Lesson 16: The Spiral and Millennium 2015

It’s Sunday Funday, dancers!

I don’t know why I said that, because it drives me crackers when people call it Sunday Funday.

Anyway, yes, I will confess I’m extremely late right now. I had a very busy three days!

However…Lesson 16 this past Thursday accidentally involved talk of my personal life. In my mind, I think “shut up, Teach doesn’t need to know these things”. But what I said out loud to him was, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but we’ve known each other forever so you’ll live, right?” He laughed and dished out a fabulous piece of advice, which was “I know it’s new and it’s scary, but just take the good things as they come”.

Anyway, the actual lesson entailed him asking, “Cha cha and rumba. Any questions?” Me: “The high spiral. What exactly am I doing there? Like…footwork?”

“Okay, the spiral. Did we ever break it down?”

“Uhhh…I’m thinking no.”

Spirals are more complicated than I thought. Not that he told me it’s so complicated that now I don’t ever think I can do one again, but it’s not just a turn. It has mechanics. I’m now concerned about doing it in cha cha, because I just have really bad balance, so moving fast is not currently in my wheelhouse of strengths. But at least now I know how to stay grounded when I spiral.

We also talked about clarity on the counts. “Let me see THIS line on 3!” “HOLD 1, CHECK 2!” Ironically, clarity and timing was something that had occurred to me while practicing and I’d been thinking about it a lot lately, so I’m glad it came up.

Dimitrios Damalas and Maria Seragou - Damalas

Dimitrios Damalas and Maria Seragou – Damalas

That’s my friend Maria! We used to dance together at the franchise back in the day. She ended up moving on with an independent instructor (Dimitrios, who’s in the picture with her) and has been kicking butt in the Pro-Am field ever since. Actually, she was kicking butt in Pro-Am even when at the franchise studio; I think she’s won pretty much every championship there is to win in the USA. She also was featured in this article in the New York Times, in a section where they spotlight the extracurriculars of Wall Street workers. Maria has just always been one of those people that I look to, ya know?

Teach and I will be discussing mechanics next week. We all know working on mechanics isn’t a lot of fun, but I also know that using my center is the most important thing I can learn if I ever want to get better at this. Even though I know how to use my center, I don’t think I do it right. Even in cross training when I should be using my core, I think I end up using my lower back instead. I slept on my stomach one night a couple weeks ago (I slept on my stomach for probably a decade and then stopped) and my lower back was killing me for days afterward.

He’s also gradually lightening our connection so he can make sure I’m developing the strength. I’m terrified because of my lack of balance. And also because isn’t most of the fun in dancing the part where you’re connected to someone else? I know he’s still with me, but also just as a woman, I quite like it sometimes when the decision is taken from me. Plus, the strength in a man is damn near always what draws me to him.

I think I segued into something else. Oops.

Now that I’ve made things awkward, let’s move on.

Millennium Dancesport was this weekend! Not that I don’t love a change of scene, but what was the deal with the Candyland thing? Ah well. It makes it fun. Probably best that I wasn’t there, because I would go crazy eating candy and literally be running on the ceiling with a trail of smoke behind me, and I would probably be banned from the event, because I’m naturally insanely energetic, so me on a sugar high is a terrible idea.

Okay, okay. Well, Pro Latin has been the only division so far I can find pictures of, but here it is!

Milennium 2015 Pro Latin

Milennium 2015 Pro Latin

1) Maurizio Vescovo & Andra Vaidilaite (Canada)
2) Andrey Tarasov & Yulia Kuznetsova
3) Mykhaylo Bilopukhov & Anastasiya Shchpilina (Ukraine)
4) Dmitry Nikishkin & Olena Shvets-Nikishkin (did you know they’re newlyweds? Happy face!)
5) Roman Italyankin & Aleksandra Bokova
6) Sasha Altukov & Cheyenne Murillo (they also won Rising Star. Can you believe she was still dancing Pro/Am up until a year ago? They were featured as a Pro/Am couple in the first episode of America’s Ballroom Challenge)

Stalking heat lists is exhausting, but I, as well as all of you, want to know what went down at this competition, so I found an easier way: SCORESHEETS!

Pro Ballroom placings:
1) Victor Fung & Anastasiya Muravyeva (I love everything about them)
2) Marat Gimaev & Alina Basyuk
3) Artem Plakhotnyi & Inna Berlizyeva
4) Alexander Voskalchuk & Veronika Egorova
5) Mikhail Avdeev & Olga Blinova
6) Iaroslav Bieliei & Lillia Gladiuk
7) Andrey Begunov & Anna Demidova

If I’m not mistaken, 1-7 in Pro Ballroom are all USA couples.

American Rhythm placings:
1) Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine & Liana Churilova
2) Nazar Norov & Irina Kudryashova
3) Andre & Natalie Paramonov
4) Misha Vlasov & Vanda Polakova
5) Vard Margaryan & Mandy Carlisle
6) Shane & Shannon Jenson

Not really any surprises there except for the couple that placed 5th. All I know is they’re a new partnership because I’ve never heard of them.

Pro Smooth placings:
1) Mikhail & Galina Zharinov
2) Mazen Hamza & Isabela
3) Nikolai Cheremukhin & Viktorija
4) Travis & Jaimee Tuft (they’re kind of my Smooth obsession)
5) Kyle & Allie Spinder
6) Yegor Novikov & Alexandra Smimova

I don’t know when I found out that Yegor Novikov was dancing Smooth now, but apparently I’ve known this for a while. *shrug*

And just for fun I’ll throw in the Amateur Latin standings:
1) Alexander Chernositov & Arina Grishanina
2) Austin Joson & Nino Dzneladze (I LOVE this partnership!)
3) Tal Livshitz & Ilana Keselman
4) Daniils Kutuzovs & Maria Shalvarova (Canada)
5) Artur Tarnavskiy & Anastasiya Danilova
6) Nikita Malakhov & Nadezda Vlasova

Okay, okay. My Teach danced in this competition also and made the semifinal in his style. I told him whoever didn’t recall him to the final is wrong anyway, but other than that, I think I can dig these results. Are we okay with this? Did the right couples get ranked in the right order?


Friday at the Yankee Classic

Happy hump day, ballroom dancers!

I did end up hitting up the Yankee Classic this past weekend in Boston, though just the Friday sessions. I had a lot of friends dancing, not to mention my revered Teach was dancing, and I’ve got a lot of time on my hands, so I decided to make a little vacay of it.

The 2015 Yankee Classic judging panel

The 2015 Yankee Classic judging panel

The Yankee Classic’s entire judging panel! How fun is that picture? I have no clue who the blonde girl in the silver dress is, but she is an absolute stunner. Friday night, she had on this red dress with some matching red shoes covered in crystals. Also, Allan Tornsberg is some heck of a dresser.

I got there pretty late, actually. I arrived at the Friday matinee around 3 PM. Fortunately, one of my pro friends gave me tickets to that session as well as the night one (SCORE! 95 bucks saved). I had also decided days ago that I was going to not cause any trouble; I was just going to sit in a corner quietly and not draw any attention to myself.

Only, oops, that’s not exactly what happened. I walked in the ballroom and sat down quietly, chewing some gum. Not two seconds later, I saw Teach in the opposite corner of the ballroom, about to walk onto the floor with a student. I gave it probably two minutes until they reached my corner of the ballroom, but that was it – I instantly drew attention to myself.

It was one of the Smooth rounds, and they foxtrotted in front of me and hit a very nice accent. I took the opportunity and hollered his number at the top of my lungs (and a lot of people looked at me). He didn’t break anything to look at me, but his eyes followed his choreo and he looked at me. He grinned at me, I grinned at him, and I was just like, yaaaaasssss, Teach knows I’m here now, fun shall be had.

I was somehow entirely too shy to go check out the dresses. Dore, Designs to Shine, Dancewear Works, and Miari were all there. For shoes, it was Capezio.

It was all well and good until the competition started dragging because it ran so behind schedule. It ended up being over an hour late; it was to the point where they had to kick everyone out of the ballroom to hurry along the awards so they could start the night session. How long was the break between the matinee and the night session? 10 minutes.

Zero time to eat.

It’s okay, I have tons of energy. I did a lot of cheering. It made me laugh though, a little bit, because almost every time I cheered, people turned to look at me. I don’t get it. I thought people were supposed to cheer! Plus, what about the people who have been dancing since 8 AM? They need my support! And everyone else’s, of course…

Anyway, I’m not sure exactly what Teach plans on having me dance, but I watched the scholarship rounds intently. I hate to say it, but watching Pro/Am, you learn a lot about what not to do with your legs and feet. I can’t even think of what those things were, which is a shame because I always learn a lot when I watch competitions, but I always forget what I learn. Maybe I ought to write it down in the future. It was all fabulous, though – my friends all won.

I also want to give a shout out to Extreme DanceSport. They’re a studio in Boston and you noticed them because the students are all so spunky and actually enjoy their dancing. I’m not saying any student doesn’t love dancing, but most of the time, they end up looking terrified when dancing at competitions or shows. Even watching Extreme DanceSport at their tables, they were having so much fun! Another shout out to Steve Yi and Helle Rusholt-Yi. You can tell they are great teachers – their students all danced great and had fun while they were doing it!

Oh, and I’d like to give the special shout out to Helle’s student Nicolas Nguyen who won Open A. He absolutely slaaaayyyyed. My reaction to him and Helle dancing? Instant obsession. Simple as that. I’m actually kind of obsessed with Helle too, now that I think of it.

Extreme DanceSport at the 2015 Yankee Classic

Extreme DanceSport at the 2015 Yankee Classic

That’s, left to right, Steve, Helle, and their students Nicolas and Michael. Everybody here won first place. Even just the atmosphere around them was amazing. It was just so great to see.

I saw the Rising Star Smooth, Rising Star Rhythm, and Rising Star Standard – and then awards for the scholarship rounds were given. My friends and I were done by then. We wanted to, but couldn’t stomach seeing the rest of the events. I was half dead by the end of the night. And all I was doing was sitting there! Imagine my poor Teach and all my other friends who had been dancing all day!

My teacher also danced with his partner that weekend. (Wish I’d seen that. Sad that I didn’t, but there’ll be others.) They did awesome in their event! Placed second! (Yeah, I may have just narrowed his identity down a lot here…haha.)

Speaking of competitions, the German Open Championships went down in Mannheim this weekend. In Amateur Latin, the USA’s Alexander Chernositsov and Arina Grishanina took 4th. In Pro Latin, our own Riccardo and Yulia won it! I was going to put up their honor dance rumba, but I actually like the one they danced in the final better.

Don’t you think they’re great together? My favorite thing about them has always been how he clearly adores her and you can tell she really appreciates him. Are you so excited for the day they finally win Blackpool? I know I am!

Lesson 15: RumbaChaChaSamba

Good evening, ballroom addicts!!!

Rumbachachasamba. That’s what it felt like in my lesson today.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I think I’m stupid.

Okay, maybe that isn’t it. I used to think I was pretty good at remembering choreography. Now I don’t think I am at all. I’ve noticed what it is; anything even remotely different from a totally basic figure, like a Spiral that goes in the opposite direction than I’m used to doing (or seeing) it, will throw me off to the point I’m unable to remember anything that comes after that.

Yeah, I’ll admit this spin around the ballroom is giving me a real ego check.

So I was stretching for a while and marveling at the fact that Allan Tornsberg was in the ballroom – and in neon orange, nonetheless. I was kind of terrified, though, because I heard him yelling a lot – is he really tough or is he funny? I was too scared to find out. I saw he had a lot of love for my teacher, though (in the form of big smiles and big hugs), so that made me feel better.

When my teacher arrived, I went ahead and told him how sore I was from Stretch class last night. (The Stretch teacher had zero mercy.) Working on straddle splits (which I don’t have) and getting my toes to my head just has a few parts of my body hating me right now; I probably wasn’t very gentle.

I confess, I didn’t practice as much in the past week as I should have. I did spend practically all week staring at the written versions of my routines. Ironically, when Teach and I started, he said, “Okay, so I have some questions about the routines.” Because I hadn’t practiced, I was balled up into a corner in my mind, like “I won’t be able to answer his questions and he is going to have my a…..”

Fortunately, that wasn’t what happened. We went through rumba and I not only answered his question, I corrected him (WIN). He decided to change a few things. (FYI, the things he does when he’s thinking are hilarious.) I’ll admit, I don’t even know what they are, except that he added a high spiral, which I am actually thrilled about because I think that is one of the most beautiful figures in Latin. I love pretty much any runaway-esque figure.

Plus, I think Teach realized that we don’t cover a whole lot of ground in our routine.

Slavik Kryklyvyy & Karina Smirnoff - Dancing Basics With Passion: Rumba

Slavik Kryklyvyy & Karina Smirnoff – Dancing Basics With Passion: Rumba

Not the best quality, but it illustrates my point. Because all of a sudden I can’t find any of today’s couples using this figure.

Then the same thing happened in cha cha. He had questions and I, thankfully, not only had answers, but was able to dance it in its entirety! Yyyyyesssss!!!!! He changed some things there too. I had input. Which just ended up being me saying, “Which one do I do best? Fine, we’ll do that one.”

The random part was that somewhere in the middle of us running the cha cha routine (which happened like three times), the ballroom cleared and we were the only ones dancing. I didn’t think anyone was paying attention until we came closer to the music machine and Vibeke, THE Vibeke, patted her hair down, smiling at us, and thanking us for “the wicked cha cha show!”

Excuse me while I hyperventilate. Especially because while stretching, I’d been watching her demonstrate lock steps and marveled at how she executed a simple step so gorgeously.

Then Teach just exclaimed, “Samba!” and grabbed my hands. Yaaaaasssss.

Troels Bager and Ina Jeliazkova - Amateur Latin, International Championship 2014 Copyright © 2014 Peter Suba

Troels Bager and Ina Jeliazkova – Amateur Latin, International Championship 2014
Copyright © 2014 Peter Suba

I NEEDED to have a picture of Troels and Ina here. What is it about this couple that just makes you love them? I can’t figure it out. Anyway, they were in the studio today. I was trying again not to notice, but as I am a woman with functioning eyes, I have to say it: Troels Bager is stupidly handsome.

Anyway, when Teach is choreographing, all of a sudden he gets super serious and his eyes get unfocused and he looks in weird directions and just starts doing all the possible figures. Fortunately, I’ve figured out when I’m supposed to move with him and when I’m supposed to just stand there.

We already have a pretty lengthy samba routine. It’s just bones of a routine and I’m thrilled with it! Probably because it’s got some way more advanced stuff than I thought he’d throw at me.

So basically, finalized rumba routine, finalized cha cha, and a pretty long structure for our samba.

And all in 45 minutes.

He did say that once I really got rumba down, we would pretty much blow through the rest of the dances. It’s going quicker than I thought.

The Yankee Classic is in Boston this weekend. My teacher is dancing and so are a few of my friends, so I’m thinking of going! I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, for Ballroom Around the World, this is such exciting news – Nino Langella and Anna Melnikova had their first show together, this past weekend in Mexico! I had some queries about how they would dance together because I always felt like he had such a youthful way of moving, but that’s changed with the professional training he must be doing. One of these videos came from Anna’s Instagram and the other came from Boyko’s.

Not sure why I’m surprised by this, but I think they’re already magnificent together, and if you ask me, they will only get better. You can completely feel the heat between these two – the magnetism between them practically warps the walls. And, of course, she looks absolutely stunning, and her dress is beautiful.

How do you feel about them? Are you as excited for this partnership to solidify and advance as I am?!

Lesson 14: Cha Cha DONE!

Happy Hump Day, dancers! What’s shaking?

I feel like I hadn’t written or done anything dance related in forever. It was really an odd week.

Teach is going to competition next week (and I’m guessing this week as well), so my lessons are Tuesdays for the time being. I had yet another good one yesterday. I’ve just been working on my lock steps lately and trying to get the legs right so that I get that slithery action in my body. Because that, to me, is the fun part.

Teach asked me if I’d written anything on cha cha, since we started doing bits and pieces of choreography last time. Fragments. There were fragments.

Maurizio Vescovo & Andra Vaidilaite, 2013 Milennium Dancesport, (c) Stephen Marino

Maurizio Vescovo & Andra Vaidilaite, 2013 Milennium Dancesport, (c) Stephen Marino

Andra is such a stunningly beautiful woman. And the passion between her and Maurizio is insane.

I’m not sure how it happened, but not only did he choreograph the entire routine AND we danced it like four times, but we went through the entire thing and fixed a lot of technical things. I’m mostly having trouble, I think, with making my feet super clear on the chasses. And there’s one part I always forget to do the forward lock into my spiral. Which is actually hysterical.

It was even funnier when Vibeke (yes, THE Vibeke Toft), while teaching her lesson, just happened to put on “Corazon Espinado” by Mana featuring Carlos Santana. It’s probably my favorite cha cha song! Teach grabbed my hand and we danced the routine. I forgot a lot of things because I got excited. So I learned about myself that I can’t dance when I like the music because I go kind of crazy. Or maybe I just need to practice.

Also, I’m not understanding why this happened, but it’s awesome. My feet look a lot better in cha cha because on pretty much everything, I’m stepping with my foot turned out. WHY can I not do this in rumba? Like I’ve said before, I want to be a more technical dancer, so I guess I could practice with one body part at a time. Feet first? Core? Or no?

Oh, one more thing. Have you seen So You Think You Can Dance? I’ve only seen, so far, the premiere episode. I think the whole Stage vs. Street theme they’re doing is really interesting, but ballroom dancers already don’t always do so well on the show. With Stage vs. Street, it looks like ballroom will be almost obsolete. I hope I’m wrong.

I leave you with this! Maurizio and Andra’s paso performance at Millennium. Because – this isn’t exactly new news, but – the 2015 Millennium Dancesport Championships are going to be televised! What do you think of this? I’m excited, but I hope it’s better than America’s Ballroom Challenge. Not that I think it was terrible, just the scripting on the commentary felt very contrived and I wish they had shown more of the heats. But I was also just really happy there was more ballroom on television!

Blackpool Ending and Lesson 13: Cha-Cha-Chaaaaa

Hi-hi, dancers!!!

First things first: the last of the USA at Blackpool. Once again, Arunas Bizokas with Katusha Demidova win Professional Ballroom, with Victor Fung and Anastasiya Muravyeva coming in 2nd place. YAY!

Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova / Victor Fung and Anastasiya Muravyeva, Blackpool 2015 Pro Ballroom

Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova / Victor Fung & Anastasiya Muravyeva, Blackpool 2015 Pro Ballroom (c) DanceSportInfo.net

I wonder how long these two couples are going to be going up against each other. On the other hand, that gown Anastasiya is wearing is one of the most stunning dresses I’ve ever seen. She also wore it to dance at the Emerald Ball – I saw some highlights from ParadigmDVD and especially in high definition, it is just breathtaking. The ombre drapes are my favorite part! So unique and just gorgeous.

I just got back home from my lesson and boy, it was a doozy. Storytime! It was at 2:15 and in Port Authority at 2:05. I couldn’t find the train (some parts of that place are just really weird) and I knew taking a cab would be stupid because it would just make me late. So I decided to walk the six blocks and, of course, people weren’t ever slower walkers than they were today. Two blocks away, I text Teach, “Give me like five minutes”. I go running into the building and bluster into the studio at 2:17. Guess what?

Teach wasn’t even there yet.

I was so mad, yet it was hysterical because I knew odds would be that he wouldn’t arrive before I did. I went and changed, then when I came out of the changing room I saw him wandering around. I figured I’d take the two minutes and do some split warmups because I’m still sore from my workouts the other day (and also due to that, I have multiple nasty bruises that are actually royal purple). “You tight?” he asked when he finally reached me. I was rolling through a split with a pained expression on my face.

It may have been the sprint from Port Authority to Herald Square, but I was now so scatterbrained I couldn’t even answer a question. I just stared at him with my face empty and then threw my hair and started giggling. (I spent most of the lesson laughing and didn’t even know why.) “HEY, check this out!” I showed him the bruises on my legs and his jaw dropped to the floor. When he asked what happened. I told him I learned a new move and was having trouble clearing the equipment, so, multiple times, my knees smashed into it. He visibly cringed. Teach is normally unflappable. Sickeningly, it made me laugh a little bit.

[/End story.]

He told me the plan for today was to start my cha cha routine (yyyyyesssss!).

Roman Kutskyy & Anna Kovalova, USDC

Roman Kutskyy & Anna Kovalova, USDC

Anna Kovalova is a goddess. Not only does she have the best legs I’ve ever seen on any living thing, but it’s impossible for anything to look bad on this slammin’ body of hers.

We warmed up with rumba (it’s getting to be fun) and this is embarrassing – I learned I can remember choreography very well until probably two-thirds of the way through a routine. We’ve had our rumba fully choreographed for weeks and it’s only now that I can remember the end – and that’s because I wrote it down, he wrote it down for me, and I wrote it down again in detail. And I read it a bunch of times. So that’s something mental I know I need to think about.

We went over lock steps again and went into a little more detail on back locks. I had trouble understanding the timing of the positions, but he cleared that right up. I also now know when the fluidity happens in locks (“Chaaaaa”). We started choreographing and kept trying different things, but the one constant was that he is definitely having me do a lot of lock steps.

I threw an idea out there, but he said, “Only thing is that’s Open level so we can’t do that yet.” I asked him what it was that makes things “Open”, because, to me, you can throw a turn in the middle of a figure or change the hold or do a different chasse and the figure now looks Open. He told me there are no rules against styling a figure, but the thing that really makes something Open is when you actually start changing its timing. So that’s actually really exciting because while I love cha cha, I personally think that when done in its most basic, meat-and-potatoes form, it ends up looking the most boring of the five dances.

Not that it matters, but there was something that just got me down for a split second. We were tossing around ideas for a New Yorker sequence and I remembered that on my first go-around in the ballroom, whenever I did a New Yorker, whether cha cha or rumba, I used to be able to see my back hand in the mirror behind my head. I can’t see the back hand behind my head anymore. It’s especially weird when you think about the fact that my back and shoulders are so much stronger now, so you’d think I’d be able to open up on my New Yorker more than I did before.

We played around a lot (or he did; I just held his hand and therefore was taken along for the ride) and we’ve only got four or five eight-counts, but I’m already loooooving our cha cha routine. It somehow is already showing our personality – just Teach and Anna! Is that weird?

I need to practice. We all need to practice!