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Ava Jacobs

Ava Jacobs found her passion in 2018, when she joined Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Bloomfield Hills. Since then, the 18-year-old high school senior at Cranbrook Kingswood has won major awards in ballroom dancing competitions around the country in American Rhythm, International Latin, cha cha, mambo and more.

“When I was little, my mom took me to preschooler ballet classes, and I did ballet and hip hop on and off until around the age of 14,” she said. “That is when I started doing ballroom.”

Her inspiration came from a movie.

“In middle school, I saw ‘Hairspray’ with Zac Efron and John Travolta, and I thought that was so cool. I researched ballroom dancing and I kept asking my mom to do it, so she signed me up and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Jacobs, who began competing nationally after the COVID lockdowns.

“The pandemic definitely makes things more complicated, because it’s fully a contact sport.”

Her opportunities to compete can expand around the country. “It is not as popular with people my age in this area, which is why you can find a lot more competition in national competitions than in the region.”

The art of ballroom has clearly earned a place in her heart. “It’s my favorite form of dance and it’s my top priority. I practice every day after school and I love competition,” said Jacobs, who lives in Bloomfield Hills.

“I like to consider myself a creative person, and dance is a form of art. I’m also a very competitive person. I’m very big on challenges and I like working toward them. The competitions are fierce, and it’s a great source of exercise. I also really like the culture, and my dance teachers who are mostly from Eastern Europe.” Her dancing partner and coach is Tamerlan Gadirov.

Jacobs will continue to dance while in college, where she plans to double major in Spanish and Russian and also hopes to study abroad.

High school has inspired her pursuits. “Cranbrook has an influence on my creative ability and it has a really great arts program for performing and fine arts,” she said. “It really lets me grow in my creative and artistic abilities.” Jacobs especially enjoys studio honors painting and being in the fall play, “Alice in Wonderland.”

She also appreciates the love and support she receives from her family. “My mom is my biggest cheerleader, and my dad and grandparents do a lot for me,” said Jacobs. “My nana watches videos of me dancing before she goes to sleep.”

While Jacobs has won first place in other national competitions, perhaps the most significant is the time she was selected and sponsored to represent all Fred Astaire Dance Studios at the 2022 United States Dance Championships, the largest and most prestigious ballroom competition in the U.S., where she was thrilled to win the bronze medal.

“I knew it would be really tough, and I thought I might get fifth or sixth, so I was very excited to make it to the finals and get third,” she said. “When it was my first time, that was probably the best outcome that could have happened.”

With her determination and talent, there will likely be more awards to come. “Ballroom showed me how competitive I am. It’s a great outlet and I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to something this much. It’s become my whole personality and I feel very motivated to work hard.”

As to what her future may hold, she said, “I plan to focus on school and do well in dance and it will unravel from there.”

Story: Jeanine Matlow

Photo: Mackenzie O'Brien


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