Emerald Ball Smaller But Bigger
By Keith Todd
A contradiction you may think, but actually not so. The Emerald Ball 2004 had significantly less entries this year but in a turn about from many competitions, participation increased. This year there were more people attending the Emerald Ball although they produced a lower average number of entries. While this is probably not music to organizers' ears, I think it is a healthy trend. It is numbers of people we are looking for in the dancesport industry, not necessarily numbers of entries.
For some reason, the Emerald Ball always seems able to produce outstanding professional competitions, and this year was certainly in line. As the host of the U.S. National Rising Star competitions in Rhythm, Smooth and Latin, a high turnout in these divisions is guaranteed. We will have reviews of all of these divisions subsequently, but let me congratulate the winners here. Jonathan Roberts & Anna Trebunskaya (CA) took the Latin by winning four of the five dances. As in most Rising Star competitions, the markings were mixed but Jonathan & Anna reached a majority of first placements in the four dances that they won. John King & Ana Chacon (FL) took the Rhythm by winning all dances. Ironically however, in this hotly contested event, they did not receive the majority of first place marks in any dance but rather won on "second or better" scores. The couple who received most first place marks, although never a majority, actually placed fifth. They were Hayk Arshakien & Albina Bashirian (WI). The polarized adjudicating panel seemed to either mark this couple first or fifth! Christian Clayton & Katheryn Vaughan (CA) cemented their claim on the Smooth by winning all four dances. They did receive a majority of first places marks in all dances. Congratulations!
What was so great about the Open Professional divisions was not only the quantity of great couples who entered, but also the nail biting finals that were produced. In all the divisions the final outcome was not completely clear and this makes for some exciting competition. Beginning with the Latin which was won by Maxim Kojevnikov & Yulia Zagorouitchenko (NJ) from Andrei Gavriline & Elena Kryuchkova (NJ). Max & Eulia won three of the five dances, ceding the rumba and paso doble to Andrei & Elena. This is a classic match. Max & Euila are "speed and power" personified while Andrei & Elena offer a more subtle, sensitive performance. The choice is not always clear, but tonight enough judges went for power and technique over sensitivity. The rest of this final was equally tough. The Rising Star form was reversed when Ilya Ifraimov & Nadia Goulina placed fifth, ahead of Jonathan & Anna - a reverse of the previous night's form. I was also very interested to see Nick Quesnoit & Senya Plussec (CA) a pairing that was new to me. They placed fourth, but could really shake up this field soon.
If you look for "big" names then the Smooth was your division. The big three were here and ready for battle. The victors were Ben Ermis & Shalene Archer Ermis (TN) by virtue of placing first in three dances. Taking the tango and second in the other three, Nick Kosovich & Lena Bahcheva (NY) were second and Hunter Johnson & Maria Zee Johnson (CA) wound up with all the thirds. As in the Latin, the three top couples demonstrate quite differing styles and personal preference must play a part in whom a judge selects. Ben & Shalene are powerhouses who demonstrate clear, readable dancing at all times. Nick & Lena are a little more "edgy." Hunter & Maria have a flair for the dramatic. Make your choice! But what a fabulous competition it was! With a fourth place finish, Steven Dougherty & Eulia Baranovsky (NY) gave a personal best performance and it was also good to see the return of David Rosario with a new partner, Olga Barashihina. They placed fifth.
The Rhythm produced the closest shave yet for thirteen times U.S. Champions, Bob Powers & Julia Gorchakova (AZ). They won four dances, losing the bolero to Tony Dovolani & Inna Ivanenko (NY). They did receive a majority of first place marks in every dance (even receiving the most in the bolero, although not the majority in that dance), but they lost significant numbers of firsts to Tony & Inna. I have always enjoyed Bob & Julia's total commitment to each performance and their relationship to each other on the floor. These qualities together with a complete surety in their material are still present in their dancing today, but there are several judges who do not favor their unusual style. Tony & Inna offer a more traditional choice. An interesting addition to the final was Gleb Makarov & May-Ling Hutchins (NJ) who were fourth.
The last event to be decided was the Standard and this too produced a stunning final. The clear winners were Giampiero Giannico & Ieva Pauksena (NY) who easily won all dances. Stealing a few first place marks, five in the quickstep, were Victor Fung & Anna Mikhed (CA) who continue their reign as the "up-and-comers." I loved their dancing on this night and I think they have a great chance to really turn some heads at the upcoming Blackpool Festival.
The upset of the week came in the Open Amateur Standard where U.S. National Champions, Egor Abashkin & Katia Kanevskaya (NY) were unseated by Max & Lesya Sinitsa (CA) by four dances to one. Max & Lesya are riding a wave of popularity right now and their victory here was fairly strong. They won the tango, foxtrot and quickstep with a majority of first places, the waltz on "seconds or better" and lost the Viennese five firsts to four.
In the headline events, Genya Mazo & Maria Shibalova had the easiest time winning all dances in the Amateur Latin and defeating their closest rival in this event, Michael Miziner & Valeriya Kozharinova from Australia.
The pro-am in general had very good entries in the advanced levels. The standard entries were incredibly strong from beginners up to advanced and the Open Pro-Am Standard Scholarship was certainly one of the best I have ever witnessed. In a surprise result, two-time U.S. National Champions in this division, Barbara Moore w/ Igor Suvorov (CA) were beaten by an energized Fuki Uekusa w/ Erminio Stefano (NY). Fuki certainly gave the performance of her life and was the well deserved winner today, but congratulations are in order for all the finalists in this division, it was magnificent.
In another "first" for the Emerald Ball, the Top Teacher prize was awarded to a lady instructor, Martha Bradford from Boise, Idaho. Congratulations to Martha on beating all the guys!
As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed the Emerald Ball, indeed it is one of my favorite stops on the dancesport calendar. Wayne & Donna Eng leave nothing to chance and the event is always well organized and this year's schedule was very comfortable for all. I hope you will enjoy the reviews of all the major divisions that begin next month.