Oh, Katusha! Jose!

Well, I had really wanted either Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova or Jose Decamps and Joanna Zacharewicz to win, but I understand why Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kryuschkova (pictured above, photo by Jeffrey Dunn from America’s Ballroom Challenge site) did. As host Ron Montez said, they are by far the couple with the most experience dancing together. The judges value that longevity and commitment, and they’re the most used to each other. While I thought their Rhumba long program was a perfect representation of that dance, flawlessly executed with a very difficult lift, where he rolled her not only down but up and down again all in the same breath, I still can’t help but be a slight bit bored by them. Still can’t figure out why. On the other hand, I’m not in love with Standard and yet I can’t take my eyes of Katusha.

The minute she and Arunas leave the floor I’m sad and want them back. To me it says something that I’m not in love with their dance style but they still take my breath away. And she looks so much better with him than with her former partner, Jonathan Wilkins. Their long program just blew me away, from their frame, their sweep, their elegance — they’re a world class couple and it shows. Of all competitors in tonight’s championship, Katusha is the highest ranked internationally, placing second with Jonathan last year at Blackpool. Andrei and Elena didn’t even make the semifinals.

(photo above by Jeffrey Dunn) I loved Jose Decamps too — no one does the Mambo like he does. No one! No one does those crazy lightening fast-jumps and has all that liquid upper body action. The Afro-Cuban styling at the beginning with all that back movement and those rib-cage isolations — that was insane! It’s like he’s a rubber band! The man has no vertebra. The problem with them as a couple is that I think he outperforms Joanna by miles. She’s a good dancer, but he’s so much better that there’s a lack of balance. He can’t help it of course. He shouldn’t dance down. Who was his last partner; does anyone know? I know he was once with Cheryl Burke, but that was a while ago, I thought. Well, my advice to the top Rhythm people is: Joanna and Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine should get back together, and Jose needs a new partner.

And J.T. Thomas and Tomas Mielnicki: I like them a lot and I know how much she loves Broadway theater-style dance. They constructed a perfect foxtrot / cabaret routine, with each dance shown in equal measure and some nice connections between them. But I just think Broadway dance doesn’t look right unless it’s on a stage. With singing. And a loud, live band. I preferred their short routine, the creative combo of Argentine and Standard tango.

And all those “ballroom cameos” in the exhibitions — how fun! Max Kozhevnikov and Yulia Zagoruychenko on twice made my night 😀 I love that “Rhythm Section” routine. It’s a classic for them and it never loses its charm. I love her razor sharp precision. She just nails every movement, and I love how they play with the rhythms and switch back and forth between them so fluently. I think he’s a wonderful guy, but I do think she outdances him. So, though I’ll miss them as a couple, I think their split was for the best, and I can’t wait to see her with her new partner, Riccardo Cocchi.

And what a treat were Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Valeriya Kozharinova! Ooh, he’s just so sexy! He reminds me a bit of (top pro dancer) Sergey Surkov. Valentin and Valeriya are an amateur couple, as are the last couple to perform, Anna Demidova and Igor Mikushov. Both do well in amateur comps, particularly the latter couple. Couples like these are what I mean by competitive amateur dancers who have sponsors, dance full-time, and are nearly as good as their pro counterparts. You’ll recognize the last names of Valentin and Anna — they both come from big dance families 🙂

I really enjoyed Ron Montez. He was very good at explaining what the judges looked for and what was good about each couple. And he taught you some vocabulary as well. I learned a lot from him, particularly in the Standard and Smooth divisions, which I don’t know as well as Latin. I hope he returns next year.

Finally, I have to say, I’m so glad they did that little segment on John DePalma, the announcer. If you ever go to a competition in the U.S. — and everyone should! — his voice will become so familiar to you, you’ll be hearing it in your sleep for days. I always wondered about him, where he came from and how he got this job, so now I know! He’s at practically every comp in this country; those words, “Who’s your favorite couple, ladies and gentlemen?!” — Haha, I haven’t been to a championship in a while now (had to miss the New York Dance Festival this weekend, sadly…) but his voice and his words kind of bring me there anyway.

Uh, I’m sad it’s over for another year… They need to televise far far more of these.


  1. OOH! It hasn’t started here yet tonight, but now I have something to look forward to, and be sad about, because we’re done for another year, and its nearly a month until we get even a little ballroom back via DWTS. Oh, there are those shows on Lifetime and I think Bravo, maybe they will work to get my fix? LOL!

  2. Hi Sharon — Oh no, I just told you the results! Sorry! I really hope the Bravo show in particular is good — the other shows on Bravo seem to be a bit above the networks, so I’m hopeful!

  3. Its okay. I don’t mind. It gave me things to look forward to. I really enjoyed both of Max and Yulia’s pieces, and it was wonderful to see Tony and Elena again tonight. I’m just now to the long program.

  4. Did you notice how Elena was doing a hard-core Anya imitiation with her hair/makeup/costume tonight?

  5. I’m impressed that you all can keep these Russian names straight! I really liked the Standard couple and did not care for the winners at all. I know next to nothing about ballroom dancing but I do appreciate a wonderful ballet line and the winning couple for me just didn’t have it. He’s so much taller than she and altho Ron Montez said that Andrei used that to his advantage, I just didn’t see it. Also Elena’s final dress I think “shortened” her look even more. All that said, thanks Tonya for clueing me into this competition – I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  6. She’s too short. Ugly outfit. I can’t recall the names but one of the blond gals who wore black catsuit should have won. I don’t get how they judge these things. She was on fire.

    I found this one more interesting than the previous one. The young teenage girl (couple) were super who did an exhibition.’

    What I find odd is that these “dances” are so truncated and one hardly has a chance to see any “development” before they are on to something new.

    The costumes continue to be a major issue for me. Most are hideous. The bodies are stunning however.

  7. i don’t think that burke wants to be remembered dancing with jose dcamps. he’s a great dancer far superb for the likes of dwts. we will be hearing more and more of him as time goes by . he has a great future in the dancing world…people will get to know him for his talent not for who he used to be partnered with…which is a plus for him….mahol

  8. I finally was able to watch this (after me missing it intitally and then my VCR giving me problems). I was happy with the results and I loved their show dance. It was simple yet complex… My mom watched it with me and when they announced Maks’s brother, she was like Isn’t that Maks’s last name and I told her yes that’s his little brother, she kind of went all fan girly on me. It was rather amusing to watch.

  9. I’ve seen Elena wear a lot of unflattering outfits, but their striped number (in the photo) really took my disappointment to a new low. The rumba was a pleasant surprise, however. I was a little disappointed in JT+Tomas’ number – their punk-rock showdance last year, while underappreciated by the judges, was more entertaining, in my opinion.
    I’ve also seen better performances by Jose and Joanna than their “long-form” number, which I thought was uncharacteristically slow and flat. I blame the choreography.

    When you watch the “America’s Favorite Couple” event, the thing to remember is that it’s fake. Comparing couples across styles is largely meaningless. I personally root for who I like more, not who I think is better, and I think the judging is a mere formality. Moreover, American style (Smooth and Rhythm) is a lot less respected, and it would take a minor miracle for an American-style couple to win even a fake comp against International-style couples.

    Regarding Jose – he’s moving toward the end of his career, not the beginning. He’s already been around a LONG time for a pro dancer. He’ll retire in just a few years – he’s already won his title, there’s noplace else to go in Rhythm. Regarding Jose and Cheryl – their progress and results in International Latin were quite good in the time they were together, and while I would characterize Joanna as “better” technically than Cheryl, Cheryl and Jose were a formidable couple with very well-matched energy and expressive, modern style. Competing in International Latin cannot compare to competing in American Rhythm – the Latin field is hundreds of times bigger, the competition hundreds of times stiffer, and the skill level many times higher. Jose (with Cheryl) was *second* in the Rising Star latin category in the US – not even a champion, not even a finalist – yet he easily won the American Rhythm category right out of the gate with Joanna. That’s not because J is better (ballroom judging reflects upon the man’s level far more than the woman’s) – it’s because the Latin field is tough and Rhythm is a cakewalk in comparison.

  10. Doesn’t Cheryl state she won the Rising Star latin cat.? mig, do you have the answer to that?

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