First and foremost, be jealous. I got front-row tickets to the best ballroom show in America - Dance Legends 2013. I ALSO received an invitation to the VIP after-party, which involved rubbing shoulders with the organizers and performers over a well-prepared cocktail. I imagine many of the pros would've rather headed home for a bit of rest - either in recovery or preparation - but the majority of these Legends proved that they were champions off the floor as well by rallying and meeting with other less-qualified dance-world citizens (like myself).
If you don't know what Dance Legends is, either you're not a regular in the ballroom community, or you've somehow managed to dance under a rock the last two years. Dance Legends is an assembly of the best-of-the-best ballrooms dancers this world has to offer - past and present. Last night, attendees enjoyed watching routines from 5 legendary couples, boasting:
- Current Latin World Champions Riccardo and Yulia
- Current Standard World Champions Arunas and Katusha
- 11 Time Undefeated US Amateur Latin Champions Eugene and Maria, who came out of retirement
- Former Latin World Champions and Current Finalists Michael and Joanna
- Current World Standard Finalists Victor and Anastasia
And that's just last night. Attendees also enjoyed performances from the current youth Salsa World Chamions, the top ProAm smooth couple, and a local group of swing dancers.
If you didn't get a chance to meet the performers, there was still plenty of opportunity to bump into a dancesport celebrity. Big names like Anna Mikhed, Ieva Pauksena, and Mayo Alanen dressed to the nines and enjoyed the show from the stands. And if you've competed anyewhere in the US, you'd be sure to recognize a few of the faces that travelled from all over to see the best take to the floor.
I found it interesting to see the different approaches the performers took to their choreography. Arunas and Katusha used nearly competition-esque routines with a few dramatic pauses and lifts (with the exception of the Quickstep, which involved shadow-position scattered chasses), while Victor and Anastasia put together 5 all-new routines just for this show. In my opinion, their tango was the peak of the standard performances.
Latin, by, nature, tends to be a bit more showcase-oriented (you remove some magic from standard when floorcraft isn't an issue). Riccardo and Yulia danced very sharp as always, showing off a wonderful costume choice in the samba with a tear-away train skirt. Michael and Joanna brought a bit more of an interpretive twist to their Paso Doble, dropping the music for a few figures, where they provided the beat with a long, complex series of Flamenco Taps and Appels. Eugene and Maria danced very familiar routines, which was in very good taste, as they were coming out of retirement for the show, ending their performance with their famous chacha to "Mercy". Of all the performers, Eugene struck me as the most engaging, likely due to the large number of his students who turned up to cheer for their coach.
Of all the things I saw last night, possibly my favorite sight was the reaction of the other professionals who were NOT performing. Watching Mirko and Edita or Anna Mikhed during any standard showcase proved that they were hard to impress, but they hung on the edge of their seats during the Latin. There were times when a few of the pros would all "ooo" at once, and I had no idea what I had just missed, and likewise, times that I was awestruck, and they yawned. Apparently I've got a few years to go before I have an eye for "what's good."
Today, at Manhattan Ballroom in NYC, the whole place is abuzz with lessons. But unlike many Saturdays, a few of the country's best current dancers are taking lessons rather than giving them. Dance Legends attracts quite the crowd, including some of the most respectable judges of the more prestigious competitions. I just got to see Arunas stand and watch an instructor show him "how it's done." It's both comforting and intimidating to know that the work never stops.
I can't wait for the show tonight. I've never had the pleasure of seeing Mirko and Edita live, and was disappointed when I learned they had cancelled prior to last year's show due to splitting their partnership. I imagine they'll dance twice as hard to make up for it! With another 6 professional couples (and a group performance by some of the best standard amateurs), tonight promises to be an experience to remember.