Ballroom Icons

Ballroom Icons

September 17, 2010 16:03 ET

Ballroom Icons: Canadian Ballroom Dance Author Has Intimate Connection With Dancing With the Stars

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 17, 2010) - Swirling ball gowns, sexy Latin costumes, and gravity-defying dance moves will enthrall millions of viewers on Monday night as Dancing With the Stars returns for its eleventh season. World-renowned Canadian judge Brigitt Mayer-Karakis will be watching with a slightly closer perspective.

Author of the dance biography "Ballroom Icons", Brigitt has a close personal connection with a number of the professionals on the show, as well as head judge Len Goodman. "Len has a wonderfully dry British sense of humor," she says. "I'm sure that behind the scenes the cast has a lot of fun with him."

Born in Germany, she started ballroom dancing at age 16. She became German vice champion in Latin, a finalist in the European and World Amateur Championships, and won the World Championship in Formation dance. She turned professional, moved to Canada and began representing her new home country on the world stage of dancing. She came second in the World Latin-American Show Dance Championship, second in the World Open Exhibition Championship, and second in the British Open Rising Star Championship.

Along the way, she has judged some of the pros on the show in their competitive years, inspired others, trained with the same coaches, and shared the floor with the professional dancers in competition. Len Goodman even invited Brigitt and her dance partner Brian Torner to perform a show at his dance school in Britain.

One of the world's highest ranking ballroom dance judges, Brigitt has judged many competitions, including World Championships. She recalls judging Maksim Chermkovskiy, who is teamed up with celebrity partner Brandy this season. She has also judged Derek Hough (teamed with Jennifer Gray), and Mark Ballas (teamed with Bristol Palin). Brigitt is impressed with Mark's professional growth and is touched by his musical talent. "I think his approach to music is pure and powerful," she says. "It's very grounded, just like good dancing. His 'All or Nothing' music video is beautiful and moving in its simple celebration of music and dance."

Ballas' father, Corky Ballas, is back this season, teamed with celebrity partner Florence Henderson. A 7-time undefeated US Latin Champion, Corky competed against Brigitt in a widely acclaimed invitation-only tournament called Duel of the Giants, held at England's Royal Albert Hall in 1998. Brigitt explains that Corky is a "very youthful person, ageless in many ways, and represents a wonderful look at the benefits of dancing to keep people young and fit."

Edyta Sliwinska, who was a professional on the show since its first season, but who left recently, once recalled seeing Brigitt and her professional dance partner perform their world-famous show "Metamorphosis" at the German Open.

Louis Van Amstel, who is teamed up with comedian Margaret Cho this season, also competed against Brigitt, and even shared the same coach, Ruud Vermeij of Holland, who rose to international fame when Louis won the World Amateur Championship in 1995.

Brigitt's book "Ballroom Icons" chronicles the fascinating lives of the influential figures who set the stage for Len Goodman's career as well as most, if not all, the professionals on the show. Brigitt embarked on a seven-year journey to record the stories of these dance leaders before their stories were lost with them. She was able to talk with some of the greatest people in the ballroom dance world before they passed away.

The result is a fascinating book, a journey through the entire history of ballroom dancing from its early days until now. More information about the book is available at

The ABC show Dancing With the Stars launches its eleventh season on Monday night at 8:00PM, carried on CTV stations in Canada.

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