Astoria Characters: The World-Famous Ballroom Dancers

As partners in dance and in life, Delyan Terziev and Boriana Terzieva have become adept at anticipating each other’s moves.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Boriana, Savanna and Delyan.

It all likelihood, this is because they have been virtually inseparable since they were 7.

So in November, when Boriana was ready to give birth to their second child, a daughter they would name Olivia, they thought they had everything figured out.

After all, the arrival of their first child, Savanna, who is now 4, had been a carefully choreographed event.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Olivia literally couldn’t wait to enter the world.

But Boriana’s water broke in the elevator of their apartment building, and before they knew it, Olivia had arrived before the Uber did.

It wasn’t the dance they had rehearsed, but they improvised without a misstep.

“We got out of the building and into the garden,” Delyan says. “Boriana, who was standing up, said, ‘You’ve got to catch her.’ She fell right into my hands. It was all over in four minutes. I called 911; the ambulance arrived 10 minutes later, and the cord was cut 25 to 30 minutes after birth.”

Olivia, who is lying in her bassinet yawning, is unimpressed by the story, and Savanna, who is twirling around the room like a top in a shiny pink dress with a voluminous skirt, has heard it so often that she’s not even listening.

Bibi and Zumba, the family’s big, fluffy cats, remain aloof.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Boriana’s dancing dresses.

The couple, who are from Stara Zagora, the sixth largest city in Bulgaria, parent the same way they dance – precisely and passionately.

Boriana started taking ballroom dance lessons when she was 5. She was specially selected by a professional trainer for this great honor.

The offer, which was more like a command from the Communist government, was not something she could turn down.

“I loved dancing, so I never thought about it,” she says.

Delyan and Boriana on Dancing with the Stars.

Delyan followed in her footsteps, but he took a different route. When he was 6, he signed himself up for lessons after winning a competition at a Christmas party.

At 7, their feet found each other.

“Boriana was really, really good,” he says. “Her body just moved naturally. I had to struggle.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Boriana has always made Savanna’s food.

Still, they didn’t become dance partners until they were 14.

“She was a superstar,” Delyan says. “She had to lower her level to dance with me.”

Boriana, who is holding Olivia, smiles and says, “I didn’t mind.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Savanna strikes a pose.

During their career together, they won more than 100 professional competitions around the world, including the World Cup Latin Championships in London, and in 2008, they appeared on the TV show Dancing with the Stars, performing a routine to a Cheryl Crow song.

Their trophies, which they recently discarded when they turned the living room of their spacious one-bedroom apartment into Savanna’s bedroom, took up an entire wall.

Their flamboyant costumes, which Delyan designed, suffered a similar fate.

“I sold most of them,” Boriana says, adding that each cost $3,000 to $8,000. “I applied every sequin and sparkle by hand.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
If the blue shoe fits, wear it with pink.

Delyan, who really is tall, dark and handsome, and Boriana, who is statuesque, svelte and smoldering, weren’t always together; for periods of time that felt too long, they lived in different countries and danced with different partners.

But in 1999, when they turned 21, they settled in New York City.

“Boriana came because she was offered a partner,” Delyan says. “I came because she came.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Savanna’s second of stillness.

By 2000, they were living together. By 2001, they were dancing together. And by 2003, they were dancing – together — at their own wedding.

They created a very busy and exciting life filled with suitcases and sequins. When they were not dancing in competitions, they were teaching.

In 2013, they stopped competing. She was ready hang up her dancing shoes. He was not.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Delyan started dancing at 6.

“We were — and still are — the most successful Bulgarian ballroom dancing couple, Delyan says. “I got depressed because it was all coming to an end.”

But the end became a new beginning.

These days, they travel around the country teaching students and tutoring teachers and judging competitions; 21 Jam Street in Long Island City is one of their stops.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
A First Spoons’ organic meal.

They also took over the Golden Star Dancesport Championship, which is held in New Jersey.

“It was our first baby,” Delyan says.

It may have been their first, but it wasn’t the baby who changed their lives. That honor belongs to Savanna, who began taking gymnastic classes at 2 and a half and advanced to private lessons at 3 and a half.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Boriana travels the world teaching dance.

When Savanna was 6 months old, Boriana took a trip home to Bulgaria to show her off to relatives. It was there that the subject of children’s nutrition came up.

Boriana had always fed Savanna homemade puree, but now the little girl was ready for solid food.

“In Bulgaria, there are government-run baby kitchens, and even some private ones, where mothers go to get food for their children,” she says. “My parents got my food there and all my girlfriends were getting food there. They asked me about the ones in New York City.”

When their research didn’t turn up any baby kitchens in the city, Boriana and Delyan decided to found their own.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
A daddy-daughter First Spoons breakfast.

Thus, First Spoons, which prepares healthy organic meals for children aged 4 months to 4 years, was born. Its logo, of course, is a super cute photo of Savanna holding a wooden spoon that’s a million times too big for her mouth.

“We’re using the same recipes they do in Bulgaria,” Boriana says, adding that so far their 3,500-square-foot Astoria-based kitchen serves more than 100 babies along the East Coast.

For Delyan, First Spoons represents a natural progression of their careers as coaches.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Savanna, the face of First Spoons.

“We’ve been teaching since we were 18,” he says. “I see myself as the voice of food for children.”

Right now, there’s another voice ringing out.

Olivia is giggling as her big sister scampers around the room.

Astoria Characters Day: The 10th Anniversary is Sept. 22, 2019.

Sponsored by Bareburger, it’s a free, public event.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhing@gmail.com; @nancyruhling, nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com, astoriacharacters.com.

Copyright 2019 by Nancy A. Ruhling