After 16 seasons as a pro on Dancing with the Stars Karina Smirnoff recently announced that she would not be returning for the upcoming 20th season of the hugely popular ABC competition show.
With spring in the air, our timing was perfect to meet up and talk about her next steps on and off the dance floor and what’s on the horizon for this wildly talented dancer, actress and author.
Secluded high above Los Angeles, just below the internationally famous Hollywood sign, Karina’s cozy Mediterranean villa, like the lady of the house, radiates warmth, charm, and tranquility, while buzzing with an undercurrent of positive energy.
Though many of her neighbors are members of Los Angeles’ power elite, Karina’s path to fame and fortune began a long way from this glitzy hilltop neighborhood. Her success, in fact, is the product of a lifetime of hard work, determination and unwavering focus.
Born in the Ukraine to Greek and Russian parents, Karina and her family immigrated to New York when she was 14, initially settling in the Bronx. Though she now happily resides on the West Coast, there is a part of this California girl that will always call New York home.
Hyperactive as a child, Karina’s parents introduced her to figure skating at the age of two. As she laughingly recalls a photo of her two-year-old self on skates, dressed as a snowflake, Karina stated, “In America, that outfit might be considered child abuse!”
Figure skating led to gymnastics, ballet, years of piano lessons and finally, to ballroom dancing where the one-time tomboy fit perfectly into the mix of sports, teamwork, show business, and glamour.
Karina recalls that she fell in love with the style of ballroom dancing from the get-go. It not only showed her “the girly side of things,” but it allowed her to learn the art of telling a story through dance.
Dancing with the Stars
Karina knew most of the dancers who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, the long running British precursor to ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Though invited to be a part of that show, at the time Karina’s busy ballroom schedule prevented her from accepting until she found the time to say yes to Season 3 of American Dancing with the Stars. Thankfully she did and has graced the Mirror Ball stage for 16 successful seasons.
“In dancing, the more you swing your arms around, the less story you will be able to tell.”
An Actor is Born
Karina mentions that one of her favorite partners on DWTS (in addition to Corbin Bleu and J.R. Martinez) was actor-producer Ralph Macchio, with whom she collaborated for her critically acclaimed lead film debut in Across Grace Alley. It’s no wonder that Karina’s debut was universally well received; her well-honed ability to tell a story with dance translates well into acting where, like high-level dancing, less is more.
With a book on the newsstands, a new dance tour where she is the lead judge, a new TV show, and another movie on the horizon, Karina’s (2015) dance card is seriously full. Of course, she wouldn’t have it any other way!Keep up with her at karinasmirnoff.com
By: Greg Root
Photos: Aaron Brown