Northwestern Ballroom Latin and Swing Team


Matt Rivers
Matt Rivers was born in Australia into a ballroom dancing family – his father, Ray Rivers, is a former World Latin finalist and World Ballroom semi-finalist; mother, Robin Giacomantonio, won numerous Australian professional championships in addition to competing around the world; brother, Jason and sister, Kristy have both competed with finalist and champion status and step-sister, Toni Redpath is a 4-time U.S. National Smooth Champion and a World Grand Finalist. Matt started training in Latin and Ballroom at the age of 14 under the instruction of his parents. He became Australian junior and youth state champion and representative and national finalist before moving to San Diego, California.

By the age of 19, he had started teaching and competing professionally in both Latin and Ballroom. Matt was involved in the movie “Dance With Me” with Vanessa Williams and the Euro MTV music video “You Take My Self Control”. He has performed in many shows throughout the United States and in Spain.

Matt is certified by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. He now lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois. Matt currently competes nationally both professionally in Latin and with his Pro/Am students in all styles.

Recent accomplishments include Chicago Crystal Ball open professional Latin champions, Ohio Star Ball rising star professional Latin semifinalists, North America Imperial Star Ball rising star professional Latin champions, Cincinnati Ballroom Classic rising star and open professional Latin champions and Heart of America rising star professional Latin champions.


Shirley Zhang
Shirley is a junior pre-dental student with double majors in Biology and Psychology. She started dancing as a cute little 7-year old munchkin stubbornly determined to become a professional ballerina. After years of dancing professionally. Shirley decided she needed a change of pace and traded in her pointe shoes for dance heels. She proceeded to fall hopelessly in love with Latin dancing and soon after began competing in regional and national ballroom competitions. Upon coming to college, she discovered her second home, BLAST, and the rest is history! Outside of the ballroom, Shirley can be found trying to find creative ways to bedazzle everything, reminding people to floss daily, shopping (too much), and cracking bad science jokes.


Benjamin Kraft
Kraft is a junior Biology major with a minor in Classical Studies. Until joining BLAST fall quarter of his freshman year, the only dance styles he knew were the Batman, the sprinkler, the stanky leg, and the Bernie. While he still practices these highbrow dance forms, he is eager to expand his dancing horizons and learn the dances of the common-man. He is an avid member of the competition team and hopes to continue learning more social dances in addition to advancing his ballroom and latin skills. When he’s not dancing, he can be found making witty comments, drawing and painting portraits, reading the latest fantastical novel, or cooking something delicious in the nearest kitchen.