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USA Dance Nationals 2013 Report

Michael Mecham & Barbara Wally

Dance Awesomeness: the quality of inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe through the movement of one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music.

There was a whole lot of dance awesomeness going on at the 2013 USA National DanceSport Championships.

From beginning dancers to the most advanced and experienced dancers, the level of professionalism and entertainment was incredible, and the amazing talent wasn't confined to the dance floor.

Volunteers and organizers were constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the way things were running and making sure everyone was happy. Thanks to all the great staff members and amazing dancers, it was another wonderful competition.

Some of the dancers took the time to answer some questions, share some experiences, and even impart their dance wisdom for American Dancer's readers.

Who: TJ Stanton & Dasha Goykhman

Style: Youth 10-dance, Latin & Standard

TJ and Dasha have been dancing together for a little over a year and a half. They met prior to their partnership at the Ohio Star Ball competition and both ended up looking for a new partner around the same time.

Throughout there partnership they have had a lot of success. They have recently been focusing on their Standard dances, which showed with their fourth place finish at the 2013 National DanceSport Championships.

Dance practices and competitions take a lot of TJ and Dasha's time, especially with a four-hour round-trip commute for practices, but they still find time for other hobbies. TJ is an accomplished musician and has played the piano for 12 years. He also enjoys reading stage plays while chowing down on a Charleston Chew. Dasha uses her free time just hanging out with friends and family.

TJ joked, "Hopefully we'll have time to become world champions and still get an education." While neither TJ nor Dasha plan on making ballroom dance their career, they both hope to dance throughout their lives because of all the benefits that it brings.

Dasha's father Val expressed a sentiment shared by many ballroom parents. "I enjoy every minute of watching them dance and grow," he said. "Through ballroom dancing I have seen Dasha become a woman."

Both TJ and Dasha agree that ballroom dance has helped them develop skills and characteristics that will help them continue become whatever they hope to be in the future.

Who: John & Kathy Linn

Categories: Senior 2 Latin & Standar, Senior 3 Latin & Standard

Partners: 10 years

Ten years ago a John and Kathy Linn decided to take a chance and enter a ballroom competition. They had been learning and dancing on their own socially, but as former college athletes, they decided they wanted to add a competitive edge to their lives again.

They have been competing ever since.

John began social dancing in order to keep up with his colleagues at medical conferences, but Kathy's social dancing began much earlier. "Daddy always danced with me," Kathy said. She started to get emotional as she talked about her father who had recently passed away. Even during a difficult time John and Kathy found comfort in dance and in being in the company of the many friends they have made throughout attending dance events and competitions.

With seven children and five grandchildren John and Kathy have always been busy, but since they started dancing they have been able to squeeze it in as often as they can. After primarily teaching themselves for over nine years, John and Kathy found some coaches to work with them a few months before the 2013 National Championships. Their hard work paid off and they felt more confident than ever heading into this year's national championships.

John and Kathy hope to be able to continue dancing together as long as they can.

Who: Polina Zaytseva &Angelica Lowe

Categories: Junior 1 and Preteen 2

While the dancing at nationals is amazing and the beauty of the dancers is breathtaking, it's the little nuances that make the whole experience memorable. There are vendors selling their beautiful goods, mothers and coaches helping their dancers put on makeup and fix their hair, photographers roaming around, and younger children entertaining themselves after sitting for hours watching ballroom dance.

Polina Zaytseva and Angelica Lowe are two young ladies who found a way to keep themselves busy when they weren't watching the dancers or competing themselves. They walked around the dance floors and the hallways giggling and picking up any sparkly rhinestones they could see and adding them to their collection.

When asked if they were having fun the girls looked at each other and nodded with a little more giggling, but when asked about dance, the shyness and uncertainty disappeared and was replaced with happy confidence.

"You get to have fun, and compete, and try your best," Polina said about why she comes to nationals. "Even if you lose, you learn more and afterwards it's like 'phew.'"

Angelica added, "It's fun because you get to be competitive and work on teamwork."

For such young dancers it was obvious that these two girls enjoy their sport as they rattled off information about their favorite dances and competitors. It is obvious that someday these two girls will be inspiring other dancers at future competitions.

Who: Mike Monokandilos & Cara Loo

Categories: Junior 1 Latin, Standard, 10-dance (2012 champions)

At the 2012 USA National DanceSport Championships Mike Monokandilos and Cara Loo competed in the Junior 1 category and took first in Latin, Standard, and 10-dance. Before they competed at the 2013 Championships they shared some of the advice they have tried to follow that they feel have made them better dancers.

Mike: Concentration is the key to not getting confused or messed up; you just have to think of every dance separately.

Cara: During practice, it's good to think of a specific dance to work on.

Cara: We have a good partnership because we aren't afraid to tell each other what works, and we're open with each other.

Mike: In order to get better you just have to keep working and don't give up.

Cara: Even if it gets hard, you just have to imagine your goal and don't stop until you get there.

Who: Samuel Hacke & Rebecca Novik

Categories: Youth 10-dance, Latin & Standard

"Practice makes perfect." This is a statement that parents and coaches have been using for generations to encourage their protégés to put in that additional time that is required to hone their talents. If this statement were true, or if the perfecting results of that practice were a little more forthcoming, then there would have been hundreds of perfect dancers at the 2013 National DanceSport Championships. One of those couples would be Samuel Hacke and Rebecca Novik.

Sam and Rebecca have been dancing together for four years and put in an average of seven hours of practice each week. That's 1,500 hours of practice. While this amount of practice time isn't unusual among the top-ranking dancers, what is additionally impressive is how these dancers manage to squeeze that practice time in with everything else that is going on in their lives.

Dance has helped Sam and Rebecca to manage their time and energies a little better. "I have definitely found the value of hard work," Rebecca said. Sam added, "Dance has helped me to become more controlled and taught me that when I mess up I just need to try harder."

Sam's Parents Andrej and Iveta have both been competing and coaching most of their lives, and they expect hard work and dedication from all their students, including their son. "As dance teachers we have high expectations," Andrej said, "but we are also very encouraging." They also enjoy the educational and social benefits that they have seen Sam gain through ballroom dance.

Rebecca's mom Larisa has also seen the benefits of ballroom dance. "When I see her dance it gives me so much joy, and she loves it! It just gives her so much pleasure when she dances." Another thing that makes Rebecca happy on the dance floor is wearing a dress that she has designed. "I just liked drawing," Rebecca said. "I always ended up drawing dresses, so I designed one for myself, and I love it."

With the 2013 DanceSport Nationals done, Sam and Rebecca have already begun preparing for their next competition hoping that a little more practice will get them that much closer to perfection.

Who: Paul & Louise Giuliano

Categories: Senior 3 and Salsa

Paul and Louise Giuliano have become regular faces at the USA National DanceSport Championships. In fact, they have won the Senior 3 10-dance category seven out of the last eight years. Paul shared his three keys to dancing success. "Don't take it too seriously. Enjoy it. And don't criticize each other."

Those keys to success have helped Paul and Louise on and off the dance floor. They didn't really start dancing until after raising two sons and each having successful careers. "You become new friends again after raising kids," Paul said, and dance lessons for their 25th wedding anniversary was one way to kindle that friendship even more.

Dancing gives the Giulianos' lives purpose. "Once we stop dancing, we stop growing," Louise said, "but the great thing is, there is no end to the journey."

Paul and Louise have been very successful in their dancing and Louise had some advice to give dancers of any level. "Find a coach with good basics, and find out what your goals are."

Dancing Their Way to Nationals
By Barbara Wally

Like the couples on the floor during session 5, spectators Emily Niemi, Tanner Allison, Chloe Hyman, and Ethan Binkley danced their way to the National Dancesport Championships in Los Angeles. The students in the "Dancing Feet" school program, pioneered by the Antelope Valley Chapter (4037), crowned their 10 week program of instruction by taking first place in grade level competition at the High Desert Dance Classic in Palmdale, CA. The program, which has been in existence since 2007, is open to fifth through eighth graders at 19 schools in six California districts.

Adding to the excitement, the young dancers had an opportunity to meet with Kevin Zaverniaiv and Gabriella Pustilnik from Brooklyn, New York, who are competitors in Youth Latin Pre Champ and Champ divisions. Still in costume, Kevin and Gabriela patiently and graciously answered questions about their experiences as Ballroom dancers and future aspirations, and posed on the red carpet with the young dancers, as well as the teachers who accompanied them and Dancing Feet program director Linda Chesnutt.

Whether we see these young people in a future competition or not, the memories of their day at Nationals will inspire them to be dancers for life!