Jan 25

I attended a local Ballroom Competition – California Star Ball on Saturday Nov 27th, 2010 at the LAX Radission Hotel.  This competition is run by the owners of the Westmor Dance Studios – Gitte Svendsen and John Morton, and were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their competition.  Needless to say both Gitte and John are well known in the Los Angeles competitive circuit and have long been a supporter of ballroom competitors.  This is evidenced that their studio is the cheapest for dancers to practice - $5 floor fee per person on their practice nights or for any other time for any length of time …  unheard of.  Also, if you are a competing dancer, you will get a discount for that evening’s sessions or days ticket.  Another nice thing that you don’t normally get at other competitions.



The California Star Ball competition is held every year during the Thanksgiving weekend and as it was our first time there, we didn’t realize that parking was going to be such a nightmare.  So for those of you planning to compete or attend this event next year, go earlier than expected as the parking lots around the hotel is full of cars from regular people who have just left LA for the Thanksgiving weekend and if you try to valet park at the Radisson Hotel – be prepared to lie and say that you are checking into the hotel.  Otherwise, you will have to walk in the cold for several long blocks before finding a parking lot that is available.

Then when we got into the hotel, early of course as my BF wanted to make sure that we were first at our front row table to get the front row seats.  I know I know but listen, we were not the only ones.  There were other couples ahead of us and for safety reasons, I started asking what table numbers we had to make sure we didn’t trample each other getting to the front spot.  Luckily for us crazy people, we were all in different tables.  I know this was to see Mirko and Edita :-) Mirko Gozzoli and Edita Danuite who are currently #2 in the World Pro Standard circuit.

We went there specifically to see Mirko and his new partner Edita as we had never seen him live before.  Of course, checking out the Pro/Am and Pro competitions were also a bonus.

What was memorable about this night for us was the Amateur Senior Standard – this was so competitive they had heats.  While the other divisions were mainly uncontested or straight into the finals.  These seniors – firstly looked very young, had spunk, energy and lots of training as I recognized a few of them from my time in the Bay area about 10 years ago and they had been competing in the seniors division too.  Just with different partners.  Anyway, the top seniors then turned around and competed in the Amateur Championship level too.  Amazing ….. where did they find the energy?  I guess all that good training and adrenalin keeps you going.  The seniors did great with the young ones and in fact won 6th, 4th and 2nd place.  Love it!

The Pro standard event was also enjoyable.

What was disappointing was the Amateur Rhythm event with only 2 couples.  There was one Pro-Am Smooth lady that caught my eye, she was the only person who was really and genuinely (or carrying a good fake) feeling the music and dancing to this.  Even more so than the Pros.  It was nice to see her win her division, wish I knew her name as I didn’t want to pay the $25 for a program.  In the Pro-Am Latin, a few of the Pros were not up to par, there were a couple  that caught my eye …. Russian names of course.  There were 2 Pro Latin ladies competing.  One had a terrific sexy outfit, however, her technique was questionable.  We could not figure out what she was doing with her volta action??  Anyway, the other Pro lady was terrific and we enjoyed watching her dance with her student.

This is a good competition if you want to test run and prepare for the larger competitions or if you are local and don’t want to spend buckets of money travelling.  The judging panel for standard was really good …. Glenn Weiss, Victor Veyrasset, Steve Cullip so you would get exposure to top level judges without it being too crowded, intimidating or not having anyone else to compete with.

The show with Mirko and Edita was enjoyable but a bit of a let down for me.  I’ve seen Mirko with his old partner Alessia in the Superstars DVD and on several youtube videos etc.  I have always enjoyed his spirit and fun and love of dancing. So I expected that to be even stronger live.  However, as with some things when you walk in with a high level of expectation …. expect disappointment.  I was not in love with the choreography and only liked one of the music choices.  Often a lot of these top competitors are not necessarily great at putting on a show.  It’s a different skills set altogether.  I was definitely bothered by Edita’s rather stiff neck and lack of technique when it came to doing the fast turns – instead of using her center, it was muscled in an attempt to create speed.  I know the standard ladies like to hold their left sway and posture when it comes to turning but when it’s a free style exit etc, just spot so the neck does not look too stiff.  Her open work was stiff.

Mirko Gozzoli and Edita Daniute


Mirko Gozolli with his old partner Alessia Betti when they were #1 in the world.


It was a long evening we got there at 6pm and didn’t get out until 1:30pm at least.  Make sure you eat well before attending an evening competition, stock up your bag with snacks or try to sneak in a sandwich or salad.  Otherwise you will be subject to the hotel’s $2 cookies, $6 sandwiches, $8 small salad, $4 fruit salad prices.  Bring a coat with you, I was freezing even with my long coat.  Don’t expect to get a chance to dance in between the competitions.  Besides, the warm-up time is for the competitors and you will only get whacked by these guys as they are so focused on their routine so you may as well stay out of their way and give them the floor.