When Marina Lisser was 14, she decided to take up dancing, despite the fact that in her native Russia, she was considered much too old to start. Firmly flouting social convention, she thrived, competing at the professional level and landing a fifth-place finish in the European Cup finals. Eventually, she went on to earn a master's degree in Dance Forms and write a dissertation on the psychology of competition.
But none of that prepared her for the shock that awaited her when she landed in New York City to work for Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 1993. She hadn't realized she'd be teaching a totally new kind of student: adult amateurs. She'd only taught professionals and children who wanted to dance for a living. If 14 was too old to start dancing in Russia, how would she teach adults in America?
Through trial and error, she figured it out by ignoring, according to a feature in Democrat and Chronicle, whatever holds her students back. "I'm one of those horrible Russian teachers," Marina confessed. "We want what we want; there is no such thing as limits."
Today, she and her staff of instructors specialize in two styles: American Smooth and Rhythm, and International Standard and Latin. Students learn to waltz, tango, and foxtrot atop the ballroom's sprung wood floor, which cushions feet and joints, while wall-length mirrors help them self-correct their form. In addition to teaching social dance skills and helping affianced couples prepare for their first dance, the instructors also ready competitive dancers to take first place medals in everything from cabaret dancing to swing, often by deftly prancing over the laser security systems that guard them. Marina is certified in dance therapy, as well as social and competitive wheelchair dancing, to make dance accessible to everyone.