Dancing With Our Stars 2018 Recap

Whether you’re an avid devotee or new to ballroom dancing, most people have heard of the hit series Dancing With The Stars. Annually, we hold our own version of the competition, combined with our Silent Auction benefiting the Sunshine Kids.

We don’t pair up amateur celebrities with professional dancers, however. Dancing With Our Stars is three rounds made up entirely of our professional staff. But of course, we have to have some twist to it. That’s part of the excitement!

Scores are a mixture of in-studio voting and scores given by students we asked to be Guest Judges for each evening. The winners’ names get engraved onto our famous Mirror Ball trophy, complete with bragging rights for the year.

The first two rounds consisted of Smooth and Rhythm — but they were randomly assigned pairings. No professional dance partners are allowed to dance together, and they are only allowed to dance Arthur Murray school figures. So it is exactly what our students are learning!

The judges for our first two rounds were Angie D. and Jerry R. from our Cranford studio, and Faith L. from our Hillsborough studio. Dances were also randomly assigned. (Waltz, Tango, or Foxtrot for our Smooth round, and Cha Cha, Rumba, or Swing for our Rhythm round.) Our judges gave feedback on each dance, just as judges at a Freestyles or Medal Ball would. Scores were close, even starting the night on a back-to-back Waltz spree. Thankfully, Rhythm heated things back up.

Our Finale featured professional dance partnerships that our staff would compete with. These routines were choreographed and practiced for months together. Our Finale night was also televised on a local Cranford station to help us promote our Silent Auction and Theater Showcase Night, benefiting The Sunshine Kids. All proceeds from the show plus our Silent Auction went directly to them.

The special Guest Judges for our Finale round on July 27th were Karen H. and Barbara G. from our Cranford studio, and Marianne M. from our Hillsborough studio. Scores were even tighter as the polish in each of the performances was clear. Each professional pair did one of their competition numbers, plus original numbers that had never before been shown to any public.

The creativity in each number was obvious. Highlights include an Indiana Jones number complete with a whip, recreating Marilyn Monroe’s famous flying skirt scene, some stunning lifts and shocking drops, and a particularly memorable number with a man in a dress and a woman in a mustache.

Judges’ scores remained tight through all three rounds, so it came down to the popular vote. Chris and Kate from Cranford ended up earning the right to put their names, for the first time, on the coveted Mirror Ball trophy for 2018.

Chris & Kate with the Mirror Ball trophies.

A recap program of our Finale night can be found here online, courtesy of Channel 35 in Cranford.


A Recap of the Fourth Annual Murray Awards!

On Friday, December 15th, we celebrated our fourth annual Murray Awards! It is our end of year Student Appreciation Party and it was a great success!

Despite the dreary weather, we welcomed students of both Arthur Murray Cranford and Arthur Murray Hillsborough into our Cranford studio. Both studios are owned by franchisees Danila and Nuria Kartashov. It was an exciting time to have students from both studios in one place for such a grand affair.

The event was catered, with tables set out for students and staff to enjoy dinner together. Students excitedly dressed to the nines to show off their style and enjoy a fancy night out with their Arthur Murray family. Music played throughout the night for plenty of social dancing, with everyone keenly taking advantage. There were line dances, partner swapping games, and even a conga line or two.

A very special feature of our Murray Awards every year is our professional shows – and this year was particularly special. It had been requested that there would be a return to some past professional dance partnerships, so special routines were created with that in mind. There had also been a round of performances with the staff’s current professional partnerships, so students got to see not only a wide variety of dances, but also partnerships they may not have seen before – or for many years.

One of the most looked-forward to parts of the evening was our awards portion. There are several awards our team gives out every year, including our Student Ambassador (Barbara Gabris) and Funniest Dance Moment (Ira & Alex Augenzucker) awards. There is also the Most Improved Dancer award, which is voted upon exclusively by students, and it resulted in our first-ever tie, Jennifer Cerulli and Patsy Trine, both from Cranford. The coveted BASA (Best Accidental Step Award) went to Ira & Cynthia Herman from Hillsborough. We also honored those students of ours who have been with our studio for five years – and soon enough, we will be able to give out awards to ten-year students as well!

At Arthur Murray Cranford and Arthur Murray Hillsborough, we greatly appreciate our students’ commitment and loyalty. We are incredibly proud of each and every one of our students, and while we cannot throw such grand evenings every night, we want to be sure that it is known that we appreciate YOU! Thank you to everyone for not only making our Murray Awards a success, but to sharing their dance journeys with us.

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Hillsborough Grand Opening!

On Friday, September 8th, Team Arthur Murray Kartashov officially held the Grand Opening of their new location in Hillsborough, New Jersey. With food, drinks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and, of course, a lot of dancing, it was a grand affair as students and staff of both Cranford and Hillsborough locations came to help celebrate.

Hillsborough Township did its part to welcome Arthur Murray as well. Several prominent members of the city, including Mayor Carl Suraci and Business Advocate David Kois, joined the celebrations and helped cut the red ribbon with franchise owners Danila and Nuria Kartashov.

“A big thank you to the Hillsborough area for welcoming us here,” Danila said. “We are looking forward to changing lives through dancing.”

This is the second Arthur Murray location opened by Danila and Nuria Kartashov. Both Danila and Nuria have been dancing since childhood – Danila in Moscow, and Nuria in Madrid. They met and began their partnership in 1999, and joined Arthur Murray – and tied the knot – in 2001. They became owners of the Kenilworth location in 2010, and moved studios to Cranford in 2015. The Hillsborough studio first opened its doors at the beginning of June 2017.

“We are so blessed to get the chance to share our love of dancing with our new Arthur Murray family in Hillsborough,” Nuria said.

“It was truly a blessing to see so many faces, both old and new, come support us in our new endeavor,” said Alexis Martinez, the New Student Director of Hillsborough. “These past few months have been amazing and I cannot wait to see how many lives we can change through dancing.”

The rest of the Arthur Murray Hillsborough team boasts of varied and impressive experience as well. Alexis, also an Instructor there, has a background in multiple styles of dance, including tap, ballet, and jazz. The other two full-time instructors at the Hillsborough location, Keenan and Laura Smout, have both led lives full of dance. They are the newest members of Team AMK.

“It was great to have families of both studios come together for exciting night of celebration!” Keenan said of the event.

His wife, Laura, agreed. “It was a fun-filled night seeing our awesome students and sharing a great time together with our new addition to the Kartashov AMpire!”

After their successful Grand Opening, Arthur Murray Hillsborough looks forward to sharing the Arthur Murray passion for ballroom dance with the Hillsborough community.

Theater Showcase “Around the World”

Arthur Murray Cranford and Hillsborough celebrated following the final curtain for their annual fundraiser showcase on August 12. This year, owners Danila and Nuria Kartashov supported the Sunshine Kids. The non-profit organization helps children with cancer by providing positive group activities and emotional support.

Arthur Murray instructors from Cranford and Hillsborough express themselves before the show starts.

Most students spend months preparing routines. Diane, a newer student at Cranford, said the show exceeded her expectations. “It was far superior than what I had envisioned. So professional. No detail, from costuming, lights, and jewelry was left out.” She felt proud to be a part of the Arthur Murray family’s gesture to help the cause.

Arthur’s Kids strike a pose before their debut performance.

Jerry, a student at Cranford, says theatre night is unlike any other event. “You will never be so alone, but you will never feel as validated – and thankful – as you do when it’s over.” This was Jerry’s fourth year supporting the theatre event.

Among the performers was the Arthur Murray Kid’s formation. In their debut showcase, children from four to six years old took the stage with their team of instructors. Learning to dance doesn’t just teach you how to dance. It requires focus, dedication and helps with social skills. For the Kartashov owners, ballroom dance is the perfect mixing ground for kids to experience it all.


This year’s themed “Around the World”  show featured 54 different students from the Arthur Murray family showcasing dances from different countries. The hour and half show started in North America, with the USA and Mexico before hopping the ocean to Asia.  There was everything from the traditional flavor of Japan to the current pop sensations of South Korea – and a strong Bollywood flavor. After brief visits to Australia and Africa, the show went into intermission.

Arthur Murray staff and students celebrate!

Before the second act started, Steve Janett – speaker for the Sunshine Kids Foundation – thanked all of the Arthur Murray family and viewers for their support. Aisha Guadalupe joined him onstage to speak first hand of the support the Sunshine Kids afforded her while she battled cancer.

The curtains lifted once again, this time in the cold and grandeur of Russia. Several group numbers kicked off the second act, including an adult  formation and some dancing penguins. Next up was South America – everyone wanted to move their hips whether in Colombia, Brazil or Costa Rica. The show finished in Europe as the entire cast came on stage for a final bow before the curtain closed.


A Day In The Life: Alexis

A typical weekday starts the night before with a relaxing shower, after which my hair has the whole night to naturally dry in all its thick, curly glory.

I wake up at 9am and begin my day with some sort of breakfast; eggs and Taylor ham are usually the go-to.

Afterwards I venture back upstairs to begin the ever-wondrous beauty routine. Step 1 includes brushing and blow-drying the mane I call hair. Step 2 entails some sort of hair hot tool. I’ve found that titanium-plated hair straighteners work best on thick or coarse hair.

  • Now, mind you, this entire process is done without a mirror. It helps with the neck pain.

Next I do a final brush out and decide on whatever, if any, hair accessory I’ll be wearing that day.

Once the haircapade is done, I venture over to my closet, where I aimlessly stare at the same selection as the day before.

  • Always take into consideration:
    • Rain
    • Shine
  • Schedule
    • Individual lessons
    • Group classes
    • Practice parties

Once I’ve ran through my day in my head, I pull out 2-3 outfits. All different styles but still trendy and professional.

  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

After trying on all outfits, one wins and then I end the quest for the day’s wardrobe.

Once I’ve gotten dressed, I dive into my makeup. A little here, some blush there, and of course mascara to wake up my naturally narrow eyes, and I’m good to go.

The lunch prep now begins. I snuggle with my puppy and I head out the door.

I walk to my car, put on some upbeat jams, hop on the parkway, and begin my travels to 200 South Avenue East.

Park the car, walk inside with a smile on my face, and so the work day begins. I walk to the kitchen to put away my food and make my way to the schedule.

  • Always know the night before, if not the week in advance, so you can tackle anything that may come your way.

After checking out the schedule, I change into my dance shoes, refresh my lipstick, and make my way over for our daily staff meeting. We fill each other in on all going-ons so we can all be ready for what the day might bring.

Depending on the day, I am either in meetings, dance sessions, or teaching during the afternoons. 5:00 hits and that typically means lunch time. Yes, I say lunch! (I have breakfast before I leave and don’t usually eat until this time.)

Lunch is rather relaxing. I enjoy my meal talk with coworkers and sometimes steal away for a quick power nap. But when 5:50 hits it’s back to business. We meet again for an evening meeting and game plan any new findings.

From 6:15 – 10pm it’s usually lessons and a group class here and there. All fun, upbeat, and bustling on the dance floor.

10pm hits, lessons come to an end, and so the wind-down begins. I head to the back, change out of my dance shoes, gather my lunch bag and handbag, and I’m out the door.

I have a rather quiet drive home and am greeted by a fluffy furball of love. I head up to my room, put my bags down, and hop into the shower, where my next day begins all over again!

An Interview With: Keenan!

What is your favorite part of the Arthur Murray day?

“My favorite part of the Arthur Murray day is teaching lessons. I love sharing and teaching about the thing I love so much.”

What do you do for fun when not at Arthur Murray?

“I like to play xbox to distress. I also like to do outdoor things, like dirt biking, hiking, camping, etc.”


How did you start dancing?

“I started dancing in elementary school, after seeing my friend dance. I thought it would be fun, and a good way to meet girls.”


How did you find Arthur Murray?

“Through Lance Gillman.”


What’s your favorite dance?

“My favorite dance is Jive, I love how energetic and athletic the dance is.”


Most memorable dance moment?

“My most memorable dance moment was when the music suddenly stopped playing 1 minute into our 3 minute theater arts routine. (Think lots of lifts and fancy tricks.) I looked over to the music man and he just shook his head telling me it wasn’t coming back on.

At first I felt very embarrassed. I let Laura down from the lift and spun her out to bow. We walked off the floor and were greeted by fellow competitors, judges, coaches, people we knew and many more we didn’t, telling us how great our piece had been, and how sad they were that we weren’t able to finish it. It was amazing to feel the support of so many people that we look up to in a moment we considered to be a low point for us as dancers.”


What’s your dance dream?

“My dance dream is first and foremost to open my own studio, and have my own dance family and home. I would also like to be in the US National Latin final.”


What would you say to someone considering attending their first Dance-o-Rama?

“Be prepared to meet your new family. Fellow students and teachers will always be supportive of you in your personal dance journey. Everyone there has opened their heart and let everyone watch them dance, and they are eager to see and support you in that next amazing step in your dance journey.”

An Interview With: Laura!

What is your favorite part of the Arthur Murray day?

“Dinner is an exciting hour in the day to be able to get together with the staff to eat and chat! It is great to have time during a work day to have this. Most of all dinner builds camaraderie and being like a family.

My favorite part of my day is being a part of the Practice Party. This really is such a party! There is constant dancing, but most importantly we are having the most fun ever. And again sharing the love of dance on the dance floor with students is the best. It is one of the best ways of ending a work day with a Practice Party.”

What do you do for fun when not at Arthur Murray?

“I love working out! So when I am not at Arthur Murray, I am at the gym. I also enjoy being outside and active! I love spending time with friends and family. It is also fun to be able to go out on date nights with Keenan!”


How did you start dancing?

“I started dancing in high school! I saw a college performance team perform and I fell in love with dance. I found the closest studio and I attended the beginning group class. And the rest is history. I started competing with my instructor. Later tried out for a college team and never stopped dancing once I started!”


How did you find Arthur Murray?

“I found Arthur Murray through a friend. So basically, Lance.”


What’s your favorite dance?

“My favorite dance is a tie between International Rumba and International Samba! I love the romance and love of the Rumba. But then the party and sassiness of the Samba.”


Funniest dance moment?

“I don’t really have any funny dance moments. Many embarrassing moments, but not funny ones.”


What’s your dance dream?

“My dance dream is to one day own a studio and give back to the community! And to one day have a dance family and be a family to others through dance!”


What would you say to someone doing a solo for the first time?

“Have fun! Enjoy the moment and have fun! It may not be perfect, because we are humans and mistakes happen. But the most important part is enjoying and having the time of your life!!”

An Interview With: Alexis!

What is your favorite part of the Arthur Murray day?

“I’m not sure I can say I have a single favorite part but I do have a favorite aspect, and that’s the camaraderie and respect that fills the studio from the moment you peer through the glass doors.”


What do you do for fun when not at Arthur Murray?

“When I’m not at Arthur Murray, I am typically enjoying my days with my family, finding new places for good eats, and the occasional shopping trip.”


How did you start dancing?

“I started dancing at the age of 3 and continued for my entire life. It was always the one consistent thing in my life because of what it gave me in return.”


How did you find Arthur Murray?

“I found Arthur Murray through a long search for a career that I enjoyed and loved, so it was almost as if an Arthur Murray birdie knocked on my window and made me apply.”


What’s your favorite dance?

“Anything that gives me the chance to let loose, so anything in the Rhythm realm always makes my heart happy.”


Funniest dance moment?

“Danila Dance Session – working on our drive in Waltz and Foxtrot one minute, in a complete split the next.”


What’s your dance dream?

“My dance dream is to be the very best I can possibly be with medals to prove it.”


What would you to say to someone thinking about dancing for the first time?

“Go for it! You miss out on all opportunities not taken. Whether you’re part of a couple or an individual, dancing allows you a kind of expression you find nowhere else.”

A Day In The Life: Keenan

I wake up at 8:00am to a motivational video as my alarm, and head straight to the gym. There, I do 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight lifting and/or plyometric workout. Around 9:00 I head home and eat 3 eggs and half a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

After breakfast, I do everything I need to do to get ready for the day – it usually takes about an hour. Then I have from 10-11 to do whatever I need to get into the right headspace for the day. Sometimes I read, sometimes I play video games, sometimes I relax to some Netflix.

At 11:00am, we leave for work. After our 30 minute commute, we practice for an hour. Usually our practice includes: a warmup, a round of dancing our competitive routines with music, and then we work on cleaning our routines up, or our technical skill. Sometimes we relax and just dance without worrying about all the little things. (Those are the best practices.)

At 12:30 we eat lunch, usually chicken and rice or potatoes, and get ready to teach.

Starting at 1 is our work day. Usually during the first few hours of work I study for my next exam. I study all the steps and variations, alignments, and amounts of turns, and everything else associated with every step, one dance at a time.

At 5:00 everyone has dinner. Usually we have a lot of fun laughing about whatever is on facebook or whatever terrible joke Chris brings with him.

After dinner we jump back into dance with group classes. It is always fun to interact with students and other teachers in group classes. Interspersed throughout the day are my favorite parts of the day: teaching lessons!

Teaching is the best because I get to share a part of myself with someone else. A time when I get to touch another’s life and help them have a better day. I hope that every student I teach leaves happier than they came in.

We also sometimes have dance sessions with Danila or Nuria to improve our dancing and teaching.

Whatever fun the day holds after work, and at 10:00pm Laura and I do one last round of our dancing to finish the day. Then we go home and relax a little before bed, and start it all over again.

A Day In The Life: Laura

Arthur Murray Dance Center of CranfordI wake up at 7:00 and get ready for the gym, and I work out for an hour from 7:30 to 8:30. Working out is one of my favorite times! I love working out! Keenan tags along and usually does his own work out. But it has made such a difference because we challenge each other, but also encourage and support each other too!

At 8:30 I get ready for the day and by 9:00 I go make breakfast. I eat a balanced meal of 3 eggs and oatmeal. From this meal I get protein and healthy starch that jumpstarts my metabolism and gives me energy that I’ll need for the day.

At 9:30 for an hour I meal prep for the day and some for the week! I make chicken, rice, and asparagus. I like this meal setup because you have an important lean meat that fills you up, but gives me energy and is healthy.

Even though we are married, there are certain times or activities we do separately. We each have our own routine and need time apart. By having time apart we then treasure the time we are together even more.

Keenan and I start practice together at 11:00. Practicing can be exciting. Practicing can be frustrating. We are a couple. But regardless how practice is going, we practice because we love dancing and always want to be better. We have our own routine of warming up and at the beginning of practice we dance by ourselves. Once getting together we work on our routines. It truly is such a joy being able to have my partner be my best friend. And as a couple we are able to share this together, every day! Which is even better!!

The rest of the day is spent teaching, meetings, and dance sessions. This whole time Keenan and I have our own schedules. This is great because being separated allows us to focus on what we are both doing at work. Teaching lessons are so much fun and one of the best parts of my day. It is so fulfilling being able to share with others how dance can change one’s life.