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.