See also: Categories: Instructors, Adjudicators, Dancers, Latin
Hometown: Liège, Belgium
Current location: London, United Kingdom
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OverviewJoanna Leunis has become an iconic female in the Latin world, instantly recognizable with her bright blonde hair, charismatic style, and lightning-quick spins. It might therefore come as a shock to many that off the floor, she is incredibly shy and softly spoken, often leaving partner Michael Malitowski to do most of the talking.
Joanna started dancing again at nine years old after a blood disease similar to leukemia, had left her unable to get out of bed for nearly a year. She wanted to get control back of her body and so started dance classes with the support of her family and has never looked back.
The BeginningJoanna fell in love with dance, as soon as she was able to walk. When she was 3 years old, she enjoyed dancing with her grandfather as well as with her father, saying how he would pick her up and they would move together.
At the age of 6, Joanna began dancing several types of styles, and at the age of 10, was introduced to Ballroom. At that time, it was not very popular in her home country of Belgium. Leunis had only recovered from the disease, but her father, knowing his daughter's dream, supported it. With that, they hit the local dance school on its opening day.
There was a shortage of partners at the time and only after a few months of classes did Joanna partner with the only boy in the studio. His parents were once a competitive couple and therefore often trained the young pair. However, the partner was more into ballet and 2 years later decided that he would return to his old hobby.
After some time, Joanna met a new partner, Otto Cailliau, with whom she won the Belgian 10-Dance Championship. However, the young man decided that his education would be his main focus and decided to quit dancing. Joanna was about 15 years old and was without a partner, yet already had experience in international competition.
One of her idols was Ruud Vermeij and she soon became his student. The famous coach found a worthy partner for her, Mario Wild, with whom she further developed her talent.
AmateurJoanna's new partnership with Mario was her launch into a successful competitive career in DanceSport. She and Mario debuted at the IDSF International Open Championships in October of 1996 in her native Belgium. The pair won 3rd place in the Amateur Latin program. Their best result was their performance in the 1998 Albena Open Championships in Bulgaria on 16 May. Here, the dance duo won the Amateur Latin Championship. The couple split after the Alassio Open, which took place on June 27, 1998, in Italy, where the couple took 4th place.
From 1998 to 2000, Joanna danced with Slavik Kryklyvyy. With him, she was officially registered in the Amateur division for Belgium. One of their first competitions together was the 1999 UK Open Championships, held in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. Their performance in the Rising Star division earned them 1st place. Already in the year 2000, they achieved victories in the Amateur Latin divisions in both the Blackpool Dance Festival and the US Open in Miami (USA) at the World Championship. After their victory of becoming the Amateur Latin World Champions, the couple terminated their partnership. Joanna at the time was only 18 years old and the results that she had already achieved were unheard of.
At the end of 2000, Joanna Leunis partnered with Louis Van Amstel and entered the Professional arena.
ProfessionalJoanna's new partnership with Louis Van Amstel was short-lived from January 2001 to October 2002. Together, they represented the United States. Their first performance took place in Blackpool.
The couple repeatedly won many victories in the United States, including 1st place at the 2002 Emerald Ball on April 28 in Los Angeles (USA), which became their highest achievement together. They also became the United States National Professional South American Showdance Champions.
According to Joanna, Louis was more drawn to show business, Broadway, and theater, which was not similar to the preferences of the most competitive Joanna. Soon, Louis retired from Professional dancing, and the question of a new partner for Joanna opened up once again.
Michael MalitowskiA new revolution in Joanna's dance career began with her alliance with Michael Malitowski. She said to herself that she had been noticing him for a long time on the dance floor. Therefore, with Ruud Vermeij offering, Joanna immediately agreed to a new partnership. It was at this moment that Joanna was sure everything would turn out the way it should. The couple officially appeared in the Autumn of 2002, representing Poland.
Their first tournament was held in the Netherlands, the World Dance & Dance Sport Council World Professional South American Showdance Championship of 2002. Their debut brought them victory. Starting with a good result, the Polish duo did not stop advancing. In 2003, they became Champions of Poland, won the Professional Rising Star at the UK Open Championships, and gathered more victories in the Netherlands, Ireland, Indonesia, Singapore, China, and France. In 2004, Leunis and Malitowski entered the final of the Blackpool Dance Festival, and once again become champions of the World Professional South American Showdance Championships.
In subsequent years, the pair strenuously went ahead and showed increasingly better results. In 2008, for the first time, Michael and Joanna stepped onto the highest position of the podium at the Blackpool Dance Festival. The event took place on May 28 which will be memories remembered by the couple forever. Leunis and Malitowski became reigning champions of this competition for eight years running. The couple also took first place at many other international Championships worldwide. Joanna said that attaining victory for the first time is always easier than keeping your title year after year, however, constantly having to prove yourself and keeping your title is an incomparable feeling. Joanna also admits that she could achieve this only in cooperation with Michael and considers it their advantage as a pair. They both love to work, which resulted in the list of their achievements of victories.
The most important thing for Leunis in her dancing was to show all of her skills as much as she possibly could. Joanna shares that she took a lot of lessons in modern dance, in addition to the technical side of her training, to learn how to better show and express emotion and artistry.
In 2011, Joanna and Michael began to represent England. She particularly liked the judges of British competitions and also believed that she and Michael still had room to grow and develop. Therefore, working in the UK would continue to help them blossom.
Even though Leunis herself did not believe that she brought something major into the world of dance history, in April 2012, she and Michael were invited to perform in the show Dance Legends. They also participated in The World Super Stars Dance Festival.
After their eighth consecutive win at the Blackpool Dance Festival on May 27, 2015, Michael and Joanna announced their retirement from competitive dancing. A short while after this, the couple announced that they were expecting. In 2016, a beautiful baby girl was born, Lia Michelle.
Life After CompetitionJoanna continues to dance. She and Michael often perform at various events and continue to spread their knowledge by instructing the generations of dancers in the competition.
- 8-time Blackpool Dance Festival Professional Latin Champion (2008-2015)
- 9-time UK Open Championships Professional Latin Champion (2007-2015)
- 9-time International Professional Latin Champion (2005-2011, 2013-2014)
- 2-time WDC World Professional Latin Champion (2008-2009)
- WDC German Open World Professional Latin Champion (2014)
- 8-time World Cup Professional Latin Champion (2005, 2009-2010, 2012-2014)
- 2-time Kremlin Cup Professional Latin Champion (2007, 2012)
- 6-time European Professional Latin Champion (2007-2012)
- Dutch Open South American Professional Showdance Champion (2003)
- UK Open Professional Rising Star Latin Champion (2003)
- 4-time Polish Professional Latin Champion (2003, 2005, 2009-2010)
- 2-time WDDSC World Professional South American Showdance Champion (2002, 2004)
- United States National Professional South American Showdance Champion (2002)
- Emerald Ball Professional Latin Champion (2002)
- World Amateur Latin Champion (2000)
- Blackpool Dance Festival Amateur Latin Champion (2000)
- European Amateur Latin Champion (2000)
- Italian Open IDSF International Amateur Latin Champion (1999)
- UK Open Amateur Rising Star Latin Champion (1999)
- Albena IDSF International Open Amateur Latin Champion (1998)
- Dance Masters IDSF International Open Amateur Latin Champion (1998)
- Hradec Kralove IDSF International Open Amateur Latin Champion (1997)
- Belgian 10 Dance Champion
- Dance Legends performer
- The World Super Stars Dance Festival performer
- Michael Malitowski (2002 - 2015)
- Louis Van Amstel (2001 - 2002)
- Slavik Kryklyvyy (1998 - 2000)
- Mario Wild (1996 - 1998)
- Otto Cailliau (1995)
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- M&J Champion Wear Clothing Line, Designer