CLEARWATER — A few years ago, a young man walked into a dance studio and asked for a job.
He was 6 feet tall and lean. He wanted to teach ballroom dancing.
Paul Swaine, who owns Dancers Rendezvous, slipped in a CD and watched.
"He moved with grace, poise and elegance," Swain said. "And that was it."
A native of Moldova, Stepan Matkovski came to the United States in search of success in the American dance world. His dreams were within reach Sunday, as Daniel Dorsch, his wife, Cyndie, and Mr. Matkovski were returning from a ballroom dance competition. The plane, piloted by Dorsch, crashed in a Virginia field. Mr. Matkovski was 23.
He grew up in Moldova, a country nestled between Romania and Ukraine. He had all the advantages of wealth until he was 12 years old and his father was murdered, said Tina Waisman, a student of Mr. Matkovski's.
By the time he came to the United States, he had won 12 dance championships, Waisman said. She met Mr. Matkovski and his wife, Stela, at a party in 2006, when both were exchange students. Waisman and her husband, Phil, put the couple up at their Safety Harbor home.
A clerical error on Stela's visa application forced her back to Moldova. Mr. Matkovski worked for Swaine, and quickly established himself as an excellent teacher.
"He was a very expressive dancer," Waisman said. "The world around him disappeared with he danced."
Waisman and Mr. Matkovski danced together in pro-am competitions, winning several awards.
So did Doris Brown, who was planning to compete in the United States Dance Championships, held in Orlando in September, with Mr. Matkovski as her partner. An occupational therapist, Brown saved six months to buy a $3,000 dress for the occasion.
He was a tough instructor, she said. "He was always telling me to look at him and not the floor," Brown said. "Your posture has to be perfect. I think I've grown 3 inches."
Another student, Cyndie Dorsch, had flown to the Manhattan DanceSport Championships over the holiday weekend. On the way home, the pilot reported unspecified problems before the Pilatus PC-12 crashed in a field.
Mr. Matkovski was within weeks of getting his green card, Waisman said. That meant his wife's visa problems would become irrelevant. After two years of waiting, they were going to see each other soon.
Despite that expensive dress hanging in her closet, Brown isn't sure she even wants to go to Orlando now. It would be too hard to change partners, she said.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or email@example.com.