Open Professional Latin

John Kimmins
Jul 15, 2002
The Professional Latin-American Championship comprised a strong field with four finalists from the 2001 U.S. Championship competing along with U.K. finalists Louis Van Amstel and Joana Leunis who are now representing the U.S.A.

The U.S.A. probably has the deepest talent pool in the world in this section and some excellent couples did not go further than the first round (which was also the Quarter Final).

Thirty-seven marks from the panel of 13 judges were required to reach the semi-final round and not into that level were Jonathan Roberts & Anna Trebunskaya (Campbell, CA) whose dancing continues to improve. The woman is an outstanding performer whose foot and leg action is of the highest quality. The man has excellent posture and good partnering skills, but if there's a weakness that could be improved, he could look to create more elasticity through the sides of the waist and hence create a more vibrant action.

Ilya Ifraimov and Nadia Goulina (Bloomfield, NJ) had 18 marks and gave a display that could have been rewarded with a semi-final place in my opinion. There is a natural approach to their dancing that appeals to me. They are very much together and have a sophisticated shape. I would like to see more of a spontaneous response to each other to be even more convincing.

The other couples in this round were Plamen Danilov and Tina Gerova (NY) with 11 marks; Andrey Sviridenko & Julia Zubova (Bloomfield Hills, NY) 12 marks; Marcus Johnson & Jennifer Thomas (San Diego) with 8 marks who continue to improve in all aspects; Erik Cyr & Melissa Rivas (Orange, CA) 6 marks, but now choosing to represent Erik?s native country Canada. I thought their rhythmic dancing would have warranted better; Eddie Stutts & Viktoria Belova (Houston, TX) 4 marks with Viktoria being very much at home in this style but Eddie's weight held to far back to be totally convincing; Rick Robinson and Ashley Delgrosso (Orem, UT) 3 marks, and they continue to improve and I thought they would have collected many more marks than this, especially in Jive; and Sergei Trubin and Inna Ivanenko (Maple Shade, NJ) with 1 mark.

It took 47 marks to reach the coveted top 6 for the final and coming up 8 short with 39 marks were the Rising Star title winners in the newly formed partnership of Max Chmerkovsky and Yelena Grinenko (Saddle Brook, NJ). I thought they had a terrific semifinal round and that they would have a relatively easy passage into the final. I have always opined that Yelena is a world class exponent, her footwork and leg action being of the highest quality and with Max she really appeared to show a real "joy of dance." Max has matured tremendously, his partnering and shaping much more clearly defined and arm lines balanced to match the shape. I?m convinced this partnership can have a major impact worldwide.

Dimitry & Svetlana Ostashkin (Cliffside Park, NJ) had 11 marks and they are a most enjoyable couple to watch. They have good balance between them. The man shows good lines and clear rhythm and the woman is a powerful and expressive performer. They certainly catch my eye every time I see them compete.

Lyubomir Asenov and Tatiana Logisheva (New York, NY) with eight marks. They are another relative new partnership with many positive qualities and look like they have the nucleus of togetherness to continue to improve rapidly.

Andre and Natalia Paramonov (Weston, FL) had two marks but made a strong impression. They have an exotic look and dance with a real flair and individuality, which I enjoy. There?s certainly nothing stereotyped about this couple.

Delyan Terziev and Boriana Deltcheva (Woodside, NY) also had two marks and displayed an abundance of talent. They are well matched and have a lot to offer.

Also with two marks, Mark and Viola Weiss with their comeback now well established. I?ve always enjoyed their dancing and continue to do so. More tone and action through the middle would probably enhance their appeal, but I enjoy their sophisticated and almost "laid back" approach.

The final was a wonderful and exciting spectacle and I would laud all the women finalists for their beautiful grooming and outstanding dancing. This is not to denigrate their partners in anyway, but as the final was competed, my thoughts kept returning to just how well these lovely ladies of Latin danced.

The champions by winning all dances and only dropping eight firsts out of 65, were Louis Van Amstel & Joanna Leunis (New York, NY) who were so precise and utterly convincing this night. Louis has taken some criticism for choreographic content and its question of authenticity, but I thought the material displayed was a very clever blend of tradition and innovation. Joanna was superb, leg and upper body actions of almost perfection and a back line to be envied. Louis, skill personified with such stylish shape. My thoughts still reflect the admiration I had for seeing two twist turns in Paso Doble, danced with such dexterity of foot action and symmetry of line.

The runners up were Gary and Diana McDonald (Fairfield, NJ) who were second in all five dances. They too have so much to offer and, as always, I felt entertained by their performance. Diana is also one of the world?s top woman dancers; she does the most difficult of actions with such consummate ease. Perhaps this can make Gary appear to be a little static in the torso, something for which he is often criticized. I don?t personally subscribe to this line of thought and prefer to enjoy the 100% commitment he always gives. They are always totally together which is to me the most significant attribute of all.

Andrew Philips and Katarzyna Kozak (Torrance, CA) were placed third with a final analysis of 3C, 3S, 4R, 5PD and 3J. I would concur that Cha Cha, Samba and Jive were their strongest dances together but I certainly wouldn?t underestimate Kasha's beautiful leg action in Rumba either. This young woman is all class and Andre continues to show that his perception of line and shape is developing rapidly. Their action, encompassing spring out of the feet, in Jive is of the highest quality and synchronized so well.

Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kryuchkova (Elizabeth, NJ) were fourth with marks of fourth in C, S, P, J and third in Rumba. They showed a Cha Cha that featured fine foot action; a light and bright Samba; a Rumba with distinct foot usage; a well-balanced Paso Doble and a Jive which fully portrayed the joy and spontaneity of the music. Speaking of music, their expression in this area is one of their strong suits and they have refined their dancing to a point where they have overcome the great height difference liability.

With marks of 5C, 6S, 5R, 3P and 6J, Eduard Apolonov and Olga Kormanovskaya (New York, NY) were placed fifth. They probably didn't have the greatest night but there?s still a lot to admire in their dancing. I think Eddie can look somewhat static at times and could improve foot speed and action by moving his weight more forward onto the middle of the feet. He's a powerful man, so a more sleek style can only enhance their undoubted high quality partnership.

James and Jaana Kunitz (San Diego, CA) were sixth with marks of 6C, 5S, 6R, 6P and 5J. It?s good to see their dancing back on the right path. There's now a clarity to what they are doing and this contrast of action is much more appealing than speed, speed and more speed. There may be one negative holdover from their previous path. I noticed in several positions that James' line and shape did not match that into which he had projected Jaana. Perhaps if James were to focus on using foot action to shift his own body into each position, he would arrive on balance and without any detrimental pull on his delightful partner.

John Kimmins is a former World Amateur Standard Champion and is currently President of American Ballroom Company and Executive Vice President of Arthur Murray International.