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Karina Smirnoff

See also: Categories: Instructors, Adjudicators, Dancers, Latin, Smooth, Rhythm, Standard, Ballroom

Born: January 2, 1978
Hometown: Kharkov, Ukraine
Current location: Los Angeles, California (USA)
Current status:

Karina Smirnoff is a Professional Ballroom dancer, best known for her role on Dancing with the Stars. She is a five-time United States National Champion in the Professional Latin division and is the first woman to have ever made it into the Professional Latin final at the Blackpool Dance Festival with three different partners.


Karina Smirnoff grew up in Kharkov, Ukraine and is of half Greek and half Russian descent. Due to ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), Karina had to send her excess energy in the right direction. As a result, at the age of three, she was put into figure skating. At the age of 5, she was introduced to ballet and a bit later to aerobics and gymnastics. She also became involed with Ballroom Dance and piano lessons. Karina said that when she finally came home each day, she was always very tired. Therefore, finding her passion and talent in Ballroom dancing, her focus became dedicated to this interest. Her first trainer became Alexey Litvinov. At age 11, she began competing.

In 1992, Karina, age 14, emigrated to the United States and soon after, obtained her American citizenship. She attended several schools including Nerinx Hall High School in St. Louis and Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. Her education transferred to the Bronx High School of Science where she graduated. Karina attended Fordham University from which she graduated with a double major in economics and information system programming.

Karina wanted to continue her education in order to receive a degree in Law. However, at this point in time, she began attending a dance school in Brooklyn, after which she decided to once again begin Ballroom dancing instead of seeking a career of becoming a lawyer. Karina resumed dance training and soon took part in reality TV shows including "Chelsea Lately" and Dancing with the Stars. This hobby became her meaning of life.


The first official partner with whom Karina Smirnoff conquered the dance floor was Roman Nabatov. Together, they represented the United States and made their debut in September 1996 at the United States DanceSport Championships. They were in the top 22 of Amateur Latin couples. Together, they danced for a year, and in November of 1997, decided to go their separate ways.

Professional Career

Karina continued her hard work as a DanceSport competitor. Almost a year passed after her split with Roman that she came to be partnered with Paul Killick, with whom she switched to the Professional Division. They represented England. Their first competition together attained excellent results: 1st place at the British National Dance Championships in November of 1998 in Blackpool.

Karina's partnership with Paul brought her dancing to a new level, but in July of 1999, the couple decided to terminate their collaboration. Almost immediately, Smirnoff paired with Dutch dancer Louis Van Amstel, with whom she represented the United States. On September 7, 1999, the couple made its debut at the U.S. Open in Miami, where they took 3rd place. However, their partnership together only lasted a little over a year.

Slavik Kryklyvyy

A new revolution in Smirnoff's career came with her new dance partner, Slavik Kryklyvyy. They began working together in 2001 in the city of New York. Both natives of Ukraine, their creative union represented the United States on the competitive dance floor.

Their debut came on June 1 of 2001 at the British Open in Blackpool, England where they came in as finalists in the Professional Latin standings, taking 6th place.

This couple was considered one of the most promising. It was predicted they would produce outstanding achievements in the world of Ballroom dancing. They began to train with renowned teachers including Espen Salberg, Donnie Burns, Hans Galke, Carolyn Smith, Tone Nyhagen, Richard Porter, and Ruud Vermeij.

In May of 2002, the couple's results improved tremendously as the pair placed 3rd in the Professional Latin division at the Blackpool Dance Festival.

The couple danced together for five years, from 2001 to 2005. In those 5 years, Karina and Slavik became 5-time Professional Latin Champions of the United States of America.

Among the duo's achievements was their silver place standing at the Blackpool Dance Festival as well as at the World Championships. One of their highest results also includes their victory at the 2005 UK Open, held in Bournemouth, England.

Karina and Slavik also had the ability to work as directors of choreography in the 2004 film Shall We Dance? starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. Aside from being directors of some of the dance scenes, Slavik and Karina had the ability to perform in parts of the movie as well. That same year, Karina released a fitness DVD, Shape Up With Karina Smirnoff.

After nearly 5 years of partnership, in September of 2005, Karina and Slavik split.

Last Competitive Partnership

In October 2005, Karina partnered with famous Russian dancer Dmitry Timokhin with whom she represented Russia. Their strongest performance took place on March 4, 2006 at the Grand-Prix Dynamo in Moscow, Russia, where the couple successfully took first place. The pair also took part in the Blackpool Dance Festival and took 4th place in the overall rankings. However, the partnership did not last long, after which Karina retired from her competitive career.

In the history of Ballroom dancing, Karina left her mark as the first female dancer who made it into the final of the British Open Championships with three different partners.

Show Career

At the time of her retirement from the competitive dance floor, Smirnoff was the project manager/director of a dancing event titled "Day & Night", held on November 18, 2006 at the Hollywood & Highlands Grand Ballroom.

In large part due to her successful career as a competitive Ballroom dancer, Karina Smirnoff signed a contract to participate in the 3rd season of the show Dancing with the Stars in 2006. She has participated on this show Seasons 3-9, 11-19, and 21-22. Season 13 she won with army veteran and soap opera star, J. R. Martinez. She's also won two runner-up titles, a semifinal title, and several quarterfinal titles.

Having proved herself as a television star, in 2009, Karina got involved in the Broadway production of Burn The Floor. Broadway has always been her dream, she says.

Life Outside of Dance

Aside from dance, Karina Smirnoff has dedicated much time to social work for the protection of animals, starring in various advertisements. She does not wear fur, as she knows how animals are abused for their valuable skins.



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