American Rhythm at the California Open - Report By Bob Powers

California Open Professional American Rhythm 2010

I would like to approach my review of this competition from the stand point of what I would ideally like to see in American Rhythm; let’s call it my wish list; and where I see the most potential to fulfill those wishes. My wish list includes authenticity, body rhythm, energy, physical and emotional connection between the partners and with the music, contrasting timings, movements and energies to keep it fresh and interesting, power in movement and emotion, creativity and an identifiable uniqueness.

I think everyone who dances American style needs to have and an understanding of the original characteristic of every dance; Cha-Cha should show a clear rhythm of 1, 2, 3, 4&,…..(3 clear whole beats and two equal halves), with no more than 2 or 3 measures without that clear rhythm , authentic flexed knee leg action coming from use of the core and involving all the muscles in the back. For this dance I like what I saw in Jeremy Gatlin and Anna Harwood. They were fresh, energetic and very clear with their rhythm and body action. They were more solid than I have seen them in the past but I would like more passion in their expression and an edgier look overall. Rumba is a cruisey, Latin dance that portrays a cool, self confident guy trying to pick up a hot, sexy girl in a steamy, smokey night club. I was really impressed with Ricky Bentzen and Albina Habrie in this dance. I wasn’t very familiar with this couple but as I watched their Rumba I found myself really enjoying what I saw and felt this dance really sold it for them. There was definitely a cool looking guy and a hot girl who looked emotionally connected. I would like to see stronger physical connections making their choreography more believable. Swing – a fun, boppy, dance that accents the down beat with a swing of the hips and uses a 2/3, 1/3, whole beat timing. It should have high energy and clever, rhythmic syncopations and breaks. This one could be Jason Daly and Sveta Zlochevskaya’s dance. I have seen Jason create something very different in this dance and would like to believe he could take it in completely different direction if wasn’t trying to please everyone. I’m not the only one with that opinion. They are clear and strong but I would like a more defined style like I have seen from him in the past. Bolero is a lyrical Latin dance of passion that has a subtle underlying rhythm. This no doubt is Decho and Bree’s best dance. She has the grace, feel and legs to really make this dance special. He’s a great looking guy that matches up well with her beauty. I just wish they would be a little more hot and steamy as well as unpredictable; take a risk here and there. It means exploring other ideas beside clean, neat and “not offending anyone”. I hope they know I say this out true caring and wanting more for them. Mambo is a rhythmically challenging dance that really requires the understanding of how the music is written. To really understand this dance you have to talk to a drummer or bongo player that really knows music. The dance should highlight the music, not stomp on it. I think Aaron DeSoto Jaana Lillemagi have come a long way with their dancing and with this dance in particular. I have seen all the energy and talent for awhile but that was always cancelled out with too much energy that wasn’t constructive. I am sure once they gain more control in their bodies and confidence in themselves they’ll be more willing and able to show a softer side every once in awhile. Believe me; I understand how hard that can be at this point in their career.

There is a lot of talent in this field but I think couples need to take more risks in general. A great characteristic in our art form is the ability to be creative, original and innovative while still preserving the roots of the dance. This is where American Rhythm is the most challenged. I heard throughout my entire career and how American Rhythm looks too much like bad International style and nothing has changed, there are many people still saying it. I don’t always agree with that statement but there are times when it’s true. I think that happens when couples just dance choreography they have been given by International coaches who don’t understand the origins of the style and the couples don’t have a clear overall look that they want to achieve in their head. I believe that creativity has been scared out of a lot of the creative dancers. It takes a supreme confidence to go out on the floor with something different, memorable and not just what everyone else is doing. There are always going to be people who don’t like what you do, so what; some will and some won’t. The most important thing is you believe in it and don’t let anyone rock your confidence. There are some brilliant dancers and choreographers in this country, why is everyone working with the same coaches hoping to be the one? Try looking where no one else is.

I care deeply for this style and believe in the greatness of our American style dancers. In this type of competitive environment you can either follow and hope the cards fall in your favor or take control and make it happen.

Bob Powers
12 Time US Rhythm Champion
3 Time World Mambo Champion