The Grand National Championships 2021

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America’s Got Talent!

Yesterday at the Grand Nationals Championships, the World Professional Classic Show Dance was held and the USA demonstrated how much talent the USA has! 6 couples made this dynamic final and all 6 couples were from the USA.

We also witnessed an excellent Professional Latin Championship and a terrific Professional Smooth Championship.

With a standing ovation Aleksander & Veronika Voskalchuk were crowned World Professional Classic ShowDance Champions for the first time, and it was a tearful and heartfelt win for them. They were very emotional when their win was announced and later at the after party, they told us present how much it meant for them to capture this title. Their routine was, for us and for the audience, perfect from the word go and in looking at the marks they captured 7 out of nine first place marks making it a landslide win for them. Only two judges awarded them less than first place and they were Kara Arngrimsdottir from Iceland who awarded them a third place for their effort and Frances Teoh from Malaysia who awarded them a second place. Their routine had a storyline of a couple meeting when they were young and living their lives until death did them part, for us it was a terrific piece of work to the song of Hallelujah, and as we mentioned it was well-received by the audience who gave them a standing ovation. In an interesting fact we believe this to be the second time a US couple has won a World Showdance with the same song, but in a different style as Andre & Natalie Paramonov also used it for a rumba styled routine.

Second in this excellent parade of dance art form was Iaroslav & Lilia Bieliev who were awarded the two first place marks from Kara and Frances and six second place marks. Only one judge, Jurgen Schimmel from Germany, awarded them lower, a fifth place mark for their effort. We were very impressed with Iaroslav & Lilia’s ballroom physical skills, however, when it came to their ShowDance, it might have been questionable that this was truly a complete ShowDance experience? They did have a theme and it was about Iaroslav being “bewitched” by Lilia, but for us most of it was ballroom floor craft based, a little more show skills might have given them the edge they needed to seduce the audience and capture the title, but it was not to be. The audience were quite welcoming but no standing ovation for this routine.

The second routine that had the audience really going was that of Nazar Batih & Mariko Cantley who took third overall to the tune of “The Sound of Silence.” We have to agree with the audience on this one, their routine was amazing in content and well executed. Perhaps they did not have the power of the Ballroom skills to challenge Iaroslav & Lilia but many of us felt this was a truly excellent show piece and could have easily placed second instead of the third placement they received. Nazar & Mariko certainly had the most impressive lift work in the competition.

Fourth was awarded to Stephen & Elisa McCann with their “Celtic” theme routine. This was also very well executed this time around and they did get the audience to participate by clapping along with their performance. As the only “upbeat” routine in the final, we think they gave the audience a welcome change of pace.

Fifth place was awarded to Alexey Grinev & Kseniia Grineva with a routine that perhaps had a theme of the struggle between good and evil, but on this your guess is as good as ours. For us there was lot of running around with not that much strong substance to the performance.

In sixth place and perhaps another favorite of ours was the “Holocoust” theme routine by Sergey Izyumov & Oksana Izyumova to Schindler’s List protaying a holocaust couple escaping out of the concentration camp and she being shot. We thought this routine could have been placed a little higher maybe in fifth position and yes a few judges did mark them fourth overall but not enough of them to make this routine go higher.

The World Showdance was presented in memory of Mary Gill and her daughter, Linda, assisted the organizers in the presentation.

The Professional Smooth was the second most popular event of the evening and here US Professional Champions, Roman Malkhasyan &Galina Detkina, won all dances and three of them with perfect scores from the judges. But in the Viennese Waltz they were short of being perfect by two marks one from Mr. Rufus Dustin and the other from Yulia Kornilova who also awarded them second place on the same dance. Second in all dances went to Travis & Jaimee Tuft who as usual were very consistent in their performance and in every dance and for us totally deserving of this spot in the final, in fact Rufus Dustin awarded them first in their Viennese waltz.

Aleksandar Vukosavijevic & Alexandra Smirnova placed third in all dances, fourth was awarded to Jan & Adele Don who took that first place mark from Yulia Kornilova. Fifth place was awarded to Volodymyr Barabash & Yulia Rudenko, and sixth in all were Dmitrii Zavialov & Arina Sokolova.

It was an easier task for the judges in the Open Professional Latin. Here Artur Tarnavskyy & Anastasiya Danilova won all dances with perfect scores from the judges. From second place down there was a little more deviation. Second overall was awarded to Fedor Artemev & Ekaterina Artemeva placing second in four dances and third in the cha cha. Taking second in the cha cha and third in the other four dances were Jason Chao Dai & Jessie Mineau from Canada. Fourth place in all dances was awarded to Maurizio Conte & Caitlin Anderson, fifth were Dylan Jenkins & Nora Maria Garciaa, and sixth went to Roland Koren & Sydney Burbach.

Congrats to Peter & Cassandra Schneider on their first class event that included a wonderful banquet dinner in the ballroom to begin the evening.

Grand Night!

It was grand night yesterday at the Grand Nationals Championships, two excellent heats were presented - the Open Professional Ballroom and the Open Professional Rhythm, and we must say they did not disappoint.

The Professional Ballroom started with an 9 couple semifinal, unfortunately one couple did not show and so an eight couple semifinal was called. The 8 couple semifinal began and it had quite a punch, the majority of couples were of good quality and so even to get six couples was hard for the judges.

In the end, we thought that it was a walk in the park for Alexander & Veronika Voskalchuk who won all dances with a majority of firsts in all. We were quite surprised that in the tango they lost 5 first places to the runners-up Andrii Mykhailov & Ekaterina Popova. We have to say that we are usually a fan of this dynamic duo but last night’s performance left a lot to be desired, with every step they seemed to be getting further and further from each other as a couple,. Andrii & Ekaterina are a couple with tremendous amounts of talent but last night they seemed a little discombobulated to us. But in their defense perhaps we were asking for too much from this couple, a good amount of judges did not see them this way and so they placed second in all dances.

Luca Balestra & Krizia Balestra were third in all dances and yes we found them a little heavy in their performance, but in many ways they could have easily taken a few second places from Andrii & Ekaterina on this occasion. The question that was left in our minds after that event was, are we expecting too much from these talented couples? Or were some of the judges marking from past performances and so were we all looking at their past record instead of what they were doing at the moment? These are things that goes through peoples’ minds after watching such a talented group compete with each other.

Fourth overall was awarded to Jonathan Test & Tatiana Mescheryakova from Canada 4,4,6,4,4. We truly enjoyed this couple’s performance, here is a couple that with a little more effort and time will be rivaling all the top couples in this heat. Fifth went to Anton Silantev & Olga Akopova, 6,5,4,5,5, here we have a lovely lady, perhaps one of the best in this final. However, Anton & Olga’s performance went up and down like a roller coaster - at times they looked as if they would be up on top, then you look again and they were fighting for last place, with a lot more consistency of work this couple will also be right up there with the rest. Last but not least, sixth place was awarded to Artur Kozun & Monika Pyrgiel 5,6,5,6,6, the truth here is that we did not see this couple making the final and yes they have the equipment to do quite well in this style, but their technical as well as emotional performance is not quite trained and ready for the task of competing with the rest of this wonderful heat, with more understanding and lots of work they too could be challenging for higher ground.

The Open Professional Rhythm Championship was also a very interesting competition and this one started with a full semifinal round of competition. Seven very capable couples were called for the final and the winner by far was Andre & Natalie Paramonov who won the cha cha and swing with perfect scores. In the other three dances they lost one mark in the rumba and one mark in the bolero from judge Alain Doucet . In the mambo they lost two first place marks one from Rufus Dustin and one from Rick Elliott. We have to say that here we agree with the majority of the judges, not one of the competitors at this moment can get near this couple’s interpretation of the Rhythm style and for us they continue to be the best in the field.

Second in all dances went to Dmitry & Olena Nikishkin, who stole two first place marks from Andre & Natalieone in the rumba and one in the Bolero. We must also report that in the rumba they were clearly second with every judge awarding them second place in this dance. For us Dmitry & Olena’s performance was full of life and well executed, you could tell no one was going to take that second mantel away from them, the performance was very powerful and precise.

Kevin Ubillus Plasencia & Milagros Lareto were third overall 3,4,3,3,3. This was a well-deserved placement for this couple and yes we agree with many of the attendees that this couple have something very special in their Rhythm delivery, and we are totally taken by their dynamic mambo. However, not every dance should look like the mambo, for us there is the need for a different characterization of the other four dances for them to challenge the very top with their new approach.

Fourth overall was awarded to Shandor Shtefil & Evgeniia Elcoro 4,3,4,4,4. Here is a couple that does all the work and gives us a very correct Rhythm style. Unfortunately for them, as you can see with Kevin & Milagros, what we all want is a very unique approach to the style and not just clean routines with no offensive maneuvers.

Fifth were Jan & Adele Don 5,5,5,5,5. Here we have a similar approach to the couple immediately above them, but perhaps a little less charisma. In sixth place were Kristian Sese & Mae Lozada. Their partnership continues to improve and on this outing we found Mae a little more endearing in her approach and we really like it! Keep up the good work guys! Seventh was Jake Davis & Alyona Kalinina. Covid has taken quite a toll on our industry, but as I said when you get back to the game you have to be in the perfect form to make it up the hill and this outing was not it for this couple. Jake & Alyona are super talented and should be easily making some major progress in this style, but unlike some couples it seems to us that through the idle period of Covid they seemed to have stayed put and are just getting back to it.

Congratulations to Peter & Casandra Schneider who put huge emphasis decor on the ballroom and it looked beautiful.

Tonight we should be seeing the World Ballroom Showdance, Professional Latin and American Smooth and it should be another night to remember at the Grand National Championships.

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