Empire Dance Championships 2023

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Great Dancing at the Empire 2023!

This was the second year the Empire was held in Jersey City, New Jersey and it continues to be a beacon of light for great dancing in the USA.

All styles received great support from local dancers and also from people around the USA. The last two nights were the most exiting with some terrific professional and amateur competitions.

The professional Rhythm for example had some very talented couples and with the US Championships only a few weeks away the anticipation about who will be crowned US Professional Rhythm Champions is in the air.

On this outing for us and for the judges the couple that excelled the most was Francesco Arietta & Jessa Mae Briones who won the cha cha and the bolero with perfect scores. The other three dances they too won with a majority of firsts but lost a few marks - 1 in the rumba from Wendy Johnson, three seconds were given to them in the swing Diana McDonald and Anna Mikhed joined Ms. Johnson and Diana gave them the only second mark in the mambo. As you can see the majority of this panel loved Francesco & Jessa Mae’s performance and so did we. We found Mr. Arieta a little more active with great body action complementing the almost faultless Jessa Mae, if this had been the US championships they would have been the easy winners.

Second went to another very talented couple, the partnership of Andrew Escolme & Asta Sigvaldadottir. We almost expected them to put a harder fight but this was not to be. Yes Andrew & Asta had an excellent performance, but no edge to get them across over the fence and in front of Francesco & Jessa Mae. We look forward to seeing these two couples fighting for the tittle at this coming USDC a completly different venue, more of an “arena” where the couples are dancing from afar and that might change everything. One thing is for sure, Rhythm dancing is still on the front page for all fans of dancing and we cannot wait for the next match to happen.

Third in all dances went to  Dmitry Nikishkin & Olena Shvets-Nikishkin who as you can see did not steal any firsts not even in their energetic swing, perhaps this might all change at the US Championships where things as we mentioned get a different perspective due to the unusual size of the ballroom. Fourth place in all dances was awarded to Ivan Kudashev & Ksenia Sokolova. Fifth overall was awarded to Ilie Bardahan & Oxana Kashkina 5,6,5,5,5, and sixth were Ryan & Danelle Lockhart 6,5,6,6,6.

The Open Professional Latin was held on the last night at the Empire and for this we sat among fans who sometimes can be quite outspoken. The conception among them was that Troels Bager & Ina Jeliazkova were the very best from start to finish, and yes if you look at their scorecard they got perfect scores in their samba and their rumba and lost only one first place mark in the cha cha a second was awarded by Mr. Corky Ballas, they also lost one place mark in the paso doble this time from Mr. Marat Gimaev and finally Corky delivered their last second of this final and that was in the jive.

For us and for the audience we were seated with, Troels & Ina were faultless. The women around us thought her dress in the final was beautiful, it not only complimented their look but also their performance helping them win the championship. Second in this wonderful heat went to Mykhailo Bilopukhov & Anastasiia Shchypilina who placed second in all the dances. However, when looking at their marks they did get some firsts, but they also were given some thirds, fourth and fifths in the different dances. What the audience did not care for was the casualness of Mykhailo’s look for the night. One of the men seated with us told us he hated the loose hair he was sporting and yes the hair was bobbing up and down as he danced. This for some reason was distracting to him and to some of the other onlookers at the table. We must also point out that all the firsts that Troels & Ina lost were awarded to Mykhailo & Anastassia.

Third place in all dances went to Manuel Favilla & Natalia Maidiuk. And here the audience and we agreed with the judgement. For the audience they were the best looking couple on the floor, but one of the ladies wished Natalia wore something that would complement her body a little more and not a “Wonder Woman” costume. They felt it was a little like armor. I did not quite see the resemblance, but there you go, all peoples have different opinions.

Fourth place was awarded to Tal Livshitz & Ilana Keselman and that was in all dances. Fifth in all dances went to Nikolai Tarasov & Sarah Nolan and sixth were Ilya Maletin & Anna Oblakova. This was the only couple the audience we spoke with were divided on and in the end they themselves did not look happy with their position.

The Professional Smooth is always a hit nowadays at every comp and here it was no different. For us Travis & Jaimee Tuft were clearly the best, but when looking at the marks compared to the Latin they had a harder road with the judges. Yes, they won all dances with the majority of firsts but had at least 2 or three judges in every dance awarding them seconds or lower. Second in all dances and looking a little more subdued with no bling this time, were Aleksandar Vukosavljevic & Alexandra Smirnova. They looked wonderful on this outing and yes the majority of all the firsts that Travis & Jaimee lost went into their column and as we mentioned previously Mr. Vukosavljevic is not a afraid to wear a full rhinestone jacket but this time he wore plain black with a basic turtle neck.

Third overall was awarded to Kharyton Khomenko & Anastasiya Khomenko with these marks 3,3,3,4. Fourth went to Volodymyr Barabash & Yulia Rudenco 4,4,4,3. We have to mention that Yulia’s dress was so beautiful and complimentary to their performance and so was Volodymyr’s shaven face, it sure gave us all a new perspective on their talent and not just their superficial looks. Fifth was given to a new couple in the scene, Leonid Burlo & Mariia Usan
and they placed fifth in all dances. Ilya Abdullin & Anastasija Jerjomina were sixth in all and Ivan Sovetov & Valeria Mkrtchian took seventh.

The Professional Ballroom was also quite well attended and here Gaetano Iavarone & Emanuela Napolitano won overall 1,1,1,2,1. In the tango and the Viennese they were able to win with a majority of firsts from the judges but in the other two dances the W,Q they had to depend on second or better to win these three dances. Second overall in this final and winning the foxtrot were Valeriu Ursache & Liana Bakhtiarova. Third in all dances went to Andrii Mykhailov & Ekaterina Popova; fourth were Angelo Gaetano & Clarissa Morelli; fifth was awarded to Maksym Savytskyi & Polina Riabovil and sixth were Cristian De Cillis & Kamila Brozovska.

In the Open Cabaret Professional division Zachary Pohl & Ariel Freilich won with a majority of firsts or should we say by one first place mark over the runners up, Alyenendrov Tsorokean & Yuki Haraguchi who placed second. Third place was awarded to Andrey Kitsun & Nicole Prosser, fourth went to Kelvin Ong & Masha Kozobrod, fifth were Jake Davies & Alyona Kalinina, and sixth was awarded to Roger Romero & Arismel Naya.

The Amateur Latin is always a signature event at the Empire and this year was no different. The winners of all dances with a majority of firsts in all dances were Alexander Chernositov & Arina Grishanina. Not far from them and with a great following from the fans on this night were Austin Joson & Liza Lakovitsky placing second in all dances. Third went to Bumchin Tegshjargal & Michelle Klets 3,3,3,3,3. Mykyta Vasylenko & Lyndsey Vasylenko took fourth overall 5,4,4,4,5, and Vadym Pidhoretskyy & Ruby Castro placed fifth 4,5,5,5,4, leaving sixth for Arthur Solomovych & Angelina Rozghon.

Nikita Druzhynin & Virginie Primeau from Canada won the Open Amateur Latin, 1,1,1,2,2. They had the majority of first places in the 3 dances they won with waltz being their best scored. Samuel Hacke & Katerina Hermanova had a good night placing 2,2,2,1,1 to take the runners-up spot. Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova who had won the U/21 took 3rd, 4,4,3,3,3. 4th Bohdan Aleksieiev & Kateryna Vusatenko 3,3,4,5,4; 5th Arthur Nabok & Tais Zhukova 5,5,5,4,5; 6th Parley Ford & Natalie Jolley 6,6,6,6,6.

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