Atlanta Open 2018

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An Impossible Task!

Last night at the Atlanta Open, the judges were given the task of selecting the best Professional Showdance of the competition.

It was the final event of the evening and funnily enough most judges had almost forgotten about it. When the judges sat down and everyone’s eyes were on the floor the incredible challenge began. We say incredible because we have never witnessed such incredible quality of performances all in one group, and we are sure that the judges had a very hard time especially with the first and second position.

First to go on this Showdance competition were Uriel Garcia & Vera Rowe from Miami, Florida, who performed an excellent Cabaret routine with some very difficult lifts. Not really knowing who would be next, we figured they might have it in the bag, their lift work was faultless and their intros and exits were very smooth with no problems or predicaments. Second in line were Dymytrii Gonchavov & Tetiana Lutsenko who truly did a Showdance with few or no lifts from what we can remember but who were very clever with the choreography and showed us at least two to three of the Latin dances within it. We find it a little unfair to have a ShowDance couple competing with what we consider Theater Arts or Cabaret couples, the amount of difficulty and risk in some of these very hard and difficult maneuvers or lifts from the Cabaret couples makes it almost an immediate win over the Showdance couple unless they really mess it all up, but that is just our take only, there are very few rules and even when there are no penalties given to the couples not doing a “showdance” performance.

Third to go were Shane & Shannon Jensen with their incredible new routine, having seen it in the past we knew what to expect and we have to say that although they did and excellent job this time, it was not perfect. Shane & Shannon never got to fully execute one of their signature moves, perhaps this due to the floor being a little sticky, but at the last minute this breathtaking maneuver where Shane goes into a split while Shannon is in a precarious lift was cut short. There was no shakeup or misstep because it was perfectly handled by this brilliant couple, so the audience never really knew - only some of the expert judges might have known and perhaps some of the people that follow this couple closely but other than that, noone could possibly have known.

Last to go with a perfect routine were Travis & Jaimee Tuft with a more traditional routine, where they gave us a little more edgy routine but still with a soft, traditional style. Travis on this outing, even managed to let go of one hand with Jaimee in a precarious lift where he never does. This lift was perfectly executed by all three couples and so this makes theirs also a perfect routine. In the end the win went to Shane & Shannon basically because they could not be penalized for not doing the step, they made sure it looked to the eyes of even the judges as if this is what they wanted to do and stuck to it. This is also extremely difficult and clever in its own right. Second was awarded to Travis & Jaimee, third went to Uriel & Vera and fourth were Dymytrii & Tetiana. This was a golden finish to the Atlanta Open and we are glad we got to see these well prepared Cabaret couples going head to head.

The ShowDance competition would have been good enough for us but we also had 4 great open professional divisions the American Smooth and Rhythm that were greatly attended and the International Style Ballroom and Latin. The Open Professional Rhythm started with a full semifinal round of about fourteen couples, but in the end they asked the judges to recall 7 couples for the final. Olena & Dmitriy Nikishkin won the competition overall but by just one dance, placing first in three dances and second in the cha cha, rumba. It is interesting and we must point out that Olena & Dmitriy had to rely on “third or better” marks in order to win. They did capture a few firsts but had to rely on “third or better” marks to win the three dances. We have to agree with the judges’ final outcome but we must point out that we can understand the judges’ hesitation towards Olena & Dmitriy, they have yet to separate themselves from the others by developing their own style and understanding of what Rhythm dances should be.

Veteran Rhythm dancers Ilya Velednitskiy & Mariya Ilchenko won the first two dances and placed second in the other three dances giving them a second place win. However, Ilya & Mariya are going to have to do some work to improve their performance because just dancing at a high level competition requires a very high level position in order to place higher, at the moment for us Ilya & Mariya are still relying on their past performance reputation but we wonder when that will run out?

It was great to see Shandor Shtefil with new partner Anna Tabolina back on the floor, and it was a great outing for them they placed third in all dances. When speaking to the judges after the event, most of the judges were totally taken by their performance and were very impressed. However, Mr. Didio Barrera a judge for this event, was not as impressed as the other judges commenting that he felt that although Anna was a good enough to partner Shandor, her mouth and facial expressions overtook anything she was doing, and sure enough a few judges then added that he was right about this. So were the judges just so happy to see Shandor back on the floor or is Anna as good as some might have thought? Well only time will tell if Mr. Barrera is right or if Anna is more than just the flavor of the week.

Toshkov Kondov & Kristine Dobson placed fourth in all dances, and once again when speaking to the judges they were thrilled with this couple with the exception of Mr. Barrera who once again placed them sixth in every dance. When asked why Mr. Barrera said it was just like “Watching Latin.” He said that for him American Rhythm must have a sense of social engagement as well as personal innovation like what Bob Powers & Julia Gorchakova had or Jose DeCamps and Joanna. You can just do “Bad Latin, or better organized movements to music.” We wonder if that is the same feeling Mr. Bill Sparks felt, he too gave this couple some very low marks.

Speaking of great of personal innovation and wonderful social component to Rhythm Mr. Barrera as well as the majority of judges we spoke too were very happy to see Vanda Polakova back on the floor as one lady described it in the group - “she was the true woman in the final,” and according to Mr. Barrera she was perhaps the only woman in that final with a lot of the qualities he wants to see in the American Rhythm final. Vanda and her new partner, Ryan Lewis, placed fifth overall with these marks 5,5,6,6,5. Sixth went to Maksym Lototskyy & Sarah Haworth 7,6,5,5,7, and seventh was awarded to Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker 6,7,7,7,6.

The Professional Smooth was also an excellent competition with also a full semifinal round, six couples were called for this final and the winners were by far Travis & Jaimee Tuft winning all dances with a majority of firsts in all dances. The couple that took the rest of the first place marks not awarded to Travis & Jaimee were Roman Malkhasyan & Galina Detkina who took second in all dances. For us at the moment Travis & Jaimee give a very consistent performance but is this what we really want? On the other hand as some of the judges were pointing out Roman & Galina have soul and live every dance to the fullest making us feel their pain or their happiness. Their work for us is not quite finished, and understandably so because they just got together and yes we have to agree with these judges, Roman was probably the best man on the floor and Galina has always been a very talented and emotional dancer. This combination is great but it is also hard to put it all together. In order for them to both shine they must let each other speak one at a time and when they both speak it needs to be in harmony. For us all this has to be just right before they can actually beat the great quality of work and technical merit of Travis & Jaimee.

Another couple that are also right with their steps and who are also beautiful talented dancers, is Sergeiy Samchynskyy & Yuliya Besarab who took third in all dances. We are going to put ourselves on a limb and say that at the moment this couple look as if they are just having fun, almost as if they are not very interested in the matter and they get away with it because of the amount of talent these two naturally have. We think that if they ever really get into it they could challenge not just the last two mentioned but the very top. These top three couples made it a very exciting and interesting final to watch and we are sure judge. But adding to this final we also had Enzo Zappia & Stephanie Betts who placed fourth in all four dances, Maksym Lototskyy & Sarah Haworth, fifth and Pavel Lebedev & Dinara Khayrulina from Canada, sixth. Adding these couples to the mix really made this a wonderful final - one we are thrilled to have watched and not be in the judges’ shoes.

The Professional Latin was also a semifinal round and here Artur Tarnavskyy & Anastasia Danilova won overall by placing first in four dances and second in the paso doble. Artur & Anastasia for us brought everything you need to the professional floor. On this night we did not think their dancing to be in all dances above the rest, but it is not always just about the dancing, it takes more than just being great dancers to be champions and last night this couple had all the ingredients together and we can see how a huge majority of the judges awarded them first. Evgeniy Likhachev & Mariya Levina took second overall and won the paso doble. We thought their dancing was aggressive but excellent. Aggressive is a great quality to have. In other words, they were there not just to dance but to win at all costs. However, on this outing Evgeniy & Anastasia allowed their aggressiveness to over take their dancing. In the first dance alone he nearly knocked two of the couples physically down in just six bars of music and never once looked to see the road kill, or even stop at the end of the dance to apologize. Yes, we get it, you’re a big couple that require space, may we remind you that in the past you were on top of all these couples with just dancing alone. On last night’s performance Evgeniy & Mariya gave us the feeling they were desperate and it went all throughout the final. We think your dancing is good enough and you need to use your skill as in the past to deal with the five or six couples that are always in the game, this is not a Cabaret or Showdance, part of the skill is to be able to look and get around the other five players on the floor and you looking the best at everything. This behavior did not affect our thinking, but judges are human as well and have feelings, this is an emotional business and last nights bulldozering of other couples did not enhance your look or performance.

From here down as you will see by the marks, the judges were very torn on their decisions. Dymytrii Gonchavov & Tetiana Lutsenko took third with these marks 4,3,3,4T,3; Aleksei Alekseev & Ekaterina Derevleva were fourth 3,4,4,6,4; Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker placed fifth 5,5,5,3,5 and Jake Davies & Alyona Kalinina were awarded sixth 6,6,6,4T6.

It was a packed night of competition and the Professional Ballroom also took place this night and as expected Andrey Begunov & Anna Demidova won all dances with a huge majority of firsts in all dances. We must also point out that Andrey & Anna would have had perfect scores in the waltz had it not been for Ms. Pat Traymore who awarded them third in this dance. Andrew & Anna only lost 4 marks in the T,VW,F,Q the other judge to award them another third was Ms. Shirley Johnson who awarded them a third in the tango, other than that Ms. Traymore was their worst judge with these marks 3,4,3,3,4. Personally we thought Anna & Andrew had a wonderful night, he seemed to be more playful than usual and their swing dances looked very light and we agree with the majority of the judges on this one.

Second in this Professional Ballroom was awarded to Aleksei & Elena Minaeva who took second in all dances, third place went to Aleksandr & Aida Skriptsova, fourth were Alex & Alina Spencer. Dymytrii Gonchavov & Tetiana Lutsenko were fifth with these marks 5,5,5,5,4, and Brad Montagnese & Tatiana Trigili took sixth 6,4,6,6,6.

The Pro/Am Ballroom and Latin ran on the same day. In the Open Ballroom Scholarships the winners of the “C” were Janet Simsic w/ Andrea Stefano who won all dances. Second went to Kako Matsumoto w/Basil Issaev 2,2,3,2,2 and third was awarded to Charlene Proctor w/Mikhail Zharinov.

In the “B” division Jill Bradford w/ Andrea Stefano won all dances, second in all dances was awarded to Brynda Insley w/Martin Reinbold and third was Robert Schipp w/Shalene Archer.

In the Pro/Am Latin the “C” was awarded to Cheryl Lynn w/Jani Bogre. Second was awarded to Bonnie Stafford w/ Vitaliy Vdovichenko in all dances and third was Coreen Tan w/Ian Folker.

The “B” went to Eva Goyette w/Anton Sidorov, second was Jenn Davidson w/Dmitry Demidov and third was Cheryl Lynn w/Jani Bogre. The “A” was awarded to Lily Goff w/Robertas Maleckis.

Congratulations to Sam Sodano, Debbie Avalos-Kusumi and Sarwat Kaluby for putting on this excellent event with wonderful competitions for all of us to enjoy.

A Step on Peach Street!

There are a few “Peach Streets” in American but not one like the one in Atlanta, Georgia where the Atlanta Open is being held this weekend.

The Marriott Atlanta Marquis on Peach Street Central Avenue is the venue for this year’s Atlanta Open and what an excellent location it is, just minutes away from great restaurants, shops and if you want, a little more entertainment. It has been two days of nonstop dancing of all competitions from pro/am to professional competitions finishing last night with the Professional Rising Star events.

It was a great night for the professional rising stars especially for Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker who won the Rising Star Rhythm by placing first in four dances and taking second in the mambo. They also did quite well in the Professional Rising Star Latin where they took second overall losing first by just one dance. Andrew & Amy won the Rhythm but only the cha cha with the majority of firsts, they had to rely on second or better in the other three dances. Second overall was awarded to Sergio Sanches & Rachel Sayotovich who placed third in the cha cha, second in the R,SW,B, and fourth in the mambo. Sergio & Rachel took the majority of firsts lost by Andrew & Amy. The winners of the Mambo with a majority of firsts in this dance were Kevin Ubillus & Milagro Lareto, and they placed third with these marks 2,3,4,3,1. Fourth in this Rising Star Rhythm was awarded to Eddie Rivera & Marta Lyszkowicz with these marks 4,4,3,4,2; fifth went to Senzo Makhaye & Agnieszka Strojek 6,5,5,5,6, and in sixth position were Jonathan Chen & Juanita Simanekova with these marks, 5,6,6,6,5. As we mentioned Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker were very close to making this a double win by nearly winning the Rising Star Latin, but it was not to be they placed second overall with these marks 2,2,1,1,2. First in this Rising Star Latin was awarded to Dymytrii Gonchavov & Tetiana Lutsenko who won three dances and placed second in the rumba, paso. Third was a little clearer with Brad Montagnese & Tania Trigili with these marks 4,3,3,3,3, leaving fourth to Aelksei Minaev & Elena Minaeva 3,4,4,4,4. Fifth in all dances went to Dylan & Nora Jenkins and sixth were Adriano Camardese & Lauren Hurley.

It was 3 dances to one in the Rising Star American Smooth, three dances going to Pavel Lebedev & Dinara Khayrulina from Canada, they placed second only in the foxtrot. Aaron Talbert & Maggie Toth placed second overall and won the foxtrot. Third was awarded to William Proper & Jennifer Elliott and they took third in all dances. Fourth in all was awarded to Jani Bogre & Danielle Mayzes McCarthy, but from here down to sixth place was a little mixed. Aaron Gree & Victoria Anderson were fifth 5,5,6,6, and Juan Martinez & Elayna Bottinelli were sixth 6,6,5,5, as you can see there was a tie for this two positions that had to be broken by Rule 11. And finally in seventh position were Aghalierapes & Tiffany Moraes and this was in all dances.

The Professional Rising Star Ballroom was only a five-couple final and this competition went to Aleksei & Elena Minaeva who won all dances with the majority of firsts in every dance. Alex & Alina Spencer placed second overall but not in all dances 2,2,2,2,4. Brad Montagnese & Tania Trigili were third in all dances, leaving fourth overall to Dymytrii Gonchavov & Tatiana Lutsenko 5,5,4,4,2, and in fifth place were Aleksei Alekseev & Ekaterina Derevleva 4,4,5,5,5.

We’ve had 2 days of competitions 90% of it being Pro/Am divisions. The Rhythm and the Smooth have been completed and here are the top three couples from the Open Scholarships divisions divisions.

In the Rhythm “C” category Janice Gonzales w/ Vladimir Kosarev took first in all dances; Ceci Torres w/Eddie Rivera took second overall 2,2,2,4,2 and PJ Mallinckrodt w/Senzo Makhaye placed third in all dances. The “B” Open went to Stacy Wojcichowsku w/Diego Semprum with first in all dances, second in all was awarded to Courtney Bugler w/ Christjohn Batters and third was Lucy Lu w/Melbin DeLa Cruz. There was one couple in the “A” Open Scholarship Gabrielle Sharp w/Jeff Goltiao and they took all firsts. In the Senior Global Open Rhythm Scholarship Leslie McLeod w/Melbin DeLa Cruz won all dances, second was Susan Miller w/Spencer Harger and third was Julia Wang w/Andrew Escolme.

There was one Theater Arts Pro/Am routine and it was a great score with a 97.3 Jake Mazhar w/Yuliya Besarab took a first.

There was a quarter final in the Pro/Am American Smooth “C” and the winner was Andrea Flink w/Val Grebenin 1,1,2,1, second overall was Gail Komar w/Scrhiy Komar 2,2,1,2, leaving third for Wende Stambaugh w/Ben Ermis 4,3,3,3. The “B” Open had 2 couples entered and here Celia Chou took all firsts with Erminio Stefano, second in all was Mona Maerz w/Christjohn Batters. The “A” was awarded to Catherine Wilson w/Aaron Greer. The Global Open Senior I was awarded to Julia Wang w/Aaron Talbert winning all dances, second was Jan Blakeslee w/Jean-Paul Gronek 2,2,2,3, and third was Bob Kniejski w/Dasha Chube 3,3,3,2. The Senior II was awarded to Lyn Ridle w/Sergiy Samchynskyy placing first in all, second was Julia Tse w/Ian Folker in all dances and third went to Rene Plaisance w/Rainier Rics.

Tonight all Open Professional divisions will take place and in the morning and afternoon it has been international time with both the Ballroom and Latin Pro/Am competitions taking place and we will bring it all to you tomorrow here at


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