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Fred Astaire World Championships 2018

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Fred Astaire’s World Championships 2018 come to an end!

Friday July 27, 2018 was the culmination of the Fred Astaire World Championships for 2018, there was some Pro/Am Smooth events during the day but the evening gala was the signature event for 2018.

Everyone was invited to come in costume, celebrating their heritage from around the world and many people did including the judges who all came as members of an Italian mafia with striped suits, hats and large cigarette holders. With this gala they culminated a competition filled with over 15 thousand entries and fully packed ballroom of dancers.

The place was packed for this sit down dinner and gala, and the wonderful Brent Mills Orchestra played as everyone took to the floor to celebrate and enjoy. It has been about 4 years since we last attended a Fred Astaire event and many things are changing. There is a surcharge of new talent and schools and you can tell by their energy that the new leadership is on the move ready to reshape and move the organization to a new era of success.

During the evening plenty of awards were given, awards for the top students and teachers and awards to some of the legacy officials of the Fred Astaire organization. One that we must point out and a very important one is Bonnie McKenzie who has worked for the organizations for 35 consecutive years, in many different positions, and who still continues to work for the organization. We had had the great fortunate to have known Bonnie for most of these years and we want to congratulate her on this very prestigious award.

During the week we were able to sit with some of leaders of the “new and Improved” Fred Astaire organization and you can tell by the way they spoke that they have some excellent plans for this iconic organization and to bring it forward to this new era. We will have a full article here on Dance Beat and we will share some of the information and some of the insights into the future of this organization and their plans to improve and bring it forward to match some of the new agee challenges. So keep an eye out for our full report on this matter here on Dance Beat.

As you can see, it was a full week of discovery for us here in Las Vegas Nevada and during this evening it was also a pleasant discovery for many of the Fred Astaire group to know that Mr. Daniel Tackett one of the main MC’s for the company and a friend of Dance Beat, is an excellent singer. We have to say that we had known this now a few years and we are glad that they were able to enjoy his singing performance on this last evening as much as we do.

We must also mention that during this week there was an interesting guest to say the least in the audience and she had an interview with Mr. Stephen Knight, Thursday Night where she talked about her role as one of Fred Astaire’s dance partners. She did a number of movies with him and was on hand to present some awards and enjoy the dance performances. This mystery guest was Barrie Chase.

As is customary there was a professional show put together by one of their main coaches on the organization to conclude all festivities and this time it was the turn of Mr. Eddie Apolonov who did a theme of “around the world.” Many of the professional dancers that we enjoyed this weekend presented show numbers and there were the customary group numbers.

Our congratulations to the organization for another successful week of dance and we wish great success to the new leadership who we have known for many years, and we know that they will move this organization and dancing forward to some great heights as Fred Astaire himself did a number of years back.

Professional World’s at Fred Astaire

Last night the professionals got a chance to showcase their wears at the Fred Astaire World Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada.

All the open events in all four styles took place last night and every style was fully attended by a huge pool of talent. We will try to describe some of these excellent events commencing with the Latin where for us it all came down to just two in the end.

After a great semifinal six terrific couples were brought back to this professional heat, all couples in this final were very proficient but our eyes were almost glued to the top two spots in this professional Fred Astaire Latin World’s, who will be first? And who will be second? Will it be Manuel Favilla & Natalia Maidiuk or Francesco & Sabrina Bertini? Both couples from the semifinal round came out strong, both had great things to offer, but, we were not surprised that Manuel & Natalia won the Championship with a huge majority of firsts from the judges. Although we really liked Francesco & Sabrina for their very rhythmical Latin style and almost contagious smiles and musicality. We have to admit that this was not their best. Francesco & Sabrina began the final with a confrontation with Mamuel & Natalie in the cha cha, right in front of their school group. Although it might have worked for their school, Manuel & Natalia basically overpowered them in size alone, even at some point tapping one of them on the head. The second issue for them was a cosmetic one, on this night they wore black or almost black, not a good color to have in this final, unless they danced right in the middle of the floor they basically got a little lost and you can tell this by their marks with few judges pulling for their cause. We have to congratulate Manuel & Natalia on their clear win and we have to say that their dancing was strong and they looked quite prepared for the job.

We also have to congratulate Ivan Kudashev & Ksusha Sokolova who had a wonderful night, in fact it was almost hard to take your eyes away from them. In this final they looked carefree and were basically enjoying their dancing unperturbed by their surroundings or the other couples and so did we. Ivan & Ksusha placed third in all dances. Fourth in all dances went to Tykhon & Yana Zhyvkov by placing fourth in three dances and fifth in the cha cha and samba. Dymytrii Goncharov & Tetiana Lutzenko placed fifth overall and Bozhidar Elkin & Elena Dumanova were awarded sixth in all.

The Professional Smooth and Rhythm were the most populated events on this night and both were terrific heats to watch. There was an apparent change of the guard at this Worlds in Fred Astaire for the Professional Smooth, with Alexsandar Vukasalvejic & Neveda Urosevic winning all four dances. We must also add that they won the waltz, foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz with a majority of firsts, only in the tango did they have to rely on “second or better” to win this dance. We must also point out, that we were very surprised by the marks that Lynn Kawamoto awarded this couple she gave them sixth in every dance.

The moment the results were announce and Adrian & Hannah Dydynski took second in all dances, Alexandar & Nevena were thrilled to the core, emotionally hugging each other and literally jumping for joy. We have to agree with this decision although Adrian & Hannah for us started strong and steady with what we thought was an excellent waltz and tango, then for us they seemed to pull into themselves and not make what needed to be done and that was an aggressive assault to defend their position. Instead as we mentioned they fizzled out to second position.

It is clear than from here down things were a little less clear and the couples really were fighting to move up. To complicate this heat even more there was a tie between Morten Jensen & Kat Wagner with these marks 3,3,4,4, and Nikolay Karchev & Ania Tarnowska who had these marks 4,4,3,3. A rule 11 had to be pulled and after this was done Nikolay & Ania placed third and Morten & Kat placed fourth. For us we felt that on this night Nikolay & Ania were easier to read and perhaps had an edge over Morten & Kat, but some people might dispute that it was perhaps Kat’s dress that took away from their performance. Kat’s dress had a kimono sash that went around her waist and kept moving and would not stay still, she also had a partly see through skirt that showcased some of her undergarments. Kat was sporting garter stockings and so perhaps a little too distracting for some of the adjudicators as well to properly asses their dancing.

Fifth in this terrific Smooth heat went to Sergey Shapoval & Mila Popovich with these marks 5,5,5,6. We felt this couple did a good job for being a new partnership. We are sure that Ilya Abdullin & Tara Fanzo were a little disappointed with this performance where they placed sixth overall 6,6,6,5.

The Rhythm competition was also fantastic and here Ilya Velednitsky & Mariya Ilchenko placed first overall winning four dances and taking second in the mambo. In the other four dance we must also point out that Ilya & Mariya won these dances with a majority of firsts from the judges. Personally we think they had a wonderful night and they were clear winners on this night, yes their mambo could be a little suspect with little ethnicity to it and leaving us a little empty and so we can see how they lost that dance easily.

It was also a good showing for Aaron & Iryna DeSoto who placed second overall and won the mambo 2,2,2,2,1, we have to agree with their performance and yes their mambo had that extra element of ethnicity that some of the others lacked so we could see how they were able to win this dance. When it comes to ethnicity no one has more than Kevin Ubillus & Milagros Lareto who placed fifth overall and who in our opinion could have easily won the mambo as well. Kevin & Milagros did placed third in the mambo right behind Ilya & Mariya on this dance, however, as you will see by their marks 6,5,5,6,3, their ethnicity only carried them so far, doing this same “mambo/salsa style, can only carry you so far. This couple have incredible talent and could easily be major Rhythm contenders in a world class level, but have to finish some of their work, everything but their mambo looks unfinished and unpolished. Kevin & Milagros placed fifth overall.

Third overall in this Rhythm heat and our favorite of the night was Alberto Cortes & Jessa Mae Briones with these marks 3,3,3,3,4. We have to say that we could have easily seen Alberto & Jessa placing second overall. At the moment they have a great combination of enough ethnic work with solid Rhythm ballroom dancing. Also Jessa Mae continues to evolve with every outing and is becoming a beautiful Rhythm “Diva” with beautiful lines and a beautiful, flexible back and incredible feet and legs, this with the great compliment of Alberto makes it an incredible combination and possibilities.

Fourth in this final and perhaps not a wonderful result for this couple were Ilya Abdulin & Tara Fanzo with these marks 4,4,4,4,5. In a way we can understand why they are placing this low, they really need to develop a character to their Rhythm dancing to separate themselves from all others and make a stride for the top. Sixth in this excellent event went to Ryan Lockhart & Danelle Newman 5,6,6,5,6.

The Professional Ballroom for us and in size was the weakest style in this professional night. Five couples took to the floor for this competition in the end Alexey & Elena Minaev were the overall winners but not in all dances 3,1,2,1,1. We have to admit when we looked at the marks and found that in only two dances Alexey & Elean came close to winning with a majority of firsts, the Viennese Waltz and foxtrot were the only two dances where they got 9 first places marks out of the 19 judges in this competition. Second in this heat went to Artem Belmeha & Anna Shevchenko with these marks 1,3,1,2,3, we were not surprise that they placed second Artem & Anna have all the elements that we expect in a well rounded Ballroom dancers.

Our surprise was the third place finish of Mikhail Nikolaev & Ksenia Kireeva 2,2,3,3,2, who at first tend to look very appealing to the eye but once they start to move their aggressive and sometimes distorted shapes and movements is not so appealing, however, we can see how this might get some crowd pleasing affects from many of the attendees. Fourth in this heat went to Dymytry Goncharov & Tetiana Lutsenko 5,4,4,4,4, who for us could have easily taken third overall and fifth was awarded to Mykhailov Anufriiev & Anna Vietrynska 4,5,5,5,5.

This was a terrific night full of great dancing and excellent competition. We look forward tonight to the show and the gala for the conclusion of the 2018 FSWC.

ShowDance and Cabaret dominate last night at FAWC!

Last night at the Fred Astaire World Championships here at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas the Open Professional Cabaret and Showdance dominated the night.

In the Cabaret alone two brilliant couples with incredible programs came within a hairline of each other, it was unfortunately that the judges had to choose between one or the other.

As we just mentioned the Professional Cabaret was amazing, it was not a huge entry per se, but the quality of the couples especially of the top two, was terrific. We are sure, enough to make the judges sweat bullets when making their decision. The competition top place was between Mikhailo Azarov & Tetyana Makarenko and Clifton Sepulveda & Mar Martinez. We have watched these two couples for a few years, we know what they are both capable of but last night they still made us take notice and sit at the edge of our chair holding our breath not knowing what could happen. Clifton & Mar went first and their routine was, from our perspective faultless not one mishap or even a wobble in a transition or anything. Later came Mikhailov & Tetyana, doing a new number where they wear tam outfits, and they also did a magnificent job on this routine.

After watching these two we can honestly say that the competition could have easily gone either way for one or the other and we would have been happy for both. In the end with a majority of firsts from the judges Mikhailov & Tetyana won the competition leaving second for Clifton & Mar. We have to say that had we been judging we could have easily given it to Clifton & Mar, we have never seen this routine so clear and perfect, and although the song has been used so many times “What I did for Love” and we would prefer a more unique and different piece of music, it still hit the mark for us. We found the winning number by Mikhailov & Tetyana well executed and with very difficult steps and perhaps this persuaded the majority to award them first, but we ourselves found their routine hard to understand, with a less clear story to their previous number, and their brown or tan outfits did not seem to complement their performance.

We most point out that although the last two mentioned drew most of our attention, the other two couples in this competition were a good accompanyment to this final, Zachary Pohl & Ariel Freilich placed third, and Juan Garcia & Jennifer McKinley took fourth.

The Showdance competition was also great although with 8 couples in this final, it was a harder process to follow. Well known couple, Ivan Kudashev & Ksusha Sokolova, won the event also with a huge majority of firsts from the judges - 16 first placemarks out of 19. Ivan & Ksusha did an excellent job, and we honestly could see them winning or being second. However, our eyes were with the couple that went first in the order of performance and who placed third overall, Nick Haklin & Sarah Ford, who did a ventriloquist routine that for us was very complete and organized in all departments. We must say that Ivan & Ksusha’s routine was very appropriate, they did a sort of Russian folklore, using music from that simulated some of this, maybe we lack understanding of this type of folklore, but like the winning Cabaret we were left trying to understand and that is never a good place to be left. Second in this terrific Showdance Championship went to Dymytrii Goncharov & Tetiana Lutsenko who did not take a single first but had enough good marks as we will sometimes say to sneak through the middle, they did basically a rumba with a story like of a woman that did not want to let go of her man, there was some voice over to let you know this and a lot of screaming, this routine for us had some wonderful dancing but it lacked the creativity that the last two mentioned routines had. Not a happy camper from the way he looked while collecting his fourth place award was Ivan Sovetov & Valeria Mkrtchian. We have to say that this routine was quite good and yes they could have been perhaps one mark up but not on this night, as a professional you must be able to get over it almost immediately after your placement is called. The Professional Rising Star divisions in Rhythm and Smooth were also on the plate last night and both started with a quarter-final – very high quality indeed for Rising Star.

The top three were, in Smooth Vitalii Kaliuzhnyi & Talia Barrington 1,1,1,1; Ivan Sovetov & Valeria Mkrtchian 2,2,2,2; Nick Haklin & Sarah Ford 3,4,4,3. And in Rhythm, Kevin Ubilus & Milagros Larets 1,1,1,1,1; Sergio Sanchez & Rachel Sayotovich 2,3,2,2,3; Kristian Sese & Mae Lozado 3,2,3,3,2.

Stay tuned for the Open Professional divisions that take place tonight.

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