US National Amateur Championships 2019 - From Provo, UT

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Great Ballroom Finish!

The last night at BYU for the United States Amateur Championships and it went like a charm, with the US Amateur Ballroom Championship on the floor delighting the audience, who then joined in to make it a perfect ending to the 2019 US Amateur Championships!

The Ballroom competition had 5 rounds of competition beginning in the late afternoon and it ended with an excellent final with a number of new faces and great talent. The winners of the Amateur Ballroom were Angelo Gaetano & Clarissa Morrelli who for us won the competition with a great combination of good technique and musicality, making us all enjoy a combination of the music, dancing and brilliant atmosphere. During the results we could tell by their reaction that Angelo & Clarissa were prepared for anything. In the end they won the event and it was like a huge weight was lifted from their shoulders and the emotion of happiness took over. They placed 1st in all 5 dances and had a majority of 1st places in T/VW/Q. The only judge to seriously dissent was Diana McDonald who scored them 5,4,5,4,3.

Second in this excellent final went to Oleksander Kalenyuk & Olena Ablitsova. They, as always, showcased their technical strength and perfect posture with beautiful feet, but perhaps with this playful and emotional crowd they could have had a little more charisma and personality. They were 2nd in all dances and had the majority of “2nd or better” scores in all dances. They received a few 4th place marks, and one judge, Debbie Avalos, placed them 6th in all dances.

Third went to what we can say is a US grown talent, Samuel Hack & Katka Hermanova 4,3,3,3,4. We have witnessed Samuel & Katka dance here in the USA since they were children and it is wonderful to see that the US can produce this kind of talent. Looking down we also noticed with great pleasure that from here down also one or both of each person in the partnership in this final is US grown as well. In the past with the exception of Victor Fung we believe everyone had major influences from other parts of the world, but as you can see these young people as some would say are fully “Americans!” Yes their parents might have migrated from another country, but their children have been born or grown up in the USA, with many of them competing at this same event as juniors.

Fourth in this excellent US final went to Michelle Yu & Artur Nabok 5,4,5,4,3. Here we can also say that we have followed this young lady’s dancing since she was a little girl and have seen her became this excellent dancer with her now new partner Artur. This is a very talented couple with lots of power. However, on this outing they seemed to just be focused on that, and we need a little more than just that. We expect a little more musicality and characterization of each dance throughout the final.

Fifth went to Mikhail Vorobiev & Natalia Kozhevnikova 3,5,4,6,5. As far as we know this young man has also been dancing here in the USA for many years, in fact we remember him dancing along with his brother as children. It is amazing to see how accomplished he has become. On this outing we have to say that they completely got our attention from their start, their costuming along with their height had them not only in this final but perhaps even challenging for the top spots. Perhaps due to the pressure or the lack of oxygen sometimes in this beautiful mountain city of Provo, made them appear to fade slightly during the final. Had they continued as they did from the start, we might have been witnessing a different lineup.

Sixth and closing this final were Patrick Plozazj & Natalia O’Connor 6,6,6,5,6. Here too we have a couple that we have seen dance since they were children, although not together. At first we were not sure who the excellent couple were, we first recognized Patrick who as always took command of his movement and then we realized that the lady moving with such ease was Natalia. Knowing now that it has only been a few weeks of partnership for them, they are going to be the couple to watch for in future outings. What a fantastic combination this is going to be! Congratulations to both on this excellent placement for one of your first events together as partners.

Another stunning event here tonight was the US National Amateur Cabaret Championship – we always look forward to this event. A qualifying round for this event was held on Wednesday and we saw the 7 finalists tonight. Landon Anderson & Charity Anderson (a brother/sister team) wowed the audience and also the judges. They were the winners with 10 of the 11 available first place marks. Only Wendy Johnson awarded them a second. For us this routine was a great blend of quality dancing and breathtaking lift work.

Also fairly secure in the runners-up spot were Wesley Aldrich & DeeDee Smith who received Wendy’s 1st place and had the majority of “2nd or better” scores. They danced a more lyrical piece, neither wearing shoes. With all 11 of the “3rd or better” scores, it was a clear 3rd place finish for Logan Gardner & Mckenzie Ward. And indeed we felt that these top 3 couples were well ahead of the remainder of the field.

4th were Johnathan Tanner & Anna Tanner; 5th Coby Hunter & Saidi Cordon; 6th Julio Lazarte & Shaylee Rex; 7th Michael Jones & Laura Stirland.

The National Junior II Latin was also danced on this final evening. Interestingly, in 3 dances every couple in the final received at least 1 first place mark. However, Dave Firestein & Shelly Umansky still managed to win all 5 dances and had a majority of 1st places in jive. Alexander Sarkisian & Chantal Khodarkovsky were 2nd in all. From here down, and as might be expected given the wide range of marks, the final placements were more mixed. 3rd Blake Fox & Hailey Bills 3,3,4,4,3; 4th Kirill Budagovskiy & Monica Kiselyuk 4,5,5,3,4; 5th Timur Valiev & Elizabeth Siomin 5,4,3,5,5; 6th Ilya Ignatyev & Olivia Sherman 6,6,6,6,6.

Nikita Vasylenko & Olivia Agranovich won the U/21 National Latin earlier in the day. They had placed 5th in the Open Latin the night before, so their win was not unexpected. However, although they won all dances, they had the majority of 1st places only in rumba, and 2 of the 9 judges placed them 5th or 6th in all dances. The National Youth Latin Champions, Nikita Grygorchuk & Naomi Spektor were the runners-up today and placed 2,2,2,3,2. 3rd-5th places were very close. Max Firestein & Nicole Mtchedlidze, the National Rhythm Champions, were 3rd with 5,3,5,2,3; 4th Bumchin Tegshjargal & Michelle Klets 3,4,3,4,4; 5th Nikolas Constantine & Kennedy Eaton 4,5,4,5,5. Mike Monokandilos & Stella Zilberberg were 6th in all dances.

Daniel Novikov & Mishella Vishnevskiy added to their winning total in the PreTeen II National Latin, winning all dances, the first two with perfect scores. Leo Kolmykov & Daria Andreyev were 2nd in all dances; 3rd in all dances, Alex Zheng & Alexa Sosna. 4th Robby Milstead & Emily Dobson 4,4,5,4,4; 5th Jacob Karasik & Jaslyn Kwan 5,6,6,5,5; 6th Kirill Zakirzyanov & Valerie Snitko 6,5,4,6,6.

We must say we were very impressed with all the pre-teen categories this year. Well done kids!

Other National Title winners on this last day of competition were Erik Linder & Shelly Meshkausk 1,2,1,1,2 (Youth Ballroom); Ethan Hayutt & Anastasia Lepin 1,1,3,2,1 (Junior I Latin); Bosco Wong & Stella Condie 3,1,6,1,1 (Pre-Teen I Latin); Anatoliy Shvarts & Tatiana Keegan (Senior I & Senior II Latin).

Unexpected Cliffhanger in US Amateur Latin Championship

Austin Joson & Nino Dzneladze retained their US Title in Provo last night, but didn’t have it all their own way!

By 3 dances to 2, Austin & Nino won the US National Amateur Latin Title in Provo last night. They placed 1,1,1,2,2 ahead of runners-up, Tal Livshitz & Ilana Kelesman who scored 2,2,2,1,1. The final started off in the winners’ favor as they notched up the majority of 1st places in the first 3 dances (11 out of 15 in all). However, whilst they still had the most 1st places in paso (7) and jive (7), this was not enough for the majority and Tal & Ilana took the dances with “2nd or better” scores. The worst scores for Austin & Nino came from Shirley Ballas 3,4,4,4,6 and Bob Powers 4,3,5,4,5, Tal & Ilana’s scores were very consistent between 1 and 3, with very few judges giving them scores below 3rd.

Pasha Stepanchuk & Gabriella Sabler took 3rd in all dances and picked up 1st places in all dances, including 5 firsts from Shirley Ballas. They had 4 first places in jive, more than Tal & Ilana, but with more 3rd and 4th places they were unable to place above their 3rd spot.

Nicolai Tarasov & Sarah Nolan were 4th in all dances and challenged the top 3 couples more than they ever have, in our opinion. They received 5 first places from Bob Powers and some 2nd and 3rd places from other judges.

These 4 couples were all finalists in 2018 and were excused the first round of competition. With some other highly ranked couples from 2018 not attending, we were assured of 2 new faces in the top 6 – and there were many to chose from in the semifinal. Ultimately the two prestigious slots went to Nikita Vasylenko & Olivia Agranovich 5,5,6,6,5 and Taras Savitskyy & Yulia Koshkina 6,6,5,5,6. Nikita & Olivia are a new couple to us.

Watch out for Iveta Lukosuite’s report on this division, coming soon.

There were many more National Titles decided yesterday here in Provo. Sharing top billing last night with the Amateur Latin was the J2 Ballroom. The winners, in all dances, were Matthew Zoladkiewicz & Elizabete Grigalinovica Leja. They seemed delighted with their win. Kirill Budagovskiy & Monica Kiselyuk placed 2nd, 2,2,2,3,2. Taking that 2nd in foxtrot, but third overall were Maksim Berenshteyn & Katerina Petrenko 3,3,3,2,3.

4th were Eric Kuznetsov & Sarah Kliger 4,4,4,4,4; 5th Ilya Ignatyev & Olivia Sherman 5,5,5,6,5; 6th Zorik Moldavsky & Alice Bankova 6,6,6,5,6.

The afternoon session also had some fantastic finals in the National Title. Our favorites were the Preteen II Ballroom and U/21 Ballroom.

Daniel Novikov & Mishella Vishnevskiy won all dances in the PreTeen II and deserve special congratulations for losing only 1 first place total in the five dances. We also loved the runners-up, Leo Kolmykov & Daria Andreyev who were 2nd in all dances. 3rd Matvey Kalachev & Sasha Markova 3,3,3,3,3; 4th Kai Matthew & Vlada Denysovets 4,4,4,5,5; 5th Jacob Karasik & Jaslyn Kwan 5,5,5,4,4; 6th Zakirzyanov Kirill & Valerie Snitko 7,7,6,6,6; 7th Samuel Kolovyansky & Alexis Kolovyansky 6,6,7,7,7.

We did notice that many of the girls had very hyper-extended top lines, perhaps to compensate for height discrepancies. However, we feel this is not beneficial to their future development in this style.

The U/21 Ballroom was won by Alex Dubovyk & Rickie Taylor Dubovyk who won all dances and impressively lost a total of only 4 first place marks over the final. The runners-up were Kristers Smits & Elizabeth Shlimovich who were 2nd in all dances. 3rd Tyler Li & Anjelica Lowe 3,3,3,3,3; 4th Brandon Klavansky & Maria Volski 4,4,4,4,4; 5th Robert McShinsky & Heather Slater 5,5,5,5,5; 6th Matthew Matusovskiy & Nicole Klavansky 6,6,6,6,6.

The Youth Latin was another highlight and this was won by the new partnership of Nikita Grygorchuk & Naomi Spektor and they won all 5 dances. The ubiquitous Kristers Smits & Elizabeth Shlimovich were also in this final and were again, the runners-up 2,3,2,2,3. 3rd Vasyl Kotenko & Anita Zohrabian 3,4,3,3,2; 4th Erik Linder & Shelly Meshkausk 4,2,5,4,4; 5th Jonas Terleckas & Ruby Castro 6,5,4,5,5; 6th Kevin Filipczak & Danielle Malpa 5,6,6,6,6.

In other events, Pavel Kravchenko & Luisa Bykova won the Senior II Ballroom, Thomas Yu & Yuko Naululani Yu took the Senior III Ballroom and Tom Yankelevich & Victoria Folmer won the PreTeen I Ballroom.

It was a great day and Saturday promises more of the same, so stay tuned for more.

A Smooth Storm in Provo!

Here at the US Amateur Championships in Provo, UT, there is currently a snow storm, but last night there was a storm of Smooth dancing in the Marriott Arena!

Over 4 rounds the US National Amateur Smooth Championship was decided last night and the new champions are Kristers Smits & Elizabeth Shlimovich from NY. Although better known for their Ballroom & Latin, Kristers & Elizabeth were the 2018 National Youth Smooth Champions.

Their final placements were 2,1,1,3, but the 15-member judging panel found little consensus. Almost every couple received placements from 1st to 8th in all dances and no couple came anywhere near a majority of 1st places in any dance. The runners-up were Robert McShinsky & Serena Keck 1,3,3,1. This is a new pairing who certainly had many supporters in the arena and on the judging panel. They received the most 1st places overall than any other couple, but never enough for the magic majority of 8, although they did have 6 in tango compared to the winners’ 5. With 3,2,2,4, Landon Anderson & Hannah Gasinski took the 3rd place. This is also a fairly new partnership and they also had a lot of local support. Many felt they danced a better semifinal round than final.

Collin Williams & Savana Francia had to be content with 4th place this year – 4,4,4,2. 5th were Tyler Keith Wilson & Gioia-Sophia Reni 5,5,6,5; 6th Joseph Nugent & Kyla Zenger 6,6,5,8; 7th Derrick Davis & Jenna Harding 8,7,7,6; 8th Nathan Stevenson & Rachel Harding 7,8,8,7.

This was probably the best Amateur Smooth competition that we have ever seen. All the couples were outstanding and we are not surprised that the judges’ opinions were so varied. The Smooth division offers such a wide variety of possibilities, that personal preferences are more pronounced in this division than in any other – and that includes the judging panel!

A former US Champion in this style, Edward Simon, will have the task of sorting all this out in a Dance Beat review. So don’t miss that!

Another strong division, danced on Wednesday, was the US National Youth Smooth. This shows the depth of the Smooth field, particularly here in Utah. The winners were Mason Simkins & Ashton Cole 3,2,1,1. Losing the tiebreak for 1st were Wyatt Jennings & Sarah Robinson who placed 1,1,2,3. The judging panel on this division also was pretty divided. For example, Wyatt & Sarah won the waltz, but 5 judges placed them 1st and the remaining 2 placed them 5th. Quite a division! Charels Lloyd & Hanna Weiss were 3rd and also very much in the running. They scored 2,3,3,2. 4th Haydon Schuman & Emily Wanlass 6,4,4,5; 5th Blake Fox & Nicole Ascione 5,6,5,4; 6th Ryan Crook & Elizaeth Thompson 7,5,6,6; 7th Bronson Baker & Liesel Bramwell 4,7,7,7.

The Amateur Rhythm divisions have lagged behind their Smooth counterparts, but we are seeing an uptick in interest. The US National Amateur Rhythm Championship was a nice division this year. Returning Champions, Max Firestein & Nicole Mtchedidze, had an easy time retaining their title, winning all dances with a majority of 1st places from the judges. From there down, it was a little more of a struggle. The runners-up were Stephen Rallison & Brodie Rallison 3,2,3,2,3 and 3rd went to Chris Ulbrich & Lindsey Melville 2,3,2,3,4 – as you can see just 1 point separated these 2 couples. 4th Larry Collins & Deborah Anderson 4,4,4,4,2; 5th Prashanth Rajararjan & Amanda Morris 5,6,5,6,5; 6th Alex Haag & Corinne Christopherson 6,5,6,5,6.

Other National Championships decided so far are the J2 Smooth and the J1 Smooth.  The winners were Blake Fox & Nicole Ascione (J2) and Dallin Keck & Arynne Cole (J1).

These feature events take place amid the incredible atmosphere of the the syllabus events that usually attract over 100 couples in each division and the spectacular Formation Team events that are a cornerstone of the Utah/BYU dance experience. Stay tuned as we bring you the reports from the next 2 days of hot competition here in Utah. The temperatures outside might be dropping, but in the Marriott Arena it’s set to get hotter!

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