Texas Challenge 2021

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"Houston! We Had Great Fun!"
Texas Challenge 2021

This past weekend at the Texas Challenge, in Houston Texas, we had tremendous fun and it was fantastic to be back at one of North America’s most iconic competitions and to see some terrific dancing in many of the styles and categories.

Although the COVID pandemic continues to put a damper on many of our dancers and competitions, the states that allow the events to go on are a welcome sight for many of the competitors who are trying to keep in shape and ready for ballroom dancing so when the vaccine takes hold and many can come back to the ballroom arenas, they’re ready and in shape to compete and give their best.

We have to point out that in this event many of the requirements like “no on deck line up,” “mask wearing by most of the officials and people watching” took place and even some of the dancers wore masks while dancing. The wearing of masks and distancing was a welcome sight to us even though as at previous events and in every day life, some refused to wear masks while in the ballroom including a couple of judges.

Nevertheless, we all had tremendous fun and for us it was terrific to come back to this iconic competition where many past champions including figures like Corky & Shirley Ballas, Ron Montez & Liz Curtis, competed - just to name a few.

This weekend as you will read, we had some excellent amateur junior and youth events as well as some interesting professional competitions in all 4 styles.

The Open Professional events (there were no Rising Star divisions offered), all attracted straight finals with the Smooth and Latin being the largest.

Roman Italyankin & Alexandra Bokova easily won the Latin winning all dances with a majority of 1st placements in all dances. The runners-up spot went to a newer partnership, Daniel Hustiuc & Jessica Li. They were 2nd in all dances and had the majority of “2nd or better” scores in all. Interestingly, they did not receive many 1st place scores. They are certainly an impressive addition to the pro ranks, the lady’s feet and legs are quite a natural gift to her and the gentleman’s equal use of back and body action could easily propel them to the top on future outings. 3rd in all dances fell to Lukas Alisauskas & Simona Alisauskas. Lukas & Simona had the most 1st places after Roman and Alexandra, but failed to secure majorities of judges marking them at least 2nd. The judges seemed more split on this couple, Simona has beautiful foot and leg action but as a couple, although quite skilled, they both can look a little too studied with little if any natural and spontaneity to move them up to the top. Joseph Hopwood & Alexandra Hopwood placed 4th in all dances, but were very much in the mix. This couple were quite deserving of this placement and they do tend to have some spontaneity to their dancing. However, their technical merit was not good enough to propel them to third position. Joseph & Alexandra’s best-marked dance was jive which was decided by a tie-break for 3rd place, this we totally agree with as they had excellent energy in this dance from beginning to end. Aleksei Smirnov & Daria Smirnova were 5th, 5,5,6,5,5, this couple have great potential but they are quite green on their technical merit. With a little more technical work they could go far in this style. Anton Silantev & Olga Akopova 6th 6,6,5,6,6. Here is a couple that has great potential, however, they need to work in their stamina. They seemed tired and overworked in this heat. Alexander Goshchin & Anita Goshchin 7th 7,7,7,7,7. A great looking couple, but with huge amounts of work to do ahead of them. Our recommendations are to keep working on their basic skills and technique so they can show a little more in their open work.

The results were a lot less clear in the 7-couple Smooth final. While Igor Dogoter & Natalia Gorshkova did win all four dances, they received the majority of 1st places in only Foxtrot (6 out of 11). In fact, they received scores in the lower half of the final in all dances, including some 7th (last) placements. The waltz was the closest dance and was decided by a tiebreak of “3rd or better” scores. With 3,2,2,2, Dmytro Pogibel & Alona Kushnir took the runners-up position. All though the top two positions were less clear we thought that Igor & Natalia were clearly the winners in this heat, with great basic skills and few floor problems maneuvering on the floor. Dmytro Pogibel & Alona Kushnir who placed second, is quite an attractive partnership that is new to us at Dance Beat, they moved with little worry and confidence but in our opinion were working a little harder than the winning couple. Another new partnership, Peter Minkov & Yulia Sorokata took 3rd 2,3,3,3. Peter is well-known as a successful Ballroom competitor, now trying his hand in the Smooth style. This is undoubtedly a partnership with tremendous potential that just seems to need more “floor experience.” Personally we would have loved to see them with a more traditional look, including their costume, they seemed to get a little lost in the crowd and for this amount of talent we expect more. The scores of the remaining finalists were even more mixed and we totally agree with the judges on these last three couples. 4th Anton Silantev & Olga Akopova, 6,6,4,4. Here we thought it was not a question of talent but a question of perhaps too much of everything. Their ideas have to be perhaps more compartmentalized and not so on top of one another. 5th Kevin Camarata II & Michelle Camarata, 4,5,5,6. This is a very good looking couple but in this final we found them a little awkward at times and perhaps a lack of rehearsal on the floor could be the problem. 6th Mikhailo Azarov & Anastasia Kuzmich, 5,4,6,5, the word here is green. This couple need to be a little more clear as to what they are trying to do and their work needs to be danced more to us and not just for themselves. 7th Alexander Romanov & Anna Blagodyreva 7,7,7,7.

Gianni Caliandro & Arianna Esposito were the comfortable winners of the Pro Ballroom with a majority of 1st places in all dances. Mirko Spano & Pamela Romano were 2nd in all dances. This is, we believe, a newer partnership and shows a good deal of promise. 10-dancers, Anton Silantev & Olga Akopova took 3rd, again in all dances. 4th Oleg Teleha & Michelle Brecker 4,4,4,4,4; 5th Alexander Goshchin & Anita Goshchin 5,5,5,5,5.

Only 3 couples entered the Rhythm and the competition was quite close. The winners were John Bernal & Bailey Carrillo, 2,1,1,1,1. They had slim majorities of 1st placements in the 3 dances they won. Aleksei Smirnov & Daria Smirnova won the cha cha, again with a small majority of 1st places, and were 2nd in the other 4. Adam Edwards & Kimberly Turner took 3rd in all dances.

Mixed in with the Professional events on Sunday night were some very high quality junior and youth events. Although the quantity was not that high, we witnessed performances by some of the best competitors in the country.

Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova from Northern California did especially well with wins in Youth Ballroom, J2 Ballroom and J2 Latin. The results in all divisions were as follows:

J1 Latin
1. Yegor Zhukov & Adyson Cherkas 1,1,1,1,1
2. Anthony Ghishan & Maria Vilderman 2,2,2,3,3
3. Alex Shvartsman & Sophie Doliwa 3,3,3,2,2
J2 Latin
1. Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova 1,1,1,1,1
2. Yegor Zhukov & Adyson Cherkas 2,2,3,3,2
3. Liran Lander & Julia Shvartsman 3,3,2,2,3

Youth Latin
1. Timur Valiev & Michelle Itkin 1,2,1,1,2
2. Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova 2,1,2,2,1
3. Zorik Moldavsky & Annika Mugin 5,5,3,3,3
4. Oskar Rybczyrski & Amelia Krecsman 4,3,4,4,5
5. Kirill Vassilenko & Vendela Lloyd 3,4,5,5,4
U/21 Latin
1. Timur Valiev & Michelle Itkin 1,1,1,1,1
2. Zorik Moldavsky & Annika Mugin 2,3,2,2,2
3. Oskar Rybczyrski & Amelia Krecsman 3,2,3,3,3
J1 Ballroom
1. Yegor Zhukov & Adyson Cherkas 1,1,1,1,1
2. Anthony Ghishan & Maria Vilderman 2,2,2,2,2
3. Alex Shvartsman & Sophie Doliwa 3,3,3,3,3
J2 Ballroom
1. Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova 1,1,1,1,1
2. Yegor Zhukov & Adyson Cherkas 2,2,2,2,2
3. Liran Lander & Julia Shvartsman 3,3,3,3,3
Youth Ballroom
1. Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova 1,1,1,1,1
2. Zorik Moldavsky & Annika Mugin 2,2,2,2,2
3. Kirill Vassilenko & Vendela Lloyd 3,3,3,3,3

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