He is impressed with Tom and Yuko Yu. "He's a marvelous, beautiful dancer, and she's an exquisite lady who sparkles and comes alive on the dance floor," he said.

Asked to predict whether the pair might win in their division, Franz was optimistic. "They're agile, graceful and really a pleasure to watch."

The duo, who compete in a minimum of 10 ballroom contests each year, have added extra hours to their already busy practice schedules in anticipation of the Baltimore event.

"All we do in our free time is practice," says Tom, noting that they are regulars at the Promenade DanceSport Facility in Windsor Mill. "As an engineer, I'm much more mechanical and methodical. Yuko brings poetry and beauty."

The pair also work out several days a week.

"We do aerobics, stretching, weight training," says Yuko, "and for me, ballet exercises and Pilates."

Meanwhile, the ballroom dancers must also consult with everyone from hairdressers and makeup artists to costume designers.

One of Yuko's gowns — a white confection with Swarowski crystals, goose and ostrich feather plumes —was designed in London and cost more than $4,000. She wears matching satin pumps with a heel height just under three inches.

Tom will be attired in his black custom-made tux, complete with satin lapels and tails, and patent leather dance slippers.

During competitions, the pair will receive professional hair and makeup styling. "It takes a team," says Yuko.

"It's very expensive with coaching and travel," adds Tom.

Promoted as one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, DanceSport has commanded crowds at the World Games 2013 in Colombia and the World DanceSport Games in Taiwan.

Now there's a movement to bring DanceSport to the Olympics.

"At the Sochi Olympics ... 400 DanceSport athletes were invited to participate in the opening ceremonies, and 500 athletes performed at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics Games," said DanceSport vice president, Ken Richards.

He added that DanceSport was an official medal sport at the Asian Games in 2010. "Progress is being made."

Tom and Yuko, look forward to seeing their sport receive recognition all over the world.

"It's a great hobby, and also good for your health," says Tom, adding that they've visited cities around the world and have made friends with other couples on the circuit. "They're like next-door neighbors."

For the couple, dancing is a "deep passion" that they share.

"Dance is like life to us," adds Yuko."I need food, water, and I need to dance."

The USA Dance Nationals is open to the general public. Depending on the session (day or evening), tickets range from $15 to $140 for packages. Discounts are available for children. Go to usadancenationals.com or call 646-734-9666.