Emerald Ball Still A Force On The West Coast

Keith Todd
Jul 13, 2005
The rumors were flying prior to this year's Emerald Ball! Owing to the controversy surrounding the USDSC and Emerald Ball Organizer, Wayne Eng's involvement in that controversy (see edition 0405), it was rumored that many couples would not attend the 2005 Emerald Ball.

While I think it is fair to say that there were definitely some high profile absences it was almost as strong as ever in the professional area and just as strong in the pro-am divisions with almost 5,500 entries and quarter-final rounds in many of the scholarship divisions.

The Emerald remained in its traditional home of the Los Angeles Hilton, a short complimentary bus ride from LAX. It was held , as usual over the last weekend of April.

A feature of the Emerald Ball over the last three or four years has been the inclusion on the program of the U.S. National Rising Star Titles in Smooth, Rhythm and Latin. I think this may possibly be the last year that this is in effect, but 2005 produced some interesting events. I think the success story of the weekend in the Rising Star divisions was for Gunnar & Daryll Sverrisson from Connecticut who won the Rising Star Rhythm and placed second in the Smooth. The Rhythm was certainly the most uncertain of the three National titles as in fact Gunnar & Daryll won with placements of 5,1,1,1T, 2. The favorites at the outset were probably Emmanuel Pierre Antoine & Alexandra Gregoire (NY) who could only manage second, but with the puzzling placements of 1,2,6,5,1. There seems to be very little middle ground for Pierre & Alexandra - some judges love them and some don't! They probably had the widest split of marks in the final with many firsts but also many sixths.

In the Smooth, the easy winners were Tony Scheppler & JT Damalas of New York who won a clear majority of first place marks in all dances.

In the Latin, victory went to Vaidotas Skimelas & Jurga Pupelyte (California). Vaidotas & Jurga won four of the dances, but the victory was not as comfortable as it seems as they had to share many of the first place marks with second placed Tomas & Isabela Lewandowski and third placed Andrej & Adriana Przybyl. No couple received a majority of first place marks in any dance. Chris Johnstone has a report of this event below.

Despite the lack of several top contenders, or maybe because of this, all of the Open Professional divisions produced well-fought finals. The American Rhythm produced another high profile win for Tony Dovolani & Inna Ivanenko (NY), who clearly won all dances. I did not think it was Tony & Inna's best performance, in fact they seemed a little muted today. Nevertheless, I felt they had the win cleanly. Brian Jolly & Kristina (WA) were certainly their closest competitors and had greater floor impact today than anyone else in the final. I still wish Brian would clear up a few nagging technical peculiarities, because the potential in this couple is enormous!

In the Latin, only two U.S. finalists were present and they finished first and second. Paul Richardson & Olga Rodionova (NJ) were first and achieved perfect scores - seventy-five first place marks out of seventy-five. There was simply no doubt today. Jonathan Roberts & Anna Trebunskaya (CA) were second in all dances, but had a tougher time than the winners. However, this was a much better result for them than at the San Francisco Open where they were second to Jose DeCamps & Cheryl Burke who did not make the final here today. Corky Ballas will also have the report on this division.

The Standard gave an easy win to Victor Fung & Anna Mikhed (CA) who were clearly ahead of the field and lost only one first place mark. The close race, in my mind, was for second and was between Igor Litvinov & Julia Ivleva (NJ) and Tomas Atkocevicius & Aira Bubnelyete (CA). Both couples had good nights but Igor & Julia seemed the more dynamic and so won four of the five dances. Tomas & Aira took the foxtrot, a dance in which they truly excel. Timothy Mason will have the report on this division.

The American Smooth was, to my mind, the toughest division to call. Ben & Shalene Ermis the 2003 U.S. Champs and 2004 runners-up, were not present, so the win went to the 2004 champs, Nick Kosovich & Lena Bahcheva seemingly easily as they won all dances. with a very large majority of first place marks. Personally I did not feel this was their best effort, although as a judge, I still felt they did enough to win. The second place went to Hunter & Maria Johnson (CA), who scored a better result than recently by beating close rivals, David & Valentina Weise in all dances. With the exception of the waltz, Hunter & Maria had the majority of "seconds or better" in all dances. David Rosario & Olga Barashihina (NY) were fourth with scores of 5,4,4,4,4. I awarded David & olga all fourth places, but in reality I was expecting a little more from them. I really liked their unusual style the last time I saw them, but today I often found myself searching for them on the floor. With scores of 4,5,5,5, Steven Dougherty & Eulia Baranovsky were fifth. They were certainly always in the running and their marks ran the gambit from third to sixth. For me there was not enough presence or originality for them to really be considered in the top half of the final. Closing this hard fought final were Christian Clayton & Kathryn Vaughan, who were last year's Rising Star winners here at the Emerald Ball and have since moved from California to Maine. There were several couples vying for this last place in the final and Christian & Kathryn were certainly among them. I felt that this year's Rising Star winners, Tony Scheppler & JT Damalas could have been the couple to make it, but obviously my opinion was not that of the majority.

The Pro-Am scholarships were excellent and we will be running full reports on them next month. Stand out performances came from Joan Goddard (MA) who placed in the top three of all the scholarships she entered (rhythm and Latin, A1 and A2). I also enjoyed the performances of Mary Sue Schwartz (AZ), Yaniv Geller, Lucinda Postern, Dara Campbell and Chika Goto. Watch for the full reports next month.

As usual, the Emerald Ball was meticulously organized by Wayne & Donna Eng and ran smoothly from start to finish. congratulations to all who attended, you were all great!

This article has been reprinted with permission from Dance Beat. For more Dance Sport articles or to subscribe to Dance Beat, visit their website at www.dancebeat.com.