Saturday night opened with a raucous hip-hop routine by a local team – 21 teenagers in camo, superman T’s and hoodies – crazy wild jumping spinning choreography weaving in and out – way cool.
Then two Masters couples. Then the six Classic couples, beginning with Jason and AnneMarie Marker.
I mention the Markers because omg I’ve never heard a room go so wild for any couple, ever, anywhere. I mean crazy ballistic on-their-feet screaming wildly enthusiastic. Chicago LOVES the Markers! Of course what’s not to love? They’re adorable people, great teachers, and this was the launching of their new routine so there was a lot of excitement. But man oh man are they beloved – what roaring, stamping, yelling, waving, whistling, jumping up and down – as they came out on the floor, on every single hit during the routine, and when they finished. Chicago loves the Markers!
They were followed by Oscar Hampton and Samantha Ramirez; then Aussies Scott and Kat (I *love* this routine – love the song (Break Even by The Script), love the choreography, love Kat’s dancing, haven’t been able to look at Scott yet cuz Kat’s too gorgeous but he’s probably ok too. Then Jason and Erica (who danced beautifully all the way up to the last eight counts when their music suddenly stopped then abruptly started back at the beginning which of course completely ruined the mood and flow of the choreography. So after the other five couples had danced Jason and Erica came back out a second time and this time danced through to the end). Then the young French couple Julien (his underpants match his shirts! Pink, checkered, whatever. They all match! It’s a French thing) and Beverly; and finally Ben and Melina.
Then Invitational (or Champion? or Pro? Whatever. Dunno how they put together the top-level group at this comp and each event appears to have its own system for this. Bless our non-standardized community) Strictlys which were fuuunnnnnn to watch:
Maxence and Melina;
Byron and Anne Marie;
Ben and Jen DeLuca (dancing to “Sweet Home Chicago” – when it goes “One and one is two” Ben stopped and put up two fingers – so then right after when it goes “Six and two is eight” Jen stopped, too, and with her hands did six and two is EIGHT and to accentuate EIGHT she karate-chopped her hand right into Ben’s crotch! Screamed, jumped away with her hand over her mouth, Ben also screaming cause it hurt, a little red in the face, a little bent over for a while … But they actually finished the dance, laughing pretty hard through the rest of it. Jennifer Jeffries -(in rare form all weekend long, funniest we’ve ever seen her) said “Well lucky us! We got a special early Holiday treat! Usually we have to wait all the way till Christmas to see the Nutcracker!”
Then Oscar and Tessa (Tessa came out protecting her boobs); Mike Konkel and Sheli; Arthur Uspensky and Stacy Cramer; Tatiana and Jason Miklic (OMG Tatiana was beautiful in a white top! She’s gorgeous in white! Patterned, with a long black feather down the back); Solemon Krebs and Colleen McDonald, Jason Miklic and Sophy (They’re parents! How cute is that? They’re even cuter now that they’re parents and they were ridiculously cute before! Now they’re so cute it makes my teeth hurt!); Kyle Patel and Melissa Spencer; and Victor and Jeanne DeGeyter.
Oh, forgot to mention: Friday night Alisa Winkler sang the National Anthem (all these singers coming out of the woodwork! Who knew! Guess it makes sense that people who love dancing probably love the arts in general, right? I’ll bet there’s a heck of a lot of talent in our community that we don’t know about. How great it would be to see all the comedians, musicians, writers, actors, painters! Right?)
And then the Chicago Fire Department came through playing bagpipes! Jennifer Jeffries said she saw the whole procession of them going up the escalator so went racing down the steps to stand at the bottom to look up their kilts. She a baaad girl.
Sunday was first the Golden Ticket Tour, a very cool new thing started by Ron and Tyoni (who were there filming Global Dance TV all weekend – oh and btw Jesse Decker tells us that gdtv will soon be broadcast on tv, actual tv! In addition to internet tv. Is that cool or what?).
So the Golden Ticket Tour! This is a new nationwide competition – so far 13 events are involved – and is based on Doug Rousar’s tournament format in which 16 finalist couples are divided up into two teams. Each round two couples, one from each team, dance together in the middle of a circle of people sitting right there on the floor and the judges (with help from the screaming audence) raise the red or blue paddle to vote one couple out, and thus it continues round after round, finally getting down to the top three couples. Third place couple gets cash (a helluva substantial hunk), second place gets cash (even more substantialler), and winner gets cash plus a jacket plus a free ticket to the USOpen plus a travel voucher for plane fare to the USOpen (how cool is that?!?) plus the opportunity to dance in the Final Round of the Golden Ticket Tour to be held at the Open, where all the winning couples from all the 13 events will be separated and re-paired up with Champions and pro’s to dance one last tournament. The winning couple will take home an estimated $5,000.
Cool idea, or what?!?!
What’s even cooler is that something about the excitement of having to battle it out on the floor, right there in the middle of a circle of cheering fans, brings out creativity and crazy kooky stuff which ordinarily you only see at 5am in the far dark corner of the ballroom. Or sometimes in a Champions’ Jack and Jill. Many of the contestants are Novice and Intermediate dancers, too, just got lucky enough to have drawn someone with whom they “clicked.” (Yeah that “clicking” thing – the crack cocaine of partner dancing! That “thing” responsible for enough marriages, divorces, and scandals to provide Fox TV with seventeen generations of reality shows.)
Anyone, any level, can enter the Golden Ticket Tour. In this case there were (I think?) 40 couples, Novice through All-Star, randomly paired up by computer (I think? Or were we rotated? Don’t remember). Costs $30 – a little pricey – but that’s cause the winnings are good.
Advanced JJ Couples:
Sheli Schroeder with Chris Lo
Chris Gardner with Cindy
Chris Van Hooten with Alisa Winkler
Susan Brown with Mike
Megan Montana (is that a great name, or what?) Except I was so taken with her name as well as her graceful supremely focused dancing, that I forgot to notice her partner ooooooops.
Gilbert with the other Melissa (Spencer, who is dancing REALLY REALLLLLY well, like sick well, like so well I might have to stomp on her toe if she gets any better)
Lori Wahl with Gary Thompson
Dallas Radcliffe with Mike Konkel
Dawn Lara with Carpio
Kris Sweringen with Lara Deni, and
Melissa Rollins with Brian Wong
Allstar JJ Couples:
Jason Marker and Colleen to “Shake Your Groove Thing” and WOW did the audience ROAR for them! Like I said before, Chicago LOOVES the Markers! And they love Colleen, too. (It’s a funny thing cause Friday night was so dead, the audience was so quiet, tired, unresponsive – everyone was commenting on it. The judges kept turning around and begging people to at least clap, at least stop yawning! At least try to pretend they were interested even if they weren’t. But that was Friday. By Saturday night, and certainly by Sunday this audience was loud and rowdy, couldn’t have been more supportive. Specially for the Markers!)
Kyle Patel and Amanda Warren to “Boogie Wonderland.”
Carlos and Angie (HUGELY pregnant – she’s due in a few weeks) to “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” – Angie did about 47 pirhouettes. COME ON! She’s like Kay Newhouse – nothing affects their balance, not even 15 pounds sticking out the front. And she took 2nd! Ha!
Byron and Stacy Cramer to “Super Freak,” and,
Solomon and Sheli to “It’s So Easy”
Champion JJ Couples:
Maxence and Alyssa to “She Wolf”
Jason Barnes and Jill to “Dip Out Of The Club”
Jason Miklic and Tessa to “Do You Remember”
Ben and Sophy to “Strobe Lights”
Miles and Erica (who came out crouching like Groucho Marx, and still was about a foot taller than Miles) to “Tik Tok”
Maxence and Jen to “Meet Me Halfway”
Jason Miklic and Tat to “Down”
Miles and AnneMarie to “Beat Goes On,” and,
Jason Barnes and Melina to “Get Involved.”
Meanwhile there was this Bondage convention going on downstairs. They had vendors. Saturday evening Genieboy came up to the room with a whip and a studded choke collar.
Genieboy was thrown out of our room and spent the rest of the weekend sleeping on the couch in the lobby.
Just kidding. He didn’t go downstairs and no whips or choke collars in our room.
But the Bondage convention did have vendors! No idea what they were selling down there – I was too scared to even go near the escalator which led to their ballroom. Some people did venture down, though, reporting that “those Bondage folks were very friendly and welcoming, happy to see newcomers taking an interest, ready to answer all kinds of questions.”
I’m sure they were.
Saturday morning we’re in the elevator on our way down to JJ’s (this is before we knew) and there’s this woman in the elevator with long stringy hair, little husky, biker type, a little makeup, nothing too out of the ordinary. So we say “Good morning!” and Genieboy makes polite elevator conversaion asking so what are all those interesting badges and patches on your jacket (jeans jacket over a black t-shirt.) And when she answers I swear both of us nearly jumped out of our skin. She was a MAN! AUGHGHGHGHGH! Her voice so deep she roared some answer that scared even Genieboy out of his wits. The elevator door opened just as s/he finished whatever it was s/he was saying but we were both so shocked we couldn’t move just remained standing there stiff and wide-eyed staring at each other. And then burst out laughing so hard we had to lie down on the couch outside the ballroom to compose ourselves.
Another s/he was wandering around all weekend – Jennifer Jeffries referred to her/him as Mona Lisa. S/he was evidently 6’5″ with hairy legs smashed into stockings and a fluffy pink tutu.
We loved the hotel. I’ve posted some pictures on Facebook (link is below). It’s a gorgeous hotel.
But more importantly the staff is SUPERB. Every single staff person all weekend long, including the housekeepers, restaurant staff, everyone everywhere – superb. Several times throughout the weekend we passed through the lobby and there’d be a whole row of ten smiling extremely professional looking staff members in suits and nametags just standing there in a row to smile and greet you as you passed by, asking if you needed anything. Felt very old-fashioned European-style service oriented.
It is a *wonderful* hotel. Buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all $20, and all at hours which work perfectly for a dance comp. Starbucks downstairs if you only want a snack. Grocery store and a mall within driving distance (but the surrounding neighborhood is grimy and poor so the stores are not pleasant).
We don’t recommend taking the free shuttle from O’Hare to the hotel because you have to walk 20 minutes to get to the shuttle stand and then have to wait another 40 minutes for it to arrive. It’s worth the $8 for a cab, in our opinion. But the free shuttle from the hotel back to the airport is nice, and only 15 minutes away! That we love.
So … another great weekend!
Pictures posted on Facebook so far (got several hundred more to upload):