City Lights Open 2017

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Latin On Fire at City Lights!

Last night on paper at the City Lights Open, it seemed that the Professional Smooth was going to be a major hit and a terrific closing to this excellent competition.

However, when the Professional Latin couples started their dance-ons, and the first steps were taken in the cha cha we knew this Latin was on “fire!”

On “fire” is the only way to describe this magnificent Latin event, every single couple was on fire fighting in this one time final, no semifinal no warm-up act, and they delivered making the judges sweat bullets from the intense heat this excellent but fiery Latin final delivered.

By the end the winners for us without a doubt were Francesco & Sabrina Bertini, who although no taller than a little over 5 foot, from step one made us all take notice. You can see on paper that the judges were caught with their pants down on the first dance and they had to quickly get a hold of the heat. In this first dance runners up, Evgeny Likhachev & Maria Levina, won, Francesco & Sabrina got the most firsts with six judges awarding them this mark, but the rest of the judges did not see it this way with the exception of Nigel Clark who gave them a second all the remaining judges marked them third or lower, they even got a fifth from Stephen Cullip. These lower marks helped Evgeny & Maria keep hold of this one particular dance, but by the end of the competition they would even get a fourth in their jive.

From the cha cha onwards it was not an easy sail for Francesco & Sabrina who won all the other dances, but only two with a majority of firsts - the samba, and the jive. In the other two dances they relied on ‘second or better’ marks to put them over the top. But in the room you could feel the audience going nuts over the powerful and rhythmical performance this mighty couple delivered with a “no taking prisoners” act! By the way they won the jive with a stunning amount of firsts - 12 out of 15 judges gave them almost a perfect run on this dance.

As we mentioned Evgeny Likhachev & Maria Levina placed second overall with these marks - 1,2,2,2,4, and for some of the judges they should have won. In two of their dances they managed to take a number of firsts from Francesco & Sabrina, in the rumba for example they took 5 out of 15 firsts matching the same amount that Francesco & Sabrina took and in the paso they took 4 firsts also matching their amount. Unfortunately, as we mentioned before Francesco & Sabrina had more ‘second or better’ marks. For us their performance was good but they did not go out on a limb to fight for the top, on this night they needed to really step it up a “correct faultless” performance was not going to cut it!

Third in this heat were Roman Italyankin & Alexandra Bokova, from their opening act where they performed an unbelievably “sultry” cha cha we thought this was their night, but as you will see from their marks it was not - 3,3,4,4,2. In their paso for us they were far ahead of the others when it came to interpretation of this sometimes forgotten “bull fight” and perhaps should have been mark higher. And on paper some of the judges did mark them higher, Roman & Alexandra shared with the top two couples just mentioned the same amount of first places, 4 firsts were awarded to them from the judges. You can see by these marks that every place and every position with the exception of the jive, meant a lot in this heat and so this was not the night to just give a wonderful performance you needed to “sink or swim” in this pool or you were going to drown.

Fourth placement went to Lukas & Simona Alisouskas who seemed a little surprised with their position 4,4,3,3,3, but here all we can say is “much ado about nothing.” So far the appeal of this couple is eluding us, even on this night their counterparts, Tykhon & Yana Zhyvkov for us had a better night in at least some of their dances like the cha cha where a few of the judges agreed with us and thought they gave an excellent performance and marked them high. We find Lukas & Simona’s performance a little cold and detached, although if you look at their interpretation you would see lots of facial expressions but we have yet to feel or make sense of any of them. We are not saying that this couple was not suited for this “fiery” final, and yes fourth of fifth were suited placements for them at the moment, we are just having a hard time understanding this couple’s Latin dance interpretation.

As we mentioned Tykhon & Yana Zhyvkov placed fifth with these marks 5,5,5,6,6, and yes we agreed they got progressively worse from their cha cha as if they lost physical stamina or just basically gave themselves up into the “fire,” until they fizzled away on that tragic Jive. It is unfortunate because this couple has all the equipment to deliver fantastic performances but somehow it always deflates like a balloon! Last and not least were Umario Diallo & Tessa Marie who placed 6,6,6,5,5, a newer partnership that seemed a little green in places, but for some reason Umario always seems so disappointed with his marks. The judges really had to work hard and sweat it out last night to come out with this result! This is not an easy task when you have a tremendous responsibility to the couples and the industry itself. Please don’t frown at them!

By the way you guys all danced fabulously and fiery last night making us all proud to have such fantastic talent in this country of ours, and so if you found this blog a little “fiery” all we could say is, we are fired up too and excited to have been part of it last night. With as many competitions that we all go to it is hard to maintain the excitement at times. And so we thought, as good as your were, we too should be as honest as we can be to our readers and to you. If you can’t have an opinion with this brilliant quality of work that made us really think, whom would you have it about?

Sharing the billing last night was the Professional Smooth and as Mazen Hanza former US Smooth finalist said to me, it was divided in two groups, and upper tier and a lower tier. The lower tier was perhaps a more Rising Star quality of work. Robbie Cromwell & Jenna Southard placed sixth in all dances and, yes they looked the greenest of them all, they did a lot of closed basic work and I am sure this was appreciated by the judges. Fifth in all dances went to Curt Hineline & Melanie Bridge, their grooming could use a touch up and so could some of their work. Fourth in all went to Alan Barney & Megan Rund, this couple are on the full correct track of moving on up, their work was basic but clear, not much impact but we all appreciated the clarity of their performance and the fact that from the dance-on on it was quite appropriate for the style and the level.

The upper tier of the final was terrific Jason Rivers & Megan McNash placed third in all dances and totally befitting to be in this upper tier, their work looked more mature, although we find it a little tight and internal from Megan’s side. The partnership is still new so we expect brilliant things from this couple. It was unfortunate that at some point in the foxtrot, her shoe came off and there was no way to fix it except for stepping out of the floor to sit and figure out what was going on. This did not affect their marks with the exception of a few judges, Didio Barrera awarded them 6th but he says it was due to the fact that he saw so little of them in that dance he could not honestly mark them higher. Tommy DiTommaso also dropped them to 5th place in this dance, we wonder if it was for the same reason and so did Charlotte Jorgensen and Thomas Lewandowski who awarded them fourth. They went back to full form for the VW according to all the 3rd place marks, but we did notice that Mr. Barrera was the only judge not fully convinced, he awarded them 4th in this dance.

Oleksiy Pigotskyy and Natalie Crandall placed second in all dances and they enjoyed all seconds from all judges in every dance. This partnership is full of talent, Oleksiy might look a little forceful at times as a judge put it to us at the after party and it might cost them in the future. We can see this judge’s concern and they did not a get a single first place mark in any of their dances, could a little more light and shade make any difference? Nobody knows, but for now, they are the new kids on the block and they should enjoy the attention and the praises they are receiving.

Bringing a full complete package to the floor and winning with perfect scores were Yegor Novikov & Alexandra Smirnova. Last night to us and the judges they were perfection on the move and the scores said it all, all firsts in all dances from all judges. Alexandra looked as she should , beautiful tied but loose hair, and best of all a dress that was perhaps the envy of many of the ladies off and on the floor. The dress shaped for her body and the choice of texture and sequins was perfect, it was more of a Fred & Ginger evening gown than a dance costume! Brilliant!! Their dancing was interesting with their own quirks and interpretations but always with taste and without missing a beat!

The Amateur Ballroom had perhaps the most interesting result with Florin Vlad & Natalia O’Connor demoted and Artur Nabok & Michelle Yiu taking the lead. This would have been almost all right because Artur & Michelle have an incredible amount of talent but Ruslan Kasiuzhnyi & Olena Dovgan were also placed above Florin & Natalia. But first here are the marks for all of them; Artur & Michelle 2,1,1,1,1; Ruslan & Olena 1,2,2,2T,2 and Floin & Natalia 3,3,3,2T3. How did we see it? It was not a stellar performance for Vlad & Natalie but in just maturity of work they were the easier winners for us. Yes, Artur & Michelle have endless talent and we predict in the future they will challenge the very top in the field, but on last night’s performance, we would have placed them second. It is hard for us to say much about Ruslan & Olena because this final for us was divided in two Vlad & Natalie and Artur & Michelle, then the rest of the game, but yet that is the name of the game, perhaps we were counting our eggs before they hatched, not a good thing in our opinion.

There were also two Rising Star divisions last night. The Ballroom was won by Marek Klepadlo & Nina Zhiting Yang and the Rhythm by Kristijan Burazer & Anja Imamovic.

On Your Toes!

US finalists Vard Margaryan & Inga Demetryan won the Open Professional Rhythm competition last night at the City Lights Open, in San Jose California.

The people went wild when Vard jumped on to his toes, however, you could see some pain in some of the judges’ faces. Nearly all judges possible suffer from some body issue caused during their younger years as competitors and so they know what jumping on to your tipi toes could do to you joints. However, Vard and Inga sported a new fabulous look that got them praise from many of the onlookers – Vard’s almost skin short hair complemented Inga’s loose short hair and beautifully well tanned body from head to toe, this alone did not win them the competition but fully separated them from the rest to win all five dances.

Kristian Burazer & Anja Imamovic placed second overall 2,3,2,2,2, and they too looked perfectly groomed for the occasion. A few people found their finishing touches like presentation of feet and legs when in a line, a little untidy but overall apparently good enough to place them in second position in at least four dances. A good recommendation for all couples is to hold on to their own personal feelings until you are out of sight, at least two of the Rhythm professionals were spotted looking a little shocked by their results. Perhaps they were moved to make a face due to the cheers of the crowd but nobody knows that, and we should not.

Another slightly surprised couple on their result was Riccardo Papi & Sabrina Moretti, who also got great praise for their new look, Sabrina sported a pony tail and her outfit complimented her body torso beautifully. The only negative comments we got from the peanut gallery were that perhaps they need to have a better connection between them as a couple. In the words of an attendee they tend to look as if they are dancing apart from one another and not as a team. Their placements were 3,2,3,33.

Antonio Nunes with new partner Oxana Kashkina took fourth overall 5,4,4,4,4, although a little sloppy at times, we think they really got the attention of the audience and the judges. Antonio & Oxana really brought the “barrio” (hood) feeling to the floor, and for many of us you really cannot have Rhythm with out the “barrio” in it. It is great to see this nightclub energy at its best, something that perhaps many of the couples up on top of the Rhythm style do not have, with a little more control we see this couple moving on up, but we hope they do not lose this unique quality they have.

Fifth in this final went to Jeremy Babagay & Carolyn Barrero with these marks 4,5,5,5,5. In the past Jeremy seemed to struggle a little with his fitness composition last night he looked terrific and Carolyn complimented him fully. Daniel Lee Tran & Danielle Rayzberg placed sixth 6,7,7,6,6, here perhaps they need to do two things work on their physical fitness and not push so hard on every move. Many of the attendees were feeling a little worn out when looking at these two. Learn how to use your energy and apply it with strength when you need to and relax when you have to. Aaron Pierce & Giovanna Velazques took seventh position 7,6,6,7,7. Giovanna’s costume according to many did not help. The multi color held by two strings that could snap at a wink was a little worrisome for some of the ladies and perhaps Aaron’s posture could use a look, you must maintain your image at all times even when you’re getting down in the mambo!

The Open Professional Ballroom was excellent with quite a few good couples in attendance. Iaroslav & Lilia Bieliei took first in all dances and for many in the ballroom the best of the night. Many were impressed that Iaroslav could perform with such great quality after dancing most of the day and night with many of his students. Second overall and we mean overall 3,2,2,3,2, went to Andrii Mykhailov & Anna Bohachova. Many were very surprised at how close second and third were, Andrii & Anna placed second by one dance, had they placed third in another dance they would have been third. For us Andrii & Anna gave an excellent performance but perhaps they need to still improve a little more in their musicality in order to separate themselves, for many of us the quality is there but we have yet to feel what they are doing.

Marek Klepadlo & Nina Zhiting Yang took third 2,3,3,2,3. We don’t need to point it out, but had one of the third place marks turned to a 2 they would have been second and we must say this was a very strong performance for this couple, it is the first time that we really had to spend more time studying their work. Serhi Averkov & Olena Barna took fourth in all dances and we must say that their work was very correct but perhaps at times not exciting enough to move a little bit higher. Ballroom can look a bit like hard work unless you develop and understand the musicality behind each move.

Robert Nemiro & Lydia Miner-Voigt took fifth in all and from many of the onlookers they looked better than ever and we totally agree. In last night’s performance Robert & Lydia looked composed and on many occasions very musical. In the past Robert had more perspiration than inspiration but this was not the case this time, they are making it look easy and their talent is starting to flourish. Sixth place went to Robbie Cromwell & Jenna Southard placing sixth in all dances.

A six couple final in the Amateur Latin was also held last night and here Casy Treu & Kayci Treu won overall 2,1,2,1,1. Bumchin Tegshjargal & Michelle Klets were second 1,2,1,2,2, and Nikolas Constantine & Stella Zilberberg were third 3,3,4,3,3.

Two Professional Rising Star competitions also took place and in the Smooth Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Natalie Crandall won overall. In the Latin Lukas & Simona Alisauskas took the win.

The Pro/Am Ballroom was excellent the “B” in particular had great quality. Monica Sun dancing with Iaroslav Bieliei won all dances, second place in all dances went to Irene Lee w/ Igor Bezukladnikov, and third place was awarded to Angela He w/Julias Seniauskas and that was in all dances.  In the “C” division we also had some excellent competition here Annie Chan w/Cristian Radvan won overall by placing first in three dances and second in the VW and foxtrot. Second went to Janice Smith & Davide Gozzi, and third was awarded to Lisa Liao & Andres End. Noriko Ide w/ Darius Michalski won the Sen2 Open. The “A” division went to Galina Livitina w/Anton Koukareko and they won all dances, second in all dances went to Vinnie Miller w/ Karlis Treijes, leaving third to Irene Lee w/Egor Bezukladnikov.  In the Open Senior I Jan Duffy w/ Tadas Jonyla was the winner, Jeanie Bernstein w/ Jim Maranto was 2nd and Bill Manning w/ Heather Jonyla was 3rd.

The Open Rhythm Pro-Am Scholarships were also held. The winners were Luna Viva w/ Kristjian Burazer (Sen1); Yumie Honkura w/ Daniel Lee Tran (Open B); Darla Davies w/ Jim Maranto (Open C); Mary Beth McCallum w/ Luis Grijalva (Sen2); Levina Kasmara w/ Gleb Makarov (Open A).


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