North American Imperial Star Ball 2022

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A Nearly Perfect Night for Tufts!

Last night at the North American Imperial Star Ball Travis & Jaimie Tuft won two divisions, the Open Professional Smooth and the Cabaret.

They nearly won both categories with perfect scores from the judges in every dance with the exception of the tango where they got one second place. The Open Professional Latin was also a great division to watch and also an easy win for Artur Tarnavski & Anastasiya Danilova. The Amateur Ballroom was a little green around the edges but with plenty of talent.

As we mentioned earlier, it was a fantastic night for Travis & Jaimie Tuft who lately seem to be dancing for themselves with little care for who is watching or judging, they are simply enjoying each moment and it is solidifying something very special in their performances that is making us all stand to attention - including the judges as you can appreciate by their marks. The tango was the only dance where they took a second place and that was from Kimberley Mitchel. If they are able to produce this wonderful quality at a ratio where we can all see it from a plane, the cards are there displayed and they might break the mold of just good quality dancing and set their mark on this style.

Second place in this Smooth Championship went to Aleksandar Vukosavljevic & Alexandra Smirnova, and very well awarded, they too are presenting a very unique style of their own, although not as playful as one might want at times, they own this trademark and it has to be marked well on the floor. They managed to capture the majority of seconds in every dance and even the first from Ms. Mitchel in the tango.

Third was awarded to Volodymyr Barabash & Yulia Rudenco, a very talented young couple who were totally deserving on being in this final. If you step away and look at their scorecard, you will see marks from sixth to second place from many of the judges, we think their outfits which appear a little busy, detract from what we really need to see and admire and that is their talent and quality of their dancing.

Fourth in this terrific heat went to Kharyton & Anastasiya Khomenko with these marks 4,4,5,4, this is like so many of the couples that competed in this event, a very talented couple with great energy and good quality of movement, but we are not totally sure what their ultimate focus is. The energy and movement levels never change within each dance or from dance to dance. There were other couples left in the semifinal who showed clearer interpretations of the various dances both musically and technically. Peter Minkov & Yuliia Sorokata for one in just basic movement alone and also Pavel Lebedev & Ekaterina Romashkina, another brilliant couple that did not make the final but that we would also have had in. We most look a lot closer next time around, perhaps we missed something in the process of this heat?

Fifth place was awarded to Mariusz Zakrzewski & Lynnsay Ray 6,5,4,5. Here we have to disagree again with the distinguished panel of adjudicators. Yes! Mariusz & Lynnsay have not kept up with the “traveling pack.” We don’t usually see them as often as the rest of the group, but when it came to dancing this couple was solid last night. Their performances was faultless and with a very unique style. Yes, they have been there quite a long time and they are not the flavor of the month, but as far as we could see they could have been third across the board for us.

We were a little disappointed with Vladyslav Nalyvaychuk & Brianna Nalyvaychuk’s performance last night and we can honestly say we were not surprised to see them place this low in this final. This is a very talented couple but they were not “on” especially. We still think this might be a couple to keep our eyes on for the future and we have seen them dance a lot better in the past.

It was basically a walk in the park for Artur Tarnavskyy & Anastasiya Danilova in the Open Professional Latin, they won two dances with perfect scores, the cha cha and the samba, and the rest with a huge majority of firsts from the judges, losing 2 firsts in the rumba, 1 first in the paso and 3 firsts in the jive. In the past we have complained that we wanted to see some of the old Artur & Anastasiya, some of the cleverness and energy that put them here in the first place. Well, on last night’s performance it was great to see some of it back! We totally understand that work has to be done to improve your quality but that quality that made you what you are today you should never lose and we are quite happy to see some of it is back!

Second in the Latin heat was awarded to Andrey Kitsun & Nicole Prosser who were tied with Alon Gilin & Maria Bavyko for second in the cha cha but placed full seconds in the other four dances. We have to say that as a couple Alon & Maria looked slightly more accomplished in some of the dances. When it comes to the men, there is no question in our mind that Andrey Kitsum held the upper had here. This is a brilliant male dancer who is not afraid to move. We were not surprised to see that Andrey & Nicole took second place in this very competitive heat. Leaving Alon & Maria holding third in almost all dances but the cha cha.

From third place down we felt any one of the couples could have been placed in any position. Fourth was awarded to Dmitrii Chopenko & Valeria Khrapak 5,5,4,4,4; fifth were Mishiko Bregvadze & Alena Khoroshevtseva 4,4,5,5,5; sixth in all dances was awarded to Vlad Astafiev & Elizabeth Zymovets and seventh went to Nazar Zakharchenko & Anastasiia Rozdabara.

There were five excellent couples in the Cabaret division and as you heard before Travis & Jaimie Tuft won this quite easily with perfect scores from the judges. Second with a new routine were Zachary Pohl & Ariel Freilich who took the majority of seconds losing only two of those marks. We liked the routine loved the outfit and composition but it still needs to be totally secure, but we totally like where it is going. Third overall went to Stanislav Morozov & Kseniia Tashkinova. We totally love this couple’s cabaret but were not crazy about some of their transitions, at times they can be a little awkward and come out of nowhere with some basic rumba walks that make you wonder why?

Fourth overall in this cabaret division were Andrey Kitsun & Nicole Prosser a good number but lacked some of the Cabaret lift elements. And fifth were Staz Dawson & Jackie Gonyea and they took fifth across the board.

Arthur Nabok & Tais Zhukova won all 5 dances in the Open Amateur Ballroom, but we were a little surprised to see that many judges did not see it quite that way. Although for us they were clearly the leaders, they received only 4 first places out of 11 in the waltz and 6 in the tango. Seemingly after the second dance, the judges lined up behind them until in the quickstep they had 10 firsts. With 3,2,2,2,2, Benson Maier & Elisabeth Thompson took second and we felt showed great improvement in this style although still a little tense in the upper body. The new partnership of Nickolas Bleykhman & Zlatoslava Poluben took 3rd with 2,3,4,3,3 and they show interesting potential for future development. 4th Vlad Knight & Julia Shvartsman 4,5,3,4,4; 5th Jonathan Liu & Oleksandra Basko 5,4,6,5,5; 6th Oskar Rybczynski & Veronica Nowak 6,6,5,6,6; 7th Loc Nguyen & Elena Morozova 7,7,7,7,7; 8th Yubing Hou & Heather Jennings 8,8,8,8,8.

The quality in the Pro-Am Ballroom Open Scholarships was very high. Here are some highlights.

Open B Pro-Am Ballroom Scholarship
1. Sabrina Zagolin & Yuriy Kravets 1,1,1,2,2; Colette Marotto & Oreste Alitto 5,2,3,1,1; Elena Botelho & Dmitry Sviridov 2,5,2,3,4.
Open C Pro-Am Ballroom Scholarship
1. Rowena Liu & Serghei Pogonet 1,2,2,1,1; 2. Annie Chan & Cristian Radvan 2,1,1,2,2; 3. Yuping Ting & Leonid Burlo 3,3,3,3.
Open S2 Pro-Am Ballroom Scholarship
1. Llewelyn Nielsen & Oreste Alitto 1,1,1,1; 2. Kathy Stetler & Alexander Voskalchuk 2,2,2,2; 3. Linda Gill & Luca Balestra 3,3,3,3.
Open S2 Pro-Am Ballroom Scholarship
1. Linda Dillman & Igor Gayenko 1,1,1,1; 2. Lynn Murrell & Andrea Zaramella 2,3,2,2; 3. Laura Solomon & Oscar Pedrinelli 3,2,3,3.

New Top Guns for Katusha!

After Katusha’s retirement from Ballroom competition a few years back and that also of last year’s US Ballroom Champions, new top guns are emerging to take their place and last night all the new top guns were here to support the Queen of Ballroom dancing at her competition, the North American Imperial Star Ball.

But it was not just in the Ballroom style. In the Open Professional Rhythm Jessa May Briones & Francesco Arietta the heirs apparent to the US Crown were present, and in the Amateur Latin field the new partnership of Austin Joson and Liza Lakovitsky made their debut. All this fresh talent also made the North American Championships last night a very exciting competition to witness.

This Professional Ballroom final, as we mentioned, was very exciting with every couple having something to offer, and for us the Ballroom followers, not being able to forecast exactly where anyone will place made it even more exciting. The winners, Andriy Mykhailov & Ekaterina Popova, won four dances and placed second in the quickstep. They had been lately knocking around sixth places and nearly out of a final, but not last night, they were there to win it and a good majority of the judges saw it that way and awarded them first in four of the five dances. We must also point out that it was a good majority of the judges that cemented this decision.

We have to agree with the judges change of heart for Andriy & Ekaterina we have always been a fan of this couple, but we felt last night that it might possibly be a closer race between Radu Sterban & Xenia Cletova and Igor Mikushov & Valeriia Belozerova who both danced terrificly, especially Igor & Valeriia. Their body action and musicality showed us why we like this style and Radu & Xenia’s energy and quality of movement made us want to see more. Radu & Xenia won the quickstep and placed second in the other four dances, leaving Igor & Valeriia who we so enjoyed last night holding third position in all dances.

Fourth place was awarded to Luca Balestra & Krizia Balestra who are tremendously talented but on this night for us perhaps pushed a little too hard to make it higher, the only dance we felt they were on par with the rest of the group was the tango, in the other dances we found it a little too hard and forceful. Remember we are talking about Ballroom moving like a feather across the floor, this continues to be such fantastic opportunity for this very talented couple but they need to keep cool and collected, there were a number of judges that felt they should have placed sixth in a number of dances.

Fifth but not in all dances went to Serhiy Averkov & Olena Barna 5,6,5,5,6. Like the marks pointed out this couple went up and down - their waltz for us was the best after that dance it all went up and down that hill. They are a beautifully matched couple who attract you to them immediately, but in some dances they need more energy and in some others a little more awareness of their music and what they are hearing. In sixth place were Nazar Batih & Mariko Cantley 6,5,6,6,5. Our only observation was that in their waltz we saw them very little and when looking for them they seemed to be stuck on the same side of the floor until the end, and in the other dances they mostly seemed to dance on the very edge of the floor quite common in Latin or Rhythm, but not in Ballroom.

The Open Professional Rhythm was algo quite good here at the North American. The winners in all dances and with perfect scores in every dance were Francesco Arietta & Jessa Briones and we have to agree with this decision they were miles ahead of the rest of the pack. Second in all dances was awarded to Gene & Elena Bersten whose contagious smiles and charisma captured our attention from the start. At first we were expecting to look for other couples who might take this placement, but Gene & Elena’s energy and fun would not allow our eyes to wander, they truly deserved this placement with a little more discipline in the craft they might have even had a shot at the top.

Third overall in this Rhythm heat went to Aleks Nashev & Evgeniia Elcoro 3,5,3,3,3. We are quite a fan of Mr. Nashev who is always impeccable in the Pro/Am field as an excellent teacher. Here on the professional field we were slightly disappointed with their performance. For one their floor craft in the cha cha left a lot to be desired. They piled in the middle of a group and were not easy to find. In the other four dances for us it was the same, we totally believe this will be an amazing partnership once it gels a lot more, but with so little time before the next King & Queen of the Rhythm will be crowned we need them to speed things up, we know they have talent it just needs to be pushed a little quicker to the finish line.

A disappointing fourth place finish went to Dymytrii Goncharov & Veronika Shapar 5,3,4,5,4. Once they seemed to be the darlings of the Rhythm, now they are struggling to find steady ground on this Rhythm quick sand. On last night’s performance they needed to step it up and be more active and musical, all we got were nice quality in their technical work but nothing else. Fifth place was awarded to Senzo Makhaye & Agnieszka Strojek 4,4,5,4,5, and sixth place in all dances were Nicolas Rodriguez & Paulina Struk.

Last night was also an easy win for the new partnership of Austin Joson & Liza Lakovitsky who won all dances with perfect scores from the judges in the Amateur Latin. Austin has been out of the game for a little while and we were all wondering when and with whom he would come back to the floor. Last night their performance was top notch and we have never seen Liza look so happy and in her element. Austin also seems a little liberated from the past and is now taking control and showing us what an amazing dancer he truly is. In the past we saw a lot of walking and straddling, this time we saw his entire body move this is Latin - lots of movement is required and we are glad to see these two looked so amazing in their first outing and truly we cannot wait for seconds.

Second in this Amateur Latin were Benson Maier & Elisabeth Thompson, placing second in all dances, third went to Denys Nikylak & Alyssa Kobus 3,3,4,5,3, fourth were Oskar Krimus & Shayna McDonald 5,4,3,3,4, fifth was awarded to Kyrylo Dovzhyk & Goda Simaityte 4,5,5,4,5, and sixth in all dances went to Oskar Rybczynski & Zlata Zarkhin.

Selected pro-am open scholarship results.

Open Senior Pro-Am Rhythm
1. Scott Magnesen & Izabela Lewandowska 1,2,1,1,1; 2. Darla Davies & Jim Maranto 2,1,2,2,2; 3. Renee Kuwahara & Ilya Reyzin 3,3,3,3,3.
Open C Pro-Am Rhythm
1. Nichelle Kennedy & Aleks Nashev 1,1,1,1,1; 2. Janice B Gonzalez & Aleksandar Vukosavljevic 2,2,2,2,2; Beth Waltz & Steven Davis 3,4,3,3,4

Open B Pro-Am Smooth
1. Celia Chow & Erminio Stefano 1,1,1,1; 2. Patricia Schneider & Slawek Sochacki 2,3,2,2; 3. Bo Chang & Roman Malkhasyan 4,2,3,4.
Open C Pro-Am Smooth
1. Nichelle Kennedy & Aleks Nashev 2,1,1,1; 2. Patricia Schneider & Slawek Sochacki 1,2,2,2; 3. Gail Komar & Nikolai Pilipenchuk 3,4,4,4.
Open Senior Pro-Am Smooth
1. Helena Kostik & Nikolai Pilipenchuk 3,1,1,1; 2. Charlene Proctor & Mikhail Zharinov 1,2,2,2; 3. Llewelyn Nielsen & Slawek Sochacki 2,3,3,3. 




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