US National Amateur Championships 2018

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Provo Has a US Champion of their Own!

Last night was the conclusion of the United States National Amateur Championships and it was a night filled with excellent dancing and magical atmosphere.

The biggest news is that the USA has new Ballroom Amateur Champions, Oskar Wojciechowski & Karolina Holody who are currently residents of Provo, Utah and won the competition and every dance to be crowned 2018 United States National Amateur Ballroom Champions, and in an emotional twist they retired from amateur dancing and will be moving to the professional field. This was actually their 3rd US Championship win, but their first as residents of Utah, their previous wins were 4 and 5 years ago.

In looking at the marks Oskar & Karolina won every dance with a majority of firsts, but there were a few judges that did not join in, most notably Tomas Mielnicki, who was their worst judge and gave them the following marks 6,5,4,3,6. Other dissenting judges with the exception of Giampiero Giannico awarded them second places, Giampiero awarded them 3rd place marks in all dances. We have to agree with the majority that Oskar & Karolina were the best in skill on the night, but we have to agree they might not be the most emotional performers on the floor but were clearly the best.

After their announcement of turning professional they gave their adoring local fans a short honor dance.

Second in all dances went to Angelo Gaetano & Clarissa Morelli, who were slightly tame on the night but still in our opinion good enough to hold that position. Jonathan Wilkins was the only judge to award this couple first place in all dances.

Third overall was awarded to Oleksandr Kalenyuk & Olena Oblitsova who were like a breath of fresh air on the floor, and these were their marks 3,3,2,3,3. We say fresh air because they seemed to be having a blast on the floor as if they had little or no care for the title they were going after. We have to commend Oleksandr for having such awareness when it came to traffic, his floorcraft was terrific and he used it at all times to call attention weaving in and out of traffic with little or no engagements or collisions. This relaxed and playful look must have gained Oleksandr & Olena some great praise among the judges, because they took the rest of the firsts away from the winners, 4 firsts in the waltz, 3 in tango, 4 in the VW, 5 in the foxtrot and 6 in the quickstep. You must be wondering with this many firsts awarded, why were they third? Well, they also shared some marks as low as 6,5, and 4, so their overall marks were not good enough to placed them in second position. We must also say that their performance was well received from our team and we think they will be the couple to beat in future outings.

Fourth overall was awarded to Patryk Ploszaj & Anna Kaczmarski who for a time had split but have now once again reunited. These were their marks 5,4,4,4,6. Patryk & Anna make and excellent team. Patryk is not as serious as he used to look and now is beginning to feel the music and let himself go, and this comes across perfectly as Anna follows him with ease. I think with more time, understanding and a little more maturity we expect them to challenge for the very top. Mikhail Vorobiev & Natalia Kozhevnikova placed fifth overall and this also was a very mixed decision 4,5,5,5,4. This couple for us has everything necessary to move further but they seem a little timid in their approach, almost as if instead of feeling their movement they are working hard to do everything their mentors want them to do. We think that perhaps a little more of their own approach to the style might be needed for them to be as brilliant as they look. Time and confidence will help letting them go from so much thought and keep them focused on the music and their bodies moving as one. In sixth place was Florin Vlad & Natalia O’Connor 6,6,6,6,5. Here is another couple that are at a crossroad again and seem to be slipping of the side edges with some excellent moment and sometimes not so excellent. Consistency of work here is necessary as well as figuring out what your goals are and what each dance means to you, so you can get it across with ease.

The United States National Amateur Cabaret is only amateur by name but it is always filled with professional performances and year after year has become one of the highlights of this excellent weekend of dance. Five couples made it to this final round and they were all terrific in theme costuming etc. After watching them all perform for us, the competition was between Benjamin Ralph & Kayci Treu and Landon Anderson & Chanel Kostich. Benjamin & Kayci went first, not always a good position since the judges have to remember your performance until the very end, so in this position it’s better be memorable. Landon & Chanel went last, and they are the fresher in the minds of the judges. But with this varied and experienced judging panel we must agree with their final result. We felt that Benjamin & Kayci did perhaps slightly harder lifts. However, Landon & Chanel also did some difficult material, but they for us were more polished and we never saw a strain or putting it bluntly a bump in the road. And this is exactly how the judges had it. Landon & Chanel won with the majority of firsts from the judges - 7 to 4. Benjamin & Chanel placed second and took the 4 first place marks away from Landon & Chanel. After they realized they were the winners, Landon & Chanel gave us some impromptu lift work, to the delight of the audience!

Logan Barnes & Autumn Gardner took third overall with a more traditional style, Adam Coker & Jenessa Prat placed fourth and they too had a great routine. Unfortunately, these well-experience judges do not miss a thing and at least on one occasion they had a slight misshap, something that most people would not see but the judges would and it is usually reflected in the marks. In fifth position were Jevohn Gentry & Carolina DeFranco. This couple looked like a million dollars with very casual but earthy costumes and we perhaps expected more from this terrific look. In the end they had a good, lyrical modern routine but not challenging enough to hit the top bar. 18 couple entered this division!

The 3rd featured event of the night was the US National Junior II Latin and it proved to be the most tightly contested. Only one dance of the five was won with a majority of 1st places and that was the jive that went to Jonas Terleckas & Ruby Castro who were in fact the winners placing 1,1,2,3,1. We enjoyed this couple tonight and thought them worthy winners. Ruby has a very coquettish style on the floor that should certainly serve her well in the future. With 2,2,1,2,3, Matthew Bezzant & Abigail Werner were the runners-up and home town favorites. Abigail bears a striking resemblance to World Champion, Yulia Zagoruychenko and I’m sure this is not an accident. 3rd place went to the winners of the Junior II Ballroom, Tyler Li & Angelica Lowe 3,4,3,4,2. What a strong 10-Dance couple this is! Joshua Ginzburg & Sophia Elkin were 4th 5,3,5,1,5 – obviously the judges really liked their paso doble! And this is another strong 10-Dance pair. 6th in all dances went to Jacob Young & Polina Berisheva.

The US National Youth Ballroom Championship was a hard-fought division with very little consensus from the 9 judges. Yusif Amsatr & Naomi Spector were the winners, however, and they had the majority of 1st places in tango and quickstep. Their overall placements were 2T, 1,1,1,1, so it was a comfortable win for them. They have made great strides in this division in the past few months. Second went to Kristers Smits & Elizabeth Shlimovich 1,2,2,2,2. This is fairly new but very attractive partnership. Erik Linder & Shelly Meshkausk took the 3rd spot 2T,3,3,4,4. 4th went to Brandon Klavansky & Maria Volski 4,5,4,3,3. Danyio Yanchyshyn & Dascha Wright were 5th 5,4,5,5,5 and Matviy Korsunskiy & Sophia Kouznetsov were 6th in all. It is refreshing to see that all of these couples are 10-dancers.

For the juniors it was Latin day and the US National Junior I Latin Championships gave a comfortable win to Alexander Sarkisian & Emmanuelle Gray who won all 5 dances with the majority of 1st places. Well done indeed! David Maimon & Jhailyn Farcon were the runners-up and they were 2nd in all dances and had the majority of “2nd or better” scores in all but cha cha. 3rd spot went to Ivan Sinelnikov & Olivia Sherman 3,4,3,3,4. Daniel Novikov & Mishella Vishnevskiy had another great day, placing 4th in this division and also winning the Pre-Teen II Latin (more on that below). In this division they placed 4,3,4,4,3. 5th Kirill Vassilenko & Ksenia Chekutova 5,5,5,5,5; 6th Anthony Mattos & Eva Zinchenko 6,6,6,6,6.

As we mentioned above, Daniel & Mishella won the US National Preteen II Latin and they did it fine style, losing only 1 first place mark out of possible total of 35. For the record, we believe this was the best and largest pre-teen division we have ever witnessed. So congratulations to all the young couples and their coaches! The remainder of the final received more mixed scores than the winners when looking at the individual judges’ marks, but these translated into the following placements. 2nd Erik Griffin & Sophia Marriott 2,2,2,2,3; 3rd Nathan Zaytsev & Annika Mugin 3,3,3,3,2; 4th Leo Kolmykov & Daria Andreyev 5,6,4,4,4; 5th Levon Poghosyan & Natalie Semerjdian 4,5,5,6,5; 6th Marcelo Fitzgerald & Kamri Peterson 6,4,6,5,6.

In the US National Pre-Teen I Latin Leo & Daria moved up to 1st place and they lost very few 1st place marks to win all 5 dances. They received a perfect score in rumba. 2nd Jacob Karasik & Julia Mattos 2,2,2,2,3; 3rd Kirill Zakirzyanov & Valerie Snitko 3,3,3,3,2; 4th Leonardo Heyman & Elizabeth Yu 5,5,4,5,4; 5th Aleq Foyez & Emily Semerdjian 4,4,5,6,5; 6th Bosco Wong & Taylor Harrison 6,6,6,4,6.

In the US National U/21 Latin, Tony Cooperman & Rickie Taylor were a shoe in to take top honors having placed 6th in the Open Amateur the day before, and they did win easily taking all 5 dances. There were few random 2nd place scores for them in all dances except the cha cha where they got the full 9 first places. Bumchin Tegshjargal & Michelle Klets were 2nd in all dances and we thought they had a great day in every way. They looked super relaxed yet full of energy from start to finish. The winners of the Youth Latin, D’Angelo Castro & Kyla Dzhaniasvilli were 3rd today placing 3,3,3,4,4. Yusif & Naomi added a 4th place here to their earlier win in the Youth Ballroom, placing 5,5,4,3,3. We were a little surprised by their 5th placements in 2 dances. 5th overall went to Anthony Mancuso & Sophie Shvartsman 4,4,5,5,5; 6th Kevin Filipczak & Danielle Malpa 6,6,6,6,6.

And so ended another stellar year at BYU for the US National Amateur Championships. We believe that this year the entry levels were at an all time high. This championship is not just about the individual national titles, there are pre-teen, junior and youth National Team Match Championships and these are some of the most enthusiastically supported events of the whole weekend. Plus, during the daytime sessions there are literally hundreds of competitors in the various syllabus divisions. Just as an idea, there were 236 couples in the elementary school syllabus swing!

Our congratulations to the hard-working organizational team of Lee Wakefield, Curt Holman and Brent Keck.

New National Champions Crowned in Provo
But was it a “Walk in the Park?”

Last night in the Marriott Center Austin Joson & Nino Dzneladze were crowned US National Amateur Latin Champions.

Indeed for them it was almost a “walk in the park!” They won 4 dances, all with the majority of 1st places from the judges and placed 3rd in jive – well clear of any challengers. Cha cha and samba were their best scored dances as they took 12 and 11 of the 17 of the available first places respectively. Their dancing was, to many people’s eyes, very subdued. None of the flashy gimmicks we saw from some others, however, it also appeared to lack energy at times making it seem they were perhaps taking that “walk in the park.” We found it difficult to find them in the earlier rounds.  Nevertheless, this seems to be the direction favored by a healthy majority of last night’s judging panel and so we say congratulations to Austin and Nino on their first national title.

With 2,3,2,2,2, Tal Livshitz & Ilana Kesselman were the runners-up. Somewhat of an antithesis to the winners, Tal & Ilana are very noticeable on the floor at all times. In the aftermath many onlookers expressed the opinion that in the semifinal they looked like the winners, but failed to produce that quality in the final. They seemed to have problems with traffic in paso doble, a dance that they might have expected to win and although they did collect 4 first places in that dance, it was nowhere near enough to challenge the winners.

The winners of the jive were Pasha Stepanchuk & Gabriella Sabler – overall they placed 3,2,3,4,1. Pasha & Gabriella are the most consistent couple in this division over the ppast year or so, rarely turning in anything but a strong performance. So far this has not been enough to win them a national title, perhaps a slight change of direction is needed.

Alexander Chernossitov & Arina Grishanina were 4th placing 4,4,4,3,4. They got a nod from the peanut gallery as the “most improved” couple in the final. They were certainly unlucky not to place higher in the rumba where they received more 1st places than any couple except the winner.

The last 2 couples finished in the same position in all dances. Nikolai Tarasov & Sarah Nolin were 5th and Tony Cooperman & Rickie Taylor were 6th. Both of these couples must have been happy with their results. Nikolai & Sarah were finalists last year, but have had some unfortunate results in the ensuing time. This reaffirmed their standing. Tony & Rickie were the newbies in the final and I’m sure they were delighted. They had also won the U/21 Ballroom earlier in the day.

At the conclusion of the final and despite Provo's "thin air" the finalists all swapped partners for a jive.  This fun continued for the prize presentation where we saw the first ever finalist "selfie!"

The defending champions, Ferdinando Iacononne & Yulia Musikhina were unable to participate due to an injury.

This event was not the only great Latin event of the day. In the early afternoon the US National Youth Latin began and was danced over 5 rounds. One judge reported that he was sweating trying to sort this one out as the level of dancing was so high. The winners were D’Angelo Castro & Kyla Dzhaniastvilli, a relative new partnership. They won all 5 dances. They had the majority of 1st places in S,R,J. It was a great performance from them. 2nd and also very strong in our eyes were Max Firestein & Nicole Mitchedidze. They placed 2,2,2,4,2. 3rd spot fell to Vasyl Kotenko Anita Zohrabian 3,3,3,3,4. 4th place went to Carter Williams Anika Baker 4,4,4,6,6; 5th were Kristers Smitts & Elizabeth Shlimovich 5,5,6,5,3. Taking that missing 2nd in PD were Erik Linder & Shelly Meshkausk who nevertheless were 6th overall 6,6,5,2,5. We thought they were very unlucky with this placement. We must one again congratulate all these finalists and indeed, the many strong semifinalists who all had a good chance of making this great final.

On this day when so many US National Titles were decided, another highlight was the Junior II Ballroom that ran opposite the Amateur Latin at night. Tyler Li & Angelica Lowe were the winners, taking all dances. They had the majority of 1st places in W,F,Q. They received a rousing cheer from the crowd who have watched them progress from the pre-teen category. Tyler has hit a growth spurt this year and the partnership now looks much better balanced.

The next 3 places were fairly close. 2nd went to Matthew Zoladkiewicz & Eliabeth Grigalinova Leja and they scored 3,3,2,2,2. They were a very classic couple and have great potential. With 2,2,4,4,3T, Jacob Young & Polina Berisheva were 3rd. This is another couple with much potential who looked like the winners in the earlier rounds. Matviy Korsunskiy & Sophia Kouznetsov were 4th 4,4,3,3,3T. 5th were Maksim Berenshteyn & Kennedy Eaton and they were 5th in all dances and 6th in all were Joshua Ginzburg & Sophia Elkin, the audience expressed some surprise at their low placement.

It was also Ballroom day for the pre-teen divisions. In the US National Pre-Teen II Ballroom Daniel Novikov & Mishella Vishnevskiy were the winners. They won all dances with the majority of 1st places and this included an impressive 7 out of 7 in foxtrot and quickstep. Nathan Zaytsev & Annika Mugin were 2nd in all dances; 3rd Erik Griffin & Sophia Marriott 3,3,3,3,4; 4th Erik Kashkeyvych & Anna Bogutskiy 4,4,5,4,3; 5th Leo Kolmykov & Daria Andreyev 5,5,4,5,5; 6th Jake Berg & Anna Talis.

In the Pre-Teen I National Chamionship, Leo Kolmykov & Daria Andreyev won all dances with the majority of 1st places. Their dancing is very mature for this age level. Well done! 2nd went to Jacob Karasik & Julia Mattos 3,2,2,3,2; 3rd David Rabinovich & Jaslyn Kwan 2,3,3,2,3; 4th Kirill Zakirzyanov & Valerie Snitko 4,4,4,4,4; 5th Yegor Zhukov & Nichole Popov-Spektor 5,5,5,5,5; 6th Leonardo Heyman & Elizabeth Yu 6,6,6,6,6.

As we mentioned above, Tony Cooperman & Rickie Taylor won the US National U/21 Ballroom and it was an impressive win. They had 43 of the available 45 first places and of course won all dances. Yusif Amsatr & Naomi Spektor were 2nd in all dances and they equally were very secure in this position. Brandon Klavensy & Maria Volki were 3rd, 3,3,3,4,5. 4th Brandon Keck & Kaylee Christensen 4,5,4,3,3. They were the winners of the National Smooth the day before. 5th Tanner Cole & Serena Keck 6,4,6,5,4; 6th Kamil Falkowski & Karolina Lokaj.

Kirill Vassilenko & Ksenia Chekutova easily won the US National Junior I Ballroom, winning all dances with strong majorities of 1st places. Nathan Zaytsev & Annika Mugin finished 2nd here, 2,2,3,2,2. This was a better result for them that in the Pre-Teen II where they were also 2nd. Anthony Mattos & Eva Zinchenko were 3rd 3,3,4,3,3. Daniel Novikov & Mishella Vishnevskiy, the winners of the Pre-Teen II were 4th 4,4,2,4,4. 5th 5th Ivan Sinelnikov & Olivia Sherman 5,5,5,5,6; 6th Zorik Moldavsky & Alice Bankova 6,6,6,6,5.

Rounding out the National Titles yesterday were the Championships in Senior I, Senior II and Senior III Ballroom. The top three in each category were as follows:

Senior I – Yuriy Sannikov & Maria Zhukovskaya 1,1,1,1,1; Thomas Yin & Kelly Cheng 2,2,2,2,2; Xingmin & Katerina Lu 3,3,3,3,3.

Senior II – Thomas Yu & Yuko Naululani-Yu 1,1,2,1,1; David Getchell & Allison Gonzalez 2,2,3,2,3; Gokturk & Asli Yurtyapan 3,3,1,3,2.

Senior III - Thomas Yu & Yuko Naululani-Yu 1,1,1,1; David Getchell & Allison Gonzalez 2,2,2,2; Jan & Elaine Chow 3,3,3,3.

Interspersed among these national championships were huge syllabus divisions, many with about 150 entries plus the wonderful Team Match divisions for which the Utah and Idaho regions are so famous.

Stay tuned for today’s divisions that include the US National Amateur Ballroom Championship.

A Smooth Finish at Provo and Pre-Champs Step it Up!

Last night in Provo, Utah, the United States Amateur Smooth Championship came to a conclusion.

It began with a very strong first round and it ended with six fine finalists. We also had the largest Pre-Champ Latin competition in the history of the United States Amateur Championships and BYU with 146 couples competing for the privilege to make a final!

The United States Amateur Smooth Championship concluded the evening last night and it was a terrific competition with great couples from the quarterfinal round on. The new United States Amateur Smooth champions are Branden Keck & Kaylee Christensen who won all dances with three of the dances the T,F,VW with a majority of firsts from the judges and we have to agree that they looked faultless. This was the smallest of all couples in the final but they gave a strong performance in this huge Marriott Arena. Second went to Tanner Cole & Serena Keck who placed second in all dances and third was awarded to Joseph Nuget & Kyla Zenger with the scores of 3,4,4,3.

One of our favorite couple because of their very unique style placed fourth Sawyer Stolle & Savana Francia with these marks 4,3,3,4, as you can see this tie between fourth and third had to be broken by a Rule 11 but in the end Sawyer & Savana ended up in fourth place. Fifth in this excellent Smooth Championship went to Landon Anderson & Chanel Kostich 5,6,5,5, and sixth was awarded to Matthew Holden & Janica Liu 6,5,6,6. A review of this event by Tomas Mielnicki will be here soon for all of you to read and we will also explain our take on this interesting competition.

The United States Junior II Smooth Championship also ran this evening back to back with this event and the winners were Tyler Slater & Savannah Huston 2,1,1,2, second in this competition went to Blake Fox & Nicole Ascione 3,2,2,1, and third was awarded to Bronson Baker & Kennidy McOmber 1,3,3,4. Fourth were Lincoln Gardner & Megan Parson 6,5,4,3, fifth Tallon Lyon & Paris Waite 4,4,6,6, and sixth were Hayden Schuman & Emily Wanlass 5,6,5,5. We think this must have been a very difficult competition for the judges to mark, we will explain why soon here on Dance Beat so stay tuned for more.

There was a full day of competition before we got to the Open events just mentioned and here are some of the highlights from those days. We have to say that the future of Smooth looks very bright and healthy and we are happy to report that.

The Youth Smooth was also a terrific competition, almost as exiting as the Open and here Kristers Smits & Elizabeth Shlimovich won all dances. We think this competition to be the best Smooth Youth we have ever witnessed. Second in all dances went to Sawyer Stolle & Savana Francia and third overall was awarded to Keaton Walker & Ashton Cole with these marks 5,3,3,4. Fourth were Chandler Sosa & Aubree Harper 3,6,4,3, fifth went to TJ Kyle & Hanna Weiss 4,4,6,6,and sixth was awarded to Derrick Davis & Jenna Harding 6,5,5,5.

The US Amateur American Rhythm Championship was also held (on Wednesday night) and about 20 couples competed and in the end the new US Amateur Rhythm Champions were Max Firestein & Nicole Mtchedlidze and they won all dances. Second went to Stephen Rallison & Brodie Rallison they took all seconds, leaving all thirds to Allen Granzberg & Milana Lazareva. Fourth overall went to Chris Ulbrich & Lindsey Melville and they took 4,5,4,5,4; fifth overall were Jared Murillo & Makayla Bezzant and their scores were 5,4,5,4,5, and in sixth position in all dances were Kyle Treu & Madeline Treu.

By the way, the winners of the huge Pre-Champ Latin were Logan Beach & Stephanie Sosa.

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