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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New York Dance Festival 2013

This weekend our group traveled to NYC for the New York Dance Festival. This was our 4th year attending, and it was our best time in New York to date. It seems like every year, this event gets better.

This year we had a group of 30 travel to NYC for the event, with 13 competitors and 17 spectators. The event was held in the historic Roosevelt Hotel Grand Ballroom and was hosted by Edward Simon. We extend a huge thanks to Eddie for hosting us, and to Label  INC. for outfitting our ladies in fabulous new dresses.

Our group arrived on Friday morning, with plenty of time for sight seeing in Times Square. Roxi got right to work on the girls with hair styling and event preparations. Our group had a fun and Relaxing Friday (lol, for everyone but Roxi who had to work !). We ended the night in the Roosevelt bar and Lounge area, soaking in the sights and sounds of the hotel's opulent lobby.

The Roosevelt Hotel is by far the most glamorous hotel of any event we attend, only rivaled by the historic Phister Hotel , home to the Wisconsin State. I'm partial to the Roosevelt because of it's historic ties to Theodore Roosevelt "the man", our nation's 26th president. Inside the bar and Lounge area there is a beautiful painting of Theodore Roosevelt, which brings back many memories of being stationed on The USS Theodore Roosevelt, CVN 71.
Onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN 71, with the 9/11 World Trade Center Flag
During my Navy years assigned to the Theodore Roosevelt, I became intertwined in presidential history, attending many ceremonies in the ships onboard presidential museum. The crew was tasked on more than one occasion in ceremonial guard duties at the gravesite of Theodore Roosevelt in upstate New York. I was honored to once serve this duty,and tour TR's family home with the Theodore Roosevelt historic society.

I also had the pleasure of once meeting Claudilia Roosevelt, great granddaughter of TR, who volunteered in Post 9/11 disaster relief work at the Winter Garden in NYC.

 Many crew members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt are bonded to the president with deep respect to his service to our nation. The Roosevelt Hotel, is in edifice, a patriotic symbol to TR's legacy, and something very special for our dance group to discover in NYC.

With Claudilia Roosevelt in 2001
The Grand Ballroom in the Roosevelt Hotel is that befitting of a US President

Atmosphere really does make for a successful event,
 here's a view of Kate and David Cohen in the Roosevelt lobby:

Our dance group on the mezzanine level:

We are so very thankful to our students, competitors and spectators who performed so well this year, we were really lucky to have such a great team. Just to name a few:

Anna Kabul
Azhar Manipady
Julie Manipady
David Cohen
Kate Cohen
Judith Albarelli
Michael Albarelli
Alice (Miss Alice) Williams
William (Mr. Bill) Zeisel
Rowdy Harrision
Terang Mehta
Danielle Roeber
Dana Copola
Roxi Holloway
Lindsay Hayden
Karin Hayden
Nancy Jane Thurley
Sarah Jane Caveleri
Riley Maxwell Caveleri
Kate Albareli Gaglione
David Gagilone
Reesha Mehta
Patricia Mongeau
Katherine Mongeau
Diana Vitola

For many of our students, the New York Dance Festival has served as their first ever event. The event has been an inspiration to many , not just for starting long term hobby, but for the adoption of dancing as part of their lifestyle. There is some part of this event that serves well to inspire, because we now have students returning to the competition for their second and third year.

For Danielle Roeber, it was her third year attending this event, and she started at NYDF as a newcomer.

NYDF was also the first event for Dana Copola, who celebrated her
Dance-a-versary at the Roosevelt Hotel. She place first in the bronze American 6 Dance Championship and 3rd in Dancesport Series.

Tarang Mehta danced as a newcomer, her first event (ever), and she made several placements in her heavily contested newcomer freestyles. Her competition was so talented, that it leads one to believe that fellow professionals define the term "Newcomer" very loosely.

Also attending their first ever NYDF, were Michael and Judith Albarelli, who earned our MVP award for the weekend. Their daughter, Kate Albarelli came to visit them and spectated/ supported them from the balcony during their bronze freestyles.

Kate Albarelli is one of the nation’s leading fitness experts. A former professional ballerina, Kate is the Founder and acting Creative Director of Figure 4 in New York City. It was so nice to have her in the audience, supporting her parents as they danced at NYDF.

Also returning to NYDF this year was Alice Williams, Bill Zesiel, and Azhar Manipady. Roxi had a lot of fun with Azhar and Bill this year, because the gentelmens division, which is normally uncontested, had a lot of men in it this year!

Roxi also competed with Rowdy Harrison,
And they placed first in the gentlemens' bronze 6 dance division.

All of the students from our dance company competed in the bronze division. Once we were finished dancing , we had a great time spectating for the silver and gold levels. We particularly enjoyed watching Christjohn Batters and Mona Maerz, she looked stunning in latest smooth gown.

We also enjoyed watching Michael Simms dance with Sharon Ianacone.

And the lovely Pinky Puno, with Avant Garde Dance studio co-owner, Slava Sergi.

Pinky was kind enough to loan a smooth dress to my cousin, Lindsay, who was also competing in her first ever NYDF.

The championship rounds were held during he evening session of the competition, with the group still going strong, filled with energy. The competition was running ahead of schedule so the Master of ceremonies, John DePalma, paused the competition and opened the floor for general dancing. We all had a good laugh DJ played the played Boogie Woogie Cho Choo Train, which broke up the monotony of hearing 4 hours of American Smooth style music. Our group did not hesitate to dance the Bar Tender's Stomp when we heard the song played. I didn't really matter to the girls that they were in full ballroom regala, they all broke into line dance when they heard the song, to much amusement to some and horror to others. I think it did a lot to loosen some nerves, and definitely reawakened us to complete the championship rounds. The girls had a lot of fun during the general dance break, especially when they got to wave up to the famous MC, perched high above the ballroom on the balcony level. They all had a good laugh when the famous voice of ballroom occasionally waved back. After a successful session we all regrouped and changed back into civilian attire.

Once the girls all changed and deglamorized, the whole gang remustered in the ballroom to spectate the Open Professional Rhythm Division. The Open Professional Rhythm Division was sponsored by our very own,
Sophia D'Angelo, I was so proud of Sophia for sponsoring this event, as a Patron of the arts. The decision to sponsor this event was made in two tiers, to both support the New York Dance Festival, but also to sponsor the Rhythm Division on platform cause, and one very dear to Sophia's heart. The Open Peofessional Rhythm Division was sponsored in Honor of the families of Newtown and Mental Health Awareness. Where as in the past my students have avoided the option of sponsoring an event due to the negativity surrounding sour dance politics. The opportunity to for Sophia to sponsor NYDF was wonderful, holding honor to two causes: furthering the cause of dance and also to mental health awareness.

All of our DC Ballroom students and several of my family members came out to the evening session to spectate for the Open Professional Rhythm division, and to support for Sophia's efforts further the cause of Mental Health Awareness.

Eddie Simon asked me to represent Sophia during the awards presentation for the event, which was hotly contested. The judges were unable to decide finalist round so the event had two semi finals, and ran late into the evening. The oddness of this occurrence was featured in the next morning's Dancebeat headline.

In the moments leading up to the awards ceremony I actually got really nervous.
It was a bit sad to have Sophia missing from the awards ceremony, but we knew that she was there in spirit.
Important family matters prevented her from attending this year, but her presence was still felt, none the less. I was half joking when I told the gang that I was ready to vomit on the spot, from anxiety over presenting. Somehow dancing comes quite easy to me in front of people,
but awards ceremonies don't come naturally to me at all.

My last awards ceremony involved a case of becoming tongue tied and blinded by stage light, and at least during this ceremony I didn't have to speak... It was just a matter of handing presorted envelopes to some of the worlds most talented rhythm professionals, couldn't be too difficult, right?

It's always in these situations when I start dreading the curse of second hand embarrassment, which seems to follow me in public activities that do not involve dancing. Christjohn and Mona were on the sidelines and helped calm me down, and when the moment came, Eddie talked me trough every thing, and whispered behind me, with what to do with the envelopes and flowers, and puppeteered my handling of the awards line up in an effortless manner.

Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine and Liana Churilova won the Open Professional Rhythm Division and headed the line up. I very naturally goofed on handing Liana her flowers, as only a Ballroom D-Lister would do. It was a stress overshadowed by how graceful she was in receiving them. The awards ceremony was concluded with a thoughtful announcement on Sophia's charitable platform of mental health awareness. It was a very sincere moment and definitely a highlight of my time at the competition.

On Sunday morning I woke up early, to spectate in the ballroom for the Bronze International Fresstyles. I packed my suitcase early so as to have time to watch Myra Coffield dance with her instructor, Derek Walker. I think they danced in the new "mixed proficiency" category. This was her first time competing in per 2 years and she looked stunning in her ball gown. It's nice to see friends we only have known in plain clothes, to appear suddenly transformed by ballroom apparel. It was nice to see her on the floor, even it it was only brief. It was a perfect way to end my time in the ballroom.

Before departing the hotel, I met with my family and cousins for a Sunday Victory breakfast at the Roosevelt Grill. We had something special to celebrate because at the close of the evening festivities, Roxi received her first ever Top Teacher award! She came in 1st place, in the American Style, which is something very difficult for a lady professional to do. The award my made entirely possible by the hard work of her students:

Micahel Albarelli
Mr. Bill
Rowdy Harrison
Azhar Manipady

Her men performed so well that she earned enough points to earn the rank of top teacher. We had a fun breakfast and a lot of good laughs over Roxi's lead position over mine, by which I proudly took 3rd (thanks to the hard work of my lady dancers, and 3rd position is something that I am very proud of!)

The kids all enjoyed breakfast in the Roosevelt Grill, which was packed full of TR and Rough Riders momento's. I had fun warbling off historic facts about TR to my cousins, who amused me with feigned interest. They also allowed me to snap a quick picture in front front of TR's portrait.

After breakfast we made fond departure from the hotel for a show on broadway, already to look forward to NYDF for next year.

Florida Superstars 2013

Photos from Florida Superstars

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Maryland Dancesport Championships 2013

In February, Sophia and I traveled to Baltimore for the Maryland Dancesport Championships. The event was hosted by Glennis Dee and Andrea Ringold.

In the days leading up to this event, Zelda and I had a schedule that was set as per our usual, that is, until Wednesday morning when we woke up and the house was on fire!

Planning for Maryland became a bit more complicated when we suddenly realized that we had to evacuate our home because the downstairs neighbor 's unit caught fire. Luckily no one was injured during the blaze, but it was enough to fill the house with smoke , and made for one terrible mess.

So as we arranged for the clean up crew to arrive, we also packed hastily for the competition at Maryland, which was fabulous.

Sophia won the qualifier in the Best of the Best Open Nine Dance Division, and it was the perfect way to end a fabulous weekend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tired of people saying that they are "too old"

You know, I am tired of people saying that they are "too old". A dance career can last for a hundred years. Just look at Doris Eaton, she lived to be 106 years old, and her years active in dance spanned from 1910-2010. I've read that she was the last surviving Zeigfeld Girl.

In all, from 1907 to 1931, Forenz Zeigfeld picked about 3,000 girls to perform as Zeigfeld Girls. In May of 2010, the last Ziegfeld Girl died, Doris was 106. 

I took this photo in 2012, in the lobby of the Palace Theater. I went there to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with Donna  Hamza ( of Donna Inc. ), and David Parry. Visiting the Palace was an item on my bucket list, and little did I know that the theater lobby would contain historic momentous of Doris Eaton.

 Ziegfeld Girls wore lavish costumes , they would dance across grand Broadway stages in pageants known as the Ziegfeld Follies. In the 1960's, a movie theater was built in NYC, that pays tribute to the original theater that once held the name. The lobby is filled with memorabilia of the Zeigfeld Follies, including an original Zeigfeld girl costume 

The lobby contains a booklet with Doris Eaton, similar to the image in this photo:
Her  NY Times obituary said " Mrs. Travis may have been the youngest Ziegfeld Girl ever, having lied about her age to begin dancing at 14. She was part of a celebrated family of American stage performers known as “the seven little Eatons.” George Gershwin played on her family’s piano, and Charles Lindbergh dropped by for “tea,” Prohibition cocktails" 

After her career as a Zeigfeld girl, she worked as a dance instructor for Arthur Murray.

And then danced well into her later years, and reached age 106!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Patty Andrews, she knew my first dance teacher.

I was so sad to hear about the passing of Patty Andrews in January. I've been a huge Andrews Sisters fan all my life, and I own almost their entire filmography. Only a fraction of their films can be bought commercially and the rest are sought after in the rare collectors market.

When I started dance lessons at the German Hall, in Pawtucket Rhode Island, my very first dance teacher, Bob Barber, was in his early 80's when I was just 11 years old. Bob was an original member of the Harry James orchestra, and told me stories about being on the set of Private Buckaroo, and getting to meet Patty Andrews, of the Andrews Sisters. Patty, the youngest of the three sisters, was also a tap dancer, and she knew who to Lindy Hop. It is unofficially said among the lindy community that she took lessons from Dean Collins. Her dancing with Dean is documented in the film "Always a Bridesmaid" .

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nashville Starz

In January, Sophia and I traveled to Nashville for Nashville Starz Dancesport, hosted by David Hamilton. This was our first year attending, and my first ever trip to Nashville. I really wasn't prepared for the cold weather. Nashville was unseasonably cold during our stay, but still lots of fun.

The event was held in the Sheraton Nashville, which had a gorgeous lobby and vintage 1970's era scenic glass elevators. The lobby elevators reminded me of the movie Towering Inferno, one of Fred Astaire's last full length featured movies. In fact, when compared to the films original shooting location, the Hyatt in San Diego, one can barely tell the difference.

On our first evening in Nashville we checked in with David and his event staff, and we got to meet his little dog, Elvis. Elvis had his own entourage, clothing, and play pen. He may be the first pooch I have ever met who might be more pampered than Chimi Choo.

Dancing at Nashville went well. The judging panel was packed full of celebrities and champions, which made it a bit intimidating, but the distractions quickly wore off as the music set to play.
Sophia and I enjoyed several packed rounds in both the freestyles and multi dance divisions. There were many talented Pro/am couples in attendance at this event, many of them high profile.

Between rounds of dancing Sophia got to meet with a reporter from Dancebeat. The reporter's first comment to me was " I hear that you are married". At first I wasn't sure where the reporter got this misconception from, but later I was lead to believe that it was from a fellow competitor.

Aside from that one comment, I feel that I was removed from any drama and gossip that circulated at this event, but I did feel there was a lot more drama than usual. As a result I spent most of my Nashville evenings retreated in my hotel room.

One of the most exciting parts of the Nashville Starz event was its Country Western flavor. The ballroom was fully decorated in a Country Western theme, complete with hay stacks, Cowboy boots, barns, roosters, guitars and fiddles. Half way through the event, the decoration theme changed,with a crew working overnight to change the set completely.

Our second day at Nashville closed with a country western cookout and dance party. It was fun to see all the judging panel appear at the party in country western attire. Several of those attending wore blue jeans, flannel and even cowboy hats. I tired on a few cowboy hats in anticipation of the party, but decided that the look just wasn't for me.

The party was a great way to end our stay in Nashville. The DJ played a lot of country two steps and west coast swing, and the floor was open for general dancing . It was fun getting to social dance with fellow dancers. I had the chance to dance a west coast swing with Lauren LaPointe while Sophia danced with Lauren's instructor, Louis. A short time after the party started, we were greeted by Daria and Kirill, who had won the rising star smooth division earlier in the evening. After I congratulated Daria on her win, I asked her to social dance with me, she is still one of my very best friends. We had time for some pleasant conversation. It was nice to see them both so happy, and later to see the all their photos from the event on their Facebook Fanpage.

Monday, February 11, 2013

An easy way to avoid gossip

It's so difficult to stay out of the rumor mill, but I find it becomes much easier by avoiding conversation with hair and makeup stylists during competitions. While I admire the work that event stylists can do, it's safer for one to sit quietly in a stylist's chair, with ears open.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Snow Ball Dancesport 2013

In January I traveled to St. Louis Park Minnesota with Lauren Garrett, to attend the Snow Ball Dancesport Competition. This was my second year attending. This year I arrived a day early, to explore the neighborhood around the hotel. On our first day in Minnesota, we visited the Mann St Louis Park Cinema to watch an evening showing of Lincoln.
On the following day, Lauren and I had a wonderful time at the Dancesport Competition.We danced in freestyle rounds, championship rounds, and scholarship rounds. Lauren took the Top Newcomer award and several 1st place awards in her freestyle events. After the competition, we enjoyed a performance by the event's show couple, Jason and Sveta Daly. We had a wonderful time at the Snow Ball, which has welcomed us for now a second year. The event has many personal touches and details, including unique decorations in the ballroom, and wonderful participation awards and gifts. We are very thankful to Donna Edelstein for hosting such a wonderful event.