Skip to main content

We’re finishing another trip around the sun, about to usher in 2024. So what were the main themes in the dance world during the past year?

It was truly the best of times and the worst of times. Of special note, the bright shining torchlights that were Len Goodman and Beata Onefater were sadly extinguished in the spring of 2023.

Beata, born in Lithuania, already achieved prominence as a Junior and Youth champion before becoming World Amateur Latin Champion, Blackpool Amateur Latin Champion, UK Open Amateur Latin Champion, and German Open Amateur Latin Champion, along with many other titles including 5-time undefeated South African Amateur and then 5-time undefeated South African Professional Latin Champion. She was also a Blackpool and UK Open Professional Latin finalist. She died May 30 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Beata’s death devastated professional ballroom and Latin dancing communities worldwide. She was an icon in the world of dance, inspiring a generation of dancers worldwide.

Len Goodman was known as the voice of reason and stability on the television show Dancing With the Stars, as well as England’s Strictly Come Dancing. Born in England, Goodman started dancing at the age of 19, after his doctor recommended it as therapy for a foot injury. After winning various competitions, including the British Open Championships, he retired from dancing. He was a recipient of the Carl Alan Award, in recognition of outstanding contributions to dance. Goodman was a class act who was full of twinkle, warmth and wit. He died in April of prostate cancer that had escalated into bone cancer.

On a more positive note, we were encouraged to see that Dancing With the Stars shed its absurd focus on its host personality and put the emphasis where it belonged — the dancers. Julianne and Alfonso are exceptional co-hosts for the show, and Derek Hough has done a great job replacing the quality judging commentary we always appreciated from the late Len Goodman. We worried for a while that this might become another Bobby Bones season with a winner chosen purely on popularity but in the end those fears were dismissed and the winner really was the best dancer in the group.

We were also encouraged to see that musicality appears to be returning to the WDSF, at least in the standard genre. For many years, driven by a desire to put ballroom dancing into the Olympics, the emphasis was on ever-faster choreography and athleticism. Slow Foxtrot began looking like Quickstep. Likewise, Slow Waltz was almost unrecognizable due to an excess of syncopated movements. However, throughout the 2023 calendar year, we have begun to witness more musical interpretations by leading WDSF champions. Almost unwatchable just a couple of years ago, WDSF ballroom/standard events are once again entertaining, except for the dreadful mess of Viennese Waltz.

Elsewhere on the competitive scene, we learned that Canada will be hosting the 2026 WDC Latin World Championships. The competition will be connected to the NDCC Canadian Championships that year, taking place in Gatineau Quebec.

Speaking of Canadian Championships, with just three weeks to go before the 2023 event, a hotel strike forced the NDCC to find a new venue. Fortunately, and with the gracious help of the Lac Leamy Hilton where it is usually held, the council was able to move it to the Ottawa Westin hotel. The event went on smoothly, except for a broken main water pipe in the hotel the night before almost causing a major challenge. The championships saw Vancouver’s Alexey and Vlada Karaulov winning the Canadian Professional Latin title for the second year in a row. Vladyslav Komelkov and Alexandra Sevastianova won the Professional Ballroom title for the second time in a row as well. Nikita Druzhynin & Virginie Primeau won the Amateur Ballroom title for the fifth time in a row and then went on to make the finals at the International Championships and finishing third at the Open World Amateur Championships at Assen.

The competitive dance community on the west coast of Canada continues to struggle with numbers dramatically lower than they were before the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2023 there were a handful of events in BC, including Vancouver Challenge Cup, Sunday Funday, UBC Gala Ball, Island Fantasy Ball and SnowBall Classic (the latter two operated by DanceSport BC). The once-robust SnowBall Classic, at times boasting an audience in the thousands and historically BC’s largest competition, was reduced to a couple of rows of seats. Likewise, numbers are down a bit for social dancing, but interest continues to grow. What we find interesting is that in Ontario and Quebec, ballroom dancing is so strong that the demand for competitions exceeds the number of weekends available to hold them. Is it the lifestyle here on the west coast holding things down (too many options for social activities) or something else?

Sadly, the heavy weight of war put a damper on the world. With Russia embroiled in Putin’s meaningless war against Ukraine, Russian dancers are finding themselves isolated from the world community. Although residents of Moscow have been largely kept out of conscription, that may change in the year ahead. If this is expanded, many young Russian leads may find themselves sent to the meat grinder at the front. Several prominent Ukrainian ballroom dancers have already lost their lives defending their land in this pointless war. And now, Israeli dancers are in an equally difficult position as their nation is embroiled in war.

Inflation also appears to have some impact on dance. As the cost of living increases, the availability of funds to spend on activities such as dancing is affected. If our nation can avoid a recession then it’s likely that interest rates will begin to drop in 2024, which would benefit everyone.

Closer to home, Delta Dance enjoyed a strong year even though number of students was still reduced from pre-pandemic levels. We’ve seen a growing number of people wanting to learn to dance. Weddings, many of them having been canceled during the pandemic years, bounced back strongly with huge numbers of brides and grooms seeking a quality first dance. Our competitive Pro/Am group struggled because of injuries, but continues to field an impressive group of dancers. We also hosted yet another sold-out Christmas party, giving out more than $2,000 in door prizes along with student awards. Roger and Sherry Everett and Elizabeth Diamond were so closely matched for Students of the Year that the winner was declared a tie (a difference of only 2 lessons separated them, making it too close to name a single winner for this award). We also gave out a one-of-a-kind Captive Shoelace Award to immortalize a unique event where a foot caught in the partner’s shoelace caused an unexpected mishap.

As we move into 2024 we are looking forward to more competitive events starting with VCC in February, meeting new students who seek to learn the beautiful art of ballroom dancing, and helping more lovely brides and grooms enhance their special day with a choreographed first dance.

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.

More posts by George Pytlik

Leave a Reply