Hooray For Katusha and Arunas

Although I really don’t like this picture of them (taken from America’s Ballroom Challenge website — it was the only one they had of them; copyright of Jeffrey Dunn); the only thing I didn’t like about their showdance was that ending pose. Kind of a fish dive but not a real one or her arm wouldn’t be wrapped around his neck like that, and her bottom foot should be touching her top knee and it’s nowhere near it. Lifts actually always look a little weird in Standard because the shoes aren’t flexible and you can’t point your toes, so the line is off. Anyway, aside from the ending pose, I loved them — both their showdance and their group dancing. In particular I love him — better than her old partner Jonathan Wilkins even. He’s faster, swifter, and sharper — especially his Tango. That really blew me away. I’m happy for her that she ended up with someone like him. I had thought Jonathan retired from competition and that’s why they broke up, but I was wrong; he’s just moved back to his native England and is now competing for the UK with Hazel Newberry, a former British champion. It’ll be very interesting to see how they place respective to Katusha and Arunas in the world championships this year!

I also really liked the showdance of Igor Litvinov and Yulia Ivleva.

This is a photo from their group dance number (all photos by Jeffrey Dunn), not their showdance — they were the ones dressed in the Mod Squad / Elvis outfits who danced to the James Brown medley. Normally I prefer traditional ballroom dance to the more “creative” caricatures, but this one I liked because their use of the music wasn’t at all what you expected. Who would have ever thought of putting a Viennese Waltz to Brown, a Tango to “I Feel Good”! And it all worked — the rhythm as well as, unbelievably, the style. It was fun and their transitions between styles were excellent.

And I liked Urs Geisenhainer and Agnes Kazmierczak for almost the opposite reason.

They performed only to one song, but put several dance styles to it, including some Latin, and at the end even some breaking isolations. At points, such as the beginning, they uniquely combined Tango, a Standard dance with Cha Cha, a Latin. I’ve seen Latin dances combined with each other and Latin and Ballroom in one routine but with transitions between them. But I haven’t often seen Standard and Latin steps actually combined into one like that — it was like a Tango promenade / cha cha chas. Very cooly unique. And all of the dances looked equally good on them. Talk about versatility!

For exhibitions, as I said earlier, I love Austin Joson and Elizabeth Lakovitsky.

He keeps growing and growing; he’s starting to look like a little man. And only two years ago Elizabeth was a little girl. I know they’ve worked hard on their Paso Doble and it shows. They have a really cute jive and a sweet rumba too, but I think Paso is their favorite. That routine, with that kind of foreboding music, was rather mature, as cohost Ron Montez said! They have some polishing to do (and he has some more growing to do so he’ll catch up with her :) ) but I think they’re going to be really great someday.

I liked this couple too, Anton Belyayev and Karolina Paliwoda, who recently turned pro.

Sometimes the best dancers are just coming from the amateur ranks. I thought her form was fantastic, and I love the simplicity both of their routine and costumes. As Montez pointed out, she had no rhinestones on that dress and I love that somone has the courage to do something different. There’s too much glitter in some of these ballroom comps and sometimes it’s meant to compensate for lack of quality in the dancing. And they performed basic steps with such clarity, Montez was even able to use them as a model for pointing out to the audience the elements of a proper rumba. Montez is a good host: he notices small details and he’s interested in imparting the mysteries of technique to the audience.

The only thing, Standard in general is just kind of boring on TV; it doesn’t come across the same as in a live comp — somehow part of the magic is lost, kind of like with some of the filmed ballet (particularly ensemble work). I don’t know why that is exactly. I guess it’s the weightlessness factor: dances that are more grounded, like Latin and Tap have more weight and don’t lose much resonance when reduced to two dimensions. More light, feathery, weightless dances like ballet and Standard Ballroom just lose impact when not three-dimensional. That’s Paul Parish’s theory anyway. Hmmmm.

Also, extremely annoyingly, the ABC website no longer contains an email address where you can email questions, and ABC isn’t a part of the Great Performances series, so I don’t know how to get a hold of them. A couple of people asked me about songs they used in the group dances. I’ll try to find out how to contact them, but often, the event organizers don’t even remember which songs they used. They usually have a bunch of songs suitable for each dance style already downloaded into the computer, so that someone just hits “Cha Cha” for a cha cha heat, or “Rumba” for that dance. I was so disappointed when I’d hear a song I loved and would ask around and no one had a clue what I was talking about. If you ever go to competitions, though, visit the shopping pavilion (where they have all the costumes). There’s usually a music vendor there and they have TONS of ballroom CDs for both Latin and Standard. They have tables and tables of headphones and walkmans and you can sit there for hours and listen. If you’re in NY, Worldtone has a decent selection. If you’re neither in NY nor have any comps near you, you can visit DanceVision website. A lot of the songs are repeated on numerous tapes, but even if you don’t find the particular song you heard that way, you’ll definitely find a million others. I’ll let you know, though, if can find ABC people! Annoying that they took the email address down!

12 Comments

  1. Tonya,

    Try over at Dance Forums, you know, where the DWTS pro list was? Seems to me that last year one of the producers had posted over there to update everyone on what they were trying different with the show. You might luck out and find someone over there that will know. Either that, or if you have figured out how to get in at BDC again, send a message to Tony or Maks. Since Tony was on, and Maks’s brother Val was I’m sure at that particular comp, they may be able to point you in the right direction. Good luck!

  2. Tonya, why do the women wear such stiff shoes for Standard? Watching the dancers I did notice that the women didn’t seem to have as beautiful feet or extensions as say, the pro dancers on DWTS, which is my only point of comparison. I guess it’s due to the shoes. I also thought the fish dive the winners did had a very awkward line, but also loved the rest of their dance. I was glad that the host explained how the dancers have to avoid one another in the group dance; I wondered how they managed that! What do you think of Jasmine Guy as a host? How does she compare to former hosts? She does seem to say Niiice a lot :)

  3. Thanks Sharon! Barbara, that’s a good question about the shoes. I know when you start out they definitely want you to have hard-toed, hard-soled shoes because it’s so difficult to move in perfect tandem like they do, your (the girl’s) feet are going to be stepped on constantly by the guy since he’s coming forward and you’re going back. But, when you get more advanced and everyone knows what they’re doing, I’d think they’d want to change shoes. Maybe they’re so used by that time to the hard-toed ones. And those shoes have no straps; sometimes they even slip off in competition — I’ve seen that at Blackpool. One of the things I don’t like about Standard — those shoes! Yeah, Jasmine Guy doesn’t add a whole lot — I think they needed a celebrity there to sell the show. The last two years they’ve had Marilu Henner (from “Taxi’), and she was about the same as Guy. Tony Meredith, the pro who co-hosted with her, did most of the talking, like Montez is doing here.

  4. I wondered about straps on the shoes too. I was trying to see if there were clear staps or something. Thanks for clearing that up.

  5. Tonya,

    About Jasmine Guy…I don’t think she’s still a big enough name to be able to “sell” the show, is she? I liked Marilu better, and definitely preferred Tony Merideth! Montez is knowledgeable enough, but he’s very flat to me, and not interesting to listen to. I really enjoyed Tony’s commentary. You know who would be great on here for the Jasmine/Marilu role is the one that was in Dirty Dancing as Penny. I can’t remember her name, but she’s married to Richard Marx.

  6. As far as the host goes…

    Marilu irritated me to no ends. It was a real sigh of relief to have Jasmine on the show this year. I don’t think she adds anything to the show, but at least she doesn’t have me screaming at the television “Please shut up,” like Marilu did.

    Gag.

    Anyways, can’t wait for latin this week! :)

  7. Tonya, I’m sooo in love with Urs and Agnes after that showdance routine. I found it to be so much more truly creative than Igor and Yulia’s – I feel like anyone can put on a “crazy” outfit, but the choreography of the tango was divine!

  8. Katusha does dance better with Arunas, no? But I agree with you about that final pose – it’s not quite there. In general I find Standard showdances a little eh, but in their case the star power factor was enough to keep me interested.

    Also, it seemed to me in the Rhythm episode at least that the music for the group dances was exactly the same as last year’s – to avoid repeat licensing issues, perhaps?

  9. I’m not a “dance” enthusist, but just happen to catch Urs & Agnes doing what I can only describe as a mesmerizing tango to Madona’s “Die another day”. Wow! That was outstanding. Of course, I knew it would repeat…Not! Sunday feb.17th was the last airing of that episode 303.

    Can’t find it anywhere on the web. No youtube, not google video, and apperently they don’t make dvds of the tv program either. HELP! Can someone direct me to how I may get a copy of that episode or that one dance routine? thx.

  10. Hi RJ — I just sent a message on Ballroom Dance Channel asking if anyone had info on how to contact the show’s producers (since they took their contact info off the website), so I’ll let you know once someone responds! They really should have it somewhere else — on YouTube, dvd’s etc.

  11. Thanks Tonya, I can’t believe I spend all night looking for that episode.(smile) Guess I’ll be recording tonight for sure.

  12. They’ll show the whole series again several times this year.

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