New York Dance Festival 2019

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Excellent ending at the NYDF!

Last night was the conclusion of the New York Dance Festival, and although the headcount was not "packed like sardines," as it was the night before, the competition finish with two excellent and exciting events.

The Professional Ballroom and the Amateur Latin were two terrific competitions to finish with. We also had the Professional Rhythm as well as the youth Ballroom.

The Amateur Latin was dominated by Spain’s Joel Lopez & Kristina Bespechnova, who got the full attention of the judges as well as the audience, with her floating curls, and both of their contagious personalities and dynamic performance. Both the audience and the judges were thrilled to no end. Joel & Kristina won all 5 dances with the majority of 1st places from the judges. They received very few marks lower than 2nd although one judge noticeably dissenting was Elena Grinenko who scored them 6,6,6,4,5.

But Joel & Kristina were not the only couple to shine last night, Pasha Stepanchuk & Gabrielle Sabler who placed third, also had the audience going not due only to local support. We were surprised when we looked at the marks and saw that they took so few second place marks from Tal Livshitz & Ilana Keselman who placed second in all dances. Their best scored dance was samba, here a tiebreak was required to award 2nd place. For us Pasha & Gabrielle, could have taken a lot more seconds form Tal & Ilana, their performance tonight was outstanding. You can see we were a little disappointed with Tal & Ilana’s performance. They usually take over the floor and we were truly looking for someone to challenge the Spanish team, but this was not to be, for us. We think that their usual spotlight was blocked by Joel & Kristina. The judges, however, were much keener on their performance and awarded them a significant number of 1st places in all dances. Their best scored dance was paso doble where they received 6 first place marks compared with the 9 received by the winners.

Fourth place in this excellent heat went to Nikolai Tarasov & Sarah Nolan with this marks 4,4,4,4,4. Nikolai & Sarah also had a nice showing even though we were not impressed with their throwback “Versace” look. Fifth place and dancing with no frills or thrills but very correct were Edwoud Fidom & Melanie Weiler 5,5,5,5,5. We could have seen them placing higher in a dance or two. This left us with the fairly new partnership of Ron Garber & Klaudia Petriti taking sixth place 6,6,6,6,6. We found their performance fun and interesting and think soon they will be perhaps challenging further.

During the Professional Ballroom someone near us said, “That couple is smooth as a fiddle,” to which we responded that would be great if we were not watching dancing. Yes Sergiu & Dora Rusu from Poland, were soft and very correct in their performance - great ballroom dancers - but what they have in correctness they lack in charisma, something many dancers in the ballroom style seem to lack. It’s basically as someone very well known said to us once, “like watching paint dry.” I presume we were not the only ones looking at the paint, Sergiu & Dora did win all dances with a majority of firsts but the majority of the dissenting marks were fifth or lower and we were not surprised by this at all, it can be a challenge to make great ballroom dancing also great entertainment.

Second in this competition with these marks, 2,3,2,2,2T, was awarded to Iaroslav & Lilia Bieliei and they perhaps were the best in our view and had a little more charisma than the couple last mentioned. As you can see from the marks it was not an easy second for Iaroslav & Lilia because they took third in the tango to Rudy Homm & Katya Kanevskaya and also tied in the quickstep with this same couple. Rudy & Katya’s marks on their third place overall finish 3,2,3,3,2T.

Our favorite couple of the night was Christian Radvan & Kristina Kudeldo, who placed fourth overall with 5,4,4,5,4 and we noticed that there were a number of judges that awarded them second in a number of dances. On this night and under the circumstances, we think a higher placement in some dances could have been a proper choice for this very talented couple. Another couple that caught our attention and that could have easily been placed higher too, was Andrii Mykhailov & Anna Bohachova 4,5,5,4,5T. These two couples’ work, in our opinion, was overshadow by the couples that placed 1-3, but perhaps on another occasion, if they continue their progress, we can see some changes in the marks. Sixth in all dances but the quickstep where they tied for fifth place went to Oscar Pedrinelli & Lenka Kovalcikova 6,6,6,6,5.5.

The Professional Rhythm also took place on this night and it started with a semifinal round, the only thing here is that there were a number of high end players missing from the mix but it was still a nice competition to watch. Dmytri & Olena Nikishkin won the event and took the majority of firsts in all dances. Their worst marks were in their mambo where they took besides a few seconds, 2 thirds and 1 fourth. We uost also point out that their worst judge in this occasion was Allan Tornsberg who awarded them 4,5,5,2,4. Second overall was awarded to Aaron & Iryna DeSoto with these marks 2,2,3,2,2. Third was awarded to Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker and they placed second in the swing and third in the other four dances. Fourth was awarded to Kristijan & Anja Burazer 4,4,5,4,5.  Fifth were Riccardo Papi & Sabrina Moretti 5,5,4,6,4 and sixth went to Jang & Adele Don 6,6,6,5,6.

The Fordney Foundation junior and youth divisions were in Ballroom tonight. The winners were Erik Linder & Shelley Meshkausk (Youth); Nathan Zaytsev & Annika Mugin (J1); Matthew Zoladkiewicz & Elizabete Grigalinovica Leja (J2)

As you might expect with a competition organized by former Latin champions, the pro-am Latin divisions were the largest of the week and took 13 hours to complete. As always we ended with the Open Scholarships.

We thought the best division was the Open B. The event basically had 3 front runners and the judges were fairly divided on the outcome. However, the winner was Christine Stanko w/ Jean Paul and she placed 2,1,1,2,1. Christine received a majority of 1st places samba and jive and we felt that she was a worthy winner today. 1,2,2,3,3, gave Tina Broccole w/ Andrei Kazlouski the runner-up spot today. The third spoke in the wheel was Joanne Kay Smith w/ Richard Lifshitz who took 3rd with 3,3,3,1,2.

Open A – 1. Mona Desmond w/ Sergey Samchysnkyy 3,1,2,1,2; 2. Meera Mehta w/ Kristjan Burazar 2,3,3,2,1; 3. Deborah Tipley w/ Paul Richardson 1,4,1,3,6.
Open C – 1. Sophia D’Angelo w/ Nikolai Pilipenchuk 1,2,1,1,1; 2. Rebecca Wong w/ Richard Livshitz 2,1,2,2,2; 3. Andrea Bennington w/ Ivan Mulyavka 3,3,4,3,3.
Open S1 – 1. Joan Goddard w/ Andrew Escolme 1,1,1,1; 2. Georgeann Nicol w/ Nikolai Voronovich 3,2,2,2; 3. Fifi Wang w/ Delyan Terziev 2,3,3,4.

Wow! That was a lot of dancing!

Yesterday was a marathon of dance here at NYDF with competitive heats beginning at 7:00 AM in 2 ballrooms and ending at around 1:30 AM this morning.

Yet the audience who mostly stayed in their seats until the wee hours were rewarded with some of the best dancing to be seen here in the USA, or anywhere. And here’s what happened.

The 2 featured pro events were Smooth and Latin and both attracted many of the USA’s best. Smooth went on first, running with great Junior I & II Latin divisions. Max Sinitsa & Tatiana Seliverstova proved their standing winning all 4 dances with a majority of 1st places. They lost a total of 11 first places out of a possible 60, and those 11 missing first places were all seconds. So this was a strong endorsement for this partnership. The recipients of those 11 firsts were Roman Malkhasyan & Galina Detkina and they were clearly 2nd in all dances, receiving very few scores lower than 2nd from the 15 judges. Completing the top 3 were Sergey Samchynskyy & Yuliya Besarab and they were 3rd in all dances and once again had a clear majority of “3rd or better” scores from the judges and very few scores lower than 3rd. This meant there was a clear division in the judges’ minds between the top 3 couples in the final and the lower 3.

With 4T,4,5,4, a total of 17.5, Aleksandar Vukosavljevic & Nevena placed 4th in a tight race with Nikolai Pilipenchuk & Sarika Hudson who scored a total of 18.5 - 4T,5,4,5. Jang & Adele Don were 6th in all dances, but a quick glance at the semifinal scores show them 20 marks clear of their nearest rivals (Eno Zappia & Stephanie Betts), so the judges definitely had a clear 6 in mind for this final. In truth we find this division so strong nowadays, that there were several couples in this semifinal who could warrant inclusion. Enzo & Stephanie, of course, and also for us Igor Afonkin & Meaghan Anderson.

JT Thomas will give us her views on this division in Dance Beat soon.

The Pro Latin final was the last event of the night, beginning shortly before 1:00AM to a raucous ovation from the still packed ballroom. Some finals just work well at some competitions and this was one of them last night. We felt that there were several couples that could take first place tonight, but the victors were Andrei Kazlouski & Asta Sigvaldadottir who won all 5 dances, the paso and jive with the majority of 1st places. In truth we felt Andrei & Asta started the night a little subdued, but they had obviously saved their strength for the final where they gave a strong and commanding performance. In most dances they received very few scores lower than 3rd. Their worst scored dance was rumba. Although they ultimately still won the dance, they received only 4 of the 15 available 1st place marks.

The runners-up tonight were Gunnar Gunnarsson & Marika Doshoris (England). They scored 2,2,3,2,3. There was little to no consensus on them from the judges with some awarding them 5 first places and others 5 sevenths! That being said, they did score a majority of “2nd or better” marks in c,s,p. We did not see exactly what the judges who placed this couple first saw, but that is why our sport employs panels of multiple judges and the skating system is based on the majority opinion. The split in opinion was mostly between the US judges who scored them low and the “non-US” judges who did not.

3,3,4,3,2, gave 3rd place to Mykhailo Bilopukhov & Anastasiia Schypilina. Interestingly, this couple suffered a similar fate as the runners-up, albeit in reverse. It was the US judges who favored them and the “non-US” who did not. We were fairly strongly in the US camp on this one and saw them as potential challengers to the winners.

With 4,4,5,4,4, Ilya Maletin & Polina Maier (Canada) took 4th. What can you say about this young lady? She is fabulous! Always in perfect balance and expressing her dancing with feeling without overdoing the dramatics. We also liked Ilya today. He was much more engaging both with his partner and with the audience. 5,5,2,5,5 gave Pasha Pashkov & Daniella Karagach 5th place and the audience was not in agreement with this verdict. Pasha & Daniella have become very much known for their rumba and today they did receive the most 1st places in that dance (6, just 2 marks less than the needed majority). Had they actually won that dance, there would have been a tiebreak between them and Ilya & Polina. We also really liked Pasha & Daniella today, the dancing was soft and relaxed, perhaps not attracting the judges’ attention as much as the dancing warranted. Artur Tarnavsky & Anastasia Danailova were 6th 6,6,7,6,6. Wow! We really liked them too! I guess everyone in the final was great! Glad we weren’t judging! Canada had a 2nd couple in this final and that was Alexey & Vlada Karaulov and they took 7th with 7,7,6,7,7 and guess what? They were great too!

Next into the final were Ivan Mulyavka & Karin Rooba.

Allan Tornsberg will report on this style for Dance Beat.

What a difference a day makes (on in this case 6 days). The winners of the Open Amateur Ballroom tonight were Oleksander Kalenyuk & Olena Ablitsova. They won all dances with a large majority of 1st places from the judges. Just 6 days ago at the Eastern US Championships, they placed a disappointing 3rd. But there was also a tremendous difference in the quality of their dancing tonight. They were right back on form. Congratulations! Aleksandr & Rickey Taylor Dubovyk were 2nd 2,2,2,2,3. We have been very impressed with this couple in the relatively short time they have been together. A great, elegant look on the floor. With 3,3,4,3,2, Artur Nabok & Michelle Yiu took 3rd. We really liked them tonight. There was a “presence” in their dancing that has been missing before. This is a nice addition to their active presentation. Canada took 4th, Vladyslav Komelkov & Alexandra Sevastianova 4,4,3,4,4; 5th were Casey & Kayci Treu 6,5,5,5,5 and Alec Zhiwei Zhang & Zhoshi Xie were 6th 5,6,6,6,6.

Alina Basyuk will have a report on this division in Dance Beat soon.

These may have been the headline events, but as far as enthusiasm, the Fordney Foundation divisions in Junior I, Junior II and Youth, could not be beaten. There’s nothing like an audience of adoring parents to create an enthusiastic audience!! The divisions were fabulous to be sure! The winners were: Xiao Hui Wu & Shi Yun Lin from China (Youth); Alexander Sarkisian & Chantal Khodarkovsky (Junior II); Nathan Zaytsev & Annika Mugin (Junior I).

This incredible nighttime session followed a daytime of junior events in one ballroom and a full day of pro-am ballroom in the main room.

The Open Scholarships for the pro-ams were strong and produced the following results:

Open A – 1. Natalie Rezai w/ Sergey Kiselev 1,1,1,1,1; 2.Tommy Wyderko w/ Francesca Lazzari 3,2,2,2,2; 3. Jenn Mo w/ Stefano DiBrino 2,3,3,3,3.
Open B – 1. Amy Liu w/ Igor Mikushov 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Bo Chang w/ Andrii Mykhailov 2,2,2,2,2; 3. Patricia Chai w/ Sergy Bolotnikov 3,3,3,3,3.
Open C – 1. Annie Chan w/ Christian Radvan 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Sally He w/ Enzo Zappia 2,3,2,2,2; 3. Elena Lee w/ Emanuele Pappacena 3,2,3,3,3.

Open S1 – 1. Laura Solomon w/ Oscar Pedrinelli 1,1,1,1; 2. Vicki Sato w/ Nazar Batih 2,2,3,4; 3. Barbara Mierau-Klein e/ Gianni Caliandro 3,3,2,3.
Open S2 - 1. Rong Chen w/ Oscar Pedrinelli 1,1,1,1; 2. Maria Fila w/ Kamil Urbaniak 2,2,2,2; 3. Pauline Mak w/ Gherman Mustuc 3,3,3,3.

New York Dance Festival 2019

It seems hard to believe that we are back in the iconic Roosevelt Hotel in central Manhattan for the New York Dance Festival once again.

2 full days have passed already with some terrific dancing already on show in the pro-am Rhythm and Smooth divisions, plus pro Rising Star and some Amateur and U/21 divisions.

First up on Thursday were the pro-am Rhythm divisions.

The Open Rhythm Scholarships took place late Thursday afternoon and we saw some strong competition. The largest of the divisions was the Open C. The winner was Janice Gonzalez in her new pro-am pairing with Aleksandar Vukosavljevic. Janice won all 5 dances, but had the majority of 1st places only in cha cha and rumba. As always Janice had a strong personality on the floor. The runner-up was Joan Goddard w/ Aaron Talbert 3,2,2,2,2. Joan had the most 1st places in the bolero, but not quite the majority needed to win the dance. With 2,4,4,4,3, Marcie Garson w/ Ilya Reyzin took 3rd and 4,5T,3,3,6 gave Martin Cote w/ Alina Safonova 4th spot. Very close behind Martin with 5,3,5,5,4 was Tanujah Tharani w/ Adrian Persad. In 6th was Gabriella Pannunzio w/ Grzegorz Kasprzak 6,5T,6,6,5.

The Open B seemingly gave the judges quite a challenge. The winner, in all dances, was Vita Vygovska w/ Evgeny Dyachenko. However, Vita did not have the majority of 1st places in any dance. The runner-up was Lucy Lu w/ Melbin de la Cruz, again Lucy was 2nd in all dances. 3rd went to Tanujah Tharani w/ Adrian Persad 3,3,3,4,4 and 4th was Mary Jane Sibayan w/ Matt Hauer 4,4,4,3,3. 5th Stephanie McCool w/ Vuk Stefanovic 5,5,5,5,5; 6th Shannon Becker w/ Sanj Hira 6,6,7,6,6; 7th Ileana Flintoff w/ Leo Mora7,7,6,7,7.

Lois Fein, also dancing with Aleksandar Vukosavljevic, was the comfortable winner of the S2 Championship, winning all 4 dances with a majority of 1st places. Margie Juanillo w/ Matt Hauer took 2nd in all dances and became the runner-up. 3rd was Buck Lindsay w/ Yuliya Besarab 3,3,3,3; 4th Elaine Waxman w/ Stefan Illies 4,4,4,4; 5th Ran Holladay w/ Iraida Volodina 5,5,5,5.

The S2 Open Rhythm was also an excellent event. In this Diana Best w/ Alosha Anatoliy was the winner 1,1,1,3 and Lois w/ Aleksandar moved to 2nd2,2,2,2. 3rd was Sherry Tucker w/ Vlad Astafiev 3,3,3,4; 4th Leslie McLeod w/ Melbin De La Cruz 4,5,4,1; 5th Adele Morissette w/ Yury Stefanskiy 5,4,5,5; 5th Vimala Sivaraman w/ Plamen Danailov 6,6,6,6; 6th Barbara Bastone w/ Sanj Hira 7,7,7,7.

The pro/am Smooth was terrific all day long Fridayin the main ballroom we saw some fabulous dancing, especially in the Open Scholarships.

It is interesting to point out that both the “A” and “B” categories went to Canada with Joanne Kay Smith w/ Anton Lebedev taking first in all dances in both divisions. She also won all dances in both divisions with a majority of firsts but in the “B” she just got the five firsts required for it to be a majority. In the “A” she had a comfortable lead. We also have to say that she gave one of the best performances in both division we have seen from this lady, she is back on top of the ticket as she was a year or so back with another partner.

The “A” was fantastic and here second place went to Olivia Zettergren w/ Mazen Hamza with these marks 2,3,2,3. As you can see the marks here were more divided than for that of the winner, Joanne, and Olivia also tied for second with Kailee Donovan w/ Gunnar Sverrisson who receive 3,2,3,2 - a tie that had to be broken by a Rule 11, leaving Kailee holding third overall. Christina Pacheco w/ Ion Simboteanu placed fourth in all dances; Liz Thomson w/ Kyle Spinder was fifth, leaving sixth for Meg Gibber w/ Aaron Talbert. Seventh in this terrific 8-couple final went to the UK with Anoushka Seneviratne w/ Gigo Koguashvili taking seventh in all dances and eighth place was awarded to Kimberly Kruysma w/ Trevor Guthrie.

As we mentioned Joanne Kay Smith from Canada also won the “B” category and this also turned out to be and eight-couple final, but with more consistent marks as you will see. Second place in all dances went to Selene Steelman w/ Travis Tuft. Third in all was awarded to Amy Brewer w/ Gunnar Sverrisson, and fourth in all dances was Jennifer Courtney w/ Peter Walker. From fourth place down things got a little more mixed in this division. Fifth went to Gisa Di Iorio w/ Kristian Sese 7,5,5,5. Sixth in all dances was awarded to James Coltharp w/ Olga Chekhova, but with a mix of marks seventh place was awarded to Ilena Flintoff w/ Leo More 5,7,8,8, leaving eighth to Sarah Barnett w/ Richard Peters from the UK 8,8,7,7.

The “C” division was also very challenging with a full quarter final round to start and finishing with a seven-couple final in the end. Sophia D’Angelo w/ Max Sinitsa won all dances, and second in all dances was awarded to Lisa Lowery w/ Radek Wiatrowski with this marks 2,2,2,2. Charlene Proctor w/ Mikhail Zharinov was third 4,4,4,3. Somewhat confusing, because Charlene placed 4th in 3 dances, but if you see the marks on the fourth place Sherry Dong w/ Dmitry Ilyushenov 3,5,3,6 you can see what happened. Fifth place also with an assorted hand of marks was Meredith Kaplan w/ Sergey Vasilyev 6,3,6,4. Sixth was Helena Kostik w/ Mazen Hamza 5,6,5,5, leaving seventh place to Andrea Flink w/ Val Grebenin and she took seventh in all dances.

Linda Gill w/ Roman Malkhasyan won the Senior 1 Pro-Am Smooth 2,1,1,1. Alla Neyshtadt placed second overall and in three dances, but won the waltz. Kathy Stewart w/ Mayo Alanen was third in all dances leaving Diana Best w/Alosha Anatoliy holding fourth in all dances. We most also point out that this was also an 8-couple final. In the Senior 1 Elaine Sheresky w/ Victor Russu placed first overall 1,2,1,1. Second overall was awarded to Lyn Riddle w/ Sergiy Samchynskyy 2,1,2,2, leaving third to JoAnn Bonett w/ Gunnar Sverrisson 3,4,4,3.

All 4 Pro Rising Star Divisions took place on Friday night. The top 3 in each category were:

1. Belmeha/Shevchenko 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Balestra/Balestra 2,2,2,2,2; 3. Conte/Filippo 3,3,3,3,3.
1. Sese/Lozado 2,2,1,1,1; 2. Shipilov/Mitina 1,1,2,2,2; 3. Stefanovic/Mikryukova 4,4,3,3,3.
1. Afonkin/Anderson 1,1,1,1; 2. McCann/McCann 2,2,2,2; 3. Nalyvaychuk/Nalyvaychuk
1. Alisauskas/Alisauskas 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Barov/Meller 3,2,2,2,3; 3. Diallo/Marie 2,3,3,3,2.

The Amateur U/21 divisions were also very well attended in both the Ballroom and Latin divisions. The Ballroom went to Aleksandr Dubovyk & Rickie Taylor Dubovyk and the Latin to Sergey Vasilenko & Olivia Agranovich.

Another strong division was the Amateur Smooth. This gave us a final that had 5 couples from Utah and 1 from New York. Utah took the top 3 positions; 1st Landon Anderson & Hannah Gasinski 1,1,1,1; 2nd Colin Williams & Savana Francia; 3rd Robert McShinsky & Serena Keck.

The NYDF continued another of its traditions – the gala dinner and show. It’s great that a competition is able to devote time to general dancing, live music and a show. This year’s featured performers, along with Eugene Katsevman & Maria Manusova, were Benji Schwimmer & Nocole Clonch, many times US Swing Champions.


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