Friday, July 9, 2010

Millennium Dance Sport Championship

June 22-27, St Petersburg, Florida By David Easa
My portable computer’s hard disk crashed just as I completed a blog about our week’s experience at the Millennium Dancesport Championship in St Petersburg, Florida. The moment of the computer crash was abrupt and unexpected; it instantly obliterated a few hours of fond memories and crafted sentences reminding me that life is filled with unexpected twists and turns, but mostly to not depend upon the reliability of modern day technology. Since I was not to return back home for several more days, my fingers were itching and twitching for the moment I could satisfy this interrupted and unfulfilled craving.
St. Petersburg, Florida The venue was St. Petersburg, Florida. Typically muggy by the end of June, humidity and temperature combined to make it miserable for normal humans to navigate outdoors. Everything moved listlessly and in slow motion, the heat from the sun imposed its overwhelming authority, penetrating deep into skin and into human organs, and coupled with the humidity, drenching our bodies with sweat with near paralyzing results. In 2007, St “Pete” had a population of about 250,000 people making it the fourth largest city in Florida. Actually, we were pleasantly surprised to see this quaint looking city with water front restaurants and parks, wide safe streets not filled to the brim with trucks and other vehicles (making it very easy to jay walk), a variety of pleasant architecture and low rise office buildings, and the low-keyed appearance of a village rather than a city. There were young people, there were the homeless, and there were few senior citizens on the street (most were probably safe under their air conditioned roofs). The Millennium Dancesport Championship
Hotel: The hotel itself is a refurbished historical landmark, a bit "old," and each room was individually sized. The hotel was charming and warm but a little worn (the elevators worked about 50% of the time!). Ballroom: The dance competition was held in a separate building that required that one walk outside in the boiling heat and laser like sun for enough time to feel hot; it took a few minutes to cool back down after entering the building structure which enclosed the very beautiful and elegant ballroom, one that was almost intimidating in its grandeur. It was flanked with an anteroom area filled with vendors selling expensive dresses, shoes, jewelry and even some shirts and jackets and ties for men. Inside the magnificent ballroom, it was dressed formally and filled celestially with the theme of colorful butterflies flowing from all corners of massive enclosure creating an atmosphere that was creatively elegant and unique, warm, and engaging.
Millennium Dancesport Championships: For those of you who don’t know, there is at least one major dance competition somewhere in our country every few weeks. It turns out that this one is ONE of the largest (second or third) and one of the finest. Serious dancers flocked here in numbers, including those young and old, and just about anyone who was serious about winning some recognition for their dancing. Indeed, there was serious competition in all age groups with few uncontested heats. From my past experience in these events, I recognized many fellow dancers, including the beautiful young rising stars as well as the professionals. Of note, the competitors included dance students who were preteen or in their early teens. One couple stood out - they were probably about 10 or 11 years old, the girl was dressed in an elegant gown, the boy in formal tails befitting the most experienced standard dancer. Their frames, movement and fluidity, confidence, facial expressions and choreography were nothing but amazingly mature. They were simply lovely to watch, clearly champions even now at this early age, with the absolute promise of becoming even greater national and international champions in the future. One of the elements that we appreciate as student of Yanna Samkova and Lucas Jaime is that we can expect that all of the arrangements that are made to coordinate the hotel, transportation, dance entries, etc, etc, are done with predictable accuracy and consistency. We have experienced this enough to know that this is not by chance but due to compulsive attention to detail as well as the collegial respect that Yanna and Lucas hold in the national ballroom dance community. Indeed, by the time we decided to enter into this competition, we were told that there were no rooms available and that we would need to be housed in a nearby hotel (what misery that would have been!!). In the end, somehow Yanna and Lucas magically secured for each of us a room in the Renaissance Vinoy, and our assigned table for the competition was directly adjacent to the dance floor readily accessible for the competition as well as providing all of us a first tier unobstructed view of the evening professional show. Thank you Yanna and Lucas!
Professional Show: On both Friday and Saturday evening, there was a truly amazing professional show called the Mary Gill Show of Shows (a generous benefactor of this yearly event - a very nice older lady). The performers included Thomas Mielnicki & JT Thomas (who was beautiful as well as beautifully pregnant), Jose DeCamps & Joanna Zacharewicz, Eugene Katsevman & Maria Manusova, Slavik Kryklyvvy & Anna Melnikova, all champions in American Smooth, Rhythm, and Latin respectively. (Ed Note: Tomas Mielnicki & JT Thomas, Eugene Katsevman & Maria Manusova, and Slavik Kryklyvvy have all demonstrated at the Hawai'i Star Ball) If you’re like me, these are not household names. But to those in the know, they are truly spectacular performers and entertainers and the crowd enjoyed their performances to the max.
Our Results: Considering the level of competition as a group, we did exceedingly well. I think that each of the Divino Ritmo students did as well or exceeded the performance of the previous competition in New Orleans. In addition to individual student awards, we were recognized for two best solo awards (in a field of about 90 (this is my best guess), and a 3rd place best teacher award. In his quiet understated way, fellow student Paul Laderta, dancing with teacher Yanna Samkova, out did himself by taking 1st place in the C-Division closed bronze Latin Scholarship. Paul beat 15 women amateurs in this Pro-am scholarship event! Clearly, we all left with a sense of accomplishment that we not only survived, but understood that with proper training from our teachers and diligent practice, we can be competitive in a highly contested national venue such as this. Of course, our results are posted on the website for anyone to see and to give more detail. But I’m certain not even our closest relatives would be interested in this level of detail.
Final Comments: Any professional dance competition is an intense experience demanding one's full time and full concentration. This one was no exception….heats starting from 7:30 in the morning with events spanning the day to past midnight with professional shows and rising star competitions. At first, this experience seems overwhelming if not exhausting but with time, you get used to the harrowing pace, and the procession of dancers funneling orderly onto the dance floor every 1 ½ minutes is a metaphor for the competition itself - filled with perfectly dressed and attentive dancers ready to display their talents to the other attendants and to be judged. With time, this intimidating experience is actually fun, and one that inspires a craving for more. And that of course will inspire - you guessed it - another blog! The End.

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