US Open 2009 – Update #5

Oh, I forgot to mention! Friday night was also Teams!

  • The California Rolls from LA (Sheri-Ann Kang is their choreographer);
  • B.A.D. Ass (acronym for Bay Area Dancers Association! Stacy is their choreographer and they did a hilarious take-off on an 80’s Prom Night); and last of all
  • The Swingheads, a Lindy team of students from Pierce College in LA, choreographed by Denise Gibson. They were BRILLIANT! Dancing to a jazz-piano piece they *became* a piano – keys popping up and down sliding in and out and on top and between each other, and making such funny faces! They laughed the whole time they were out there. So funny, so fast, such incredible wit and technique. The audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, screaming, pounding the floor. Robert said “I don’t remember when a performer has been asked to do what I’m about to do – and I’m sure Tyoni is going to tell someone get down there and get Robert off that microphone – but I’m asking these folks to come back on Sunday for an encore performance!” The audience screamed and cheered Yes! Yes! Again! We want to see it again! The team, standing up there flattered and delighted mumbled to each other and answered “Uh, what time? Cause, um, we were planning on going to Disneyland!” Robert said “How ’bout just before Awards?”  They said okay! We’ll do it! And the audience cheered and cheered. What a great moment!

Oh, and oops that was Tara Trafzer who did the double splits with Benji, not Tara Stotz, who emailed me alarmed saying LIZA I DID NOT DO A DOUBLE SPLITS WITH BENJI.  I made that mistake cause I’ve written “Tara Stotz” on a check every Tuesday dance-night for a lotta years now – thinking about it last night I realized there are 52 weeks in a year so I’ve written “Tara Stotz” at least 300 times (leaving out the times when my husband forgets to deliberately leave his wallet in the truck).

Saturday afternoon:
Masters and Classic semi’s; and all the Strictly finals.

Juniors’ Strictly:
Brandon Anzaldi and Ashley Riddick (from DC!! Soooo gooood!!)
Akil Boatwright and Victoria Hank (CA)
Christopher Dummond and Hannah Clonch (CA)
Connor and Jessica Willis (CA and TN)
Daniel Guido and Alyssa Glanville (CA)
Steven Guido and Nicole Clonch (CA)
Michael O’Connor and Jessica Greer (CA)
Randy Portis and Tiara McCoy (from DC!!! So so so proud of these guys, Tiara especially, pretty girl!)
Rome and Torri (CA)
Justin Spencer and Tia Marie Quander (DC!!!!)
Aaron Williams and T’Roya Jackson (DC!!!! hahahaha – see? Lots of DC Juniors!! And they’re all SO good!!)
Jeremiah Willis and Jennifer Willis (TN) (three of the eleven Willis’ – in a few years the entire Strictly will be comprised of Willis’s)
Nate Woodward and Chevy (CA)

Masters Routines:
Mike Daniele and Susan Warner (CA)
Fritz and Jeanine Healey (CA)
Bob Brown and Anne Barnes (AZ)
Chip DiStefano and Lori Hayner (in the most beautiful dress evah) (TX)
Chips and Janice (in a HOT hot-pink slinky lycra body suit which was almost completely open down one side, from arm to ankle – you wanted her to keep that side facing front at all times) (CA)
Lewis Neal and Leslie Mallory (DC)
Larry Sanders and Rhonda Diamond (CA)
Manny and Karen Mackie (CO) (Danced beautifully until the very very last second when Manny fell, bringing Karen down on top of him. I don’t know Karen but she must be a delight cause Robert passed them on his way back to center stage and he said he heard her giggling “Ooooh! Now THAT was a new ending hahahahaha!”
Buzz and Debi McCreary (they have FIVE DAUGHTERS! Debi doesn’t look old enough to have reached puberty yet let alone have FIVE children! She’s lovely!) (FL)
Peter Witte and Ginny Howe (CA)
Michael Stephens and Karen Leiker (They won! They won! Both the Open and the Masters Tour! Yaaaaay! We saw this routine in Tampa (first time on the floor) and I said Wow! Great routine! But wow you guys! What a mess it still is! Looking forward to seeing it clean in two weeks! And man, they sure did clean it up and it was terrific). (TX)
Don Welch and Sue Fries (This is a woman who should never dance in anything but hot pants or a mini-skirt. Her legs! They are perfect! And the routine was deliberately choreographed to show them off. It was an elegant delight, loved it.) (CA)

Then a cricket landed, somehow, in the middle of the floor so Robert had nothing to do but try to catch it, which he did after several tries pouncing and bouncing around with the mic in his hand, like a dog; but then what do you do when you’re standing with a live cricket in your fist and you’re MCing the US Open? On TV? He put it in a plant. A plastic plant.

Then Classic Semi’s, and all Strictly Finals

Hand Dance Strictly:
James H and Betty Parker
Kevin and Erica
Lawrence Bradford and McKindria (what a TREAT to see him dance! He is so smooth! Just wonderful to watch! And so much fun to see him – elegant old geezer that he is – dancing with McKindria, who can’t be older than 19. They were my favorite couple)
Victor Howard and MaaAungkhnera Johnson
Lewis and Tammy
Auraum Johnson and Trish Brown
Markus and Tren
Xavier and Deonna

Lindy Strictly:
Chris Do and Kennly Asato
Shesha Marvin and Sarah Breck (love this girl!)
Mikey Pedroza and Nikki Marvin
Doug Silton and Kristi Clark
Stephen Sayer and Alice Poteriaiko
Andrew Thigpen and Karen Turman
Justin Zillman and Kim Clever

WCS Strictly Finals:
Maxence and Erica – Dip Out Of The Club
Sean and Yenni – Beat Goes On
Kielbasa and Patty Vo – Meet Me Half Way
Kyle and Melissa Rutz – Bring it Back
Benji and Tara Trafzer-not-Stotz – Trouble
Chuck and Tessa – Down (Jay Sean)
Parker and Brandi (looking pregnant and so lovely, again! All the new babies in the community! So wonderful! Today, as I write this, Sophy is giving birth to Jasmine Kdep!) – What’s Your Name
Arjay and Lisa D’Amico – Don’t Need It
Jordan and Jess – Strobe Lights
Luis and Amandine – Let It Rock
Jason Barnes and Melina – Get Involved
Ben and the-miracle-of-nature-that-is Tatiana, but oops I don’t remember what they danced to! I musta been so awesomified my brain stopped working; or maybe I was crying my head off again, tears of astonishment and joy (I spent most of this weekend in tears, in fact I’m getting choked up again now just thinking about it all. My makeup was a mess all weekend.)

Saturday night:

Hall of Fame Inductions (Teddy Kern and Wayne Bott), and a tribute to the passing of Frankie Manning.

Brian and Bobbie Duncan (NV)
David Frutos and Kim Clever (CA)
Woody and Louise Bretz (He is HEEELARIOUS!! Loved this routine!) (CA)
Kevin and Tammy (Ohhhhh my. Our sweet friends. They messed up a lift at the end. So much hard work! Such a disappointment to mess up, at the Open of all places. You hope something like this won’t happen but especially in Showcase and Sophisticated it’s the lifts that are risky and scary. Oh well. They’re troopers. They said “It happens. What are you gonna do? You come back and try again!”) (DC)
Stephen and Michaele Giles (TX)
Tom and Sossy Hyatt (CA)
Scott Mason and Dawne Kiehm (CA)
Gary and Csilla (no longer CA – they’ve moved to Arkansas)
David Vichules and Kristin Gangmeier (AZ)


Josh and Katherine Krok Eastvold (Same routine Semi’s and Finals – Hush Little Baby by Toby Mac – 10th place)

Jordan and Tat (How To Save A Life in Semi’s – ohhhhh I LOOOOVE THAT ROUTINE!!!!!!; and Viva La Vida in finals. They won! Of course! How could they NOT win? Ever? Forever, into the future? Has there ever been more power, precision, emotion, chemistry, speed, drama, beauty, humility, stretch, silences, tension, openness, cleanliness, wit, risk, humor, lines, poetry, dignity, brilliance, in a partnership, EVER? They’re as good as it gets. Period. Exclamation point.)

Courtney and Edwin (to Beggin, GREAT song, cool new routine, fast and sexy, gorgeous black and fire-engine-red sparkly costumes – 9th place)

Jake and Taletha (Soul Man, again, both semi’s and finals; 5th place! They’re ecstatic!)

Jason and Erica (Gorgeous new routine, to a contemporary song I didn’t recognize, sounds Swedish, flowy and ethereal, danced in stunning white costumes – these two are SO extremely strikingly beautiful together. They look like snow. Like Nordic glaciers. Like two Scandanavian mountain peaks dancing together above the cloud line. I loved this routine, thought it was artistic and clean and moving, and I felt they should have placed higher – they took 7th).

Ben and Melina (New routine! BLAZING fast, bright red, to a complicated mix including parts of Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night and Boom Boom Pow (maybe all Black Eyed Peas songs?) – they took second! I was lucky enough to be sitting beside both Melina and Ben’s moms and let me tell you wow what a ruckus in THAT corner of the room hahahaha! So much crazed screaming and pounding and jumping I had trouble holding my camera still, getting knocked and buffeted about on all sides like I was caught in a windstorm.).

Jason and Annmarie (Same wonderful beautiful Justin Nozuka “After Tonight” routine both semi’s and finals – 8th place)

Kyle and Sarah, with her wee little broken foot! Of course they couldn’t work on their new routine so they danced Childlike Wildlife again, and I felt they danced it better, more powerfully, and cleaner, than I’d ever seen it all year. On a broken foot! Sheesh. They took 4th.

Paul and Catriona (I am utterly mesmerized by her. Her lines! She is SO clean! She is never caught, ever — certainly not in routines (she’s even graceful and lovely when she falls, which she did at the end of the routine at BBtB last month) but not even in the roughest most difficult jack-and-jill’s — creating anything but a completely aesthetic picture. I love her head, her neck and chin! I just love her whole self. 6th Place)

Gary and Susan – One of The Great Songs – Janis Joplin’s Heartbreaker – and WOW this routine is Bad. Ass. Powerful, clean, difficult, brilliant choreography, lovely lines and pictures, and DRAMA! They danced it in semi’s then again in finals, but it seemed they ramped it up somewhat in finals, seemed like a few extra leg kicks and more dramatic, bigger moves than in semi’s. And they changed their costumes – she looked like a sparkling black-and-shiny-silver wide-winged soaring condor, thrashing her hair around in a furious frenzy, flinging herself across the floor, and at her partner, flailing around in a fury. Gorgeoussss routine. Robert said “Uh, okaaay. Don’t think I’d want to be on HER bad side.  [beat. beat. beat.]  Then again, maybe I would.” 3rd Place.

Saturday night social dancing was CRAZY wonderful. Most all of the stressful stuff done for the weekend, so what a feeling of jubilance and celebration in the ballroom! So much laughing, horsing around, crazy creativity, swing-content be damned! Sometime in the wee hours I watched Doug Silton, Maryann, Shane, Tessa, and Chuck do this thing in a line in which the guy at the end leads a move with the first person in the line and everyone behind that first person has to be the follower, in the line, doing just what the follower is doing, but during it the guy leading moves down to the other end of the line to complete the move with the person on that end and everyone has to flip around just as if they were the follower. They did all the basics, including whips! Then Doug said “Jordan and Tat’s Pump It move!” and they did some wild and crazy something from that routine – unrecognizable to me but then again I’m not used to seeing it done by six people in a line. So funny and wonderful!

Yenni! Yenni is way too gorgeous. I love Yenni. I took a pic of Yenni and Stacy together which, if it comes out, will be SO PRETTTTTY! Stacy, by the way, did something with her hair, for her semi’s routine, which is so adorable you want to just run up on the floor and squeeze her. She had it curly and cheekbone-height, but sort of rolled back above one ear in rows. Under the lights the rolled part looked black and the rest curly red – prettiest and chic-est hairstyle ever.

Oh, and Jordan and Tatiana got OFF the plane – the plane which brought them back from Malaysia, from a three-week gig on a cruise ship through Malaysia and Thailand – and walked directly onto the floor to do Strictly’s. Malaysia to the the US Open without even dropping their suitcases off in between. They say there aren’t words to describe the cruise, it was a life-changing experience, which for them, considering they were at the Kremlin last month, is saying a lot. Ha! So proud of them! Spreading respect for our dance all around the globe!


Advanced/Allstar JJ Finals:
Miguel and Faith – She Wolf
Taletha and Jake (ha! they drew each other!) – Trouble
Maxence and Amandine (they won!) – Taking Back My Love
Paul and Dawne – Beat Goes On
Alfred and Courtney – Dip Out Of The Club
Xavier and Cat – Masquerader (this might be the stupidest name, and chorus, for a song ever. I can’t hear it without being embarassed)
Yenni and Nic – Poker Face (Lady Gaga version which in my opinion is a song for a high-school marching band, but what do I know)
Connor and Jill DeMarco – The Way I Are
Ben McHenry and Lara Deni – Strobe Lights
James H and Tatiana Bourget – oops forgot their song

Great dancers but not great partnerships in this comp, except for Maxence and Amandine, who won, and should have. Not all, but many of these couples looked a little (or a lot) rough; either because it was Sunday, or because there were some interesting (or not – if it was you who was dancing) clashes in styles.

Then – CABARET!!! I hope everyone reading this will be able to see the dvd’s of this year, to see the routines, but also to see cabaret.
Benji was just fantastic. I can’t describe it, it was just Benji out there, by himself, leaving his guts on the floor. A marvel of a piece, maybe about dancing, about body parts which must be harnessed; or maybe about the awkwardness of being in your own skin; or who knows what. Whatever it was, it was gorgeously ugly, heart-wrenching, profound, meaningful to the non-verbal part of your brain which understood it exactly.

And the first cabaret routine by little Alexandra Grunwald – tore my heart apart! A piece of brilliance, astonishing brilliance. For Cabaret I couldn’t get seats anywhere – my own seat was taken by someone I didn’t know and the seat I’d been squatting in (on the floor, so I could take photographs) was also taken so I had to sit way back somewhere buried in the back of the room, which turned out to be a good thing because from the moment Alexandra walked on the floor until the final Cabaret routine (Dave and Zoe) I was just bawling. A full weekend of emotion, passion, creativity, the blood sweat and tears that go into dancing – it all gotten to me by Sunday and I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. I walked into the ballroom Sunday morning feeling composed, telling myself “you’ll be alright, just stay calm” but when that little girl walked out on the floor I felt my chest clamping up and could not keep the tears down from then on.

All of Cabaret was like that. Deonna’s team – all from DC! – so many of them kids! – all black! – doing their tribute to Michael Jackson – Oh! it was wonderful. They got a standing ovation, everyone yelling and pounding the bleachers, and when they were done they came BACK on the floor and ran up through the risers giving high-five’s to everyone as they passed along the rows. So much emotion – how could I not be in tears? And it was Sunday! I didn’t want it all to end!

Finally, Awards, which are not like Awards at any other comp. Awards is an elegant affair at the Open – the contestants dress in formal wear, and the ballroom is full. No long speeches, no wasted time, Tyoni thanked the key people who were responsible for putting the event together, results were announced with no delays, trophies presented, and Robert said What a great weekend! We’re done! A dignified, efficient, awards ceremony.

And that was it! Judges sheets down the hall, dinner, dancing all night, again, if you had it in you (which we did. We danced till 4, then left for the airport at 6 Monday morning, and had another uneventful easy direct flight home).

WHAT a weekend. What a weekend.

Love Liza


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