Greetings From Coney Island, U.K.

Don’t have much time to write because the only internet cafe in Blackpool is exorbitantly expensive. This town is hilarious. It’s a total holiday area, not at all unlike Coney Island, complete with loads of casinos, pinball machines, a boardwalk, posters for circus and way-off-the-West-End shows, and even a huge ferris wheel. Now I know why so many of the B&Bs I found on the internet specified they were for quiet singles or couples only (and there are all these rules posted in mine absolutely prohiting overnight guests. How do they enforce that?!). It gets very raucous here at night, and it’s definitely not the dance crowd, who are all far too panic-ridden right now to be partying.

Mika, who knows everyone and everthing in the Latin ballroom world and has been an amazing resource, has now returned home, as she is only a Latin person, so I’m on my own for the last two days now, which are devoted to Standard (amateur today and pro tomorrow, with two treats for me thrown in — the exhibition comp tonight and the Latin formation team tomorrow– whatever that is… I’ll be excited to see.

But last night was by far the biggest night for me — the Latin pro. Carmen and Bryan Watson from Germany won — no surprise; they’ve won every year for the past several. The amazing Joanna Leunis, who does spins like no one I’ve ever seen in my life, including prima ballerinas, and her partner Michael Malitowski from Poland won second, and Katarina Venturini and Andre Sculfa won third. Most exciting for me though was Karina Smirnoff, my favorite dancer in terms of artistry who regularly places in the finals. Normally, the couples who placed at least in the semis in the prior year don’t have to compete in the first two qualifying rounds, but because Karina broke up with her former partner, Slavik, and now has a new one, she wasn’t exempt from those two initial rounds. So, I got a great seat up front before the masses arrived for the later rounds and got many many many great pics of her. She is so gorgeous. And pure muscle. Such a star. The crowd went wild when her heat was called and she took the floor. And, funny, I never realized it til I saw her up close, but her face really looks like Madonna’s. Unfortunately, she and her new partner are dancing for Russia, so she’s no longer a U.S. competitor. (They came in 4th by the way). We had no Americans make the finals this year, but the two top US couples both made the semis. Tomorrow, the US does have two couples who place well in the Standard comp, so that one should be a lot of fun.

As for the team match, Italy won, and I’m told by one of Mika’s friends who added the points up, Japan came in second, US third, and UK fourth, which was the first time in history the UK didn’t place first. But that math wiz also said the US came in first in Latin, so good for Andrei, Elena, Maxim and Yulia — it’s true, if there was no Russian immigration to the US,we’d have no team!

Okay, I have a lot lot lot more to say about this most brilliant of all dance festivals, but have to sign off now or I won’t have enough pounds stirling to get myself home. Will be writing much much much more when I return to NY and will be posting tons and tons of pics on the photo page of this site as well… (have nearly taken 400 and still have two days to go…)

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