About Avant Garde

Welcome to Avant Garde Ballroom Dance Center, the newest dance studio in Bethesda and the Greater Washington D.C.  area, where our goal is to make you feel special.  Our studio is contemporary class and elegance at its best, with floor-to-ceiling beveled mirrors and top-of-the-line sprung floors to reduce injuries and minimize fatigue.

Step inside and you will sense the friendly, professional atmosphere of our staff and our teachers. We have something for everyone – from the nervous beginner, to the social dancer, to the “I want to learn a beautiful wedding dance”, to the competitive dancer eager to bring home medals.

We take pride in the expertise of our professionals.  They can explain each step and will help you understand the importance of style, posture, and physical conditioning. They are compassionate, patient, encouraging, and dedicated with one goal in mind – to teach you to dance and have fun too!

Our studio will be your “home”, away from home – a relaxing, non-intimidating environment where you will feel like part of our dance “family”.  We will focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. We will erase all your fears and inspire you to be the best that you can be.

In a world beset by problems, people are looking for ways to leave some of that behind, even for just brief moments a day. Ballroom dancing has taken the world by storm! It is the antidote to relieve stress and get physically fit while learning a variety of dance moves.
Life is too short.

Leave those problems behind for just moments a day. Enter the world of Avant Garde Ballroom Dance Center

Put on those dance shoes … and live!

Contact Us

The People Behind Avant Garde

Michaela “Pinky” Puno

Pinky’s passion for dance is unquestionable. At 18, her father built her a ballet studio where she taught from 1966 until 1989, coming out with unsurpassed recitals that were the envy of Metro Manila for its high production values. Even after having 7 children and moving to the US in 1987, she was still involved in dance, choreographing and directing the musicals of her children’s schools.

Pinky embarked on studying ballroom after being inspired by The Ohio Star Ball on PBS television. In 2005, she met her pro-am partner and teacher Slava Sergiev. Together, they have competed in Latin and Smooth. Despite her hip, knee, and shoulder surgeries, her positive attitude, determination, and hard work have paid off with promising competition results. In 2013, her story as a dancer was featured on tv’s TNT presentation called “Ballroom Blitz”.

Pinky spearheaded The Philippine StarBall beginning in 2008 – 2011. It was a sold-out event every year – the first open international competition of its caliber in the nation – written and raved about by competitors and adjudicators from 30 countries. Her vision put the Philippines on the map of the ballroom dance scene.

Pinky continues to compete up to the present to show women that “age is just a number”. She is constantly challenged by her two present partners — Slava Sergiev for Pro-Am and Ryan Jago, former Philippines Amateur Latin Champion, for her Senior Amateur events.

Michaela “Pinky” Puno is the embodiment of the quintessential woman – wife, mother of 7 and grandmother of 15, and a passionate dancer and artist.

Nick Short

Dennis W. Short – or Nick, as people would like to call him has certificates in the International Dance Styles – both Latin and Standard and specializes in American Smooth, American Rhythm, and Show Dance.

His accomplishments are not to be taken lightly. These include:

  • Member of the NDCA – National Dance Council of America
  • Membership in the NADTA – North American Dance Teacher Association
  • Certified U.S. National Judge for all levels of competitive dancing
  • 2- time U.S. Champion in Professional American Smooth
  • 2- time U.S. Champion in Professional American Rhythm
  • U.S. Pro-Am American Rhythm Champion for 4 consecutive years
  • U.S. Pro-Am American Smooth Champion
  • U.S. Pro-Am Theatrical Champion
  • 1995 – U.S. Pro- Am Feather Award given in Beverly Hills, CA to professionals for outstanding achievement in the competitive ballroom dance world
  • Gave a command performance for the King and Queen of Thailand at the Royal Palace in Bangkok for Her Majesty’s 60th birthday
  • Produced several dance productions in Thailand in cooperation with UNICEF
  • Co-Organized the Black and White Ball in Maryland

He founded Du- Shor ( after Dennis Short ) Dance Studio in 1975. He owned and managed it successfully for 30 years until  2004. Nick decided to sell the studio. It is Avant Garde that now remains in the forefront of his efforts.

Dennis “ Nick” Short is the ethical, consummate professional. Being an astute and successful businessman is not in conflict with what he really is … a dancer and teacher at heart.

Slava Sergiev

Rostislav Sergiev, better known as Slava Sergiev, is a Professional Ballroom Dancer and Instructor. He specializes in International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth, American Rhythm and Show dance.

Born in Minsk, Belarus, Slava has accomplished much as a ballroom dancer which include the following:

  • Former Undefeated Standard, Latin and Ten-Dance Champion of Belarus
  • Winner of more than 30 professional competitions all over the USA and the UK
  • US National Professional Rising Star Standard Couple of the Year 2000
  • US National Professional Rising Star Champion in year 2001
  • Five times 3rd Place winner at US National Professional Ten-Dance Championships
  • Former US representative to the Professional World Ten-Dance Championships
  • Professional World Ten-Dance Championship semi-finalist in Stuttgart, Germany in 2002
  • Winner of Dance and Fashion Championship in Professional Standard division inLondon, UK
  • US National Professional Classic Show dance 3rd place Winner in 2008

After pursuing a degree in Higher Education at the Minsk Radio Engineering University, it was ballroom dancing that he focused on.

He and his wife, Katya, moved to the U.S. in 1995 upon the invitation of David and Glenn’s Dee-Creger. In 1999, Slava and Katya, became co-owners of Atlantic Ballroom in Towson, MD where they successfully continued to teach private and group lessons. After a few years though, they decided to go on their own.

Slava is presently an independent sought-after Pro-Am teacher well-known not only in the U.S. but internationally too. His students, whose ages range from 8 – 65, are presently competing all over the US. He has earned the respect not only of his students but his co-professionals as well because of his hard work, ethics, and the ability to impart his knowledge of the different dance styles.

Avant Garde Professionals

Slava Sergiev

Owner/Instructor

Nick Short

Owner/Instructor

Don Beedie

Instructor

Guest Artists

Ryan Jago

Guest Artist

Hip Hop Teachers

Avril Hernandez

Hip Hop Teacher

Ashlee McKinnon

Hip Hop Teacher

Staff

Chanell Hedgepeth, Studio Manager and Events Coordinator

Chanell comes to us with a background in many different services including modeling, dancing, and extensive customer service experience. Her optimism and persistence provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere to the Avant Garde Ballroom. Here to make each person’s experience as wonderful as their last and help the studio to thrive and grow, she brings exceptional hard work to our management team.

Fatima Dombouya, Customer Reception

Fatima Doumbouya comes to us with a strong customer service background as well as superb administrative work. She enjoys working at Avant Garde Ballroom since she has loved dancing since she was very young. She helps us to create the welcoming atmosphere of our ballroom with her enthusiastic and “go getter” attitude to be the best she can be.

Hellen Alvarez, Customer Reception

Hellen comes to us with plenty of experience in customer service and being a receptionist. She is very organized and detail oriented. She is understanding and caring. You can count on her to get the work done, plus she likes to dance for fun.