Heritage Dancesport Classic 2016

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“Amores Perros”

Translation: “Love Dogs.” It is very difficult to translate this from a “love” language like Spanish, and it is the only way it can really be described is as a passion, a seduction, a love and the carnivorous desire that Slavik Kryklyvyy & Karina Smirnoff served on the floor last night at the Heritage Classic.


It was a complete feast that as the audience we devoured like animals wanting more with their every outing through what seemed a very short night. After watching their “show” I have to declare that there is a “heaven,” and that if “art” is the only way of expressing oneself without the usual “earthly” conditions of being judgmental, aware, trying hard to make things pretty, then what we saw last night was true “art” in motion and one had no choice but to give in to the moment and like animals in heat, experience it.

 We at Dance Beat have made it a choice not to ever critic or say much about a dance show, our magazine is about competitive dancing and not about “shows.” However, unless we were made out of “wood” it would be very hard to ignore the experience that this duo brought to us last night as we watched possibly “Latin” dancing come alive as a true form. I (Didio Barrera) was born to Latin heritage and know the struggles, passion, drama, and love that a Latin family unit has, it is always present in their music, their dancing and their art. Few in our dance world have captured that perfect picture of Latin dancing for me. Last night Slavik & Karina brought it home in a perfect incarnation of the culture of the Latin roots and race and as jaded as I have become about Latin dancing, it is these moments that keep me going as a person and a contributor to this majestic art of ours that we call ballroom dancing.

 With that off our chest, we must also add that although Slavik & Karina were a huge part of the night a number of events took place.  The feature competitions the Professional Latin and Smooth as well as the Pro/Am Ballroom, were terrific and enhanced the evening greatly. In the Smooth we had the comeback of a finalist that was unable to compete for a while due to injury, Mikhail & Galina Zharinov. Mikhail as you all know had knee surgery and for a while they had to take it easy and leave the arena until he was completely healed.

 So we are sure you are wondering how Mikhail & Galina managed.  Well, with the judges they did great, they won every dance with a majority of firsts and it was almost a perfect score in the waltz for them, only Sarwhat Kaluby awarded them a second in that dance or they would have had a perfect run. In the other dances they had a few more judges dissenting the first place decisions. From where we where we have to agree with the judges, Mikhail & Galina totally had us on the waltz but on the other three dances we are not quite sure. From where we stood we found that their other three dances were not as confident, perhaps the knee was still not used to the pounding a true competition requires and it looked a little as if Mikhail was holding slightly back. Should they have won the other dances? From where we stood we are not quite sure, we found their competitors who placed second overall, Travis & Jaimee Tuft quite ready for the task. Their work was very correct and at times very musical, if you had to measure it by consistency alone we would have probably given the Tufts a few of the other three dances. But, you cannot discount the fact that Mikhail & Galina have tremendous experience and even with a slight wobble the judges were critiquing what they saw and not Mikhail’s injury, so there we are back to square one. Travis & Jaimee did take all the firsts that were not awarded to Mikhail & Galina but as we mentioned before it was not enough to win over the landslide of firsts awarded to this very experienced couple.

Third was awarded to Kyle & Allie Spinder and from their slight hesitation during the award presentation, we presumed they were hoping to overtake Travis & Jaimee on this occasion but it was not to be. Fourth in every dance went to Jean Paul & Lana Rossi and yes they got a few thirds in every dance but nothing of great force that would have made them go further forward. Fifth were Adrian & Hannah Dydynski and sixth went to Vladimir & Vera Kosarev.

 The obvious winner to us in the Open Professional Latin were Aleksandr Skarlato & Loreta Kriksciukaityte who won all dances but surprisingly without any majority of firsts in any dance.  In other words they had to rely on their “third or better” scores. The couple that perhaps took the air out of their performance was Roman Italyankin & Alexandra Bokova who took second in every dance and did manage to steal a number of firsts from the crowned couple. For us it was a catch 22 as they say here in America, Aleksandr & Loreta bring to the floor experience and quality and the man was perhaps the best on the floor, he like Slavik Kryklyvyy, is one of the few men who allow their backs to dance.  Their spine, like a lady’s spine, moves from the top vertebrae to the very bottom and guys there is nothing wrong with that, we don’t see this as a male or female trend, we see it as basic component in Latin dance. On the other hand Roman & Alexandra are consistent in their work and are very correct in all their movements, perhaps too correct and not enough personal creativity at times.

 Third overall went to Dmitry & Olena Shvets Nikishkin, here to we have perfect, correct work with tremendous power behind, but guys!! To the two couples last mentioned, if you looked as Slavik & Karina you would have notice that this is the smallest ingredient in Latin dancing, this is what gets you from A to B but it is not what makes me want to see you again and again, the artistry is what draw us to you and it’s what fans of Latin dancing crave.  “Think about it!” Another very talented couple placed fourth but this time from Canada, Ilya Maletin & Polina Maier and they placed 5,4,4,4,4. Once again here great basic understanding of the dances but missing the main ingredient that would put them on the quality of Slavik & Karina.

Fifth position went to Hayk Balasanyan & Emilia Poghosyan 4,5,6,5,7, sixth were Riccardo Pacini & Sonia Spadoni 6,6,7,6,5 and seventh were Sergey & Dasha Chyslov.

In the Pro/Am Ballroom Scholarships the “C” division was the best by far and here Lynn Murrell w/ Alexander Voskalchuk won every dance, second was awarded to Linda Ciabatoni w/Gianni Caliandro 2,2,3,3,2, and third went to Linda Huntress w/Andrea Stefano.

The “B” division was also quite good and here Laura Shooks was the victor with Alexander Voskalchuk and they placed first in every dance, second went to Carrie Steinmetz w/Ruslan Wilder 2,4,2,2,2, and third was awarded to Chikako Abe w/Andrey Klinchik 3,2,4,3,3.

There was only one lady entered in the “A” category and that was Yulia Rudenco dancing with her father Andrei Rudenco, we must point out that Yulia also won the 10 dance competition over three other ladies and she placed first in all 10 dances.

This was a fantastic day of competition and dancing and it totally brought a new meaning to the “Land in the Sky,” just the show alone was heavenly fabulous!


A Night of “Cabaret” and More!

Last night at the Heritage Classic as usual it was a night of Cabaret dancing along with a terrific Professional Ballroom competition and the Rhythm division. All thorough the day and concluding at night it was a day of Latin American Dancing, the ballroom was hopping with Latin enthusiasm and fun competitions.

Although only 5 couples entered the Professional Cabaret it was still an eye-opener in the evening session, all couples were very capable and the thrills of the impossible and possible being done is always a main extreme attraction. In a unexpected and interesting decision the winners overall were Mykhailo Azarov & Tatyana Makarenko and they placed first with a huge amount of first place marks from the judges, 8 out if the 11 judges marked them to win. Second in this thrilling final were Travis & Jaimee Tuft. It is interesting to note that only former ballet professional dancer, Sarwat Kaluby, and Cher Rutherford, former United States Theater Arts and Cabaret Champion placed them to win. “What do they know?” For all of you faithful readers out there, these two couples were incredible and we are just adding a little humor to our usual dry write-ups “give us a break, LOL!”.

Third overall in this small but terrific lineup were Clyde Harris & Summer Black Elkin, fourth was awarded to Brandon Baker & Chelsea Cherie and last but not least in fifth position were Trevor & Emily Guthrie. We must also point out that Colin James from England had it almost backwards he had the winners Mykhailo & Tatyana fourth and Travis & Jaimee third. His winners were Clyde & Summer, and second were Brandon & Chelsea. Don’t get us wrong, all couples were terrific to say the least and we could easily see how he might have come to this conclusion.

The Professional Ballroom was also an excellent heat with some terrific dancing. Here Alexander Voskalchuk & Veronica Egorova placed first in every dance and we must also point out with a huge majority of firsts in all dances from the judges. Alexander & Veronica’s worst marks came in their tango where they were placed third by Colin James and fourth by Ray Rivers. Second were Vladishlav Shakhov & Ekaterina Popova and they placed second in every dance. I have to say (Didio Barrera) if I had to do it all again I would do it with Ekaterina, she is possibly one of the best ladies out there, and I would give up the “Latin.” Enough about me! Third in this parade of talent went to Richard Tonizzo & Claire Hansen 3,4,3,4,3, we are sure this was a disappointing placement for them, this couple has everything going for them but they can’t seem to be able to get it all together and off the ground, perhaps going a little out of the normal box might help. Use your creative “juices” and play with it!

Fourth was awarded to Gianni Caliandro & Arianna Esposito 4,5,4,3,4, fifth went to Emmanuele & Francesca Pappacena 5,3,5,5,5, and sixth were Sergiy Samchynskyy & Yuliya Besarab 6,6,6,6,6. Here again (Didio Barrera) if I did it again would want to have Yuliya in my arms but in the Latin. They are the current US 10 Dance Champions and second in the entire world of 10 dance. There must be something in this Heritage air - somehow I want to dance with all these ladies or maybe come to think of it, it is in the water? After all Ashville, NC is “The Land In The Sky.”

The Professional Rhythm was more of the same Emmannuel Pierre-Antoine & Liane Churilova won all dances as has become the normal. The new sparks came from second down to sixth position. Andrei Abrashin & Maria Gavrylova placed second in all dances and thrilled the audience to no end. Third was awarded to Ronald & Katie Guillen, but here things got a little more difficult for the judges, in the end they awarded them third in four dances and fourth in the mambo.

Fourth in this excellent Rhythm event went to Vincente Martinez & Megan Murphy 5,4,4,5,3. We have to say we really see great potential in some of these up and coming professionals and we are sure that soon if not now many of them will be targeting for higher placement. The styles are very diverse, something that we think is very positive when it comes to the continued rise of our American Rhythm. Fifth was awarded to Ilya Abdullin & Tara Barakov 4,5,6,4,6, as you can see this couple got a little of everything in their bag but that is not a bad thing, we think what many judges are saying here is with a little more consistency you could probably do a lot better (come to us at Dance Beat if you want your cards read, or not). Last but not least went to one of our favorite couples, this couple for us has a complete rhythm look once again it’s not always maintained but lets just say that it makes us look and they are Eddie Rivera & Meghan McNash 6,6,5,6,5.

The Pro/Am Latin scholarships were small but mighty. The “A” had three couples entered and it went to Yulia Rudenco dancing with Andrei Rudenco 2,1,1,1,1. Second in this heat was Jarrett Pellicane w/Melanie Sandvig and he won the Cha but placed second in the other four dances, third was Cameron Hammel w/Christina Rodgers and he placed third in all dances. The “B” was awarded to Carrie Steinsmetz w/Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine, she placed first in the Cha, R, tied for first in the R, and was third in the other two dances. Second was Tracy Hannon w/Misha Konstantynov 3,2,3,1,1, and third went to Heather Manos w/Clement Joly. In the “C” division Robyn Shreiber w/ Italo Elgueta placed first 2,1,1,2,1, Jan McElroy w/Andriy Velychko was second 1,2,2,1,2, and Radhika Unnithan w/Jusimi Cruz was third in all dances.

The juniors and the Pre-Teens stole the show and here we must mention the winners. The Preteen Amateur Latin went to Connor Nadolny w/Alissa Joly. In the Amateur Junior Michael May w/Pallany English were first.

Tonight will be the Professional Latin and Smooth, so stay tuned for more on Heritage Classic 2016.


At the Grove Park Inn!

A few competitions take place this weekend of dance but none like the one up in the sky at the Grove Park Inn, in Ashville North Carolina.

This spa and resort is like no other, it sits overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and the panoramic views no matter where you look are breathtaking to say the least. If the resort does not take your breath away when you walk into this majestic and historic hotel, it will do when you begin to dance at 5,000 feet above sea level. Although most people we talked to say they feel the altitude a little bit, it does not stop anyone from dancing and getting a major workout on the floor.

Last night it was the turn for the Professional Rising Stars, all four styles took to the floor and they were ether semifinals or full finals in most. The Professional Rising Star Latin was excellent and here it went to Canada’s Ilya Maletin & Polina Mier, who won four dances and placed second in the rumba. Ilya & Polina only won one dance with a majority of firsts and that was the cha cha. In the other three dances they won with second or better marks from the judges. The couple placing second overall and stealing the rumba was Sergey & Dasha Chyslov from Vernon Hills, IL and they took second in four dances and won the rumba with a majority of firsts from the judges. Placing third in this heat were Riccardo Pacini & Sonia Spadoni 4,3,3,3,3.

The Rising Star Professional Rhythm was also a fun competition to watch and here the couple that captured the judges’ attention and took the trophy home was Eddie Rivera & Meghan McNash. They won all dances but the bolero where they placed second. We must point out that Eddie & Meghan won the Cha, R, Sw with a majority of firsts from the judges. Second in this competition went to Ilya Abdullin & Tara Barakov 2,2,2,1,2, as you can see they took the bolero from Eddie & Meghan and here too with a majority of firsts from the judges. Third in this terrific heat were Timothy Pennenga & Tatiana Ramires 3,3,5,3,4, as you can see by the marks things got a little more murkier from here down, it was not a clear straight third place finish but overall they did take that position home.

In the Rising Star Smooth Ilya Abdullin & Tara Barakov who placed second in the Rhythm now won this competition but also not with a clear first in every dance - they took two seconds overall in the tango and in the VW. Trevor Guthrie & Emily Guthrie were second overall and won the tango and VW, however, they placed second in the waltz and third in the foxtrot and so as you can see that was the best position they could achieve on this outing. Third were William Proper & Jennifer Elliot 3,3,2,3. We really liked this couple but perhaps they are to “proper” at times, perhaps going out of your comfort zone might help you achieve a better result.

The Ballroom was the smallest of the Rising Star events and here only two couples were entered Aleksandr & Aida Skriptsov who placed 1,2,1,1,1 and were awarded first overall and Dmitriy Solomakha & Gabriela Sevillano 2,1,2,2,2 who placed second. Both couples were of decent quality, however, I think Dmitriy & Gabriela have to use the music a little more in order to fill the in between time.

It was also an excellent day for the Pro/Am Smooth events culminating with the open scholarships at night. The most exiting one for us was the Open “C” that started with a huge quarter final round and here Darla Davis w/Jim Maranto won all dances, Diana Best w/Alosha Anatoliy placed second overall in all dances and Janice Gonzales & Vladimir Kosarev was third in all dances.

The “B” was also great fun here Mariana Lvoff w/Vladimir Kosarev took the trophy home, by placing first in all four dances, Shveta Singh w/Andrei Rudenko were second and third was Tracy Hannon w/Misha Konstantynov in all dances.

The “A” division went to the father daughter team of Yulia Rudenco w/Andrei Rudenco, second was Stefan Tuomanen w/Michelle Officer who took second in all dances and third was Levina Kasmara w/Linas Koreiva with the scores of 4,3,3,3.

The senior was great at this year’s Heritage and the winner was Diana Best w/Alosha Anatoliy placing first in all dances, second was Linda Gill w/Ruslan Meshkov taking all seconds and taking all thirds was Jo Garber w/Richard Tonizzo from Canada.

Overall the Heritage Classic had a wonderful evening of Rising Stars and Smooth dancing. Today is all day Latin and tonight we will bring you the highlights of the open professional events that will take place later on.

  • There is a Heaven! Heritage Classic 2016

    There is a Heaven! Heritage Classic 2016

    Report by Didio Barrera

    Photography by Park West

    I have now attended the Heritage Classic for a number of years and I’m always amazed at the elegance and beauty of the “Grove Park Inn,” inside and out. To top it all, the competitions in the spacious ballroom are usually of good quality but this year it was even more special with the finishing touch of perhaps some of the best Latin dancing I have seen in recent times. The Show by Slavik Kryklyvyy & Karina Smirnoff was totally heavenly, beautiful and an awesome experience that I will never forget.  

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  • Heritage Classic 2015

    “Kiss Me Honey, Honey Kiss Me!”
    Heritage Classic Dancesport Championships

    Report By Didio Barrera
    Photos by Park West

    “Kiss me, honey, honey, kiss me!” Was the song that world Latin icons Paul Killick & Hanna Karttunen used as the opening number of their show for the impressive finale of the Heritage Dancesport Classic.

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