For Fred Astaire Dance Studio Director Sevrin Shapiachan, dancing is more than just recreation — it is a way to affect people’s lives.
Shapiachan, co-owner of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio Fairfax, is a living example of his own philosophy.
Originally from Poland, he began dancing at age 9 and came to the United States at 23. He later became the dance instructor for television star Kirstie Alley for her performances on “Dancing with the Stars” and “Dancing with the Stars All-Stars.”
“Dancing obviously changed my life and I want to do the same for others,” he said. “I am trying to change people’s lives one dance at a time.”
Toward that end, Shapiachan and co-studio director Missy Nilson have this week taken on a monumental task. “We are trying to teach 500 dance lessons in one week,” Shapiachan said. “That would be a world record.”
Nilson said the studio receives many fundraising requests, particularly gift certificates for silent auctions. But she felt the studio should do something more interactive, to benefit those participating, as well as those receiving the proceeds.
Starting on June 14, the studio and its five dance instructors have been going at it fast and furious.
“We are encouraging our 80 or so active students to take additional lessons this week and donating a portion of the profits to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. So far, we have taught about 150 lessons,” Nilson said Wednesday.
Jake Bournazian, 54, of McLean, is one of the studio’s dance students participating in the fundraising effort. “I have taken six additional lessons this week,” he said.
Bournazian, who works during the day at the U.S. Department of Energy, plays saxophone by night in Alexandria clubs.
“I am currently dating a woman who is a fantastic ballroom dancer, so I am trying my best to keep up,” he said. “I am also learning the fox trot.”
True to Shapiachan’s belief that dancing affects people’s lives, Bournazian said dancing is slowly building his confidence, among other things. “It is strengthening my stance, my posture, my confidence and helping me to literally think faster on my feet,” he said.
His instructor, Katya Naiman, said he is coming along well. “I believe it is more difficult for a man to learn to dance because he must develop a routine and lead his partner through it,” she said. “Jake is doing phenomenally well.”
Both Bournazian and Naiman will perform a solo dance routine to the tune of Michael Buble’s rendition of “Fever” on Friday at the studio’s world record culmination party, called “Dancing Under the Stars.”
“Whether we break the world’s record or not, we are helping people and benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Shapiachan said. “What could be better than that?”