How far apart can two dancers be and still have a successful competitive partnership? USA Dance’s Top Adult Rhythm couple may have an idea on how to answer that question. Stephen Sekoulopoulos and Sabrina Sharmeen have quite a trip ahead of them when they practice. Stephen, originally from Amherst, Ohio, now lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Sabrina, originally from Bangladesh, is currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri. That’s about 800 miles! But that didn’t stop this young couple from working hard, coming together at USA Dance Nationals, April 1-3, and winning Amateur Adult Championship Rhythm. And they didn’t stop there. The couple also won first place in Amateur Collegiate Championship Rhythm and third in Amateur Collegiate Championship Latin.
Sabrina, a software engineer, and Stephen became acquainted and started dancing together at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Sabrina had been dancing since the age of three and decided to start ballroom as part of the Purdue Ballroom Dance Team.
“I started dancing in college at Valparaiso University (Porter County, Indiana),” explained Stephen. “However, I grew up dancing traditional Greek folk dance. We have been dancing together for about three years. My previous partner danced for Purdue, which is how I met Sabrina, but we did not partner together until after I moved to Pennsylvania for medical school.
“Stephen was already dancing with another friend from Purdue,” she concurred. “So, I decided to reach out to him for one of the comps he was available for.”
The couple had a few trial-by-error competitions and the partnership solidified.
Both dancers, now at the age of 26, have since graduated – Sabrina is a 2020 Purdue University graduate and Stephen is currently a fourth year Doctor of Medicine (MD) candidate at the Penn State College of Medicine. Following graduation in 2023, he plans to pursue a career as a urologist and hopes to specialize in reconstructive urology.
Despite demanding and ambitious career outlooks, this young couple has maintained their dancing at the highest level and has no plans to slow down any time soon. Sabrina aspires to a dual career with dance being the priority and software development on the side. “My goal is to continue competing open amateur,” said Stephen, “and maybe even compete professionally. But once I am done competing, I would love to work on becoming a judge.”
Both dancers credit their success to dedication, practice – together and apart, and great coaches. “We remained a part of the Purdue Ballroom Team remotely,” said Sabrina. “We coach with Yuehwern Yih, David Nyemchek Jr, David (Nyemchek) Sr and sometimes with Maysen Wilder and Irek Mleczko.” She admitted, “Since our Rhythm is stronger, we’ve come to enjoy it more and more, but we love Latin!” Her favorites are Rumba and Samba! “I’d say my personality on the floor and musicality would be my strong suits! I also love shaking them hips!”
Stephen agreed: “My favorite style used to be Latin, but these days I have grown very fond of American Rhythm…but there will always be a special place in my heart for Samba. My personal talents, I would say, come from my hip action…because whoever said too much hip action was a bad thing. I would also say that I have been working hard on fast, quick feet and accurate foot placement.”
The couple admitted that they were pleasantly surprised and honored by their results at the 2022 Nationals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “This time I flew in earlier, so we got a full week of practice and felt more confident than previous times on the floor!” said Sabrina. “It was very rewarding to see the outcome.”
As for defending their titles in Cleveland at the USA Dance Nationals, March 24-26, 2023? They will be back and the spectators are in for a treat.