Austin Joson and Nino Dzneladze, two rising
stars in the competitive ballroom world,
knew they were meant to dance together.
By Kathryn Holmes Photography by Jayme Thornton
hen 20-year-old Austin Joson and 19-year-old Nino
Dzneladze dance, they’re completely, intensely
connected. Whether they’re doing a sharp, energetic jive
or a smooth, sensual rumba, their bodies move as one.
Their technique is impeccable. Their chemistry is electric.
And over the past year and a half, ballroom judges all over
the world have taken notice.
In 2014, when their partnership was only a few months
old, Austin and Nino won the Dutch Open and the Open
World Championship in Paris, both in the under- 21 Latin
category. In 2015, they won the U.S. National Amateur
DanceSport Championship for under- 21 Latin, as well as
the Amateur Rising Star Latin category at Blackpool
Dance Festival in England—a competition Austin calls
“the Wimbledon of dance.” With top marks at other
DanceSport events around the world, there’s no question
that they’re a couple to watch.
Nino, who moved with her family from her native
Ukraine to L.A. at age 13, has studied Latin dance since
age 4 and competed since age 6. Austin, born and raised
in New Jersey, has trained and competed since age 9.
They initially met as competitors, each achieving success
with other partners. “She and her partner beat me the first
time we competed against each other,” Austin remembers.
“And then we kept trading wins back and forth. I thought
Nino was fantastic—she came across as so fierce and passionate.” The interest was mutual, with Nino admiring
Austin’s suave strength on the dance floor.
The two casually discussed partnering up, but the geographic divide proved difficult; Nino’s parents weren’t eager
for her to move across the country. Everything changed after
a competition in Florida, when Austin and Nino sat down to
talk at an after-party and realized how well-matched they
really were in terms of style and goals. Nino went home to