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Article released in "Premier Dance & Entertainment" Magazine

September 2003 issue

Featuring Ballroom Dance Company Owner Sunnie Page

"Portland's Dance Ambassadors to the World"

by Leonard and Margaret Sawchuk

Sunnie Page and Jim Gray have become familiar faces to the many regulars of the local dance community. During the last couple of years they've become a favorite exhibition couple not just in Portland, but also in Southern Oregon and New York City. Watching their latest show at the USABDA New Year's Eve Dance, we felt thrilled to have seen them develop into a mature, confident and entertaining couple. We had to remind ourselves that this was the same couple that just four years ago entered Ballroom Competition as "Newcomers."

Sunnie and Jim have steadily risen through the ranks of amateur ballroom competition. At the 2000 USABDA National Championships they placed first in "Bronze" and "Silver" syllabus. They won "Novice" the following year at the National Championships, they surprised a lot of people with a first place in the "PreChampionship" Division, and nearly made the semi-finals of the "Championship" Division.

They are currently ranked 7th in the Nation by the IDSF in the international standard. A lot of people have been surprised by the almost mercurial rise of this couple coming from near obscurity and coming from Portland, Oregon, of all places. Most of the top couples in the United States come from former Soviet Republics, where they were trained as children at government sponsored ballroom dance academies. But "surprising" is what this couple has been all about from their humble beginnings.

As you get to know Sunnie, you quickly find that she is full of "surprises." Petite, neat, and always perfectly groomed, she does not seem like the type of person who in High School volunteered to be a foreign exchange student to Thailand, and, not in a big city either, but a remote, primitive jungle village. Without electricity or plumbing, he found herself living in a open air, 30 walled, family hut. Daily breakfast consisted of alocal favorite: water beetles with rice. Se admits to eating a lot of rice (without the beetles), but she loved the experience and the people. Not realizing what an unusual situation awaited for her in Thailand, Sunnie brought along a festive, semi-formal gown with rhinestone buttons. The village women cam up on it he first night there, and were fascinated by it. After that, they gave her a special name, "Potchadapan," which roughly means: clothes made of diamonds. If only they could see her now.

Early interest in dance led Sunnie to participate in a jazz dance quartet in High School. While studying abroad at this time, she took lessons in traditional Thai and Japanese dance in Thailand and Japan, respectively. Later during a Disneyland vacation, she was captivated instantly and knew that was what she wanted to do.

Back in Portland, she signed up for group lessons at Tigard Dance Studio with Ken Goin. Shyness kept her from dancing outside of the classroom for over two years. When she saw the BYU ballroom dance team perform in Portland, she realized she should compete to improve...and wear those beautiful costumes!

At the first social dance she attended in Portland, she met Jim Gray and discovered he was looking for a competition partner. They enjoyed dancing together and got along well. Mutual friend Michael Kurelowich (an amateur competitor who now teaches professionally in Salem), took initiative and encouraged them to partner. After talking, they agreed to practice together. Just two weeks later they entered their first competition in Seattle beating out seven other couples to place first in the Newcomer division of International Standard. Interestingly, they'd only taken lessons together in International Latin and Argentine Tango before that day! Their unexpected success encouraged them to focus on standard.

Jim Gray loves to dance. His start came one evening when he followed his father to a local square dance vent. He really enjoyed it and found he had a knack for learning patterns quickly. Years later, he looks back and says they were the happiest group of people he ever met! Square dances also feature "round dancing." "Round dance has a caller like square dance, but uses steps from the international ballroom syllabus. Jim loved round dance and the challenge to learn more and more figures. He danced with many partners throughout the next five years and mastered one level after another. Eager to further develop his skill, Jim turned to ballroom dance, and found his next passion. After six years of social ballroom dance, Jim decided to find a partner to achieve a higher level of skill through competition.

Four years later, Jim and Sunnie are easily the most successful of Portland's amateur competitors and the most widely traveled. During the last year they were in New York City six times for lessons and competitions. Coaching and competitions also took them to Provo, Utah; Vancouver, British Columbia, Kingston, Ontario; Las Vegas, Nevada; Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Stamford, Connecticut; Irvine, Palm Springs, Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; Fairfield, New Jersey, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Seattle, Washington, and more! To refine their skills they began competing and taking coaching in England this year. In January they competed in two competitions including the United Kindom Open, one of the largest competitions in the world with 197 couples representing 42 countries in their category. They returned to England this May for two more competitions including "Blackpool a "Mecca" for international ballroom competitors! They placed 6th out of the American couples there, and look forward to returning this November for the "International."

So what are their goals? Simply put: they want to rise as high in competition as their resources will take. They admit to being as surprised as anyone by their success to date! They never, ever imagined when they started that they would be ranked where they are today. They credit their success due to taking lessons with premier world-ranked dancesport competitors, who provide them access to the most current and accurate technique. They also credit Sunnie's parents, and the flexibility of their coworkers, for supporting them in their dancesport dreams. But they share a second goal as well; and that is to introduce people in Portland to the beauty, grace, and excitement of competitive ballroom dance. That is why they are so eager to take time out of their very busy schedule to perform exhibitions.

Their commitment to DanceSport makes them the perfect cuople to represent Portland wherever dance takes them, whether in the United States, Canada, England, or the World. We will be eagerly following their progress .

The Ballroom Dance Company
503 - 639 - 4861

We lease floorspace & teach at 8900 SW Commercial St, Tigard OR


I-5 to exit 294,
Follow 99W west
Left on Hall,
Right on Commercial
(you'll see Salon Natalia)
Ballroom is on your left


217 to exit 292,
Right on 99W,
Get in far left lane
Left on Hall
(you'll see Salon Natalia)
Right on Commercial


I-5 to exit 292B
(Kruse Way toward 72nd)
Left on 72nd
Right on Hunziger
Left on Hall
Right on Commercial

Look for the burgundy & gold building with the "BALLROOM" marquee