Student of the Month: Etsuko Nishiyama

This month, Aria Ballroom wants to celebrate one of our most dedicated dancers, Etsuko Nishiyama. Etsuko has only been dancing for about four years and has already proven that she is a hardworking dancer, student, and friend to everyone who knows her in the Aria Ballroom community. We thought it was only necessary to honor Etsuko’s astounding character and talent through an interview!


MB: Let me ask you, how has dance been an influencial part of your life?

EY: Dance keeps me young both physically and mentally, and has widened my interests and horizons in many ways.

 MB: What was it like growing up in Japan? Was dancing a part of your life in Japan? How is the approach to dancing in Japan different than the approach to dancing here in America?

EY: In Japan dancing is generally not as big as in the US. That might partly be due to cultural differences. Ballet used to be rather popular and was practiced by many young girls, but maybe it is not as common now. These days new style dances that are in fashion, such as hip-hop, might be more popular among young people. Ballroom dancing is mostly enjoyed by older people as a hobby, but young people at some universities form International-style dance teams!

 MB: What is your favorite part of dancing? What do you enjoy most about Aria Ballroom?

EY: Seeing visible improvement in my dancing and feeling good while dancing to music with skills, partners are my favorite parts of dancing.
There are so many things I enjoy about Aria Ballroom—needless to say the top quality lessons given by superb instructors, the excellent dance environment with many amazing dancers both professional and amateur, and the enthusiasm and very friendly relationships among everyone involved, teamaria!!

 MB: What is it like to travel around the country and compete in different competitions? What do you enjoy the most about competitions?

EY: I have not been competing long enough or actively enough to really answer this question. I’m also not quite as energetic as the younger dancers, but I enjoy going to competitions in other states and Canada, locations that are not too far and don’t have too demanding travel schedules. Preparing for competitions and setting goals for myself are definitely good for improving my dancing technique. Plus, watching beautiful dancing by the professionals and talented competitors at competitions in person is really fun and inspiring!

 MB: What do you do for a living? What keeps you busy other than dance?

EY: I can say I am retired now. Since I live in two countries and travel back and forth every 3 months, I’m always busy catching up on things I need to do and meeting friends and family. While I am in Japan I enjoy traditional Japanese cultural activities such as Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement. In mid-April I had the exciting opportunity to interpret for a stage demonstration by my teacher—the Grandmaster of the Misho School—at the Ikebana International World Convention in Okinawa. It was attended by participants from around the world as well as members of Japan's imperial family. The Misho School was founded in 1807 and is one of the major Ikebana schools in Japan.

When I am in the US, I take dance lessons rather intensively and spend a couple of hours or more almost every day at Aria Ballroom!

 MB: what keeps you coming back to dance each day? Do you get days where you don't feel like going?

EY: It's fun for me to practice and a true pleasure to watch other good dancers practicing. So far I haven't had any days when I don't feel like going. I always look forward to dancing, though it can be hard work as well.

 MB: What are your goals and aspirations for your future dancing?

EY: I want to keep on dancing, though the kinds of dances and style might change as I get older. But I am sure dancing will keep me healthy and help me continue enjoying life!


Etsuko has two professional teachers that she works with regularly in the studio: Aria Ballroom founder Simeon Stoynova, and Atanas Malamov. I also wanted to ask them about their memories of Etsuko and why they love her as a student.

MB: Why do you like teaching Etsuko? What is she like around the studio, and how does that help her grow in her abilities?

SS: Etsuko comes in, warms up, and practices her routines and technique before every lesson and often after lessons as well. She watches her videos after competitions and showcases and asks about what needs improvement. Etsuko is the kindest, dearest, and most diligent student you can ask for. She enjoys every minute and lives in the moment.

AM: I like Etsuko's interest in understanding every single detail and making sure she knows what, why, and where she needs improvement. Etsuko is very dedicated to be a better dancer than she was when she started, and now she is looking to explore new dance styles, like smooth. She just started 3-4 months ago and she is already in the top 3 of her categories!

MB: Why are you proud of Etsuko? What goals do you set for her future as a dancer?

AM:  I am so proud of how Etsuko sets up achievable goals, works at them, and is very successful with them. I am also proud of how polite and happy she is on the dance floor, a joy to dance with every time. One particular moment of pride is when she won the Vegas Challenge, a very tough competition. I hope Etsuko continues to improve and succeeds in her quests, whatever they may be. I also hope she continues to enjoy every moment and the process in that quest.

            Congratulations to Etsuko Nishiyama! The entire Aria Ballroom community is extremely grateful to know you, and we hope that you continue your passion for dancing for many many years to come!