If you’re someone who is never satisfied with your progress, who is always, as singer Ciara puts it, trying to “level up,” you have a trait in common with “Dancing With the Stars” performer Gleb Savchenko.
Born in Moscow, Savchenko has been dancing since his legs could hold his weight. Over the years, from Russia to Hong Kong and Australia to the U.S., his hard work and talent have paid off in championship titles and jobs in television. It was dancing that got him his first date with his wife, Elena Samodanova, herself a producer, choreographer and “Dancing With the Stars” judge. And it was dancing that landed them in the city of his dreams – Los Angeles – in 2012, and dancing that led the couple to open up a ballroom dance studio, Pro Dance LA, to teach children and adults ballroom, belly dancing, hip-hop, salsa, swing and other dance forms.
Still, pressed to name the highest point of his career thus far, Savchenko comes up short. He is a perfectionist, but as he has gotten older, he’s learned to lean into his love of family and home to balance his ambitions.
February is all about love. Would you say your greatest love is dancing?
Well, I think with age you always kind of change. When I was a young teenager, I loved dance. That was the only thing I thought about, only dance, dance, dance, dance. Then, I met Elena and she became my muse and everything for me. And then when we had our first daughter, Olivia, she was the focus. Now, I can say that, at 36 years old, the greatest love and achievement in life is for my family. When I dance, everything I do in my career, is for them.
What do you love about L.A.?
Since I was 14 or 15, I always wanted to live in L.A. If you ask anybody in my family what was the No. 1 conversation we would have when I was growing up, it was that I would be living in L.A.
What was it about L.A. that attracted you?
It was the energy of the city. I remember the first time I came to Los Angeles. I walked in the airport and I saw that energy in the air that kind of just got me. As we were landing, I saw those little blue dots on the ground, and thought, “What is that?” I learned that they were pools and houses, and I was like, “Oh my God, one day I’m going to have a house in L.A. with a pool, and today, I do.
You’ve done so many great things in your career already. What has been your favorite moment so far?
I can’t say that I have one yet. I’ve haven’t won “Dancing With the Stars” yet, but that would be a high point. Humans are so weird because the moment you get your dream come true, you forget it was a dream. It becomes just a goal you achieved, and then you’re on to the next one.
How did you and Elena meet?
We met in a dance studio and Elena was dancing with my teacher. I thought, “Oh she’s so cute. I have to ask her out.” That was in 2002 in Moscow, almost 20 years ago, and we’ve been married almost 13.
How was that first date?
Oh my God, it was terrible. You’re a writer, so you can imagine this: We’re both 18, 19 years old. I had no money. I was working in a fitness center as a dance instructor in Russia. Had like $20 in my pocket. All my life savings. We went to a movie in December, when it was freezing cold outside. After, we went downstairs to the little coffee shop, and Elena orders fresh strawberries in whipped cream in Russia in winter. There’s no strawberries. They have to [have been] shipped from Greece or somewhere. She orders the most expensive thing on the menu. I’m like, “I’m good, I don’t want anything to eat.” She had her dessert. I tried to impress. She was happy. We walk out, and I have this old Russian car. She had a better car, but she forgot to turn the headlights off, so she got in my car and we were driving around the city waiting for her brother to come give her car a jump.
What do you most love about Elena all these years later?
She’s fierce. She’s a perfectionist as well. She’s like me. She always wants to become a better version of herself, so she pushes herself. She’s always in our dance studio. Her life is around kids and the family, but at the same time she’s never satisfied with the comfort.
Tell us about your daughters.
Olivia is 8, and she plays tennis. I want her to be like Anna Kournikova. No pressure. She loves dancing. She has a partner and she competes. Our youngest, Zlata, is 2½. Her job is to just be a baby. But her character is everything. She’s the boss in the family. No one wants to mess with her.
Visit prodancela.com for more information on the couple’s dance studio.