City Lights Open 2023

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No Aerial Shows, No Elephants, No Circus Parades - Just Great Dancing!

Last night at the City Lights Open in San Jose, California, the night was all about good dancing - no more, no less!

Some amazing dancers went head to head, keeping the ballroom filled to capacity for most of the night and the audience on the edge of their seats. The free independent panel of adjudicators did a wonderful job, they marked what they saw and they were not apologetic, this is great for the industry and great for the couples.

The Professional Smooth was the perfect example of this phenomenon. The obvious winners to all of us present were Nick Cheremukhin & Viktorija Barashihina who won the waltz with perfect scores from the judges and missed perfect scores by one or two marks in the other three dances. In the tango, Izabella Judzill awarded them a third, in the foxtrot Francesco Flumiani gave them a second, and in the Viennese Waltz, Izabella awarded them another third place and judge Sveta Daly agreed with her, she awarded them a second in this dance. It might have all depended upon what part of the ballroom you were looking from, but from our side they were close to perfection. Best of all for us Nick & Viktorija were dancing with one another and were not shoving and pushing while looking out into the audience trying to get everyone’s attention. On the previous night, unlike many in this final, Nick & Viktorija had the courage to enter the basic competition and here they showed us, why they won so overwhelmingly - their basics were so musical and so perfect you could see the “clarity” of their movements from head to toe, that is how good their basic skills are and in the open they showed us that perhaps this is a big reason they are up on top.

This was also a fantastic night for 9 dance US National Champions, Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Anastasiia Zhuchenko, who not only won the Open Professional Rhythm this evening, but they were the runners up in this magnificent Smooth heat. For us that have nearly seen it all, they were perhaps a little too forceful in their approach to each other and to the style. It tended to look a little like shove and push and not that magical transition and easy ride we like to see on world class Smooth dancing. But that is just our opinion a lot of the judges appreciated this push and shove style as you can see, all the first place marks that Nick & Viktorija lost, went right on to Oleksiy & Anastasiia’s scorecard.

In some of the smooth dances from this terrific final we preferred Tykhon Zhyvkov &Yana Zhyvkov, who perhaps thought just their presence would carry then through. Yes, they had wonderful smooth transitions and no shoving and pushing what so ever, but they perhaps need to add a little more life to their walk about! We must point out that Tykhon & Yana took third place in every dance and Oleksiy & Anastasiia took all seconds.

From third place down these group was of another class totally. Illia Sydorenko & Tetyana Kuts took fourth overall 4,4,4,5, and here there was more ballroom than Smooth, their transitions lacked sophistication. In fifth place were Stefan Badea & Whitney Myers 5,5,5,4, a very talented couple that are now making nearly all the finals. However, they seemed to lack their own interpretation of what they think Smooth is, perhaps this might be something to think about. (a clue: it’s not an exercise). And sixth place in all dances went to Drew Miller & Krista Humphrey.

As we mentioned earlier, Oleksiy Pigotskyy & Anastasiia Zhuchenko won the Open Professional Rhythm winning the cha cha, swing and mambo with perfect scores from the judges. In the rumba and bolero they lost one first place mark or they would have had a perfect run, the two second places they received came from Marianne Nicole. We have to tip our hats to Oleksiy & Anastasiia who in this Rhythm competition maintained the energy just as strongly as they did later in the Smooth, they are truly amazing 9-Dance US Champions.

Second overall in the rhythm was awarded to Alexey Smirnov & Daria Smirnova 2,4,2,2,3. For us there is not a lot to see here. This couple is well-rehearsed and that is a major compliment other than that we have a hard time feeling what they are trying to tell us. Third were Aaron Pierce & Ksenia Stavrica 3,2,3,3,2. We have seen this couple dance for a while and so far we are still waiting. Fourth were Donovan Kirrane & Olga Goncharova 5,3,4,4,5. We quite like this couple, unfortunately on this night they had a hard time standing up, and Donovan even when you look down at your partner keep you full posture up and look into the face not the floor “there is nothing to see there.” Fifth position went to John Bernal & Bailey Carrillo 4,5,5,5,4, and in sixth place were Zsolt Katona & Timea Potys.

There was a full semifinal in the Open Professional Latin and here winning all dances were Daniil Tymoshenko & Vladyslava Vursalova and we can see how they judges awarded them first in all dances and in four dances with a majority of firsts. However, for us the first two dances were clear but we agreed with quite a number of the judges in the rumba where they missed the majority of firsts and had to rely on “seconds or better” to win this dance. For us the R,P,J were up in the air for certain. Roman Italyankin & Alexandra Bokova, who placed second in all dances, could have easily won the rumba and maybe some of the other dances.

Third in this Latin lineup and in all dances was awarded to Rangel Spirov & Veronika Chernyavska who danced as we have never seen them dance before. Unfortunately for us they did not always dance at the same time, possibly making the judges wonder where to place them. Fourth in all were Evgeny Likhachev & Maria Levina; fifth position went to Joseph and Alexandra Hopwood and sixth were Edgaras Brazas & Tessa Marie.

The Open Professional Ballroom was the smallest of the professional competitions with only four couples entered but it was of great quality and excellent to watch. The winners overall by placing first in four dances and second in the Viennese Waltz were Valeriu Ursache & Liana Bakhtiarova. We would have say that the competition between them and Maksym Savytskyi & Polina Riabovil was very close but on paper it was not, the dances that Valeriu & Liana won were all with a majority of firsts. We must also point out that Maksym & Polina won the Viennese Waltz also with a majority of firsts. For us we felt we were at a tennis match going back from one couple to the other couple it was wonderful to see these two skilled and talented dancers going head to head. Third in all dances went to Serhiy Averkov & Olena Barna, and fourth in all were Marco Spadafora & Paulina Ronowska.

Going back to the Professional Syllabus, the Smooth was the most populated and here Nick Cheremukhin &Viktorija Barashihina were the best winning all dances with perfect scores, we must also mention that Nick & Viktorija won the Ballrom Sylabus also even though there were only two couples in that event. In the Sylabus Smooth second place went to Illia Sydorenko & Tetyana Kuts placing second in all dances and third were Stefan Badea & Whitney Myers, leaving fourth to Alexander Romanov & Anna Blagodyreva.

The Open Amateur events were both very strong with excellent dancing and in Latin, Bumchin Tegshjargal & Michelle Klets won all five dances and the competition with perfect scores from the judges. Second in this excellent heat and in all dances was awarded to Vladimir Timofeev & Evgeniia Florinskaia, leaving third in all dances to Daniel Pollack & Alexis Pollack. Fourth place in all dances went to Iurii Airapetian & Michelle Jackson, fifth was Andrew Notohamiprodjo & Luyao Shen and sixth position was awarded to Oscar Rodriguez & Chrystal Chen.

The Open Amateur Ballroom was very close between Alex Dubovyk & Rickie Taylor Dubovyk and Denys Savytskyy & Mila Kovalova but in the end Alex & Rickie won overall with these marks 1,2,2,1,1, as you can see they won by one first. Denys & Mila took second 2,1,1,2,2. Third overall went to Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova 3,3,3,3,4; fourth were Ilya Ignatyev & Daria Korzh 4,4,4,4,3; fifth place in all dances went to Arthur Nabok & Tais Zhukova and sixth were Zorik Moldavsky & Vickanat Govorun.

City Lights is the second stop on the Ballroom Spirit U/21 Ballroom Tour this year and one more couple qualified for the finale at the DBDC in July. Tonight’s winners were Ilya Ignatyev & Daria Korzh and they will have the chance to compete for the $9500 in prize money. The runners-up were Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova who competed last year in the Latin Tour Finale and actually placed ahead of Ilya & Daria in the Open Amateur Ballroom later last night.

There was a birthday celebration in the house and this time it was one of Dance Beat’s own, the editor in chief, Keith Todd. He was brought forward and everyone wished him a happy birthday as a slide show of the birthday man from when he was 5 until now played on the screen!

It was nice to see that This City Lights had full lights on the dancing and the nights went quickly as there was excellent dancing on the floor. Besides this Dance Beat took the time to explore the city this year and near the hotel there are some wonderful restaurants as well as some attractions like the Winchester House. It was a little cool so we had to wear a sweater but other than that, the weather and the city were perfect for a weekend of dance and fun! Congratulations to the organizer of this early January event - Ms. Anna Shahbazyan.

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