Corky Ballas began dancing since he was six years old, inspired by his parents - his mother was a flamenco dancer, while his father owned what is considered the largest dance studio in the world. First pursuing flamenco, he shifted to Latin dance at age 18, going on to win the United States Pro-Am Championship for three years.
Ballas then became a successful professional dancer, holding the United States Championship for eight years with his partner (and later wife) Shirley. The couple went on to win several competitions in the United States and the United Kingdom, including the prestigious Blackpool Championships. He retired from professional dancing in 1998.
His involvement with the ABC series Dancing with the Stars began early, as he coached several of the show's pro dancers. Apart from his son Mark, as well as Derek and Julianne Hough, who he raised, he also coached Karina Smirnoff, Edyta Sliwinska and Anna Trbunskaya, among others. He joined DWTS as a professional dancer in 2008, on the seventh season, when he partnered with Cloris Leachman. He returned to the show in 2010 to pair up with Florence Henderson.