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Fred Astaire Dance Studios opens on Green Bay’s south side

Ballroom students decide the level of dancing and intensity they want to pursue

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February 21, 2024

GREEN BAY — The owners of a new dance studio in Green Bay — Nastassia Shynkarova and Vladyslav Babenko — said they are excited to introduce the increasingly popular pastime of ballroom dance to a new market.

Shynkarova and Babenko, longtime competitors on the professional ballroom dance circuit, recently opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios at 801 Hoffman Road, Ste. 114/115.

The certified dance professionals said they aim to introduce people to the social, physical, emotional and mental benefits of ballroom, Latin and social dance in a welcoming, fun environment.

“You do not need a background in dance to experience the benefits of dance,” Shynkarova said. “Our studio is a little different from other independent studios because we have a special system for every student coming in our doors,” she said. “We like to say it’s a Disney school for adults or an escape from reality. A lot of people are intimidated and think they need to have a dance background, and that is not required. We’ll guide them step by step.”

A bit more on the franchise
Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Babenko said, was co-founded by its namesake in 1947, and today boasts more than 200 franchises in North America and internationally.

The business model, he said, consists of an exclusive ballroom dance curriculum and instructional method to learn the American Smooth ballroom dance style, which consists of the waltz, tango, foxtrot and Viennese Waltz dances, which Shynkarova said allows for more individual expression and style.

She said instruction for the quickstep, various Latin dances, the jive and East and West Coast swing styles are also offered at the studio.

Babenko said students can choose private or group lessons and can participate in practice parties to network with other students and professionals in a social atmosphere and test out their skills.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios is located at 801 Hoffman Road, Ste. 114/115 in Green Bay. Submitted Photo

“You don’t need a partner to participate,” he said. “You can be paired with a professional and learn quickly.”

Babenko said students can arrive at the studio with an idea of the type of dance instruction they’re interested in or learn about the various dances once they’ve arrived.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios, he said, also offers customized instruction for weddings, such as a first dance, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance and wedding party choreography.

“There is a lot of education,” he said. “You can try all different kinds of dance and find the one you like.”

Getting started
Babenko said students start with an introductory lesson — which focuses on their personal goals and hopes for lessons.

“We want to know if you want to prepare for a special event or just get some stress relief or for exercise,” he said. “It’s different for everyone.”

Babenko said ballroom students decide the level of dancing and intensity they want to pursue — focusing on anything from social dancing up to becoming a skilled pro/am competitor with their instructor at the myriad branded Fred Astaire regional, inter-regional, national and international dance competitions.

More on Babenko and Shynkarova
Originally from Ukraine, Babenko said he met Shynkarova at a tryout 10 years ago.

Shortly after that initial meeting, Shynkarova — who was living in Belarus at the time — said the Russo-Ukrainian war in 2014 erupted.

“It didn’t work out, so she didn’t move to Ukraine, and I couldn’t move to Belarus, so we decided to not start dancing together then,” he said.

Babenko said he moved to the U.S. in 2016 and worked at a Fred Astaire Dance Studios location in southeast Wisconsin.

While there, he said the regional presidents, Stephen Knight and John Gates, encouraged him to continue dancing professionally.

“They said it’s too early for you to finish dancing,” he said. “You need to find a professional partner and build out your career.”

It was then that Babenko said he remembered Shynkarova from the tryout and found her email address buried in his files.

Five years later, she moved to the U.S. so they could begin dancing together.

Those plans, however, were put on pause again when she injured her ACL (knee) during training and returned to Belarus for surgery.

Eventually, she said she healed enough to travel back to the U.S. and resume practices with Babenko.

“It wasn’t an easy journey for us,” she said. “But, I did recover because of dance. Doctors say dance is a great health activity. It’s not like a gym, which is harder. Here it is more like therapy for your joints.”

Babenko said they have a lot of people who come to the studio after surgeries.

“Like a hip replacement or a knee replacement — we know what to do with them because we know a lot about the body, the muscles and how to recover,” he said.

After Shynkarova’s recovery, the partners said they began competing in earnest, with coaching from Tony Dovolani and other renowned ballroom dance professionals.

The dancing duo said they won various competitions, including being named national Fred Astaire champions, until deciding to retire to pursue the studio opportunity.

Sharing in the journey
The duo said they enjoy taking new students on their individual dance journeys.

Every person who comes in the door, Shynkarova said, is an individual project — even those who claim they have two left feet and may be the least coordinated person out there.

“When you are dancing, you realize over time how much more of your personality you can expose,” she said. “You may be an introvert, but on the dance floor, you can be anybody you want. In life, that is not always true. But here, you can be anyone you want.”

Increasingly, Shynkarova said dance has attracted those in high-stress professions, such as medicine or law, as well as retirees who now have the time to devote to something they’ve always wanted to do.

“It’s more about changing lives,” she said. “Dance is not just physical activity — it’s mental, too.”

Shynkarova said she recalls a student who came to her to learn dance for his anniversary with his wife.

Initially, she said he wasn’t that enthused, but the couple got so into it they began competing around the country until his wife passed away a few years ago.

“But he’s still dancing,” she said. “He’s dressing up, his mind is organized for the lessons- It’s helping with his memory. It’s doing so much for him.”

For more information on lessons, introductory offers and special events, visit or call 920-347-676.

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