About Rita Gekhman-Algarra
I was born in Minsk Belarus in a small family. My father was an engineer and my mother, a math teacher who later became one of the first computer programmers in the country. My father passed away when I was three years old and my sister was 1 and a half years old. We were brought up by my mother and grandmother. As long as I remember, I have been captivated by the majestic combination of movement and music, whether it was Ballet, Gymnastics, figure skating etc. I had an extensive collection of rare pictures from USSR magazines, newspapers and flyers all of them related to dancing, music and any kind of artistic expression involving movement and music.
At age 7, I was accepted in the rhythmical Gymnastics school. At the same time I started music school playing piano. I graduated from the music school at 13 and decided to quit gymnastics. The very same year, my mom attended a ballroom competition inVilnus,Lithuania and suggested I would give it a try. I fell completely in love with ballroom dancing from the first lesson. Soon after, I was accepted in a ballroom company and together with my partner became one of the leading couples in Belarus. I still continued with my regular education and graduated from college with an M.A. in Mathematics and became a math teacher.
It was in 1990 and while pregnant when I immigrated to Israel. My son Tal was born 5 months later in Israel. Three weeks after the birth of my son, I started dancing again and naturally started working a full time job as a High School math teacher in Ashdod, a town 30 minutes south of Tel-Aviv and as if it was not enough I started teaching dancing as well. Needless to say, I was a very busy person in a very new country and a new language. With my partner Gena Kigher we became the first Israel Latin American amateur champions in 1991. We represented Israel in the World Latin American Championship in Oslo, Norway. From then, I was Israel National Amateur Champion in Latin, Standard 10 dance and Classic Show dance divisions. In 1995 I turned Pro and starting dancing with a new partner, Garry Gekhman. I represented Israel in numerous World and European championships. It was at that time when we started traveling to Europe for lessons with Oliver Wessel-Therhorh, Pamela McGill, Graham Oswick among others.
By 1999 I realized that my teaching career was interfering with my dancing, and then with the help of my two good friends Igor and Paulina Pillipenchuck, we moved to America and started working in an independent studio in New Jersey. We were eager to learn and develop further our dancing and technical knowledge. It was then when we started taking lessons abroad with the best teachers in the world: Michael and Vicky Barr, Marcus and Karen Hilton, Kenny and Marion Welsh to name a few.
Back in the US, we continued practicing and studying with Katusha Deminova and Jonathon Wilkins. Hard work started to pay off in 2002 when we became first couple to win US national open and close rising star Championships the same year. We started making rising star finals in England shortly after that. We made US national Championship finals twice. We met wonderful people and were privileged to compete against great dancers. Among our memorable victories in open standard division in prestigious competitions such as Yankee Classic, World Masters, Philadelphia Dance festival, Constitution State Challenge, North East Invitational, Maryland Dance Sport Championship, Virginia State Championships just to name a few.
Throughout our career, we competed in classic Show Dance as well. Preparing and competing in this style gave us great satisfaction and results: With our “Chicago” show number, we became World Classic Show Dance second runners up.
Our last number, the Freakazoid, combining a futuristic and robotic look with ballroom dancing, became very famous all over the world and we finished second in the World Championship held in Kiev, Ukraine. We won US National championship twice with this number as well.
The highlight of our career was an invitation to perform the Robot Show dance in Blackpool 2008. That was my last public performance and I decided to retire from competitive dancing and focus on teaching and Judging. It was a time for the new generation of my family to continue what I have started. Dancing is now a family affair. My son Tal Livshitz is a very serious AM competitor and I coach many competitive dancers.
Just when I thought I would never dance again in front of a large audience as a professional, we received an invitation from the television show “Dancing with the Stars”. This was one of the best experiences of my dance life.
Now I’m very blessed to have a great family, an awesome boyfriend, a wonderful son who were there for me through a rough time last year.
I own Champions Dance Center dance studio in Old Bridge New Jersey where we teach competitive and social dancing. Together with my staff, Tal Livshitz and Vlada Semenova, we are helping to raise a new generation of Champions. I take great pleasure and pride from my students, from juniors to senior levels, I cannot ask for more rewarding experiences. Both my junior and senior students are US national champions and US national finalists, all my students constantly make me proud at every competition and at the same time, they are very proud of the fact that even if they do not win every time, they show the great technique and love for what they do. My pro-am students keep me busy and fit and I still get the thrill of walking on a dance floor.
Outside dancing, I love reading, hiking, spending time outdoors; I enjoy Broadway, museums, traveling ,learning history and different cultures.