US Amateur Championships, Provo 2016

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A night of “Fantasia”

The last night of the United States Amateur Championships was like a night at “Fantasia,” the twinkling lights (cell phones) produced by the audience during the Viennese Waltz of the US Amateur Ballroom was as magical as the “Fantasia” movie, and as the couples danced to the 1,2,3 the audience waved from side to side giving us all a magical moment that could only be reproduced at BYU on a packed night at the Marriot Center in Provo, Utah.

Andres & Veronika End retained their US National Amateur Ballroom title and won every dance with the majority of firsts from the judges. For us it was a two horse race between them and Oskar Wojciechowski & Karolina Holody who placed second overall and took second in every dance. We are certain it most have been tough for Oskar & Karolina who we are sure were hoping to steal at least a few of the dances from Andres & Veronika, it was also tough for the audience who were hoping their local heroes would walk away with some firsts if not the title.

However, it was not to be and when looking at their marks, unlike Andres & Veronika who took some seconds and only a few thirds from Polina Pilipenchuk, Oskar & Karolina took a few hard punches. Their worst came from Kristi McDonald who awarded them 4,4,6,4,4. There were a couple of other judges who also awarded them very unfavorable marks, Cynthia Long gave them a third in the tango, and Giampiero Giannico also gave them a third but now in the foxtrot. It is interesting to note that these three mentioned are experts in the craft of Ballroom dancing, not only did the three of them compete successfully, but also teach and demonstrated in the Ballroom Style.

Third place overall went to Angelo Gaetano & Clarissa Morelli who placed third in every dance. Here their worst marks came form Irina Suvorov who awarded them 5,5,4,3,4, and Denise Jourdaine-Krauel who awarded them 3,5,5,5,5. Fourth went to possibly the youngest couple in this final Patryk Ploszaj & Anna Kaczmarki who were fourth in every dance but the tango where they placed fifth. It was very refreshing to see some new faces in this ballroom style, perhaps now it will bring some needed freshness. Speaking of fresh faces, another young face adding to this final was that of Samuel Hacke & Katarina Hermanove who placed fifth overall, they took the 4th place in the tango away from Patryk & Anna.

We are almost certain like with Patryk & Anna that Samuel & Katerina will too one day be on top of it all, their musicality is to be admired, something lacking in some of the couples of the day. For us here at Dance Beat we have been saying for months, “Ballroom is not just about having good posture and top line, what happened to the musicality we used to see from couples?” It was all about musicality and we are sure the style will one day go in that direction for sure, if only in order to maintain their fan base.

It most have been a very disappointing finish for Florin Vlad & Natalia Linda O’Connor, who we are also sure were hoping for higher placement and who looked slightly disappointed when the results were called. In the earlier rounds we felt that perhaps Florin & Natalia would do better but in the final they seemed to lose their steam and we can see how they ended up in this position.

The Junior II Championship Latin, as in the night before with the Ballroom, was the second featured event of the night and here Erik Linder & Rickie Taylor took the trophy home again with the scores this time of 1,1,1,1,2, this was a double crown for this couple who also won the Junior II Ballroom the night before. We do not quite agree with this decision from the judges. Yes, as usual, we feel that they were clean in their work but lacked the musicality and characterization for good Latin American dancing. We must point out that Erik & Rickie won only three dances with the majority of firsts, in the Paso they had to depend on fourth or better.

For us, the Latin crown could have gone to Max Firestein & Nicole Mtchedlidze who placed second in C,S,R were third in the paso and first in the jive. This was a good result for Max & Nicole and they had a good night, perhaps giving some of the most honest and joyful interpretations of the dances.

Third in this Junior event went to Kristers Smits & Sophie Shavartsman who placed 3,3,3,2,3. We also liked this couple and actually thought they might win the whole event. Their musicality although slightly aggressive was worthy of the overall win. Perhaps Kristers should put more attention in his dancing and do a little less horse play on the floor, the unnecessary “cocky” exchange with Jonas Terleckas was totally out of line in our opinion and believe us when we say, it did not go “unnoticed” and it might have felt good but it is not becoming of such a talented young man. Fourth was awarded to Carter Williams & Anika Baker 4,5,4,4,4, fifth went to Jonas Terleckas & Ruby Castro 5,4,5,5,5 and placing sixth in this final that started with a first round, were Tyler Li & Anjelika Lowe and they placed sixth in all dances.

The usual US National Cabaret took placed this same night and it is usually a very memorable event with a huge entry and some brilliant talent, but on this night it was not to be. Only four couples entered this event and really only one stole the show and walked away with the Cabaret title with little effort. Benjamin Ralph & Kayci Treu won easily with a breathtaking routine that brought the audience to a roar. Second went to Collin Williams & Ashley Nixon, third were Xander Hacking & Lauren Dodson and fourth was awarded to Joseph Zeigler & Michelle Jackson.

Sam Hacke & Katarina Hermanova were the overall 10-Dance winners.

In the afternoon there were some equally good divisions, beginning with the US National Junior I Latin. Winners here were Jonas & Ruby 1,2,1,1,1 and we thought they danced much better in this division than later in the evening in the Junior II. Runners-up were Tyler Li & Anjelica Lowe 2,1,2,2,2; 3rd Daniel Pollack & Abigail Werner. This young duo had a very unusual interpretation; 4th Sasha Zhukov & Shelly Umansky 4,4,3,4,5; 5th Johus Ginzburg & Elizabeth Frumkin 5,5,5,6,6; 6th Dave Firestein & Nicole Shtem 6,6,7,5,4; 7th Kristian Evstigneev & Monica Kiselyuk 7,7,6,7,7.

We also saw the US National Youth Ballroom and this result was not quite how we expected it to turn out based on past results. We loved the winners, Justin Lin & Sasha Dubinsky who placed 3,1,1,2,4. Actually we felt their best dance was waltz. The runner-up position was actually decided by a Rule 11 tie in the favor of Mike Monokandilios & Sophia Brodsky 4,4,2,1,1 over Yusif Amsatr & Naomi Spektor who placed 2,2,3,3,2. As you can see these first 3 couples were very close. Also in the mix and the couple we thought might win, based on previous results, Kinsley Lin & Michelle Yiu who ended up fourth with 1,3,4,4,3. Robert McShinsky & Peyton Munson were 5th 5,6,6,5,5 and Denis Smotrov & Karina Mirochnik were 6th 6,5,5,6,6.

More afternoon results coming when they are available.

Saturday also saw the two largest competitions of the week, the BYU Social Cha Cha and the Elementary School Swing. Both events had over 100 couples competing.


Circle of Stone no More!

Last night in the US National Amateur Latin Championships, it was all about the women. Every woman in the six-couple final brought back to the floor last night was brilliant and I am happy to announce that we think we finally broke what we at one point called (in a previous article about the ladies during the International Championships), “the circle of stone.”

The winner Ferdinando Iannaccone, although not our very favorite of the night as a couple, had a lady to die for, Yulia Musikhina who is fabulous, Ferdinando is so lucky to have such an incredible dancer in his hand. We certainly know it takes two to “tango” but we really believe this lady was a major influence of why they made it over the net last night and won the competition. It is important to note that this continues their reign as US Amateur Latin Champions. They won every dance with a majority of firsts from the judges, only a handful, gave Ferdinando & Yulia any less than first. However, those that did were brutal in their marking, in the cha cha Valentina Kostenko as well as Tony Meredith awarded them fifth, and that was not all Tony gave them a 4th on the samba, a 6th on the rumba a sixth on the paso and a 5th in the jive. Valentina also did not stop on the cha cha, she awarded them a third in all the other dances. There were other more gentle souls on the panel who awarded them third or less: Didio Barrera was one of these judges, he awarded them two seconds and a third in the jive, Delyan Terziev awarded them a third in the rumba, Polina Pilipenchuk awarded them a second in the rumba, Victor Veyrasset a third in the paso and Jonathan Roberts a third in the jive.

By the way they so called “stunt” by Ferdinando after the paso where he left Yulia laying on the floor and walked around her for what seemed an endless time chasing his tail did not work, the incredible audience was left wondering “what the heck?” By the way that’s just an opinion from the peanut gallery - what works in “Europe” may not always work here in the “States.”

Second overall were Pasha Pashkov & Daniella Karagach who placed second in the C,S,R fourth in the Paso and third in the jive. In a way for us they were more of a complete package, as many discussed at the gathering place in the hotel immediately after the competition, there was nothing much to say about them except said one bystander, “they were not “offensive,” whatever that means? Funny enough we could not argue with that one!

Third in this competition and for us topping the line of incredible women in this final was Nino Dzneladze dancing with Austin Joson. For us Nino is the incarnation of what an incredible Latin female dancer should be - incredible back, beautiful legs and feet just a perfect walking package. We most say that Austin supported her well and although we are not sure they should have been third, let’s say that we were not surprised. Just like in Ferdinando & Yulia’s case, Nino helped them cross that finish in one piece! For your interest Austin & Nino’s overall marks were 4,3,3,3,2.

Speaking of high drama, fourth overall went to Tal Livshitz & Iliana Keselman with scores of 3,4,4,2,4. During the competition and near the culmination of the samba Iliana was seen stumbling over to a front row table holding her head. Her partner immediately warned the officials and to make the story short, EMS came and checked her out while the audience and officials all waited with bated breath. Would they exit or return to the arena? The funny thing is for a long time and even after the event was over no one knew what happened because no one saw the initial bang. This brings the question, was no judge looking at them? Does that explain their 4th place mark in that dance? From what we were told long after, Iliana and Tal put their “heads” together but not in a good way they “hit” each other nearly knocking Iliana out of the race.

Fifth place went to Pasha Stepanchuk & Gabriella Sabler 5,5,6,5,5, I think they were a little surprised when the results were announced. We have been expecting this for quite some time and all we can say is, “if you do what you have always done, all you gonna get is the same, or in this business worse than what you used to get. We have been doing this magazine for over 25 years and we notice that judges, like the audience are always looking for the next thrill and so couples need to keep up and use your minds not only your bodies to bring us something new, something special and something we cannot mark down once we get used to it.

Last in this parade of incredible woman and good supporting men were Alexander Chernositov & Arina Grishanina they placed 6,6,5,6,6. Here we have another incredible lady, however, as a partnership it can look at times a little unbalanced. On a few occasions we looked and they were brilliant the next they were walking around (Why not put your hands on your pocket Alexander while your at it). Looking too casual? Hard to put a finger as to what is wrong because it all gets a little unbalanced even for us. On a personal note not sure the “little bun” thing on the back of the head makes Alexander a strong support for such an incredible lady, in other words, you’re not a teenager anymore, we want to see a man take control and sho case this lovely lady dancer you have in your hand.

We most take our hats of for the ladies last night, without you it would not have been as thrilling as it was and we must say we loved it and although only one can take first place home we think all you ladies were first class all the way. Congratulations guys, you sure know haw to pick incredible ladies!

The US National Junior II Ballroom Championship also took place last night and here we saw a very healthy level of competition in more than one way. The competition started with a huge entry and the level of dancing was terrific. All the couples called to the final were very accomplished in their own right and they were a compliment to the Open Amateur Latin event running side by side.

The overall winners were Erik Linder & Rickie Taylor who won all dances with a majority of firsts in every dance. For us we though this to be a great choice from the judges, their partnership is very balanced and at such young age very strong and experienced. Second overall went to Dennis Matveev & Shelly Meshkausk who took second in every dance. This was also a very strong pair of Ballroom dancers. Dennis has grown so much in just a few years we find it quite surprising that he has been able to make the transition from a Junior I boy to almost an adult without losing any ground whatsoever. Third was awarded to Tyler Li & Anjelica Lowe but here the marks got as interesting as the partnership itself 3,4,4,3,3. I think we all love seeing this couple on the floor, but we all wonder how they are able to work with such a height difference. One thing we know for sure and that is that they know how to work the floor, in such large arena even when they take a bow or are presented they stand up to the tallest couple in the room and it works.

Fourth in this excellent Junior event wen to Kristers Smits & Sophie Shavartsman 6,3,3,4,4; fifth wen to Daniel Melnik & Maria Volski 4,5,5,5,6 and sixth place was awarded to Christopher Kantorosinski & Anna Jonczyk.

The US National Under 21 Ballroom Championship also took place yesterday and this went to indisputably to Patryk Plozaj & Anna Kaczmarski, who won four dances with a majority of firsts. Only the VW had a second place finish, here they only managed to get 3 first place marks and had to settle for second place in that dance. Second was awarded to Mikhail Vorobiev & Sonya Tsekanovsky and they placed 2,2,1,2,3, as you can see they took away the VW from Patryk & Anna, however they placed third in the quickstep this ensure that the best they could get was a second, a clear second place finish. Third were Samuel Hacke & Katerina Hermanova 3,3,3,3,2, fourth went to Robert McShinsky & Peyton Munson and they placed fourth in all dances, fifth were Denis Smotrov & Karina Mirochnik and sixth were Robert Guitelman & Klinta Smite.

In the US Nationals Junior I Ballroom Championship Tyler Li & Anjelica Lowe placed first in all dances. Jacob Young & Sophia Kouznetson were second 3,2,4,2,4. Matvey Korsunkiy & Alisa Kashkevych were third 2,5,2,3,6, Jonas Terleckas & Ruby Castro were fourth 6,4,3,4,2. Fifth was awarded to Joshua Ginzburg & Elizabeth Frumkin 4,3,6,5,3, and in sixth position were Matthew Zoladkiewicz & Abby Potnoy 5,6,5,6,5.

In the US National Senior Ballroom I Championship Thomas Yim & Kelly Cheng took first overall 2,1,2,1,1. Second overall went to Xingmin & Katerina Lu 1,2,1,2,2. Gene Tseng & Hui Zhang were third 3,3,3,4,3; fourth was awarded to Sidney Peng & Jamie Liu 4,4,5,3,5; fifth were Gokturk & Asli Yurtyapan 5,5,4,6,4, and in sixth position were Jonathan Medlin & Malin Allert 6,6,6,5,6.

The US Nationals Senior II Ballroom Championships was won by Xingmin & Katerina Lu who won all five dances. Second was awarded to Gokturk & Asli Yurtyapan and they placed second in all dances. Third overall were Glen Okazaki & Anne Ho but not in every dance 3,4,3,3,5. Fourth were Vincent & Irina Feingold 4,3,4,5,4, fifth was awarded to Alan Burns & Kelly Batchelor 5,6,5,4,3, and in sixth position were Doug Priest & Stephanie Au 6,5,6,6,6.

In the PreTeen US National Ballroom divisions, Daniel Novikov & Mishella Vishnevskiy won both the PreTeen I and PreTeen II Championships.


BYU Bringing, Youth and us to new Heights!

The Brigham Young University continues to grow their Ballroom Dance Program and this year they have reached new heights and higher expectations. We come every year and the majority of the judges we have spoken to, including world famous Latin star Ms. Shirley Ballas, have all agreed on one thing, the quality of the dancing has reached excellent levels in all styles and all categories.

We have had nearly two days of competition already and from the pre-teens all the way up to the adults, BYU has outdone itself. The new and improved Marriott Arena has been given a facelift and now includes theater seating rather than bleachers and wooden chairs and the video screens and sound have been revamped all bringing a better product and great atmosphere to the United States National Amateur Championships. These championships are recognized by the NDCA and grated to BYU by American Ballroom Company.

Last night at the arena we had the first of the major events and this was the US National Amateur Smooth Championship and that title went to Joseph Nugent & Kyla Zenger who won all dances. However, Joseph & Kyla did not win all dances with a majority of firsts. They had to rely on thirds, seconds or better in order to achieve this goal. The only dance that Joseph & Kyla won with the majority of firsts was the VW where they picked up exactly 11 first place marks from a panel of 19 judges. Second in all dances went to Colin Williams & Ashley Nixon who picked up some of the firsts Joseph & Kyla lost.

Third was awarded to Matt Holden & Devri Ray who placed third in the waltz and tango and fourth in the other two dances, but it was basically a tie between them and Charlie & Emily Roberts, because they were awarded third in the foxtrot and VW and fourth in the other two dances. Once rules were applied as you just saw Matt & Devri placed third and Charlie & Emily were fourth.

Fifth and sixth place was also a tie where we are sure rules had to be applied as well. Here Sawyer Stolle & Janica Liu placed fifth in the waltz and foxtrot and sixth in the other two dances. Brandon Keck & Kaylee Christensen were fifth in the tango, VW and sixth in the other two dances. In the end when rules were applied Sawyer & Janica ended up in fifth position and Brandon& Kaylee sixth.

Today we had the US National Youth Latin Championship and after rounds and rounds of competition first place in all dances went to Mike Monokandilos & Sophia Brodsky, and they won the S,R,P,J with a majority of firsts from the 9 adjudicators appointed and the cha cha with thirds or better. For us it was a little closer than that, we would not have being surprised if Bumchin Tegshjargal & Michelle Klets had taken a dance or even won. Both couples were very capable and the difference between the two was almost nil. Bumchin & Michelle did manage to steal a few firsts in every dance, 4 in the cha, 3 in the samba, 2 in the rumba, paso and one in the jive. Third overall was awarded to Mitchell Itkin & Natasha Shevchenko who placed third in 4 dances and fourth in the jive. Fourth place went to Aleksandr Mitronin & Olivia Agranovich with the scores of 5,4,4,4,3; fifth overall and placing fourth in the cha cha was Yusif Amstr & Naomi Spektor and in sixth position were D’Angelo Castro & Amanda Carbajales taking sixth in all dances.

Judging by this afternoon’s Youth Latin competition, the Open Amateur Latin should be a major hit for BYU. So stay tuned for more on this and other events running tonight.


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