Episode 2 of America’s Ballroom Challenge: International Style! I was surprised to find out that Mary was an Austrian (random) standard champion. I pictured her as a rhythm dancer or something, but it turns out she did a bit of everything. They played the everyone-on-the-floor-at-the-same-time mini-round of waltz, which was kinda cool. In person, it’s pretty chaotic, but visually very cool, with 30-40+ couples on the floor simultaneously. First were the “group rounds” of foxtrot and quickstep. At least these were in order this time, as opposed to last week’s smooth dances. Loved the bit of mini-formation team feather, reverse turn, three step sequence. I timed it and they only showed about 50 seconds of each dance, which was really not enough to make anything of them. Boo. Would another 40 seconds really hurt? Next was quickstep.
Showdances next. Standard showdances can be kinda boring at times, so I was intrigued to see what these couples came up with. These were more varied in dance style/theme than the smooth dances, so that was at least somewhat refreshing. My favorite thematically was probably Andrey and Anna’s Marilyn Monroe piece, but the hair and costuming were a bit distracting, with her wig flopping around a lot. A lot of hairspray would’ve helped with that. Also slightly cringed when Anna overshot the lift and almost fell behind Andrey. I’m pretty sure they’re one of the most attractive couples on the floor, especially when he doesn’t wear a shirt (from past years). But I digress. Oscar and Lenka had an awkward boy-themed foxtrot, with juvenile outfits, that I just didn’t get. The cowboy-themed quickstep from Canadian couple Anton and Anna was cute. Artem and Inna, the frontrunners, did a lovely emotionally expressive and technically sound foxtrot to My Heart Will Go On. I giggled when he kissed her ear at the end (they’re married). Loved her eye makeup. Girl rocks the flowy dresses. Denis and Lesya’s lyrical foxtrot was nice, but not very memorable. Loved her green dress and loose hair. Interestingly, she’s Max Sinitsa’s niece and used to dance with him. The hosts might have mentioned that briefly at some point. A quick search on Dancesport Info showed that Igor and Ekaterina had danced together way longer than the five and a half years reported by Mary. They danced together, broke up, and then re-partnered and went pro together. Their French-themed quickstep was solid but not super interesting. In general, I found that the women were more expressive than the men, which is especially the case in standard, I think. You tend to find a lot of tall stoic standard men.
Ultimately, in the show dance, Denis and Lesya placed first, Andrey and Anna second, and Anton and Anna third, which surprised me. Artem and Inna were in fourth, but will represent the standard style anyway, since they were first for the five other dances, I believe.
Brief featurette with the DJ Brent Mills, which was nice, I guess. On to Latin! They were gracious enough to show us one entire round of jive. I wasn’t really familiar with any of these people except for Roman and Anna. Was hoping that Riccardo and Yulia would show up this year, but no dice, alas. I liked the plain leopard dress. It’s nice when people go unconventionally simple and unadorned. On the other hand, one male dancer decided to wear glittery pants. No.
Showdances! Lots of rumbas, of course. Lots of rumbas in silky shirt-type outfits. Kamil and Anna’s was nice, but I was confused by her wet-looking shirtdress. Maybe it was on purpose, based on the storm noises in the music? Or she was just really sweaty? Also, they continued the Barbra Streisand theme from last week. We had definitely heard this exact song, “Don’t Go Away”, during smooth for Mazen and Izabella’s showdance. On another note, Kamil’s facial hair is an example of a goatee that really works for ballroom, at least in Latin/rhythm. Roman and Anna did another version of angsty silky-shirt rumba. A little too much running around for my taste, but they had a really cute moment together at the end. Also, she is so freaking tan! She made him look super pale in comparison, even though he’s not particularly white. Dmitry and Olena did a jive to “Happy” with awkward NYC-themed outfits that I didn’t get. For once, the hosts had some critique to offer about their side-by-side choreo and costuming. Evgeny and Maria did a very traditional but good paso…at least it was to a song other than Spanish Gypsy Dance. Vitaliy and Eugenia’s cha cha, with her in a catsuit, finished off the set. Pretty fun, and the catsuit worked for the Michael Jackson theme. The all-black look unfortunately led them to blend into the background a bit, though. The slower music choice also made them look a bit sluggish at times.
I didn’t have any particular favorite out of the Latin showdances. Top three showdance placements (at least, based on the lineups): Roman and Anna, Andrey and Yulia, Kamil and Anna. Which were, coincidentally (not really), the exact same rankings for the group dances. Side note, all 6 ladies’ names ended in “a”, and three of the men’s names ended in “I” or “y”. Eastern Europeans!
Overall, solid. Nothing especially stood out to me, but it was all great dancing and solid performances. Definitely the best ballroom dancing you’ll see on TV. In past years, I think people have been more creative in their choices, but it’s not something to expect on a regular basis.
To come soon: a review of Episode 3, the grand finale! I still don’t understand how they can judge and compare dancers in completely different styles, but we’ll keep chugging along.
Click here for my review of Episode 1, which featured American style pros.