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This past weekend saw another spectacular NDCC Canadian Championship, this one taking place in the Ottawa Westin, due to a strike at the Lac Leamy Hilton across the river in Gatineau where the event is usually held.

As the team was setting up the day before the competition started, a main water pipe burst in the hotel just two floors above the ballroom. The hallway to the ballroom was a mess, with broken ceiling tiles all over the floor and flood damage. For a couple of hours it was unclear if the event could even proceed, but the hotel response was exceptional and by the end of the night you couldn’t even tell there had been an issue.

This year saw another record number of entries, but that reflected the entire event as a whole, not necessarily the championship level competitions. There was a huge increase in ProAm competition at all skill levels, as well as many more children’s entries.

That was great to see, as the ballroom world has suffered a lot. Canada is still recovering from the damage of Covid-19. The pandemic severely disrupted the dance community in this country. Repeated lockdowns in every province made dancing impossible for months, and a great many competitors simply found other things to do, never returning to dance after the lockdowns ended. Across the country there has been a decline of competitor participation in the highest skill levels, especially in the 20-30 year age groups. The province of BC for example, has fallen from a robust community in 2019 to a mere handful of championship-level couples in 2023.

The good news is that the number of children involved in ballroom dancing has continued to grow. Although we need more boys, the numbers are excellent. The quality of juvenile and junior level dancing is also improving constantly. Young people embrace competition. As numbers increase, they feed off this competitive energy and push themselves to get better. Watching the Juvenile Latin and Ballroom events on the weekend was a testament to what’s been happening in the country. The quality was simply stunning, not just in technical precision, but also in confidence and partnership skills. The little girls are always amazing, but usually the boys at that age look a little uncertain and struggle to present with confidence. This year I was blown away by the level of expression, power and energy from all the boys. They were leading clearly and even making eye contact with the audience, completely aware of their role and living it.

It’s unclear to me why the level has improved so dramatically in such a short time, but I believe it has a lot to do with an increasing number of competitions taking place in Ontario and Quebec. There are now so many events that the NDCC rules governing competition scheduling are going through changes because the existing rules of requiring two weeks between events no longer makes sense. With more opportunities for these young people to compete, the more they can develop their presentation skills.

We were also super impressed by the further development of quality in some of the Professional and 16+ Amateur events. Sadly, the number of competitors has been limited, but the quality has not.

The Professional Latin was won again by BC’s Alexey and Vlada Karaulov. They were already exceptional last year, and the quality has been scaled up even more. It’s great to have a BC couple representing Canada. They are the only professional Latin couple ever from this province to win the Canadian Championships, and they’ve done it now twice in a row. A few months ago, they finished in the top 18 in a highly competitive professional field at the Open Worlds in Blackpool, so they are definitely making an impact for Canada. Take a look at the video below to see my interview following the event. It includes clips from their performance.

Only three couples participated in the Professional Ballroom event. Vladyslav Komelkov and Alexandra Sevastianova (pictured in the feature image) were outstanding. They’ve been getting great results in North America, winning at DanceSport Montreal, the Florida DanceSport Championships, and the Empire Dance Championships just two weeks earlier. They turned pro two years ago, and had placed second as amateurs in the Canadian Championships in 2021. I was also quite impressed with Nikita Korsakov and Liuba Astashina, who came in second. They only turned professional this year, placing 4th in their first professional event at La Classique in February. I believe they took all of 2022 off from competition events.

The 16+ Amateur Ballroom was won by now 5-time champions Nikita Druzhynin and Virginie Primeau of Quebec. They have been showing impressive results around the world. They were finalists in the UK Open in January, and since then they won at La Classique, the Eastern US Dancesport Championships, the New York Dance Festival, Toronto Dance Festival, Coup de Prestige, Manhattan Dance Championships, DanceSport Montreal, Boston’s DBDC, and the Empire Dance Championships just two weeks prior to the nationals. They just missed the finals at Blackpool. I think we’ll see some exciting results for them coming up. Here’s my post-event interview with this lovely couple:

Professional Smooth and Rhythm categories were won again, now for the fifth time, by Ontario’s Dmytro Gurkov and Celeste Bailey. I don’t know how they do it, but they just keep getting dramatically better every year. Before turning professional, they were 4-time World Rhythm Champions and 2-time World Smooth Champions. They also placed second in Rhythm and third in Smooth at Blackpool.

The 16+ Amateur Latin was won for the second year in a row by Idan Daich and Anastasia Sinyauskaya of Ontario. They too have continued to develop their skills. I saw creative choreography performed with power that was solidly grounded. While other couples would overextend their over-balance positions, causing them to lose contact with the floor, Idan and Anastasia extended their energy right to the edge without losing that center of balance. They’re still young, having danced an Under-21 event just a month ago, so there’s lots of room for further development of their skill and partnership. Watch my interview with this couple.

The number of couples in the 30+ events has dropped, no doubt due to the issues I’ve already mentioned. It was good to see a quarter final in the 40+ and 50+ Ballroom categories. Even the 50+ Latin was well attended. For these events, the quality was pretty good overall, though I would like to see more emphasis in these higher age groups on doing quality basics rather than trying to match younger dancers with fancy, fast twitch choreography. This emphasis may be the result of young coaches who can’t relate. It could also be that these older dancers, inspired by what the young people are doing, are trying to copy them. It doesn’t really work though. As you get older, your body’s ability to create sudden impulse actions or fast spins with sudden stops just isn’t going to work the same way. What older dancers can bring to the floor that many younger dancers can’t is a maturity in understanding musicality, the character of the dance, and contrast. This is just as visually appealing to watch, often more so, than fast movements and complex choreography.

I also enjoyed watching the ProAm events, in which teachers partner with their students. What always stands out in ProAm is those students who really embrace the performance aspect of ballroom dancing and let go of thinking about their technique. Regardless of skill level, they are always enjoyable to watch. As always, too many ProAm students had their eyes down, thinking like crazy and basically just practicing. Nobody wants to see someone just practicing at Canada’s most prestigious event.

George Pytlik

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

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