied there for 16 years. Within that time, Ballas won numerous prestigious titles, including being named the British National Champion, The World Latin Champion, and winning The Open World British Championship, the most coveted title in all of ballroom competitions. After reaching all of his competition goals, Ballas retired in 1996.
While in the UK, he also trained his son, and fellow Dancing with the Stars pro dancers, Julianne and Derek Hough - both of whom lived with Ballas and his family in their formative years. Additionally, Ballas has trained most of the professional dancers on "Dancing with the Stars," including Tony Dovolani, Karina Smirnoff, Alec Mazo, Edyta Sliwinska, Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya. Since retiring in 1996, Ballas presided as a judge over numerous professional ballroom competitions. He also established his own company, Learn to Dance, which focused on teaching up-and-coming performers, as well as published the Latin instruction manual, See It and Do It, a technique book filled with photographs that teaches readers the Rumba. Additionally, Ballas filmed over 70 instructional dance DVDs.
Apart from his stint on "Dancing with the Stars," Ballas' career came full circle again, competing in Pro/Am Championship competitions - however, now he competes as the pro. He came out of retirement to compete in the World Pro/Am Championships with student Anne Shapira. The result, together Ballas and Shapira won the World Professional Latin Title in 2008.