The Emerald Ball this year was the biggest ever! I was impressed by the number of entries in most of the Pro, Amateur and Pro-Am divisions and by the quality of dancing particularly in Pro-Am! Well done Wayne and Donna Eng for putting up a great event and managing to attract so many good dancers from across the country!

The Pro Standard division, sadly, was among the least represented since there were only Semi Final... Despite the numbers, it was exciting to see some good quality from the couples and few new promising partnerships on the floor!

In the Semifinal round five couples for me clearly deserved the Final while the 6th position was up for takes. This time the couple from California Sergei Kiselev and Ekaterina Popova, Thursday night Rising Star winners, took this spot and were placed 6th.

Sergei and Ekaterina are a beautiful, tall, light, young couple who has full potential to be great dancers... To be honest I am a little worried to see this couple hit the plato in their dancing for awhile now... I wish I could see more rapid improvement from such talented dancers. They are yet to find their image and philosophy in dancing and I hope it is the right one for this partnership.. Sergei and Ekaterina are great shifters which makes the Waltz, Viennese Waltz and Foxtrot their better dances... However, in their aim to look dynamic they do a lot of fast “running” amalgamations in Tango creating body flight which makes it resemble Quickstep.. It lacks power, sensuousness, “Monumental Stillness”, contrast of speed - the traits that are necessary for a good wholesome Tango at a professional level.. Attention to the footwork is needed in order to be considered to challenge the higher level competition. Also I would like to see a more defined 3-Dimensional top line from both which will allow to use their arm length to their advantage... I am looking forward to seeing you in your next competitions and to witness your improvement!!

Fifth position went to Sergiy Shamshynskyy and Yuliya Besarab. This young duo does look “polished” and in some ways sophisticated. I’ve always liked Yulia’s look and presence on the floor! They had good space and energy - qualities which are necessary to produce a nice consistent performance throughout the competition. Their dancing is very pleasant to the eye in its “non-offensiveness” and consistency! However, it is not enough to be able to challenge the top. Looking closer into leg action will take their timing with each other to the next level. Stronger base will also make their swing more mature and will allow for better musical interpretation of every dance thus giving them a better competitive edge. Well done!

The couple who had a beautiful timing and a very nice professional quality of movement - Robert Nemiro and Olga Tsikaliuk. They took the 4th place. Those two have my favorite qualities of a ballroom dancer - weight, depth of swing, and a very nice coordination with each other. Only experienced dancers can possess it! Their movement is “oily”, full and such a joy to watch! To me - more activity in the upper body is needed from both Olga and Robert to balance the movement and to achieve a more 3-Dimensional look. Attention to posture as the dance goes on will help with energy and consistency. I am happy you are back together on the competition floor and I am so excited to see more of your dancing in the future!!

Number 3 - Gianni Caliandro and Arianna Esposito. Young dynamic vibrant couple exploding with energy but managing it in a grown-up way. Great combination!! Even though my favorite quality “weight” is not their strongest asset, just yet, - they did produce a very consistent accurate performance with all the elements present, and in my opinion totally deserved to be in the top three. I was particularly impressed with their Tango which had such precision and beautiful staccato action! To take the swing dances to the next level (and to give another facet to the Tango) a closer look into relaxation of the joints in both lower and upper body is needed. That will help tremendously to achieve the depth of movement and create more volume. (As the ballroom scene seems to grow taller and taller, this will give them a very nice competitive edge). Good luck and look forward to seeing more of your dancing!!

The runner-up couple made my night!! ..Dennis Kutepov and Lesya Sinitsa.. New partnership, I have never seen them compete, and here they are - a beautiful surprise for all ballroom dance lovers. Those two have everything a real ballroom dancer must have and they are definitely the ones to watch in a future. Mature sophisticated quality of movement, beautiful stress free top line, balance throughout, and to top it up - an unbelievable charisma and happiness to dance shining through their faces and their every move! Of course there are things to improve BUT at this time I have no critic as I am so excited to see more of this kind of dancing. Please do not change anything and just build on top of the qualities you already have. Good luck!!!

And finally the winners - Artem Plakhotnyi and Inna Berlizyeva. No question deserving winners on the night! To be truthful, I was never a big fan of their dancing before.. However tonight I did notice a big improvement! Their power, shift across the floor, consistency throughout the competition and winners attitude attracted me more than ever before. Inna is a beautiful lady who turns heads of everyone she passes by! She could greatly improve her quality as a lady dancer by relaxing the upper body joints to create a softer shoulder line. If she takes care of this aspect she would beautifully compliment Artem who has a shoulder line to die for. Also that would allow both of them to achieve even bigger shapes, be more weighted and use the gravity to produce power and flight. Congratulations on your win and I wish you many more in the future!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed judging this competition and wish all the couples only the best in the upcoming tournaments!!

Love, Anna