U.S. National Professional Rising Star American Smooth

Edward Simon
Jul 15, 2002
With the Rising Star title up for grabs at the Emerald Ball Championships, all of the upcoming hopefuls pack their bags for Los Angeles the first week of May. For many, this is their greatest chance to shine. This year, Wayne and Donna Eng (and team) created a full, exciting must attend event, with out being hectic. The judges had a lot of tough choices right from the first round, evident by the tennis match like head movements back and forth between couples. With the exception of first place, there was no clear consensus throughout the year. In fact at least one couple eliminated in the first round, had placed over couples in the final as high as second place. The quality of the category has improved. I was very glad to see less ceiling staring and back weighted dancing. The next step would be to have more arm gestures being initiated from the body to create a less frantic approach.

In the quarter-final:

Sid & Sonia Pocius- had a tall elegant appearance and just need time to develop.

Peter Vaco & Irina Sarukhanyan - exotic lady with wonderful arms, much improved.

Robert Nardozza & Harmony Lyris - Beautiful lady, attentive man, but needs to be more aware of his own dancing as he?s partnering.

Jeffrey Garza & Jennifer Davis - great look for lady, partnership needs more commitment of weight and more understanding of open partnering techniques.

Michael & Natalie LePore - must have been disappointed, having often placed over some of the finalists. Wonderfully groomed and much improved, this couple needs to be more consistent in their sense of freedom of movement.

Blake Kish & Mellissa Aigner - one of the better understandings of closed position techniques on the floor, but needs to make better transitions between closed position and the open partnering and performing arts techniques.

Moving up to the semifinalists:

Chang Ching Yeh & Tonya Martin - I like the confidence this couple is developing, man needs to keep a sense of control and stronger center line while using that freedom. I would also like to see more consistency of quality when transferring weight from foot to foot.

Charles Paragian & Amy Reichert - Experienced man, vibrant lady, just new together. Could develop into an exciting partnership

F.J. Abaya & Natasha Thayer - A great new look for the lady, also arms are improving and much softer. Couple needs to continue to improve closed position techniques, especially understanding of swing

Jonathan & Melissa Atkinson - Good to see them back on the floor, second round better than first, just need time to jump back in.

Christian Clayton & Kathryn Vaughn - could have easily been considered for the final need to develop more usage of weight in their open partnering.

Mazen Hamza & Lisa Bentley - next in to the final, this couple continues to improve many of the elements of their partnership. I would like to see more swing from the center as their next step.

The finalists were:

6th - Mark Short & Heather Conyer - A couple who has shown commitment and consistency to deserve a place in the final. Man is beginning to deliver a stronger relationship to his lady ? now the team needs to develop more action/reaction. Also be aware of tense fingers and clearer spotting in turns for lady.

5th - Tony Scheppler & Nadiya Kravets - This newer team is developing it?s own style ? a serene calm approach. They will next need to add more focus and dynamics to their presentation.

4th - Rick Elliott & Kristin Beall - Another newer team that has risen quickly. The man an experienced competitor with an improved new look, and a very pretty young lady partner. I?ve seen improvement already. The lady needs to improve footwork and port de bras (often turns with both arms straight up). The partnership should also be aware of transitions from closed position.

3rd - Troy Baeten & Irina Shalkevitch - a couple whose quality and experience is sometimes hidden by arms not initiated from the body, samba like hip bumps, and flowery hand gestures. This couple could place better if their assets were easier to see.

2nd - Andrei & Anastasia Abrashin - This was one of the best dress choices for this lady I have seen. A talented couple who need to let upper back and shoulders settle more after contractions and shaping actions. Lady also needs to be more responsive to man. Kudos for ending up in the coveted 2nd place slot of this very close competition.

1st - Kostadin Bidjourov & Carrie Babcock - The only assured place from the first round. This couple have consistently won the rising star division at many competitions. They danced from the first round with commanding presence and joy. Since that kind of enjoyment and freedom is contagious it translated onto the judges sheets as an easy majority of 1st place marks. Congratulations to Kostadin, Carrie and all the couples for an exciting United States Rising Star Event!

Edward Simon is a former U.S. American Ballroom Champion. He is an owner of Dance New York and co-organizer of the Empire State Championships.