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After her impressive 2006 debut, professional dancer Karina Smirnoff went on to star in six more seasons of Dancing with the Stars.
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Karina Smirnoff partnered with Roman Nabatov in 1996, and the pair placed 22nd at the U.S. Amateur Latin Championships. She switched partners for the 1999 British Open Dance Championships, where she finished in the top five in six events. In 2001, she switched partners again, and went on to dominate ballroom dance competitions for the next four years. In 2006, she competed on the hit TV show Dancing with the Stars.
Dancer. Karina Smirnoff was born on January 2, 1978, in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. As a child, Smirnoff suffered from severe but undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In order to channel her excess energy, Smirnoff's parents enrolled her in figure skating lessons at the age of 3. By the time Smirnoff was 5 years old, her activities included gymnastics, aerobics, piano lessons, and ballet. Smirnoff recalls, "I tried a little bit of everything because my parents wanted to keep me busy so I would be tired at the end of the day and finally stop going." When Smirnoff was 9 years old her parents, searching as always for outlets for their daughter's insatiable energy, signed her up for ballroom dance classes. Smirnoff quickly discovered her passion and talent for ballroom dance and dropped her other activities to concentrate exclusively on dancing.
Smirnoff's budding dance career was put on hold at the age of 14 when her family emigrated to the United States. After settling in New York City, Smirnoff put dancing on the backburner to concentrate on academics. She attended Christopher Columbus High School and the Bronx High School of Science. After graduating from high school, Smirnoff enrolled at Fordham University where she double-majored in economics and information systems programming and planned to attend law school. However, while still studying at Fordham, Smirnoff also resumed dance lessons. She studied rumba, jive, samba and waltz with various renowned dance instructors in New York City. After rekindling her childhood passion, Smirnoff decided to abandon her plans to become a lawyer and pursue a professional dance career.
In 1996, Smirnoff partnered with Roman Nabatov, and in their first dance competition the pair placed 22nd at the U.S. Amateur Latin Championships. Smirnoff then switched partners to dance with Paul Killick in the 1999 British Open Dance Championships, where they finished in the top five in six different events. In 2001, Smirnoff paired with fellow Ukrainian dancer Slavik Kryklyvyy, and the couple would go on to dominate ballroom dance competitions for the next four years. Smirnoff's many accomplishments during this period include five U.S. Latin Ballroom Championships, the World Trophy Championship and the Asian Open Championship. Smirnoff and Kryklyvyy also made a joint cameo in the 2004 film Shall We Dance starring Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere.
Impressed by her stunning good looks, intelligence and impeccable dance credentials, in 2006 ABC inked Smirnoff to appear on the third season of its popular reality TV series Dancing with the Stars.
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