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US OPEN! 30TH ANNIVERSARY! 30 years of Opens – hard to believe!
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends! We have just wolfed down dinner in the hotel restaurant (quick plate of pasta for me, turkey and mashed potatoes for Genieboy) and are on our way back down for Jack and Jill finals. Today’s been Jack and Jill prelims (Novice through Allstar) and pro-am routines. Two heats per division, about 15 couples in each. Competitors’ meeting this morning at 11:30 for JJ contestants – nothing more than a quick announcement about staging and when to show up.
We arrived late last night (Wednesday) to find the lobby FULL of dancers from around the world who had arrived earlier in the week (or last week, for Swinging New England in Boston.) Someone said this is like the the soccer World Cup – Brazil is here, a big Russian contingent, France, UK, Australia, I’m sure many Asian countries will be represented …
Getting here was was confusing: No traffic on the highway, instantly found a parking space at the airport, no line at check-in, one person in front of us at security, plane took off five minutes early and landed a half hour ahead of time, no traffic on the 405 during rush hour driving down from LAX, no issues checking in at the hotel. This, on the day before Thanksgiving, with TV and radio reporting massive travel delays and chaos like hasn’t been seen in years. Something *has* to go wrong, right? All this good luck is making me nervous not knowing when the axe is gonna fall.
Major rhinestoning going on in rooms all over the hotel. I’m buying stock in rhinestones.
Some very sad news.
David Koppelman was found dead in his home last night. Long-time member of the community, dear friend to many, deejay at most every major event in California and around the country, Dave will be sorely missed. Many people here are shaken up this morning, waking up to hear this. Dave was supposed to have come on to DJ at 11 last night and when at 11:45 he had not yet shown up people began to worry. It is not yet known how he died but looks to have possibly been a heart-attack. Dave had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) – a miserable disease – but you would never have known it from his sweet, humble, uncomplaining, unbitter attitude towards life, people, and the west coast community that he loved. He was a good man.
If you want to consider donating here is the link to the ALS Association website.
What a sadly beautiful day today! Cloudless blue skies, mild breeze, 80º, long yellow sun.
Floor trials for tonight’s Showcase were early this morning – word is that there are some mind-blowingly fantastic new routines (we’ve already seen two of these and OMG AUGHGH.)
By the way – for a small fee you can watch all weekend on your computer or wide-screen TV: Global Dance TV.
Here are last night’s Awards for Thursday Pro-Am routines (awards for Thursday Jack and Jills will be announced Saturday night.)
1st Sharon Her with Ben McHenry
2nd Desie Damaso with Stephen White
3rd Tish Varletti with Doug Silton
1st Cameron Crook with Sarah Vann Drake
2nd Chris Brown with Taletha Jouzdani
3rd Robert McChesney with Yvonne Wayne
Tonight began with Masters Strictly:
Opening All-Skate to “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay;\”
Jam to “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose”
Final All-Skate to “Natural Man.”
Novice JJ Finals (sorry about names of finalists in Novice – I missed names in this division)
Judges: Dani, Michael and Amber Cross, Mary Ann, Martin, Carmen, Jim Tigges, and Chief Judge Yvonne)
1. Matthew and Joy to “The Way I Are”
2. Blake and Larisse/Clarisse/Maurice/Kellese to “Stomp You Like A Memory”
3. Sacramento (maybe Trista?) and a Frenchman to “In My Head”
4. (oops didn’t get either of these names) to “Freeze The Moment”
5. Connor and Marissa to “I Just Want To Know”
6. Alexandra and somebody to “Wait For You”
7. Somebody and somebody else to “Fatal Love”
8. Jose and Davinia (Dubruvitch?uppavitch?Ruvdubwawchich?) to “Let It Rock”
9. Jerry and Vanessa to “Strobe Lights”
10. Diego and Henessey to “I Won’t Tell”
Intermediate JJ Finals
Judges: Crosses, Mary Ann, Dani, Martin, Carmen, Jim, and CJ Yvonne
1. David Guido (Cali) and HaeLa ne Reula (France!) to “I Want To Know Who You Are”
2. Justin Zadro (Oz) and Kristin Humphrey (Arizona) to “Don’t Need It”
3. Matt Richey (Cali) and Maelle Jacoulet (France) to “Cause I Said So”
4. Thomas Carter (Arizona) and Rehanna Loncar (Arizona) to “Baby Please Don’t Go”
5. Jonathan Uy (Oz) and Cintia Fiaschi (Brasil) to “Forever”
6. Barry Carothers (Texas) and Samia Amrani (Cali) to “Damaged”
7. Michael Shibasaki (Canada) and Larisa Tingle (Cali) “Brokenhearted”
8. Michael Picard (Denver) and Marina Motronenko (Moscow) “Stuttering”
9. Chris Brown (Texas) and Rachel Cureton (Oz) “Own This Club”
10. Frank Blakemore (Pennsylvania) and Caroline Reyhae (France) “Dynamite”
All-Skate to “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and “She’s A Bad Mamma Jamma”
Advanced and Allstar in a few minutes ….
Seating at the Open is arranged a little differently than at other events. Two rows of chairs along the floor level itself, a row of box-seat tables above these and six rows of risers behind these.
Yesterday the entire left half of the floor – the first row of seats right on the floor – was filled with 30-40 screaming cheering Frenchies jumping up and waving a collection of French flags every time a compatriot walked onto the floor – in other words every five minutes all day long.
Down on the other end the entire right half of the floor was screaming cheering Russians waving Russian flags and jumping up cheering every time a Russian walked onto the floor, also every five minutes.
In the middle of the floor a smaller group of Brasilians (don’t know if more are due to show up today) and as I’ve said before when it comes to boisterous enthusiasm one Brasilian is equal to seven Europeans combined.
So it was a loud energetic day with ridiculously great dancing at the lower levels as well as Advanced and Allstar.
So much fun to have these rowdy competitive international crowds here! It does feel like the World Cup.
Advanced Jack and Jill Finals
1. Arnaud Perga (France) with Lisa Toepel (Denver) to “Release” (Timbaland)
2. Maxime Zzaoui (France) with Irina Amzashvill (Irvine) to “Me U And The Music”
3. Clint Glasgow (Oz) with Virginie Perga (France) to “Dancing In The Dark” (Dev)
4. Ewan Dupre (Montreal via France) with Terra Deva (California) to “Give Me Everything” (Pitbull)
5. Sebastien (France) with Izabella Kowalska (Budapest) to “Wild Ones” (Sia)
6. Edson Modesto (Brasil) with Emmeline (France) to “Closer” (Ne-Yo)
7. Shane Mcintyre (Colorado) with Beverly Brunerie (France) to “Only Girl” (Rihanna)
8. Brady (Oz) with Katia Avlasevich (Moscow) to “Little Bad Girl” (David Guetta)
9. Lee and Fabienne (UK routine partners! they drew each other hahaha) to oops didn’t get the song …
And the All-Skate to “Best You Ever Had” and “Move Across The River”
MELINA IS PREGNANT! Melina and Scott are going to have a baby! YAAAY! And I think I’ve mentioned but if not: Bridget is pregnant too! Arjay and Bridget are going to have a baby! Yaaay Yaaaay double triple yay!!
Heading down for the competitors’ meeting … Allstar finals in a few …
What a Showcase!
People shaking their heads in complete disbelief, tears in their eyes, just stunned. The division ended and the place exploded with people running around everywhere exclaiming how this was the best Showcase they’ve ever seen, ever, crowds of people in the aisles, the halls, the lobby, the bar, the restaurant, the elevators – the place was just buzzing with amazed excited delighted energy.
What a show!
For starters, there were seventeen couples! This may have been the largest Showcase in 30 years. A few couples who were a little weak, could have used more time to clean up and strengthen their performances. But every other routine was so strong, so interesting, so different one from the other. I wouldn’t know how to begin to judge between them.
And then there were the top couples who were simply fantastic. The music choices this year are superb. Choreography has turned a corner – with this division it is clear that our dance has taken a huge leap forward.
And then. Benji and Torri.
“Flabbergasted” is the only word that comes to mind.
I turned to see behind me an entire table of people looking like they’d been hit by a stun-gun or witnessed an alien spaceship landing in the ballroom. Genieboy said “What Was THAT? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT I JUST SAW!”
Watch it on TV! I recommend springing for the $35 for full online access. You will watch these routines, mesmerized, over and over again – I guarantee it!
I will give lengthier descriptions in a later Update but for now (before we run down for strictlys and Classic semis) here’s the speedy summary:
1. Scott and Marina to “HIgher” (Taio Cruz acoustic version) – he’s strong, she’s gorgeous, quick and bendy
2. Brett and Tara, “Northwest of Ju Ju” – wonderful guitar and drum instrumental, complex rythms, small precise subtle movements, silences filled with dance, dramatic end
3. Eddie and Elyse, “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” – double cartwheels smooth and controlled while in the air, as if they slow down and get graceful at what should be the most awkward part of a cartwheel.
4. Myles and Tessa, “Let’s Get It On” (some marvelous acoustic soulful version) – got to be the sexiest, most soulful, romantic, heartfelt interpretation of this song ever.
5. Luis and Jenn, “Fight For Me” what a difference two weeks makes! Her quicknessb and confidence have just changed the routine completely since the last time we saw it.
6. Stephen and Sabrina, “Somewhere With You” like fluffy white fur and feathers flying through the air – Sabrina’s platinum hair is longer now and looks fabulous whipping around – so dramatic
7. Robert and Nicola, “Mercy” (Duffy, but an even more raw acoustic version) – BAD ASS! Best they’ve ever danced, ever. They got 15 years younger overnight. Energetic, dancerly posture, best lines and control we’ve seen them accomplish.
8. Sebastien and Laura, “Dream On” he’s sexier and stronger than Arnold Schwarzenegger, she’s a ballerina with shockingly long limbs and extensions and the most gorgous costume ever
9. Ronnie and Laureen, “Bring It On Home” by Sister Hazel what great music what great choreography what awesome interpretation what terrific costumes what a joyful couple aughghgh!
10. Rob and Connie, “I Feel Good” – they TORE it up! Best they’ve ever danced it. Little teeny tiny Connie is a powerhouse. The audience laughing and clapping thoughout, leaped to their feet in a standing ovation at the end. (Saw Rob immediately after and he was so pleased he couldn’t even talk, all he could do was make dopey laugh-grunt sounds, shaking his shoulders up and down.)
11. Didier and Blandine “You May Not Want To Listen To Music Again” terrific song, terrific choreography, she is a STUNNING dancer, mesmerizing
12. BENJI AND TORRI OHHHH MY GOD! DANCING FROM ANOTHER PLANET!
13. Rome and Chevy, “Dog Days” I love this routine! I love this song! I love her blonde hair! I love their new elegant velvet and gold Victorian-meets-Hollywood costumes! Her power and control! So so glad to see them dancing in Classic!
14. Greg and Lemery, “In Your Eyes” – gorgeous dramatic operatic piece, strings, long stretching silences, tearful pauses, moves from far corner of the floor to the other, ending precisely in the center. The DC community has now seen this twice in the last two weeks, to tears and standing ovations. All of DC is watching with high expectations for this routine.
15. Ben Hooten and Deborah Szekely, “I’m Bad” – Deborah looks like a teenager! So cute with perky red hair and her crinkly little smile. Adorable routine.
16. Arnaud and Maelle, “Heartless” another adorable French couple with quick sharp movements, sweet routine.
17. Patrick and Lisa, rghgh forgetting the song at the moment but man is she sexy. She has one of those sway backs and rolling hips that were made to do west coast swing.
Sorry just got called down … charging out of here late as usual without editing hope no typos …..
Classic semis now AUGHGHGH this is way too much fun the most fun ever in my entire life ever I’m having time of my life I love this dance ….
NASDE rules will be changed for 2013.
Member events will double their contribution to the prize fund which will mean $24,000 paid out as the year-end award (or $26,000 if there are 13 member events.)
In addition, NASDE will set a standard for judging panels (the NASDE Judging Standard) the key points being:
- No fewer than seven judges for Classic and Showcase
- No more than three judges from the same club/region/studio
- No couples (i.e. married or unmarried partners)
- At least half of the panel must have competed in NASDE Classic or Showcase
- No more than three will be NASDE event directors
- A code of conduct to include (among other factors):
Judges will not discuss or make public their scores or preferences before awards are announced;
Discussion after awards are to take place in an appropriate place and manner
These and other decisions were reaches at an extended NASDE meeting held this morning at the Open. This will mark the first increase in member contribution and prize money in thirteen years and is expected to be followed by further increases and much larger year end awards. This measure is intended to strengthen the stature and of NASDE, to attract the best of the best, and further the goal of ensuring that NASDE is the standard of excellence in the West Coast Swing community, continuing the tradition that the NASDE tour crowns the best west coast dancers in the world.
These and other changes are to be announced tonight after Classic and are expected to create quite a buzz.
FINALISTS JUST POSTED!
Sean and Sarah
Jordan and Melissa
Maxime and Alyssa
Michael Kielbasa and Virginie Grondin
Robert Royston and Deborah Szekely
Benji and Patty
Kyle and Tatiana
Maxence and Jill Demarco
Ben Morris and Torri
Gregory Lebedev and Katia
Diego and Jessica
Arnaud and Estelle
Rob Jackson and Heather Powers
Andrew Opychral and Cintia Fiaschi
Zsigmond Marias and Izabella Kowalska
JB and Elise
Hugo and Kara
Warren and Irina
Stephen White and Dawne Kiehm
James J and Chevy
Lee and Joanna
Ryan and Janelle
Reginald Beason and Blandine
alt Sheven and Jenn Pasetes
Classic Finalists (we saw 31 classic routines today in semis! astounding day!):
Maxime and Virginie Perga
Luis and Taletha
Jordan and Tatiana
Sebastien and Blandine
Brent and Kellese
Shaheed and Rachele
Lee and Fabienne
Clint and MacKenzie
Ronnie and Brandi
John Kirkonnel and Alyssa
Sean and Courtney
Gary and Susan
Ben and Cameo
Arthur and Colleen
Kyle and Sarah
Running down for Masters!
Running down for Young America, Young Adult and Cabaret!
Last night’s Classic was OFF. THE. CHAIN. Jordan and Tatiana’s new Tron reflective-tape routine they are SUPER-HUMANS AUGHGHGHGH!! Ronnie and Brandi’s GORGEOUS story-telling!! Kyle and Sarah’s funk! Sebastien and Blandine so so French angst STUNNING searingly beautiful new one, Sean and Courtney, Brent and Kellese! AUGHGHGH!, … so many new ones so much to tell about!
Phil Adams and “Cameo’s mom and dad” (The Crosses) inducted into Hall of Fame …
31 Classic routines yesterday afternoon – THIRTY ONE! Most of which should have made the cut into finals. I’m not joking, it really was like that. That strong.
Jack and Jill winners were announced (for Novice, Inter, and Advanced) but I wasn’t in the ballroom so missed them – they’ll be posted tonight after Awards …
Okay, down to see the new up and coming superstars – the juniors!
Oh, and do not scuff the floor in this hotel’s restaurant. More about this later.
1st Place Jordan and Tatiana
2 Ronnie and Brandi
3 Kyle and Sarah
4 Gary and Susan
5 Maxime and Virginie Perga
1st Place Benji and Torri
2 Myles and Tessa
3 Ronnie and Laureen
4 Rob and Connie
5 Rome and Chevy
1st Place Chris and Nicole
2 Ludavich and Beverly
3 Josh and Anyssa
5 Akil and Alexis
1st Place Gary and Susan
2 Ethan and Nicki
3 Ronnie and Brandi
4 TDC Senior Company
5 David Weise and Melissa Rutz
1st Place Bill and Lorraine
2 Warren and Laurie
3 Tom and Rhonda
4 Chips and Janice
5 Wayne and Cindy
1st Place Kurt and Heather
2 Luis and Joanna
3 Kevin and Tammy
4 Shane and Keri
5 Tom and Sossy
1st Place The Fly Rights
2 Thunder from Down Under
3 LA Shag
4 Project Swing
1st Place Ben and Torri
2 Jordan and Melissa
3 Robert Royston and Deborah
4 Maxime and Alyssa
5 Benji and Patty
1st Place Reginald Beason and Blandine
2 Ryan and Janelle
3 JB and Elise
4 Hugo and Kara
5 Joanna and Lee
1st Place Cameron and Nicole
2 Akil and Victoria
3 Josh and Beverly
4 Chris and Hannah
5 Steven Guido and Anyssa
1st Place Warren and Peggy
2 Louis and Bess
3 Gary Thompson and Laurie Schaeffer
4 Don Welch and Lorraine
5 Martin Brown and Milly
1st Place Stephen White and Nicole Clonch
2 Shaheed and Malia
3 Diego and Sabrina
US Open suitcases still not unpacked!
Chico was this past weekend! We heard it was wild and hilarious as always – a December revelry in the ancient Roman/Christian Christmas tradition.
Youtube videos of this year’s routines are beginning to surface so you may now have seen the fantastic array of Showcase, Classic, and Junior/Sophisticated/Masters routines we can look forward to enjoying around the international circuit.
Jordan and Tatiana’s 1st Place Winner (they’re ten time US Open Winners – longest anyone has ever held the title) - “Somebody That I Used To Know” in sleek black and brilliant neon yellow. Who knew that effulgent yellow reflective tape could adorn a neck so beautifully? Tatiana looks stunning. They both do – these are beautiful people. They roll and undulate across the stage organically, like a dangerous animal – or two dangerous animals – alternately threatening and cooperating with each other. He advances ominously, she moves back only so much, the coordination of space between their bodies precisely choreographed so that both are powerful but he always moreso. She drives into his chest, her legs sliding backwards as if pushing through cement. At every moment we have at least one set of eyes on us – with them you always feel clear, clean communication from the instant they turn to face you at the back of the stage till they drop to the floor at the end. They are impossibly fast, impossibly slow. I love Tatiana’s sideways head-leans perfectly parallel to the floor, love her long neck. Her pirouettes landing hard and suddenly one leg stretched across his back, both staring at us, “in-your-face” mode. Scary wonderful, theatrical. Love that their fingers dance! Fingers! Love his hand across her mouth. Choreography that is subtle, forceful, and deeply insightful. This routine is superhero, traditional swing, MTV, art-house, animation, international – appealing to every age and demographic, lovers of every genre.
Ronnie and Brandi’s second place winner, “Draw You,” a sweet, sad story that draws you in from the first guitar strings, so rich, every moment so expressive and filled with meaning that they couldn’t have been any clearer had they been speaking to us with voices. A routine that is theater as much as dance, a play with two characters, a journey. They are so clean! Smart, understated, technically beautiful, and grabs your heartstrings.
Kyle and Sarah’s third place win, “Come Alive,” another of their signature combinations of down-and-dirty funk performed with control, smoothness and speed; and their famous quickness – lightning quick footwork and their ability to hit the large and small bits so fast you almost can’t see how they get there. He weaves his hand diagonally down her body as she does a diagonal full-body roll. The first thing we ever heard about Sarah, years ago, was that this tiny little thing had appeared on the west coast swing circuit, performing magician’s acts of levitation in which she executed funky horizontal body rolls suspended in mid-air. Sarah’s hips! A thing of beauty.
Gary and Susan in fourth place with the Beatles’ “Maybe.” Elegant lines, shapes, precision, grace, and a perfect matching of movement to the ethos of the song. These two are eye-candy, handsome and beautiful, tall, thin, accomplished in other genres in addition to west coast, the lifetime of training and expertise more than apparent.
In fifth place surprise winners and audience favorites Maxime and Virginie, from Lyon France, dancing to “Down The Road.” These are firecrackers, these two, with an infectious joy and enthusiasm, utterly comfortable on stage and having so much fun prancing around out there you find yourself laughing with delight. These two were born to perform. Clean, quick, gorgeous technique, humor … and most of all happy happy happy. Is this the first non-North American couple to place in the top five? Congratulations and Félicitations!
US Open 2012 Young Adult Placements, corrected version:
1st Place Chris and Nicole
2 Josh and Anyssa – AND – Ludovic and Beverly
4 Tommy Brodie and Monica Garcia
5 Akil and Alexis
I had previously ommitted Tommy and Monica! I blame my computer for deleting a line of text. My apologies! This is Tommy and Monica’s first routine and first time on the US Open floor – they were beautiful!
As for the 2nd Place tie: An error was made in judging in which a line of Josh and Anyssa’s song was misinterpreted as inappropriate (it’s difficult to hear lyrics in any case and with all the yelling and cheering nearly impossible) and this mis-hearing resulted in a violation which caused them to be dropped down by a placement. The mistake was rectified by restoring Josh and Anyssa to second place alongside Ludovic and Beverly, with appropriate points, trophies, and prize monies awarded.
Much more to tell! What a great Open this year!
We’re at the Open! We’re at the Open we’re at the Open We’re at the Open!
Wow! So exciting this year! So super EXTREMELY exciting! Routines holy shamoly! I admit I’m easily excited but really, this time it’s not just me, the energy here this year is HOPPIN’ big time! You can just feel excitement in the air. And oh man the rumours flying about routines! Wow. This one’s fast, this one’s slow, this one is killer, this one’s got stuff no one’s ever seen done before … Crazy crazy electricity flying through the air – you could get electrocuted walking from the tower to the ballroom. AUGHGHGHGHGH!
Tonight was Golden Ticket: The Final Round! (Sounds very World Wrestling Federation doesn’t it?) Doug’s last time running the tour.
After the pro prelim and the pro final, after the sixteen couples whittled down to the final six, I suddenly remembered I should probably have been writing down names! Oops I didn’t. Too busy being excited about so many friends in one place at one time. (aughghghghghghgh!)
But I did get the top six couples:
6th Stephen White and Blandine Iche
5th Kris Swearingen and Jessica Greer
4th Marina Gutsch and Rome
3rd Yvonne Antonacci and David Guido (winning $1,000)
2nd Chevy and Kyle Patel (winning $2,000)
And 1st Place Winners! Rebecca Ludwick and Sheven Chevy Kekoolani! Winning jackets, a trophy, and $3,000!
After Golden Ticket we went down to the the practice room. Just off the lobby (we were there to be an audience for friends) and oh man what a scene! Small little floor CRAMMED with sweaty couples in sweaty t-shirts, no makeup, rumpled street clothes, glasses, there with coaches and friends to work work work out the final kinks, laughing, straining, all these couples running routines beside and between each other, boomboxes laptops everywhere on floors, tables, chairs, asking each other Can you watch this for a minute? Which looks better the spins or the leap?
Then we open the doors to the lobby and couples and teams everywhere there, too! Beside the front door, in the corner behind the bellboy stand, behind the front desk, everyone running routines, last-minute coaching, final changes. And everybody knows everybody! Cause they used to be married! Or about to be married! Or dance partners but now mortal enemies! Or each others’ coach! Or mentor or protege! Or had a secret affair! Which wasn’t secret! To anyone! But their mother!
Hotel staff walking though the lobby staring, staring, mesmerized. We wonder what does it look like through their eyes? All these dancer people who know each other? Very well, it seems? They laugh, hug, run into walls for a joke, slapstick falls, catch each other, get their faces stuck in each others’ armpits? So comfortable together? And yet … they compete against each other?
AUGHGHGH this is so FUN! I love this dance! I love these people from all over the world who’ve spent a whole year creating something out of nothing but blank space! I love partner dancing what a trip! love every aspect of this. AUGHGHGHGHGH!
Oh yeah and before I forget: maybe you didn’t know but you are able to watch the whole weekend (think I’ve heard $30 gets you two weeks of watching a continuous loop of the weekend over and over) at global dance tv, here:
Did I mention that Yvonne Antonacci is competing here at the Open? She did the Golden Ticket last night with David Guido (“Baby G”) and took third place! And Yvonne Wayne is judging this weekend! Awesome how the two Yvonnes have totally switched identities!
Or it could be I switched their names. Nah. I don’t usually make mistakes like that.
Well I did make a mistake when I said Jessica Greer when I meant to say that Jessica Rosenbloom danced with Kris Swearingen last night, taking 5th place. But that is a very unusual typo. I don’t usually make mistakes. I report everything exactly, exactly perfectly. You can rely on me.
On a more serious note: OH MY GOD! HOW AMAZING IS THIS WEEKEND!?!? AUGHGHGHGHGHGH!! INCREDIBLE ROUTINES! OFF THE CHARTS AMAZING!
Let me start with Showcase which just happened, and which, of course, was the big deal tonight (more about Teams, Strictlys, and JJ’s in a minute – the whole day has been a display of amazing amazing dancing.)
Okay, so all KINDS of crazy gossip, rumours, and guesses flying around about Showcase and Classic, and tonight finally was Showcase and OH. MY. GAWD! The routines this year!
You must go check these out for yourself to see how incredible they are! Won’t be anything like what it is live, here, but still I recommend going to see for yourself: http://www.globaldance.tv/set/usopen2011
So here is what we just saw tonight, in the order that we saw it:
1. First out on the floor, Greg and Lemery, “Teenage Dream,” their lovely, much beloved, audience-pleasing love poem of a routine which they’ve performed *flawlessly* several times and almost flawlessly dozens of times all year. Nailed it tonight.
2. Ronnie and Laureen: “Without You,” Beautiful new routine! They are so GOOD!
3. Eddie and Elise Valdez, “The Light,” Rumba-esque, so different from their last funky hip hop piece. Skirt and heels!
4. Stephen and Sabrina, “The Other Side.” Same beautiful routine we’ve seen for a few months – they, too nailed it.
5. Myles and Tessa, “Rolling In The Deep” (a great, quiet, tense acapella remix) You have got to see this! Standing ovation! A screaming, cheering, awesomified standing ovation! Sudden surprise lifts, stunning feats of balance and strength, gorgeous choreography, all in white again (they are so pretty in white – they were in white for “Am I Wrong” several years ago) and this time Tessa had these cool chains hanging vertically, attached only at the collar-bone and hip, which, when she spun, ballooned out forming an optical illusion of what appeared to be a translucent bubble encasing her – I think there are two separate times she spins forty zillion times around and you see this shimmering silver shield appear – it is SO cool. The entire routine is wow factor … and clean! Perfectly clean. They nailed every stunning lift! Gorgeous perfect.
Okay, you know what I’m too tired to write more. That is only five of the thirteen Showcase routines! But it’s almost 6am and the day starts again in a couple hours so I’ll finish this later. This is one amazing weekend so far! And it’s only barely started.
Oh, and we had Jack and Jill’s and Strictlys too! Man oh man.
Okay, more later, lots lots more! G’nite! Or g’morning! Whatever! Who cares! I am in heaven. I cannot stop smiling! I am in west coast swing heaven!
Was it really an entire week ago that we saw Showcase? Wow! Fastest week in history! We’ve been home now for four days two of which were spent either sleeping or stumbling around bumping into walls in a stupid-happy stupor, unpacking so slowly might as well stop trying, flopping exhausted onto the couch between trips to the washing machine and dryer.
If you haven’t been to the Open yet … you absolutely! must! go! It is not to be missed. Such excitement in the air! One could get electrocuted just walking through the halls!
So. To continue with Friday Night, and Showcase!
The sixth couple to dance: Ben Hooten and Rebecca, second time on the floor with this routine (we’d seen it two weeks before in Tampa) to a hot new club song “Little Bad Girl” (David Guetta.) Bright yellow, black, and silver. Rebecca’s arm and leg extensions! Limbs stretched out to their ends, filled with energy! Her ronde through the air, flying across Ben! Her eight pirouettes from low to high, holding her right foot and knee in front at shoulder level as she spins. Great choreography – their feet like automatic weapons to the rapid-fire vocals in the middle of the song, long graceful movements to the slower parts. Love how tall Ben is, his long arms, how they go fully out to the end of their connection, love the stretch and expansiveness of their shapes.
Next Doug and Annmarie in palest pink and white (perfect colors for these best friends who are in body and spirit palest pink and whitest white) to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” a favorite of mine (and everybody else’s) – a song so tragic and powerful it’s a lot to live up to to be emphatic enough in choreography and execution. Love these two people! Love how in sync they are mentally and physically. How their love for each other shows. Annmarie is a tall girl and yet Doug lifts her effortlessly, both of them with giggling radiant faces. They love each other and it shows – pure pleasure to watch. This is a brand-spankin’-new routine (that’s Annmarie-speak) and you could see it wasn’t yet flushed out, but this routine will be gorgeous with work. All the ingredients are there.
Then Lionel and Amandine! In solid black. She in a backless halter top with a chiffon scarf flying from the back of her neck out to one wrist, her long black hair flying out behind her. The piano starts and they are instantly dashing around the floor, up, down everywhere! So fast you forget to exhale. Every move, trick, lift, drop, pattern you have ever heard of zipped through one after the other, relentlessly, in double-time. Perfectly clean! Not a finger out of place. Lionel and Amandine – they are little! Teeny tiny itsy bitsy little. Beautiful miniature creatures zipping back and forth across the floor like two black butterflies playing in sunbeams. Life-long partners (together since they were eight years old!) they know to use their size to their advantage: they are able to perform enormous movements in a split second. Moves which would take a taller couple four beats they accomplish in one. In a single measure they can speed through a rag-doll, a splits, a swallow lift, and two whips in double-time! Smoothly and effortlessly! Or so it seems, anyway. And double-timed! Not at normal wcs tempo, either, but at 145 beats per minute! For West Coast Swing that is cheek-ballooning fast. Oh and I haven’t mentioned the music which was some piano cover of something which I know that I know but just can’t place. A driving, breathless piece, non-stop. As a musician I love that it’s only music, no lyrics, no miming of lyrics, just movement to the flighty feel and essence of a piece of music, dancing *in* the music, part of the piano sound. Gave me chills. Gorgeous intelligent routine!
Next Sebastien and Chloe, to “Titanium” by Sia, in black and teal. Two phrases in he tosses her above his head in a flip so high she almost knocked the 20′ ceiling chandelier to the ground. Which they then followed with two more ceiling-height tricks including her standing on his palms! And ending the routine with five of those around-the-neck-under-the-arm feats of acrobatic amazingness AUGHGHGH!
Then JB and Sara (“Best One Yet” Black Eyed Peas) – adorable routine which we’ve now seen for a few months. Sara is ridiculously cute, cheerleader cute. Perfect lines! No matter what moment I snap a picture every body part, every facial expression, every finger is in place. 100% of the time. How does she do that?
Luis and Jennifer (“Miracles” by Res) – same lovely routine we’ve now seen for six months or so, and what a change the practice makes! They now look completely comfortable. Oh and by the way I learned from Luis that it is he who is buying both Jennifer and Taletha’s coolest hottest outfits, and oh my GOODNESS do they have some outfits! Wow, wait till you see pictures. Thigh-high boots to die for with lacing up the back, clothes to make you swoon. Lucky, lucky man! Two bombshells as artist’s canvasses – so different looking and each so gorgeous it’s crazy – and he gets to dress them up and parade them around one on each arm! AND do routines with them! Ha! Well done Luis!
Next, Rob and Connie (“Drops of Jupiter” by Train) – the routine they’ve been working on for a full year, all their work leading up to this scary wonderful amazing weekend at the US Open, their very first time! We love this couple. We love them as a couple – how tall, dark, and strong he is and how tiny, fragile, wren-like, translucent-white she is beside him. We love how striking their differences are and how this gives them a whole range of beautiful opportunities in choreography. And that last lift, conceived only a week ago, in which she lies on one arm above his head – wow! We’re very proud of them.
And then! Benji and Torri! AUGHGH!! Lovely Torri! Like a Disney princess with her hair in an elegant up-do, tiara of sparkling diamonds, pale lavender slacks, white, silver and diamond cropped top, diamond bracelet … swooningly lovely! Benji in a simple clean white top and black slacks. Dancing to a piano and viola cover of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” (with one wonderful Viva La Vida! Jordan and Tatiana moment.) Another instrumental, like Lionel and Amandine’s, but different from theirs this piece had highs and lows, changes in tempo from quite fast to quite slow. Torri’s footwork! Holy mackerel! You think she’s standing still but you look down to where her legs meet the floor and there’s a spinning blur down there so fast your eye can’t make out what’s going on, like in a cartoon. And her neck and head – love how she carries her head! And her spins, her famously crazy spins! And some roll-over-his-back-then-flip-through-his-legs something which happened so seamlessly before I could catch it, so gently and sweetly, I thought maybe I’d imagined it. And Benji! His footwork! His balance! The control on both of their parts, the cleanliness – they’re moving blindingly fast but then stop in a precise spot in the air without even the wiggle of a head, no sign of impact, or trying, it’s just easy, relaxed, pristine … and JOYOUS. This routine is pure joy. The choreography is gorgeous, no better word for it. The execution is gorgeous. They are gorgeous. At one point Torri does seven pirouettes with one leg held up at the knee as Benji moves around her, and I’m whisked back in time, I’m opening the lid of my childhood music-box, the pretty music twinkles and the ballerina spins round and round on her pedestal.
And last of all, the final Showcase couple for the 2011 US Open, Robert and Nicola with “Edge of Glory,” their loveliest and most dramatic routine yet, which we’ve been following now for several months. How beautiful is Nicola, red wings flying along her arms!
What a division! What a night!
We had planned to make it to the hotel in time for Ben Morris’ Wednesday night kick-off workshop but alas! Flight delays! We missed it daggnabbit. We figured well, guess we wouldn’t be missing much in the way of social dancing since last year the hotel was pretty quiet on Wednesday night. Not this year! By Wednesday late afternoon there were already dancers everywhere, teams in costumes and makeup running formations in the lobby, couples working out moves in every alcove. By Wednesday the mood had already swung into full High Drama, you could already get electrocuted just walking down the hall. Your clothes would catch on fire every time you passed the ballroom.
Thursday night was Thanksgiving. We had a nice Thanksgiving. A little rushed. Maybe more than a little rushed. Actually it was so rushed a person might not digest their food properly. If they had eaten anything, that is. We had a lovely invitation to join a good friend for Thanksgiving dinner but instead spent Thursday night tearing through the streets of L.A. in a sweaty panic, free-fallin’ west down Ventura Boulevard, rushing up to our friend’s house yelling HelloGoodbye!, a frantic pivot turn and racing right back to the hotel so as not be late for the Golden Ticket Tour. At 2am, when all the rest of the United States of America were patting bellies stuffed with mashed potatoes, we realized we were ravenously famished.
We heard that a certain Englishman whom we all know but shall not mention his name, who was also invited to our friend’s house for dinner, that this Englishman walked into the house next door without knocking, the wrong house, and opened the door and walked right in and sat down at the dining room table, which was empty, yelling “Hello! Where’s the food?! Hello! Anyone here?” until the surprised strangers came running down the stairs to explain that he was at the wrong address.
Random tidbit that doesn’t have to do with anything: Rebecca Ludwick was demonstrating how cool her Android version of Sirius is and said into the microphone “I love you.” The phone went completely whacko, scrolling “Do you know I LOVE YOU? I LOVE YOU? I LOVE YOU? ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU?ILOVEYOU? and then crashed. I know some people like that.
Another random tidbit that doesn’t have to do with anything: Many people came up to introduce themselves to me this weekend. It was very flattering! They would shake my hand, say “Nice to meet you,” and “Please don’t put that on Facebook.”
So let’s see. After Thursday was … FRIDAY! With Showcase of course, which I’ve told you about. But did I tell you yet about the Jack and Jill’s? They were really fun! I guess that’s all I have to say about the Jack and Jill’s.
Then Strictly’s (the proper spelling of which I have been corrected for (for which I have been corrected? For?) several times now and I’m sorry I refuse to leave out the apostrophes for the word “Strictly’s” or the word “Pro’s.” Those words are weird without apostrophes.) were also fun! Three heats of about ten couples each. Such great dancers! The best in the world!
Jordan and Sarah
Nick King and Jill Dumarco
Kris Swearingen and Tiffany Lubran
Michael O’Connor and Connie Gauthier
Brennar and Rutz
Chuck and Tessa
Scott Stuart and Alyssa
Stephen White and Lara Deni
Eddie Valdez and Torri
Three songs (Beth was the DJ): Moves Like Jagger, More Than Words, and Honky Tonk something-or-other blues something
Jesse Vos and Tara
Ben Morris and Stacy Chiang
Benji and Brandi
Luis and Mackenzie
Parker and Katrina
Steve Hunt and Kara
Annmarie and Ben Hooten
Melina and Michael Kielbasa
Mr. and Mrs. Doug and Lori Rousar
Courtney and Pete
… and their songs: Give Me Everything, Free Fallin’, and One Scotch One Bourbon One Beer
Ryan and Katrina Ostrenski
Geoff Nighswonger and Dawne
Sean and Katie
Rob Jackson and Tori Ellington
Greg and Cameo
Kyle and Tatiana
Jason Wayne and Laureen
Robert Royston and Yenni
Mr. and Mrs. Kyle and Amy Patel
… and THEIR songs … Only Girl In The World, Breaking Me, Have You Heard The News
And then US Open 2011 Opening Ceremonies! I love this, I just love it! Those huge flags carried around the floor! The parade! The kids – their beaming faces! How happy and proud everyone is to be part of it all! There on the floor are the competitors we’ve watched all year long who’ve come in from around the country and the world, every routine couple, every division, every team, every cabaret act, every NASDE event director, the emcees, the DJ’s, the judges … all standing together on the floor, waving flags! What a sight.
By now I’m sure you’ve seen results but just in case you haven’t here are Friday’s winners:
1st Place Benji and Torri
2nd Myles and Tessa
3rd Lionel and Amandine
4th Ronnie and Laureen
5th Greg and Lemery
6th Robert and Nicola
7th Stephen and Sabrina
8th Rob and Connie
9th Ben and Rebecca
10th JB and Sara
11th Eddie and Elise
12th Sebastien and Chloe
13th Luis and Jennifer
14th Doug and Annmarie
There were a number of penalties and violations for various infractions of rules. I wasn’t able to get any of these recorded (which might have been educational) but I can say that there was a definite calm in the scoring room; a respectful, cooperative feeling – peaceful, almost. Phil Adams (Competition Director) was there to answer every question directly and knowledgeably. I was hurrying off to dinner (our friends were about to pass out from low blood sugar) so didn’t pay attention to who or what but it looked to me that although some couples were surprised or disappointed to discover that they’d lost points, still no one seemed to feel they’d been treated unjustly. I felt a little sorry for some of our French couples who seemed confused and had to find translators to understand nuances of interpretations of the rules of which, it seemed, they had been unaware. All in all, though – and considering the hoopla surrounding Showcase in the weeks leading up to this year’s Open – the behavior of everyone involved was completely civilized.
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.