(photo by Jeffrey Dunn, from America’s Ballroom Challenge website, of Jose Decamps and Joanna Zacharewicz)
Since I’m late in posting again (sorry, was a bit depressed about something last night), most of the conversation has taken place on comments on the last post, so I’ll be brief here.
I loved Jose and Joanna’s West Side Story-ish showdance and I’m really happy to see ballroom combined with these classics (last week was the Fred and Ginger-esque routine by the Smooth showdance winners, Steven Doughtery and Eulia Baranovsky). I thought Jose was just so good; the way he moves his whole body — his upper body just as active as his legs, it’s like he’s a snake with no vertebra. He really got into the fun, fifties-ish theme and he looked to me like a character right out of Jerome Robbins’s dance-movie masterpiece. But he made it a rhythm showdance just the same including all the major rhythm dances, most prominently Swing and Mambo, and even a little Paso Doble thrown in at the end — all of which jibe really well with the Robbins. I’m not sure who choreographed it, but if he did, I think he may have a future as a dance-maker after he retires from competition. I like Joanna too, but to me Jose is the powerhouse of that partnership. He has so much charisma, and actor-ly ability, though I’m not sure if it comes across the same on TV as live.
I was sorry to see Bree Watson and Decho Kraev (below in photo by Jeffrey Dunn) place so poorly. I thought her leg extensions and her stretches were gorgeously balletic, especially in the slower dances, and I was kind of sorry they performed a Swing rather than a Bolero or Rumba for their showdance. But they seemed to know what the judges preferred, since they placed higher in the showdance than in the group dances.
And I always love watching Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine, although I liked him a lot better dancing with Joanna (Zacharewicz, who is now dancing with Jose) than with his new partner, Julia Gorchakova. His routines with Joanna were really cute without being crass and I could have done without all the Robin Byrd-esque booty-in-the-face of their showdance. And watching her, it seems more to me that she is trying to be what he wants, to please him, than being her own person, although Joanna sometimes loses connection with her partner doing too much of her own thing… Still, this is a new partnership and I’m sure they’ll improve. And Emmanuel: he just has such a hunger for dance, and his wild abandon makes him such a compelling showman; I can’t help but root for him
I loved just-turned-pro couple Pasha Pashkov and Inna Brayer (who performed in the exhibitions; photo below by Jeffrey Dunn). What a lovely combination Latin routine — I love how they softened the Samba and blended it with Paso Doble. And what lovely flowing costumes!
And I just have to give a big huge shout-out to pro / am couple Scott Lazarov and Christine Stanko (Christine is the amateur student; Scott the pro teacher — also performers in the exhibitions; photo above again by Jeffrey Dunn). I’ve met Christine before at Nationals, when she became the national amateur Mambo champion, and learned that she is a full-time dermatologist, and only took up dancing when she was in medical school — so, as an adult — both of which just blow me away. Many amateurs don’t have day jobs; they practice all day long and have a sponsor to pay the bills. And most start as young children. It’s very hard ever to get really good (I mean at the competition level) when you’ve started in adulthood, and more so when you have a demanding full-time job. So big huge kudos to her!
Finally, I have to give the cameraman a whopping D-! Half the time — more than half the time, he completely cut off the dancers’ legs, sometimes everything below the ribcage. What am I supposed to get from seeing a dancer’s shoulders and face? It was like a sea of legless torsos moving across the stage somehow on their own. And I couldn’t believe all the focus on the women’s pelvises — especially with Carolina and Felipe Telona! And sometimes the camera was way too far away. I think cameraguy needs some lessons from the primetime people.
Anyway, I’m glad you guys had fun watching! Next week is beautiful Standard — more on that later.