City Lights Open 2022

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City Turns on the lights!

City Lights the first major event on the west coast in the calendar for the New Year, turned on the “Lights” bringing people from all over the USA and the world together once again to dance, have fun and do one “must” in the life of a ballroom dancer - compete.

It was three days of full competition culminating last night with a parade of professional dancers in all four styles.

The Professional Rhythm was very intense with two of the most talented Rhythm dancers going head to head for top placement under the dance floor lights, Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Anastasia Zhuchenko and Andrew Escolme & Amy Baker. Both couples looked totally ready for the task and both couples displayed some beautiful artistry in movement, this was perhaps one of the best challenges of the City Lights and perhaps in a long while at a professional competition. We at Dance Beat feel that when challenges this close happen, the style improves and grows as the Smooth did a number of times in the past. For us it was almost too close to be called but in the end we would have been happy with ether couple reining. For us Andrew & Amy had a little more of the “barrio” social aspect of the style, while Oleksiy & Anastacia were very secure in all their moves with great Rhythm action.

In the end the judges opted for the slight “barrio”(Hood) style that we used to enjoy in a number of past US Champions. Andrew and Amy won all dances but the Bolero, this dance was taken by Oleksiy & Anastasia. We were a little taken back with a couple of the judges that awarded Oleksiy & Anastasia a few thirds in the rumba, swing, and mambo, we could not think of any other couple that could have lifted an arm to challenge these two brilliant couples last night. Nevertheless, here is the rest of the result. Roman Zotov & Anna Zotova placed third in all dances. John Bernal & Bailey Carillo took fourth and Zsolt Katona & Timea Potys were fifth.

We were glad to see that all professional competitions were of a great standard and that the couples have continued their work even with the holidays. The Professional Smooth for us was the second best competition of the night and here former US Professional Smooth Champions, Nick Cheremukhin & Viktoria won all dances. They took the waltz without a fight from any of the other couples, with perfect scores from the judges. The T,F,VW they won with a huge majority of firsts from all the judges. For us there was no question that this couple was the best of their field last night. We were surprised when judge, Lena Kosovich, awarded them third in the tango.

For us the interesting fight in this final was for second and third placement, between Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Anastasia Zhuchenko and Tykhon & Yanna Zhyvkov. Tykhon & Yanna placed third in all dances and overall, but had we been judging we are not sure that would have been true for us in some dances. This couple are developing by the minute and in every outing they are solidifying their style and performance and what we really enjoy is the fact that they don’t just make clean nice steps, they dance to the music with their soul! Oleksiy & Anastasia placed second in all dances and even though we felt that Tykhon & Yanna might had had an edge over them on this outing, they are still one of the most talented couples in the Smooth world today and we can see this also driving the competition and elevating the style for future generations to come.

Fourth in all dances was awarded to Mariusz Zakrzewski & Lynnsay Ray, what can one say about this also very talented couple? The first things that come to mind is that up to now they have made a number of interesting choices, including with costumes. In this business there has to be a game plan with so many talented couples out there you cannot afford to sleep with your eyes closed. There are certain events you must attend to stay with the pack, costumes, hair and even makeup sometimes are important, when at times the couples are so close. As in the Rhythm competition just mentioned, Andrew and Amy had a slight edge because of the “Barrio” essence they brought to the Rhythm, separating it from the Latin should we say? Who knows, but finding a path and a plan to challenge your opponents at a professional level is always a good thing in this game of Ballroom.

In this great Smooth professional competition, fifth place went to Illia Sydorenko & Tetyana Kuts, and sixth was awarded to Stefan Badea & Whitney Myers.

The Open Professional Ballroom was also a fantastic heat from the beginning. And here as well there were two couples fighting to take the spotlight - Valeriu Ursache & Liana Bakhtiarova and Maksyn Savitskyi & Polina Riabovil. For us these two couples excelled and fought for the last mark, and in looking at the marks this is more or less what went on with the judges. For us each one of them had a little special to offer. Maksyn & Polina were hard to miss from the start, and unlike some of my colleagues who say “they need to develop” no! They do not, they are already there they just have to fine tune their craft and they will be knocking on the upper chamber soon. On the other hand Valeriu & Liana tend to have a more subtle approach to the style, one that gets our vote. Perhaps we are a bit old fashioned, but we like our ballroom to be subtle. In the tug of war last night Maksyn & Polina took first in four dances, but the Viennese Waltz was won by Valeriu & Liana who placed second overall. By the way was it just us or we are seeing Valeriu give us a smile from time to time? Funny enough, this is quite important, it’s the only way we the audience can know you’re having fun, you’re having a blast while doing what you love!

Serhi Averkov & Olena Barna were third overall by placing third in three dances and fourth in the foxtrot. We love this couple and mechanically they have what it takes, what we would like to see from them in order to tackle the other two on top is a little more self-assurance and liberty to Jazz it up, ballroom is a bit like Jazz and you have to play to the music but give it a twist!

Fourth place went to Marek Klepado & Nina Zhiting Yang, they took third in the foxtrot and fourth in the other four dances. Fifth in all dances went to Pamela Romano & Mirko Spano, and sixth in all dances was awarded to Oreste Alito & Zhenia Casanave. I have to agree with Oreste he did not perspire last night at all (LOL), however, perhaps more time needs to be spent on the floor working out the partnership, it still does not seem to be gelling as it should for such a talented couple!

The Open Professional Latin was possibly the least exciting for us watching this excellent competition here at the City Lights. We were glad to see Manuel Frighetto & Daria Serede from Italy competing in this heat because the rest of the group might have given the opportunity to the audience to go to the bar. Manuel & Daria gave a good performance and were able to win all dances easily from our perspective and that of the judges too - they got the majority of firsts in all dances. Second in all dances went to Sarah Nolan & Nikolai Tarasov who tried quite hard but were not able to make a dent against Manuel & Daria. Third place in all dances was awarded to Alexandra & Joseph Hopwood, fourth was Olga Akopova & Anton Silantev, fifth went to Mattia Bielli & Tasiia Hughes and last but not least, in sixth place were Zsolt Katanona & Timea Potys.

The Ballroom Spirit Foundation that is running a tour finding the best 6 under 21 couples in the Latin category for a competition finale later this year that will award them over $9000.00, ran their second leg here at City Lights. Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova, were the winners here - congratualtions to them and we are looking forward to see them perform at the finale to be held at The DBDC in Boston, MA.

We must also mention some events from the previous evening. The headline event for us of Friday was the Open Amateur Latin. This provided a very easy win for one of our favorites in this group and also local favorites, Bumchin Tegshargal & Michelle Klets who took almost every available first place. We say almost because judge, Linda Dean, gave them 2nd in paso doble. With 3rd in cha cha and 2nd in all other dances, another talented local couple, Vladimir Timofeev & Evgenia Florinskaia, were the runners up. And conversely with 2,3,3,3,3, Daniel & Alexis Pollack were 3rd. For us, these 3 couples were well clear of the remaining finalists. 4th Oscar Rodriguez & Chrystal Bella Chen; 5th Andrego Halim & Katya Avanesov; 6th Yury Airapetian & Michelle Jackson.

In the pro rising star divisions, also held on Friday evening the winners were: Stefan Badea & Whitney Myers (Smooth); John Bernal & Bailey Carillo (Rhythm); Mirko Spano & Pamela Romano (Ballroom); Olga Akopova & Anton Silantev.

As we sit here looking back at this wonderful weekend of dance we cannot help but think and recap what the organizer told us last night. “With all these challenges that we all had in our lives especially with COVID, and reminding us that life is very “Fragile” and that we should not take it for granted but to enjoy every day we have on this planet.” Those were wonderful words Anna, we thank you for the invitation to be here at the City Lights Open and congratulations on a well-run dance competition, it sure was a wonderful way to start up the year of events, the quality of the dancing was amazing and your hospitality was to be admired!

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