Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 Blackpool Under-21 Ballroom and Amateur Latin

I really hope no one is expecting a real report on these events. I don't like to write too much about actual dancing because people's feelings get hurt so easily, and there get to be snappish arguments that go something like "well you would never even make the first cut at Blackpool so who are you to say anything?!" So the bottom line is there was dancing, a lot of it, and even the not so great dancing was pretty good. The numbers and level of competitors at Blackpool is high, I'm guessing many hobbyist competitors in the US have no idea how big things can be. For instance, the Amateur Latin had 360 couples listed in the program. Competitors had to dance two qualifying rounds, one earlier in the week, and one the morning of the actual competition. Well over 200 couples were cut just to weed the field down to "the first round proper." And once they got started, they still had a total of six rounds to dance if they got all the way through to the final. That second qualifier was at 11:30am, and the final for the whole thing was danced at 11:30pm. It is a long grueling marathon, and some otherwise fine dancers just don't have the physical, emotional, and mental stamina to go that long. And some otherwise fine dancers just don't have what it takes to get noticed and promoted in the early rounds. It's a tremendous event, really.

Tonight the rounds for the Amateur Latin were interspersed with the Under-21 Ballroom. This was much smaller, only 175 couples/six rounds of competition. This event always makes me smile. The Under-21s have so much energy and raw talent, and the floor is a swirl of sweet and lovely dresses. In the early rounds, though, you can really see who is a "young" Under-21 and still dancing like a Junior (regardless of actual age), and who is making that transition to "adult" dancing and really stepping it up. My favorite couple in the final (quite possibly because of her awesome raspberry sorbet and neon mango dress), Jack Beale & Karolina Szmit (England), have only been dancing together for a very few months and already can produce this great a result! I hope that, unlike many young couples, they stay together for a while and I can see how they've developed next year.

I had watched the first round proper of the Amateur Latin in the afternoon, and was completely impressed by Alexi Silde & Anna Fristova (Russia). I liked the way their performance energy was directed strongly toward each other, toward actually dancing with each other while acknowledging that the crowd was there and watching, rather than each playing up to the audience alone. Their basic movement is very very smooth, I saw them dance a long series of cha cha locks across the floor and they looked like they were gliding on wheels. Several people told me that they were "supposed" to win, but this is Blackpool and all kinds of odd things can and do happen. During the final, Alexi went over and hugged Stefano Di Fillippo. I had no idea why, until the very end of the event.

So anyway, Stefano's partner is the truly awesome and lovely Anna Melnikova. As much as I admire Anna Fristova, Melnikova was the best woman on the floor and also exciting to watch. Stefano didn't do much for me, though. He's a muscular broad-shouldered looking guy (compared to the rest of the Latin dancers, at least) and he has to take care not to look hulking. He did dance great in the semi-final, but in the final he got really emotional and spent the whole time hamming it up for his friends in the audience, sometimes it seemed to me that he lost track of Anna. She handled it great, though, and just kept on dancing fabulously.

And now for the result and some explanations. It turns out that Silde & Fristova didn't win, and in fact ended up in third place due to a Rule 10 tie with the second place couple from Croatia. Di Fillippo & Melnikova won, and right afterwards the MC, Marcus Hilton, announced that this was Di Fillippo & Melnikova's last competition together. So that explains the hugging in the final. It was good for them to go out on a high note together. Melnikova already has a new partner, according to what is going around the Empress Ballroom she will be dancing with none other than Slavik Kryklyvyy.

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