City Lights San Jose Open 2024

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City Lights Open - a Red Carpet Affair!

City Lights Open is always a Red Carpet Affair, filled with glamour, class and sophistication, but this year it had more than that.

With the first National Dance Council Top Rankings Awards being presented at the City Lights Open, the competition had to extend a warm welcome to those top ranked competitors. The celebrations began on Thursday night with a gala dinner for all the winners. The registrants had to be the best rated player in each category for the year of 2023 and they these accomplished dancers were also graciously presented an awarded Friday night in the ballroom (the list and picture of each player is on our website here) and here are some pictures of the gala taken by Clement Joly.

More than half of the registrants that won were present and also attended the dinner gala, this was followed Friday night with the award presentation to each winner, we must congratulate Anna Shahbazyan and the City Lights Open for giving such a fantastic welcome to this very elite group of competitors being rewarded for their performances all year round.

The competition in the ballroom, apart from this once a year gala, also heated up Saturday night with all the open professional events being run this evening.

The Open Professional Latin was a hit with 7 excellent contenders being called for the final and here on paper the winner of all dances was Daniil Tymoshenko & Vladyslava Vursalova. They won three out of 5 dances with a majority of firsts, but needed “seconds or better” in the cha cha and the paso doble. For us and possibly for the audience it was closer than that.

In some dances like the cha cha we though Rangel Spirov & Veronika Chernyavska who placed third overall 2,2,3,3,3, came out swinging and we thought they might take a few more dances, and yes we thought their cha cha was terrific and they could have won that dance. But after this Rangel &Veronika fizzled out a bit, perhaps allowing an easy second to Oleksii Fedorov & Anastasiia Konieva who placed second overall 3,3,2,2,2, and who also stole a few first place marks from the top couple in a number of dances. For the audience we thought this was an excellent event with some suspense. Even the fourth place finishers, Roman Italyankin & Alexandra Bokova, had some wonderful moments but were not consistent enough to push through this top three barrier, they placed fourth in every dance.

Fifth in all dances in this terrific Open Professional Latin heat was awarded to Razmik Papian & Olha Romanenko, sixth went to Edgaras Brazas & Tessa Marie, and seventh in all dances was awarded to Zsolt Katona & Timea Potys.

We were happy to see some of the Latin professional couples competing on the closed basic categories Friday night after the NDCA awards. We were quite impressed but a little puzzled that the winners of the Latin “Basic,” Andriy Besyedin & Amanda Besyedin, who are now placing quite highly in the open divisions, did not compete in the open event - why? Here at the City Lights Open the organizers try to encourage the fundamentals of the basics by running a basic contest for the professionals in all divisions. We would have loved to see more of the open couples competing in this event, we think it would not only improve their open performance but perhaps their quality as well. Second in this basic contes went to Roman Italyankin & Alexandra Bokova, and third were Edgaras Brazas & Tessa Marie.

The Open Professional Smooth was also excellent with top world smooth couples present. Here for us the winner could have easily been Travis Tuft & Jaimee Tuft who placed second overall by winning the tango and placing second in the other three dances, but who had a wonderful night with some of the best dancing we have seen from this couple. But on paper and by an overwhelming majority from the judges with the exception of the tango where they placed second, Nick Cheremukhin & Viktorija Barashihina took first overall with a majority in each dance. We figured the judges would for sure fault their tango, especially because they had some major ups and downs in this dances, but figured they might lose a few other dances. Apparently we were completely wrong.

It was also an easy third for Leonid Burlo & Mariia Usan in this Smooth Open event. They must have impressed the judges with their basic dancing the night before when they placed second in all dances. Stefan Badea & Whitney Myers took third in the Open. Their work is clean, very interesting and well put together, but what we saw on Friday in the basic contest might be a considerable problem for them going forward. The day before they competed in the basic and we have to say this was not their strong suit, but we think that perhaps more attention should be paid to this basic work and then their open work might place better.

Travis & Jaimee did not compete in the closed competition but Nick & Viktorija did and they tied for first with Leonid & Mariia on that challenge, and it turned out to be an unbreakable tie, awarding first to both couples. Stefan & Whitney took second in this Closed event, we must point out that there was not a single second or third place being given to them on this challenge, we think this to be a problem for them in the quality of their open dancing, though their choreography and performance is totally worth higher placement their basic quality is not.

The Open Professional Rhythm was a 5-couple final and it was perhaps an easier task for the judges. Here Roger Romero & Arismel Naya won every dance with nearly perfect scores from the judges, only two judges marked them second or third in different dances, but overall for them and us this couple were the best in the Rhythm. Second in all dances was awarded to Alexey Smirnov & Daria Smirnova and they too were clearly the second best in this heat. Earlier on Thursday these same two couples went head to head in the Professional Theater Arts-Cabaret and here this competition also went to Roger & Arismel who won the category 7 judges to 4 with the four going to Alexey & Daria who on this night we thought might win this category. Yes, the audience and we loved Roger & Arismel’s music, very contagious but we felt that Alexie & Daria’s performance was perfectly clean and surpassed the expectation. We felt that Roger & Arismel’s performance had lots of character and musicality but lacked the slickness of performance.

Third in the Open Professional Rhythm went to David Nyemchek jr & Viktoriya Dilay and that was in all dances. We were happy to see great improvement in this couple’s dancing and we look forward to seeing more of them in future outings. Fourth place in this heat went to Israel Borges & Samantha Borges and fifth were  Zsolt Katona & Timea Potys.

In the Open Ballroom Professional contest we too were slightly wrong in our prediction. Here we thought that Danylo Dobrovolskyi & Anastasiia Malovana, would take first easily but it was not to be, the judges prefered Maksym Savytskyi & Polina Riabovil by one dance. Maksym & Polina placed first in three dances and second in the waltz and tango. The runners up were Danylo & Anastasiia with these marks 1,1,2,2,2, but we must have missed something here because for us Danylo & Anastasiia were clearly the best. Third in this small but mighty final was awarded to Mirko Spano & Pamela Romano and they placed third in all dances.

The Amateur Ballroom was a semifinal and it featured some amazing talent. Here the winners of all dances were Andrei Cutashevskii & Anna Vasina, an excellent couple and they won all dances but only the quickstep with a majority of firsts from the judges. In the other dances they had to rely on second or better marks. We figured this was a tough heat for the judges since the quality of all couples was very similar. Second overall went to Alex Dubovyk & Rickie Taylor Dubovyk 2,3,2,2,3. We did not care so much for this couple’s performance on this night, Rickie’s head crown kept flapping around her head and at any moment looked as if it might “collapse.” Perhaps this was a little to disturbing for many, but not for the judges who awarded them second overall.

Our favorites on this night in this impressive amateur heat were Denys Savytskyy & Mila Kovalova, but this was their marks and they placed third overall - 3,2,3,4,2. We felt they would be the clear winners as they did not have any issues in their performance and they were very musical. Fourth place went to Nathan Zaytsev & Alisa Bankova 4,4,4,3,4; fifth overall was awarded to Ilya Ignatyev & Stanislava Klishch 6,5,6,5,5. Sixth place went to another couple we truly enjoyed this evening and that was Vitalii Demianenko & Oleksandra Fedorova 5,6,5,6,6. We also felt they were in command of their dancing and could have been placed higher on this venture. In seventh position were Zorik Moldavsky & Vickanat Govorun and they placed seventh in all dances.

There was an Under 21 qualifying event for the Ballroom Spirit Under 21 Latin Tour. The clear winners were Danill Kukuevskii & Gabrielle Gold with perfect scores from the judges. The finale will be at the DBDC competition in Boston this coming July.

There was an Amateur Rhythm Open event and also an Open Latin event and both events were won by Daniel Pollack & Alexis Pollack, Branden Keck & Serena Keck took second in the Rhythm but won the Amateur Open Smooth event.

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