Mayo Alanen is a respected ballroom dancer and teacher with accolades a mile long, including ranking as high as second in the world in American smooth dancing. While it may be difficult to keep track of all his accomplishments, the former "Dancing With The Stars" finalist can easily pinpoint the moment his love affair with dancesport began.
As a hyper 13-year-old involved in multiple sports, Alanen discovered his lifelong pursuit after watching dancers Gary and Diana McDonald perform a Michael Jackson routine at the Ohio Star Ball on PBS. From that day forward, his interest in dance never stopped growing.
Along with his partner Lauren Walier, Alanen will be bringing that same passion to the upcoming Millennium DanceSport Championships in Orlando, FL, on June 20-24, which is being streamed LIVE on FloDancing.
"Dance to me was the perfect combination of music and sports ," Alanen said. "I just fell in love with it."
After high school, Alanen received a scholarship to Brigham Young University, where he studied psychology and dance. After his junior year, he was offered a job by the very couple that had inspired him on TV all those years ago. Gary and Diana McDonald own the Rogers DanceSport Center in New Jersey, where Alanen worked for six years.
I give Gary and Diana full credit for launching the trajectory of my professional career . They are my mentors, and I like to refer to them as my dance parents.Alanen rose to fame after coming in second place on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars." He was cast in the show after a talent scout spotted him and his partner dancing at the Emerald Ball. After an awkward interview and a 1 1/2-year wait, ABC finally reached out to Alanen and asked him to join the show.
"Before Dancing with the Stars most people didn't understand what I did for a living, regardless of the titles I won. I credit the show for validating my career in that respect," Alanen said.
Now living and teaching in New York, Alanen has students from all over who adore training with him. One such student is Lauren Walier, who came all the way from Atlanta to work and train with Alanen and has helped him put together a soul-shaking, triumphant piece that will be spotlighted at next week's Millennium DanceSport Championships.
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