USA’s leading couple, Shane & Shannon Jensen, gave what we can describe as a perfect performance, every lift was just perfect and to the music, perfect intros and perfect exits, but it was not to be their night they took second overall. We think that perhaps some of the dramatics of Denis & Ekaterina might have distracted away from their perfect performance, but we think that not one person in the room unlike most of the Championships of this festival, where we knew who would be first or who would be second or even third to be fair, knew who would win tonight. But continuing with Shane & Shannon’s performance, some of the people around us that we spoke to, before and after the result felt that perhaps Denis & Ekaterina had a more simple approach starting with even their costumes, making them easier on the eye, and with Denis’ slightly exposed torso the audience were able to relate to them and humanize them slightly more than Shane & Shannon and as MC and Chairman of Judges, Marcus Hilton MBE, said just before he announced the placements, it was very close, almost like “splitting hairs.” Shane & Shannon danced to “Footprints in the Sand.”
A great soothing relief for the attendees on this nail-biting Exhibition Championship was Mykhailo Azervov & Tetyana Makarenko from the USA, who placed fourth overall. The music they used was “Kalinka” a Russian folk tune that seemed to want to make you clap and stomp your feet. Almost immediately, as anywhere we have seen this couple perform this piece, the audience participation is expected with everyone clapping to the music, singing and all cheering them on. In our opinion, their work most of the time, gets lost among all these well-wishing cheers. We think it is better now that the costumes are less regional and folkloric like, now they are more sleek with better lines to make us focus on their dancing. It is almost a shame because we think this couple does some unbelievable lift work but we feel it gets lost some in “translation.” On a personal note this is not their “Dali” routine that used to “stop the time.”
Sixth was awarded to Craig Smith & Andrea Harvey. This was a well-rehearsed routine and the lady for us is a perfect incarnation of “Exhibition” with great use of arms, legs and feet. However, although we thought the routine was great it did not have the ingredients in order to challenge any higher. Their program required a little more of a surprise and be a little more should we say “unpredictable.”
With that, we should go to what we can only describe as a rather lackluster finish to the British Open, The Open Professional Ballroom Championship. First the fact that one of the presumed nominees for the British title, Victor Fung & Anastasia Muravyeva from the USA was absent. This took a lot the air out of this competition. We noted many empty seats after the cabaret result was announced and this did not help the situation.
Domen Krapez & Natasha Karabey – Germany, took 2nd spot 2232. A tall and elegant couple who were also fairly certain of their position.
Our favorite couple of the night and perhaps the only couple to attract our desire for Ballroom placed third overall, Valerio Colantoni & Monica Nigro - Italy 3323. Here was a couple that did not just had a show upper body and over extended top. Here we had some great musicality as they danced and “feather stepped” to an orchestra that finally possibly and possibly for the first time will have us “downloading” their entire album - the “Empress Orchestra” ladies and gentleman.
Fourth in this Ballroom final were Aleksandr Zhiratkov & Irina Novozhilova - Russia 4556. Here is a second couple we totally enjoyed in this Championship. Fifth place went also to Russia, Stanislav Zelianin & Irina Cherepanova 6465. Sixth place was awarded to Sergiu Rusu & Dorota Rusu, Poland - 564 and seventh position went to Stas Portanenko & Nataliya Kolyada - Ukraine ----4.
For the USA the results were not so good, with none of our couples progressing to the semifinal. All our hopes ended in the quarter-finals where we had several couples. Iaroslav & Llia Bieliei w/f/t/q; Rudy Homm & Katya Kanevskaya w/f/t/q; Christian Radvan & Kristina Kudelko w/t/q; Vladislav Shakhov & Ekaterina Popova w/f/q; Oskar Wojciechowsky & Karolina Holody w/f/t/q; Valeriu Ursache & Liana Bakhtiarova q; Alexander & Veronica Voskalchuk q.
An Unusual Call!
Last night in the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool, England, for the Open British Professional Latin, the same six couples were called for all dances a rarity for this competition where all dances are scored separately.
The second almost as unusual thing was that three US couples took first, second and third places overall, US strength in dance was shown by this perfect placement run.
Second in all dances was awarded to Stefano Di Filippo & Daria Chesnokova the expats who are always abroad but never seen in the USA. Nevertheless when push comes to shove representing their country, they always come through. And now for what was the shining stars of the floor third place Troels Bager & Inna Ivanova who live and work mainly in the USA, they placed third in every dance but if you asked many of the people around us foreign or not, they would say that Troels & Ina could have been second, their performance can only be described as brilliance in motion.
The other couple to steal the hearts of the people was Kirill Belorukov & Polina Teleshova from Russia who like Troels & Ina had the fans going up and down and stomping all around. Unlike Troels & Inna, Kirill & Polina’s performance had the judges playing them like a “YOYO.” Kirill & Polina were fourth in samba and jive and fifth in cha cha, rumba and paso doble, but if we have to add our two cents opinion, we think their performance could have been worth all fourths or even a third. We are of the opinion that unless we are talking surgery, when it comes to an art form the “audience” is nearly always right and on this night they were more than right on Kirill & Polina and Troels & Inna. Just to be clear Kirill & Polina were fifth overall.
The sad call by the judges was the sixth place call in every dance to Nino Langella & Andra Vaidilaite (Italy). We say sad not because it was not deserving but because we had better and much higher expectations for this lovely couple. We have been fans of Nino since he was basically a teenager with endless talent and we thought him to be the best thing, as they say in America, since “bubble gum,” and fans of Andra since she danced for Canada, and accomplished tremendous placements with different partners. Unfortunately, their performance for us was mediocre and correct, something that we never expected from these two brilliant dancers. I think perhaps in dance years this partnership might be still a little “green” and it needs a little more time to mature and give us the unexpected.
We are happy to report that the full Professional Exhibition division is now “Open” to anyone around the world that wants to enter, a great decision and a great addition to the Open British Championships. There was a couple “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” from the crowd for many of the performances and a couple of “Yikes” for some of them especially the couple from Russia who nearly lost the girl and we mean literally but he caught her and with a slight “oops” rescued his entire performance, this was a performance that up to that point was one of the best we have seen. But they were not the only ones with some “Yikes” some of our own US couples made us take a deep breath a few times but we are glad to report that most of them were returned to tonight’s final which will consist of 5 US couples and one Russian.
Sadly Travis & Jaimee Tuft had to withdraw from the Exhibition due to injury. Nothing too serious as Travis reported to us – “Fortunately, we didn’t have a serious injury. However, during the morning rehearsal my right leg started cramping and seizing up pretty bad. We went back to our hotel to rest hoping everything would be fine for the evening. I drank plenty of water, massage, bananas, the works. When we went to the winter gardens to warm up, the cramping continued to worsen. This has never happened to us before. To avoid more serious problems both health and our performance, we decided it was better to withdraw."
In the Ballroom Formations, as the night before, the competition was tough and we are proud to report that “BYU” took the silver medal home on this one. The winners of this formation came from China and they were the Beijing Dance Academy. Team Scarlet BRNO from the Czech Republic were 3rd.
BYU #1 Again!
Last night the BYU Latin Team were victorious once again in the Open British Latin Formation Championship.
USA had 2 couples in the semifinal, who incidentally were the top two couples last month at the US Championship, Angelo Gaetano & Clarissa Morelli and Oleksandr Kalenyuk & Olena Ablitosova. In the quarter-final we saw Dan Malov & Stephanie Noon (USA) and Nikita Druzhinin & Virginie Primeau (Canada).
The Youth, the Latin and hold your partner firmly by her……
Yesterday’s competitions in the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens, were full of youth, talent a good quality.
The Youth Ballroom was terrific with the obvious winners to us being Dmytro Moros & Kristina Kuzenko from the Ukraine 2111, as Marcus Hilton MBE (Chairman of Judges and MC) mentioned, they all moved with ease and tremendous floor craft, a welcome and beautiful sight in this very difficult style of dancing. Dmytro & Kristina had great appeal but their usage of feet and legs made it all look so easy and fun as this style should be.
We are slightly saddened to report that there were no US couples in this final or the semifinal, something that perhaps the country should look into, or are we just a “smooth craving” country? The absence of US ballroom youth makes us wonder about this, especially with the US being at such a high standard in the professional in both the Ballroom and Latin.
As far as our performance went we had some excellent dancing by Ferdinando & Yulia, from earlier rounds you could tell that they were going to take the title home quite easily and they did. Second was awarded to Slovenia’s Klement Prasnikar & Alexandra Averkieva who for us gave a faultless performance and had great communication between them, their issue was selling it to us and making us feel their performance in this Ferdinando & Yulia were way ahead of the game and so there was no chance for Klement & Alexandra to get ahead.
Third in this excellent heat went to Petar Daskalov & Zia James from England. This was for us perhaps the best guy in the house on this night and she complimented him to the fullest. Their partnership had a few ups and down not as faultless and Kelment & Alexandras but had they just pushed a little more they could have taken second place. This is a very talented couple, we have not seen an English couple with this much potential in a long time, we are sure they will be challenging the very top soon.
Fourth went to another Slovenian couple Damir Haluzan & Anna Mashchyts, but this time we are not sure what the judges were looking at, for us this couple should have been left out in quarter, their work was messy and they did not coordinate with each other, we were a little disappointed because there were a number of couples US and non-US that could have easily made this final. Salvatore Sinardi & Viktoriya Kharchenko from Italy were fifth, another very correct couple that in our opinion could have easily been fourth, their work was not very catchy to the eye but it was very correct with lots of energy.
As we mentioned earlier in the semifinal we had two other excellent couples, that could have perhaps taken a position in the final the best for us of these two were Alexander Chermositov & Irina Grishina who danced beautifully and who we almost expected to make it into the final, in musicality alone they were fantastic, what a terrific performance. Secondly and I am sure this may be a surprise to some when they read it was, Tagyr Mansurov & Alexandra Kondrashova. Boy! Those two were also “on” this evening and although it might come as a surprise to many, it was not to us. They too could have taken a spot in that final. Wen we say could have taken a spot on this final we mean it there were at least 2 spots possibly available.
We must mention that when we got home some bystanders were talking about the guy that jumps over his partner in the highlight of the paso. We figured they must be talking about Tal Livshitz & Ilana Keselman, they were all quite impressed so congratulations to them.
And now for the hair part! When we arrived in Blackpool, we immediately figured we should get our tickets and get that out of the way. As we are buying our tickets someone is talking and it telling us all about a “brawl” that happened near or in the ballroom. Apparently this is the first time in history for an occurrence of this kind. The person narrating said that apparently a young lady did not want to dance or come back to the next dance or round. When she refused the partner grabbed her by the hair and pulled her, this cause da stir among all the other competitors who came to her defense and a scuffle occurred! There you have it and please “Don’t hold your partner firmly by the hair,” it’s barbaric and unsportsmanlike to say the least!
But on a brighter note, and also for the first time that we can remember - there was a marriage proposal in the middle of the Amateur Latin final!!
All Blackpool photos by Tony Eng of Decadance Photography.
USA 4 out of 6!
In a great result for USA, we had 4 of the 6 finalists in the Pro RS Ballroom.
All Blackpool photos by Tony Eng of Decadance Photography.
Sunday – no longer a day of rest!
Sunday is not a day of rest in Blackpool as it once was!
In the days of the “shorter” Blackpool Dance Festival, Sunday was the day for the Mayor’s reception and well ……… not much more! Nowadays there is much fervent activity in the Empress Ballroom as the Rising Star Amateur Ballroom and Latin events conclude.
In the RS Amateur Ballroom, no North Americans made the top 12. The winners were Andrew Yefremchenkov & Anastasia Siabro from Ukraine.
Blackpool 2019 – The end of the Road for Arunas & Katusha
The biggest story to come out of Blackpool so far this year is the Saturday night announcement by Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova.
Stay tuned to Dance Beat for more updates of the Blackpool week. All Blackpool photos by Tony Eng of Decadance Photography.