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TV Review: America’s Ballroom Challenge – The Grand Finale

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America’s Ballroom Challenge is a Public Broadcasting System production that is in its third season. Tonight was the final competition where the winners of the four previous weeks competed to determine who is “America’s Best Ballroom Couple.”

Each couple danced one short and one long performance to exhibit their style and creativity. In the short program they were required to adhere strictly to the dance. In the long program they were allowed latitude to show off their talents.

The Finalists

Tomas Mielnicki and J.T. Thomas from New York won the American Smooth competition. They have been together since March 2006. Their short program consisted of a tango with Argentine influence. Their long program was a foxtrot danced to “Me and My Shadow.” He was dressed in white while she, dressed in black, playfully danced as his shadow. It was precious. They placed third overall.

Jose Decamps and Joanna Zacharewicz from New York won the American Rhythm competition. They have only been dancing together since March 2007. Their short routine was a mambo that had an amazingly intricate lift at the end. Their long program was a mixture of cha-cha, rumba, and swing. They placed fourth overall.

Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova from New Jersey won the International Standard competition. Katusha won the Grand Finale last year and began dancing with Arunas in October 2007. Their short routine was an international tango. Their long program was a Viennese waltz that began with a floor sweep/lift combination that was fabulous. She was dressed in a gorgeous traditional dress that flowed like a pink cloud. They placed second overall.

Andrei Gavriline and Elena Kryuchkova from New Jersey won the International Latin division for the second year in a row. They have been married since 1999. Their short routine was strange, he dragged her around the floor a bit. I’m sure it was supposed to be creative but I did not care for it. Their show dance was a slow rumba and their costumes were black and white stripes. They are talented dancers but I did not find watching them as pleasurable as watching Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova. The judges disagreed with me however and Andrei and Elena won first place and the title of “America’s Best Ballroom Couple.”

Exhibition Dancers of Note

Tony Dovolani and Elena Grinenko were American Rhythm champions last year. They did a traditional cha-cha and later did a modern/contemporary cha-cha that exhibited why they were last year’s champs.

Max Kozhevnikov and Yulia Zagoruychenko from New Jersey gave a beautiful farewell performance in Native American costumes last week. Tonight they danced two difficult, well-choreographed routines with a futuristic cha-cha. They will no longer be performing together after tonight.

The show was hosted by Jasmine Guy, an actress and dancer, and Ron Montez, a seven-time U.S. National Latin Dance Champion.

I hope that next season they replace Jasmine Guy. Her stilted comments throughout this process have demonstrated her ignorance of ballroom dance. Ballroom dance has always been associated with class, something Jasmine does not understand. Even the audience members were wearing ball gowns and tuxedos. Tonight she said, “ooooh, there’s funk in da house,” “this couple is hot,” and “she has pretty feet.” Ron Montez has learned to talk over her or say nothing at all in response to Jasmine Guy. Their last scene tonight was Ron trying to lead her in a waltz. After five weeks of beautiful dancing, I wish it had not ended on that sour note.

As always, the youth dancers made the audience smile. I look forward to seeing Paul and Jocelyn (ages 10 and 7) in eight years take the title of "America's Best Ballroom Couple."

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