Mark Ballas, the son of dance champions Shirley and Corky, begins dancing as a toddler in Houston, Texas. The family eventually moves to London, where Ballas, 10, becomes Britain's Juvenile Ballroom and Latin American Dance champion. Future Dancing with the Stars pros Derek and Julianne Hough (left) also train with Ballas's parents. In 2003, Julianne and Ballas are paired for the Junior Olympics, where they both win gold medals for ballroom dancing. The Hough kids and Ballas also form the pop group 2B1G, which stands for two boys and one girl.
Ballas joins the fifth season of Dancing with the Stars, where he's paired with Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan. In their first week, they score a 26 out of 30 – at the time, the highest score ever earned during the first week. They set another record in the fourth week, when Bryan becomes the first contestant to earn a perfect score that early in the show. But a shock strikes the competition on Oct. 30, when the duo is eliminated. "He's such a responsible person that he just feels like he failed me," Bryan tells TV Guide. "And I'm like, 'Dude, you didn't!'"
A week after elimination, Bryan admits to TV Guide that she and Ballas are a real-life couple. "When I walked into the rehearsal hall the first day and found out who my partner was, it was so exciting," Bryan says. "I always call him 'Marky Baby.' I absolutely love and adore him." The following May, Bryan's busy schedule forces the pair to split.
Ballas once again helps his partner set a DWTS record when he and Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi earn a score of 27 during the first week of competition. They continue to top the leader board for eight of the 10 weeks, and take the Dancing title. "It was such an honor to have Kristi as a partner," Ballas says on Live with Regis and Kelly.
Ballas is paired with Kim Kardashian for DWTS's seventh season. "When I met Mark, I just couldn't have been more excited," she says on the show. In addition, Ballas's dad Corky is paired with TV legend Cloris Leachman. Corky says "it's wonderful" working with his son. On Sept. 30, Ballas and Kardashian are eliminated. "It was a tough day for her," Ballas says. "I just hope that her time on the show was magical for her, and, at the end of the day, I will always be so proud that I was the one holding her hand up there."
Almost Amy – the blues-rock band Ballas started with best friend Derek Hough and friends Emily Grace, Harry Sullivan and Sam Marder – signs with Hollywood Records. "IT'S OFFICIAL!" the band wrote on its MySpace page. "We signed our deal today around 4:30 here in L.A." The group eventually changes its name to the Ballas Hough Band and releases its debut album, BHB, in March 2009.
Ballas and former American Idol contestant Joanna Pacitti walk the red carpet as a couple for the first time. "She is the most supportive person in my life and she’s been great," Ballas, 22, tells PEOPLE. Although the two have "been friends for a long time," Ballas says they started dating eight months ago.
Ballas helps 17-year-old Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson nab Season 8's mirror ball trophy in what is the closest finale in DWTS history. Triumphing over frontrunner Gilles Marini by less than 1% of votes, their win comes as a shock. "The first trophy was amazing, but this one we owe to the fans because they really kept us here week after week," Ballas says. "We are so grateful for that."
Dating another American Idol hopeful, Ballas steps out with season 10 contestant Pia Toscano, whom the Dancing pro calls "a really beautiful girl." And Toscano echoes his sentiments: "Mark is a really sweet guy," the singer tells PEOPLE of their budding romance. "It's nice to have him in my corner." After a PDA-filled romance, the pair calls it quits in September.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Courtesy of Julianne Hough; ABC; Albert Ferreira/Startraks; ABC; ABC; Splash News Online; Jordan Strauss/WireImage; ABC; Flynet