Open Professional Latin

Author
Ron Montez
Published
Jun 26, 2000
Open Professional Latin
Report by Ron Montez

This outstanding competition began with a quarter final of fifteen couples representing most of the U.S. competitive couples. Noticeably absent were the current U.S. Champions, Billy Sparks & Kimberly Mitchell, due to a recent injury to Kimberly.
Reaching the semifinal and deserving honorable mention were Andrew Phillips & Annette Nicole, a good couple demonstrating quickness, competitive skill and impact. Lots of promise shown here and could have easily made the final.
Igor & Svetlana Iskhakov. A powerful diminutive couple that certainly catch the eye and demand your attention. However, at times too physical in their execution. Softness and contrast is lacking as they tend to power everything.
Tony Dovolani & Tatiana Logishev. The most promising new partnership I've seen recently. In my opinion this couple deserved to be finalists. I brought them back in every dance, but unfortunately it was not to be this time, perhaps soon. A very well matched, balanced couple with many attributes, including a strong Latin look. Their dancing was compact, strong and each dance effectively conveyed the character of that dance. I expect good things from this couple in the future.
6th place. Christian Perry & Aleksandra. Taking 6th in all dances. In my opinion they were lucky to make this final. A lot of work is needed here to balance tis partnership. They seem to portray such contrasting styles that they seem almost incompatible at this time. It is obvious that Aleksandra is more experienced and polished, but a successful couple must appear to blend with one another in order for the partnership to work. Christian's shoulders seem tense and up during turns and pivots, legs fail to straighten and the dancing appears awkward at times. Possibly these differences and weaknesses will improve with time.
5th place. James & Jaana Kunitz. My observation is that James & Jaana were quite unlucky on this occasion and could have placed higher. Placing the couples from second through fifth place was not an easy assignment. Normally for me, this couple have the edge over the couples that finished third and fourth, but this time it was not so clear. This was not one of their best performances for they can usually be counted on to produce high entertainment certainly not lacking in impact; it didn't work for them this time. Jaana chose to wear two dresses this competition that were contrasting in their differences. The first choice was rather understated and the second one had more sparkle, but covered the legs excessively and hid all important action. James looked a little tense in the shoulders and for my taste his outfit seemed too tight. This exciting couple will continue to battle with their closest competitors and anything can happen in future results.
4th place. Dima & Olga Sukachov. Clarity, clean body lines and basic good form are qualities that certainly contribute to their success. Not superior in any category, but their strength is to produce readable, consistent work. I still feel they are abrupt in their body actions in rumba, cha cha and samba and require more fluidity and stronger, more consistent body usage. The paso doble seemed more convincing this time and the jive was good.
3rd place. Donald Johnson & Katarzyna Kozak. Donald & Katarzyna produced one of the most convincing performances I've seen from them to date. They have been consistent finalists but as yet have not challenged for a top spot. However, on this outing they ended up on top of the "middle couples' " competition, so to speak. Their best dances are the samba and cha cha. The jive looks a little sluggish and the paso is not fully characterized or developed.
2nd place. Gary & Diana McDonald. Two very talented dancers with a lot to offer but a disappointment to me in this competition. Not a good choice of costumes by Diana, or Gary for that matter. I felt her dress was too brief and not flattering. Gary seemed tense in the shoulders and he seemed a bit tired. The dancing lacked compactness and therefore, speed. I expect a lot more from them in the future for I know much more is possible. My opinion is that they rely too heavily on "highlight" material and on Diana's flexibility rather than on compact, rhythmic, contrasting dance actions.
1st place. Louis van Amstel & Karyna Smirnoff. Easy winners for me and definitely the crowd favorites. Spectators and judges can often have very different priorities. For me, this couple is slightly reminiscent of Vernon Brock & Linda Dean. There will of course, only be one Vernon & Linda who were truly ahead of their time in the categories of high impact and choreography and showmanship. Louis & Karyna also utilize "trick" and high impact choreography to some extent and most of the time it is accomplished successfully, but not always! The problem with this design is that after the "trick" is viewed the first time, it loses considerable effectiveness thereafter in the eye of the sophisticated observer. It must always be flawlessly executed or it is counterproductive, even though it may thrill the casual spectator. There is a secure realization from this pair of exactly what they want to portray and it is delivered with confidence, but I sensed a bit of arrogance from Louis that somewhat reduces the "warmth" of their performance.
Ron Montez is a former 7-time U.S. Professional Latin Champion and world finalist. He is one of the world's most popular coaches and adjudicators.