The Russian pair feinted and shook at each other, expressed themselves with a raised eyebrow or a come-on look, then combined and broke away, the spotlight following them, flying across the dance floor as if they were on wires, he with the grace of a gymnast and she with the polish of a ballerina.
Their encore dance -- a theatrical innovation of the Argentine tango -- was the climax of the night. Elegantly decked-out ladies in diamante held their faces in their hands and ooed at their companions as he, dressed in a sailor's costume slashed to the waist, prowled the dance floor like a tiger, full of fire and poise. She was in a dress that seemed glued to her frame, and as she moved, so did everyone's eyes.
Though Dmitri Timokhin and Anna Bezikova were undoubtedly the biggest stars of the night at the 12th Freedom Cup International Dance Sport Championship in Taipei at the Asiaworld Plaza Hotel, on Sunday night, they were not the only ones. Hundreds of couples strutted their stuff throughout the course of the evening, all sumptuously dressed, often in minimal and daringly thin fabrics. Couples duetted and dueled with the country's top dancers in a series of competitions, framed by banqueting tables at which people dined and toasted.
Whatever they paid Timokhin and Bezikova, it was worth it. Their performance was -- as would be expected of the world's number three professional Latin dancers -- in a different class. Afterward they were mobbed by the best young dancers in Taiwan, who can only dream of being as good. The difference between the Russian and local dancers is exemplified by their stories.
At the age of 13, Bezikova moved from her home in Siberia to practice full time with her future dancing partner, Timokhin. He was 14. They became the world's amateur champions and turned professional last year. They usually finish in the top eight in international competitions and have won one major professional championship. At 26 and 27 they are at the height of their powers and should be able to compete at the top level for up to 10 years if they maintain shape. Rumored to have been boyfriend-girlfriend, "We now try to spend time with other friends," Bezikova said, as she fought with her partner over a namecard. "We're like brother and sister, cat and dog. He's the cat and I'm the dog."
She then said their partnership was like a business, but Timokhin immediately disagreed. "It is more like two spirits together that understand and feel each other. I very much care for and adore Anna, so it's not just like a business because we are not selling someone else's products, we are making it ourselves."
Of the ballroom dancing world's recent name change to dance sport and its rebuffed bid for inclusion in the Olympic Games, Bezikova admitted that, "It would have been great to have been considered for Olympic competition, but now we think that it would be boring just to prepare for one thing.
"Only the old look to the past, the foolish look to the future, the wise think of the present. So now we have turned to a more artistic way forward. We want to do more performances to show people our sport and make them enjoy it more, like ballet music, or ice dancing, to express this beauty and freedom."
She said that one of their recent performances in Moscow pulled in an audience of 12,000 people and was watched nation-wide on TV. This compares with the situation in Taiwan where crowds number in the hundreds.