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We’re ALREADY having fun! It’s 75 degrees – we’re sitting on our balcony in the warm breeze having a glass of wine and watching the LA skyline below us. WE’RE AT THE USOPEN!!! I am so excited I am beside myself. This is our FIRST TIME at the Open – I’ve been wanting to come for 20-sumpfin years and here we are! So exciting! So much history!
The first dance starts in half an hour and because we’re not competing much this weekend we don’t have to worry about conserving energy – so – we are planning on dancing *all* night *every* night till the wee-est hours, on and on until next Monday.
WE’RE AT THE OPEN! AUGHGHGH!
We saw Tyoni and Ron earlier this evening and they say everything appears to be under control. 1,000 registrations at this point, 700 competitors (100 more than last year, a very good thing). They anticipate another 5-700 walk-in registrations so they hope to be up a little from last year and maybe make some money hopefully maybe. They’ve got GlobalDance TV broadcasting the whole thing live throughout the weekend, so you can watch (for a fee).
We had a strangely calm, delightful, uneventful, friendly, easy flight here. It’s the day before Thanksgiving! We were thinking Planes Trains and Automobiles, figured our baggage would be lost, all sorts of holdups, wouldn’t actually make it here till Friday. But no problems, nada! We arrived 45 minutes EARLY, in fact. This may have been the easiest flight we’ve ever taken, ever. Very disorienting. We’re still waiting for the axe to fall.
Okay! Down we go to see the ballroom, and start DANCING!!!! WAAAAAA WE’RE AT THE OPEN WE’RE AT THE OPEN!!!!
How could we NOT be having fun here? For us Easterners coming from 40 degree incessantly rainy weather it is GLORIOUS to be here in this perfectly brilliant dry 80 degree bright blue skies lovely LA gorgeousness! Last night we sat on our balcony with a glass of wine – palm trees waving below us, distant sounds of music and the whir of wind blowing around the buildings – and watched Disneyland’s nightly fireworks. We’re thinking tonight’s Thanksgiving fireworks will be splendiferous.
Wednesday night’s dance was small. REALLY small, as in, the small kind of small. We were surprised. Guess most people wait till after the holiday to get to the hotel. We did see Brennar and his sweetie-pie-maw Cindy who is ecstatic to be with her baby boy whom she hasn’t seen since Liberty (he drove straight from Liberty to move out here to Cali so he can work and travel with Torri). And we saw our friend Brady who has finally reached the end of his six-month visit here and will return home to Australia on Monday morning. The Open is Brady’s gigantic huge goodbye party. He’s a little sad. So are we. Waaa. Brady is homesick, but still, he’s sad to leave. So many new friends he’s made, so many comps, such good times he’s had! But he accomplished his goal – he made it into Advanced! From Novice to Adavnced in six months – purty daggone great, mate.
And! We saw the ballroom! I love standing in the empty ballroom before a comp begins. Backdrop is up, floor is down, chairs are waiting – it’s all shimmery, like the walls are vibrating with excitement. And this ballroom, wow, it is gorgeous! That stage we’ve seen on DVD’s forever, the shiny turquoise entrance curtains, the huge US Open logos on either side, the judges’ seating, the long banks of stage lighting running across the ceiling, the risers, the lighted aisle posts, the TV cameras at the top of the room, the plants, that wonderful floor with its NASDE events on twelve squares! All dimly lit, all silent except for the buzz buzz buzz of electricity, the whole room expectant, just waiting for someone to flick the switches, and …
Picture collages outside the ballroom, hundreds of US Open performances going back to 2001. (Uh, 2001? Felt like we were looking at pictures of the early 60′s. What th’? When did 2001 get so far away? Sheesh! How did 2001 get to be a long time ago?).
Doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to take photos in the ballroom. Our seating is good for viewing, well, sorta kinda (except that if the couple comes up close we won’t be able to see anything from the knees down), but in terms of photography I’ll have four or five rows of heads between me and the floor so I’ll never be able to get a clear shot. Guess I won’t be taking pictures this weekend. Oh well! Little disappointed cuz I was SO looking forward to taking pictures of all the new routines. But Kermit is here and I’m sure plenty of other professional photographers, so there will be TONS of great pictures for sure.
Tomorrow begins with floor trials at 7am, competitors’ meeting at 2, and the first comp – Advanced/Allstar JJ – is at 4. Opening ceremony at 7, then Teams, and Showcase!!!
Happy Thanksgiving to all you US-ers! And to our kids! And our grandkids! And family!
Down we go, to dance the night away! We’re at the Open! AUGHGHGH This is so much fun!
I’m having so much fun I’m shaking, on the verge of tears every minute just from plain astonishment and joy! So much history!
Last night’s dancing was FABULOUS! The energy in the ballroom is just crazy! So many cool people: Juniors! Lots and lots!! Sebastien and Blandine and Verane from France arrived last night, SO tired and SO excited! Verane said “I ehm hom! My say-cond hom!” The Russian couple is here – forget their names it’s something in Russian – we saw their routine twice this year – and every guy last night said WOW that Russian girl she’s GREAT to dance with wow wow! Some crazy wonderful and crazy hilarious Korean ballroom-dance pro teeny tiny stick of a 4’10″ woman with a name that sounds like “Korea” who’s SO funny what a goofball! who kept shooting one or two legs straight up in the air like skinny spikes, doing crazy dips and drops and 14 gazillion spins on a dime, and making the funniest goofy faces! Hilarious! She spent a lot of time dancing with the crowd of young black kids from DC, omg they themselves are a marvel to watch with their knees-on-the-floor multiple spins and skids and slides and crazy-ass lightning-quick funny made-up-on-the-fly stuff. People say this Korean lady named “Korea” is from around here, they know her, and yes, she IS crazy funny. She talks to you, well at you, really fast, laughing and gesticulating wildly, and her accent’s so thick you haven’t the faintest clue what she’s saying. They say when she teaches she shouts and barks orders in a gruff raspy voice like a drill sargeant.
Master of Ceremonies Robert Royston is here! With beautiful Nicola and their kids and his Mom! Looking forward to meeting his Mom! Robert says his poor hurty arm is gradually improving. He’s now supposed to move it but it hurts. Last weekend at VSO he was out of his sling for a good portion of the weekend – doc says no more sling now, get it out and move it around. Ow.
Several injuries we heard about last week: Sarah’s foot is broken! Kyle says she’s hurting but they’re planning on dancing anyway – they just love the Open, can’t not dance at the Open. Torri hyperextended her shoulder but Brennar says it’s all better and they’ll be dancing. Parker hurt his neck in Tampa, bad, so they missed two weeks of practice. So instead of the new routine they’ll be doing the old one, which they’ve changed somewhat and changed their costumes, so it’ll look a little different. Ron says there’s a word for all of these injuries and last-minute chao: OpenMeltdown, which usually happens in the two weeks preceding the event when the stress just builds up and people’s brains and bodies implode. There’s also OpenWeight which is what you have to get to in order to squeeze into your tight costume, and OpenEating which is the opposite of eating. And OpenFever which starts in September of every year. You know what? I AM IN OPENHEAVEN. I am just Open EXPLODING! This is the funnest thing in the WHOLE WIDE OPEN-WORLD!
There will be 85 routines this weekend! 85! hahahahahahaha 85! 25 in Classic alone. Registration was super easy, completely well organized. And we knew EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE LINE AUGHGHGHGH! So many friends! It’s like all the people who are really REALLY as crazy passionate in love with this as we are all ALL HERE TOGETHER in one building – WOW the energy!! But registration was seamless. Tyoni runs this like a business, because, well, it IS a business. She’s like the Ross Perot of the west-coast world. She’s got a director in charge of The Ballroom – meaning EVERYTHING that pertains to the ballroom. A director in charge of Registrations. A director in charge of Food. A director in charge of Competitions. And they’re all women! Bossy, competent, grown-up, take-no-prisoners women. Very cool!
Trey and Tori Ellington, those two uber-beauties, are doing their first routine together! How cool is THAT? Angie Cameron and Doug Rousar are doing their first routine together! Can’t wait can’t wait can’t WAIT!!!
Competitors’ Meeting now! More soon!
Next year will be at a different hotel (in Burbank), which should make it closer for some CA people, and maybe even a little closer to LAX for all the rest of us. Instead of Disneyland, hoardes of kids in mouse ears, endless stream of Disney busses … we’ll have Hollywood! Universal Studios, Jay Leno (Tyoni says she’s talking with him and about getting some of the Open on the show), Mann’s Chinese Theater, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills …
Hope she’ll train the hotel well beforehand so they’ll know how to deal with 2,000 people wanting breakfast and dinner at strange times of the day and a thousand barrels of water. The hotel this year was great – the restaurants, the bars, front desk, bell-boys, everyone said “Hey! Haha so great to see you again! Welcome back!” We haven’t ever been there before, but if we had I’m sure we would have believed they remembered us. Somebody trained ‘em well.
Social dancing throughout the weekend was G.R.E.A.T. Period, exclamation mark. Mind bogglingly great. Unlike other events EVERYONE was in the ballroom ALL the time. No idea when people ate or slept, they didn’t appear to be taking breaks at all, ever. The schedule is packed – no down time whatsoever – so you’re either there or you miss stuff you REALLY didn’t want to miss. Or you miss social dancing which no one – including every pro and great icon of our community – misses on this weekend. So you look around at the dance floor and you think you’re hallucinating – there’s Maryann! there’s Sharlot! over there’s Barry Douglas! There’s Skippy sitting at her box overlooking the floor. There’s Buddy, arms crossed on his chest like a proud Buddha! There’s Jordan and Jess and Tatiana and Parker and Manny and Loreen and Sylvia and Kyle and Sarah with her wee little foot in a wee little cast and Melissa and Melina and Jack and Annie and and and Arjay and Ben and Tom and Melanie and and every event director and AUGHGHGHGHGH!
For me, because this was my first time, and because I have been watching this event since paleolithic days of VHS, the US Open is associated in my mind with Mario. So for me it felt odd to have no Mario. After I had mentioned this to three or four people and each time got a kind of a bland “yeah Mario doesn’t come to this event” I decided I must have a nostalgia problem and would try to not notice his absence. But come on! It’s Mario. It’s hard to unnotice Mario. Mario should be at the US Open. For my sake, even if he doesn’t feel like it. Robert and Deborah too. They should just be here. Everyone should be here.
The Competitors’ Meeting on Friday afternoon is kinda the beginning of things. That’s when you look around and feel humbled at the collection of power and talent all in one room. Robert introduced Phil Adams as competition director, some announcements about still needing Flag Bearers from several states (for the opening ceremony, so exciting! Robert spoke about his first Open, 1995, standing around trying to look cool in his cowboy boots, awestruck, watching Robert Cordoba and Keldee B). Twenty-five states competing at the Open this year, and 6 countries, including Russia for the first time.
Robert said the reason the floor might feel short is because it is short. What the do is build the bleachers first, then the risers and box seats, then last of all the floor and stage are set up. This year they finished the room and realized too late that the bleachers had been set up 9-12′ closer to the front than they should have been, so when they laid the floor it was 9-12′ too short. So Robert advised competitors to spend some time blocking correctly and if possible to stay behind the third square in order to be on camera, but once out there to forget about the floor and just dance your dance fully. And he said “No complaining about the floor, either. In my day we danced on rocks. Barefoot. Uphill. In the snow.” Then Myles Munroe stood up to ask a question about drawing for order and everyone shouted Myles! Stand up, Myles! Stand up! (Myles is short). Robert said “Myles I won’t make any short jokes about you because you have always looked up to me.” (Robert’s not so tall himself).
4pm Friday was Advanced/Allstar Semi’s.
JJ Finalists (to dance Sunday) were:
and 1st Alt Josh Clark; and
and 1st Alt Angie
Then later that night Strictly Semi’s:
Parker and Brandi
Greg Scott and Lara Deni
Ben and Tat
Luis Crespo and Amandine
Jason Marker and Angie
Tara Stotz and Benji (they did a simultaneous DOUBLE SPLITS!!! Slowly!)
Zena and Ben McHenry
Manny and Deonna
Courtney and John Kirkonnell
Sean and Yenni
Jordan and Jess
Kyle and Rutz
Katie Boyle and Edwin Li
Jake and Catriona
Sean Tobias and Loreen
Malia and Brandon Gautreaux
Patty Vo and Kielbasa
Nic King and Kathy Mongeau
Chuck and Tessa
Annemarie and Doug
Lisa D’Amico and Arjay
Erica and Maxence
Warren and Pamela
Melina and Jason Barnes
Miguel and Jill Dimarco
Nathan and Dawn Kiehm
Lotta great dancing in Strictly’s but not spotlight which meant severe whiplash trying to watch everything at once.
Then Friday night Showcase finals! 15 couples!
Arjay and Melissa – I Want To Hold Your Hand Arjay and Melissa in Seattle
Sebastien and Verane
Cody and Tracy Melin
Luis and Patty Vo
Pete and Sarah
Jim and Katie
Eddie and Elise Valdez
Greg and Lemery
Sean and Tara
Myles and Tessa
Parker and Jessica
Amandine and Lionel
Doug and Amber
Barry Durand and Lisa Fay
and last, but certainly not least (they won Showcase!), in flashy white-red-black and shiny silver, fast as blazes, clever and marvelous, one week old, with one noticeable bungle at the end, Kellese and Benji, in a tribute to Michael Jackson and Jason Colacino (incorporating some of Jason’s signature, favorite moves): Benji and Kellese’s New Routine
And to finish off the night, guess who was in the audience watching? Paula Abdul! Who came up onto the floor in 6″ spike heels to congratulate everyone and strutted off doing some kinda bad-ass butt-bouncer thing, yelling to Royston “Can you top THAT big guy?”
Tomorrow I’ll write about the rest of the weekend.
Results have been posted already, with videos of the winning routines. (LOOK AT BRENNAR AND TORI IN YOUNG ADULTS!! IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! In person, live, it was JUST astonishing, I cried and cried, oh my goodness such beauty) :
Oh, I forgot to mention! Friday night was also Teams!
- The California Rolls from LA (Sheri-Ann Kang is their choreographer);
- B.A.D. Ass (acronym for Bay Area Dancers Association! Stacy is their choreographer and they did a hilarious take-off on an 80′s Prom Night); and last of all
- The Swingheads, a Lindy team of students from Pierce College in LA, choreographed by Denise Gibson. They were BRILLIANT! Dancing to a jazz-piano piece they *became* a piano – keys popping up and down sliding in and out and on top and between each other, and making such funny faces! They laughed the whole time they were out there. So funny, so fast, such incredible wit and technique. The audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, screaming, pounding the floor. Robert said “I don’t remember when a performer has been asked to do what I’m about to do – and I’m sure Tyoni is going to tell someone get down there and get Robert off that microphone – but I’m asking these folks to come back on Sunday for an encore performance!” The audience screamed and cheered Yes! Yes! Again! We want to see it again! The team, standing up there flattered and delighted mumbled to each other and answered “Uh, what time? Cause, um, we were planning on going to Disneyland!” Robert said “How ’bout just before Awards?” They said okay! We’ll do it! And the audience cheered and cheered. What a great moment!
Oh, and oops that was Tara Trafzer who did the double splits with Benji, not Tara Stotz, who emailed me alarmed saying LIZA I DID NOT DO A DOUBLE SPLITS WITH BENJI. I made that mistake cause I’ve written “Tara Stotz” on a check every Tuesday dance-night for a lotta years now – thinking about it last night I realized there are 52 weeks in a year so I’ve written “Tara Stotz” at least 300 times (leaving out the times when my husband forgets to deliberately leave his wallet in the truck).
Masters and Classic semi’s; and all the Strictly finals.
Brandon Anzaldi and Ashley Riddick (from DC!! Soooo gooood!!)
Akil Boatwright and Victoria Hank (CA)
Christopher Dummond and Hannah Clonch (CA)
Connor and Jessica Willis (CA and TN)
Daniel Guido and Alyssa Glanville (CA)
Steven Guido and Nicole Clonch (CA)
Michael O’Connor and Jessica Greer (CA)
Randy Portis and Tiara McCoy (from DC!!! So so so proud of these guys, Tiara especially, pretty girl!)
Rome and Torri (CA)
Justin Spencer and Tia Marie Quander (DC!!!!)
Aaron Williams and T’Roya Jackson (DC!!!! hahahaha – see? Lots of DC Juniors!! And they’re all SO good!!)
Jeremiah Willis and Jennifer Willis (TN) (three of the eleven Willis’ – in a few years the entire Strictly will be comprised of Willis’s)
Nate Woodward and Chevy (CA)
Mike Daniele and Susan Warner (CA)
Fritz and Jeanine Healey (CA)
Bob Brown and Anne Barnes (AZ)
Chip DiStefano and Lori Hayner (in the most beautiful dress evah) (TX)
Chips and Janice (in a HOT hot-pink slinky lycra body suit which was almost completely open down one side, from arm to ankle – you wanted her to keep that side facing front at all times) (CA)
Lewis Neal and Leslie Mallory (DC)
Larry Sanders and Rhonda Diamond (CA)
Manny and Karen Mackie (CO) (Danced beautifully until the very very last second when Manny fell, bringing Karen down on top of him. I don’t know Karen but she must be a delight cause Robert passed them on his way back to center stage and he said he heard her giggling “Ooooh! Now THAT was a new ending hahahahaha!”
Buzz and Debi McCreary (they have FIVE DAUGHTERS! Debi doesn’t look old enough to have reached puberty yet let alone have FIVE children! She’s lovely!) (FL)
Peter Witte and Ginny Howe (CA)
Michael Stephens and Karen Leiker (They won! They won! Both the Open and the Masters Tour! Yaaaaay! We saw this routine in Tampa (first time on the floor) and I said Wow! Great routine! But wow you guys! What a mess it still is! Looking forward to seeing it clean in two weeks! And man, they sure did clean it up and it was terrific). (TX)
Don Welch and Sue Fries (This is a woman who should never dance in anything but hot pants or a mini-skirt. Her legs! They are perfect! And the routine was deliberately choreographed to show them off. It was an elegant delight, loved it.) (CA)
Then a cricket landed, somehow, in the middle of the floor so Robert had nothing to do but try to catch it, which he did after several tries pouncing and bouncing around with the mic in his hand, like a dog; but then what do you do when you’re standing with a live cricket in your fist and you’re MCing the US Open? On TV? He put it in a plant. A plastic plant.
Then Classic Semi’s, and all Strictly Finals
Hand Dance Strictly:
James H and Betty Parker
Kevin and Erica
Lawrence Bradford and McKindria (what a TREAT to see him dance! He is so smooth! Just wonderful to watch! And so much fun to see him – elegant old geezer that he is – dancing with McKindria, who can’t be older than 19. They were my favorite couple)
Victor Howard and MaaAungkhnera Johnson
Lewis and Tammy
Auraum Johnson and Trish Brown
Markus and Tren
Xavier and Deonna
Chris Do and Kennly Asato
Shesha Marvin and Sarah Breck (love this girl!)
Mikey Pedroza and Nikki Marvin
Doug Silton and Kristi Clark
Stephen Sayer and Alice Poteriaiko
Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman
Justin Zillman and Kim Clever
WCS Strictly Finals:
Maxence and Erica – Dip Out Of The Club
Sean and Yenni – Beat Goes On
Kielbasa and Patty Vo – Meet Me Half Way
Kyle and Melissa Rutz – Bring it Back
Benji and Tara Trafzer-not-Stotz – Trouble
Chuck and Tessa – Down (Jay Sean)
Parker and Brandi (looking pregnant and so lovely, again! All the new babies in the community! So wonderful! Today, as I write this, Sophy is giving birth to Jasmine Kdep!) – What’s Your Name
Arjay and Lisa D’Amico – Don’t Need It
Jordan and Jess – Strobe Lights
Luis and Amandine – Let It Rock
Jason Barnes and Melina – Get Involved
Ben and the-miracle-of-nature-that-is Tatiana, but oops I don’t remember what they danced to! I musta been so awesomified my brain stopped working; or maybe I was crying my head off again, tears of astonishment and joy (I spent most of this weekend in tears, in fact I’m getting choked up again now just thinking about it all. My makeup was a mess all weekend.)
Hall of Fame Inductions (Teddy Kern and Wayne Bott), and a tribute to the passing of Frankie Manning.
Brian and Bobbie Duncan (NV)
David Frutos and Kim Clever (CA)
Woody and Louise Bretz (He is HEEELARIOUS!! Loved this routine!) (CA)
Kevin and Tammy (Ohhhhh my. Our sweet friends. They messed up a lift at the end. So much hard work! Such a disappointment to mess up, at the Open of all places. You hope something like this won’t happen but especially in Showcase and Sophisticated it’s the lifts that are risky and scary. Oh well. They’re troopers. They said “It happens. What are you gonna do? You come back and try again!”) (DC)
Stephen and Michaele Giles (TX)
Tom and Sossy Hyatt (CA)
Scott Mason and Dawne Kiehm (CA)
Gary and Csilla (no longer CA – they’ve moved to Arkansas)
David Vichules and Kristin Gangmeier (AZ)
And …. CLASSIC FINALS!!
Josh and Katherine Krok Eastvold (Same routine Semi’s and Finals – Hush Little Baby by Toby Mac – 10th place)
Jordan and Tat (How To Save A Life in Semi’s – ohhhhh I LOOOOVE THAT ROUTINE!!!!!!; and Viva La Vida in finals. They won! Of course! How could they NOT win? Ever? Forever, into the future? Has there ever been more power, precision, emotion, chemistry, speed, drama, beauty, humility, stretch, silences, tension, openness, cleanliness, wit, risk, humor, lines, poetry, dignity, brilliance, in a partnership, EVER? They’re as good as it gets. Period. Exclamation point.)
Courtney and Edwin (to Beggin, GREAT song, cool new routine, fast and sexy, gorgeous black and fire-engine-red sparkly costumes – 9th place)
Jake and Taletha (Soul Man, again, both semi’s and finals; 5th place! They’re ecstatic!)
Jason and Erica (Gorgeous new routine, to a contemporary song I didn’t recognize, sounds Swedish, flowy and ethereal, danced in stunning white costumes – these two are SO extremely strikingly beautiful together. They look like snow. Like Nordic glaciers. Like two Scandanavian mountain peaks dancing together above the cloud line. I loved this routine, thought it was artistic and clean and moving, and I felt they should have placed higher – they took 7th).
Ben and Melina (New routine! BLAZING fast, bright red, to a complicated mix including parts of Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night and Boom Boom Pow (maybe all Black Eyed Peas songs?) – they took second! I was lucky enough to be sitting beside both Melina and Ben’s moms and let me tell you wow what a ruckus in THAT corner of the room hahahaha! So much crazed screaming and pounding and jumping I had trouble holding my camera still, getting knocked and buffeted about on all sides like I was caught in a windstorm.).
Jason and Annmarie (Same wonderful beautiful Justin Nozuka “After Tonight” routine both semi’s and finals – 8th place)
Kyle and Sarah, with her wee little broken foot! Of course they couldn’t work on their new routine so they danced Childlike Wildlife again, and I felt they danced it better, more powerfully, and cleaner, than I’d ever seen it all year. On a broken foot! Sheesh. They took 4th.
Paul and Catriona (I am utterly mesmerized by her. Her lines! She is SO clean! She is never caught, ever — certainly not in routines (she’s even graceful and lovely when she falls, which she did at the end of the routine at BBtB last month) but not even in the roughest most difficult jack-and-jill’s — creating anything but a completely aesthetic picture. I love her head, her neck and chin! I just love her whole self. 6th Place)
Gary and Susan – One of The Great Songs – Janis Joplin’s Heartbreaker – and WOW this routine is Bad. Ass. Powerful, clean, difficult, brilliant choreography, lovely lines and pictures, and DRAMA! They danced it in semi’s then again in finals, but it seemed they ramped it up somewhat in finals, seemed like a few extra leg kicks and more dramatic, bigger moves than in semi’s. And they changed their costumes – she looked like a sparkling black-and-shiny-silver wide-winged soaring condor, thrashing her hair around in a furious frenzy, flinging herself across the floor, and at her partner, flailing around in a fury. Gorgeoussss routine. Robert said “Uh, okaaay. Don’t think I’d want to be on HER bad side. [beat. beat. beat.] Then again, maybe I would.” 3rd Place.
Saturday night social dancing was CRAZY wonderful. Most all of the stressful stuff done for the weekend, so what a feeling of jubilance and celebration in the ballroom! So much laughing, horsing around, crazy creativity, swing-content be damned! Sometime in the wee hours I watched Doug Silton, Maryann, Shane, Tessa, and Chuck do this thing in a line in which the guy at the end leads a move with the first person in the line and everyone behind that first person has to be the follower, in the line, doing just what the follower is doing, but during it the guy leading moves down to the other end of the line to complete the move with the person on that end and everyone has to flip around just as if they were the follower. They did all the basics, including whips! Then Doug said “Jordan and Tat’s Pump It move!” and they did some wild and crazy something from that routine – unrecognizable to me but then again I’m not used to seeing it done by six people in a line. So funny and wonderful!
Yenni! Yenni is way too gorgeous. I love Yenni. I took a pic of Yenni and Stacy together which, if it comes out, will be SO PRETTTTTY! Stacy, by the way, did something with her hair, for her semi’s routine, which is so adorable you want to just run up on the floor and squeeze her. She had it curly and cheekbone-height, but sort of rolled back above one ear in rows. Under the lights the rolled part looked black and the rest curly red – prettiest and chic-est hairstyle ever.
Oh, and Jordan and Tatiana got OFF the plane – the plane which brought them back from Malaysia, from a three-week gig on a cruise ship through Malaysia and Thailand – and walked directly onto the floor to do Strictly’s. Malaysia to the the US Open without even dropping their suitcases off in between. They say there aren’t words to describe the cruise, it was a life-changing experience, which for them, considering they were at the Kremlin last month, is saying a lot. Ha! So proud of them! Spreading respect for our dance all around the globe!
Advanced/Allstar JJ Finals:
Miguel and Faith – She Wolf
Taletha and Jake (ha! they drew each other!) – Trouble
Maxence and Amandine (they won!) – Taking Back My Love
Paul and Dawne – Beat Goes On
Alfred and Courtney – Dip Out Of The Club
Xavier and Cat – Masquerader (this might be the stupidest name, and chorus, for a song ever. I can’t hear it without being embarassed)
Yenni and Nic – Poker Face (Lady Gaga version which in my opinion is a song for a high-school marching band, but what do I know)
Connor and Jill DeMarco – The Way I Are
Ben McHenry and Lara Deni – Strobe Lights
James H and Tatiana Bourget – oops forgot their song
Great dancers but not great partnerships in this comp, except for Maxence and Amandine, who won, and should have. Not all, but many of these couples looked a little (or a lot) rough; either because it was Sunday, or because there were some interesting (or not – if it was you who was dancing) clashes in styles.
Then – CABARET!!! I hope everyone reading this will be able to see the dvd’s of this year, to see the routines, but also to see cabaret.
Benji was just fantastic. I can’t describe it, it was just Benji out there, by himself, leaving his guts on the floor. A marvel of a piece, maybe about dancing, about body parts which must be harnessed; or maybe about the awkwardness of being in your own skin; or who knows what. Whatever it was, it was gorgeously ugly, heart-wrenching, profound, meaningful to the non-verbal part of your brain which understood it exactly.
And the first cabaret routine by little Alexandra Grunwald – tore my heart apart! A piece of brilliance, astonishing brilliance. For Cabaret I couldn’t get seats anywhere – my own seat was taken by someone I didn’t know and the seat I’d been squatting in (on the floor, so I could take photographs) was also taken so I had to sit way back somewhere buried in the back of the room, which turned out to be a good thing because from the moment Alexandra walked on the floor until the final Cabaret routine (Dave and Zoe) I was just bawling. A full weekend of emotion, passion, creativity, the blood sweat and tears that go into dancing – it all gotten to me by Sunday and I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. I walked into the ballroom Sunday morning feeling composed, telling myself “you’ll be alright, just stay calm” but when that little girl walked out on the floor I felt my chest clamping up and could not keep the tears down from then on.
All of Cabaret was like that. Deonna’s team – all from DC! – so many of them kids! – all black! – doing their tribute to Michael Jackson – Oh! it was wonderful. They got a standing ovation, everyone yelling and pounding the bleachers, and when they were done they came BACK on the floor and ran up through the risers giving high-five’s to everyone as they passed along the rows. So much emotion – how could I not be in tears? And it was Sunday! I didn’t want it all to end!
Finally, Awards, which are not like Awards at any other comp. Awards is an elegant affair at the Open – the contestants dress in formal wear, and the ballroom is full. No long speeches, no wasted time, Tyoni thanked the key people who were responsible for putting the event together, results were announced with no delays, trophies presented, and Robert said What a great weekend! We’re done! A dignified, efficient, awards ceremony.
And that was it! Judges sheets down the hall, dinner, dancing all night, again, if you had it in you (which we did. We danced till 4, then left for the airport at 6 Monday morning, and had another uneventful easy direct flight home).
WHAT a weekend. What a weekend.
Sheesh, ripping things off too fast here, I’m making all kinds of mistakes.
Jason and Annmarie dance to Slide, the lovely acoustic version, by the Goo Goo Dolls. It’s Cat and Paul who danced to After Tonight.
And it was the wonderful, hilarious California Rolls who did that brilliant piano routine and came out for an encore on Sunday, not the Swingheads.
Maybe I should consider editing before I hit send.
We’re in Tampa!
We’re sitting in our room waiting for the four maintenance guys to finish replacing our toilet which, when we flushed it this morning, erupted in a tidal wave flowing out from the base into the room, out into the hall, and seeping down through the baseboards into the room below. We would *like* to be able to brush our teeth, shower, other silly things like that and they’ve been saying “just more feefteen meeenoots” for the past four hours so we’re hopeful we’ll maybe have a bathroom before the ballroom closes …
ANYWAY. It is gorgeous here, just gorgeous. Outside the room, at least. We’re on the beach! Actually really on the beach! Endless white sand! Waves! Brilliant sun! Tropical winds! Palm trees! Giant blue water slide!
Last night the ballroom was still packed when we left around 3am – very good for a Thursday night. It’s a small ballroom, small floor, so we’re wondering how it will go once everyone is here. Saturday night might be crowded.
We saw Michael O’Connor who says there’s a whole two tables of Juniors – Trey and Tori, Conner, Brennar and Torri, and evidently Renee Lipmann has a whole crew of Tampa juniors she’s brought along. Yippee!
So far from DC:
The Three Musketeers Cali, Kelli, and Kimiko; Peggy Frantz; Rob and Alice; Keith and Margot; Kay; Ellen Turner; and me ‘n Genieboy.
We’re flying Southwest – unusual for us cause we hate the cattle-call thing. But they had a sale for $149 round-trip from BWI so we gave in. And on the flight we had the absolute nicest airplane conversation ever! Sat next to a 6″7″ writer who’s father was also a writer and his grandfather a poet. His father had been a student at Swarthmore and got invited to Germany and France to tour art museums and historical buildings, where he met an Italian Countess who invited him to come visit her in Italy. On the long train ride to Italy he met an English woman and fell in love, returned to America and corresponded with this woman for twelve years, never seeing her face, never hearing her voice, until finally, twelve years after their meeting on the train, she was finally able to sail across the ocean and join him where they married and lived in desperate beautiful love with each other until his death three years ago. They had four very tall sons, and our new writer friend, Gavin, is the youngest. All the sons were named for English Knights.
Oh – Yaaaay!!! We have a NEW TOILET!
I must say, this is THE smallest room ever in history. It’s cute, bright and cheerful, but MAN. We’re talking teency. There’s no room to put the suitcases so my Big Pink Suitcase and my Little Green Suitcase and Genieboy’s Medium Sized Black Suitcase With a Christmas Bow all have to stand right smack in the middle of the room on the only patch of floor space. There *is* a refrigerator and microwave, and a balcony just barely deep enough to fit a chair turned sideways, and you *can* open the sliding doors and hear the waves and watch the sun set into the water. So it’s delightful, but this is one small room. The toilet guys said yeah, you goat a shmall rooom, vee have olso beeger rooms theees shmall room veet note so goot toilet.
But now we have a working bathroom so now vee gonna shower and get dressed, go get some food to put in the refrigerator, and then the comp will officially begin! Novice JJ’s, Masters Routines, and Showcase are tonight. All the rest of the comps are tomorrow, along with a pool party and bar-b-que in the afternoon and a Pirates and Wenches costume party tomorrow night.
I veeel try to write, but veel note promeees I veel do theees because I sometime haf leetle trouble writink ven so mooch to do at zee comp, yes?
Well, I DO have time to write at this comp, just nothing yet to write about since nothing has happened all day. I hadn’t realized that this entire day is appallingly schedule-free. Nothing starts until 9 tonight! A whole day of, of, of NOTHING! Maybe to give everyone a chance to spend a day on the beach relaxing. Relaxing? What the heck is relaxing? I’m not used to relaxing. Well, I take that back. Genieboy and I are very good at relaxing, as long as it’s only 3 or 4 minutes at a stretch and we can take a couple hour’s break in between to recuperate.
More arrivals from our DC crew: Lara Deni and Dave Herrin; James Hchchch; and either I’m hallucinating or I actually did actually see Kirsten Whitley wandering around on the beach. Either it was Kirsten or it was a 5’10″ halogen light bulb with red-orange flames shooting out the top. Missing the 4th member of the Three Musketeers: sweetie-pie Tonya. Where’s Tonya?
More Juniors! Brianne is here, all ten of the Willis kids; Andrew Malkowski, Chase (an adorable Shagger who’s now doing west-coast); and Tommy Gibbs tells me that he and Renee’s crew consists of 23 Juniors 11 – 24 years old, who, for the past 11 weeks, have taken a weekly lesson from Renee and Tommy, and who will all be wearing “West Coast Gang” t-shirts! Renee and Tommy bought them dance shoes, sponsored their registrations, and entered them in the JJ. Awesome! Totally awesome. We’d like to do this in DC. I’d love to get a whole gang of juniors dancing west-coast in DC!
Mario’s Intensive preceded this comp so there’s a crowd of dancers walking around in a daze, clutching notebooks and looking like they just saw an alien spaceship land on the beach.
Loud-mouthed UK folks are here! Steve Hunt is the loud-mouth-est of all. This is a man with a big voice. Very, very funny man, with a very big voice. He was looking rawther pink last night and when I said “you English burn immediately cause you never get any sun” he snapped “That’s not true at all. We get several days of it. Every year.” But there he was early this morning, back out on the beach again in his swim trunks, ready to jump into the waves. With a new bottle of SPF 10-Million sunblock.
Yuna is here, VERY pregnant (she’s only at 5 months but she’s big already. Her stomach, that is. The rest of her is teeny weeny tiny. Well not all the rest of her – her boobs are now a Double-D, which some people are thoroughly enjoying I’m sure.) But she’s looking gorgeous. Even more gorgeous than the non-pregnant version. She just looks blossomingly beautiful, and so happy!
That’s it. Nuttin’ else to update except the tides, wind speed, and time of sunset this evening.
Oh yeah – I said “who’s” in that last update. I meant “whose.”
Okay, back to relaxing for yet another grueling hour.
Pool Party in 15 minutes, except this year it’ll be on the beach. I’m standing on the balcony watching the roadies set up speakers, tables and a floor on the brilliant white sand.
More DC folks! Ed Francell, Kelly Laderoute, Greg and Lemery and Dinah! We have a good crowd here!
We just finished JJ prelims (and Semi’s for Novice, and guess what?!? ALL THREE MUSKETEERS MADE SEMI’S!). Fun! Largest Masters division we’ve ever seen, ever. Musta been 50 Masters women, maybe 35 men, and a lot of them very good! Finally, a Masters division to be proud of! Alla’us Baby Boomers are turning 50 I guess. I had four partners, all of them excellent. Last night was Masters routines, eight couples, and that was great, too.
Last night was also Showcase – 4 couples.
Oh! Beat Goes On just started up on the beach – WOW it’s loud! This is so cool, a rockin’ beach party right on the sand, waves crashing beside us. Funness is happening!
Better go take pitchers.
More later! I hope!
We’re home! We know there *is* a driveway in front of our house, but you couldn’t tell by looking – leaves leaves everywhere! The whole neighborhood smells like leaves!
Oh – forgot to mention! globaldancetv.com ! Much of the weekend was filmed and will be running in a loop through Thursday of this week so go watch if ya wanna see stuff live.
So. After the relaxing Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s schedules were packed. This comp includes NASDE, WSDC, AANCE, and Masters tours, packed Newcomer and Novice divisions, largest Masters division we’ve ever seen, and Young America routines. And hustle. And a beach party. So once things got rolling there was no down time. Phil says there were 919 registrations, 600 competitors. The ballroom is small but next year they’re giving us the Pavillion (weddings there all this weekend) which is huge and lovely.
The beach party was great! Fierce volleyball (holy smokes, you should see Jordan play volleyball!), humongous water slide, limbo contest, pulled-pork, cole slaw, hot dogs, watermelon, pina colada’s, margarita’s and daiquiri’s ; dance floor, a “stick the plunger you’re holding between your legs through the toilet-paper roll she’s holding between her legs then run through the sand down to the finish line” relay race; a dancing-thru-the-ages contest (wild pre-teens, teenagers and 20-yr-olds all packed against each other on this floor in the sand screaming and jumping into each other doing the twist, the mashed-potatoes, the swim, the bump – where’d the young people they learn those dances?); spinning contests, pirhouette contests. What a scene! Mary Ann Nunez had a line of guys facing girls doing this clapping kind of game to the music, sun low and golden behind them making their hair glisten with orange halo’s, behind them the waves roaring, wind blowing, a million sea-gulls screaming round their heads, standing in brilliant white sand and shells … in the center tiny magical Mary Ann leading them gentle, dignified way. Bill Cameron MC’d this party, because, as he said, from years of Summer Hummer pool parties he is a Pool Party Professional. It was great.
Then back up to the room to throw on JJ clothes and down to the ballroom to compete again … then back up to the room to change into your costume for the Pirates and Wenches costume parade – about 40 SERIOUSLY bad-ass pirates and wenches which made me very glad I had been too rushed to change into my $2.99 K-Mart Halloween-clearance girl-pirate thing. Hope my pictures of this come out – you’ll be amazed at the work put into these costumes. The parade filed in and and paraded around the ballroom to wonderful Celtic music played by the Willis family (that is, some, not all, of the Willis family, since there are now 11 Willis kids – a new addition just born last month) – guitar, penny-whistle, accordion, keys, drums and fiddle. The Willis closed out the show with a song they wrote themselves, so heart-breakingly lovely I thought I’d swoon and pass out with delight. (Might have been titled titled “Come With Me.”)
And that night: Routines! Eleven couples in Rising Star, most very good. Four couples in Young America (three of which were comprised of either one or two of the gorgeous Willis kids). Six couples in Classic. Finishing up with a Pro and Allstar tournament like was done at Swing Diego. Two couples dance against each other, five judges vote and one couple is booted out each round. This was heeeeelarious to watch (though a little confusing cause it wasn’t clear whether it was a Strictly or a game). Maxence got down on one knee and proposed to Sarah! With a ring! A monster-sized diamond ring! And Sarah said yes! yes! yes! and leaped up on him and they would have lived happily ever after except that they lost that round. All kinds of goofball stuff – Jordan fell flat backwards again (for some reason he reminds me of a tree toppling. A funny tree.) From Torri’s wide-eyed panic-smile and the “Oh Noooo!” she yelled to herself it looked like she realized he was about to go down but that little girl is SO good she just kept dancing … and then pop! There was Jordan back up again as if nothing had happened. The couples in this division (or game, whatever it was) were Jessica and Cordoba; Greg and Dinah; Mike Topol and Sheli Schraeder; Rob and Anne Marie; Michael O’Conner and Abi; Jordan and Torri; Ben McHenry and Jill deMarco; Deborah and Brennar; Christopher Hussey and Kara; Jason Marker and Angie Cameron; Conner and ; JB and Maria Vassilieva; Sarah and Maxence; and the winners: Kyle and Tat.
Ballroom was packed both Friday and Saturday nights until we left around 4-ish. Saturday night we went swimming in the ocean in the dark. The water is warm this time of year! Huge winds come up every evening, warm winds, but really fierce, as if a storm is blowing in, all the palm trees bending and thrashing around. It is just too lovely.
Both Mario and Robert Royston MC’d the weekend which made for a LOT of funny moments. They’re both funny individually but together they are hysterical. How Robert was able to emcee I do not know. He had just had surgery three days before and was in a lot of pain. His bicep tendon had been completely torn off in the injury, so they had to un-attach his pec, pull the piece of tendon up from the bicep, stick a screw through it and wind the screw into the bone, fill it with glue so it’ll stay, and finally re-attach the pec. They went in through the front, the side, the back – poor Robert has bruises and stitches and swelling everywhere and everything on his right side hurts. REALLY hurts when someone touches it, which they kept doing all weekend long. How he was able to stand up there in a sling, in extreme pain, and still be quick and funny and get the crowd going and keep the contests organized – this is an amazement. He’s a workhorse. Doctors say he’ll be up and running in three months.
We were chatting with Mario when I realized we were in Florida so I asked if he had family in Florida and he said yeah the whole state is filled with my family, but mostly Miami. I asked Are they legal? He said yeah, they’re all legal, all gainfully employed, re-tarring driveways, delivering mattresses, stealing electronic equipment, stuff like that hey you want a watch? I can get you a good Rolex cheap. I asked if they dance and he said Cubanos come out dancing – Mom goes “uugghh!” baby goes “ball-change.” Augh!-ball-change, Ugh!-ball-change. That’s how Cuban babies come into this world.
Doug Rousar was Contest Coordinator and worked non-stop the entire weekend. We saw him in the hall 10pm Sunday night and said we hadn’t had time to eat a thing all weekend since breakfast on Friday morning and suddenly realized, when Awards were done, that we were ravenously hungry and so had just finished having a steak dinner in the hotel restaurant, Doug said his meals all weekend came entirely from the hotel gift-shop, which, if you’ve seen a hotel gift-shop means he lived on tic-tacs and cheese cracker packages. He was looking raggedy. Doug Rousar is great. He’s funny, kind, wise, generous, easy-going, and man oh man, he is a SUPERB dancer. At Kansas City he was just goofing around and for the heck of it did 15 pirouettes, no help, just himself spinning himself, then another 15 fouettes, then another thousand pirouettes, then stopped cause he was getting bored. The whole time making goofball faces. We looooove Doug Rousar.
Genieboy and Rob’s Alice 1st place in Intermediate Hustle Strictly!! This was Alice’s first away comp, so she was just beaming all weekend. And to win her first time out! So neat!
Masters Strictly: (Note who beat whom in the following. Certain people beat certain other people. Nobody in particular, just mentioning that some people beat some other people.)
1. Renee and Tom Cockerline
2. Me, Liza! and Michael Stephens
3. Genieboy and Dori
4. Chip DiStefano and Peggy Borque
5. Jane and David Collins.
1 Loudmouth Steve Hunt and his lovely not-so-loudmouth partner, Sue Lambell
2 Reggie and Angie
3 Brady and Brianne
1. Andrew and Tori Ellington
2. Renee and Tommy
3. Demery and Lara Deni
4. Chris Lo and Dawn Sgarlata
5. Dima and Amanda Warren
1 Ben McHenry and Anne Marie
2 Maxence and Jill
3 JB and Abi
4. Rob and Sheli
5. Victor and Krista
Intermediate/Advanced Hustle JJ
1st Place – GENIEBOY!! with Sabrina Paxman
1 Robin and Renee
2 Michael Stephens and Bess
3 David Collins and Sarah Grusmark
4. Rick Bowles and Herself Liza May!
5. Rick Gendron and JoAnn Podleski
1 James Lynn and Whitley Bartlett
2 Kyle Merritt and Amanda Alexander
3 Jen Summer and Aaron
1 Steve Hunt and Sabrina Paxman
2 Reggie and Angie
3 Brucer Perotta and Lemery
4. Edwin Smith and Larysa Krasij
5. Brady and Dawn Sgarlata
1 Demery and Amanda Warren
2 Andrew Malkowski and Krista Martin
3 Michael O’Connor and Melissa Rollins (who is SO hot she melts the paint off walls. GAD DANG is she gorgeous! Very funny to watch Michael try to keep cool dancing with her, and he did manage to pull off coolness. Very suave. I think he told himself “Just stare at the floor. Stare. At. Floor. Stay calm, breathe, and do not look at her, no matter what.”)
4. Gianmarco Russo and Tori Ellington
5. Mike Konkel and Abi
1. Maxence and Kelly Faust
2. Ben McHenry and Sheli
3. Trey and Stacy Cramer
4. Greg and Angie Cameron
5. JB and Jill
1. Torri and Brennar
2. Andrew and Jennifer Willis
3. Jeremiah Willis and Jessica Willis
4. Conner and Jeanette Willis
1. Chip DiStefano and Lori Hayner
2. Gary Gammage and Judi Markell
3. Chuck Emmeck and Kathy Brooks
4. Michael Stephens and Karen Leiker
5. Buzz and Debra McReary
1. Melissa and Gilbert
2. Rob and Abi – last time doing this routine! Bye, bye, sweet beautiful routine!!
3. Stephen White and Danielle Blouin
4. Michael Diener and Jen
5. Dima and Maria
6. Tony and Angie
7. Fred Price and Stacy Cramer
1. Parker and Jess
2. Deborah and Jason
3. Greg and Lemery
1. Jordan and Tat
2. Kyle and Sarah
3. Gary McIntyre and Susan Kirklin
4. Jason and Annmarie
5. Terry and Kara
6. Mike and Sheli
We’re definitely coming back next year. Love being on the beach, love the staff Phil’s been able to bring in, love having all the Juniors, love all the tours represented, love the high level of Masters competitors, loved the music (with one exception – Sunday night’s music was very not good, drove a lot of people out early), loved the opportunity to dance in many different competitions, loved the live Carribean steel-pan music in the courtyard at night, Jimmy Buffet in the bar. Loved the warm wind. Will love the huge floor in the Pavillion next year.
Oh, forgot to mention:
Dragonflies the size of large pterodactyls, several of which scared the crap out of me slamming into my head while I was sitting on the balcony gazing at the sunset. But beautiful!
Swans! Pelicans! Some wonderful long-necked goose kind of show-off fishing bird who plops down on the grass beside crowds of people to stretch his neck and hold his wings out so you can see what a cool dude he is.
And Steve Hunt went out into the ocean on a jet-ski and played with dolphins! He says if he kept the motor going so they could hear where he was, and didn’t rev it up suddenly and scare them, and kept a steady momentum, that they would swim alongside and came up beside him all twisted and tangled on top of each other to poke their noses and play with the boat. How marvelous! Marvelous! Wonderful marvelous!
There’s a creek, or a moat kind of a thing, which runs between the sand and the hotel, with people peddling paddle-boats and fishing with nets.
Robert Royston says that in the twenty years he’s being travelling the circuit he has never before been to a comp which was right exactly on the beach. Gotta agree – it was pretty wonderful.
Okay, that’s it for Tampa 2009!
Pictures on Facebook!