Slavik! Sergey! Andrei and Elena, and Pasha and Anna!!!

I don’t have much time to write because I returned from Florida (Nationals) to a desk overflowing with work, but I had an awesome time! Here are my pictures. I am such a nervous flier (still, since 9/11, although I AM getting better slowly but surely!!), so immediately after checking into the swanky hotel, I crashed on a plush sofa in the bar and had a very large glass of wine. Ended up being a great place to people watch, because I had a perfect view of the check-in counter. From which I spotted Slavik Kryklyvyy!!! My favorite male Latin dancer, and Karina Smirnoff’s former partner (they just broke up, so sadlly, last year). I was so happy because he was supposed to compete with his new partner, his wife Elena, at Blackpool this year, but he didn’t feel ready yet, so dropped out. He is no longer competing for the U.S. and so did not compete in the national competition here, but he and Elena competed in the Open to the World category, which they won, of course of course!! Also competing in that category, unexpectedly, was Sergey Surkov and Agnieszka Melnicka from Poland, whom I saw dance for the first time in Blackpool and fell in love with! So, two of my favorite world male Latin dancers danced! Sergey and Agnieszka took second in the worlds. And, last but not least, I was so so so happy to finally see my teacher Pavel Kovalev (Pasha) and his partner Anna Garnis compete. They couldn’t compete in Blackpool or the local Manhattan DanceSport competition this year because her Russian passport and work papers were stolen and she had to return to Russia to get things back in place. Now they are back to competing and are a force to be reckoned with :) I have many pictures of them in the photo album, of course.

Nothing really unexpected happened: Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kruyschkova took first in National Latin, Jonathan Wilkins and Katusha Demidova placed first in Standard, Tony Dovolani and Elena Grinenko came in first in Rhythm, and Ben and Shalene Archer-Ermis topped Smooth. The biggest upset was Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine and Joanna Zacharewicz placing second in the National Mambo championships, losing their title to a new couple from New Jersey (I forgot their names, but have a picture posted of them in the album). Pasha and Anna placed fifth in the Nationals, which I thought was way too low for them; they should have been closer to third. But of course I am biased :) My other teacher, Luis Grijalva and his partner Anya Fuchs placed third in National Mambo, after Emmanuel and Joanna, which was good for them since they’re still a relatively new partnership. Maxim Kozhevnikov and Yulia Zagoryuchenko, another favorite couple of mine, placed second in National Latin but ahead of Andrei and Elena in the Open to the World category (making them, interestingly, higher ranked world-wide than the national champions). And Max and Yulia, expectedly, won the South American showdance exhibition with their famous Samba routine — which is the biggest reason I like them so :)

I had a fun though not unstressful time overall. The dancing was of course amazing to watch, and I re-connected with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen since Blackpool in May, and some old friends from my former studio. The stressfulness resulted mainly from my un-wise decision to cut costs (the hotel was well over $200 per night, and that was with our dance discount) by rooming with four people. I grew up an only child in a spacious suburban Phoenix house and I am still a bit of a loner — meaning, I like to be around people for some of the time, but I definitely need some quality down-time alone. And, the dance crowd, which took over the common areas of the hotel and the beach and pool area, was pretty raucous, so I felt kind of like I was going to have a nervous breakdown toward the end. To escape the madness, I took a little half-day excursion out to the Everglades National Park, where I took an airboat ride through the most beautiful “swamp” I’ve ever seen, and got to meet some very friendly aligators! I also spent some good, quality time swimming in the ocean, which was very warm and clear; got the best workout I’ve had since my last ballet class months ago now, and realized I’m going to have to find a gym or recreation center with a pool in NYC because I really do love the water and swimming is such good cross-training for dancers with continuing tendon and ligament problems.

I flew back to NY the day before 9/11 when everyone in the airport would have to be talking about “something happening” — I felt like screaming, “can everyone please shut up and not talk about this here for crying out loud”; and this was my first time flying since the liquid scare, but once I was in the air everything was fine and Jet Blue was pleasant. I really do want to overcome my flying fears completely. I guess the way to do that is to fly a lot… And dancing provides a great excuse to fly! I can’t wait for my next dance event –the Ohio Star Ball in November maybe? It’s mostly pro/am and I don’t think they’re televising America’s Ballroom Challenge there this year, like they did last, so I’m still not sure whether I’m going to go to that, but knowing me, I will… And, when I got home, my Blackpool tickets were in the mail slot :)

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