The Leading Follows of 2023/2024

Born and raised in Italy, Maura Garuccio is a professional dancer and coach with over 15 years of experience. Her love of dance and dedication to her craft, developed from her earliest days dancing in Brindisi. After competing and becoming Italian Champion in International Standard and be in the top couples in Europe,Maura moved to Cincinnati, where she now works with dancers across the Midwest in both International and American styles.

As a teacher, Maura leads her students to dance to their highest ability. Her special recipe of high-level dance knowledge, unwavering care, and tough love has led to many accolades, most recently earning Second Place in the Top Teacher Category at Ohio Star Ball 2023. Maura brings in top coaches from the United States and abroad to ensure her students continually learn from the best. Her work with kids, supporting them to become lifelong dancers, is one of her greatest sources of pride.

Recipient of the Shalene Archer Award Maura Garuccio
Mary Pinizzotto

Mary Pinizzotto is passionate about the power of dance to positively transform lives. She has been teaching for 30 years. A highlight of her pro career was winning the title of Ohio Star Ball title 9 Dance Champion. Mary is also an actor, yogi and life coach. She loves to laugh and have fun with her students while whipping them into shape. (No joke, one of her students actually gifted her a bullwhip for the job.)

For Mary, dance is about building relationships and community. Competition helps focus training, maximize progress and enjoy performing at high levels. She's honored to serve her Amigos and be a part of the incredible dance sport industry.

Emily Mertens

Emily Mertens started dancing at a young age. When she was in high-school she took her first ballroom class with her dad to prepare for their father-daughter dance. Emily loved it and continued throughout high-school and college. During that time, she was hired as an instructor and has now been teaching for 15 years. She has competed professionally in 9-dance and has won many top-teacher awards. Throughout the years, Emily has also had the privilege to train many male students that have ranked in finals in national championships. Currently, she is focusing on growing her own studio, Dance Plus Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio.

Yuliya Sinevych

Yuliya Sinevych studied Ballroom and Latin dancing in Ukraine and received her diploma from the Rhythm Dance Sport Club after 9 years of intense study. After achieving proficiency in those styles, she attended Rivne’s State Humanitarian University in Ukraine and completed her higher education, then moved to the United States. She worked as a ballroom dance instructor at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Michigan, trained in American Rhythm and Smooth Styles, and competed professionally.

Her list of accomplishments as a Pro Am Top Teacher at both Fred Astaire and National Dance Council of America (NDCA) competitions are numerous. She enjoys teaching all styles of dance and is currently traveling and competing in Pro Am on the national circuit. Career highlights: Ballroom Instructor at Sport Dance Academy in Quito, Ecuador (2012) Performed in the opera Faust, Teatro National Theatre, Quito, Ecuador (2013) Featured dancer in West Side Story, Teatro National Theatre, Quito, Ecuador (2012) Featured Ballroom Dancer onboard the Adventure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Cruise line (2010) Ballet soloist and choreographer of the ballet Sea of Love, Antalya, Turkey (2003-2009) Instructor at SEANS Dance Center, Antalya, Turkey (2003-2009)

Stephanie Munteanu

Stephanie Munteanu grew up as a competitive gymnast before finding her passion for ballroom dancing in college after asking for some dance lessons for Christmas one year when she was inspired from watching the movie, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. After graduating college with a degree in Psychology, she decided to make dance her full- time career and began her first professional partnership.

Over the past decade, Stephanie has lived and competed all over the country, earning titles such as Ohio Star Ball Rising Star Smooth Champion in 2013 as well as being a 7- time National Rising Star Smooth Finalist. She was recognized as the top female teacher at the Yankee Classic in 2023 as well as placing third in the top teacher division at the Southwestern Invitational in 2015. She is currently competing in the Open Professional American Smooth Division with her partner and husband, Alexandru Munteanu and resides in Boston, Massachusetts. She has taught for over 20 years and enjoys working with amateurs of all ages and levels looking to be as good as they can be.

Izabella Lewandowski

Izabella was born in Gdańsk, Poland and started dancing at the age of 7 winning many Polish championships in 10 dance, Standard and Latin as Junior, youth and amateur. She began to dance with Thomas Lewandowski at the age of 17, and focused on the International Latin style. Izabella came to USA in the year of 2000 together with her partner now husband Thomas Lewandowski , and became competing in Professional Latin.

Currently, Izabella is a proud owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studios/Redondo Beach, The Area Representative for Fred Astaire Dance Studios LA Metro Area, and Fred Astaire Dance Studios International Dance-board member. She is actively coaching, judging and competing with her student Scott Magnesen in 3 styles.

Some of her professional achievements include: U.S. National Professional Latin Finalist, U.S. National Professional Latin Show Dance Champion, World Professional Latin Show Dance Finalist, Rising Stars Professional Latin Blackpool Finalist, and Ohio Star Ball International Latin Show Dance Champion.

Kristina Kudelko