Empire Dance Championships 2018

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Latin Full Power!

With four of the top couples in North America today, it was a strong and powerful Latin Professional competition final last night at the Empire Dance Championships.

There was also an excellent Smooth competition and the Open Amateur Ballroom had the normal rivalry at the top.

Watch video highlights from the event here

We begin our coverage with the Professional Latin that was terrific to say the least. The competition began with a full quarter final round and six excellent couples including possible some of the best in North America were called for this impressive final. USA’s second best in the field, Troels Bager & Ina Jeliazkova, won all dances with a huge majority of firsts from the judges, with only four judges or less placing them in second position in four dances, and only in the jive they got 5 second places marks. We must also point out that three of the judges were consistent in their second place marks in all dances Meryem Pearson from Canada, Carolyn Smith from Italy and Maurizio Vezcovo from Italy (Canada).

For us, like many of the judges, it was an open and shut case for Troels & Ina whose contagious natural movement and musicality makes you want to dance, not to mention their consistency throughout every dance and every round. Second overall was awarded to Nino Langella who for a couple of years has been dancing with one of Canada’s best contributions to dance, Andra Vaidailaite and who now with her new husband and dance partner represent Italy. Perhaps that might explain the strong first place marks from the judges just mentioned above, Nino a product of Carolyn Smith from Italy, Meryem Pearson who perhaps in many ways supported and mentored Andra for years while she competed around the world representing Canada with Maurizio Vezcovo her former partner and Canada’s champions for quite a few years. It is totally understandable and a non-spoken tradition to support your country in many ways, this is done in many games and many judging sports from the Olympics down.

As far as what we though we totally agreed with the judges’ decision on Nino & Andra they are both very talented dancers with many years of experience and in last night’s performance that a few might feel was a little over-worked with few subtleties and at times, as one bystander put it, “it has become a little harsh” (perhaps referencing on Andras playful past performances) we thought the judges were totally right in awarding this talented couple this position. There worst marks came from Bill Sparks who awarded them two thirds one in the rumba and one in the jive

Third overall was awarded to Andrei Kazlouski & Asta Sigvaldadottir who took third in every dance. Things got a little more varied from here down, Andrei & Asta took marks from third to sixth place in every dance. We can understand why, although Andrei & Asta have a very solid, correct and consistent performance, they lack the story appeal that perhaps many of the other dancers in this excellent group had. As a viewer we want to relate and connect with the couple they - are sad they are sexy they are in turmoil - to really enjoy a performance we need to connect and in this we can relate to the judges’ marks. In this performance their work was as very correct but did not really connect with us emotionally. Their worst marks came from Mauricio Vezcovo who awarded them 3 sixths and two fifths.

Speaking of emotional connection, fourth place in all dances was awarded to Mykhailo Bilopukhov & Anastasiia Shychypilina, this couple for me are really able to interpret all the dances with full characterization, this is a rarity. Everything seems to look to us at times as if is just an aerobic exercise with music behind it, but not with these two.

Fifth overall 6,5,6,5,5, went to Ilya Maletin & Polina Mayer from Canada, “he finally looked at her!” We are totally fans of this very talented couple but in the past we have always critiqued their performance as not having any connection between them, in particularly from Ilya, but “by golly” he finally looked at her particularly in the rumba he acknowledged that he has a beautiful woman and dancer in his hand! Sixth in this excellent final went to Manuel Favilla & Natalia Maidiuk 5,6,5,6,6. This couple were totally deserving of being with this group and we are happy to see that they are really working on dancing with each other and from within. In the past we have felt they lacked more dancing to their story but in this and the last occasion we have seen some very positive changes in their performance and we are pleased to see them in this very prestigious final.

The Professional Smooth was a walk in the park for Max Sinitsa & Tatiana Seleverstova, who in our opinion were totally unchallenged by anyone in this group. As far as the judges were concerned they got perfect scores in the waltz and almost perfect scores in the other dances had it not been for Ms. Pat Traymore who awarded them these marks 1,2,3,3. For us this was a great showing for this couple, Tatiana’s costume and hair were a slight through back to the era of the glamorous female movie starts and this complimented their edgy performance, what a treat this was!

Second in all dances was awarded to Sergiy Samchynskyy & Yulia Besarab and third went to Aleksander Vukosavijevic & Neveda who seemed slightly surprised when the placements were announced, not really sure why? We feel both couples have a lot to give and are still in their prime finding their way and placement in the Smooth arena. Aleksander & Neveda’s marks were 3,4,3,3. Fourth was awarded to Jang & Adele Don 4,3,4,4; Enzo Zappia & Stephanie Betts were fifth 6,5,5,5 and Morten Jensen & Kat Wagner were sixth 5,6,6,6.

As we mentioned earlier the Amateur Ballroom was once again a battle between musicality and excellent posture and technique and nothing reflects this better than the marks. Oleksandr Kalenyuk & Olena Ablitsova won the competition 2,1,1,2,1. Second overall went to Dan Malov & Stephanie Noon 1,2,2,1,2. If there was anywhere where Dan & Stephanie could get some traction when it comes to musicality it would have been here with a lot of Latin fans that love to see musicality and although it was very close it was not to be. The majority of firsts were shared by these two couples and this is how it went. In the waltz Oleksandr & Olena got 5 firsts with 7 to Dan & Stephanie; in the tango it was nearly a tie with Oleksandr & Olena receiving 7 firsts to the 6 of Dan & Stephanie; the Viennese 8 firsts to Oleksandr & Olena and 5 to Dan & Stephanie; in the foxtrot 7 firsts to Dan & Stephanie 6 to Oleksandr & Olena, and in the quickstep Oleksandr & Olena got 8 firsts to 5 for Dan & Stephanie. As you can tell by just first places alone the competition was really tight. This is a fantastic competition and we hope both these lovely couples will keep improving their game, it’s just going to get better and better. Third overall went to Florin Vlad & Natalie O’Connor 4,3,3,3,3; Stefan Baden & Madalina Varlam placed fourth 3,4,4,4,4; Yuriy Markovetskiy & Mariam Khazhinsky were fifth in all and sixth was awarded to Alec Zhiwei Zhang w/ Zhuoshi Xie.

For the pro-ams it was Ballroom day and as expected in New York, there were some very high quality heats.

The top 3 in each of the Open Scholarships were as follows: Open C, Jill Bradford w/ Andrea Stefano 1,1,1,1,1, Sally He w/ Enzo Zappia 3,2,2,2,4, Sibyl Yang w/ Rudy Homm 2,3,4,3,3. Open B, Monica Sun w/ Iarosalv Bieliei 1,1,1,1,2, Brynda Insley w/ Martin Reinbold 2,2,3,2,1, Amy Liu w/ Igor Mikushov 3,3,2,3,3. Open A, Alexandra Dachenko w/ Kamil Urbaniak 1,1,1,1,1, Jen Mo w/ Stefano DiBrino 2,2,2,2,2, Laura Kamper w/ Clive Phillips 3,3,3,3,3. Open Sen. I, Linda Dillman w/ Arturas Misuerenkovas 1,1,1,1, Connie Caruso w/ Kamil Urbaniak 2,2,2,2, Vicki Sato w/ Nazar Batih 3,3,3,3. Open Sen. II, Rong Chen w/ Oscar Pedrinelli 1,1,1,1, Maria Fila w/ Kamil Urbaniak 2,2,3,2, Pat Klein w/ Marek Gabor 4,3,2,3.

During the intermission there was a social type of contest where Edgar Osorio went head to head in a dance contest with Ron Montez. Five incredible ladies were brought to the floor and they got to choose their partner and their dance. In the end Ron was the obvious winner until Jukka Hapaleinen showed up and then it all got a little long where we could almost see a hook coming up. It was quite entertaining for the audience but the most fun was had by the participants, who were quite out of breath at one point. Overall Ron Montez took the social trophy home!

Our congratulations to Vibeka Toft, Giampiero Gianico, and Katharina Gianicco for organizing such a terrific event in the heart of the Big Apple - litterally on Times Square where the city never sleeps. Last night alone at approximately 2 in the morning, someone said to us “going to get some food you want to come?” Uhm? This city certainly does not sleep and we are lucky to have this event in this excellent venue and location.

Head to Head at the Empire!

It was a close call for top placement in both the Professional Ballroom and the biggest heat of the night, the Amateur Latin.

The other two competitions of the night the Professional Rhythm and Cabaret tended to stay on form with the judges.

Watch video highlights from the event here

The Amateur Latin was a thrilling event from the beginning with a full first round of competition divided between three heats. In the end it came down to six excellent couples and two fighting for the top spot on this run. The two couples fighting for this position were Tal Livshitz & Ilana Keselman the defending champions who won last year with the majority of firsts from the judges in all dances and Sam Shamseili & Liza Lakovitsky who placed third overall last year. Well, it has been a year since that last match and this year by looking at the marks the judges and the audience totally both seemed totally undecided to make a full commitment. Not one of the couples in the final won any dance with the majority of firsts, the closest it came was in the paso doble were Tal & Ilana won six first place marks out of the 13 judges missing a majority by one first place mark, and “yes” Tal & Ilana went on to win the paso doble.

In the end by a vote of 3 first two 2, Sam Shamseili & Liza Lakovitski won the competition overall with these marks 1,1,1,3,2, and as much as the judges did not care for their paso doble, they also did not care for Tal & Ilana’s rumba. Tal & Ileana placed second overall with these marks 2,2,3,1,1, and as you can see the judges did not care for their rumba as much as the other four dances. When looking at both couples’ marks we have to say that Sam & Liza won with the help of the first place marks because because with the exception of the rumba where Tal & Ileana took a sixth place from Ann Gleave from England they did not get any lower scores than 4th place from the judges. On the other hand Sam & Liza got a couple of fifths in the cha cha, a couple fifths in the samba, and a sixth in the paso, but with the exception of those marks the rest were positive enough to tip the scale in their favor.

The audience were also torn a little, some thought Sam & Liza were brilliant on the night and others thought that Tal & Ilana could have won again for sure, but in black and white when the scores were tabulated the majority of the judges favored Sam & Liza in at least three dances and that’s all it took, they are the newly crowned Empire Dance Champions!

Third in this parade of stars went to Alexander Chermnositov & Arina Grishanina with these marks 3,3,2,2,3, and we must point out that we should not leave them out of the top mix, Alexander & Arina took at least one first from the top couples in nearly every dance. Alexander & Arina took 2 firsts in the cha cha, one in the samba, 2 in the rumba, 2 in the paso and 3 in the jive. So as you can see they too were being considered for top placement especially from Rufus Dustin who awarded them 4 firsts and a second in their paso.

Another couple being considered strongly for first place was Tagir Mansurov & Alexandra Kondrashova who placed fourth overall. However, they too got quite a few firsts from the top dogs, in the cha cha they got 2 first place marks, in the samba 1, in the rumba 3, in the paso 1, and in the jive 4, but here is their overall marks 4,4,5,4,4. Unfortunately for them, the other marks did not help enough to push them higher but as you can see a number of judges had them in the mix. Fifth overall went to Pasha Stepanchuk & Gabriella Sabler with these marks 5,5,4,5,5. This must have been a very disappointing finish for this couple who did not manage to steal hardly any firsts - they took one first in four dances from Maria Manusova in the C,S,R,J, and one other first in the samba from Meryem Pearson, and one first from Bill Sparks in the paso. This was not enough to get them further but you can tell by this how great the quality of the dancers was this evening. Sixth in all dances was awarded to Andriy Beysedin & Amanda Beysedin. We will have a report here soon by Sirpa Sutarri from England, as to how she saw this final.

The Professional Ballroom was also won by one dance, the competition started with a strong quarter-final round and again six very talented couples were called back. It is important to note that within this panel there were quite a few Ballroom specialists and so here is how the 15 judges had it on paper.

As we said before it was a close call between Iaroslav Bieliev & Liliia Bieliei and Rudy Homm & Katia Kanevskaya. In the end Iaroslav & Liliia won with these marks 1,2,1,2,1; Rudy & Katia took second with these marks 2,1,2,1,2. We must point out that the two dances that Rudy & Katia won they won with a majority of first from the judges, while Iaroslav & Lilia only won the Viennese Waltz with a majority of firsts, in the other two dances they had to rely on second or better marks to win the dances. So as you can tell it was clear on paper but it was a tough competition for both couples.

Third in the Professional Ballroom competition went to Oskar Wojciechowski & Karolina Holody 3,3,3,4,4, fourth was awarded to Vladishlav Shakhov & Ekaterina Popova 4,4,4,3,3, and fifth went to Igor Mikushov & Ekaterina Romashkina 6,6,5,5,5, leaving sixth place overall to Stefano DiBrino & Bianka Zubrowsak 5,5,6,6,6.

The Professional Cabaret was awarded to Mikhailo Azarov & Tetyana Makarenko who won with a majority of firsts, only losing two marks one from Tony Redpath who awarded them a 2 and one from Bill Sparks who awarded them a 3. Vadim Garbuzov & Kathrin Menzinger took second overall, Lukas & Katerina Bartunek took third overall, leaving fourth to Slawek Roszak & Denise Sobiewski, and fifth were Douglas Dombrowik & Angel Fox.

In the Professional American Rhythm there was a few changes. Dmitry & Olena Nikishkin won the competition by placing first in all dances. And in an interesting side twist Alberto Cortes & Jessa Mae Briones took all seconds leaving US finalists, Ilya Velednitsky & Mariya Ilchenko holding third. Riccardo Papi & Sabrina Moretti placed fourth 4,4,5,4,4; Sergio Sanchez & Rachel Sayotovich took fifth 5,5,4,5,5, and sixth in all dances went to Alexander Zarek & Oleksandra Kharchenko.

In the Pro/Am Latin Scholarships The “B” went to Christine Stanko w/ Jean Paul placing first in all dances; second was Joanne Kay Smith w/ Richard Lifshits taking all seconds and third was Jacqueline Soccodato w/ Delyan Terzeiv with these marks 3,3,3,5,3. The “C” Scholarship was awarded to Lorraine Peoples w/ Genya Bartashevich 2,2,1,1,2, and second was Marina Svyatets & Aleksandr Vukosavljevic 1,1,2,2,3; third went to Sophia D’ Angelo w/Nikolai Pilipenchuk 3,3,3,3,1. The Senior 1 was awarded to Nora Fox w/ Plamen Danailov winning all dances, second was Astrid Rush w/ Ivan Mulyaka taking all seconds and third was awarded to Olga Bassett w/ Petr Dubovsky 4,3,4,3.  The A went to Sabrine Strasser w/ Stanislav Kochergin 1,2,1,1,1; 2nd Angelina Evseeva w/ Alsksandr Skarlato 2,1,2,2,2; 3rd Romina Brignardello w/ Jesse Valvasori 3,3,3,5,3.

Tonight is the finale and we expect it to be as good or better than last night!

Rising Star Night at the Empire!

Last night at the Empire we had Rising Star night and all events were well attended.

During the day it was a complete day form 8 AM until 6 PM of Pro/Am Rhythm dancing, the open scholarships took place at night and we will go over them with you as well here later in the article.

The Professional Rising Star Smooth was won by Jang & Adele Don and they won all dances, second in this heat went to Vitalii Kaliuzhnyi & Tatiana Barring and they took second in all dances, and third in all dances went to Slawek Roszak & Denise Sobiewski. Fourth and fifth was a tie between two couples that had to be broken with a rule, once the rule was applied Dave Hannigan w/Yulia Koshelva placed fourth with these marks 5,5,4,4, Pavel Lebedev & Dinara Khayrulina were the couple tied to them and after the rule they took fifth overall with these marks 4,4,5,5. And finally in sixth place in all dances were Leo Mora & Christine Garced.

In the Rising Star Latin it was also a very close call between the top two couples. Ivan Kudashev & Ksusha Sokolova won by one dance as you will see here 1,2,1,2,1. Second went to Alon Gilin & Anna Oblakova who lost by the one dance with these marks 2,1,2,1,2. Third overall was awarded to Vlad Astafiev & Annie He Xiao by placing third in three dances and fourth in the samba. Fourth was awarded to Andrew Escolme & Amy Backer with these marks 4,3,4,4,5; fifth went to Elkin Bozhidar & Elena Dumanova with these marks 5,5,5,5,4, and sixth were Aleksei Aleksee & Ekaterina Derevleva and they took sixth in all dances.

In the Rhythm Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker were the overall winners with these marks 1,2,1,1,1. Second overall wen to Kristian Sese w/ Mae Lozada with these marks 4,1,3,2,2, and third was Sergio Sanchez & Rachel Sayotovich and they got these marks 2,4,2,3,3. Alexander Zarek & Oleksandra Kharchenko took fourth 3,3,4,5,4; Jan & Adele Don were fifth 5,5,5,4,5, and Joe Hasson & Natalie Honkoner took sixth in all dances.

In the Professional Rising Star Ballroom a seven-couple final was called and the winner in all dances were Artem Belmeha & Anna Shevchenko. Second overall was awarded to Aleksandr & Aida Skriptsova with these marks 4,2,2,2,2, and third was awarded to Mykhailo Anufriiev & Anna Vietrynska with thesemarks 2,4,4,4,4. Woodrow Wills & Neli Petkova were fourth 3,3,3,5,5; Pavel Bic & Ersi Nie placed fifth overall 5,5,5,3,3; Aleksei Alekseev & Ekaterina Derevleva were sixth 7,6,7,6,6, and seventh was awarded to Sergey Bolotnikov & Catherine Edgar 6,7,6,7,7.

In the Pro/Am Rhythm Scholarships the “B” was awarded to Giovanni Forteza w/ Jolanta Mostieka who won all dances. Vita Vygovska w/ Evgenie Dyachenko took all seconds and Courtney Bugler w/ Christjohn Batters was awarded all thirds.

In the “C” Kristin Crisci w/ Evgeny Dyachenko won with these marks T1,1,2,1,1, as you can see she tied on the cha cha with Gail Komar w/ Serthiy Komar and she took second overall with these marks T1,2,1,2,2, and third went to Ingrid Pessa w/ Jean Michel Erole.

The Senior 1 was also a good event and here Lois Fein w/ Aleksandr Vukosavijevic won all dances. Second in all dances went to Amy Don w/ Jean Michel Erole, and third was Vimala Sivaraman w/ Dimitrios Damalas and she took third in all dances. Tonight we will begin all Open Professional events and it should be a wonderful night here in Times Square at the Empire Dance Championships.

Gala at the Empire!

Last night after a full day of Pro/Am Smooth competition the Empire Dance Championships dressed to the nines for a black tie “Gala.”

The evening was a great celebration with dancing and it concluded with a show by Slavik Kryklyvyy & Karina Smirnoff.

After the dinner there was plenty of general dancing for the public, but we also had some excellent Pro/Am showcases during the gala. One of the most interesting routines for us was executed by Celia Chou with Erminio Stefano. In this routine, Celia was literally carried, standing on a long piece of white satin cloth into the center of the floor by Erminio. Celia stood on one end of the material, she then slowly and cleverly worked the material into their routine developing into an excellent dance. Our congratulations to Celia w/ Ermino for such a clever, interesting number.

Another clever Pro/Am showcase was done by Sola Wong with Andrei Kazlouski. She entered with six men with a red cape then danced with Andrei a paso doble themed routine. Other people that contributed with show numbers were Kelly Kim & Sam Shamseili, Hiro Sanada & Itsuko Shirae, Lina Wang & Lia Xiao, and for the first time we witnessed Open British Champion, Michael Malitowski, doing a Pro/Am routine with Rita Tsai. It is interesting to see how Pro/Am is catching on all over the world and it is becoming more and more a world dancing activity.

During the day we had a full day of Pro/Am Smooth competition concluding with the open scholarships.

The “C” division was very populated and here Sophia D’Angelo & Max Sinitsa won the competition by placing first in all dances. Second went to Charlene Proctor w/ Mikhail Zharinov who took all seconds, and third was awarded to Andrea Flik w/ Val Grebenin 3,3,5,4.

In the “B” division Selene Steelman w/ Travis Tuft won all dances, Mary Lemmer w/ Tomas Mielnicki placed all seconds and Nadine Soderberg w/ John Campbell was third in all 3,T3,3,3.

In the “A” division Megan Wallace w/Klajdi Kasemi won all dances, Elizabeth Cuevas w/Marko Micic was overall second 2,T2,3,2, and third overall was awarded to Rebecca Mandel w/ Marko Urosevic with these marks 3,T2,3,2.

The Senior I was possibly the closest fought of all with a Rule 11 deciding first place.  And so, the winner was Connie Caruso w/ Kamil Urbaniak 1,2,1,2 over Kristi Nadvornik w/ Mayo Alanen 2,1,2,1.  3rd was Elaine Sheresky w/ Victor Russu 3,3,3,3.

The Senior 2 was awarded to Felicia Porges w/Adam Katona, second was awarded to Mico Fuke w/Scott Ruddick, and third was Edith Springer w/Erik Pali.

As a very special occasion - the co-chairmen of judges, Dennis & Jackie Rogers were celebrating their anniversary last night during the gala.  Congratulations to this iconic duo!!

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