Throughout the weekend of competition, the Heart of America Championships had some amazing teachers - they not only did quite a number of entries from Nightclub to Ballroom, but many of the teachers competing here have been teachers for years with lots of experience.
Experience was not the only thing these teachers brought to the table, many of them obviously are able to impart some good basic work to their students so many of their solos were truly enjoyable to watch. The organizers had a night of solos and three were brought back for Saturday night and they truly were terrific. The ultimate winner was Suzanne Kirkegaard
Besides the solos we have to tip our hats to the ladies professionals. The “Men in Black” were all in the house so there was plenty of competition for the gentleman at this comp and many of the men students also made it to the finals in open scholarships. Many of the lady instructors that were in the house were quite experienced so we were able to see some great quality dancing from many of the men too. We don’t really mean to say there are few good man anywhere else, but here the concentration of men and lady teachers competing was considerable. In fact a lady was Top Teacher here at HOA – Amy Hanson beat out the guys this time.
The Professional Smooth was a terrific event with a quarter-final round of competition and with some excellent couples in each heat. Travis Tuft & Jaimee Tuft won all dances with nearly perfect scores from all judges, only one second mark was awarded to them and this came from Rozana Sweeney in the tango, in all other dances she too awarded them first. From this point on things were not as secure. Second place overall was awarded to Vladyslav& Brianna Nalyvaychuk with these marks 2,2,4,3. As you can see these positions were hard fought. Third place went to Lukas Spisak & Eva Tibenska who won the Rising Star the night before and their marks were 4,4,2,2. Fourth, fifth and sixth was also fought for and fourth was awarded to Peter Minkov & Yuliia Sorokata who seemed a little disappointed with this result - 3,3,3,4, and yes in the past they had better results but we must remember next week is another event. Steven McGrath & Jessica Mancini took fifth position 6,5,5,5, and sixth were Dmytro Pohybil & Alona Kushnir 5,6,6,6.
The Professional Cabaret was also of great quality and here Travis Tuft & Jaimee Tuft also took the championship home with 8 firsts from 15 judges. They did a very dramatic waltz done to the song “I Cry For You,” as usual their work was impeccable even though for us the event could have gone easier to the runners-up, Nazar Batih & Mariko Cantley who stole the most firsts from Travis & Jaimee. Their routine was a Disney theme to “Mary Ppopins” but their choreography was not “Goofy!” Their work included dances from waltz to quickstep and their transitions were excellent. When it came to a lift they managed an overhead that is rare for a showdance number, we were totally impressed. Third in this competition was awarded to Roger Romero & Arismel Naya who did a terrific version of Bemba Colora that kept you wanting to clap along. The routine could have used a lift or two to challenge the top 2 couples, but it is an excellent showdance. Martin Pickering & Natalie Botes took fourth and Arthur Sigmund & Azure Hall were fifth.
Speaking of Roger Romero & Arismel Naya they won the open Professional Rhythm with a majority of firsts in all dances and we have to say that their group competition dancing was just as dynamic as their solo performance. Second overall was awarded to Aaron Pierce & Ksenia Stavrica 2,3,2,3,2. Senzo Makhaye & Agnieszka Strojek-Maguire placed third 3,2,3,2,3. Fourth in all dances went to Joseph Lettig & Madalina Varlam Lettig and fifth were Joshua Plaza & Zorana Botha.
Only 2 couples contested the Open Pro Ballroom and Nazar & Mariko won all 5 dances. Florin Vlad & Natalia O'Connor were 2nd. The waltz and foxtrot were the closest scored dances and in these Nazar & Mariko won by 7 firsts to 6.
The Heart of America was run in the Westin Crown Plaza, a lovely hotel in central Kansas City. We made sure to visit the old railway station right across the street that has been turned into a place for shops and restaurants although it does still receive 4 trains per day.
Heart of America is a stop on the Dancers’ Cup Tour and is organized by Eric & Michelle Hudson who took over from The Walters Family who had run the event from the start. This was the 50th anniversary of the event.