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What a lovely day in Sacramento today! Brilliant sunshine, balmy breezes blowing across the lake, all day long a lazy lullabye of white noise: geese arguing and squawking and flapping across the water; the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh as the fountains spray upward; and every hour a freight train winds its way by us, blowing its lonesome whistle into the distance.
Same hotel, different name (today just by coincidence just happens to be the day that ownership changes hands) so this is no longer a Radisson it is as of today back to the name it had 25 years ago: the Woodlake. But same staff, same management. As I’ve written before this is an older resort with updated rooms – not fancy but plenty roomy and comfortable. Nice beds (I don’t remember these great beds in previous years – they may be new) with wonderful “Sleep Number” mattresses and FITTED SHEETS!, lovely snuggly-warm comforters, tons of pillows, plasma TV, work desk, chairs and tables. Free internet. Wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling window looking out on the lake. Very cozy! Bit of a trek to the ballroom (and you have to weave your way, outside, to get there so if it rains (which it will – it always does – forecast is gorgeous today and tomorrow, rain Saturday and Sunday) it’s a pain. But no rain today! Today has been deliriously gorgeous. T-shirt weather.
Few early arrivals wandering around in the sunshine snapping pictures of the fountains and geese. Bumped into a few people making grocery runs. Food is a bit of an issue here – the sole restaurant on the premises closes at 9pm and there is no room service at all, or vending machines, even!, so if you’re hungry and without a car you’re stuck. No more buffets at the restaurant, either, they tell me, just ordering off the menu, standard fare. The event tries to take care of us food-wise: Friday night there’s a midnight breakfast buffet, Saturday evening a full dinner buffet (it’s yummy good!), Sunday cookies, and a Hospitality Suite (not sure what’s there or when – I’ll have to check it out!) but if you get hungry at 5am after a night of dancing you’d best have supplies in your room.
There is a gorgeous sunset as I write this, the lake, palm trees, canopies, and buildings beyond are all glimmering in a deep pink-gold light. I’m beginning to hear voices coming across the water, and strains of music. The first workshops begin in an hour followed by the first contest: the “WCS -101″ Jack and Jill, then Awards, and then! The Thursday night Kick-Off dance! Yaaaaay! Here we go!
Had dinner last night beside the long windows overlooking the lake and fountains sparkling in the dark, the geese still honking and arguing in the spray, sparks flying from bonfires on the pier, disco ball throwing colored lights across the steel floor and glass walls of the bar (the bar where Jordan and Parker DJ on Sunday night.)
The restaurant is in a recess just beyond the registration desk so as I ate I watched a steady stream of dancers arriving to get banded and sign up for competitions. Great dining entertainment! So much laughing and hugging!
Heard Annie Hirsch’s unmistakable voice from far behind me and then there was Annie! Flying past with clipboard and briefcase, five people half her age running behind trying to keep up.
My waitress presented me with “Swing Dancers’ Menu” – the menu for both lunches and dinners throughout the weekend (salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes at very reasonable prices.) Ten minutes later the Executive Chef changed his mind deciding he’d provide a breakfast buffet like previous years. Twenty minutes later he changed his mind again deciding to leave the bar kitchen open late – till midnight. Half hour later he and all other kitchen staff left the dining room for their first meeting with their brand new (as of five minutes before I sat down) owners to hear the new business plan. This hotel (and especially the food-and-beverage part – the new owners are all about dining) will be totally reconstructed. Next year will be very different here!
They pipe in “soft jazz” for your dining pleasure. I don’t know what’s happening to me, whether my music tastes are getting better or worse, but I couldn’t help noticing over my delicious Aegean Pasta that elevator music is very danceable.
It is GORGEOUS here today! T-shirts and shorts, sunbathers around the pool! The geese are exhausted from thrashing through the fountain yelling their heads off since dawn and are zonked out all over the shore, getting a tan.
This place would be so romantic for a wedding. Oh! Speaking of weddings! Arjay is getting married this weekend! So is Bridgette! Yay! Just wonderful!
Of course that means we don’t get to see Arjay and Jen’s new routine (It’s great! Saw it two weeks ago in Philly, LOVE it!) but I guess they must have thought getting married was more important than dancing at Capital.
Showcase tonight! Cannot wait to see new routines! Greg and Lemery are here … we got to see a sneak preview last weekend at home … so exciting! No spoilers! I’ll write later tonight …
Workshops have been going on all day so far, Juniors Pizza Party, then tonight: Strictlys, Showcase, Champions Strictly prelims, breakfast buffet, and dancing!
What a gorgeous sunny day yesterday! Great happy energy all day. It’s the weather! The weather has so much to do with the mood of an event! How can you not have fun when you’re playing outside in the sun all day? Great weather makes the whole weekend feel like you’re on holiday vacation.
Juniors, juniors everywhere! Throwing each other into the pool, throwing each other onto the grass, throwing each other down the halls, throwing each other into the tables at the back of the ballroom – yelling and squawking even louder than the geese! Juniors make an event so much fun! I stopped by the Juniors Pizza Party – what a scene! Janelle Guido (I LOVE this girl! She’s Big Sister to the entire community, takes such ownership of every junior dancer, bursting with pride as if they were her own family) said “OMG! OMG! I’ve never seen so many juniors all together before! This is awesome this is awesome!” It is awesome, I agree. They’re fun, funny, and man can they dance!
Florida is here, Chicago, Boston, Texas, St. Louis, London, DC, New York, L.A., Vancouver, Syndney, and Reykjavik!
Glitter tattoos! Hand-painted temporary sparkly tattoos. Gorgeous! Audrey at Table 48.
Speaking of tattoos: Ronnie and Brandi are here, both looking even *more* trim and beautiful than normal, gearing up for their new event “City of Angels” in a month, distributing uber-cool City of Angels tatoos. Saw them early evening as Brandi was discussing their evening schedule: “I’ve got three privates I’m running to do now, then opening ceremonies, then you have to throw an Asian, then …” “Wait, what?” I interrupted “He has to what?” “Oh, Showcase. He has to throw an Asian. Laureen. Once during a practice Laureen came leaping at him from across the room yelling “Incoming “UFO” – ‘Unidentified Flying Oriental.’ So we say he has to Throw an Asian.”
This is Dani’s 17th year running the event! Did I hear that right? I can’t believe that’s correct. She was running this event when she was, what, twelve years old?
After the National Anthem (gorgeous acapella harmony by Nick King and —-) velvet-voiced Steve Zener (emcee for the weekend) welcomed staff and djays,
… Workshop Teachers:
Ronnie and Brandi
Jordan and Tatiana
Ben and Melissa
Brennar and Torri and Benji
Kyle and Sarah
Michael Kielbasa, and
Robert and Nicola
… and Judging Panel:
and Chief Judge Yvonne
… and, as Steve described her in the best introduction ever, “Our Mentor, Model, Fashion Icon, Relationship Counselor, Life Coach, Interior Designer, Friend To Everyone … Our very own First Lady, the Incomparable Annie Hirsch! (the entire ballroom rose in a standing ovation – she is loved, so very loved.)
Then the entire staff got on the floor for a “snowball” dance and within seconds KER-BAM! there was Benji flat on his back on the floor, yelling “oh no! shooooow-caaaaaaase!” as he went down, since shooowww-caaase was what he was scheduled to do an hour later and falling on the floor is not the best way to get ready for that. Who was Benji dancing with? Jordan. So much fun to see these two – lifelong friends since boyhood – to see them horsing around, laughing their heads off, dancing together like they have been since they were kids. What a treat.
27 Novice Strictly couples and WOW were they good! Crazy ridiculous good. These are Novice dancers? Sheesh. They’re young out here – many of those Juniors are still in Novice. Average age out there on the floor – maybe 20?
27 Intermediate couples – What a great rowdy, supportive, yelling cheering crowd! Spectators are NOT shy out here! And they’re not worried about “breaking concentration” or interfering – they’re calling the dancers by name, shouting encouragement, cracking jokes, giving instructions … what fun!
36 Advanced Strictly couples! So many in Advanced they had to break it into two heats. This was an interesting division, a very Allstar-ish sort of Advanced division, a little disorienting.
Great DJ-ing for strictlys, by the way (I think it was Jack Smith) – for Advanced: Moves Like Jagger, Rescue Me, Black Coffe and Cigarettes, Love You Like a Love Song, More Than Words …
Eddie and Elyse Valdez, “The Light”
Benji and Torri, their flawless, rich, astonishing “Love Story”
Robert and Nicola, “Edge of Glory”
Ronnie and Laureen The Human UFO, “Without You”
and Greg and Lemery with their new routine (but without their awesomely cool new costumes cause the costume designer did just about everything wrong a seamstress can possibly do, including putting Greg in a dress and making Lemery look like a pregnant hippie), “No Diggity” – a foray into funk, total departure from their last romantic, lyrical piece
Champion Strictly Prelims:
Brennar and Courtney
Lindo and Torri
Josh and Katherine Krok Eastvold
Clint and Lemery
Sean McKeever and Tara
Edwin and oh oops! I didn’t catch her name!
Jordan and Rutz
Jack Smith and Michelle
Robert Royston and Jill Dumarco
The Waynes (man do they have a cheering squad here! they’ve definitely got a fan base!)
John Kirkconnell and Alyssa Glanville
Michael Kielbasa and Katie Schneider
Nick and Yenni
Greg and Cameo
Ben Morris and Sarah
Kyle and Tatiana
Ben McHenry and Samantha Buckwalter
Parker and Jessica
Benji and Brandi
Before they danced Steve made an important announcement: NO COMPETITORS’ MEETINGS! Standing ovation, the whole ballroom clapping and cheering! It’s about time! Capital is one of the last holdouts – events have been running perfectly smooth comps now for several years without the dreaded early-morning meetings, spoiling the day (or night before) for anyone wanting to do jack and jills.
And finally, last night, Awards:
Didn’t catch Novice …
1st Place $200 Connor and Shanti
2nd $150 Nate Woodward and Amanda
3rd $ 100 James Cook and Amy Tran Patel
4th $70 Mike Pyle and Christina Lovett
5th Jay Tsai and Katrina Gregoriants
1st Place $300 Martin and Helen
2nd $200 Jake and Mackenzie
3rd $150 Shaheed and Elyse
4th $100 Scottie and Joann Meinl
5th $60 Alfred and Colleen Uspensky
1st Place $1,200 Benji and Torri
2nd $800 Ronnie and Laureen
3rd $600 The Roystons
4th $400 Greg and Lemery
5th $300 Eddie and Elyse
Champion Strictly Finalists:
John Lindo and Torri
Michael Kielbasa and Katie
Nick and Yenni
Ben Morris and Sarah
Kyle and Tatiana
Jordan and Melissa Rutz
Parker and Jessica
Robert Royston and Jill Dumarco
Benji and Brandi
and 1st Alternate Ben McHenry and Samantha Buckwalter
That was yesterday, a sunny, happy day.
Today is overcast, and it’s not just the weather.
By now you have probably heard that neither Jordan and Tatiana nor Kyle and Sarah danced at Boogie by the Bay in October. Really spoiled things for Boogie last year.
The reason for this sad turn was that the judging panel included one member who made it clear beforehand that s/he was unable to be impartial or objective with regard to these four dancers and their dance styles. We have recourse for situations like this, when a judge is a spouse, or ex-boyfriend, or mortal enemy, or family member. In our close-knit community stuff like that happens. So we have a nice solution: we allow contestants to petition to have an impartial judge removed from the panel.
And this solution works because we’re reasonable and the goal is always to try – even in our community which now includes five generations of impossibly intertwined relationships and family members (we’re like the West Virginia of the dance world, all related to each other) – to try always to be, first, on the side of the dancer, to put the dancer first.
We try to be fair in our judging, as much as possible that is the goal always.
Unfortunately something went terribly wrong at Boogie and for whatever reasons the deciding parties chose to refuse the petition. So Jordan and Tatiana, and Kyle and Sarah, were left with no other option but to not compete.
You may also be aware of the huge hubbub which ensued on Facebook following Boogie in which a series of pointed statements and rhetorical questions were posed publicly in an effort to air grievances about style and where the dance is going, and specifically problems with Jordan and Tatiana and Kyle and Sarah in particular. It all felt very mean-spirited.
So here we are in the new year, three months later. And today I learn, from a bunch of disappointed juniors, that we’re back where we were three months ago. Here is the same judge, again on the panel, scheduled to judge Classic tonight. And Jordan and Tatiana and Kyle and Sarah – who have known since Boogie that they’d be here this weekend and that this judge would also be here – of course requested, three months ago, that this judge be removed for their competition.
But this judge, once again, has not been removed.
Why again? How has it come to this? People having come in from all over the country and the world, all kinds of kids who look up to them as role models, all here to see Jordan and Tatiana and Kyle and Sarah dance! To see their stunning new routines, live! How has such a poor decision been made a second time? It’s not as if the decision is a difficult one – this is one of the easy decisions. We have guidelines. We have an overall philosophy: we don’t make decisions on behalf of judges we make them always for the benefit of dancers. The circuit exists, the entire community exists, for the dancers. Another judge could have replaced this one. So why is this difficult? What is getting in the way of doing the right thing?
Here we are at Capital and neither Jordan and Tatiana, nor Kyle and Sarah, will be dancing tonight, which is the only mature, respectable option they have under the circumstances.
What a disappointment! So many people had so been looking forward to this moment!
We’ve just finished Awards for this evening’s comps – routines! Love that Awards are presented throughout the day, after each comp! So much better than having to wait for Sunday, when everyone’s spacey and exhausted, packing up rooms, trying to make flights. What a difference it makes to have results as they happen during the comp. Yay for Lance, working tirelessly in the back room to get all the scoring done quickly and correctly. And without a competitors’ meeting!
Lots of results today!
First, Jack and Jills:
1st Place Cameron Crook and Sammi Sekhon $100
2nd Steven Guido and Amanda McKamey $70
3rd Spencer Kelly and Hannah Clonch $50
4th Harlan Falejczuk and Nicole Clonch $40
5th David Guido and Irne Gomez $40
Novice: (from a field of 50 girls, 50 guys):
1st Nick Hughes and Jess Rohr $200
2nd Brendan Jacques and Regina Burke $150
3rd David Dobyns and Heather Sturgeon $100
4th Daniel Silveira and Alina Mihai $70
5th Mike D. Anderson and Kara Christen
1st Nate Woodward and Hope Kukielski
2nd James Cook and Terra Deva
3rd Jay Tsai and Shantala Davis
4th Larkin Beanland and Kim Rhyner
5th Jay Trombler and Kendra Zara
1st Clint Glasgow and Ellyn Brady
2nd Shaheed Qaasim and Susan Brown
3rd Warren Pino and Marina Gutsch
4th Tom Bryant and Tashina Beckman
5th Brandon Rasmussen and Elise Valdez
And here are the winners for tonight’s routines (Tonight was great! So many terrific routines! Four juniors, two Sophisticated, and TWELVE Classic! I’ll tell you about them in the next update – for now here are the top five winners:
1st Chris and Nicole $400
2nd Cameron and Amanda $200
3rd Steven and Hanna $150
4th Brandon and Madison $100
1st Jeff and Susan Brown
2nd Scott and Dawne
1st Ronnie and Brandi
2nd Brennar and Torri
3rd Ben and Melissa
4th Sean and Courtney
5th Jake and Kara Frenzl
and last of all, Champions Strictly:
1. Benji and Brandi
2 Nic King and Yenni
3rd Jordan and Melissa Rutz
4th John Lindo and Torri
5th Kyle and Tatiana
Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about these divisions … amazing dancing! Breathtaking. Inspiring
I’m TIRED! But before I fade away tonight I want to tell you about last night’s routines …
Two Sophisticated, saw them both at the Open, both great:
~ Scott Mason (That would be Mr. Laureen UFO Throw-An-Asian Baldovi Mason) and Dawne Kiehm, “Be Myself Again” (Eric Benet,) an adorable quick snappy piece, Dawne and her cute perfectly tan, perfectly buff hard-body in a bikini top of sparkly royal-blue tassels in front and a couple of transparent straps in back.
~ And Jeffrey Munson and Susan Brown in a speeded-up version of “Be Back Soon” (Justin Nozuka) and this routine moves, feels fast and looks difficult – lot of spins, barrel rolls, pivots, dips … lot of movement. They nailed it!
Four Juniors, all four of which we saw at the Open:
~ Steven Guido and Hanna Clonch, “Can’t Turn You Loose” (Etta James), and wow does this move! Never stops for a moment till that last breath at the end. Back-bends, flips, lifts, dips, up and down, across the floor to every corner … all FUNKY FUNKY. These two are adorable.
~ Brendan and Madison, “Into The Night” (Santana), those loooooong legs of hers, long blonde hair, and Brendan’s so handsome – they’re a beautiful couple.
~ Chris and Nicole, great song: “Disappear” (Gabe Dixon Band), WOW! We got choked up at the Open, choked up again here. This is SO romantic and SO beautiful! What choreography! It’s rich, not a moment empty, even the still moments are full. And the shapes! The routine is like a series of beautiful shapes, each one filled with tension and movement-about-to-happen: angles, round shapes, up high down low, long leans waaaay out there holding on by just a hand; accelerations and decelerations; sudden stops; intentional blank spaces, emotion, commitment … They live this piece. … Another gorgeous routine from these two, just as gorgeous as last year’s in an entirely new and different way. Beautiful, just beautiful!
~ Cameron and Amanda, “For What It’s Worth” (Tab Benoit) and “Crossroads” … Spins on steroids! This girl can SPIN. Fast! Another routine that travels the entire floor.
You know what, I’m too tired to finish, and there are still TWELVE Classic routines to tell you about! Really really really really good … I loved Classic! Missed Jordan and Tat and Kyle and Sarah – it was already good and the addition of these routines would have put the night off-the-charts crazy ridiculous great, unforgettable. But. Even without those routines Classic was fabulous!
Okay, that’s it for me I’m falling asleep in between words here.
Packing to leave for the airport but I’m getting a bunch of texts and emails asking about last night’s results so here, they are!
1st Place Warren Pino and Laurie Shafer
2nd Mark Endo and Peggy Allen
3rs Paul Canziani and Michelle Dittfach
4th Gary Thompson and Patty Houston
5th Jack Smith and Trish Hughes
All Star JJ
1st Place John Kirkconnell and Samatha Buckwalter
2nd Jason Marker and Mackenzie
3rd Nic King and Alyssa Glanville
4th Ben McHenry and Annmarie
5th JB and Yenni
Champion Invitational JJ
1st Place Kyle and Sarah
2nd Jordan and Sharlot
3rd Brennar and Jessica
4th Benji and Jill DaMarco
5th Michael Kielbasa and Brandi
Awesome night … TWELVE couples! That’s a lot of Classic couples! I counted four that, at least to me, were brand new. And the rest as new as the Open. So exciting!
1. Ben McHenry and Cameo, “Fort Knox” (Goldfish), elegant in black and white, so smoooooth! This is one of those couples who make dancing look as easy as walking. Her turns are effortless, don’t know how to describe them except to say they sort of happen the way sitting down in a chair happens for the rest of us – utterly without any trying whatsoever, or tightening of any muscle. Getting into and out of turns is so unnoticeable you’re not even impressed that she just did 10 pirouettes or 16 flat-backs into a splits. You have to remind yourself that what she’s doing must be difficult, it sure was difficult the last time you tried it.
2. Jake and Kara, “Do I Move You” (Nina Simone), in hot azalea-pink, Jake with a skinny black tie hanging untied from his collar, Kara with one black lace shoulder and black straps in back. I’m a big fan of Jake’s. I love his timing, his speeding up and slowing down and syncopating rhythms. He dances like a jazz vocalist singing a sophisticated in-and-out and around the straight timing. And his face, all this weekend! So expressive, and real! He was *on* all weekend, in this routine and his JJ’s and Strictlys. And what can you say about Kara? She is sexy! Sexy and passionate. And this is one steamy song – 74 bpm hot blues – great showcase for her steamy hot movement and lines.
3. Sean and Courtney, “Reign” and “Feelin’ So” (both by Bad News Brown.) Great music! Bad-ass Southern blues harmonica with a gritty Atlanta hip-hop vibe. It’s been thrilling to watch Courtney get better and better. I loved her from the first day I saw her but man has she worked hard. She’s become refined, controlled, precise, intentional. Anybody who’s ever danced with her or watched her late-nite knows she has craaazy energy. She’d dance and she’d be flinging out electrons from body parts – spraying in all directions from the ends of her fingertips, out the top of her head, streams of electrons shooting off of her hips, out her elbows … dissipating heat and energy in a whirl around her.
Now she contains it all … all that wild thermal energy building up like in a nuclear reactor, stored power and tension, her movements precise and economical, everything controlled, those fiery blue eyes the only portal releasing white heat. Chillingly awesome. And Sean! Ha! Her perfect counterpart.
Everything about this routine says “Serious.” “We are not fooling around here.” Feels mature, including their outfits: plain black, understated, unobtrusive. It’s not about the clothes, flash, distractions.
We saw this at the Open and got chills then. In the three months since it’s become even cleaner, crisper. Very exciting to be part of their journey.
4. Josh and Deron, “Darum Leben Wir” (Cassandra Steen), in pewter sequins (I want this top.) Wonderful angst, sturm und drang, long baleful stretches, ominous leans – they really pull off the essence of this song.
5. Ed and Mackenzie, “Jessie’s Girl” (Rick Springfield) and “Any Way You Want It” (Journey), I LOVE this funny, witty, playful routine! Here’s what Mackenzie, freakishly gorgeous, and a total artist, always, in her clothing choices, is wearing: Hot pants – and by hot I mean feverishly hot – black with a teeny red something peeking out at the bottom; and boots! With fringe! No wait, not boots, they’re spats! Or leather leg-warmers, with leather fringe. And red knee-socks peeking out the top? Something ridiculously sexy given that hot pants are at the other end of those legs. And a black cropped corset something, and her hair in a messy high pony-tail, tough-girl style. Both she and Ed (in a black vest and red shirt) have a huge heart-with-wings emblem on the backs of their outfits.
So they walk on the floor and you’re already with them cause just the way they’re dressed, and the way they walk out there, is witty, creative, funny, and adorable. And then the song! So fun! They start with a body-roll, and the whole ballroom is cheering and laughing, instantly the first moment. No messing around – they start up strong and keep moving and then! – what I’m sure this routine will be most remembered for – the chorus comes in, she’s stalking away, and Ed PULLS HER BACK BY HER HAIR hahahahaha omgawd! So funny the crowd went wild. I loved this, but you know what? Two people sitting beside me (no names) said they worried kids might take this the wrong way. Didn’t get a chance to ask them to elaborate and I have to say I don’t understand this worry, but who knows? Maybe other people feel the same way. The whole ballroom laughed and cheered for them, I do know that hahaha. So silly, fun, just perfect for this song.
Love their choreography – every time the refrain comes in “Where can I find a woman like that?” and the music stops in its tracks, full silence, Ed and Mackenzie stop too. Dead in their tracks. Full silence. It’s such a surprise, keeps you watching and wondering what’s next. Hilarious! Second (or third?) time this silence happens there’s a long interlude in which they both sort of walk around arguing silently and then then Bam! the second song comes in and its perfect!
The routine ends with them walking off the floor, he’s brushing her off his shoulder and she’s tearing at him like a spoiled brat – pay attention to me pay attention to me don’t you love me anymore? Hilarious.
Love this routine. Can you tell? I think she stumbled once or twice, though, didn’t she? It seemed a little rough so maybe this was their first time on the floor. I look forward to this being not only clean but ramped up to the full potential of their vision for it.
6. Jeryl and Robin, “Do You Remember” (Jay Sean), and, hahahaha, oh my goodness they do a neck drop, he turns around changing hands while she’s still down there, somehow or another he then catches her, backwards, in the back of his ANKLE for crying out loud, and then somehow or another from there he’s stepping over her twice while turning her face down face up face down face up like a two-by-four with a face … hahahaha omgawd all you can do is laugh and wonder how did they DO that?
Six more routines! Six more outstanding routines. What a night!
More in a few minutes …
… More Classic!
7. Ronnie and Brandi to “It’s Not Impossible” (Ben Sollee). For a solid month after the Open I could not get this song out of my head, finally shaking it some time late January. And now here we go again – after seeing this beautiful routine I am stuck all over again, the song playing all day, and all night long in my sleep. Something about this beautiful happy-sad song just haunts me. And the choreography – and the texture of their dancing – couldn’t be more sweet or perfect.
“It’s not impossible for me to cry, it’s just the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And it’s a shame you know, but it’s ingrained you know, boys don’t cry, boys. don’t. cry.” That’s how it starts, with that quiet intro, just a voice, musing. And their dancing starts quietly, gently, along with it, Brandi leaning up against Ronnie’s leg as if she’s leaning up against a tree, alone with her thoughts. Then the first verse takes off and a joyful banjo and guitar melody and they are up and dancing, in and up and around, raucous and bittersweet right along with the music. It moves you, it just touches you, they’re dancing happy but it’s so very sad somehow. So much activity, quickness, beauty, emotion. Including Brandi down on the floor kicking and raging – for an instant – only for an instant – because the lyrics (“kick and scream”) last only that long. Nothing is ever overdone with Ronnie and Brandi. Understatement always. Subtlety, nuance, and in this particular piece, gentleness. These two are nothing if not gentle, elegant, poised, precise, brilliantly clean, and as I’ve said before smart – just something intelligent, thoughtful, about their choreography and their execution of it.
The last verse comes, the last banjo refrain is over, and the song ends with the lonely voice repeating the same opening lines. And as it ends Brandi withdraws back into herself, turning her face away, leaning her back against the tree, and she slides back down to the position we first found her in. It’s as if there’s an emotionless passive face shown to the world outside, but for one moment we get a glimpse into the mixed up emotional carnival that’s actually going on behind that face. So beautiful! So joyful and so sad! Brandi and Ronnie are eye-candy – they’re both gorgeous, he in elegant black pants and a white shirt, she in elegant black pants and a simple white (sparkly) bra with the palest aqua sash as a belt, and across her back. Simple, classy as always, utterly appropriate in every way. When these two walk out on the floor you relax in your seat because you know you’re in the hands of pros. They won’t embarrass themselves or you, they’ve done their homework, they understand movement, they’re appropriate, thoughtful, they appreciate beauty, they respect themselves and you. They received a standing ovation! I love this routine. Love them as people, too. And they dance like they are.
8. Clint (Sydney Australia!) and Louise (St. Ives Australia!), “Like I Love You” (Justin Timberlake). Aussies are cool I’ve decided. They probably think they’re cooler than me. They are, they’re even cooler than cool. They dance cool they dress cool they choose cool songs the women are hot and the men are omgawd. Someone dumped an entire bag of coolness on the men. I can’t even talk to them my face gets bright red and my voice squeaks. So far every single Australian wcs dancer who’s come to the US has been the coolest person in the history of whatever, including, now, these two. So this routine – it’s cool. Hits, punches, leans, back-drops, sweeps, and slides. She’s adorable.
9. Eddie and Helen, “Cooler Than Me” (Mike Posner), Bright tomato-red costumes with black sparkly accents, Helen a gorgeous American Beauty, in brilliant tomato-red lips. Lots of hard lindy-esque stuff in this routine – through-the-leg drags, drops, snakes, and toes-up slides of all sorts. And pirouettes, fouettes, straight-arm barrel-rolls (that’s not what they’re called. What are these things?Cartwheel-arms?). Cute routine, but Helen would be cute standing in line at the department of motor vehicles. And Eddie’s pretty adorable himself.
10. Brennar and Torri to “Sadly Beautiful” (Tom McRae), Brennar in gray pants, vest, and a navy shirt (Brennar always looks like a gentleman, which he always is) and Torri in navy pants and an absolutely stunning top of a wide navy chiffon sash over a glittery pewter bra and belt, her gorgeous hair loose but pulled back behind one ear (she “dances” her hair in this piece). Oh. My. Goodness. Breathtaking. What a song, first of all, and the story behind it. Cello! Acoustic guitar and voice – gorgeous song. Love that it’s slow (~77 bpm) and so allows for super fast, lots of complex syncopated rhythms. Love that we get to see these two do slow – to show their extreme control. Love that it’s sad, and serious, that we get to see them do serious after last year’s “cute.”
This routine is extreme beauty, in every way. “You’ve got your father’s hair, and you’ve got your father’s nose” [beat beat beat] (and he takes her face in his hands) “And you’ve got my soul” (and Brennar is down on his knees in front of her). I love how they move when they’re still, something’s moving, even if just their torso is expanding in the direction they’re about to go in, or even maybe just an elbow is moving imperceptibly through an empty spot. The shapes! Her impeccable spins! The believability of the emotion! Her moments of raging! The lines! The smoothness and quality of their movement! I love watching Brennar as much as I love watching Torri – he is unbelievably graceful, so perfectly with her in every moment. They are two parts of the same whole – there are not two dancers up there but one who splits apart and comes back together again, one cohesive idea.
My favorite moment: “I had no chance at all” and Torri reaches forward with a flexed foot but can’t get there, she’s pulled back. The moment is so … I don’t know how to explain it. It leaves an empty hole in the space in front of her, a tunnel of emptiness that she was reaching towards. I don’t know, this whole routine is just astonishing. I’d love to see it on a dark, pitch black stage, with nothing but a single spotlight on them. Extreme beauty. Not an eye was dry in that ballroom.
11. Jason and Annmarie Marker, “Unwritten” (Natasha Bedingfield), in, I’m sure, since she’s a fashion designer in addition to being a dancer, outfits designed by Herself Annmarie – blue and red slashes and diagonal straps and draping. I love these two, love that their routines are always from the heart, about them and their love for each other. Love their expressions! They *throw* themselves into their dancing, total commitment. They’re adorable!
12. Ben and Melissa, “You and I” (Lady Gaga), YAAAAY for this routine I love this routine love love LOVE! Okay first of all HOW GORGEOUS IS MELISSA in her little (and I mean LITTLE) black dress, with those legs, and those, what, 6″ stilettos?!? And that hair? And those red red lips? Holy mackerel what a bombshell! And her spins? In those heels and that short little, tight little dress? And wait, exactly how fast is this song? 135 bpm?!? I think she must have said “You know what? I want something hard something impossible actually how about if I wear 8″ stilettos with bare legs so they can see every movement and a dress up to here so I have to hide my skivvies and let’s put umpteen triple-timed finger spins and of course pirouettes don’t forget drops slides back-bends duck-outs splits anything where I might fall let’s put a lot of that in there what’s the fastest song you know let’s use that one but can you speed it up?” This routine is about Melissa, and Melissa is Va-Va-Voom on steroids. It’s about her waist, her hour-glass figure, her luxurious hair … and man oh man her dancing! (Oh and I want to extend a personal thank you to Ben and Melissa for no butt shakes. We’ve had a superfluity of butt shakes in recent years and this is a routine that would definitely call for a butt shake.) What a great partnership this is! Loving their choreography, what seems to be a similarly goofy sense of humor, seems like they really compliment each other.
So that was Classic! What a night, what an amazing night of great routines!
And what we would have seen, had Kyle and Sarah and Jordan and Tatiana danced their new routines, what we would have seen would have made for an even more amazing night!
We would have seen Kyle and Sarah’s super cool Southern Rock meets Jazz meets Jason Mraz meets 60′s Psychedelic: Aussie Claude Hay’s “Fade” – in a formal and hip black-and-white (Kyle in an elegant vest, Sarah in an awesome black-and-white criss-crossy strappy thong half-vest choker top) – how they hit all the teeny things inside the bigger movements, how they dance so smooth you think they poured oil on the floor and they’re sliding around in a puddle – and how funky they are – and how Sarah flies! She flies from one end of the slot all the way out to the other, back and forth, her hair flying behind her, keeping up with Kyle’s large stride. She’s so fast! And her spins! She’s just a whir, like a pencil. And Kyle’s feet! How does he move them like that? So quick! He’s big *and* he’s quick, how unusual is that? He’d make a great running back. At one point he gives Sarah an outside turn into a free spin in the middle of which he lifts a leg over her head while turning and somehow she ends up falling onto his arm – it’s amazing. And you have no idea how it happens …
And we would have seen Jordan and Tatiana with “More!” (opening with the moody Alex Vargas version, finishing with the fast Usher version) Effortless! Beautiful, clean, gorgeous lines. Such contained power … with such calm. Intense quiet focus combined with screaming speed and ferocity. It’s simply stunning! You don’t move. You forget to breathe or blink. The ballroom is silent, no one speaks, you can hear the light bulbs. And as abruptly as it started it’s done and you jump to your feet yelling and crying and pounding your hands and all around you people are going crazy. Jordan and Tatiana are beasts! They’re in blood-red and black and they roar onto the floor like the matador and the bull rolled into one. Hot, impatient, fire shooting out of their eyes. They’re ferocious. They eat west coast swing for breakfast. They burn through the room leaving nothing but a lonely thread of smoke and scorch marks across the floor.
Amazing routines out there for 2012. What a great year this is!
More WONDERFUL news! Mark Scheuffele – Mark The Marine – asked for Sharlot Bott’s hand in marriage. And Sharlot said YES! YAAAAAAAAAY HOW WONDERFUL! A summer wedding is planned.
Steve announced this Saturday night, and what a great, happy way to start off the evening!
And on Sunday Steve announced the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Arjay and Bridget Centeno! YAY, YAY DOUBLE TRIPLE QUADRUPLE YAY! On behalf of the west coast community from all around the globe, from all of us to you, we wish you two all the love and happiness in the world and beautiful life together!
Speaking of Steve, what gorgeous emceeing all weekend long. His voice is plush, sumptuous, like buttah, like a cello. But more important than the luscious sound is what he says and how he says it. Steve is SO respectful, of every single person, so gentle with people, and loving. He seems to know everyone and speaks to each individually like a family member – I found myself wondering if he was, maybe, a relative of half the ballroom. He’s kind on the mic, really takes care of people, building them up and promoting them in the kindest and most respectful way. Really beautiful emceeing.
And he’s funny! During a rotation in the Allstar JJ: “Does anyone in the ballroom have an inhaler? We need an inhaler up here – okay, we got one. Now, in fairness to everyone, does anybody else want a hit of this? You’all are sticklers for fairness so would anyone like some fluticasone and salmeterol? Judges, too – we’re fair to judges. Any of you judges want a hit?” Not sure if this was Steve’s gentlemanly commentary on goings-on in the community or not, but he had everyone in stitches. And the way he described the choices of music for Champions’ Strictly finals: “You have two choices. One is soul/r&b/blues/motown/funk/classic … you know, music you can *dance* to, that you *feel,* music that, you know, swings, music like that. Or ….” (long loooooong pause) (and in a voice so quiet you had to strain to hear) “Or …
“So to repeat. Your choices are Soul, Blues, Classic, R&B, Motown, Funk … you know, really good songs you can dance to …
He must repeated that over and over eight times, each time barely whispering the word “contemporary” and sounding so disappointed at the idea.
Very very hilarious.
I’m just getting to know Steve because he doesn’t travel much so we don’t see him outside of California. He’s so elegant! He dresses beautifully! He dresses respectfully, the way he speaks. Gorgeous brocade jacket one night, beautiful jacket and powder-blue tie another night. Beautiful man.
Champion Strictlys were great to watch, by the way. Of course. How could they not be with that line-up? Some even chose [contemporary] as their music choice:
1. Michael Kielbasa and Katie – “25 Miles From Home” (Edwin Starr)
2. John Lindo and Torri – “Moves Like Jagger” (Maroon 5) (Torri did 17 spins! I was counting. Diva Walk with Torri in front followed by a Jagger Walk with Lindo in front … hilarious)
3. Benji and Brandi – they chose the first category but I was so entranced by their dancing I forgot to scratch down what song …
4. Parker and Jessica – “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (Temptations)
5. Jordan and Melissa Rutz – “Give Me Everything” (Pitbull)
6. Ben Morris and Sarah – “Shotgun” (Jr. Walker)
7. The Waynes – “Me You and The Music” (Lemar)
8. Kyle and Tatiana – “She Make Me Wanna” (JLS) – Ben Morris said, about this song, “Wow that song is so contemporary it was written tomorrow.”
9. Nick King and Yenni – “Respect” (Aretha) – wow this was such a great dance. So so funny. Nick was ON – Yenni was ON – both of them making such funny over-the-top faces, extreme funk, hitting things I didn’t know were there even though I’ve been listening to this song for 45 years. He kept surprising her by dropping her, sweeping her, popping up in front of her – and she just followed whatever was thrown at her, laughing and mugging the whole way through. Hilarious! Standing ovation of course.
10. Robert Royston and Jill Dumarco – “Keep on Dancing”
By the way – totally off the subject – I keep meaning to mention, and Steve announced at Capital, that this year Phoenix is moving BACK TO THE CAMELBACK!! The greatest hotel! And very nostalgic. Lot of history and memories at this hotel.
I also keep forgetting to mention: my friend Brad Whelan has decided to go “pro” as a photographer, taking Kermit’s place, and is doing an absolutely unbelievably STUNNING job of capturing moments of beauty, hilarity, playfulness, pensiveness, passion – all this and more with his rich artistic pictures of events on our circuit. You can become his Facebook friends (and get a taste of some of what he’s doing) here:
And see the full gallery of comp pictures here:
And you’ll find him at the back of ballrooms on the circuit, more and more …
In addition to being an amazing photographer he’s a great dancer and a generous, funny, thoughtful, helluva nice guy. We are SO lucky to have him. He’s coming to MadJam so all my DC homies – get your picture taken and prepare yourself to be amazed!
More still to tell about Capital. What a great event!