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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Windy City Open 2012

Over Labor Day weekend the studio returned again to Chicago for the Windy City Open. This was our 4th year attending.

Those attending included:
Judith Albarelii
Michael Albarelli
Mike Baris
Bettina Camcigil
Sophia D'Angelo
Dmitri Dolgopolov
Roxi Holloway
Christa Mason
Colleen O'Connor

We arrived to this event a day early, to enjoy the sites and sounds of Chicago. The event was held at the Hyatt regency McCormick Place. On our first night in the hotel, we stopped at the bar for their mini sandwiches, we seems to have become our annual tradition at the Windy City.

The following morning, most of our gang woke up for a pre competition workout on the hotel gym, followed by breakfast at the nearby 11th City Diner, which has now become my favorite dining spot in Chicago.

After breakfast, we checked in with the event staff and received some fabulous welcome gifts for everyone attending. The girls had the whole afternoon to prepare and had their make-up done by "obviously fabulous".

Rhythm freestyles kicked off in the evening, and everyone danced well in the first competitive session. As the event began, I did feel that it was smaller than years past. There were a lot of out of town dancers present, like us, but many of the local Chicago dancers were noticeably absent. I was surprised that Fred Astaire Chicago did not bring their normal troop of glamorous pro/am ladies, as we have grown so accustomed to meeting. Also noticeably absent from Windy City were Gregory Day and Natasha Issacs, and we missed seeing them.

As for our gang, we had several newcomers join us this year. For Michael and Judy Abalarelli, this was there very first dance event, ever. They were both entered as newcomers. We could tell that they were nervous, as most newcomers are, but you couldn't notice that on the dance floor. Judy had a fabulous gown from Julie Wilson's Encore, and definitely looked the part as an established dancer. Both Michael and Judy made placements in their contested divisions.

Doug Drob and Bettina Camcigil were also entered Windy City, and this event in particular was very meaningful to them. They were both signed up to dance at The Windy City last year, when Bettina learned she had breast cancer. Bettina' s battle with cancer prevented them from attending last year. We are very thankful to the Windy City event staff, as they were very supportive to Bettina during her treatment and recovery.

This year's return to the Windy city was a meaningful one, as it was symbolic of Bettina's recovery from cancer, and their return to dancing. They hit the floor after only a few weeks to prepare, and did a terrific job.

Sophia D'Angelo had a fantastic evening as well, and placed first in her Rhythm Scholarship. The Windy City Open marked Sophia's one year anniversary in competitive dancing. At this time last year, we entered her in Windy City as her first (ever) ballroom dance competition.

The following sessions all went well. Smooth was held as a morning session this year. The music during the smooth session was exceptional. We heard several beautiful Italian Waltzes, including Sene Fina (spelling?). It's a hauntingly beautiful waltz that I remember from the (creepy) movie "Ghost Ship". We heard it played several times during freestlyes in the smooth session.

Between all the dancing, Roxi and I competed in the Professional Rising Star smooth division. We are still dancing for experience and our goal was survival/to have fun. We expected to be eliminated in the semi-final, and we were. It was nice to hear later, that our dancing had improved. We got a lot of positive feedback. After dancing, we were  somewhat relieved when we're were allowed to rejoin our studio table to watch the final.

After several days of excitement and dancing, the Windy City Open wrapped up this year with its Grand Banquet and professional show. The Grand Banquet was (again) a disappointment this year. I think it may be the only part of this event that needs serious improvement, otherwise everything at the Windy City  went rather smoothly.

After the event was over, the gang spent the day on Sunday in Chicago, and made a return to the Navy Pier for our annual ferris wheel ride.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Phyllis Diller in the Washington Post

Recently I read an article by Joan Rivers in the Washington Post. It discussed the life o Phyllis Diller and how she was an inspiration to others. In the weeks leading up to Capital Dancesport we had been chatting about Phylliss a lot. Roxi and I were driving around DC with my cousin Lindsay, and discussing Phyllis when it was announced over the radio that she died.

It was a shocking coincidence to say the least, to learn of her death as we were chatting about her, which we do often. We often joke about Phyllis Diller when describing bad ballroom dresses that we see on the dance floor. A lot of Phyllis's act was based on her appearance,which included funny boots and necklaces, outrageous dresses and wild frazzled wigs... If you take the boots out of the equation, we see a lot of Phyllis Dillers on the competitive dance floor. We also see many Phyllis Diller inspired gowns on the racks of many ballroom dress vendors.

But joking aside, when Phyllis died in August, Joan Rivers wrote a really inspiring column about her, and it's definitely worth reading "how Phyllis paved the way for the rest of us". She went on to say in the column, that when Phyllis started performing, female comedians had to look funny to be considered funny... And that she picked a look that was expected and dressed ridiculously. I guess that was her angle, but she later went on to perform in the way that her male contemporaries did, breaking the mold.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Maureen O'Hara in the News

It seems like Maureen O'Hara has been popping up in the news more often lately. I remember the news coverage of her honorary position as grand marshal for the NYC St. Pat's parade, and her appearances at Macy's to mark the milestones for Miracle of 34th Street. Maureen is so beautiful and has aged so gracefully. It's hard to believe that she is now 92.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Capital Dancesport Championships

Our next big event was the Capital Dancesport Championships. I attended this event with Sophia D'Angelo, Anna Kabul, and my cousin, Lindsay Hayden. The event took place at the Alexandria Hilton Mark Center, and was hosted by John Depalma and Marianne Nicole.

It's always an odd feeling when you're attending a local event. We all end up staying the entire weekend in a hotel that is only 15 minutes from our home in DC. For my cousin Lindsay, this was her second year dancing at Capital. My partner and I have attended this event several times, and we both thought it had improved a great deal this year.

Only a week earlier, I had been in the hospital for injuries and in foot and leg, so it was a little challenging to prepare for this event. I had a lot of support from Sophia, Linsday, and Anna Kabul. I'm very grateful to everyone who helped me along. All the girls danced beautifully, and with placements in thier multi dance rounds. Sophia and I made anothe attempt at the "Best of the Best" in the 6 Dance Division. She made the final but missed the coveted Top placment by a small measure.

At the end of Capital we were all really tired. Chimi Choo joined us for this event, and after several days of dancing I got to take a nap with him. Always fun to have your pup at the event.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Diplomat visits for cultural dance Exchange


The US State Department has a cultural exchange program for dancers. Without much notice to our local dance community, Khanh Thi has arrived here in DC without a local dance studio to host her. She is a Dancesport artist an competing champion in Vietnam. Luckily Terry Chasteen stepped to save the day. She will be teaching FREE classes in Cha Cha this Sunday at Dancesport at DuPont Circle. The class starts at 5:15, and is FREE, sponsored by the US State Department. For more info visit www.dancesportdupontcircle.com

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hillsgrove Ballroom

Update, my dear friend, Beatrice Carter Minkins passed away this week, at age 100. She was my next door neighbor back home in Pawtucket. We attended church together every Sunday, and she was one of my last living friends with Memories of The Hillsgeove Ballroom , and Boston's Totem Pole Ballroom. She lived a wonderful full life and was such a postive, inspiring force to everyone she met. 

From my 2013 visit :
During my brief visit home to Rhode Island this summer, I got to visit my dear friend, Ms. Beatie Minkins, who is now 98 years old, going on 99!

Beatie and I were once next door neighbors. She knew my first dance teacher, Mr. Bob Barber, and on many occasions Beatie has shared stories and memories of the Hillsgrove Ballroom, where Bob taught the Lindyhop in the 1940's. The Hillsgrove was an amazing place to dance. I had dance lessons there on Sundays, during it's final years before demolishion. The floor felt larger than a football field, with 6 foot chandeliers and an enormous clam shell orchestra stand, built into the wall. The ballroom also had a soda fountain. It was still fully functional when I attended the Hillsgrove on weekdays for roller skating during junior and senior highschool. The Hillgrove was better known as the Sholes rollerskating rink, during it's final years, and was also famous for Roller Dancing. Roller dancing was popular in the 1940's, there is a glimpse of that captions in the Woody Allen Film, Radio Days. The orchestra stand, if I remember, had an Wurlitzer style organ in it. I believe the Sholes was demolished for construction of either a airport hotel or parking lot. 

Update 2014:
Remenicing about the Hillsgrove was my last memory with Aunt Beatie, but she taught me so many wonderful things. She was an avid church goer, and walking history book. She use to deliver stories to me over tea, and could sometimes be more sassy than proper. She will be terribly missed, and loved always.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Donating Ballroom Dresses to Music Camp

Recently one of our older students passed away, and she left her ballroom dresses to My partner .Her daughter dropped the dresses of at the studio last week, along with her VHS library, containing the R. Geiger NADTA syllabus video.

We decided to donate the dresses to ECC, which holds a music and theater arts program every summer for teens. They'll give new life to the dresses as costumes and props for their theater program and talent shows. In ballroom terms the dresses are almost historical, documenting what was in style in the early 80's. I added to the lot by cleaning out the Dance Factory prop locker, added various top hats, a green bowler, a red bow tie, and my partner's Glinda dress that she wore for last year's Oz Halloween. But my favorite donation in this lot is the old green dress, which we nicknamed the "Maime Eisenhower "
This Green dress was nicknamed the "Maimie Eisenhower"

Water Floods our Amtrak train

In August I took the train up to Rhode Island, to pick up my cousin, Lindsay, so she could dance at the Capital Dancesport Championships. On our way home to DC, our train was was flooded out by a terrible storm. the tracks filled with several feet of water and the train was stranded for some time. A rescue crew was called in, and it made for a long journey home.

Lindsay and I took photos of the train from the cabin, surrounded by water. Below the water, were high voltage power lines, making it impossible to exit the trains. It was an exciting way for Lindsay to start this year's adventure in DC, but it made for a very long journey home..

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Folks Shoe Shop

Shortly after the Virginia State, I took the train up to NYC with Sophia and Roxi, to take coaching with Eddie Simon at the Ball studio.

Our Adventure to New York was a one day trip, but I did find the time to check an item off my bucket list, viewing the famous Broadway Statues at the famous Folks Shoe Shop in Times Square. I've wanted to find these statues for years, as there are so many Broadway and Hollywood references to them. It wasn't until I started reading "The Astaires", that I learned that the statues are rather easy to locate, near the Fridays in Times Square. The building depicts the statues of Marilyn Miller, Ethel Barrymore, and Mary Pickford. The building is in a saddened state of arrested decay, but that actually makes it even more interesting once you discover them.

June 29, 2013

Just to update this story, on my return trip to NYC tho year, I walked past the old Folks Shoe Shop only to discover that the building is under construction and that the famous statues are gone!

The former Fridays restaurant is now gone. A sign that was posted said that the building will be converted into a makeup store.

The Virginia State Dancesport Championships

In July I attended the Virginia State Dancesport Championships with Anna Kabul.

This was Anna's second event and she danced beautifully. We  missed Sophia for this event, but she was were there in spirit.

The event was held in Reston Town Center and was hosted by Rosendo Fumero. It was tough finding space in the hotel, which sells out every year. I had a wonderful time hanging out with Michael Simms at this event, with enough down time to spectate during freestyles.

The Music Man at Arena Stage

In July, all of our dance friends gathered to see Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man" performed at Arena Stage here in DC. Despite all our years living in DC, for My partner and I ,this was our first time ever, to Arena Stage.

The Music Man is by far my favorite of all musicals. I admire singers an actors so much, as I am several lacking in theatrical talent. It's my weakest component in ballroom dancing, and one I hope to improve.

During my high school years I had a role in the Music Man, in Summer Music Camp madness. I had only one line, but loved every second of it. All my childhood friends love the music man as well, and meeting up with them now as adults, we still know the lyrics to all the song, and many lines from the script. Having said that I think many people have high expectations when they see the Music Man, and the Arena Stage did not disappoint.

Burke Moses performed a perfect rendering of Harold Hill. It helped that he was the spitting image of Robert Preston. By the end of the show, my suspension of disbelief was in full swing, I am was 100% convinced that he was actually Harold, Robert Preston, or both.

Kate Baldwin played Marion, and was easy to fall in love with. Normally, "My White Knight" is my least favorite song in The Music Man, but Kate Baldwin made it sound so beautiful. I've seen the Music Man over a dozen times, and this was the best I've ever heard.

Arena stage, is just that, a four sided audience with a simple set in the middle. The absence of a backdrop went unnoticed. I loved everything about Arena Stage's production of the Music Man, except for the costumes, which were terrible. They were drab in color and looked like they were from the 1940's, and not period Iowa 1912, where the musical is set. Marion was dressed like Rosie the Riveter, wearing bell bottom trousers, and the Pick a Little ladies weren't wearing big hats with feathers, which is absolutely necessary for that number.

Also noticeably absent from the script, we're the words "great honk" and "ye gods"

Despite the tiny differences, this event was definitely worth attending, and worth paying full price to see it. We made the mistake of over paying for tickets, next time we will know to ask for a group sales rate. Also, within minutes of paying full price for tickets, we received several half price offers from various discount websites.

My partner and I plan to return to Arena Stage in the Fall to see "My Fair lady". We're going to get a group together to see it, and I'm really excited about it. If only it could arrive sooner. The cast has just been announced and I can't wait.

The Astaires, a book by Kathleen Riley

I'm reading a new book, The Astaires, by Kathleen Riley. Roxi has been teasing me, as I'm a slow reader, and haven't finished it yet. Although there are many books about Fred Astaire, this one is unique, as it focuses on his partnership with his sister, Adele. It's the perfect book to bring on the airplane, between travel for events.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nick Short on Film

You know I've never seen archive video of Nick Short in film, and he's been my coach for several years now! I did however, happen to spy on this archive photo of him, which he must have released for the launch of his Avant Garde studio website. I'm really excited to have found it. The other archive picture of Nick is available on the ndca.org website.

Pat Traymore

The picture that everyone talks about.

Dance Pavilllion gets hit by storm

Upon returning from Millennium, DC was hit by a terrible storm that left us without power for several days. The street behind our house made the front page headline on CNN.

At Glen Echo Park, where we go for swing dancing and Lindy Hop, an enormous tree nearly struck the Bumper Car Pavilion, holding hundreds of dancers inside. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

The storm was called El Derecho.

Millennium Dragon Ball, June 2012

During June the studio traveled to Tampa for the Millennium Dancesport Dragon Ball. It was by far the the most lavish event I have ever attended.

This year's theme was Dragon Ball, and the entertainment segments were breath taking, along with a Hollywood style set that was larger than life. Sophia D'Angelo and Anna Kabul accompanied me for this event.

The event was full of celebrities and was telecast LIVE! The ballroom was filled with camera's, video monitors, and high class decor. It really felt line another world, with a vast dance floor surrounded by lights and sound.

It was all made possible by Michael Chapman.

Sophia and Anna both took placements in their freestyle and Multi dance rounds. Events were hotly contested and continued from morning to night.

We left Chimi at home this year so that we could have time to explore Tampa.

At the conclusion of this event, we had a vacation day!  My partner allowed me to adventure into the  town. We got to explore the USS Liberty, berthed in Tampa, which is a fully operational World War II ship. The Liberty is one of only a handful in existence, that remain operational and seaworthy. I had a lot of fun exploring below decks, the berthing, mess hall and engine room. A perfect way to end an exciting trip to Tampa...

Positive Thinking

There will always be things that we fail to plan for. In those moments I'm always hoping for some Disney animals to swoop in and save the day.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Daria Zotova & Kirill Gorjatsev get Married

Some people thought it would never happen, but during the first week of June, my longtime friend, former room-mate and former professional dance partner, Daria Zotova, was wed to rising star Smooth Professional dance champion, Kirill Gorjatsev.

In the beginning it meant the death of Kirill and Olga's successful partnership, and everyone in the DC area LOVES Olga, and the partnership she had with Kirill. But Daria and Kirill have had an enduring relationship together, and every dancer in the Washington area knew that overtime, something was bound to happen. The two had a romantic engagement a little over a year ago, with a wedding date set in June.

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, Dmitri Dolgopolov and I had the pleasure of attending Kirill's fly by night bachelor party. Who ever thought that Kirill, who is always "All so serious"
Could be so much fun? I think the pictures from Kirill's Bachelor party will have to remain private...as will the memories from Daria's Bachelorette party, hosted by Kelly Synott and attended by friends.

On the eve of their big wedding day, my partner and I joined Daria, Kirill, and their family as they decorated the upstairs ballroom in the Dance Factory. The following morning, My partner woke up in the pre-dawn hours to shuttle Daria to the Michael Anthony Salon, for first class preparations on Capital Hill. Later she shuttled Daria back to the hotel so we could commence with the long "to do" list, in wedding preparations. Some of the duties involved picking up the food and cake, table linen and decorative arrangements, and reception prep.

After a full morning of reception prep, My partner rejoined the wedding party to prepare for the traditional Russian games. The games were conducted by Daria's kid sister, who came all the way from Russia to attend the wedding. The games consisted of a riddle sequence and a scavenger hunt that took place all over the Ritz Carlton.

After the games, Kirill found Daria, the object of his hotel scavenger hunt, on the hotel's mezzanine level by the grand piano.

Daria looked so beautiful, just like a Disney princess.

Check out this video on YouTube:


We then departed from the Ritz to attend their formal garden ceremony at a scenic location in Arlington. After the ceremony, Daria and Kirill ventured off to Capital Hill for wedding photos.

I do not appear in many photos, because we worked the wedding behind the scenes.

While the wedding party went off for pictures, My partner and I went back to the studio for additional preparations for the reception... It was a lot of work! .... There were indeed some enjoyable moments in preparing the reception room, picking up the food and wedding cake. We enjoyed time with A friend who was tasked with preparing the bar area for the reception... I could tell that after a long day of work, that everyone needed a break. By the end of the reception preparations, the girls were giddy with happiness and exhaustion. There was just enough time for a cocktail break before adding final touches to the room.

The most nerve racking part of Daria and Kirill's wedding day was picking up the wedding cake. I was deathly afraid of dropping the cake, as the vendor nearly did as they boxed it for transport.

Luckily everything was in place by reception time, and the Studio never looked more beautiful. I particularly enjoyed Daria and Kirill's wedding dance ... Which that dedicated to me!!! I was shocked by that and was truly grateful.

I wish I had their wedding dance on video, it was very loving and authentic, and may remain as my fondest memory of Daria (ever).

Friday, September 7, 2012

Priscilla plays the Palace

Directly after Dancing A'La Carte, My partner and I drove to New York City to meet friends for a once in a lifetime opportunity, to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert play at the Palace Theater.

Had to go for so many reasons:

1. Visiting the Palace was on my bucket list!!!
2. Every respectable ballroom dancer loves Priscilla
3. Best soundtrack ever, odd dance fact, it's also the Personal favorite soundtrack enjoyed by  Marcy Garson.
4. Fabulous costumes and dancing
5. Most importantly, it was a chance to give Friends a day off, and I don't think they have had one In a While.

We left the palace a bit buzzed... drinking wine in custom Priscilla Sparkley sippy cups... Will be a treasured memory always, especially after the cast members dragged Mabel up on to the stage, to dance the polka to Cotten Eye Joe... Talk about amazing... To say that you've danced on the stage of the Palace. It was a night to remember always..

The Washington Open

This Spring Sophia and I attended the Washington Open, hosted by Dan Calloway and Robert Woods. Initially we had decided not to attended this event.

After some debate we entered as a last minute decision, and had a wonderful time.

Traditionally this event has been small over the last few years. This year the event offered a very high level of quality, customer service, and prize money, so it's easy to see that this event is about to grow in terms of size and popularity.

Anne-Marie Lund was on hand as the official event photographer and took several stunning photos, including my particular favorite of Sophia in a high open leg kick.