Twin Cities Open Ballroom Championships 2020

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TCO Steps It Up for the Pros!

This past weekend we witnessed the first professional competition for the ballroom dance industry since the COVID pandemic started three months ago.

The Professionals in Rhythm, stepped up to the plate and many showed up making this a full semifinal round of competition. We were slightly disappointed to see that in the other three styles, 6 or less couples participated, a strange occurrence since we have heard so many professionals complaining that the other events able to run so far had not included professional competitions. Nevertheless, the competitors that came gave the attendees a good show and some wonderful performances.

As we mentioned this was the first multi-day event that offered professional categories, but lucky for us all, including the organizers, the pro/am competitors stepped up to the plate and the organizers were still able to dance all styles in three days of competition. The competition is located in Minneapolis, MN, but it is called the Twin Cities Open, because there is another city called Saint Paul, MN, and they are basically attached to one another.

The professional competitions started with a punch Saturday night with the Open Professional Cabaret or Showdance as it was called here at the Twin Cities Open. 4 Couples participated and they were four routines of great variety and talent, from Latin and Ballroom to the lifts in the cabaret. Shane & Shannon Jensen won this quite easily with perfect scores from all the judges and we must mention that they looked quite in shape and ready to perform as if they have been competing for the last three month, nonstop. Second was awarded to Zachary Pohl & Ariel Freilich who did a cabaret routine featuring a great variety of lifts and they too were awarded second places from all the judges. Third and fourth position in this heat was a little more divided in the judges’ decision - Gianni Caliandro & Ariana Esposito placed third overall with a 6 third places to 3 fourth place marks from the judges, they did a ballroom routine featuring the music of Queen, and Freddy Mercury, this was well received by the audience. Fourth place overall went to Aleksei Smirnov & Daria Smirnova and their marks were three third places and sixth fourth places.

The Professional Rhythm followed and had the most attendance and a full semifinal round. The Championship went to Danas Jaksevicius & Yuki Haraguchi with the majority of firsts from the judges. At first look we were a little torn between them and the couple that placed second in all dances, Dmitry & Olena Nikishkin. We said a little torn because we really liked Dmitry & Olena’s “barrio” style and energy, they seem to capture the spirit of the American Style. However, when we looked closer, they seem to get a little frail as they went on while Danas & Yuki maintained their composure through the entire event, something very important in professional dancing when doing rounds. Third in this fun Rhythm heat and in all dances was awarded to Shane & Shannon Jensen, we are fans of this couple’s Cabaret dancing, but when it comes to the Rhythm at times we find it a little too studied. On this outing we found them to be exactly where they were placed, right in the middle, as most of the judges had them. But on this outing we found their bolero quite enticing and very much improved. In this dance there were three judges that awarded them second position, three out of nine is quite good. Fourth place went to David Nyemchek & Maysen Wilder with these scores 4,5,5,4,4. Although in our opinion this place could have also gone quite easily to Ilya Abdullin & Anastasija Jerjomina who placed fifth overall 5,4,4,5,5. And sixth place was awarded to Gene & Isabella Elana taking sixth in all dances.

In the Ballroom there was a very good competition between Gianni Caliandro & Ariana Esposito and Aleksei & Elena Minaev. In the past this result has been a reverse but this time Aleksei & Elena were totally ready for the task. They seemed very prepared as if nothing had stopped in their training. Unfortunately, we could not say the same for Gianni & Ariana, even in their usual powerful and sharp tango. In our opinion they lagged behind the Minaevs, they only managed to win one dance and that was the quickstep and even then we felt they lagged at the end of the song. The rest of the final was for us very too close to really call, even though the judges had to have an opinion and here is the result: Woodrow Wills & Neli Petkova took third overall 3,3,3,3,4; Mirko Spano & Pamela Romano were fourth 6,4,4,4,3; fifth went to Roman Yunkind & Sofiya Glotova 4,5,5,5,5, and sixth was awarded to Serhey Lazunkov & Ersi Nie 5,6,6,6,6.

The Professional Smooth was an easy challenge for Igor Afonkin & Meghan Anderson, who won all dances with the majority of firsts in all and perfect scores in the Viennese Waltz. On this night we found Igor & Meghan’s work solid and easy to read, and it was basically a walk in the park for them even though they stepped up to the challenge as if they were competing in a quarter-final round. We must also point out that in all dances Igor & Meghan only lost one first place mark from the judges and these was from Jennifer Foster. Second was awarded to Ilya Abdullin & Anastasija Jerjomina and this was in all dances, third place in all went to Sandor Shtefil & Anastasiia Kriukova and fourth were Zachary Pohl & Ariel Freilich.

The Professional Latin was a five-couple competition and once again for us it was an easy job for Roman Italyankin & Tatiana Bokova, who won four dances with perfect scores from the judges and in the jive they got the majority with only Ilya Iframinov awarding them a second place in this jive. Second overall went to Oleg Iakushev & Victoriia Iakusheva 2,2,2,3,3, third was awarded to Aleksei & Elena Minaev 3,3,3,2,2, fourth was Aleksei Smirnov & Daria Smirnova 4,4,4.5,4,5, fifth went to Roman Yunkind & Sofya Glotova 5,5,4.5,5,4.

The TCO always ends with a grand finale show. All the champions danced and we also very impressed with the featured guest artists – Ricci Milan & Heat Box.

It was great to see the competitors read a letter to the organizers thanking them for putting this first and very needed competition for the professionals. So far there has been no professional event for the couples to go to, and we also want to tip our hats to Scott and Amy Anderson, for making the effort and putting the money, venue and all required to run a professional competition. The event as usual went without any issues, and as most events we have attended, masks were worn and tables were spread and as usual there was no on-deck area. Many precautions were taken in order to keep the participants safe. At the moment there is no 100% safe anywhere you go but, with a little caution it can now be proven that we can continue doing what we love and we want to say to the organizers a great “thanks” from us here at Dance Beat.

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