AIDA Examiners

Michael Choi

Michael Choi

Michael began dancing Swing during the revival of the late 90’s, but soon moved on to other styles. While attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for painting, he began competing as an amateur in Standard and Latin. The owner of the studio where he was practicing gave him some good advice, “Move somewhere you can get good training as a dancer and teacher, and do your ISTD certifications.”

That somewhere was New York. After a brief stint at Fred Astaire, he began working at the Sandra Cameron Dance Center. That turned out to be the best of both worlds because it was there that he passed his first Associate exams in Standard and Latin, and had the opportunity to work with some of the icons of the early days of Swing and American social dancing like Frankie Manning and Peter DiFalco.

Michael has competed as a professional nationally and internationally in Latin, Ballroom, and Smooth. He’s been a finalist in Rising Star Ballroom and Classic Showdance, and won many Open Smooth competitions. While he has worked with a broad spectrum of teachers, Charlotte Jorgensen, Edward Simon, and Rufus Dustin have been his main influences as a competitor.

As a teacher he’s coached actors like Nicole Kidman and choreographers like Mercedes Ellington, and danced with his pro-am students on their way to US Championship and Best of the Best titles. He’s also consulted on shows like the Rockette’s Summer Spectacular choreographed by Mia Michaels in 2016, the Kennedy Center production of Duke Ellington’s Shakespearean Suite, and the ABC TV show Life on Mars.

From 2012-2015 he served, first as Secretary of the National Committee of the USISTD, and then as President. Michael continues to perform and compete, and train dancers of all levels in New York.

Contact info for Michael:

Esther Don 

Esther Don

Esther Don

Esther Don, A Fellow I.S.T.D.- BB, AM and LIC-LA
P.O. Box 880788
Port Saint Lucie, FL 34988-0788
Tel/Fax 772-468-2900   Email:

I have been enthusiastically teaching since 1976.  I became a member of the USISTD in 1981. I competed in the pro ranks with my husband and we specialize in the International Ballroom. One can say I grew up going to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to the ISTD competitions three times year.  It was there that the seed of commitment to the society blossomed. I have no regrets in my ballroom career, except having commenced too late in life.  In the short 11 years of competing as a professional, we had the opportunity to travel worldwide. I used to own a Fred Astaire Dance Studio, as well owning and running a successful independent dance studio.  My experience has covered every aspect of teaching, from beginners to professional competitors. I have a passion for every aspect of the ballroom dance industry.

I can easily say I was blessed with a wonderful dance teacher the late Mr. James Donaghey. He artfully and carefully enriched my dance knowledge and nourished me into loving the society, like he did himself.

Currently in the Ballroom competition community, I am an active adjudicator and coach.

My most recent dance accomplishments, include authoring for the American Style syllabus, six technique manuals and twenty Dvds, used by

United States Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing
National Dance Teachers Association
Pan American Teachers of Dancing

I am a proud Member of the USISTD Board of Trustees, and an examiner for the USISTD in the American Style Ballroom and Rhythm

I am also a competition organizer who loves to run events and a trainer who loves to prepare aspiring candidates for their exams.

Professional Trainer/ Coach/ Examiner/Adjudicator/Organizer

Miriam Ellis

Miriam Ellis

Miriam Ellis

  • Born and educated in Warrington in the North of England
  • Studied performing arts for several years as a child
  • Studied ballroom dancing in the teen years
  • Graduate of Warrington College of Commerce
  • Secretary to Inspector General, Burtonwood Air Force Base (largest Air Force Base in Europe; now a museum)
  • Re-located to the United States, with parents, at the age of 21
  • Became Eastern Regional Dance Director, Arthur Murray, Inc., which included training the staff for 25 studios
  • Secretary to President and CEO of General Acceptance Corporation, Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Married Richard Cope in 1960; son (Richard) Bradley and daughter Alexandra
  • Owned and managed Miriam Cope Dance Studios in Bucks County,
    Pennsylvania, 1962 – 1980
  • Studied with Aleta Marcy (and Frank Regan) from 1970 – 1978
  • Became a member of the Imperial Society in 1972
  • Choreographer for Greater Kensington and Harrowgate String Bands
  • Owned and managed Jamison Dance Academy, Bucks County, PA 1980 – 1999
  • Achieved both the Ballroom and Latin American Fellowships, under the excellent tutelage of Miss Maisie Harrison, in August 1987
  • Became appointed as an Imperial Society Dance Examiner in 1999
  • Author of 5 technique books, and producer of 4 DVD’s, as study guides for Society syllabi
  • Re-located to Leesburg, Florida in 1999, to be closer to both married children and their families
  • Proud grandmother to 4 grandsons and 2 granddaughters

Miriam Ellis

Phone: 407-999-6320

e-mail address:

Lori Woods Gay 

Lori comes from a diverse background of artistic, academic, and administrative experience.

Lori Woods Gay

As a competitor, she was a US Championship Finalist in Theater Arts with partner Rufus Dustin, New England Professional Champion and US Finalist in American Style with partner David Rosinski, US pro/am Theatre Arts, American Style Smooth and Grand Champion with husband John Gay.  She was also invited to and danced in the prestigious Exhibition in Blackpool England.

Lori parlayed her success on the dance floor into a long career, which includes “top teacher” at numerous Championship events, World Class Judge and Examiner.  She spent considerable time studying in England with the legendary Elizabeth Romain and is one of very few Imperial members who hold a Fellowship degree in all five branches of dance. She is passionate about using dance technique to enrich the quality of dance on a practical level, and she authors articles on this topic in her “Technique Diva” column of Dance Beat.

She is proud to have been trained and mentored by USISTD greats such as Fran Rogers, Julius Kaiser, Dagmar Jarvel, and Roy Mavor whose example, along with Examiners Peter Billet and Jim Donaghey, inspired her to become an ISTD Examiner.

As an administrator, Lori owned a Fred Astaire studio and was an Examiner and Member of the Fred Astaire National Dance Board.  She collaborated with the late John Monte in organizing the U.S. Championships and co-organized one of the earlier NDCA Competitions, the Boston Bicentennial, in 1975.  She spent 8 years on the Executive Committee of the National Dance Council of America and recently served as President of the USISTD. She is currently on the Invigilation Committee and the Credential and Education Committee for the NDCA. phone: 609-532-0357

Izabela Jaworska

Izabela Jaworska

Izabela Jaworska

Izabela is a certified Ballroom Examiner for the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, with a Fellowship in International Ballroom and Licentiate in Latin styles.

She fell in love with dancing at age 7, and is a longtime ballroom teacher, competitor and adjudicator. A native of Poland, she represented that country with her former partner Robert Kubis in competitions in Europe, Asia and the United States. They were finalists in Standard and 10-dance Polish Championships, and won almost every U.S. Professional Rising Star title.

The biggest influences on her dance career have been Peter Eggleton, Bill and Bobbie Irvine, Marcus and Karen Hilton, Andrew Sinkinson, Luca and Loraine Baricchi, and Pierre Allaire.

In 1997, she was invited by Arthur Murray Dance Studios to work in one of their schools in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She became a U.S. citizen, and made Michigan her home.

Izabela has been a studio co-owner, has designed women’s dance fashions, and now teaches at the Dance Pavilion in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She has been rewarded with a large number of students in the region and is devoted to helping each student achieve his or her goals. Her teaching style focuses on technique and its nuances. She also recognizes how important it is for students to understand body mechanics. She brings her knowledge gained from studies in yoga and anatomy to develop students’ awareness of balance, strength, and flexibility.

She is working on her Fellowship in Latin style and continues her study of teaching methods. Her goal is to help her students become more musical, expressive, dynamic and artistic in their dancing.

Trevor Luff 

Hometown: Walton-on-Thames, UK
Current location: Stone Mountain, Georgia / Los Angeles CA (USA)
Current status:


Trevor Luff is a native of England where he was the British Rock & Roll Dance Champion before relocating to the United States. He later became a representative of the U.S. in World Championship Team Matches. His competitive career included placing in the finals for most major competitions in the International Standard and American Smooth divisions.

For the past 25 years, Trevor has taught both Amateur and Professional competitors in StandardLatin, Smooth and rhythm divisions in the United States as well as in most of Asia including throughout Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and just lately, Vietnam.

Trevor has achieved the highest certification level of a Dual Fellowship in International Standard and Latin and a Triple Licentiate in American SmoothAmerican Rhythm, and Theatre Arts from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD). With this background, he has judged many Collegiate, National Qualifying Events, and Championship competitions throughout the U.S. and is one of just a few individuals in the United States qualified to be a certified invigilator for USA Dance. Also, Trevor is a WDSF “A” Licensed Adjudicator.

  • British Rock & Roll Dance Champion
  • U.S. Representative to the World Championship Team Matches
  • Finalist for most major competitions in the International Standard and American Smooth divisions
  • Over 25 years of teaching dance experience (both Amateur and Professional)
  • Taught competitors in the United States as well as in most of Asia including throughout Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam
  • Has judged and chaired many Collegiate and independent competitions , National Qualifying Events, and Championship competitions throughout the United States


Sharon Pekkarinen

Sharon Pekkarinen

Sharon is the first AIDA Examiner in Australia, and infact, outside of the USA. She started ballet at the age of 3 and trained in ballet, jazz, tap & contemporary until her first teaching employment at Fred Astaire in Canberra, the Nation’s Capital in 1999. As she progressed in her Smooth and Rhythm training it became apparent that there was a limit to the opportunities available to teachers/dancers in Australia which is why all the serious dancers moved to the USA.

She was able to complete her Fred Astaire International Associates degree in 10 dances with Honours, which is when she learned of the technical training process, but the franchise died out in Australia, so in 2005 her husband Marko sent out requests for certification to different organisations and received only 1 reply, from the incredible Ms Lori Woods Gay.

2000 – Marko and Sharon placed 4th in the Showcase Division with Argentine Tango in the Fred Astaire competition in the Bahamas.

2003 – their son, Finn was born.

2005 – Marko and Sharon placed 3rd on the ABC TV Show “Strictly Dancing”.

2006 – Sharon completed her Associates Degrees in both Smooth and Rhythm over 2 days  – Highly Commended.

2007 – their daughter, Isabella was born.

2008 – they became the ACT Pro On2 Salsa Champions. (ACT – Australian Capital Territory. Canberra.)

2009 – Sharon contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fybromyalgia from a virus, and still has them.

2009 – Sharon completed her Licentiate Degrees in both Smooth & Rhythm over 2 days  – Highly Commended.

2009 – 2010 and 2011 they won their Pro Salsa Title 3 more times, and are 4 time undefeated champions.

2010 – Sharon became a Zumba Fitness instructor.

In 2011 Sharon and Marko started “ASDAC – The Outback Crown”. Australia’s most glamourous, independent Smooth and Rhythm competition for all Pro/Am and Pro’s in Australia to compete.

2013 – Sharon completed her Fellowships in both Smooth & Rhythm over 2 days  – Highly Commended.

2013 – Sharon completed her Standard Associates and Theatre Arts Associates over 2 days  – Highly Commended.

2016 – Sharon completed her Examiners Assessment over 2 days and achieved her goal after 10 years of study, experience and innovation.

2016 – Sharon became a Strong by Zumba instructor.

2017 – Sharon created “Articulate” Dance Training Program.

Today Marko and Sharon own and operate DANZON Dance Studio in Canberra, Australia, as well as ASDAC which, in 2017, is in its’ 7th year, and open to competitors around the world, and Sharon also has a Diploma of Graphic Design. They are spreading the knowledge that Australia now has the opportunities it never had before, and that the USISTD in Australia brings the highest quality of training, assessment, medals and qualifications to our dancers that the world can offer. They know this will take time. Marko and Sharon never had the opportunity within Australian borders to compete or get qualified so their dancing goal is to bring those opportunities to others.

Mobile Phone

Within Australia: 0418 338 704

Outside Australia: +61 418 338 704

DANZON Dance Studio

(Within Australia)

Landline Phone: (02) 6257 5891

Postal Address: PO Box 594, Civic Square, ACT 2608



Cher Rutherford

Cher Rutherford

Cher Rutherford

Cher Rutherford is one of the most sought-after dance coaches in the United States today. She is seen judging many of the major events in the US and is an important figure on the American dance scene and abroad. She has judged the Exhibition at the British Open Championships in Blackpool numerous times and lectured on American Style Smooth for the ISTD Congress in Worthing and London, England. She has an impressive mix of academic qualifications along with being a Dance Champion, a highly experienced teacher, coach and choreographer. She has been a professional ballroom trainer for over 30 years.

Academic achievements:

Cher’s academic qualifications and teaching credentials include a broad range of certification across many genres to include: Dual Fellowship degrees in Ballroom and Latin from the ISTD London, England.

She also holds Fellowship degrees in the American Style Smooth, Rhythm and Theatre Arts with the United States ISTD. In addition, she has also held these degrees with other dance teacher organizations for many years and is a choreographer and trainer in all styles. These credentials represent the highest level of academic qualifications.

Judging qualifications:

Cher is a National/Championship Adjudicator with the National Dance Council of America and a World Class Adjudicator duly registered with the World Dance Council.

Championship Dancer and performer:

Cher is a United States Champion in the American Style Smooth/Rhythm and Theatre Arts divisions. She performed on the first several PBS programs of Championship Dancing held in New York City hosted by Juliet Prowse in Madison Square Garden. She also danced in a PBS special tribute performance for Agnes DeMille that was hosted by Rita Moreno at the NY Sheraton Center.

Cher was a featured nightly performer in The Magic of Ballroom show that traveled the US for several months with the Mantovani Orchestra tour.

Pro/Am teaching:
As a teacher at the Pro/Am level Cher was highly successful and always presented her pupils with the highest standard of dance for their level and was many times Top Teacher at local, regional and National events.

She is a published columnist with the number one distributed ballroom newspaper in the United States and abroad. They carry her ballroom etiquette column called “Social Graces.”

Videos/ DVDs:
Cher amplifies her influence as a teacher through her performance on many syllabus training videos.

The combination of these achievements makes Cher an outstanding teacher and coach. In the studio environment she is able to adapt to any teaching situational put the pupils at ease, regardless of their level, while also motivating them to achieve their best. She has a pleasant teaching style that is both intense and fun. Dance coaching sessions can be devoted to various endeavors such as; competition or showcase choreography, performance/partnership skills, technique and exam preparation. Coaching sessions are always designed to meet your personal needs.

Aleksandra ‘Sasha’ Spitchka

Sasha Spitchka

Sasha Spitchka is originally from Ukraine. She started dancing at age of 7 first with ballet and folk dance, but later fell in love with ballroom dancing. Very soon she    was training and competing in Standard and Latin.

After obtaining her Bachelor of Education, she started to teach Ballroom and Latin in her native town and was blessed with many talented students. In addition to being a Championship level competitor, she was a Dance Coach, Performer, and a Competition Organizer.

Upon arriving in the USA, Sasha began her career as a Dance teacher with Fred Astaire Dance Studios.  It was during this time that she discovered a beautiful dance style – American Smooth – and enjoyed competing with her husband, Boris, in the Professional Division.

In 1998 Sasha, together with Boris, opened the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Albany NY and she continues to train teachers, teach students, and to Manage the Studio.

Sasha always had an interest in the technical details and the practical application of dance. She always knew that one day she would like to pass the ISTD Exams, but it was only under excellent guidance of amazing Trainer and Mentor Judi Hatton, that her dream came to reality.  Sasha is also grateful to teachers and Examiners of USISTD Lori Woods Gay, Miriam Ellis, Phillip Stephens and Izabela Jaworska for their excellent and inspiring exams along her journey to Examinership.

She enjoyed her study and, together with her husband Boris, she has achieved a Dual Fellowship in International Standard and Latin from the USISTD, and a Triple Fellowship in American SmoothAmerican Rhythm, and Theatre Arts from Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

Sasha is absolutely delighted and honored to have been appointed as our newest Examiner, and she plans to continue with her study of the Ballroom Branch syllabus with the aim of achieving an Examinership in that discipline as well.

Boris Spitchka

Boris Spitchka

Latham, NY

Boris Spitchka, originally from Ukraine, fell in love with ballroom dancing at the young age of 16.

Soon after, he was competing as an amateur in both the Standard and Latin divisions. After obtaining his Bachelors in Education, he started to teach Ballroom and Latin dance in his native town. There he was well known as being a dance coach, performer, judge, and competition organizer. After arriving to the USA, Boris began his career with Fred Astaire Dance Studios® – Mount Kisco (NY). During his time there, he was also competing as a professional dancer in American Smooth. In 1998, Boris opened the Fred Astaire Dance Studios® – Albany (NY). For more than 20 years Boris has successfully managed and owned the Albany location. Boris has always had an interest in the technical details and the practical application of dance. He has achieved the highest certification level of a Dual Fellowship in International Standard and Latin from the ISTD.


  • Fellow International Standard, ISTD
  • Fellow International Latin, ISTD
  • Fellow American Smooth Diploma, FADS
  • Fellow American Rhythm Diploma, FADS
  • Fellow Theatrical Arts Diploma, FADS
  • Gold Dance Director Diploma, FADS

Areas of Expertise:

  • American Smooth
  • American Rhythm
  • International Ballroom
  • International Latin
  • Business Training
  • Training for Professional Certifications & Diplomas

Peter Billett – Retired

Peter Billett

Peter Billett

Dual Fellow & Examiner, I.S.T.D.
Standard, Latin & American Style
Licentiate Theatre Arts


United Kingdom 10 Dance Finalist
United States Championship Finalist
Winner Imperial Society Trophy – London, England
Official Board Scrutineer – London, England
World Championship Adjudicator
Guest Lecturer at Imperial Congress – Worthing, England


Forty years as an Examiner and past President of the United States branch of the
Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing


Thirty-four years Adjunct Faculty at the
Rochester Institute of Technology
Owner and Principal of the Billett Ballroom Center,
Rochester, NY for over twenty-five years


Choreographer for:
George Eastman House Academy Awards
Eastman Theatre performance with Eric Kunzel
Hispanic Heritage celebration with Rita Moreno