Manhattan Dancesport Championships 2018

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20 Times a Charm!

Last night was the last night for the Manhattan Dance Championships and the conclusion of their 20-year anniversary celebration.

As we mentioned before, this competition survives on their “dance” values alone no “gimmicks,” and last night’s celebration was no different. Gary McDonald & Diana McDonald treated us to a rumba, their famous “Power of Love” routine featuring Diana’s whirlwind spins. It brought the crowd to its feet! There was a very sweet presentation by Iveta Lukasuite and Tony Dovolani where they combined dancing with roller skates and tap, and Mr. Hunter Hayes a musician that brought everyone to their feet, with his amazing rendition of “America the Beautiful.” But that’s not all, the most amazing part of the evening was the championship divisions and how the dance cage got rattled!

Before its 20 years as the Manhattan Dance Championships, this event was created as the Garden State Championships and 2 of the original organizers of that event, Dennis & Jackie Rogers, were in the audience tonight.

The session concluded with the Open Professional Ballroom Championship and what an amazing conclusion to this incredible night of dancing. The Ballroom Championships started with a packed quarter-final round and by the end of the night the judges were ready to “rattle” the dance cage hard and that they did. Without Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova in the mix who knew who the next Manhattan Ballroom Champion would be? On an interesting side note and before we go on to this amazing final, Katusha has won this championship for the same amount of years the Manhattan Dance Championship has been around, 10 years with Jonathan Wilkins and 10 years with Arunas Bizokas making it a 20 year undefeated run, and as they explained the night before she felt it was time to allow someone else to take the lead, leaving it all in a cliffhanger until last night was resolved.

Now it’s time to go back to the dance cage and how the judges rattled it hard, the cage we mean. Before we give our thoughts on the matter we must say that the six couples brought to the final were amazing and that for the first time in a very long time we truly did not know or have a clue as to how this incredible heat would unfold, and all we could say to the organizers after watching the quarter was “blood will be spilled tonight.”

The biggest problem for us was the fact that 3 of what we consider the very top of the heap were dancing amazingly from the start and so who knew what the judges would do? The favorites going into the competition, Alexander & Veronica Voskalchuk started with a bang doing a perfectly executed waltz, good enough to get the attention of at least 7 judges who awarded them first in this dance and 4th place or better form the rest securing them a first place on this one. In the tango it was a different story, all eyes were on Alexander & Veronica but they had not gone half across the floor when they banged into another couple and this “rattled” their cage from then on and although they had some great runs in between they continue to have issues throughout the heat. But, we must point out that Veronica & Alexander also won the Viennese Waltz, but with second or better marks.

Another couple we kept our eye on was Rudy Homm & Katia Kanevskaya. They seem to have made great strides through the first part of the year and their unique approach to the style makes them also one of our favorite in the field. Rudy & Katia are very pleasing to many of us older fans, who want to see very clean work and basic from time to time, also depending on what panel they have they could easily take away the cup and last night was one of those nights. However, on this outing perhaps due to the fact that they were the smallest couple by size they tended to look a little small and tight, with not much power and command to rattle the cage hard enough to be their night.

The one couple that for us that as we mentioned yesterday got the whole “enchilada” in the cage were Iaroslav & Lilia Bieliei. On this night with his Gary Cooper style and looking unperturbed by anyone or anything, Iaroslav sailed away down the ballroom floor looking suave with his lady in arm, manage to take away the tango, foxtrot and quickstep and in the end this was good enough to take the cup as well! With so much activity coming from these amazing dancers it would have been impossible not to have your cage “rattled” from step to step, but they managed to keep it together for at least three dances and win the foxtrot with a majority of firsts in this dances - 10 to be précise. Congratulations to Iaroslav & Lilia on this impressive win. Alexander & Veronica Voskalchuk were left in their cage holding second and Rudy Homm & Katia Kanevskaya took third.

But this was no picnic for the judges who still had to sort out fourth, fifth and sixth positions overall and this was also not an easy task in a 1:30 to 2 minutes time per dance. In a very interesting result fourth in all dances went to Oskar Wojciechwski & Karolina Holody, and it sounds clearer until you look at the judges’ marks and see that they were awarded a variety of marks from 6th to third position. We do have to agree that they were totally on last night and from the first round on they were hard to miss not only for their stature perhaps over 6 foot tall but for their performance that was excellent on the night through all three rounds and secured their solid placement in this fantastic final.

The surprise of the night perhaps even to them, was the inclusion in the final of Igor Mikushov & Ekaterina Roamshkina who placed fifth in all dances. We were not as surprised as they were because Igor & Ekaterina are a very talented couple. Having said that, we must say that once in the final we wished they would have done more, but perhaps the shock of being in such an exclusive final might have tampered their “mojo” a little bit and did not allow for them to show us more of what we know they can do and could have challenged higher. There was one judge that thought that Igor and Ekaterina should have won and that was Agita Baranovska who awarded them these marks 1,1,2,1,1.

The disappointing part of the final even for them, was the sixth place finish in all dances of Vladishlav Shakhov & Ekaterina Popova, when they were called for their result Vlad could not hold back his shock, but almost in the same breath his right, shoulder went up, as if to say “okay” it’s all good. Resignation is a good trait to have in this business of competition dancing. We have to say that in the after party their placement was applaud by some but questioned by others who claim they have seen some terrific dancing out there from Vladishlav & Ekaterina, one of the attendees loved Ekaterina but though Valdishlav did nothing to defend his position. All kinds of theories went up for this couple but in defense of the judges on the floor, with so little time the judges have no time for other people’s personal lives, they just mark what they see.

The Professional Rhythm was also a featured event this evening of dancing and that also went quite well, with a few surprises too. There was no surprise for any of us or the judges who though that Nazar Norov & Irina Kudryashova should be first in all dances, we most also point out that they won with a huge majority of firsts in every dance. Their worst placements were in the bolero where 5 judges dissented from giving them first and awarded them second, their best marked dance was the mambo where only one judge thought they should be second and that was Wendy Johnson. Overall this couple got the most praise from the audience as well, getting huge applause from every side of the floor they danced in after every dance.

We cannot say the same for the runners up Natalie & Andre Paramonov, who placed second in every dance. They did mange to get the majority of seconds or better in every dance especially in the bolero where they got 15 second or better marks, but in all their columns with the exception of the bolero they got at least 8 marks that were from third to sixth place. We are not surprised that they managed to hold on to their second place standing, but we were a little surprised by some of their work. Natalie & Andre seem to have simplified their work to a very basic motivation and movement, it might be very gratifying for them but perhaps for those other 8 judges on the panel of 17 it is not hitting the mark. But we celebrate their creativity and exploratory path they have taken, all we have to say is good for them!

Third overall in this excellent Rhythm competition went to Danas Jaksevicius & Yuki Haraguchi with these marks 3,3,4,3,3. This in our opinion was not a great outing for Yuki & Danas, they could have easily taken second with a stronger performance but it slipped through their fingers. In the past year and early part of this year this couple seemed to be breaking barriers but last night it all tended to look tired and Yuki did not seem to be in the game almost as if she was more disturbed by the loss of some of her feathers on her dress than by the dancing. We love this couple’s dancing, but guys when it comes to competition you most always be ready and cannot afford to sit, you’ll be killed.

Fourth went to Dmitriy & Olena Nikishkin 4,4,3,4,4, Girrrrrl…… you must always try that dress before you go out on that floor, that rainbow colored dress was shedding more than a “Labrador.” This dress was not only disturbing to watch but it got on your way and everyone’s way, it is lucky the judges seamed to be recalling perhaps some past performance because, it was hard for us to see what they saw. One of our favorite couples in this Rhythm heat was Ilya Velednitskiy & Mariya Ilchenko who placed fifth overall with these marks 5,5,5,5,6. In the not so recent past this couple was nearly out of this final, but lately they have worked hard and for us they came back stronger than ever. Last night their cha cha for us was excellent and perhaps even a well deserved second place mark on this dance, but it is hard to make a come back and be awarded a prize for having been out of touch for nearly a year or so. Especially in our industry where the judges need to have confidence and reassurance and a hug after every maneuver. Keep up the good work we like what we see and we are sure the judges will one day come around.

Sixth overall went to Aaron & Iryna DeSoto with these marks 6,6,6,6,5, this was also a good outing for this couple, Aaron seems to be complimenting Irina’s full energy Rhythm movements. It is getting crowded in this final and you must keep improving, Aaron is a little timid and not used to displaying this much rhythm in his Rhythm, but it is getting there, a little stiff at times but it’s working. The bad news is everyone keeps working at the same pace and so you need to move fast and keep up with the past and beyond to go up on the scale of things.

Overall with the exception of Nazar Norov & Irina Kudryashova, and Ilya & Mariya the Rhythm for us left us wanting more, so guys lets get moving, rattle the cage a little, give us a good show don’t look like you’re trapped in the cage.

The second most interesting event of the night was the amateur Latin, here the judges rattled that cage again in an incredible way. Like a mirror image of the Professional Ballroom here the unsuspected winners sailed right through the middle and won every dance. Alexander Chernositov & Arina Grishanina won all dances with a majority of first from all the judges, and we have to say that there was no posturing here, faces or tricks, just solid dancing is all it took. It was wonderful to see Alexander & Irina’s surprise when their win was announced, he picked her up and she had to remind him to put her down.

While the majority of the audiences and the fans were looking at the usual perspective, the judges were looking somewhere else, good job guys! The favorites before the event started were Denys Drozdyuk & Antonina Skobina and Pasha Stepanchuk & Gabriella Sabler and yes these two are excellent dances but reflecting on yesterday’s competition we can see how Alexander & Arina might have had the full “enchilada” this time around. In our eyes Denys looks a little too casual - hair loose running around in the style of “Isadora Duncan” and maybe this might take away from their rhythmical performance. On the other hand, perhaps Pasha & Gabriella, fully groomed, not missing a single step, perfect moment performance might not have been the cup of “tea” the judges were desiring last night and so they rattled the cage and gave us this unprecedented decision. By the way these were the marks for Denys & Antonina 3,2,2,3,3, and these were Pasha & Gabriella’s marks 2,3,3,2,2. By the way we were shocked to see Gabriella take it so hard, she looked totally withdrawn from the process while at the podium, barely cracking a smile when the winners approached.

It is very exciting to see change in this industry it has been our theory that if change occurred more often and a couple might win one game and not the other we might have more coverage from the media as well and more money for this endeavor.

Fourth place in all dances was awarded to Tagir Mansurov & Alexandra Kondrashova, we were really disappointed with this couple last night in fact we were concerned they might not get out of the quarter. Talk about casual and not really doing their best in particular Tagir who seemed to us not to care what went on even to the end. We do hope to see better performances from this couple on future outings.

Fifth overall was awarded to Ewoun Fidon & Melanie Weiler with these marks 6,5,5,6,5, and with a great surprise Taras Savitskyy & Yulia Koshkina took sixth overall with these marks 5,6,6,5,6. It was a surprise that they got marked so low. For us Taras & Yulia gave an excellent performance with great energy and commitment. We do hope that the judges take more notice on future outings because they could have easily taken fourth in our opinion last night.

6 couples of varying abilities contested the Professional Cabaret. The winners were Travis & Jaimee Tuft who presented a number in their characteristic style although rather uncharacteristically, they rather obviously missed an overhead lift. Obviously this was not enough for a majority of the judges to drop them a place and brings up the argument of what judges should do when faced with obvious errors in couples’ programs. 2nd tonight were Mykhailo Azerov & Tetyana Makarenko who performed a new piece that had their usual death-defying liftwork but did not seem to connect emotionally with the audience. Actually our favorite performance of this division came from Lucas & Katerina Bartunek who were 3rd. They danced a “zombie” themed Latin showdance that maintained the character throughout the routine and also contained comedic elements.

The final style for the pro-ams was Latin, danced over the entire daytime session and ending with the Open Scholarships. These were very high level and produced several “shake-ups” in the results – something that always makes for exciting competition!

The Open A was a very strong division and did not give us much change in form on the top. The winner, from Canada, was Sabrine Strasser w/ Stanislav Kochergin. Sabrine has dominated this division for the past couple of years and did not look in danger today. She won all dances, but although losing on 1 first place in cha cha, this was in fact her best scored dance as there were more missing 1st places in the other dances. Vera Xu w/ Jakub Zeglin was 2nd in all dances and this is another lady who has been at the top of this division for some time. Like most of the finalists today, Vera received quite a mixture of scores from the judges but she did manage to accumulate the majority of “2nd or better” scores in all dances except the rumba. 3rd and 4th places were very tight. Sarah Skog w/ Plamen Danailov scored 3,3,4,4,4 to take the 3rd place over Nicole Pierzchalski w/ Vlad Astafiev who scored 5,5,3,3,3. An interesting view of the Skating System of scorekeeping as you can see the lady who actually places 3rd in 3 dances ended up 4th. Sarah was a new talent to us and both she and Nicole were very impressive today. June Lin w/ Pasha Pashkov took 5th 4,4,5,6,5; 6th was Deborah Tipley w/ Paul Ricardson 6,6,6,5,7; 7th Zoe Antoniou w/ Andre Strinadko 7,7,7,7,6.

The Open B was a real tense event with the winner in doubt until the end. 5 countries were represented in this final. First spot went to Henrietta Zagozdzon w/ Massimo Arcolin from Slovakia and she placed 2,1,1,1,2. The runner-up, and perhaps the favorite to win was Svetlana Mukhametshina w/ Alexander Chesnokov and she placed 1,2,2,2,1. All the dances were won with slim majorities of 1st places except the jive. While Svetlana is a very competent technical dancer, Henrietta has a more artistic approach that today found favor with the judges. The only other lady to take any 1st places from the judges was Christine Stanko w/ Jean Paul who finished 3rd overall with 3,3,4,4,3. We found Christine very much in contention with the top 2 ladies and would no have been surprised had she scored a little better in some dances. In this very international final, 4th place went to Canada – Joanne Kay Smith w/ Richard Lifshitz 4,4,3,3,4. We had not seen Joanne in this style before, but she is a very accomplished dancers and shows great potential. Monaco took the 5th spot in the person of Marina Dzasokhova w/ Ivan Statsenko 5,5,5,5,5 and we returned to Canada for 6th, Sabrina Nirchi w/ Danny Arbour 6,6,6,6,6.

The most tightly contested division came in the Open C and it actually produced a Rule 10 tiebreak for 1st place. The winner today was Lorraine Peoples w/ Genya Bartashevich – something of an upset result but Lorraine was in great form. Her placements today were 4,1,3,1,1. The lady losing out in the tiebreak was Sophia D’Angelo w/ Nikolai Pilipenchuk and she placed 1,3,1,2,3. Sophia was probably the favorite to win this event and it was close. Again we saw a strange phenomenon of the Skating System as the lady who was 2nd in 3 dances actually came 3rd and this was Rebecca w/ Richard Livshitz 2,2,2,3,4. Andrea Bennington w/ Ivan Mulyavka was 4th 3,4,5,5,2; 5th Ada Fung w/ Andrei Kazlouski 5,5,6,4,5; 6th Joan Goddard w/ Andrew Escolme 6,6,4,6,6; 7th Anna Chiu w/ Troels Bager 7,7,7,7,7.

Susan Miller w/ Ricky Bentzen won the Open Senior. Susan won all dances with a majority of 1st places and had perfect scores in the cha cha. With 2,3,2,2,2, Fifi Wang w/ Delyan Terziev was the runner up and with 3,2,3,3,3, Alice Lekht w/ Igor Derimov was 3rd. 4th Diana Knight w/ Nikolai Shpakov 4,4,4,4,4; 5th Jenny Chen w/ Werner Figar 5,5,5,5,5; 6th Ram Viswanathan w/ Sarika Hudson

Proceedings came to a halt during the finals of the open scholarships as we all watched live the penalty kick decider for the quarterfinal round of the World Cup match between Russia & Croatia played live on the screen in the ballroom. There were some disappointed Russian soccer fans in that ballroom!

The Complete Enchilada!

Last night we had the conclusion of the Professional Smooth and Latin here at the Manhattan Dance Championships, both events started with a quarterfinal round, but when it came to the final 6 very talented and proficient couples took to the floor in both categories.

All couples called back, brought different interpretations and ideas to the floor, most with great solid basic background and care but the winners for us, as they say here in the USA, brought the complete enchilada to the floor and that is why they won. (BTW Rocco’s Tacos next to the hotel has great enchiladas and margaritas!!!!)

When looking at the marks in both categories we noticed both first placed couples won all dances with a huge majority of firsts from the judges and we will break that down now. In the Latin, Troels Bager & Ina Jeliazkova got perfect scores in the samba, rumba and paso doble. They only lost a few marks in the cha cha and jive. In the cha cha John Nyemchek awarded them one second, in the jive John also awarded them a second place and in this same dance Alain Doucet awarded them another second place mark. As you can see had it not been for these two dissenting opinions Troels and Ina would have won with perfect scores in all dances.

As you can see by Troels & Ina’s marks they certainly managed to bring to the floor the full enchilada. Now let’s see how the judges saw Nick Cheremukhim & Viktorija in the Professional Smooth. Nick & Viktorija also won all dances with a majority of first places from the judges but only their slow waltz was won with perfect scores. In the tango they lost the most first, 4 first place marks to be precise; in the foxtrot they lost two firsts and we must point out that in these two dances if they did not get a first they got a second. This was not true in the Viennese Waltz, here they lost three firsts and a second, they were awarded third by Marat Gimaev, who by the way was their worst judge in this final with these marks - 1,1,2,3. But taking a good look at marks of the majority of the 17 judges, they managed to bring a full “enchilada” to the floor and ate it as well.

Since we are speaking of the Smooth we will now break down the rest of the final and what we witnessed last night in this excellent Smooth event. Second in all dances went to Travis & Jaimee Tuft, and looking at them closely they came fully prepared for this challenge. Nobody was going to take this place away from them and if they could they were challenging for the top. In the past we could almost say that Mr. & Mrs. Tuft are slightly passive when it comes to their Smooth style. They seem to enjoy, but we personally never felt them challenging or doing any kind of attack to gain a higher placement. Last night was not the case, they seemed to be there for blood and fully prepared to fight to stay on top and move forward. We have to say that this was a good thing. On paper any judge that did not award a first to Nick & Viktorija awarded it to the Tufts, meaning the judges took notice and many awarded.

Third in all dances went to Roman Malkhasyan & Galina Detkina who from our perspective and that we think that of the judges’ also were all over the place and it all depended when you were taking a look. Their intricate and unique choreography seemed to favor them in a few dances and not in others. In the tango, for example, they barely covered the floor in a moving dance, it was all about twist and turns and under the arm over the arm - did they really touch the judges? Apparently not Wendy Johnson awarded them 6th place in this dance. In looking at the marks Wendy Johnson might have given them their worst marks of the competition but apparently she was not the only one questioning what they were doing. Brian McDonald, probably summarized it the best with his marks 4,5,5,5.

With the exception of the VW, where Roman & Galina got the majority of 3rd place marks, we can almost see the judges dilemna quite clearly, they got marks from first to sixth place, meaning the judges really were not sure what to do with what they were seeing. For us we can say they work is different and interesting, but perhaps needs more development understanding. And guys a basic suggestion when on the floor, when it comes to a traffic jam in a group of this quality - you need to be a little more humble and gracious, this is still a ballroom and not the “rodeo”, so pull away appologize and don’t ad to the “cause.”

Fourth in all dances was awarded to Sergiy Samchynskyy & Yuliya Besarab who continue to make progress and are showing some solid dancing in this style, no frills no thrills as we said yesterday on our blog, just good solid dancing. This is very good for a couple to make a final but once here if they expect to get any further we need to hate it or love it and we need to see, as with Roman & Galina, the couple working on developing a style and interpretation to their four dances. Until you do this we think this to be a stumbling block to moving on up!

Fifth was awarded to Aleksandar Vukosavljevic & Neveda who made the big splash on the other side of the “pond” as they say, in England, and continue to cash in from this momentum. However, as we said about Sergiy & Yuliya, you too could begin to think or work on what the dances mean to you and what you are trying to get across. We must also point out that Aleksandr & Neveda did not place fifth in all dances, they were sixth in the Viennese Waltz. And sixth overall went to the Rising Star Champions, Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Natalie Crandall who placed fifth in the Viennese Waltz and sixth in the other three dances.

Going back to the Latin where Troels Bager & Ina Jeliazkova had a terrific showing - second place in this excellent final went to Mykhailo Bilopukhov & Anastasiia Shchypilina, and they placed second in all dances. We are fans of this couple and someone asked us what we thought and we said they tend to be what Latin dancing should be - very earthy almost “ghetto like” and rhythmical and this they get across quite easily. Third overall, but not in all dances, went to Ilya Maletin & Polina Maier from Canada with thiesemarks 3,3,4,3,3. The same person asked us what we thought of them and we mentioned that she is probably the best girl in this final but her partner does not seam to know this! They are both talented and technically they get it all done and it is hard not to call them back round after round, but dancing has life, has a story to tell between two people and the audience and if you ask us what their story is, we could not really say.

Fourth overall went to Pasha Pashkov & Daniella Karagach with these marks 4,4,3,4,4. We have to say that this is the most improved couple for us to date. Daniella was an incredible lady dancer before and she is an amazing dancer now. However, when your body is showing us what you’re feeling in every way, do you really need all those facial expressions? Especially in the rumba! Always remember what your mom used to say “your going to freeze looking like that!” Perhaps Pasha should take over a few facial duties from time to time and let’s give it a break, moderation in all things is a blessing.

Fifth overall went to Artur Tarnavskyy & Anastasia Danilov with these marks 5,5,6,6,5. Artur & Anastasia seamed so happy to make this excellent final and we were as well. They also seem to be maturing in their style and their dancing seems a little deeper in thought and in actions and this is a great thing in our opinion for this couple. We expect to see some great things come out of this very talented couple and we hope they continue to improve but never lose that sense of exploring and trying different things that although we cannot imagine happening we can totally see you serving it on the floor.

Sixth place was awarded to Manuel Favilla & Natalia who seem to be making an excellent comeback and are really getting down to dancing alone. Yes, their beautiful looks work on getting some attention (some men on the podium said they would love to look like Manuel at least for 5 minutes if their life) but we really want to see you dance your feet off when you’re in this kind of final.

Having finished talking about these to amazing finals we most now point out that in this article alone two ladies have lost their last name and we think this to be very tragic for them and the industry itself. Although having a first name for a title might sound prestigious and dramatic, it has been proven that when you give up your surname you’re giving up part of who you are and represent. Last week I was talking about Lorrain and many people we were talking also knew who I was talking about. But in this discussion group a young lady asked me Lorrain who? That got us thinking that it is important for everyone to have a last name, one that you are proud of and one that could easily identify you, not everyone has a name like Mr. Barrera who could easily go by “Didio” as well, and even he when I have spoken about that Mr. Barrera, they have asked which Barrera the famous British Open exhibition Champion or the little one running around creating trouble around the world?

The professional heats were not the only exciting events that happened last night on the Manhattan Dance Championships floor - the Amateur Open Ballroom Championship also was back to back with these competitions. The Amateur Ballroom for us was excellent with a nice variety on the to. For us this competition was about perfect technique or musicality. The winners, Oleksandr Kalenyuk & Olena Ablitsova won by placing first in four dances and second in the Viennese Waltz. Oleksandr & Olena for us are the epitome of good form and basic technical elements, so basic that it is beautiful to watch and they make it look like “much ado about nothing” and in this style that is what we all want to see. However, Dan Malov & Stephanie Noon who placed second in four dances and first in the Viennese Waltz, give them a run for their money because of how musical they are. There is no song that they do not listen to and try to interpret through their body moves and steps. We tend to love Dan & Stephanie because all songs in all styles might be the same but they all have different textures and we should see this reflected in the work, and they certainly do this. In this case it would not matter for us who is first or second with these two super-talented young couples - we are just so pleased to have this kind of talent in this style and we want them to keep moving in the directions they have chosen because the style will be supper healthy here in the USA.

Third overall went to Samuel Hacke & Katerina Hermanova and you will see by the marks that they judges were quite busy in this heat - 5,4,3,4,3. With the exception of the Viennese Waltz if you look deeper into how the judges marked you will see a variety of marks from all the judges, not sure where to place this very talented couple. We must point out that we have seen this couple grow in dance and in body and we see tremendous improvement in their dancing. With a little more confidence and understanding of the dances we can see the top two getting some competition from this couple a wonderful thing for this great category.

Fourth overall was awarded to Mikhail Vorobiev & Natalia Kozhevnikova with these marks 4,5,4,3,4. Fifth went to Vladislav Komelkov & Sofiia Bila with these marks 3,3,5,5,5 and sixth in all dances went to Ruslan Kaliuzhnyi & Elena Dovgan placing sixth in all dances.

But speaking about great dancing – the daytime session was filled with some of the best pro-am Ballroom dancing you will see anywhere – from bronze to advanced! The culminating events of the afternoon were the Open Scholarships and these were of the highest quality!

In the Open A we saw the first overseas win in the open scholarships this year and this was Irina Agaletskaya w/ Alexander Zhiratkov from Russia who placed 1,1,1,1,2. We have seen his lady several times throughout the world and we have to say this was her most accomplished performance to date. Irina Had the majority of first places in the 4 dances she won. 2nd and also performing very well was Alexandra Dachenko w/ Kamil Urbaniak 3,2,2,2,1. This lady is new to us but has great talent and also received the majority of 1st places in quickstep. With 2,3,3,3,3, Julia Shen & Vlad Shakhov, and for us this lady was also very much in contention. Sara Trudeau w/ Sergey Izyumov was 4th in all dances and we were equally impressed with this lady – it was a good final! Aimee Rae & Koukareko were 5th in all dances;6th Jenn Mo w/ Stefano DiBrino 6,6,7,7,6; 7th Colette Marotto & Egor Abashkin 7,7,6,6,7; 8th Sean Nepveu w/ Ekaterina Romashkina.

The Open B was an excellent event that began with a quarter-final round. The judges were less decided in this event, but the win went to Amanda Parton w/ Igor Gayenko 2,1,2,1,1. This is a totally new duo to us, but what a first impression! In this very high-quality final they were certainly the couple to beat! 2nd went to Laura Shooks w/ Alexander Voskalchuk 1,2,5,2,4. Obviously the judges found this performance a little uneven – but certainly Laura was in contention. Third spot went to Russia – Elena Aristarova w/ Vitalii Denisov 4,4,1,3,3. 4th and 5th places were separated by Rule 10 and 4th went to Carole Simmons & Sergey Pogonet from Canada 3,3,3,6,5. We like this lady’s showing today and could have seen her higher. 5th went to Amy Liu w/ Igor Mikushov 5,5,4,4,2 and 6th was Bo Chang w/ Oscar Pedrinelli 6,6,6,5,6. We were also pleased to see significant improvement in Bo’s dancing.

Jill Bradford w/ Andrea Stefano continued her dominance in the Open C division and won all dances with a majority of 1st places from the judges – and certainly got our vote as well. Another favorite of ours, Sally He w/ Enzo Zappia was 2nd, 3,3,2,2,2. 3rd went to another new talent to us, Kyle Brown w/ Sergey Bondarenko and she placed 2,2,3,3,4. 4th was the highest placed gentleman in these open scholarships, Mike Brown w/ Anna Oblackova 4,6,5,5,3; 5th Annie Chan w/ Christian Radvan 5,4,6,4,5; 6th Keiko Matsumoto w/ Basil Issaev 6,5,4,6,6. As you can see from the scores this was a highly contested division.

In the Open Senior Scholarship, Kyle w/ Sergey moved up to 1st place where she won all dances. 2nd and 3rd were separated by a Rule 11 with the runner-up spot going to Vicki Sato w/ Nazar Batih 4,4,2,2,2 and 3rd to Linda Dillman w/ Arturas Misurenkovas 2,2,3,3,4. 4th was Mary Jane McCarron w/ Basil Issaev 3,6,4,4,3; 5th Linda Huntress w/ Andrea Stefano 5,3,5,5,5 and 6th Linda Gill w/ Ruslan Meshkov.

As we mentioned in yesterday’s blog, this is the 20th anniversary of the Manhattan Dance Championships and to celebrate there was a very special show last night. Katusha Demidova has won the Professional Ballroom at the Manhattan Dance Championships for every one of the 20 years it has been held. 10 times with Jonathan Wilkins and 10 times with Arunas Bizokas. This year she decided not to compete but instead performed a great 3-dance show with Arunas that the packed audience thoroughly enjoyed. Not to be outdone (:)), our organizers, Gary & Diana McDonald – the first US couple to ever win a professional world title, also danced, a reprise of their ever popular Michael Jackson medley – and yes! Gary did still spin on his back!!

Stay tuned tomorrow for more! Rumor has it that there are more special performances tonight!

Back to the Future!

It is so great to be back at the Manhattan Dance Championships, a competition based solely on dancing, no frills or magical tricks, just solid, great dancing in all levels and all competitions.

This is the 20th anniversary of the Manhattan Dance Championships.

So far we have had two full days of Pro/Am dancing with the Rhythm and Smooth and last night they featured a Rising Star Night, with all the Professional Rising Stars taking place.

The Professional Rising Star Rhythm started the night with a sizable quarter-final round and it finished with a very strong 7-couple final. In this heat Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Natalie Crandall won overall by placing first in three dances and second in the rumba, swing. With the exception of the cha cha where they picked up 7 out of the 13 first place marks distributed, all other dances were won with a majority of seconds or better. Wining the rumba and swing and placing second in the other three dances were Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker and we must also point out that they won these two dances with a majority of firsts in each dance. Third in the Professional Rising Star Rhythm went to Sergio Sanchez & Rachel Sayotovich with these marks 3,3,3,3,4, fourth was awarded to Jang & Adele Don 4,4,6,4,6; fifth were Matt Hauer & Anastasia 6,6,5,5,3; sixth were Kristian Sese & Mae Lozada 7,5,4,6,5, and seventh was awarded to Alexander Zarek & Oleksandra Kharchenko 5,7,7,7,7.

The Professional Rising Star Ballroom also finished with a seven-couple final and here all dances went to Serhiy Averkov & Olena Barna with a majority of firsts in all dances. Second overall and in all dances was awarded to Sergey Izyumov & Zaver, and third in all went to Artem Belmeha & Shevchenko. Aleksei Minaev & Elena Minaeva were fourth, Aleksandr Skriptsov & Aida Skriptsova took fifth, Artur Kozun & Natasha Barrera were sixth and Pavel Bic & Ersi Nie took all sevenths.

Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Natalie Crandall also won the Professional Rising Star Smooth and here they won all dances. We must point out that the tango and foxtrot were won with a majority of firsts. Second overall but not in all dances were Jang & Adele Don, they placed second in the waltz, tango and third in the F,VW. Third overall was awarded to Ilya Abdullin & Tara with these marks 4,3,2,2. Slawek Roszak & Denise Sobiewski were fourth 3,4,4,5; Vladyslav & Brianna Nalyvauchuk were fifth 6,5,5,4, and sixth were Igor Afonkin & Meghan Anderson 5,6,6,6.

The Professional Rising Star Latin was the last event to go on the floor and here this event went to Ivan Kudashev & Ksusha by placing first in four dances and second in the samba. Second in four dances and first in the samba was awarded to Alon Gilin & Anna Oblakova and third in all dances went to Vlad Astafiev & Annie He Xiao. Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker placed fourth overall 4,4,6,4,4; fifth overall went to Umario Diallo & Tessa Marie 5,6,4,5,6, and sixth overall was awarded to Roman Drobotov & Liya Kazbekova 6,5,5,6,5.

The Under 21 events were also well attended and in the Ballroom, Yusif Amsatr & Naomi Spektor won all dances, Brandon Klavansky & Maria Volski took second overall 2,3,3,2,3; Yuriy Markovetskiy & Mariam Khazhinsky were third overall 3,4,2,4,2. Kamil Falkowski & Karolina Lokaj placed fourth 4,2,4,3,4; Mathew Kheyfets & Sima Sadykhov took fifth 5,5,6,6,5; Malcolm Linnehan-Herring & Nicole Klavansky placed sixth 6,6,5,5,6, and seventh in all were Michael Levenkov & Lyubov Morgan.

In the Under 21 Latin, Max Firestein & Nicole Renee won overall with these marks 1,1,1,2,4. Anthony Mancuso & Sophie Shvartsman took second overall 2,2,2,1,3; Kevin Filipczak & Danielle Malpa were third in four dances and first in the jive; Idan Daich & Rumi Dolmaya placed fourth overall and second in the jive; fifth were Yusif Amsatr & Naomi Spektor 6,5,5,5,5, and sixth were Nathan Murstein & Alina Odintsova 5,6,6,6,6.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article there were two days of excellent Pro/Am competition and yesterday we saw the conclusion of the Pro/Am Smooth categories.

The “B” division was very strong and here Celia Chou w/ Stefano won all dances with a majority of firsts in all dances and perfect scores in the Viennese waltz. Second in all dances was Mariana Lvoff w/Vladimir Kosarev, and third was awarded to James Coltharp w/Olga Chekhova 3,3,T3,3.

In the “A” division TJ Kyle w/Jaimee Tuft took first by winning three dances and placing second in the foxtrot. Taking second on a (rule10) decision was Megan Wallace w/Klajdi Kasemi with these marks 5,4,1,2. Third from that (rule10) decision went to Stefan Tuomanen w/Michelle Officer.

The “C” Category went to Sophia D’Angelo w/Max Sinitsa placing first in all dances. Second place went to Russia’s Olga Krashyanskaya w/Eldar Dzhafarov, she placed second in three dances and fifth in the VW, and third overall was Kato Matsumoto w/Aaron Talbert 4,3,3,4.

The Senior Open went to Linda Gill w/Ruslan Meshkov placing first in all dances, Audria Hill-Mitchell w/ Peter Perzhu was second in all dances and third was Pat Luthy w/Vladimir Popov 4,3,3,3.

There was also an “all men” category in the Pro/Am Smooth division and this went also to TJ Kyle w/Jaimee Tuft winning all dances, second in all was Stefan Tuomanen w/ Michelle Officer and third was awarded to James Coltharp w/Olga Chekhova placing third in all dances.

In the Open Rhythm Scholarships the C was very strong and the winner was new to us – Elizabeth Hayner w/ Grey Masko 1,2,1,1,2. 2nd went to Janice Gonzalez w/ Vlad Kosarev 2,1,2,3,1 and 3rd was Joan Goddard w/ Aaron Talbert 3,3,3,2,3.

The Open A was a 4-couple final and the win went to Ivy Kaplin w/ Francesco Arietta 2,1,1,2,1. 2nd was Stephan Tuomanen w/ Michelle Officer 1,2,2,1,3 and 3rd Joanna Gorski w/ Vlad Astafiev 3,3,3,4,4.

3 talented ladies contested the Open B and all finished in the same position in all dances – 1. Mariana Lvoff w/ Vlad Kosarev; 2. Louise Shah w/ Andrew Escolme; 3. Kellie Moll w/ Eugene Graev.

The Open Senior also had 4 entrants. Here the winner was Susan Miller w/ Hayk Arshakian 1,1,1,2,1; 2nd Lois Fein w/ Aleksander Vukosalvjevic 2,2,2,1,2; 3rd Julia Wang w/ Andrew Escolme 3,3,3,3,3.



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