The New York Dance Festival 2023

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Is Perfection Still Possible?

This past weekend was quite intense at the New York Dance Festival, with great dancing at every level of the spectrum from Pro/Am, Am/Am and Professionals alike.

Great dancing was witnessed by all. But, with what seemed so little time to do it all, it felt like you meet the love of your life, you got hitched and divorced all at once and in just over a weekend! However, among all this craziness of rush and fabulous dances, could we have actually witnessed perfection in dance? We do believe we did, or came close to it and we will explain later in this Dance Beat blog.

The NYDF concluded Sunday night with an amazing Professional Latin Dance Championship, where we saw the best in the USA Latin go head to head. We also witnessed a terrific Amateur Ballroom Championship as well as an excellent Pro Smooth challenge. But as we said before this was just the conclusion. On Saturday night we saw many other events including the one in most people’s minds - the Professional Rhythm where four terrific dancers went head to head to secure the highest placement in the land now left vacant by the retirement of Andre and Natalie Paramonov from the Rhythm style competition floor. Two or we should say three, very talented couples were there to claim their position on this style, because when it comes to the swing, for us, there is no one better than Dmitry & Olena Nikishken. The other two were Francesco Arieta & Jessa May Briones, and Andrew Escolme & Asta Sigvaldadottir, but was this as good as expected? Did it live up to the moment or were we let down at the alter? We should talk about this, but first let’s discuss what perfection is:

There are three ways one can use perfection:

*the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
"the satiny perfection of his or her skin"

*a person or thing perceived as the embodiment of perfection.
"I am told that he or she is perfection itself"

*the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible.
"among the key tasks was the perfection of new mechanisms of steps, lifts and transitions"

For us in dance we think about a couple who is able to hear the music, interpret the music to the point they become the music and they do it with perfect timing, perfect dynamics where all we see is their interpretation of that music itself and not how they did it or how they got there. In other words is a “Eurica” moment of no judgement, just joy of the art of dance and what we are witnessing. We believe this happened this weekend in the Professional Theater Arts/Cabaret and the couple we are talking about is Travis Tuft & Jaimee Tuft who won with a majority of firsts from the judges only losing 2 firsts out of 15 judges. Travis & Jaimee’s interpretation of “Good Bye Yellow Brick Road” by composer Sir Elton John was magnificent and the closest to perfection. This is very difficult when you have witnessed dancing for so many years and understand so much about the art including what it takes to get there. One observation that we always have is the fact that when a couple uses a vocal for their performance sometimes they are competing with a singer and in our opinion the singer nearly always wins. In this case we must say that Travis & Jaimee won and enhanced the music they danced to and they did not lose the contest. Although this is not a new routine and in fact we have seen it numerous times, this was the best single performance of tis number we have seen

The runners-up, Igor Puzhevich & Tetyana Makarenko, did an amazing job with their routine as well and a very interesting interpretation of “Love Story” with some very difficult maneuvers. They also stole the two first place marks from Travis & Jaimee, one from Wendy Johnson and one from William Pino. But once again for us perfection is to not know how you got there and in this case for us it looked just a little labored at times, but we most say had Travis & Jaimee not been so perfect in their performance we could see them winning easily. We want to tip our hats to both these couples who were excellent in this very difficult field.

Third in this competition overall went to Masha Kozobrod & Kelvin Ong, but this placement was quite contested by Angelina Boiko & Nikita Zhukovskyi who took fourth overall.

This same last night we saw an excellent Professional Latin event and here the winner of all dances was the fairly new partnership of Nino Dzneladze & Andrei Kazlouski who nearly won the cha cha with perfect scores only losing on first place mark that came from Colin James, he awarded them a second. In the S,R,P and Jive they won with the majority as well. However, in their jive they only had a majority by one mark above the majority required 9 first out of 15 judges, the other 6 judges were not as convinced and neither were we. We thought they were looking a little tired by this dance.

But having said that we have to also tip our hats to Nino & Andrei. On this outing they looked a lot more prepared and looking as though we might have another World Latin Professional Champion on the way for the USA. Their dancing was very rhythmical and we were able to totally enjoy their signature rumba, where this time Nino looked her best, finally being allowed to showcase her back and beautiful leg action. We were also very impressed of her sure footedness even though her lead was still a little physical, we most say she never waivered - not one second or one step.

Second on this heat and quite deserving of all the first place marks that were awarded to them especially in the S,P and Jive were Mykhailo Bilopukhov & Anastasiia Shchypilina. We have to say we also enjoyed this couple’s performances. As always we are not too sure about their costume choice and neither were some of the people around us, we have seen Anastasiia wear some beautiful costumes in the past but we have to agree with some of the people this shirt and top was a little too “plain Jane” for the occasion.

Third went to Manuel Favilla & Natalia Maidiuk, and speaking of costumes all we can say on behalf of the people around us what was with the flaps on the upper part of the bikini? We know the judges should only focus on the dance but it is hard to focus on the dance alone when these flaps are going up and down on nearly every step, especially in the jive. This couple is usually to perfectly turned out that it is strange to fault them on their costuming.

This was a great result for Gabrielle Sabler & Pasha Stepanchuk who placed overall fourth in this seven couple final with these marks 5,4,4,5,4. Fifth went to Ilya Maletin & Anna Oblakova 4,5,6,4,7, sixth was awarded to Sarah Nolan & Nikolai Tarasov 6,6,5,6,5 and seventh place overall was awarded to Amanda Besyedin & Andriy Besyedin. We think this was a very difficult competition for all especially for the judges who had an 7 couple final to place, great dancing everywhere overall and once again so little time to watch each couple’s performance.

The anticipated event of the weekend the Professional Rhythm for us turned out to be a heat full of nerves and jitters. We were expecting brilliance, freshness and uniqueness and we got a room full of talented people all waiting for a good result. The winners overall, by winning all dances wrtr Francesco Arietta & Jessa Briones who do have a unique style when you find them on the floor. This was proven by the fact that they only won 3 out of 5 dances with a majority of firsts with 9 judges awarding them first place marks in these dances the R,S,B. Second overall went to Andrew Escolme & Asta Sigvaldadottir with these marks 2,2,3,2,2. For us Andrew & Asta were the better dancers overall but it was just steps - no effort has been put here to develop a style or to make us understand the music they are hearing, it was just solid good dancing.

Dmitry & Olena Nikishkin were the third couple in the mix and placed 3,3,2,3,3 picking up the most first place marks in cha cha and swing. As we said at the beginning of this blog – we felt they could have won the swing.

We were very surprised that Milagros Lareto & Kevin Ubillis did not win the mambo - clearly they are the only couple in this final to have a clear understanding of what this dance is all about or what the music is calling for. Jiggling yourself to death is not what mambo is all about, there are music changes and sounds that go with the dance that we wish some of you could hear. Milagros & Kevin took fourth in all dances and yes they did steal 4 first place marks in the mambo.

Fifth place in all dances went to Ivan Kudashev - Kseniia Sokolova, sixth went to Danelle Lockhart & Ryan Lockhart they too got seventh in all dances. As you can see the fight was all on top and although we like the fact that Francesco Arietta & Jessa Briones have an interesting look we would still like to be able to see them immediately and not have to search for them in order to appreciate this. It is nice to see that Andrew Escolme & Asta Sigvaldadottir can really dance their bodies but are they listening to the music being played or is it all about steps? In conclusion there is lots to cook but no “Chef” in the kitchen yet, we hope we get one soon because we are starving for rhythm and a lead in this great style of dance.

In the Professional Smooth the winners with perfect scores in the tango and nearly perfect scores in all the other three dances were Galina Detkina & Roman Malkhasyan, the only second they got in the three dances came from Diana McDonald who awarded nearly all her first place marks but the tango to Jaimee & Travis Tuft who placed second overall. In a way I have to agree with Diana on some of the dances Galina & Roman on this night were going through the motions like an old marriage, perhaps they did not feel challenged at all and I must say that at the moment we are watching some of the best we have ever seen from Travis & Jaimee and yes many times we found ourselves looking more at what they were doing and enjoying their new found carefree performance. It is hard for all of us that follow the couples to not compartmentalize the couples in their placements place and perhaps this might have been the case in this heat for many of us.

Third in all dances was awarded to Alexandra Smirnova - Aleksandar Vukosavljevic, who have a completely unique take about all the dances and who at some point might even challenge for first place on this style, even though at times it is hard to take the overdone “Don Quijote” goatee and seriously. Fourth in all went to Yana Zhyvkov - Tykhon Zhyvkov, in fifth place was Anastasiya & Kharyton Khomenko, and sixth in all were Valeria Mkrtchian & Ivan Sovetov.

The Professional Ballroom was awarded to Andrii Mykhailov - Ekaterina Popova with these marks 1,2,1,1,3. As you can see it was not a very clean win for this couple even though for us they were clearly the winners dancing the best we have seen since they began their partnership. We must also point out that not one of the dances was won with a full majority of firsts, they had to rely on seconds or better marks to win all dances. Second in this heat went to Angelo Gaetano & Clarissa Morelli 3,1,2,2,2, third were Olena Ablitsova & Oleksandr Kalenyuk 2,3,3,3,1, fourth was awarded to Anna Bohachova & Dan Malov taking fourth in all dances. In fifth place were Serhiy Averkov & Olena Barna 5,6,5,5,7; Anna & Cristian Radvan took sixth place 6,5,7,6,5, and in seventh place were Oreste Alitto & Zhenia Casanave 7,7,6,7,6. As you can see the marks in this heat were very divided and with a seventh couple this made it even more difficult for the judges who have to add more on their already filled plate.

The Amateur Latin started as an amazing heat but after two of the Latin Stars pulled out due to injury and health it fizzled out a little bit. Both Alexander Chernositov & Irina Grishinina and Austin Joson & Liza Lakovitsky pulled out of the competition, and it left us wondering if they just did not want to face the music so close to the US Amateur Championships next week in Provo Utah? But all was not lost, the audience was thrilled as the final went on and Michelle Klets & Bumchin Tegshjargal went on to win the competition overall 4 to one 1,1,1,2,1. Second was awarded to Ruby Castro & Vadim Pidhoretskyy 2,2,2,1,3; third place was awarded to Zoe Woodhall & Yegor Young 3,3,3,3,4; Lyndsey Vasylenko & Mykyta Vasylenko placed fourth in all dances; Idan Daich & Anastasia Sinyauskaya took fifth place and Kevin Filipczak & Sophia Marriott were sixth.

In the Open Amateur Ballroom the win went clearly to Nikita Druzhynin & Virginie Primeau, and they won all dances with a majority of firsts in all. For us too they were clearly the winners here, it was great to see and appreciate the quality of dancing and musicality in this couple. Second in all dances went to Bohdan Dovhalov & Sofya Yudina from the Ukraine who tried to upstage the winners by taking major bows and getting good support from their fans. However, Nikita & Virginie were not upstaged at the end and the audience were just as supportive to them. Third was Mariia Oblakova & Aleksandr Riabtsev and that was in all dances also, and fourth overall went to Roman Shchochka & Marta Tyutyunnyk 5,4,4,4; in fifth position were Samuel Hacke & Katarina Hermanova 4,5,5,5,5 and sixth place in all dances went to Anna Lydygalieva & Mikhail Vorobiev.

There was a very strong Amateur Smooth championship as well. Here the win went to Parley Ford & Natalie Jolley and they won all dances with a majority of first places. What a joy this young lady is to watch in this style. 2nd were Sawyer Stolle & Serena Keck 2,2,2,2 and they took a significant amount of first places as well. 3rd Tanner Cole & Jacie Yardley 3,3,3,3; 4. Shandon Hoffman & Sabrina Hoffman 4,4,4,4; 5. Jaxon Humphry & Jiaxin Haslan 6,5,5,5; 6th Mason Simpkins & Ashton Cole 5,6,7,6; 7th Jaxon Phillips & Rebekah Seely 7,7,6,7.

The pro-am divisions were the biggest of the year so far. The schedule was extremely tight and full credit must go to the judges for their work in placing all the couples in shorter than normal time. Here are the results from the open scholarships.

A Rhythm
1. Payton Bussey w/ Scott Koogle 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Ma Lang w/ James Repetti 2,2,2,2,2; 3. Eleanor Shafer w/ Sasha Tsygankov 3,3,3,3,3.

B Rhythm
1. Michael Butler w/ Oxana Kashkina 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Vita Vygovska w/ Evgeny Dyachenko 3,3,2,2,2; 3. Beatriz Colon w/ Hyak Balasanyan 2,2,3,3,3; 4. Leanna Wenderoth w/ Kirill Gorjatsev 4,4,4,4,4; 5. Lila Winiarski w/ Vlad Astafiev 5,5,5,5,5; 6. Jane Kozsowski w/ Toby Munroe 6,7,6,6,6; 7. Michelle Vaccaro w/ Abraham Sannoh 7,6,7,7,7; 8. Anoushka Seneviratne w/ Gigo Koguashvili 8,8,8,8,8.

C Rhythm
1. Janice Gonzalez w/ Aleksandr Vukosavljevic 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Krista Hughes w/ Tykhon Zhyvkov 2,2,2,3,3; 3. Adriana Salinas w/ Roberto Fernandez 3,3,4,2,2; 4. Michelle Loeb w/ Aleko Khutsidze 4,4,3,4,4; 5. Lita Belinfante w/ Melbin De La Cruz 5,5,5,6,5; 6. Jane Koszowski w/ Toby Munroe 6,6,6,5,6.

S1 Rhythm
1. Marguerite Pinnard w/ Ilya Reyzin 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Lisa Lowery w/ Artem Merenkov 2,2,2,3,3; 3. Shari Oxman w/ Hyak Balasanyan 3,3,3,2,2; 4. Shao Rong Chen w/ Dmitry Nikishkin 4,4,4,4,4; 5. Judith Spivey w/ Oleksii Zhylenko 5,5,5,5,5; 6. Wini Kniejski w/ Sasha Tsyhankov 6,6,6,6,6.

S2 Rhythm
1. Leslie McLeod w/ Melbin De La Cruz 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Diane Coyne w/ Ivan Kudashev 2,2,2,2,2; 3. David Nickell w/ Dasha Chube 3,3,3,3,3.

A Smooth
1. Liz Cuevas w/ Mayo Alanen 1,1,1,1; 2. Alicia Jackson w/ Nikolai Pilipenchuk 2,2,2,2; 3. Payton Bussey w/ Scott Koogle 3,3,3,3; 4. Kim Norberg w/ Kirill Gorjatsev 4,5,4,4; 5. Arun Garg w/ Joseph Lettig 5,4,5,5; 6. Ashley Beason w / Nerjus Jasaitis 6,7,6,6; 7. Anoushka Seneviratne w/ Gigo Koguashvili 7,6,7,7; 8. Justin Miller w/ James Repetti 8,8,8,8.

B Smooth
1. Patricia Schneider & Slawek Sochacki 2,1,1,1; 2. Joane Kay Smith w/ Anton Lebedev 1,2,2,2; 3. Selene Steelman w/ Travis Tuft 3,3,3,3; 4. Sirinda Sincharoen w/ Max Sinitsa 4,4,5,4; 5. Asa Pascale w/ Sergey Symchinskyy 5,5,4,5; 6. Kimberly Bottini w/ Aleksandr Vukosavljevic 6,6,6,6; 7. Leanna Wenderoth w/ Kirill Gorjatsev 7,7,7,7; 8. Natalia Zavodchikov & Dmitry Demidov 8,8,8,8.

C Smooth
1. Patricia Schneider & Slawek Sochacki 1,1,1,1; 2. Sophia D/Angelo & Max Sinitsa 2,2,2,2; 3. Gail Komar & Nikolai Pilipenchuk 4,3,3,3; 4. Melanie Mottram & Tykhon Zhyvkov 3,4,4,4; 5. Janice Gonzalez & Aleksandr Vukosavljevic 5,5,5,5; 6. Natalia Zavodchikov & Dmitry Demidov 7,6,6,6; 7. Debra Hoag & Roman Malkasyan 6,7,7,7.

S1 Smooth
1. Llewellyn Nielsen w/ Salwek Sochaki 2,1,1,1; Kathy Stewart w/ Mayo Alanen 2,1,1,1; 3. Robyn Kencel w/ Dmytro Pankov 4,3,4,3; 4. Lisa Lowery w/ Artem Merenkov 3,4,3,4; 5. Marguerite Pinard w/ Ilya Reyzin 5,5,5,5; 6. Michelle Kirby w/ Radek Wiatrowski 6,6,6,6.

S2 Smooth
1. Connie Caruso w/ Kamill Urbaniak 1,1,1,1; 2. Felicia Porges w/ Adam Katona 2,2,2,2; 3. Kevin Nolan w/ Anna Oblakova 5,3,3,3; 4. Donna Nolan w/ Michael Choi 3,4,5,4; 5. Jackie Mengel w/ Mazen Hamza 4,5,4,5.

Open A Latin
1. Anna Brown w/ Andrey Tarasov 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Kristina Mazhar w/ Vladimir Karpov 2,2,2,2,3; 3. Meehra Mehta w/ Kristjon Burazer 4,3,4,3,2; 4. Celene Parragh w/ Joseph Parragh 3,4,3,4,4; 5. Gabbie Diassi w/ Ivan Kudashev 5,5,6,6,6; 6. Avelyn Pi w/ Pasha Stepanchuk 6,7,8,5,5; 7. Jamie Dorotov w/ Allen Genken 7,6,7,7,8; 8. Viktoriya Dilay w/ David Nyemchek Jr. 8,8,5,8,7.

Open B Latin
1. Joanne Kay Smith w/ Richard Livshitz 1,2,1,1,1; 2. Lindsey Keatley w/ Francesco Arietta 2,1,2,3,2; 3. Irma Wang w/ Daniel Hustiuc 3,3,4,4,3; 4. Sabrina Nirchi w/ Jean Philipe Millot 4,4,3,2,4; 5. Isabel Deich w/ Maxim Fromin 5,5,5,5,5; 6. Deborah Altizio w/ Andrey Kitsun 6,6,6,6,6.

Open C Latin
1. Deborah Wright w/ Nikolai Voronovich 3,2,3,1,1 (R/11); 2. Maria Rigopoulos w/ Andrei Kazlouski 2,1,1,3,3 (R/11); 3. Lynn Magnesen w/ Thomas Lewandowski 1,3,2,2,2 (R/10); 4. Lorraine Peoples w/ Konstantine Samarskyi 5T,4,4,5,5; 5. Sophia D’Angelo w/ Vitalyi Proskurin 5T,6,5,6,4; 6. Kimberly Bottini w/ Aleksandr Vukosavljevic 4,7,6,4,7; 7. Marina Svyatets w/ Vladimir Karpov 7,5,7,7,6.

Open S1 Latin
1. Fran Dressel w/ Genya Bartashevich 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Lisa Lowery w/ Artem Merenkov 2,2,2,2,2; 3. Shannon Bachynski w/ Dmitry Levita 3,3,3,3,3; 4. Tomoko Fujiwara w/ Sergei Samchynskii 4,4,4,4,4; 5. Jennifer Marre w/ Plamen Danailov 5,5,5,6,6; Sherry Tucker w/ Vlad Astafiev 6,6,6,5,5.

Open S2 Latin

1. Susan Tunick w/ Nikolai Voronovich 2,1,1,1,2; 2. Norma Fox w/ Plamen Danailov 1,2,2,2,1; 3. Alice Lekht w/ Igor Derimov 3,3,3,3,3; 4. Luna Viva w/ Kristjjan Burazar 4,4,4,4,4; 5. Susanne Binder w/ Peppe Incatasciato 5,6,5,5,6; 6. Felicia Porges w/ Adam Katona 6,5,6,6,5.

Open A Ballroom
1. Julia Chen w/ Rudy Homm 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Natalie Rezai w/ Sergey Kiselev 2,2,2,2,2; 3. Tessa Kolaczenko w/ Artur Kozun 3,3,3,3,3; 4. Ah Fong Li w/ Serhey Lazunkov 4,4,4,4,4.

Open B Ballroom
1. Dana Miller w/ Oreste Alitto 2,1,1,1,1; 2. Laura Shooks w/ Alexander Voskalchuk 1,2,2,2,2; 3. Vinnie Miller w/ Stefano Di Brino 4,3,4,3,3; 4. Vera Berman w/ Ivan Levin 3,4,3,4,4; 5. Sabrina Zagolin w/ Yuriy Kravets 6,6,5,5,5; 6. Elena Botelho w/ Dmitry Sviridov 5,5,6,6,6.

Open C Ballroom
1. Natasha Janey w/ Iaroslav Bieliei 1,3,1,1,1; 2. Monique Saviano w/ Oreste Alitto 2,1,2,3,2; 3. Meredith Kaplan w/ Rudy Homm 3,2,3,2,3; 4. Sabrina Kirkpatrick w/ Oscar Pedrinelli 4,4,6,4,5; 5. Janet Simsic w/ Andrea Stefano 8,5,4,5,4; 6. Rebecca Kuhn w/ Andrea Faraci 6,6,5,6,6; 7. Cathy Dorego w/ Andrii Mykhailov 5,7,7,7,7; 8. Paula Cowpland w/ Andrey Kitsun 7,8,8,8,8.

Open S1 Ballroom
1. Llewelyn Nielsen w/ Oreste Alitto 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Jessica Indig-Smith w/ Artem Belmeha 2,2,2,2,2; 3. Barbara Mierau-Klein w/ Gianni Caliandro 3,5,4,3,4; 4. Ann Haeussier w/ Yuriy Nartov 5,3,5,4,3; 5. Joan Giampaolo w/ Stefano Di Brino 4,4,3,5,5; 6. Baoline Chen w/ Igor Litvinov 6,6,6,6,6.

Open S2 Ballroom
1. Sheila Abraham w/ Bondarenko 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Helen Nicoll w/ Rudy Homm 3,2,2,2,2; 3. Linda Dilman w/ Igor Gayenko 4,4,3,3T,3; 4. Laura Solomon w/ Oscar Pedrinelli 2,3,4,3T,4; 5. Mary Ann Nichols w/ Mirko Spano 6,5,5,5,5; 6. Gloria Genevieve w/ Samuele Pacchini 5,6,6,6,6; 7. Emerly Eberle w/ Sergey Kiselev 7,7,7,7,7; Ran Holladay w/ Sarika Pillipenchuk 8,8,8,8,8.

The junior room on Sunday was certainly abuzz. Once again the schedule was extremely tight, and we’re sure the judges were sweating more than the competitors trying to get all their scores down in time!

NYDF has become a staple of the dance scene in the northeast and also in the whole country. The organizers Eugene Katsevman and Maria Manusova hold a unique place in the history of US dancing and this is reflected by the support they generate for their unique competition as well!







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