Open Professional Smooth

David Hamilton
Jun 15, 2001
The American Smooth division continues to grow in talent and in numbers. This year's Emerald Ball proved just one more time to me that this style is highly competitive. There was a large turn out for this event as the National Rising star title was handed out here also for 2001.

Three rounds of competition were danced. A seven couple final was called from a 14 couple semi. The cut to the 14 was steep and very difficult for there were so many improved couples, as well as new partnerships.

Honorable mention in the quarter were Robert Stevens and Jutem Lee from SanDiego. This couple have improved a lot this year. More centered to each other allowing better timing and placements. The girl is very expressive and has a great look on the floor. From Phoenix, Chang Ching Yeh and Tonya Martin have polished up their routines creating beautiful lines and showing more movement throughout.

In the semi Mark Short and Heather Conyer from Little Rock danced with huge movement and line. Heather is another girl coming up with great softness and strength that gives great expression and musicality. This couple has had great success in the Rising Star events earlier this year however did not fare well in the rising at this event. They are definitely a couple to continue to watch. As always the beautiful Julie Jacobson showing an elegance that all girls need to have. Jay (Larson) & Julie's dancing looked great and hope their dancing will be more respected with higher marks in the future. From New Jersey, a rising star finalist, Kerry Babcock and Kostadine Bidjourov were, to me, the most improved couple in the field. Showing so much more maturity in presentation of each of the dances. Much better balance throughout and looking confident with what they were trying to deliver. I must mention how beautiful their costuming was. Beautiful green flowing accents on the dress with a touch of pink. Matching shirt for the boy. It certainly added to their performance.

As the final takes to the floor we have four US open finalist making the cut and the top three couples from the rising star event.

Michael Mead and Toni Redpath, current US champions, took the top prize with a stellar performance. This girl is just brilliant with shapes, use of weight, and projection like no other. She is explosive with movement, and can
control her every move. Michael continues to dominate with his ability to partner her connections making it so easy for her to do all that she does. It appears to me that he is becoming more aggressive with his shapes from
comp to comp.

Ben Ermis and Shalene Archer, soon to be Ms. Ermis, continue to hold this second spot with ease. Every comp they do, they challenge
the champions more and more. Taking 4 first place marks in Tango. Shalene is another one of those power house girls that has the ability to make it look soft and easy. Ben as well is creating huge lines through his back and is connecting his arms through his back that gives him a great continuous moving line.

In third tonight were David Rosario and Larissa Trebunskaya from New York. They too are holding on to the third spot since there great finish at Miami last year. This couple has improved some to me since the last I saw. Everything has a little more intention behind it. I can understand their timing and lines a bit more. I wish to see this couple improve in the standard techniques of the dance. Very common mistakes in position and footwork that doubts my ability to mark them higher.

In fourth Steven Dougherty and Patricia Dates O?Brian. Looking very positive in there performance tonight. As I?ve said before about this couple they have an interesting style about them. One you either like or not. I give them credit for having one. At times however that style has a tendency to create distorted lines and shapes in the body that then become technically disturbing, and putting them at times out of alignment with their blocks of weights.

In fifth were our Rising Star champions, David Weiss and Valentina. This couple is very popular with the audience thanks to Valentina's beauty and ability to draw you in while shes dancing. She makes you feel so much about the dance and the movement. David has improved a lot this year in creating more still connections with her. However, I feel it has made his body a little tight and not as musical. Thus allowing Valentina not as much volume as I have seen in the past.

Victor and Natalie Russe finished in the 6th spot. One spot higher than in the Rising from the night before. It was however a better performance from both of them. Very strong closed sections and expression from the girl that had a style of its own. They have great presence on the floor and can attract you attention very easily. The key, however, is to keep your attention. This is where I think this couple suffers. They need more diverse holds and more unique timings to create more dynamics in the dance. Some new choreography may be the trick.

Finishing the final were Gleb and Tatiani Makerov. Beautiful couple to watch dance. The boy is so expressive to his girl and she emotes back at him with the most innocent look. Very technically strong dancers and with great choreography. It dances there personalities so well. For their results to improve in the future they need to pay attention to changes of speeds, light and shade so speak. They can achieve this with letting go the fear of dropping weight faster at times or picking it up more. They have to much of the same speed throughout. Therefore again not keeping the attention of the viewer long enough.

After all that it was a very good event. The smooth keeps growing with so much new talent. New partnerships have formed and look great already. Keep on your toes everyone.

David Hamilton is a former U.S. Smooth Professional Champion and U.S. Representative to the World Classic Showdance Championship. He is a very popular coach and adjudicator.