Legendary professional ballroom dance champion Anastasia Muravyeva waltzes from ballroom stardom to business school

December 3, 2022
Belicia Tang

Anastasia Muravyeva is a retired professional ballroom dance champion. In a career that spanned nearly three decades, Anastasia reached the pinnacle of competitive ballroom dancing. Together with her dance partner, Victor Fung, she became the 2017 Blackpool Champion in the Open Professional Ballroom category, the ballroom-dance equivalent of an Olympic gold medal. Anastasia has won many other prestigious awards:

  • 2-time United States Professional Ballroom Champion
  • 4-time United States Open Professional Champion 
  • 4-time World Cup Professional Standard Champion 
  • International Professional Standard Champion  

Having graced, inspired, and riveted the world of Dancesport, Anastasia and Victor retired from competition in 2021, marking the end of an era. Anastasia and Victor leave behind their legacy as inspiration to the next generation of dancers, and they will be remembered as one of the best ballroom dance partnerships in Dancesport.

In 2019, we heard Victor’s story. Now it’s time to hear from Anastasia.


Anastasia Muravyeva was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. She began ballroom dancing at three years old. “Once I could walk, my parents brought me to the studio. My parents didn’t dance, but ballroom dancing is very popular in Eastern European countries. And I think they always wanted to dance themselves, so once they had me as their first child, they put me into dance right away.”

At age six, Anastasia began competing. She recalls her first competition: “I wasn’t very good, but my dad was very positive. He looked at the results and saw I was close to last place. He said, ‘Don’t worry, you are the first one from the end.’ And that was my very first competition.”

There are various subspecialties of ballroom dancing, and Anastasia competed in both International Standard (Ballroom) and International Latin for several years before specializing in Ballroom. “I actually preferred Latin in the early stages, and I continued dancing Latin until I became the National Professional Latin Champion in Ukraine.” 

While younger, Anastasia was also exposed to other styles of dance, including ballet, jazz, modern, and hip hop. Asked whether her cross-training in various dance styles enhanced her ballroom, Anastasia says, “Absolutely. More than 100%. I believe the different types of dancing you’re doing, and maybe even different types of physical activity, give you better coordination and awareness of how your body works.” 

Anastasia’s parents also enrolled her in music school, which proved a boon to her dancing as well. “I have classical training in piano. That helped my dancing tremendously because I had a musician’s understanding of the music’s structure and how it is composed, which helped my dancing become more expressive.”

Latin Versus Ballroom 

Anastasia moved to Ukraine when she was 18, where she danced for a few years and began competing in the Professional division. With her partner at the time, she became the Ukrainian Professional Latin Champion. “And that’s basically where my Latin career stopped. After that, I moved back to Russia, and then I moved to America to dance with Giampiero Giannico. He was my first dance partner in America. That’s when I decided to focus on Ballroom.”

Asked whether the decision to stop Latin and dance strictly Ballroom was difficult, Anastasia says, “Actually, no. It was very easy. Even though I enjoyed Latin when I was younger, I always felt that the Ballroom style was more natural for me. For Latin, I found that I had to train extensively to perfect the skills, whereas in Ballroom everything seemed to come effortlessly. I had an intuitive talent for Ballroom, and my height was an advantage because I was able to create a bigger swing and longer lines. In Latin, it’s harder to coordinate faster moves when you have long arms and legs. I also like classical music, so I think Ballroom is a better fit for my personality, character, and expression.”

Moving to America

At age 22, Anastasia moved to the United States. On her experience of immigrating to a foreign country by herself, Anastasia says, “I was young and brave, and a little bit silly. When I came here, I spoke little English, and I had only $3,000 to my name. My parents would have preferred me to stay in Russia and have a family and, of course, be near them, but I wanted to give myself a chance to pursue a dancing career in America. My parents thought that I would stay for only a few months, spend my $3000, and return to Russia. As things turned out, within one-and-a-half years, I had established myself in the American professional field as a well-known and accomplished dancer.”

Moving to a new country posed various challenges. “The first year was very difficult because I didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t know anybody. I moved to New York, and New York is a very intimidating, though exciting, city. Although I had a visa, I didn’t have a contract with a studio, so I had to find work on my own. I had to look for a job and figure out by myself how to live in this country. Simple things, like Social Security, credit cards, checkbooks, credit scores, finding and renting an apartment, were all things I had to learn by myself. It was a brand new world, and I had to grow up very fast.”

To dancers considering immigrating to the United States, Anastasia says, “Don’t be scared or discouraged during the first couple months, maybe even the first couple years, because it will get easier. I believe the harder it is at the beginning, the easier it will be later.”

After her dance partnership with Giampiero ended, Anastasia moved to Southern California, where she danced with Mikhail Avdeev briefly. During that time, she won the Professional Rising Star Ballroom Championship at the Blackpool Dance Festival. In 2009, she teamed up with Victor Fung, with whom she danced for the next 13 years. “Up until then, Victor had been number two in the U.S., and I had been number three with my partner. My partner and I were always trying to beat Victor and his partner, but we were unsuccessful. Victor has always been a very talented, successful, and beautiful dancer, so when he asked me to be his partner, I thought, ‘Well, if you can’t beat them, join them.’ That was, of course, an important step for me.”

Becoming the Blackpool Champion

 In 2017, after many years of trying and barely missing the mark, Anastasia and Victor became the British Open Professional Ballroom Dance Champions– also known as the Blackpool Champions. Reflecting on this momentous experience, Anastasia says,“Winning Blackpool was a dream come true, for sure, because it is the most prestigious dance festival in the world. I think every dancer’s dream is, first of all, to participate, and, second of all, to win it. Every dancer knows how hard and almost impossible it is to achieve this in your career. I feel very, very blessed, because luck is also a factor in success. As hard as we work, no matter how much you dedicate your life to this singular achievement, you also need to be lucky. You need to be in the right place at the right time. For me, everything came together at that moment to make my dreams come true.”

 While Anastasia was developing in her career, she did not have a specific plan to win a World Championship, but she did have a clear idea that she wanted to excel, and was willing to do what it took to achieve her dreams. Looking back, however, she feels that titles were not the biggest reward. “Of course, it’s always nice to say, ‘I won this, I won that,’ but the best memories don’t necessarily come from winning. For me, the best performances were when we were able to engage the audience and move them emotionally. Many times, when I did shows with Victor, audience members would come up and say, ‘Your Foxtrot was so touching we had tears in our eyes.’ I feel those moments are really the ones when our hard work paid off and we were recognized for our talent.”

Secret to Partnership Success

In a movement art where you are evaluated as a couple, a ballroom dancer must learn to move seamlessly with another person. Having spent over 13 years dancing with Victor, Anastasia shares advice on how to nurture a long and successful dancing partnership. “The team is extremely important, especially the chemistry between the partners. Victor and I complemented each other. He has a strong male presence while mine is more feminine. In addition, we come from the same school and had the same teachers, so we understood each other well in terms of technique and movement. Victor is a very determined and hard-working dancer which aligned with my own motivation. We had the same goals, and so we fed off each other in that sense.” 

Victor and Anastasia became engaged while they were dancing and traveling the world on their way to the top. She says, “I feel we were very lucky to have shared such a deep emotional connection. I believe that when you are romantically involved with your partner, it creates a beautiful chemistry on the floor that an audience can relate to and enjoy. As hard as we were on each other and on our dancing, I believe we also inspired each other and that brought extra significance to our performances. Being engaged to Victor was a beautiful and exciting journey for me, and it made my dancing career so much more enjoyable and memorable. I will cherish those memories, even though a few years ago we decided to break off our engagement and go our separate ways.”

Anastasia highlights two qualities every champion must have: discipline and resilience. Asked what discipline looks like for a dancer, Anastasia says, “Well, first of all it’s training. You have to practice. But it’s not just practice like working out at a gym when you are focused on getting stronger. You also have to be disciplined in finding and maintaining the subtle accuracy of your movements in coordination with your partner. That balance is a very precise and delicate thing. You can be the strongest person in the world, but, if the couple is not balanced, much of your energy is wasted and you won’t have the stamina to get through a competition. So that balance between two partners requires a lot of work.”

Resilience, or the ability to get back up after failure, is another defining characteristic of a champion. “I can’t stress this enough,” Anastasia says. “You need to go through failures. It’s so important because when you fail, you learn, and you learn so much more than when you win. You must have discipline and passion to get up, go back to the studio, and sort out what needs to be better. You practice, and you get better. And you come back and you win.”

Asked how she pushed through her own failures, Anastasia says, “I’m very stubborn. When it comes to my career, I feel like that’s exactly what made me successful. I would never ever quit. I would get frustrated, upset, sad, angry. But I would never even look at the option to quit.”

Indeed, Anastasia cites longevity and determination to stay in the game as a factor that contributed to her competitive success. “When you do something for a long time, the longer you do it, the better you become at it. Unfortunately a lot of people quit a little too early when they feel discouraged. My stubbornness carried me through some difficult times. You have to believe in yourself, and you have to believe that when you are working very hard to achieve something, sooner or later you will be successful. That’s what makes you a champion.”

The View from the Top

Many strive to be the best, though there can only be one winner in a competition. Ballroom dancers around the world pour their money, sweat, and tears into climbing up the pecking order of Dancesport ranks, hoping that their efforts will shine on the floor and be rewarded. Anastasia and Victor are one of a select few who made it to the very top. In describing the view from up there, Anastasia says, “The higher you get in terms of results, the more stress you have. There are a lot of people who want to beat you, and it can be lonely. I want to express my appreciation to Victor’s family—his mother, father, and siblings— who were extremely supportive and gave us extra strength and encouragement during difficult situations. We would not have made it to the top without them.” 

Performance Tips

Anastasia shares tactics that contributed to a winning mindset. “A sport psychologist can help a couple understand each other and deal with stress. It is very important for an athlete to analyze their response to stress and figure out how to eliminate or learn to use it to their advantage. Despite how similar our goals were, Victor and I are very different when it comes to stress. Victor draws strength from recognizing something as a challenge whereas I tend to look for happiness and joy as a source of energy.”

On the topic of performance anxiety, Anastasia says, “I believe you have to have a little bit of stress before you go to the floor. If you go to the floor and you feel very comfortable and relaxed, that is not a good sign. It means you’re not engaged and you don’t put enough value on it. You should always feel a little bit nervous, and that’s a good thing. Too nervous—that’s not good. Completely relaxed—that’s not good either. Stress can be the fuel that will help you to perform better and elevate your energy.”

Anastasia walks us through her pre-performance ritual. “First of all, I’m a happy person. I like being in my happy bubble. When I’m getting ready, I will play really nice music and sometimes listen to motivational lectures on YouTube. Then I will go downstairs to the venue and speak to a few people and feed off their energy. I would get myself very excited about the coming experience. Then I go through some breathing exercises that elevate the heart rate to get me into the right physical condition.” 

Asked if she would go through her warmup routine with or apart from Victor, Anastasia says, “Interestingly enough, I learned that detaching from my partner was helpful for me. When I was too attached to my partner, I would worry about him more than I would concentrate on myself. I believe a lot of women fall into that trap. We are so concerned about how our partner feels and thinks that we forget about ourselves. We shouldn’t take responsibility for each other.”

Anastasia shares a couple of tricks she and Victor deployed to improve their mental game:

Boosting Confidence

“Before a major competition, we would write on a piece of paper five to ten things we liked about each other’s dancing and shared those with each other before the competition. So, of course, when you step on the floor and you think to yourself, ‘My partner thinks I’m the best,’ you have a stronger, more positive energy. Things like that are small but very important and make a difference when it comes to big moments.”

Finding a Deeper Connection

“When it was an important competition like the World Championships, we had to find a deeper connection with each other. A simple thing like sitting in front of each other and staring into each other’s eyes for two minutes without talking connects you to another person on a subconscious level.” 


In 2021, Anastasia and Victor announced their retirement from competition. They took their final bow at Embassy Ball in Irvine, California, where the crowd embraced them with not just one, but five standing ovations. Following retirement, Anastasia and Victor continued to perform together in shows until this past June. While most ballroom stars retire and remain entrenched in the ballroom world, Anastasia’s second act following her illustrious dance career came as a surprise to many. 

From Dancesport to MBA

This past fall, Anastasia returned to school, enrolling in a two-year Executive MBA program at the University of Southern California. She also began working for a family office and manages a venture capital portfolio. She has enjoyed learning about stocks, options, and the trading business. “I’ve always had a very curious mind, especially when it came to business. And at my university in Russia, I had a little taste of the business side of sports, and I was always curious about it. So when I retired, I said, ‘Now is the time for the second chapter of my life.’”

In addition to attending business school, Anastasia launched a company, Dance and Dazzle, in the beginning of 2022. “We provide entertainment for any event—corporate, birthday, and weddings. Our goal is to add a layer of beauty and sparkle to the occasion with world-class dancers, performers, and entertainers.” Anastasia is committed to supporting the ballroom dancing community and industry. She says, “I will always, always remain connected to the dancing world because that’s where my heart lies. I will continue to judge prestigious competitions and lecture and teach. I love our community, and we have a beautiful world that I will never want to leave.”

Anastasia’s journey from ballroom to business school and beyond is a reminder to all of us that identities are fluid and ever-evolving. Stories are meant to be written and rewritten throughout the life course. The end of one path marks the opening of countless others. Such is what keeps life interesting, and it’s what keeps us all dancing on our toes in pursuit of meaning, connection, and self-improvement. Throughout the shifting seasons of life, it is one’s champion character that shines through in all acts. Anastasia’s spirit-—passionate, stubborn, disciplined, resilient—dares her to make one dream possible after the next.

She concludes with this: 

“Don’t take anything for granted. Something you have today you may not have tomorrow. Be grateful for just the fact that you can wake up in the morning and do what you love, and do more of it. Gratitude and appreciation for life itself and all the small little things you love doing is the biggest reward you may have. It’s not titles or big achievements. They will come as a result of doing what you love, so don’t focus too much on that.”

Anastasia, we thank you for your priceless contributions to the ballroom world. We cannot wait to see you continue to shine in your next chapter. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.