Hailing from Moldova, a small Eastern European country bordered by Romania and Ukraine, the darked-haired, sultry-eyed Luda Kroitor is often teased by her family as being the one with the "gypsy" looks. But that's not the only gypsy trait this dynamic, five-time world salsa champion carries. She is also a fiery and free-spirited soul who loves to travel and realise her dreams.
You might recognise Luda as a result of her immense success. At 10 years of age Luda and her family moved to Australia where her dreams of dance took flight. Today, Luda is one of the finest dancers Australia has produced.
This year she returns to Dancing with the Stars for her fifth season. She is also a regular choreographer for the hugely successful So You Think You Can Dance, and then there's a string of international dance credits and titles as long as a line of gypsy caravans.
So how does such a vibrant dance sensation select a dance partner and who would be game to partner her?
"I've always said that my dance partner is the best and that I would never dance with anyone else, I just couldn't," says Luda of her dance partner of 17 years, Oliver Pineda.
"We started dancing together when we were kids, so we kind of grew up together. He was away recently but he kept sending me messages. He would say 'Luda! I'm in Amsterdam. You would love it here' and I would tell him 'See! You miss me when I'm not around!'"
For Luda, there are certain physical qualities that are essential in a dance partner.
"I like to dance with a partner who is half a head taller than me when I'm in heels, I'm almost 5'3" [160cm] and I weigh about 45kg so I need a partner who is taller and of course, with a good strong physique for lifting."
But satisfying the physical checklist can be the easy part since Luda's philosophical approach to dance means that additional qualities are paramount.
"For me, most of all, I need to really respect my partner," she says. "That alone can take time. But Oliver and I have done so much together, as a dancer I know what he can do and he knows what I can do. The connection, the respect, the trust, it's very strong."
Aside from their bond born of time and perseverance, Luda appreciates the difference in their personalities.
"We are actually very different people with different friends and interests and that's a good thing. When we come together to rehearse there is so much to talk about," says Luda, who spends a lot of time abroad with Oliver during competition and performance times.
"When we travel we are together 24/7 and it's intense so when we get home it's time to see other friends and do other things.
"But it's strange. When he is away without me, like he was last month, I really miss him. I think of him and he thinks of me too. I think that in life, you know, some things are just meant to be."
For Luda, selecting the right music is just as important as selecting the right partner. Here are some of her favourite songs:
- 'Push It' by Salt-N-Pepa
- 'Keep it in the closet' by Michael Jackson
- 'Memories' feat. Kid Cudi, David Guetta
- 'In my head' by Jason Derulo
- 'Suavemente' by Elvis Crespo
- 'Latinos' by Proyecto Uno
- 'Merengue' by Robert Abigail feat. DJ Rebel
- 'Salome' by Chayanne
- 'I know you want me' by Pitbull
- 'Conga' by Gloria Estefan
- 'La Pelota' by Ray Barretto
- 'Sabroso' by Orquesta la Palabra