Calgary teen Latin dancers win national championship

It took years of hard work through countless hours of practice on the dance floor but Calgarians 14-year-old Maria Cernat and her partner 13-year-old Patrick Buscu are celebrating as Canadian Junior Latin America champions.

The teens danced their way to the top April 28th at the Canadian Closed Dance Sport Championships in Montreal. Now they’ve earned a spot to represent their country at the 2024 world championships.

Cernat said she and Buscu placed well at a number of competitions leading up to the 2022 nationals but the pressure was really on in Montreal.

“The stakes were a lot higher, because we won the big trophy,” she said. “We also won a trip to Europe so that was a lot, definitely one of the big ones.”

Buscu said the practice leading up to the competition was intense with practice sessions five days a week.

“We go from school and then I wait at home for like 30 minutes and then my mom drives me to dance,” he said. “Then we dance and we come home, sometimes at 7, 8, or 9 pm”


The teenage dynamic dance duo met on the dance floor when they were just six at Unique Dance in northeast Calgary. It’s owned by Roxana and Petre Samolia who along with the majority of their competitive students are from Romania.

“It’s very cultural in Romania for a boy to dance,” said Roxana. “Nothing unusual, I think it’s a bit of pride when you say my boy’s dancing, it’s like hockey in Canada.”

And while Calgary’s Romanian community are overjoyed with their national champions, Alberta hasn’t had much of a presence at Canadian dance competitions for a number of years and Roxana said this is a big deal.

“Their achievement is something that they dreamed of and they would like to continue being the national champions,” she said. “It’s significant for our studio, as well as for the province and these kids are going out to the world representing Canada and that’s amazing and exciting.”


Cernat said she and Buscu had to prepare five different dance styles for the event.

“We have the Cha Cha, the Samba, the International Rumba, the Paso Doble and the Jive and all those five put together create the Latin,” she said.

Dance is a judged sport. Ballroom and Latin dancing have both been regulated since the 1930s and there are books that outline what elements have to be followed in a routine. Petre and Roxana take the basic requirements and rules and teach those to their students. But they also add style and grace to make a piece unique to the couple out on the floor.

The coaches say the two will only get better with age.

“At younger ages they do not really understand how to express to the body and facial expressions,” Petre said. “But now that they’re becoming teenagers and they have their own life experience, they’re starting to understand and this is a point where they need to improve.”

Petre said Cernat and Buscu have excellent technique but there will be little rest for the dancers.

“I always tell them even the world champion has a trainer and that means that at every level there is still room to improve and you cannot be complacent,” he said.

The teens are mature for their age and appreciate the connection and friendship they’ve built over their young years.

“My favorite thing is that he’s very supportive,” said Cernat. “Sometimes during competition I get a little stressed so he really helps break that down a little and calms me down.”

“One of the things she compliments me with is that she’s kind, she’s caring and she shows lots of love towards everyone,” Buscu said.

While the world championships take place every two years, the 2024 location hasn’t been confirmed yet.

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