US Open 2009 – Update #4

Well, it’s over. What a weekend! Nothing like it. If you love west coast swing, there’s absolutely *nothing* like the Open.

Next year will be at a different hotel (in Burbank), which should make it closer for some CA people, and maybe even a little closer to LAX for all the rest of us. Instead of Disneyland, hoardes of kids in mouse ears, endless stream of Disney busses … we’ll have Hollywood! Universal Studios, Jay Leno (Tyoni says she’s talking with him and about getting some of the Open on the show), Mann’s Chinese Theater, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills …

Hope she’ll train the hotel well beforehand so they’ll know how to deal with 2,000 people wanting breakfast and dinner at strange times of the day and a thousand barrels of water. The hotel this year was great – the restaurants, the bars, front desk, bell-boys, everyone said “Hey! Haha so great to see you again! Welcome back!” We haven’t ever been there before, but if we had I’m sure we would have believed they remembered us. Somebody trained ’em well.

Social dancing throughout the weekend was G.R.E.A.T. Period, exclamation mark. Mind bogglingly great. Unlike other events EVERYONE was in the ballroom ALL the time. No idea when people ate or slept, they didn’t appear to be taking breaks at all, ever. The schedule is packed – no down time whatsoever – so you’re either there or you miss stuff you REALLY didn’t want to miss. Or you miss social dancing which no one – including every pro and great icon of our community – misses on this weekend. So you look around at the dance floor and you think you’re hallucinating – there’s Maryann! there’s Sharlot! over there’s Barry Douglas! There’s Skippy sitting at her box overlooking the floor. There’s Buddy, arms crossed on his chest like a proud Buddha! There’s Jordan and Jess and Tatiana and Parker and Manny and Loreen and Sylvia and Kyle and Sarah with her wee little foot in a wee little cast and Melissa and Melina and Jack and Annie and and and Arjay and Ben and Tom and Melanie and and every event director and AUGHGHGHGHGH!

For me, because this was my first time, and because I have been watching this event since paleolithic days of VHS, the US Open is associated in my mind with Mario. So for me it felt odd to have no Mario. After I had mentioned this to three or four people and each time got a kind of a bland “yeah Mario doesn’t come to this event” I decided I must have a nostalgia problem and would try to not notice his absence. But come on! It’s Mario. It’s hard to unnotice Mario. Mario should be at the US Open. For my sake, even if he doesn’t feel like it. Robert and Deborah too. They should just be here. Everyone should be here.

The Competitors’ Meeting on Friday afternoon is kinda the beginning of things. That’s when you look around and feel humbled at the collection of power and talent all in one room. Robert introduced Phil Adams as competition director, some announcements about still needing Flag Bearers from several states (for the opening ceremony, so exciting! Robert spoke about his first Open, 1995, standing around trying to look cool in his cowboy boots, awestruck, watching Robert Cordoba and Keldee B). Twenty-five states competing at the Open this year, and 6 countries, including Russia for the first time.

Robert said the reason the floor might feel short is because it is short. What the do is build the bleachers first, then the risers and box seats, then last of all the floor and stage are set up. This year they finished the room and realized too late that the bleachers had been set up 9-12′ closer to the front than they should have been, so when they laid the floor it was 9-12′ too short. So Robert advised competitors to spend some time blocking correctly and if possible to stay behind the third square in order to be on camera, but once out there to forget about the floor and just dance your dance fully. And he said “No complaining about the floor, either. In my day we danced on rocks. Barefoot. Uphill. In the snow.” Then Myles Munroe stood up to ask a question about drawing for order and everyone shouted Myles! Stand up, Myles! Stand up! (Myles is short). Robert said “Myles I won’t make any short jokes about you because you have always looked up to me.” (Robert’s not so tall himself).

4pm Friday was Advanced/Allstar Semi’s.

JJ Finalists (to dance Sunday) were:
James H
Nic King
Ben McHenry
Paul Warden
and 1st Alt Josh Clark; and
Faith Ernest
Dawn Kiehm
Lara Deni
Jill DeMarco
Tatiana Bourget
and 1st Alt Angie

Then later that night Strictly Semi’s:

Parker and Brandi
Greg Scott and Lara Deni
Ben and Tat
Luis Crespo and Amandine
Jason Marker and Angie
Tara Stotz and Benji (they did a simultaneous DOUBLE SPLITS!!! Slowly!)
Zena and Ben McHenry
Manny and Deonna
Courtney and John Kirkonnell
Sean and Yenni
Jordan and Jess
Kyle and Rutz
Katie Boyle and Edwin Li
Jake and Catriona
Sean Tobias and Loreen
Malia and Brandon Gautreaux
Patty Vo and Kielbasa
Nic King and Kathy Mongeau
Chuck and Tessa
Annemarie and Doug
Lisa D’Amico and Arjay
Erica and Maxence
Warren and Pamela
Melina and Jason Barnes
Miguel and Jill Dimarco
Nathan and Dawn Kiehm

Lotta great dancing in Strictly’s but not spotlight which meant severe whiplash trying to watch everything at once.

Then Friday night Showcase finals! 15 couples!

Arjay and Melissa – I Want To Hold Your Hand   Arjay and Melissa in Seattle
Sebastien and Verane
Cody and Tracy Melin
Luis and Patty Vo
Pete and Sarah
Jim and Katie
Eddie and Elise Valdez
Greg and Lemery
Sean and Tara
Myles and Tessa
Parker and Jessica
Amandine and Lionel
Doug and Amber
Barry Durand and Lisa Fay
and last, but certainly not least (they won Showcase!), in flashy white-red-black and shiny silver, fast as blazes, clever and marvelous, one week old, with one noticeable bungle at the end, Kellese and Benji, in a tribute to Michael Jackson and Jason Colacino (incorporating some of Jason’s signature, favorite moves):    Benji and Kellese’s New Routine

And to finish off the night, guess who was in the audience watching? Paula Abdul! Who came up onto the floor in 6″ spike heels to congratulate everyone and strutted off doing some kinda bad-ass butt-bouncer thing, yelling to Royston “Can you top THAT big guy?”

Tomorrow I’ll write about the rest of the weekend.

Results have been posted already, with videos of the winning routines. (LOOK AT BRENNAR AND TORI IN YOUNG ADULTS!! IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! In person, live, it was JUST astonishing, I cried and cried, oh my goodness such beauty) :


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