Crown Cup, Dubai 2017

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As Magical as 1,001 Nights!

Most of you know the magical and enchanted story of the “1,001 nights.”

As a child it was one of my (Didio Barrera) favorite books to read and I would have never ever imagined that my work as a ballroom dancer would one day bring me to the middle east and to the beautiful, enchanted city of Dubai, where modernization, traditions, and the mystery of the Arab lands all come together to give us an experience never to be forgotten!

As we boarded the plain to Dubai many things came to mind, including “what am I doing?” As most of us know this safety “bubble” of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is surrounded by some of the most conflicted lands of our time, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait you name it. The understanding of their culture is as foreign and opposite to mine as water is to fire, but the one thing that made it all be okay is the knowledge that we would soon be reunited with a group of Ballroom dancers or should we say “Family,” where anyone of any nation and any color or sex, whether you know them or not, can be assured of full support and encouragement to do their best on and off the dance floor. It is this common thread among us that allows us to travel to any corner of the earth, to enjoy and participate in what we all love most - Ballroom competition dancing.

The flight was very long and when we landed men dressed in white “Arab” wear, greeted us at passport control and within minutes we were out and about and on the way to the “Kempinski Hotel” where the “Crown Cup” international Pro/Am dance competition was taking place. Promptly, the morning after, the organizer Mr. Vitys Duknauskas andhis famous son met with us and arranged the day of travel and fun around the Emirates, while we awaited the US pro/am couples to arrive.

The visit to this interesting country started with a trip to the “Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque” located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates and it is considered to be the key site for worship in the country. The project was launched by the late president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. The mosque was constructed from 1996 to 2007. It is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. The building complex measures approximately 290 m (960 ft) by 420 m (1,380 ft), covering an area of more than 12 hectares (30 acres), exclusive of exterior landscaping and vehicle parking.

On the way to the mosque we stopped to get cover-up gear for the ladies in the group. When entering a mosque ladies have to cover their head and legs, the men of course felt left out of the process and so we demanded to get man “geared-up” too. As you see in the pictures, we too were able to wear our proud gear the next day in the welcome dinner party with the “Arabian Nights” theme.

The only drawback to it was that people insisted in talking to us in Arabic because we looked so authentically “home-grown” that they even tried to stop us from getting into the “welcome dinner” thinking we were just locals crashing the event, LOL. On the way back we stopped for some shopping and a look at the famous marina where the beautiful modern architecture with its landmark building was a complete treat, as well as the famous dancing fountains in the middle of it all.

The competition was excellent in quality and quantity, with huge international Ballroom and Latin entries. When it came to the American style, in particular the Rhythm division, the heats got a little thinner, but we were quite surprised to see that the main studios in Dubai, taught and danced American Style. This we thought was fantastic and it will only be a matter of time before the entire world is enjoying our American Style of dancing too. Seeing people here in Dubai doing American style was very encouraging for the future our own style in the world of dancing.

The second day of competition was all about the scholarships and everyone participated. Once again we were totally floored with the quantity and quality of the Pro/Am competitors entering all the events. The Ballroom and the Latin as mentioned before both started with full quarter-finals and the decision making from the judges perspective was not an easy task. In fact I think all judges must have been mentally as well a physically worn at the end of the competition. In other words we were busy, busy, busy!

The show by US runners up in the Professional Latin, Justinas Duknauskas & Anna Kovalova, was well received by the audience and the after party on the beach was a complete hit. Everyone was drinking, dancing and eating food being prepared to order on the grill right on the spot……Uhmmm…..Uhmmm, delicious! And with this the event sadly concluded, but there is always next year and we have all been promised new ventures and exciting things happening and it totally looks as if they have a thousand and one competitions, before they could run out of new exciting things to do and to see in this magical “Bubble” of Dubai!



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