Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Prize Pupils Ascend Astaire Way To Heaven


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The main ballroom at the Sheraton Convention Center in Atlantic City provided an ideal backdrop for the Fred Dance Sport Championships, where students from 16 Fred Astaire Dance Studios in New York and New Jersey competed in a host of American and International Ballroom Dance categories. And since contestants included Staten Islanders, we thought we'd give you a look at the results.

Topping the list of male amateur dancers was Al Slipstein, former president of A & B Glass, Concord, who exhibited great style as he danced with instructor Marisa Calabrese. Al took a total of 14 First Place Awards in the Intermediate Bronze Division, with foxtrot, waltz, tango, rhumba, salsa, merengue and East Coast swing -- and was a second-place winner in the Advanced Bronze foxtrot and rhumba competitions.

Other local competitors included Stephan Mazzone and Gary Burkhardt.
Stephan, a 9-year-old pupil at Staten Island Academy, Dongan Hills, nabbed a first-place award in the Young Men's Juvenile Age category as he danced with teacher Marisa Calabrese for first-place rankings in the foxtrot, waltz, tango, rhumba, merengue, cha-cha, salsa and East Coast Swing. However, Stephan's amateur dancing partner was 12-year old Francesca Costanza, a seventh-grade student at Holy Rosary School, South Beach. The pre-teen couple no doubt wowed a panel of judges -- members of the Fred Astaire National Dance Board -- since they garnered first-place awards in American-style cha-cha, merengue, salsa and East Coast swing. Francesca also showcased her dance skills in the Professional/Amateur Dance Category with teacher Oscar Salazar -- taking first placements in cha-cha, merengue, salsa and East Coast swing.

Meanwhile, Ana Patricia Cosentino and Gary Burkhardt -- who study with Marisa and Jeff Shelley -- both delivered fine performances for their inaugural ballroom dance competition. The couple received a First Place Award with an exceptional ranking of 93.3 in the Showcase Exhibition Category -- performing as part of the Fox Trot quartet with Marisa and Jeff to Nat King Cole's rendition of "More," an ensemble number choreographed by Jeff. Ana and Gary were presented with awards in both the Beginners and Social Bronze Rhythm Dance category. What's more, partnering with Jeff, Ana received a First Place Award in the Bronze Proficiency division for rhumba, merengue, East Coast swing and salsa. Gary and Marisa took first-place awards in merengue, rhumba and East Coast swing in the same dance division.

As if that wasn't enough to write home about, Dr. Baruch Kodsi and his wife, Murielle, won first place awards in the International Quickstep and Cha-Cha division for the amateur category. Students of Jeff Shelley, the couple also danced American-style rhumba, foxtrot, merengue and bolero -- again taking all first-place awards. Murielle and Jeff strutted their stuff in American Smooth foxtrot, waltz and tango and in the rhythm division, cha-cha, salsa and rhumba.

During the gala and awards banquet, Dr. and Mrs. Kodsi were presented with the Over-All Top Amateur Couple Trophy -- and Marisa was distinguished with an award as one of the top female teachers in the Over-All competition by organizers Armando Martin and Charles Panatello.
An impressed Kelly Gilmore, director of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Grasmere, shouted praises for the superb performances by students and teachers.

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