Sure, competitive dancing is fun, Andre Paramonov says, but he and his wife, Natalie, both professional ballroom dancers, don't need opponents to enjoy their work.
"To me, every day I dance is like a sundae," Andre says. "If you win, it's like the cherry on top of the sundae. But if not, a sundae is still a really good thing."
On Friday, April 24, the Paramonovs, of Boca Raton, will appear on the fifth-season premiere of PBS' "America's Ballroom Challenge." The series, which originally aired from 2006 to 2009 before going on hiatus, was filmed at the Ohio Star Ball dance festival, an annual competition at which the Paramonovs last year finished second. For this year's event, they danced the cha-cha, the rumba, swing, bolero and mambo.
The Paramonovs, who have won national and international dance contests, say they travel nearly every week for a competition. When they're in South Florida, they teach at studios such as Gold Coast Ballroom in Coconut Creek.
"Sports like football have an off-season," Natalie says. "But we go year-round."
The pair decline to give their ages because they say youth is perceived as an advantage in dance culture. They've lived in Boca Raton for about 15 years, but were born in Russia, met at a university in St. Petersburg as teenagers and have been together ever since.
They lived in a London flat for almost five years while traveling to compete. After moving to South Florida, they became U.S. citizens in 2010.
"Russia was cold. London had fog," Natalie says. "We really, really appreciate living here."
As they train for competitions, they cobble together a living with income from teaching, costume design and even judging. That's the way most competitive dancers get by, they say.
Ballroom dancing has experienced renewed interest since ABC began airing "Dancing With the Stars" in 2005. The Paramonovs say the show has helped bring people into their world, although in their competitions, the men's shirts are a little less open and the women's outfits are slit a little more modestly.
"But we get it," Andre says. "Sex sells."
To compete at their level requires strict attention to diet and fitness, and Andre demonstrates his dance posture by standing next to a visitor with his core engaged, legs taut and arms in a sturdy position. While smiling, he says he feels like an oak tree.
"We want to make it look easy, while it's actually difficult," he says.
Two winning teams from the April 24 episode of "America's Ballroom Challenge" will compete on the May 1 episode. The grand finale will take place May 8. The show airs at 9 p.m.