Here are the photograph sets from the professional photographer who sat a few seats down from me at “Rhythm of Love.” (just hit ‘continue’ and you’ll be taken to the album). To be honest, I’m kind of disappointed with the quality of his photos — think I could’ve taken better ones myself. He won’t let me so much as copylink and post on my blog because he’s not a publicity photographer working for the event’s presenting organization, but only takes pictures so that he can sell them for his own profit, like many do at ballroom competition events. Catch up with the world of concert dance, ballroom people, and hire pro photographers for publicity purposes, not these greedy goofs! Andrew Eccles anyone?! Anyway, have a look and if you’re so inclined, you can order some of Pasha and Anya, or Pasha and the gang, or just Pasha, or anyone else!
The show itself was really cute. I’ll be writing a formal review for Explore Dance, which I’ll link to when it’s up. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a full-length story dance told through ballroom and Latin. The basic story was cute and original: it begins with a boy (played by Mambo King Benito Garcia) interested in a girl (Emilee Peterson, who I don’t know from ballroom but I could tell from the moment she walked out onstage that she had ballet background). The girl shows interest back, but they’re young high school-ish students and of course she doesn’t let him get very far very fast, to his predictable dismay. Eventually, they go out on some dates (there’s no talking by the way; all the non-dance acting is mimed) and he gives her some flowers, she gives him some … ballet tickets, over which he tries hard not to reveal his disgust. Off they go to the “ballet,” which, since this is a dance story told through ballroom, is really a lyrical waltz performed by the lovely American Smooth couple JT Thomas and Tomasz Mielnicki. The waltz moves the girl to tears, the guy to sleep. She shakes him out of his slumber just in time for him to witness another waltz of JT and Tomasz’s — this one combined with some Rhumba to give it a far more seductive tempo (and danced to Celine Dion’s gorgeously sultry “Seduces Me”), during which his attention now wanes not one bit. Now that he sees dance can be sexy, he is enthralled by it, wants to do it himself. The rest of the show is about him learning, the various ballroom and Latin dancers instructing. The ballroom ladies help Emilee lighten up, giving her dance fashion tips, rid her of her glasses and bun, and teach her how to let her inhibitions go in her dancing. The guys have their hands full doing the opposite for Benny — teaching him instead not to let too loose on the dance floor; one needs a sense of rhythm, timing, and body control after all so as not to make an ass of oneself! The two watch some more duets performed by the seasoned pros and eventually try the moves out themselves. At the end, Emilee is so happy Benny’s dancing with her, she puckers up for the kiss he’s earned, but he’s now too busy trying to get his steps right to notice. It ends on a happy note, of course!
Unfortunately, Pasha and Anya didn’t dance a whole lot. They were in two numbers: the first an opening group hip hoppy Samba to “Hip Hip, Chin Chin,” and later a Cha Cha / Latin combo to “Magic Carpet Ride.” Of course they danced spectacularly when they did, though! Anya looks so damn good in a simple black t-shirt and jeans. I recognized some of their hallmark moves in their second number: one where he lifts her horizontally over his shoulders and turns and turns and turns (a similar move is performed at the beginning of the excellent movie Strictly Ballroom — you must see it if you haven’t), and another where he holds her in a low dip, one of his arms free, and looking out at the audience, he kind of commands her lower torso up and down with the wave of his hand, without touching her. It’s very voo-doo-looking, and very cool.
My other favorite couple was Jose DeCamps and Joanna Zacharewicz, current American Rhythm champs, who had several duets — a slow, seductive bolero, a whiplashingly fast Cha Cha / Mambo, and, my favorite dance in the whole thing — a cool, calm and collected, yet sexy, Swing / Mambo that was very West Side Story.
Jose (for DWTS fans, he is Cheryl Burke’s old partner) has charisma galore. This was my first time seeing him on a real stage (and not just the competition floor), but whoa, he really stood out to me and commanded my attention every time he was up there. JT is a natural performer too; I think she could be on Broadway if she wanted to.
Carolina and Felipe Telona (American Rhythm competitors) danced gorgeously too — they did a couple of Argentine Tangos and some sultry rhumbas and boleros. They danced the most of any couple I think. They did this sweet, sad piece, where he is leaving her or dying and she tries in vain to bring him back. They performed it at Nationals last year as well. It nearly brought me to tears both times.
There were also a few numbers by Garry and Rita Gekhman, American Smooth dancers and showdance champions. They reprised their showdance championship-winning number from last year’s Nationals, “Freak-A-Zoid,” which was really cool seeing in competition in Florida last year, but looked a bit out of place on the stage here. Some of the movements, such as releasing their Standard handhold and moving across the vast ballroom floor still perfectly in sync and maintaining frame (pictured below) are so impressive to ballroom judges and afficionados who can appreciate the degree of difficulty, but I think are lost on a more general audience. Plus, the number didn’t really seem to fit: it was sandwiched in between the boy and girl’s first meeting in class after a voice-over has noted how love can be “mathematical” and I guess the robotic nature of the showdance is meant to evoke that. But it seemed more that the story was altered to accommodate the dance rather than the other way around. Still, only a small thing in an overall exciting show.
(all pictures are mine, from previous competitions; visit that Park West website for some pictures of Pasha and Anya — there aren’t many, but there are some!)