Bill Sparks

Bill Sparks

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Grand Nationals Pro Rhythm

The Grand Nationals is one of my favorite competitions to judge and Cassandra and Peter do an excellent job to make this a first class event. Congratulations to you both!


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Professional Rhythm from Capital Dancesport 2015

Report by Bill Sparks
Photos by Ryan Kenner Photography

Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine and Liana Churilova

Cap15R-Pierre-Antonine2Winning the title for the second year with their own special styling, Emmanuel and Liana conveyed conviction and belief in showing who they are and how they want to express their dancing. A few times they danced more as individuals than a couple, leaving me with the impression of a less connected partnership. Though they are difficult to beat, I feel that to continue to improve, they could deepen the study of their philosophy of the basic actions within the structure of the American Rhythm dances and apply the best quality of movement in their choreography.
 
Cap15R-NorovNazar Norov and Irina Kudryashova
I must say there is much to like about Nazar and Irina’s dancing. They are well-suited to each other in stature and personality and make themselves instantly visible and competitive. I find Irina to be the perfect foil, dancing with a cool femininity that enables her to receive and respond to the demands of Nazar. On the night, I was drawn to them, as I appreciated the way they played with the various rhythms within the choreography of each dance and their ability to portray their individual stories.
 
Cap15R-VlasovMikhail Vlasov and Vanda Polakova
Mikhail and Vanda are both very strong dancers, capable of producing some excellent and exuberant showy dancing. They are direct, always dance full out, and demonstrate good musicality. Sometimes I feel they don’t strike the proper balance between dancing with too much power and not enough containment of actions and shape within their bodies. For further improvement, I would like to see greater enhancement of the basic fundamental leg and body actions, showing even more of the characteristic movements of each American Rhythm Dance.
 
Shane Jensen and Shannon Jensen
Both Shane and Shannon gave a very polished performance and displayed neat execution of their work. For further improvement, I would like to see a stronger rhythmical performance, some continuous body actions, and more transitional flow from one movement to the next.
 
Cap15R-JakseviciousDanas Jaksevicius and Yuki Haraguchi
Dana and Yuki have a certain appeal on the floor. The man offers a cool aura about himself, while the lady has a soft, elegance and womanly presentation. My only criticism is that I feel at times they can appear too classical in their approach, missing opportunities for greater rhythmical depth in their leg and body actions.
 
Cap15R-ValidnetskyIlya Velednitsky and Mariya Ilchenko
A strong look from this couple, but I didn’t quite feel their performance lived up to the image. Body actions and rhythm were good, but didn’t produce the full impact. Enhancement of footwork and lower body actions is key to advancing, improving and ultimately creating a greater performance.

Bill Sparks is a Former 4X United States International Latin Champion

Hip Lift Technique Explained

db photo041An Interview with Bill Sparks

(Sharon Savoy) You were a 4X U.S. International Latin Champion. Why are you teaching American Rhythm?
 
(Bill Sparks) I watched Sam develop his Hip Lift Technique on Decho and Bree and found the technique fascinating. It made incredible sense to me and when I taught the technique to teachers and their students, I was excited to see how quickly it made a difference in their dancing and results.
 
As American Style Rhythm grew in popularity with the international Latin teachers and competitors, I became increasingly booked to teach American Rhythm. International dancers are trained with a system and structure. Part of the gaining interest in HLT is because these dancers desire a technique that distinguishes the difference between Latin and rhythm. As a former 4X United States International Latin champion dancer, I could explain how HLT would improve their American Rhythm technique by adding to their existing concepts. I can help clarify the distinct features and distinguish differences needed to dance the characteristic movements of American Rhythm. I feel privileged to have learned this knowledge and be able to present this technique to dancers expecting to learn the difference.

(Sharon Savoy) We notice more and more people are inquiring and learning the hip lift technique. Why do you think this technique is gaining so much interest?
 
(Bill Sparks) For decades there hasn’t been a clear defined way to dance the American style. I think it is a bit out of frustration that dancers are looking for a definitive technique. I’ve spoken to many teachers and competitors. When asked, “What do you believe to be the way to dance American Rhythm?” most were unsure. They did not know if they should do press lines, or dance a ball/flat action or ball/heel, or what actions should be used.
 
Bill-SparksFour years ago, Sam Sodano and Eddie Simon, were discussing hosting a congress on American Style. I jumped in on the conversation and suggested to Sam, this would be a perfect opportunity to share his technique. The following year, in 2011, Sam and Eddie held the very first American Style congress designed to give an opportunity for judges, teachers, and students to gain clearer insight to the techniques used in American Style Rhythm and Smooth. That year included a lecture introducing the Hip Lift Technique by Sam, Decho Kraev and Bree Watson. Subsequently, I have presented two lectures on the hip lift technique.
 
The American Style Congress, seminars and dance camps, have all contributed to the growing interest in this revolutionary technique.

(Sharon Savoy) Why is it called the hip lift technique HLT- instead of the S. A. M. method?
 
(Bill Sparks) I’m responsible for originally calling it the S.A.M. method, however Sam did not want an eponymous term. He decided to name his method the hip lift technique, HLT, because the action of the hip lift is the strongest visible element. Just as Ballroom’s continuous closed position is an identifying symbol from the open frame of the American Smooth. The hip lift “ACTION USED” instantly distinguishes American Rhythm from International Latin style.

(Sharon Savoy) Some people are saying the hip lift is not new.
 
(Bill Sparks) Elements such as a hip lift step in bolero, using a bent knee or dancing onto a whole foot are not new. However, every genre of dance improves over time.
 
Sam took 6 years to develop his theories for HLT. He refined elements and created greater awareness of “ACTIONS USED”. For example: How to move onto a flexed knee, how to move onto a whole foot and the greater usage of split weight through the application of three delayed actions.
 
I have been in this business for 28 years and am always pushing myself to learn the latest techniques. I would have been very interested in learning a specific technique for American Rhythm. I can honestly say, there wasn’t a technique that explained sequential use of actions. I’d never seen a standing hip lift or a foot driven hip lift until I watched Sam develop his theories on Decho Kraev and Bree Watson, 6 years ago.
 
Walter Laird’s technique gave clarity and development to the international Latin. But no specific technique for American Rhythm has been available, until now.

(Sharon Savoy) Is the hip lift technique difficult?
 
(Bill Sparks) Mastering any technique takes dedication and time. I spent years examining and analyzing an international rumba walk when I was competing in that event. Learning HLT is an opportunity, an education, on how to move in American Rhythm. At the beginning, learning a different approach feels like exercise. No one wants to do drills when the music comes on, nevertheless, repetition and developing muscle memory takes time and commitment. The results are worth the effort and investment.


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Northcoast Ballroom Championship Pro Rhythm

Report by Bill Sparks
Photos by Ryan Kenner Photography

1st    Kurt Roberts and Anneliece Velasco  #157


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Grand Nationals Professional Smooth

Report by Bill Sparks
Photos by Dancesport Photography

5. Vadim Boldirev Karla Boldirev. I thought this couple gave a good showing but appeared to struggle in the competition with a loss of shape early on in each dance.  I would suggest working on the fundamentals of each dance and strengthening your feet and legs. You have good possibilities for the future.


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Open Professional Rhythm, Grand Nationals 2014

Report by Bill Sparks
Photos by Dancesport Photography

The Rhythm at Grand Nationals this year started with a nine-couple semifinal. Anyone of them could have been in the last couple spots but here is your final six.


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Desert Classic Open Professional Rhythm

Report by Bill Sparks
Photos by Park West

Peter and Alexandra Perzhu's  presence on the floor generated energy, feeling, and musicality.  Peter conveyed conviction and belief in showing who he is and how he wants to express his feelings, but I felt he did not exploit this to his maximum as I see there were a few times I felt him dancing just for himself, which makes him look a little quiet.


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Boston Cup Junior II Latin

Report by Bill Sparks

1st place couple Kristers Smite & Sophie Shvartsman - Good Winners. They danced everything quite well with nice chorography, and controlled body actions. I would have liked to see a bit more body dynamics and energy as well as finishing off their movements for an even stronger floor presence.


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Emerald Ball 2015 - Youth Latin

By Bill Sparks
Photos by Mary Tweeddale & Sasha Dubinsky

It was a pleasure to once again judge one of the most prestigious competitions in the United States, the Emerald Ball.


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