City Lights 2015
Sunday Biggest Day at City Lights
With pro-am Latin, junior, amateur and professional divisions, Sunday was the busiest day at City Lights beginning at 7:00 AM and continuing through the evening session.
The highlight of the day, we thought, was the Open Pro Ballroom. This was won convincingly by Mikhail Avdeev & Olga Blinova who dropped only 3 first places, all from Giocomo Steccaglia. With 2,2,2,3,2, Igor Colac & Roxanne Milloti tokk the runners up spot. However, they had the majority of ‘2nd or better’ scores in only tango. For us they were a clear 2nd, but not for all it seemed. Third went to Nick Cheremukhin & Viktorija 3,3,3,2,4. Incidentally they received Giocomo’s 3 first places and certainly showed touches of brilliance. A new couple to us, Christian Radvan & Kristina Kudelko were 4th with 4,4,4,4,3. They are a clean and easy moving couple who we think will be a great asset to this division. Michael Towliszew & Tiffany Fung took all the 5’s. We thought waltz was their best dance today, although some judges had them in the top half of the final in all dances. Closing the final were Evgeniy Mayorov & Olga Lisovskaya who certainly looked at home and challenged in all dances.
The Open Pro Rhythm also had clear winners, this time Donovan Dominguez & Rose Dimov who won all dances and also dropped only a total of 3 first places. We thought they were never really challenged. For us the closest race was for 2nd between Christopher Wayne & Juanita Simanekova and Richard & Marianne Myers. Christopher & Juanita took it with 2,2,2,2,4 to Richard & Marianne’s 3,3,4,3,3. Also in this mix and taking the 2nd spot in mambo were Jeremy Babagay & Carolyn Barreno who placed 4,4,3,4,2. Daniel Lee Tran & Taylor Elizabeth Kinney were 5th in all, CJ & Jenny-Lynn Gomez were 6th in all and Guillermo Ceballos & Deborah Perez were 7th.
The two Open Amateur Scholarships also produced two good finals of young, up and coming dancers. The Latin was won by Bumchin Tegshjargal & Michelle Klets who won all dances. They had the majority of first places in all dances. 2nd went to Danya Rubashevsky & Anastasia Vysotska. They placed 2,2,3,2,3. They rather polarized the judging panel, receiving scores from 1st to 6th in all dances. Umar Diallo & Natasha Zrazhevskaya were 3rd with 3,3,2,3,2. This was the best we have seen from this duo, although we were a little distracted by Natasha’s free flowing hair, combined with her very busy dress. There was just so much going on! Mikhail Vorobiev & Sonya Tsekanovsky were 4th, 4,4,5,4,6; Rhett Grant & Yelena Vayn 5th, 6,5,4,5,4; Christian Solares & Whitney Myers 6th, 5,6,6,6,5.
Marek Klepadlo & Liana Bakhtiarova won all dances in the Amateur Ballroom Scholarship and had the majority of 1st places in all dances. Ruslan Kalyuzhnyy & Kseniya Sovenko were 2nd in all dances and Mikhail Vorobiev & Sonya Tsekanovsky were 3rd in all. The judges stayed in agreement as Dmitry Vorobiev & Sofie Elliott took 4th in all dances. Turtle Brennen & Regina Pareigis were 5th with 5,5,6,5,7; Christian Solares & Whitny Myers were 6th, 6,6,5,7,5 and Sebatian Lowe & Anastasiya Zaytseva were 7th, 7,7,7,6,6.
City Lights was up in entries this year and the new venue, the Fairmot San Jose, is a fabulous hotel. This is a good event to put on your 2016 calendar and by the way, temperatures were in the 60’s and 70’s – not bad while much of the country was freezing!
The “California Dreamin” show at the City Lights competition last night was very unique to say the least. Victor Fung & Anastasia were the headliners but throughout the show we saw appearances by Dr.Phil!
Yes! You heard it right - Dr. Phil, Donald Trump, Regis Philbin from “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” and Howie Mandel had their say at last night’s show. During the “Deal or No Deal” part of the show Shawn Brunel opened the right briefcase and won a seven-day cruise in Hawaii!! How is that for a professional show! In between of course we had wonderful appearances by Victor & Anastasia and other couples including a number of the “old” judges who got up there to cut-up and do something. The show was wonderfully put together in the style of Brent Mills who continues to impress us with his hidden talent.
Victor & Anastasia’s numbers were super satisfying to the demanding Californian crowd who almost always have to be prompted to clap. Their biggest conquest was in the tango where they got a full standing ovation and many who stayed clapping until they decided to leave the floor. Another hit was 7 year old ??? and his mother Alla, who went “Surfin’ USA.”
The evening basically had two competitions scheduled the Professional Open Smooth and the Professional Open Latin. Nick Cheremukin & Viktoria as expected took first in all dances in the Smooth with nearly perfect scores, they took only a few seconds in each dance and one third in the tango from Tomas Atcocevicius. The rest of the final was also excellent and worthy of a mention. Kris Suakjian & Briana Half place second in all dances and they gave a performance of a lifetime we thought, this couple made us look from the very start, this is total momentum if they continue like this we can see them standing up on the top sooner than expected. Adrian Dydynski & Hannah Dydynski placed third overall 3,3,4,4 but as you can see not in every dance, here we found their performance to be qualifying but not a fighting performance to reach the top or impress a sophisticated audience.
Well-known Smooth competitor, Anna Shahbazyan who has not danced for quite some time, took on to the floor with new partner, Evgeny Malko, and they placed fourth overall 4,5,3,3. Evgeny & Anna had some interesting moves - some looked very promising but others a bit green, perhaps paying a little more attention to transitions might help, but please keep the confidence going you looked as if you were aiming for the highest mountain, and we sure liked that. Fifth were Mariusz Zakrzewski & Lynnsay Ray, the night before these couple got everyone’s attention but on this night they were a little lost in the shuffle. The energy level of some of this couples surpassed any subtle movement they might have been trying to do, better luck next time 5,4,5,5. And finally in sixth position were Slava Stefanov & Jesssica McMorrow-Stefanov 6,6,6,6.
In the open Latin we had a 7-couple final, but was there more stomping than dancing going on? Roman Italyankin & Alexandra Bokova took all five dances and the prize home, however, it was very close. They also were awarded quite a number of seconds and even some thirds if you look at the marks. For us it was clear that Roman & Alexandra were quite prepared with strong powerful performances that at times dwarfed their opponents. But we must point out that the audience’s heart did not go out to Roman & Alexandra, it went to the couple that placed second, Mykhallo Bilopukhov & Anastasi Shchyoilina from the Ukraine who just the night before won the Rising Star Latin, but here they placed second overall. We have to say that on this night some of their subtle movement ended up looking like mistakes. The other, stronger couples took plenty of attention away from them, this is something this very talented couple should work at.
Third overall went to Pavel Balykin & Meagen Mendoza, for us there was lots of energy but unlike the last couple mentioned, no subtlety at all, just serve it and eat it style. For us followers of Latin dancers we need a little more cordon bleu culinary style when it comes to the couples’ programs for us to move our pens higher. Fourth were Igor Colac & Roxan Milotti. We found Igor & Roxanne looking quite healthy from the holiday and although it looks quite good perhaps it slowed down their physical performance in certain movements especially in the athletic rumba. We still thought they could have placed a little higher than fourth.
Fifth was Arjom Shmigeljuk & Oxana Kashkina 5,5,5,6,5, sixth went to Dennis Sy & Mae Lozada 6,6,6,5,6, and in seventh position, Zsolt Katona & Timea Potys seventh in all dances.
We have to say that there was more emphasis this time to dancing than to stomping, we did notice a few stomps especially in the paso but we were pleasantly surprised that couples have actually found other things to do. Congratulations to all of you that did not stomp!
We also want to congratulate the organizers. The competitions were short and sweet and everyone managed to go either to the lobby where a full band awaited or to the after party in the ballroom where Brent Mills and his band struck up the tunes.
City Lights Rising
Last night in the beautiful ballroom of the fabulous Fairmont Hotel, City Lights was all about the Rising Stars. All four styles took to the floor in Rising Stars and although it was a small affair with only finals in all categories it was well run and the couples did a job good enough for a mention.
The biggest entry was in the Rising Star Rhythm. Here we had a complete final of six couples. Christopher Wayne & Juanita Simanekova from Tennessee were the winners in all dances. They gave a very consistent performance, with fairly good presentation of bodylines. Jeremy Babagay & Carolyn Barreno in our opinion gave the only challenge with an excellent natural rhythmic action, but in the end Christopher & Juanita had a more complete package, and so Jeremy & Carolyn had to settle for second in all dances. Third went to Daniel Lee Tran & Taylor Elizabeth Kinney and they placed third in all dances.
The Rising Star Smooth was quite exciting with Mariusz Zakrzewski & Lynnsay Ray in the lead and from our perspective an excellent performance far superior to the rest. They of course won all dances. It was also great to see them win with the complete dress still on, at Holiday Dancesport this couple got tangled in their dress and half of it had to be scissored off of her body. Not far behind with a well-executed performance was Slava Stefanov & Jessica McMorrow-Stefanov. They took second in every dance, with a little more pizzazz they could have easily challenged. Third was Peter Hahn & Jude Coraldi placing third in all dances.
The Ballroom was also a good heat with two good couples leading the way. Nick Cheremukhin & Viktorija and Cristian Radvan & Kristina Kudelko. The night went to Nick & Viktoria who won all dances, but in our opinion it could have easily gone to Cristian & Kristina who placed second in each dance. On experience you could see why Nick & Viktoria won but when it came to the style itself we found it a little heavy making it look as if they were breast-stroking in water. Third in this heat was awarded to Jonathsn Atkinson & Lorena Bravo but only in three dances.
The Latin was the smallest of the Professional Rising Star heats this one had only three couples, however it was a pleasure to see Mykhailo Bilopukhov & Anastasia Shchypilina from the Ukraine, who won all dances with perfect scores and really enthralled the audience with their interesting choreography and musicality. Second was Artjom Shmigeljuk & Oxana Kashkina. And third was Zsolt Katona & Timea Potys.
With this the short evening came to a close, and as the week progresses we are expecting longer days and bigger heats.