The competition started early Friday morning the 12th of May with the International Ballroom competitions and at night the party began. It was two full days of competition culminating with Saturday night’s professional competitions.
The first professional event of the night and the most interesting of all the professional events was the Open Pro Show Dance and Cabaret where six couples took to the floor one at a time showcasing a solo performance. The winners for us and for the majority of the panel of adjudicators were Gene & Elena Bersten, who did an excellent choreographed number to the Adams Family, the theme including the costumes was down to perfection and the routine although lacking some thrilling lifts, was still good enough for us and the majority of the judges to surpass the others five couples. Only four judges out of 11 did not mark the Bersten’s to win and that was Kasia Kozak and Sid Pocius who awarded them 3rd, Milana Pliner who gave them a fourth place, and Ekaterina Kuznetsova who awarded them second.
Second was awarded to Alexey Smirnov & Daria Smirnova. This routine keeps getting better, but although it starts great, it has perhaps too many ups and downs for it to win. It does not get us to the edge of our sets. You can also see by the results that the judges had a hard time with the routine, it got placed from first to sixth place. Third was awarded to Tilemachos Fatsis & Elisavet Mantani. Their routine has an amazing beginning and they do some incredible, thrilling steps, but it totally loses the audience in the middle and we start to wonder why. They got a first from Milana Pliner but perhaps she was the only judge in the panel to fully comprehend where this routine went.
Fourth was awarded to Alexey Grinev & Kseniia Grineva. This couple have great potential and the ShowDance routine has a well-sorted pattern to it. However, there is a number of things that do not work in their favor; the lady’s lose hair covers her neck and we don’t really see a nice elegant, clean, open upper body position - all that hair combined with the dress makes her look as if she has no neck line, not the best look for Ballroom Dancing. Fifth in this Cabaret went to Alexander Romanov & Anna Blagodyreva, their Smooth at times tends to look heavy to go along with a heavy song, it all tends to look too somber at times. And sixth couple went to Malachi Osai & Anastasia Hrynnyk, who tried to showcase International Latin dancing. The problem is that without a theme you really have to give the judges some excellent quality Latin dancing and this was far from it and so we can see how the judges marked them sixth.
The Open Professional Rhythm also went to Gene & Elena Bersten and they won the cha cha, swing and mambo with perfect scores from the judges. They nearly got a perfect score in the bolero as well but here Natalie Paramonov did not agree with the majority she gave them a second place in this dance. For us they were by far the best of this group, and for us they could have easily won all five dances with perfect scores. Gene in particular is totally understanding the game and showcases his style quite well almost overpowering Elena at times. I think if Elena would stand up to him and punch back this might be the couple to beat not just at this competition but in the US overall. From here down for us this could have gone either way but this is how the judges saw it. Richard Kaszas & Foteini Pangea took second overall 2,2,3,2,2; Alexey Smirnov & Daria Smirnova were third overall 3,3,2,3,3; Joshua Bradford & Regina Kaszás placed fourth in all dances, fifth in all went to Eyne Palacios & Amanda Merritt, and sixth were Nicolas Garcia & Nora Maria Garcia.
The Open Professional Latin was a five-couple affair and here to honors went to Tilemachos Fatsis & Elisavet Mantani, who won all dances. Second overall was awarded to Malachi Osai & Anastasia Hrynnyk 2,3,2,3,2; third were Alexey Grinev & Kseniia Grineva 3,2,3,2,3; fourth in all dances was awarded to Mate Hetei & Melinda Papp, and fifth were Zach Rumfield & Sofia Manfredini.
The Open American Smooth was also a five-couple final and here Alexander Romanov & Anna Blagodyreva won overall 1,2,1,1. Second were Alexey Grinev & Kseniia Grineva 2,1,2,2. (they competed in every style except Rhythm); third in all dances went to Adam Telessy & Viktoria Juhasz; fourth were Nicolas Garcia & Nora Maria Garcia, leaving fifth to Trevon Anderson & Cristina Rivera.
The Professional Ballroom was the smallest of all the professional competitions but it was great to see Riccardo Conte & Eleonora Filippi dance and showcase their soft interpretation of this style they won all dances. Second went to Alexey Grinev & Kseniia Grineva and third were Barnabas Vadon & Edina Kobor.
The evening festivities culminated with a terrific after party where they spared no cost. The shrimp cocktail was delicious as well as the crab cakes, but there was something for everyone including gluten free.
We want to say thank you to the organizers, John & Olga Elsbury, for having us at the Texas Challenge and for their wonderful treatment of all the officials as well as the competitors. The hotel was a dream for a competition with a beautiful ballroom and everything within reach even shopping was right across the street in the Memorial Mall.