Vegas Open Dance Challenge 2019

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Slow is Smooth and Smooth is fast!

Last night was the conclusion of the Vegas Open Dance Challenge, all four open professional events were run and all were terrific in attendance and in quality.

However, the Professional Smooth really was fantastic with all couples in top form and making us all want to dance not slow or fast, but “smoothly.”

The winners of the Professional Smooth were Max Sinitsa & Tatiana Seliverstova and we can say they were the epitome of “art” in motion, with class and beauty, but what we really love is their ability to become one with music. Every note every sound has a texture just like material and Max and Tatiana are able to become one with these textures making what we all crave in dance, a musical performance that touches your heart. Funny enough we the judges and the critics all want this, yet somehow, it is rarely rewarded. Their performance last night as always was outstanding and we were glad to see them the perfect example for this beautiful American style called “Smooth.” We must also mention in passing that Max & Tatiana won the waltz with perfect scores from the judges, and nearly perfect scores in the other 3 dances. In the Tango they lost one first place mark from Jonathan Wilkins he gave them 2nd, Jonathan also joined Jonathan Roberts in the Foxtrot in awarding them second place, and in the Viennese Waltz, Jonathan Roberts joined Mazen Hamza and they both awarded them a 2nd place mark, but in conclusion the got the majority of firsts in all dances.

Not far behind is another favorite couple of ours and they too were magnificent, Yegor Novikov & Alexandra Smirnova placing second in all dances, and also taking the 5 firsts missing from Max & Tatiana’s column. Here too we can see some wonderful interpretation of this style, slightly different perhaps to Max & Tatiana but beautiful just the same. We love Yegor & Alexandra’s beautiful lines and in particularly Alexandra’s neck that seems now with her well groomed, pulled up hair, not to have an end. Their extremities seemed to continue past the walls with their every move and last night. With a very huge venue, it was perfect for their flight.

Another couple that totally impressed us last night and that totally made a full comeback were Aleksandr Vukosavljevic & Neveda Urosevic placing third in all dances. Recently we were writing about them losing their track and working perhaps towards the bottom of the pile instead of moving upwards, but last night their performance gave us a whiplash when we saw them come out in their emerald suit and gown and showed us that we were wrong. They are here to stay and they did not look out of place in this excellent final, but instead looked very challenging as well. We would like to see a little more freedom from Neveda, who seemed a little shy as if hesitant, not wanting to make a mistake or a splash. To her we say, don’t be afraid get out of the box and play - you’re here to stay.

Fourth in this excellent heat went to Olexie Pigotskyy & Natalie Crandall who took fourth in all dances. This couple has some stamina because they did two styles and had to change costumes at least 3 times between competitions. Almost “Olympic! Our only observation for this very talented couple is that being a nine dancer and having to do two styles in one night you must really work on changing your motivation for every style every time. On last night’s performance we thought them a little lucky to be fourth. The slight “push and shove” might work some dynamics in the Rhythm, giving lots of impact, but “Smooth” is a complete different matter. Using all this unnecessary power can sometimes work against you. The performance can look forceful rather than “Smooth” should we say.

A couple that we thought should come higher but ended up tying for fifth place with these marks, 6,6,5,5, were Igor Afonkin & Meghan Anderson. Here perhaps was a little different than the last couple mentioned. They perhaps needed some moments with a little more power or light and shade. Or as one judge mentioned to us at the after party, we would also like to see Igor take more control of his leading skills and not be manhandled by Meghan. Tying for fifth with Igor & Meghan but broken by a Rule 11 was Enzo Zappia & Stephanie Betts with these marks 5,5,6,6. We found their performance very correct and also a great addition to this excellent final, however, in this type of heat they needed not to be just correct, but they needed to push hard and go for broke.

Missing from this excellent Smooth final were US Smooth Champions, Nick Cheremuking & Victorija, we spotted Nick earlier in the competition and so we figured they were in for the run, however, they did not enter the professional field which made us all wonder what is going to happen in the next match up with Max & Tatiana. As someone mentioned, the US final was very close and Max & Tatiana along with other couples as we just mentioned are all going full steam ahead. There is promise of great things to come in the Smooth this year. And so we leave the Smooth with this smoothly quote, “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

The Professional Rhythm was also a terrific event and here all firsts went to Danas Jaksevicius & Yuki Haraguchi, they won every dance with a majority of firsts from the judges and the cha cha with perfect scores. We have to say we were a little surprised to see how clearly they won the competition for us they were perhaps the overall winners but we figured they would be a little more challenged, particularly in the rumba where there was basically no relationship between them to speak off.

Second in all dances went to Ilya Velednitsky & Mariya Ilchenko. Here is another couple that has made a great comeback. Not long ago they were heading for the door. Last night’s performance we found it to be very convincing in particular the rumba where they really showed some clear relationship between a couple, especially with such “iconic” Latin sounds. In this performance Ilya & Mariya’s worst judge was Andrew Phillips who awarded them 4,4,5,4,5.

Third went to Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Natalie Crandell and they took third in all dances. We were a little more convinced in this style with what we thought to be a powerful performance especially in the swing where we would have thought they could have easily won. Fourth in this heat was awarded to Ryan Lockheart & Danelle Newman, and they took fourth in all dances. Danelle for us was the sexiest, thing on the floor sporting a see through robe with a very appropriate and well decorated undergarment, perfect for her petite body and rarely will we say this, but well tanned body parts. We really loved their bolero last night, we were captivated once again with the communication between them.

Fifth in all dances went to Igor Ustymovich & Briana Santiago. We were a little disappointed with their performance last night. We find Briana to be perhaps one of the best ladies on the floor, but last night she was nowhere to be found and nether was he. Let’s hope they put a little more fire under their performance next time around. Sixth in all dances were Aaron Pierce & Ksenia Stavrica, we were very exited to see this couple make this final and we loved Ksenia’s musicality and performance, we are looking forward to seeing more of them on future outings.

The Professional Ballroom was very interesting with a great mix of couples. In the final Iaroslav & Liliia Beiliei as expected won all dances and the competition with a majority of firsts from the judges, and we must say that they nearly won the waltz with perfect scores, with the exception of Dan Rutherford, who gave them a second they got all firsts in this dance. Dan also stopped them from having perfect scores on the foxtrot where he also awarded them a second. Yes, Iaroslav & Liliia nearly had perfect marks in a few dances but they were hard challenged in some of the other three dances. The challengers were Valeriu Ursache & Liana Bakhtiarova who placed second in all dances and who in our opinion had a wonderful night totally challenging their top opponents. In looking at the marks we were not surprised to see they got quite a few firsts mostly in the tango and quickstep and yes we would not have been surprised again if they also won the tango. Valeriu & Liana’s tango was superb - sharp and very skillful and in some way it is great that some judges recognize this and rewarded them. They got 5 firsts out of 15 judges.

Also giving us a fun and playful performance were Stefano & Bianka Di Brino placing third in all dances. Taking fourth in all dances was Serhiy Averkov & Olena Barna. Fifth in all dances was awarded to Marek Klepadlo & Zhiting Yang and sixth in all was awarded to Evgeniy Mayorov & Olga Lisovskaya.

A five-couple final entered the Professional Latin, it was almost as the day before but with greater energy and excitement. Francesco & Sabrina Bertini won the competition easily in our eyes, but we were surprised to see that not one of the dances was won with perfect scores. Yes, Francesco & Sabrina won with a majority of firsts but with a few dissentions in every dance, we were also kind of surprised to see Pamela Licht award them a 3rd in the rumba, we suppose like beauty, dancing is in the eye of the beholder. Second in all dances was awarded to Roman Italyakin & Alexandra Bokova. We must also point out that with the exception of the jive where they only stole one first place mark from the winners, they were also the receivers of at least two or three firsts in the other four dances.

Przemyslaw Modrzynki & Magdalena Zybura placed third with these marks 3,3,3,4,4. We thought Oleksandr & Katerina did an excellent job and basically stood their ground. In other performances we found that they hardly broke a sweat, but on this occasion they had more energy and made you keep looking. Perhaps more consistency could help bring their score up a little. Oleksandr & Kateryna Kamniev were 4th 4,4,4,3,3, on this outing. Fifth in all dances went to Joseph Hopwood & Alexandra Hawley.

There was an excellent Amateur Ballroom event, only five couples entered but most of good quality. In the end Angelo Gaetano & Clarissa Morelli won the competition overall by placing first in four dances and second in the foxtrot. What we love about this couple is that they do not only move around with beautiful posture, they also listen to the music and they dance to it. Second overall went to Mikhail Vorobiev & Natalia Kozhevnikova but they won the foxtrot. This is a young couple with tremendous potential. In posture alone they would give competition to many and we are sure that they will become a challenge to many on future outings. In this final Yi Zhang & Zhoushi Xie were third 4,3,3,3,3, Dan Badea & Madalina Varlam were fourth 3,4,4,4,4, and Robert McShinsky & Heather Slater took fifth in all dances.

The Pro/Am smooth was also quite competitive in the Smooth field. The “A” started with a full semifinal round and it ended with an 8-couple final. The win went to Stacy Tilford w/ Josh Tilford placing first in all dances. Second in all dances was awarded to Maddi Berkley w/ Mariusz Zakrewski; third in all went to Gabriella Pumo w/ Steven McGrath. Cindy Vana w/ JC Yeh was fourth overall 4,4,4,5; Kim Glover w/ John Yates was fifth 5,5,5,4; sixth was Birgit Starmanns w/ David Estrada 6,7,6,6; seventh was Stephanie Lovett w/ Chip Hindi7,6,7,7, and eighth position was Karen Brown w/ Drew Mitchell taking 8th place in every dance.

The “B” Smooth went to Celia Chou w/ Erminio Stefano, first in all dances. Second place went to Patricia Scheneider w/ Slawek Sochacki 2,3,2,2; third place was awarded to Lisa Berry w/ David Elser 3,2,5,4; fourth place was Mariana Lvoff w/ Vladimir Kosarev 4,4,3,3; Thara Salamone w/ Jim Maranto was fifth 5,5,4,5, and Kim Glover w/ John Yates was sixth in all dances.

The “C” division was also an 8-couple final and here Karence Chan w/ Paul Cloud won overall 2,2,1,1; second was Darla Davis w/ Jim Maranto 1,1,2,4; Kako Matsumoto w/ Aaron Talbert took third overall 3,3,3,2; Fram Manning w/ Eric Koptke placed fourth 4,4,4,3; Marina Sanchez-Torres w/ Nick Cheremukhim took fifth 6,5,5,5; Randi Zedeck w/ Steven McGrath was sixth 5,6,6,6; Birgit Starmanns w/ David Estrada took all sevenths and Robert Bartlett w/ Brad Montagnese was eighth.

The Senior I was also a good competition and here Fran Manning w/ Eric Koptke took all firsts; Audria Hill-Mitchell w/ Peter Perzhu took all seconds and Liz Conkly w/ Dariusz Michalski was third in all. In the Senior II the winner was Diana Dean w/ Slava Stefanov.

Never Split a Winning Hand!

We are back in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Vegas Open Dance Challenge.

The competition began with the Pro-Am Rhythm categories Thursday morning and in the evening we had the “Nightclub Session” where it was cozy and everyone seemed to be having a nightclub blast.

Yesterday it was all about the Ballroom and Latin finishing the evening with the Rising Star Professional Events. But before we recap all these competitions we must give you a “Blackjack” quote that could help us all. Always remember, “It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”

The A,B,C Open Scholarships in Rhythm were excellent and in the end they all had full finals. In the “A” the winner overall was Veronika Kireyko w/ Daniel Vasco with these marks 1,1,1,1,2. Second overall was awarded to Julio Morales w/ Giovanna Velazquez, as you will see by their marks this result was not as clear as the first place finish. Julio got the following marks 2,2T,2,3,1, he did win the mambo. We have to say that Julio like Veronika the winner, was very skilled at this craft and could have taken at least one more dance from our perspective. Third in this excellent heat was awarded to Gabriela Pumo w/ Steve McGrath with these marks 3,2T,3,2,3. Kim Glover w/ John Yates was fourth, literally in all dances; Stephanie Lovett w/ Chip Hindi placed fifth in all; Birgit Starmanns w/ David Estrada was sixth and Karen Brown w/Drew Mitchell took all sevenths.

The “B” division was a six-couple final and this competition went to Mariana Lvoff w/ Vladimir Kosarev and they placed first in all dances. Thara Salamone w/ Jim Maranto was second in all dances and Jeravae Christensen w/ Justin McClendon took all thirds. Suanne Summers w/ Daniel Vasco was fourth overall 4,4,4,4,5; Kim Glover w/ John Yates was fifth 5,5,5,5,4, and sixth in all dances was awarded to Pamela Mittoo w/ David Spencer.

In the “C” division Kathie Castro w/ Adrian Lomeli placed first overall 1,2,1,2,1. As you can see they won by one dance, and second by this one dance was Darla Davis w/ Jim Maranto 2,1,2,1,2, leaving third in all dances to Kelly Akol w/ Jeremy Pilling. Bernadette Straatsma w/ Felipe Telona Jr. was fourth in all; fifth was Suanne Summers w/ Daniel Vasco; sixth went to Roberta Bartlett w/ Steven McGrath and seventh was Brad Bradshaw w/ Andrea Bradshaw.

The Senior I went to Kelly Akol w/ Jeremy Pilling. Roseann Wherry w/ Petr Polak took all seconds and Toni Tallerino w/ Steven McGrath placed third. In the Senior II Diana Dean w/ Slava Stefanov was first in all; Joan Judes w/ Mariusz Zarkewski took all seconds and third went to Jane McCarthy w/ Melbin De La Cruz.

The Ballroom competition yesterday also had some very contested heats especially the Open “A” category. The ladies in this heat were fantastic. Jennifer Lin w/ Radu Stervan placed first overall with these marks 1,1,1,2,2. Second overall went to Natalie Rezai w/ Sergey Kiselev 2,2,2,1,1, and third in all dances went to Vini Miller w/ Karlis Treijs. Brittany Freer w/ Evgeniy Mayorov was fourth overall 5,4,4,4,4; Dallys Loftis w/ James Scott was fifth 4,5,5,5,5, and sixth in all dances went to Every Dail w/ Nick Bloxsom-Carter, leaving seventh to Stephanie Lovett w/ Chip Hindi.

The “C” was also a terrific heat and here Janice Smith w/ Davide Gozzi placed first in all dances. Second overall went to Hans Stork w/ Inna Berlizyeva 3,4,2,2,2; Angela Hu w/ Anton Koukareko was third overall 5,3,3,3,3; Vlaeria Arias w/ Yevgeny Klyukin was fourth 2,2,4,5,5; Carla Murphy w/ Yuriy Kravets took fifth 4,5,5,4,4, and Beth Yeh w/ Enzo Zappia took all sixths.

The Open “B” was not as populated as the other two categories but in the end Ling Ma w/ Edgars Gasjuns took first in all dances. Kristie Riemer w/ Erik Pali was second 4,4,2,2,2; Elka Hristova w/ Egor Abashkin was third 2,3,3,3,3, and fourth overall was given to Thara Salamone w/ Jim Maranto 3,2,4,4,4.

The Senior I was also a nice event and here the winners were Fran Manning w/ Tadas Jonyla 1,3,1. Second went to Carla Murphy w/ Yuriy Kravets 2,1,4, and third was awarded to Deborah Errico w/ Dariusz Michalsko 3,2,3.

There was also an excellent “all gentlemen” heat that started with a semifinal round and this went to Hans Stork w/ Inna Berlizyeva, and they won all dances. Second in all dances was Peter Chou w/ Xenia Cletova and third in all was Mark Eberly w/ Alyssa Kark.

The Open Latin Scholarships also ran yesterday and the winner in the “A” was Stephania Papadopulos w/ Paul Richardson, this was a very secure lady and we can see why she won all dances. Second overall was awarded to Lizzie Fuchs w/ Brent Borton 3,2,2,3,2; third went to Jennifer Chan w/ Denis Podolsky 2,3,3,2,3. Fourth in all dances went to Angelica Mendoza w/ Michael Blanco; Angela Volarevic w/ Gerry DeWet took all fifths and sixth was left for Stephanie Lovett w/ Chip Hindi.

The “B” was also a nice heat and here Vicki Lane w/ Auris Petrulevicious took first overall 3,3,1,2,1. As you can see Vicki only took first in two dances and it was a tie that had to be broken with Colette Morotto w/ Igor Ustymovych who took also two first places 1,2,3,1,3. Third was a little more clear but Jennifer Chan w/ Denis Posolsky still took one first as you will see 2,1,2,3,2. As you can see it got very close between these top three ladies. From fourth down it got a little more clear. Tessie Hernandez w/ Giancarlo Greco was fourth overall 4,4,5,4,4; Monika Padar w/ Oleg Astakhov was fifth 5,5,4,5,5, and sixth in all went to Jenn Davidson w/ Dmitry Demidov.

The “C” was the smallest heat of all and this clear win went to Rhonda lynch w/ Stephan McCann. Second overall was awarded to Lo-Wei Chang w/ Vartan Zakhariants 2,3,2,2,2; third went to Yee-Ping Ching w/ Andrea Tarasov 3,2,3,3,3, and fourth was Joan Finley w/ Alex Artega and she took fourth in all dances.

The Senior I was awarded to Bonnie Loftspring w/ Brian McNamee 2,1,1, Second was Ibis Wu w/ Mykhailo Bilopukhov 1,2,2 and third was Judy Pederson w/ Petr Polak and she took third in all dances.

The RS Professional Smooth was quite interesting, starting with a quarter-final round. In the end the winners were Igor Afonkin & Meghan Anderson winning all dances. Second in all dances went to Tykhon & Yana Zhyvkov, leaving third to Ilia Sydorenko w/ Tetyana Kuts.

The Rising Star Rhythm was also very well attended and here the winners overall were Aaron Pierce w/ Kesenia Stavrica 1,1,1,1,2. Second was awarded to Ranzo & Andrea Zegarra from Peru, but here the judges were more split 3,3,2,4,1. Third overall and looking a little disappointed were Christopher Wayne & Mallory Evan 2,2,3,3,4.

The Professional Rising Star Latin and Ballroom were finals and were the less populated events. The Latin was a 5-couple final and here Roman Drobotov & Liya Kazbekova won all dances. Second overall went to Przemyslaw Modrzynski & Magdolena Zybura 2,4,2,3,3, leaving third to Oleksandr & Kateryna Kamniev 3,3,3,2,4.

In the Ballroom we had a four-couple final and Oa Alitto & Vd Belozerova won overall 2,1,1,1,1. Second was awarded to Mikhail Babenko & Kateryna Laritenko 1,2,2,2,2, leaving third to Brad Montagnese & Trigili Tania and they took third in all dances.

Tonight will be the Open Professional events and during the day we have the Pro/Am Smooth, we look forward to bringing that to you so stay tuned.

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