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Wow what a different Thursday night this year! No Prince of Belgium or Obama in the main ballroom so no dancing between pillars trying not to bump your head on the dropped ceiling, down there in the nowhere-to-sit, cramped, dark, basement, with its small sad crowd who all left early (except for Genieboy who danced till they threw him out.)
Okay, slight exaggeration. It wasn’t THAT bad. Just almost.
But this year wow! Main ballroom with a waaay bigger floor this year, Arjay and Louie playing awesome music, and what a crowd! Holy mackerel – the floor was packed from 9 till we left (early – even GB – we were tired) at 12:30. Good thing we had the extra space – that crowd would never have fit in the basement.
Heat wave here in New Jersey – yesterday in the 100′s, bright and sunny. Today in the high 90′s but thunderstorms … hoping this won’t mess up airplane arrivals and all the hordes of DC, Charlottesville, Raleigh, and Boston travellers driving in by car.
Can’t wait for tonight’s Opening Ceremonies and the show! Liberty always opens with a very Broadway-esque performance by the pro staff – last year Grease, year before Elvis. This is a fun comp for spectating. Or adding an extra day or two to see New York.
Love the hotel, too. Hyatt, fully rennovated rooms, lots of “Pure” rooms if you want or need one, super friendly, responsive, courteous, well-trained staff, outlets, yummy beds, balcony, and view of … well, okay you don’t come for the scenery.
Love how Monsieur Lindo runs an event – he is SO generous. I won’t go on and on – check out my updates from previous years if you can stand the gushing. We saw him briefly last night looking cheerful and well-rested – said no disasters or snafus so far!
West Side Story!
The Puerto Rican Sharks – Jordan (with a moustache), Arjay, Ben, Angel … versus The very white Jets: Olivier, Kyle and Royston; and their girlfriends the Puerto Rican Chicas: Blake, Torri, Melissa, Jessie versus the blondies Tatiana, Sarah, Nicola, and Henriette. Too funny!
Grace on the mic tonight … hilarious as she often is. This weekend we get not one, not two, but all three of our greatest emcees taking turns on the mic: Grace, Mario, and Robert Royston. What a treat!
Bruce Gleason (thumbsup video) is filming: you can watch all weekend here (I can’t get the link to work but maybe you’ll have more success) http://thumbsupvideo.com/wpfiles/liberty-swing/ …
… and Brad Whelan taking more of his fantabulous photos: http://www.bradfordwhelan.com/
Three couples in Showcase:
The Roystons (Edge of Glory) taking first place (Grace said “I think there’s stuff on the floor that needs to be picked up, and you know I don’t bend. There you go Angel, you get down there and pick it up for me like a good boy, just like you do at home.”)
Stephen White and Sabrina Paxman taking second with their new “Somewhere With You” which looked much different than I remember it at SwingDiego in May – several very cool new tricks, this routine really flows, it’s just gorgeous. Both in bright white, bright white heads of fluffy hair – gorgeous. Sabrina is like a fluffy snowball flying through the air;
Greg and Lemery taking third with No Diggity – looked like they messed up somehow at the beginning and took a while to recover rghghghghrghgh hate it when that happens but it does seem to happen to everybody at some point. (Grace: “I do that roll her up roll her down thing too … but only when I’m putting on my Spanx.”)
Pro Strictly (looved the music! Our table loved every single song! DJ was either Louis or Beth – we kept craning our necks to see who was playing both seemed to be. What great songs! I’ll write them up tomorrow, in a bit of a rush right now)
Greg and Lara Deni
Stephen White and Lemery
Erik and Kim Brolet
Chuck and Sabrina
Arjay and Torri (First Place)
Royston and Rutz (5th place)
Ben and Mrs. Tatiana Mollman-Bennett (3rd Place)
Jordan and Sarah (4th place)
Olivier and Henriette
Kyle and Jessica (2nd Place)
… and the Dollar Dance, in which one puts money in a pot and for each dollar given gets a bit of a song to dance with one of the above pros. $400 was raised, donated to Juniors for travel and lodging.
Jen Deluca is here, walking with a cane. Knee problems which she says should be all better in six weeks.
Juniors are here: we’ve seen Anyssa and Josh, and the Clonches. And beautiful beautiful Alexis and Akil.
Pizzas brought in just before Awards, donated by Gotham Swing Club,
Fun dancing! Bit crowded though – already heard of several different injuries, feet trampled, two heads cracked together in simultaneous dips, elbowed kidneys. This is New York, after all. It’s like traffic downtown – lotta passionate drivers with maybe not always the nicest manners.
Jack and Jills tomorrow, Classic tomorrow night!
Before I say anything else about anything … Awards as just announced:
1st Jordan and Tatiana (AUGHGHGHGH!!!)
2nd ($1,000) Benji and Torri (a routine choreographed ONE HOUR AGO AUGHGHGHGH!!!)
3rd ($500) Kyle and Sarah (AUGHGHGH!! CRAZY RIDICULOUS STANDING OVATION AUGHGHGH!!!)
4th ($300) Ben and Melissa (AUGHGHGH I LOOOOVE THIS ROUTINE LOVE THESE PEOPLE WHY DID THEY HAVE TO MAKE A MISTAKE DANG DANG DAGNABBIT AUGHGHGHGH)
5th ($200) Arthur and Colleen (AUGHGHGHGHGH FIRSSSST TIME ON THE FLOORRR LOOOVE THIS BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL GORGEOUS CHOREOGRAPHY GREAT SONG GREAT ROUTINE AUGHGHGHGHGH LOVE LOVE LOVE AUGHGHGHGHGH)
1st ($400) Chris and Nicole (SO. DANG. AMAZING.)
2nd ($300) Akil and Alexis (come ON?!?!? She did WHAT with her leg?!? Wait – she’s how old? Eleven? ELEVEN?!? AUGHGHGHGH!!!)
3rd ($150) Josh and Anyssa (OMGAWD THESE GUYS ARE CRAZY RIDICULOUS!)
1st Ford and Ward … aka David and Maria
2nd ($250) Mike and Angie
3rd ($200) Reginald Beason and Lara Deni
4th ($150) Bill and Lorraine
5th Donnie and Daria
1st ($700) Role-Play
2nd ($300) Capital Swing
1st Greg and Johanna Barnes
2nd Yuna and Will Burbage
3rd Jason Miklic and Marilyn Hall
4th Angela and Phillip Spinka
5th Joanna and Jacqueline (didn’t get last name!)
1st ($108) PJ and Tren
2nd Cameron and Stacy Cramer
3rd ($72) Chris Lo and Sabrina
4th ($54) Rob Glover and Lara Deni
5th ($36) Reginald Beason and Colleen
1st ($140) Mike GlasgowBFF and JoAnn
2nd ($116) Dave Raines and Grace Killeleeleahuaiahaha (we were just in Hawai’i so I am now an expert on spelling Hawai’i'a’n words the secret is vowels with a lot of apostrophes it’s like yawning but really beautiful)
3rd ($92) Bruce Miami-Dance-Magic Perrotta and Lorraine
4th ($70) Will and Julie
5th ($46) Genieboy and Jennifer Vaughn
1st Michael Davis and Angie Jones
2nd Stephane and Anyssa
3rd ($92) Jerome and Estelle (Allez La France!!!! okay … Allez Les Quebecois!)
4th ($44) Ewan and Abby
5th ($96) Mathew Smith and Naomi Hubert
1st ($396) Sean and ??? missed it!!!!
2nd ($330) Roberto and Shoshi
3rd ($264) Lieu and Danielle Lindblom
4th ($198) Graham and Giselle
5th ($132) CJ and Sarah
Novice JJ (check out the prize money! more about this later!)
1st ($670) Jared and (oops didn’t get name)
2nd ($560) Xen and Emily
3rd ($448) Jean-Paul and Maryann
4th ($334) Maria Ford and Nadia
5th ($224) Thomas and Jeannie
1st ($270) Barbara Jackson and Kelly
2nd ($225) Gary and Christina
3rd ($180) Ben and Ashley
4th Tara and PJ
5th ($90) Steven and Helene
Louis’ music – SO GOOD! Songs he played for Friday night’s Pro Strictly:
Wall to Wall (Introductory All-Skate)
For Chuck and Sabrina:
Whataya Want From Me and Sweat (Snoop Dogg version)
For Royston and Rutz:
She Will Be Loved and Hit The Lights
For Arjay and Torri:
I Don’t Wanna Know and Scream
For Jordan and Sarah:
What’s My Name and Dip Out of the Club
For Olivier and Henriette:
Your Love and Dance Again
For Erik and Kim:
Replay and 2012
For Kyle and and Jessica:
Aisha and Okay
For Ben and Tatiana:
I Just Wanna Know and This Is Love
For Stephen and Lemery:
How Do I Breathe and International Love
For Greg and Lara:
Just A Dream and I Like It
Final All-Skate: Swanee (slow version)
Saturday night social dancing was fun! Ballroom still packed when we left in bright daylight at 6am (That is the worst! To emerge in a bleary-eyed daze from the trance-like ballroom cave and be smacked in the face with Reality in the form of screaming sunlight, rude birds criticizing you at the top of their lungs, an army of mowing crew troops coming at you on tanks with leaf blowers pointed at you like bazookas, smells too strong for your weakened senses – burnt coffee, frying grease – floating up your nose in case you hadn’t already figured out you’re not only exhausted and limping but also hungry enough to eat your own hand.)
But it’s all worth it. Cause Saturday night was fun fun fun fun. DJ’s were Louis – a genius – then Jordan, then Arjay, then Jordan again, then Arjay again, then Anthony DeRosa another genius, then Louis … Don’t know if I’ve got the order right and maybe they were all playing back and forth on top of each other but whatevah. The music was SO good it was impossible to leave. Good dance music! It’s like a drug! You want more and more and you develop a tolerance and need higher and higher doses for your fix. Each song is almost perfect. Almost but not quite! And then the next one starts up and you love it and you think “this is it! This is the ultimate! After this I’ll be satisfied!” and this goes on for hours, all night all the next day, too, and for months, years, decades, and you’re hooked.
Friday we danced till about 3 … ballroom was packed when we left. Energy not quite as high as Saturday night. I’m guessing this was because Liberty, though not NASDE, has a similar personality because of its routine divisions. Couples and teams dancing on Saturday night had to be up at 6:30 am for floor trials and maybe weren’t out Friday night in order to be rested enough to perform (and do Jack and Jills) the next day. And Friday was a Friday so people flying in or driving (some DC folks spent SEVEN HOURS! in rush-hour traffic and thunderstorms with highway roadwork – miserable trip instead of what should have been a three-four hour drive.) Whatevah.
We heard two versions of Friday night:
Version One: “If you’re a name-dropper you probably weren’t happy. But the floor was filled with great dancers and if you couldn’t find anyone to dance with you’re a wicked snob.” (the word “wicked” is the clue to who made this comment. if you’ve ever lived in a certain part of the country you know that *everything* is wicked.)
Version Two: “There is nobody here to dance with. There are no good female dancers at this event. Not one single woman good enough for me to dance with not even one. I don’t even know why I came. Not going down to the ballroom, not gonna leave my room, no point in being here.”
Our version: We’re total name droppers and we had a blast Friday night and even more of a blast Saturday night. All the pro staff and routine competitors out on the floor Saturday, lotta them out Friday too. Tons and tons of great dancers from around the country, huge rowdy marvelous Canadian contingent, Europe, Asia, Texas. Floor was the right size for the crowd, music was wicked awesome.
Oh, and Shoshi Kushnir danced in shorts on Friday. Short shorts. And an abdomen. Hips. Several men rushed to the ER.
Oh, and pizza party Friday night or did I already mention that? Robert said Nicola asked for a second slice for her husband and when he said how nice of you can I have my slice she said No I’m eating both pieces I just said that about it being for my husband I lied go get your own. Nicola can be very funny. One time they messed up their routine right at the beginning and she told us that on the next lift, as she soared through the air smiling at the audience, what she was really thinking was “Gee I wonder if we can get our miles back?” and when she’s supposed to lean toward the judges with a happy face she decided she was *not* happy and leaned towards them with a pissed-off face instead.
Thursday night Genieboy said WOW there’s a girl here from Singapore who is AWESOME! I danced with her all night! Amazing dancer! He talked about her all day Friday, couldn’t wait to dance with her bunches Friday night, raved about her all day Saturday, danced with her over and over Saturday night too. The girl from Singapore! So so so so good!!
Turns out there were *twelve* girls here from Singapore and he couldn’t tell them apart. He was dancing with twelve different girls.
(hahaha that joke is for you Yenni and Stacy, The Short One and The Tall One.)
Seriously though, he did dance with Singapore girls – twelve people from Singapore at Liberty! Twelve is a lot to travel that long distance. All crazy good thanks to Jordan and Tatiana and all the other pros who have travelled there to build yet another great community for our dance.
We had closed-circuit TV all weekend! Awesome to watch the ballroom right in your room. Especially helps if you’re on a tight schedule. Or for parents taking shifts watching the kids in the room. Bruce’s “thumbsupvideo” feed streamed right to the rooms.
Oh – I have been corrected. Liberty is not in New Yawk, it’s in New Joisey. Like there’s a difference.
Oh and also it was Auntonya Rogers who won Intermediate JJ.
We’ve said John Lindo is generous, right? So get this: He gave out $6,300 in Jack and Jill prize money. Every penny paid by contestants to enter a Jack and Jill was given back in prize money, the amounts based on the number of registrations for each division. So the lucky winners of Novice, for instance, went home with $670! Not bad! Not bad at all. John doesn’t have to do this, he could choose to keep most of that money and give winners much smaller prizes. Or he could choose to keep all of it, give half a glassful of Hershey’s kisses as a prize, and go home with an extra $6,300 in his pocket. But he gives it all back to the dancers. We’re glad, too, that the biggest pots go to Novice, the new people in the community.
As Royston told us, when you attend a wsdc event one dollar of your jj registration goes to the wsdc. Most event directors add that dollar to your registration. Not John. He pays that dollar out of his own pocket. For every JJ contestant at his event.
John also provides breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings in the sunlit lobby just outside the ballroom. Fresh melon, grapefruit and oranges, all kinds of berries and fruit, yogurt, croissants, bagels and cream cheese, cereals and granola, coffee, juices. All free with your weekend ticket. Costs him a pretty penny but he does it anyway because he is a generous man.
The professional staff all agree that he takes extra special care of them financially and in all kinds of other little and big ways too.
John Lindo is just a gracious host, producer, and employer. Period.
So great to have Mario on the mic for some of the weekend. Mario before Teams on Saturday night, “There is no videotaping in the ballroom tonight. No videotaping whatsoever. No videotaping. In Spanish: No-o videotaping-o tonight-o. In French: Ce n’est pas de videotaping.” In Swahili: [tongue clicks and snaps then the word videotaping]” Mario is hilarious.
Three teams, all three really good:
Stephanie Risser’s eight-girl “Divalicious” hustle team dancing to Vanity,
“Role Play” – buncha gays and lesbians. Or pretend gays and fake lesbians. Or straight people leading instead of following or I dunno whatevah. But everybody alternately leading and following each other in a dazzling array of shifting colors and lines, four in brilliant neon green with black ties the other four in purple with hot silver slashes. They won!
Capital – Dawn’s great 7-couple team in copper and black dancing to the coolest didgeridoo/samba piece of jazz. I loved this number. Scary, like a rumble, like she choreographed an old-fashioned West Side Story-style rumble. Dawn’s team choreography is superb. (By the way Dawn’s daughter Alexis gets more beautiful by the day. She looks exactly like her mother – that wide Scandanavian face, wide almond eyes – she’s a stunner.) I loved that at the finish of the routine the dancers held their final pose long. Long enough for the audience to get closure. Maybe I’m too sensitive but it bothers me when a routine finishes and they leap up before I’ve even started clapping. Feels amateurish.
Mario after Teams: “That was a didgeridoo. Does anyone know what that is – a Didgeridoo? Anyone ever hear of a Didgeridoo? Show of hands, who knows what a Didgeridoo is? Anyone speak Didgeridoo? Okay I’ll tell you. In Didgeridoo, that meant “No Videotaping In The Ballroom.”
Mike Glasgow tells me he was on his way over to Mario to say how nice it was to see him and hear him on the mic and tell him what a classy professional he was … but just as he was approaching Mario sidled over to a few older women at the edge of the floor and launched into an impromptu Chippendale burlesque, lip-syncing to some dirty song Louis had thrown on between heats and was in the middle of removing his jacket when Mike decided maybe “professional” wasn’t the best way to describe him after all.
Mario loved this story. Mario! So FUNNY! One of the funniest ever.
1st ($300) Brent and Emily
2nd ($250) Xi and Maryann
3rd ($200) Gary and Maria
4th ($150) Chris and Gabrielle
5th ($100) Derek and Katherine
1st ($300) T.J. and Marine
2nd ($250) XiLiHiui and LiLiWiBiWi
3rd ($200) Brandon and Danielle
4th ($150) Butch and Maria
5th ($100) Pierre and Jo
1st ($300) Cameron and Nicole
2nd ($250) Chris Lo and Estelle
3rd ($200) Anthony and Angie Jones
4th ($150) Chris Dumont and Hannah
5th ($100) Jerome and Sophy
Champion Jack and Jill
1st ($700) Robert and Jessica (oh my gawd, more on this later, so so SO great!)
2nd ($300) Benji and Tatiana
3rd ($200) Kyle and Henriette
Oooh, forgot to tell you about Classic at Liberty!
Four of the seven couples with brand new routines! First time on the floor!
1. First out: Ben and Melissa with their wonderful “You and Me.” They messed up. Rghgh. Gotta love these two for hanging in there all year with this extremely difficult routine … high heels and tight skirt so we get to scrutinize every movement of Melissa’s lovely legs and witness in detail the mechanics of every mess-up. I’m sure they’re not pleased but personally I don’t care at all if they mess up – I loooove it and I’m glad we get to see it over and over.
2. Jason Miklic and Sabrina Paxman to Christina Aguilera’s “Express,” Sabrina a sexpot in Moulin Rouge burlesque: lacy blood-red corset, black fishnets and black knee-high stiletto boots; Jason in matching vest and sexy black bowler hat with red trim (it’s hard dancing in a hat as every man who ever competed in Country is aware.) Adorable couple, adorable new routine!
3. Benji and Torri to “Take My Hand” by Sean Mcdonald.
First of all: AUGHGHGH!
Second of all: They choreographed this routine one hour before performing it. AUGHGHGH!
Third of all: Awesomely awesome song, First of all because Sean Mcdonald is awesome and second of all because the recurring chorus “I need you” – though not written about human-to-human love – is nevertheless is SO wonderful for Benji and Torri who clearly dearly love and need each other.
Fourth of all: The song is 143 bpm! Which they’re so smooth and good you don’t even notice. Until you realize that their triples are so fast there’s just a big blur down at the bottom of their legs instead of feet.
Fifth of all: Their lines, hits, shapes, changes in tempo, reliance on and trust of each other, their pure sheer unadulterated joy and celebration, their mastery of showmanship, accelerations and decelerations, the gorgeous perfect choreography … all of these things … they are perfect, simply perfect.
Sixth of all: They talk to you, they dance *for* you, the audience, in fact it’s like they’re dancing with you.
Seventh of all: AUGHGHGH!
4. Rob Jackson and Dinah Elashvili dancing to Adele’s “Turning Tables,” in dark maroon and black. Dinah drapes across the floor in a dramatic movement at the beginning of the song, later performs five pirouettes and then 22 perfect, fast pirouettes towards the end. This is a DC couple and have all of us here in our local community pulling for them, eager to watch them polish this up and make it powerful.
5. Kyle and Sarah to “Seven Nation Army” and “We’re In Miami” (second song is a personal fave – it’s over-the-top funny … so hoping someone would do a routine and of all people it’s these two hahaha!) I looooove this routine! Funky? Man oh man! Kyle and Sarah get downer and badder as time goes on. Hard-hitting, funny as all get-out, their lines, their cool funk moves, the jokes, their performance, their smarts … Pure entertainment! Love this routine big time. So does everybody else – they got a standing ovation!
6. Arthur and Colleen – aka Mr. and Mrs. McDonald oops make that Uspensky – to Regina Spektor’s gorgeous “Eet.” Liltingly lovely floating perfect choreography. They were not outdone by their choreography, either, even though this was their first time on the floor. They soared. They took the whole floor, sailed across it. They were fast and slow, dancing between moves, they’ve obviously worked on transitions. Tempo changes, accelerations and decelerations, dancing in the music, dancing with each other. I haven’t spoken to them (other than a brief congratulations on gorgeousness) but I’m guessing this is a couple who has worked hard with coaches, taken notes to heart and worked to fix what needed fixing. It shows. First time on the floor and yet the routine is already beautiful. You’ll love it!
Oh, and speaking of loving it: For those of you who aren’t travelling to a comp in the near future you can see this routine and all the rest of Classic, at Bruce Gleason’s site, here:
Classic costs ten dollars if I’m remembering right. If you’re as much a nut for west coast as we are you’ll skip a meal and spend the $10 on the video instead (hahaha okay embarrassing but I admit I’m a junkie what can I say.)
Oh, and also … my pictures of this event are here:
and Brad Whelan, our real actual Circuit Photographer, will post his superb Liberty pictures soon, on his website here:
7. Last of all – who do you think? Jordan and the newly married Mrs. Tatiana Mollmann-Bennett! Their crazy great “More.” Beautiful, graceful, fast, powerful, mean, contemporary, forceful, precise, funny, true to swing, dramatic, entertaining, relentless, explosive …. And they won! Of course!
I haven’t told you about Rising Star, either, have I?!? Or the Pro Jack and Jill on Sunday!
Liberty is a blast!
And it hasn’t even started yet! But all our friends are here! Evvvvvvverybody from DC is here – for us it’s only a three-hour drive. Even Dallas and Whitney Brooks! First time out since baby Austin was born almost a year ago.
So far: 12 Frenchies, 10 Brits plus Steve Hunt who counts as a country all by himself, two Russians, the King of Belgium … yes, really! The King of Belgium! And Barak Obama! In the other ballroom,the smaller one. West coast swing gets the main ballroom, the King of Belgium and the President of The United States can make do with the small ballroom around the corner. Security guards everywhere.
Registration is always a snap at Liberty. Set up right in the lobby, completely computerized (Brian Faust’s great program, the one with ipads for the judges), and six hot babes to check you in.
Love the contemporary lobby with open balcony, rock sculptures, bar and restaurant with cool misshapen plates and silverware that balances at weird angles.
People got rained out on the highways yesterday and today – huge thunderstorms. Bill Cameron (doing floors this weekend) says it took him 6 hours to make a 2-hour trip, flooding and accidents. Can’t figure out if it’s hot or cold. When it’s not pouring it’s about to pour and so humid you can’t see through the air. I am the only person in the hotel with a hair advantage.
Last night’s dance was meh. Downstairs in a largish meeting room – two floors separated by pillars. Arjay dj’d (Arjay DJ Arjay DJ Arjay DJ) till 11-ish, Louie followed. I counted 120 people on the floor, another 40 standing around. When we left at 1 there were about 40 couples still dancing.
Looking forward to the Opening Ceremonies in two hours … last year was Elvis, this year’s a secret. And pro Strictly and Showcase! Sebastien has a new Showcase partner – she’s beautiful (are alllll the French women beautiful?!? Dudes come ON. It’s bad enough they can dance, no fair if they’re beautiful too. Seriously.) and she is TINY. She’s like a blonde chihuahua. Sebastien is tall and strong so I can only imagine what their routine will look like.
Okee dokee. More in a wittle bit.
Friday Night! Jammed ballroom, great energy.
Opening Ceremonies started with National Anthem, followed by an all-company routine Greased Lightning (from “Grease”), then Showcase! Six couples:
1. Rob and Connie, our good friends from DC, first time on the floor, dancing to Drops of Jupiter by Train. So beautiful! She’s a tiny luminously white bird, he’s a tall black tree with long branches reaching up to the sky. She soared through the air, back and forth and up and around, breathless with joy. She’s the daughter of a pilot and has dreams of floating through the air, being lifted up higher and higher, up to the clouds. Genieboy and I take full credit for this routine. It’s our choreography, we coached them, we chose the music. Okay none of that is true. But we do love these guys and think they looked great. Mario (on the mic) said “Wow! That was pretty amazing! I haven’t seen that routine before! What a start to a great night! That was outstanding!” Pretty wonderful to get a compliment like that from Mario.
2. Robert and Nicola, who danced beautifully, again, and to their exasperation missed a lift which they NEVER miss ever. The lift was waiting to surprise them here at Liberty. Delightful. I didn’t notice the miss, GB didn’t notice it, I’m guessing almost no one noticed – they’re good enough to dance through a mistake. And they got a great crowd response. But still, it’s gotta be frustrating.
3. Benji and Torri, so good, so fast! So difficult! Only the tiniest handful of people – if anyone – could do this routine at this speed, and this clean. Choreography that’s more like painting than dancing. They’re amazing, these two.
4. Arjay and Jen (in black and yellow with neon polka dots,) with a hip new funky stylized snappy thing. Fun! She crouches down and whips her hair around 10 times. She is hot. She is so hot. Her husband is one lucky man.
5. Sebastien and little teeny tiny Vanessa dancing to guess what? Drops of Jupiter by Train. Again! What are the chances? Sebastien rolled her AROUND HIS NECK forteen twenty a hundred times – literally, around his neck. Ha! Mario said “Alcohol was involved in some of those moves.”
6. And last of all, beautiful beautiful Greg and Lemery. Also our good friends from DC. We choreographed this routine, too, and coached them every step of the way, so if you see us you can congratulate us on our success. Come to think of it, we choreographed Robert and Nicola, too, also Benji and Torri, Arjay and Jen, and we flew to France to choreograph Sebastien and Vanessa – that neck move was totally our concept. Genieboy demonstrated by whipping me around and around his neck and then I jumped down and whipped my hair around and around to showe Jen how to look bad ass.
1st Benji and Torri (forget how much they won)
2nd Greg and Lemery $1,000
3rd Arjay and Jen $500
4th Robert and Nicola $300
5th Rob and Connie $200
6th Seb and Vanessa
Pro Strictly’s came later last night … I’ll tell ya about it in the next update. Now down to the ballroom for Jack and Jill’s.
Wow! Yesterday was FUN! Lots to tell but first:
Rising Star (three couples):
1st Michael Stephens and Jamie Callahan $340
2nd Mike Glasgow and Kristen Wenger $250
3rd Donnie and Daria $200
Classic (nine couples):
1st Benji and Melissa Rutz $2,000
2nd Brennar and Torri $1,000
3rd Jordan and Tatiana $500
4th Kyle and Sarah $300
5th Tybalt and Hazel $200
Juniors (five couples):
1st Chris and Nicole $400
2nd Steven and Hannah $300
3rd Conner and Alyssa
4th Akil and Alexis
5th Ian and Emily Hull
1st Akil and Estelle $352
2nd Jerome and Svetlana $292
3rd Steve Wilder and Hottie-Trained-Dancer-With-No-Vowels-Name-Ending-in-Oooski $234
4th Scott Pulling and Erica Ross $176
5th Michael Blackburn and Sarah Richards $118
1st Dave Damon and Blandine $252
2nd Julien-of-the-famous-pink-underwear and Sascha $210
3rd Sebastien and Jamie $168
4th Keith Stremmel and Erica Smith $126
5th Peter Fradley and Sue Lambell $84
1st Dean and Dori $158
2nd Mike Glasgow and Maureen $132
3rd Michael Stephens and Me, Liza heh heh $106
4th Dave Raimes and Jennifer $78
5th Dennis Riley and Samantha DeFrancisco $52
1st Anthony DeRosa and Lemery $140
2nd Stephen White and Alyssa $116
3rd Greg Scott and Kelly Hull $94
4th JB and Dana Simonetti $70
5th Steve Hunt and Connie
Liberty 2011 Update #4
Saturday night at Liberty is “Dress To Impress” which some people actually did, in either classy or tacky evening wear depending on what they were trying to impress you *with.*
Our gracious host Mr. John Lindo was marvelous in elegant black tie, Blake Hobby made a pewter sequined pencil skirt verrrrrrry happy, and Yuna wore a sparkly little black dress which matched her sparkly black eyes and her sparkly black bangs (thick blunt-cut almost to her eyelashes – she chopped them off herself that morning), with hot-pink feather earrings and matching hot-pink 4″ stilettos as her only accessories. Legs to die for. Very retro 60′s London chic, very Twiggy. I dragged her out to the lobby so I could pretend to be a fashion photographer, grabbing an adorable Frenchmen along the way to use as a prop. Yuna said, “But people will say who’s that guy? And where’s Bill? And what’ll I say cause he doesn’t speak English and I don’t even know his name!”
I love Saturday nights, the Big Night of an event. Routines! Yay!
First up, Juniors:
1. Ian and Emily, Jay and Kelly Hull’s 6-yr-old twins performing their hip-hop swing gangsta routine, choreographed by Melina. Cuteness overload.
2. Connor and Alyssa, “Little Red Corvette,” their own terrific choreography. Alyssa is a superstar about to happen. I can’t take my eyes off of her, she is so musical! Quick! Clever! And beautiful! And sweet! which shows in her dancing. Robert told us that this performance marked the end of Connor and Alyssa’s years dancing as Juniors. From now on they’ll compete in Classic. Watch out, grownups.
3. Chris and Nicole, “Disco’s Revenge” (jazz piano). This routine is SO GOOD! Elegant and witty, all about piano keys. They’re dressed like piano keys and they dance like piano keys. We were blown away by this at last year’s Open, and now, seven months later, it is flawless.
4. Steven and Hannah, to both Beyonce’s *and* the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” two entirely different songs with the same name, blended together in a funky *very* fast piece which flies (and at one point runs and jumps) around the floor. Fun choreography.
5. Akil and Alexis, “Evacuate The Dance Floor,” cuteness overload extreme. And Alexis! Holy shamoly – those big wide-set blue eyes, long lanky limbs, long blonde hair – Alexis is a stunner, sheesh. Her parents are in for trouble. And attitude! She’s Dean and Dawn combined. On steroids. She got a double wammy of the Born To Perform gene. And Akil! Adorable! I love his face, love how he jumps around hugging everyone cause he’s just fit to bursting with the joy of dancing.
Next, Rising Star:
1. Donnie and Daria – 100 pirouettes holy shamoly
2. Michael and Jamie - sassy rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Take a Load off Annie” (the song is actually called “The Weight”)
3. Mike Glasgow and Kristin Wenger – “She’s Not There” – clean, quiet, elegant
And then, Classic!
1. Julien and Beverly (from Lyons, France), “You Found Me,” in red and black (she’s got a red turtleneck on a bare back, one red sleeve, one red stripe down her back, and a red belt on black pants. He’s all in black with one red stripe around his arm and an untied red bowtie hanging in his collar). Six outside-turn pirouettes into four inside-turn pirhouettes, no foot down in between. Hard hits throughout with full force, full accelerations, moving to the very ends of the connection, fully committed compressions, very pleasing to watch. Fully expressed “sentences” instead of half-expressed timid mumbling. Beverly is 15 years old, maybe almost 16. I had said earlier there were 12 people from France but that was Thursday night. On Friday another 10 arrived so we had a crowd of Frenchies again and they were all sitting right behind me for Classic. Normally they’re yelling and cheering but for this routine they were oddly silent and when I turned to look I saw 20 French people wiping their eyes, beaming with emotion and pride.
2. Tybalt and Hazel, all in black, “Love Thing,” Hazel the diva with her huge smile in a hustle-flavored, shag-like, multi-pirouetted fun piece that showcased their fast footwork and ability to fly across a floor.
3. Mike and Shelli, “Heartless,” lots of intricate wrap moves and a one-footed flatback during which she holds her left foot at waist level with her right hand. Robert Royston (on the mic) demonstrated how this move came to be: Sheli was bent over tying her shoe when Mike decided to spin her like a top, Sheli yelling “wait I’m tying my WAIT just a minute I’m trying to MIKE! hold ON lemme finish tying my WAIT A MINUTE MIKE” – very funny watching Royston hop around the floor demonstrating.
4. Saturday’s Breaking News: Benji and Melissa Rutz! By late Saturday afternoon everyone was talking about this. When I looked at my phone I had 12 texts from around the world asking what’s going on?! why are they dancing together?!? did we know what the routine was going to be? how would world politics be affected!?
Like Benji and Torri’s amazing last-minute Bulletproof routine (can’t remember if that was last year or 2009) this one was conceived in one hour on Friday and then rehearsed for a second hour at 6:30 Saturday evening. And, like everything Benji choreographs (and Melissa too, for that matter), took into account the very special requirements of this particular performance by these particular individuals, to this music, at this event, at this particular moment in time. It’s like Benji gets a box of magic markers and with utter focus and abandon scratches out these marvelous doodles on a giant sketch pad in the sky.
This routine included two things I have been itching to see for years: First, they chose the fantastic music of the Brazilian Carnival: samba drums with whistles and yells of “Oh No! Here we Go!” No sound ever created can incite a crowd like a parade of drums – you cannot stay still. And the second thing I loved is that they used silence! They danced to silence! When I first learned to read music as a young child I learned that there are notes and there are rests, long ones and short ones of each, and rests are counted and “played” just as notes are counted and played, they are equally important to a piece of music, they are themselves a sound – not the absence of a sound. Stuff happens during a rest, the story is moved along. If you listen to the soundtrack to a horror movie the silence while the monster is sneaking up the stairs is just as important as the full-orchestra chord when he throws open the door to the bedroom. It has always seemed to me that silence isn’t utilized enough (or at all) in WC routines and the potential for great contrast and drama is lost.
So I was beside myself when Benji and Melissa exploded onto the floor to a wild pounding Batucada with back-bends and leans and pulls and skids and head whips and punches, up and down and everywhere, as if body parts were each banging out their own separate rhythms on their own drums. And then! Suddenly … silence! No whistles, no drums, not a whisper in the ballroom, just wide-eyed open-mouthed astonishment as Benji and Melissa continured dancing to the silent beat, not marching but swinging, soft little closed-position triplets and simple whips, like a happy murmur, keeping perfect time in silence for precisely 32 beats – one tidy phrase – and then you heard a far away muffled “Let’s go!” and BAM! Crash! Boom! Whistles and drums in a crazy din! And I am telling you the ballroom simply went wild!
So much was great about this routine – the contrasts, the quality of movement of each of these two, how much fun they were having, how Melissa flies, how clean, controlled and elegant she is, the slow lean into compression in which only their centers are inside and every other body part is stretched away like two sling-shots strained to the snapping point. The routine was so big, so loud, that you didn’t notice if it was a little rough, maybe a little simple, that it made you wonder what would actually be if they developed it from a wildly scratched doodle into a complete painting. I get goosebumps just thinking what that might look like.
Melissa says they hadn’t really talked about doing anything more since she and Ben are dancing at every event for the rest of the year, up to the Open. But you never know.
They got a standing ovation, of course, many people including judges just standing there smiling and shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders as if to say “Well, nothing to say to that. I got nuthin’ to add. Except wow.” They got a standing ovation and then who should follow but Jordan and Tatiana with “Gravity,” as if we weren’t rattled enough already, and they, too, got a standing ovation. And danced, as they always do, with power and passion and then, just at the end, in the middle of a whirl of 10 pirouettes in which Tatiana does five in a demi-plie and then five in a high arabesque with her beautiful neck and head trailing way out over her shoulder, in the middle of this she put her foot down for a second, on the beat, of course, which you wouldn’t know wasn’t in the choreography unless you’ve watched the routine before and just knew. But they made a mistake. They actually make mistakes – I saw it myself.
I can tell when dancers (any athletes for that matter) are supremely good because it looks like what they’re doing is easy, like I could do it. That’s when I know I’m seeing a lifetime of hard work combined with supernatural talent. I watch some of these super-hero dancers and I catch myself thinking “hey those flatback pirouettes are cool, I’m gonna try that during the next song break.” Then the song break comes and I can’t even stand up from the chair cause my knees won’t unbend.
Four more routines in Classic and lots more to tell. Next update …
Classic, continued …
The sixth routine Saturday night was performed by Sebastien and Blandine (Montpellier, France), to “Home” by Vanessa Carlton (great routine song). I love this routine. I love watching
Blandine move, period, I’ve been mesmerized by her all this and last year, watching her win Jack and Jill’s, Strictly’s, and Golden Ticket. I’m told she feels as good as she looks. And
Sebastien! What a hunk and a half! And fun to dance with! So this song has loads of drama and so does their choreography: just at the end, at the highest most dramatic point, the piano repeats a four-note scale over and over and as it does Blandine does four outside turns, then four pirouettes, four flatbacks, four turns around Sebastien, then EIGHT flatbacks, and eight finger spins looking skyward – 32 beats of spinning! Parfait!
Next, Kyle and Sarah, with their funky “How You Like Me Now.” Sarah starting out with her face one inch, literally, from Angel’s nose. How did she keep from laughing? No idea. How can you be serious pinned up against that huge toothy grin? But she did, and she was all bad-ass attitude. And she ended the routine by strutting right back at him again all uppity How You Like Me Now In Yo Face. By the way, the Facebook “VIP Awards” page is showing Kyle and Sarah’s “Johnny Be Goode” (2002 Classic 1st Place) as winning in several different categories. (The Facebook page is not where you actually vote so it’s a bit confusing. But it does hint at what you might expect at the upcoming VIP Awards Gala this August.)
Then Erik and Anna Novoa’s elegant “You Made Me Love You,” he in a tie and vest, she in a pretty little dress and heels on her pretty little legs. Sweeping kicks and leaps, everything in
tandem. They’re both ballerinas and this routine shows off their sweetness and grace.
And last of all the amazing Brennar and Torri. Wow. Just wow. Their footwork! So FAST! Shag footwork maybe? I don’t know I can’t even see the feet it’s just a big blur like they’re zipping around on unicycles, or like those cartoon characters that shoot across your tv screen with a blurry circle where the legs are supposed to be. And they’re smiling and doing back-bends and knee drops and spins all through it. Perfectly clean! They’re amazing. Great song, great routine, great great great.
SwingDiego is sunny, expansive, sparkled with big names and superstars, very southern California. Liberty, on the other hand, is totally New York. Very Broadway. John Lindo presiding over everything like the owner of an exclusive Michelin 3-Star establishment, greeting everyone, shaking hands, overseeing operations, pouring wine, putting out fires, thanking each guest for coming. Lindo is a generous host – breakfasts provided each morning in the atrium outside the ballroom; big trophies for the top three winners in every category (I brought one home! It’s gorgeous standing on our mantel!); big cash prizes. Lots of extras at Liberty to show that he knows you’ve spent boatloads of money and many hours of travel to patronize his event and he appreciates your support.
People come in early to see New York, take in a show, visit the Statue of Liberty, the Met, Soho. When we arrived in the pouring rain Thursday afternoon Torri and Kim (Torri’s wonderful mom) were just returning from Times Square, completely drenched but happy and unbelievably cute and huggable, both of them. I wish thunderstorms made me look adorable like that. They don’t.
Speaking of adorable, cutie-pie Cali Buntin reminded me that I am not the only person in the hotel with a humidity hair advantage. Cali has one too. Both of our hairs are maxed out – there’s nowhere else to go. Thunderstorms? No problem. Hurricanes? Blizzards? Hail? Avalanches? Nothing affects our hair.
Oh, and speaking of New York, Mario opened Friday’s competitions telling us that Liberty is not a NASDE comp, Liberty is in fact a proud non-member of NASDE. Why? Because, since its inception in 2004, Liberty has always been, in Mario’s words, “gender equal.” This was particularly poignant because only two hours earlier the state of New York had legalized same-sex marriage with a 33-29 vote in the state Senate. Mario made this announcement and then, mic in hand, walked across the floor to John Festa sitting in his judge’s chair, got down on one knee and said, “My dear friend. It’s been 20 years. John, I would like to ask for your hand in marriage.” I’m not sure whether Festa said yes or no – couldn’t hear his reply through all the laughing. Fortunately – or unfortunately – New York has not yet legalized multiple marriages so Mario’s beautiful wife Stephanie, sitting in her judge’s chair several seats down, need not worry about sharing.
And with that DeLuca and DeMarco (Jenn and Jill) began the Pro Strictly, followed by six other couples: Jordan and Jessica, Arjay and Torri, Brennar and Melissa Rutz, Benji and Sarah, Robert Royston and Debbie Figueroa, and Kyle and Tatiana. Judges for this comp were Festa and Stephanie, Dawn Garrish, Blake, Phil Lamothe, and Angel, Chief Judge for the weekend.
Friday night social dancing was FUN! Fun but crowded – if you weren’t up there when the song started you were not able to find a place to squeeze in without taking someone else’s slot. I sat out a lot because there was simply no room. And the floor was a little sticky – heat and humidity to blame I’m sure. But despite these things the energy in the room was high – lots of laughing, goofing off, lots of people dancing all night. Floor was still full when we left at 3am and we heard it stayed that way for another hour or two.
Lots more to tell …