Thursday, October 31, 2013

NDC Orlando - Day Three: In the pink of things

It's amazing to watch dancers start at 8 AM and sustain an incredible amount of energy to keep going till nearly midnight for nearly five full days.
In honor and in support of the Breast Cancer Society, competitors in today's matinee sessions are sporting a touch of pink.

What does the ballroom floor look like mid-morning? Something like this — with a touch of pink.

The morning began with competitors taking their proficiency dances, allowing them to warm up for the upcoming open and multi-dance rounds.

Warming up for the long day ahead.

Partial Heat Results for Thursday Matinee

Heat 597: L-B #42  American Rhythm Bronze Closed Championship (C/R/SW)
1st #217 L-B Karen Odom/Sasha Tsyhankov, Greensboro, NC
2nd #348 G-B Dr. Chris Wilson/Emilia Goldberg, Milwaukee Central, WI
3rd #139 L-B Lori Chowanec/Ken Hansen, Red bank, NJ
4th #103 L-B Suzanne Niedland/Sergh Aliev, W. Palm Beach, FL
5th #171 L-B Linda Gill/Ruslan Meshkov, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
6th #187 L-B Susan Schmitt/Kurt Roberts, Pewaukee, WI

Heat 598: L-A #42  American Rhythm Bronze Closed Championship (C/R/SW)
1st #223 L-A Angela Fuller/Dmitriy Volodko, Greensboro, NC
2nd #221 L-A Julia Napolitano/Ilya Velednitsky, Milwaukee Downtown, WI
3rd #143 L-A Sarah May/Yuriy Herhel, Tarrytown, NY
4th #163 L-A Debbie Winston/Jhondarr Lopez, Houston Woodlands, TX
5th #310 G-A Stephen Dorsett/Stephanie Schlueter, Houston Woodlands,TX
6th #180 L-A Yuliya Gaukhman/Tim Pennenga, Sarasota, FL

Heat 599: L-C #42  American Rhythm Bronze Closed Championship (C/R/SW)
1st (1/1/1) #171 L-C Linda Gill/Ruslan Meshkov, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
2nd (2/2/2) #180 L-C Valerie Alston/Tim Pennenga, Sarasota, FL
3rd (6/3/3) #219 L-C Mary Early/Marko Urosevic, Trumbull, CT
4th (3/5/5) #103 L-C Marie Romano/Sergh Aliev, Jupiter, FL
5th (4/4/6) #195 L-C Jan Robertson/Ben Seifert, Houston Woodlands, TX
6th (5/6/4) #178 L-C Susan Gulzeth/Robert O'Bryant, Willoughby, OH
7th (7/7/7) #145 L-C Joanne Gilliam/Roger Howell, Birmingham, AL

Heat 598: AC-B #42  American Rhythm Bronze Closed Championship (C/R/SW)
1st (1/1/1) #344 AC-B Amarik Singh/Shveta Singh, Burr Ridge, IL
2nd (2/2/2) #331 AC-B Mark Lesczcewicz/Susan Lesczcewicz, South Barrington, IL

Heat 599: G-JR #42  American Rhythm Bronze Closed Championship (C/R/SW)
1st (1/1/1) #312 G-JR Kevin Duffy/Chloe Obrzut, Chicago North, IL

Heat 600: L-B #44  American Rhythm Silver Closed Championship (C/R/SW)
1st (2/1/1) #195 L-B Annette Monks/Ben Seifert, Houston Woodlands, TX
2nd (1/2/3) #135 L-B Nicole Haufe/Ronald Guillen, Ft. Walton Beach, FL
3rd (3/3/2) #102 L-B Lynn Magnesen/Caleb Aleman, Burr Ridge, IL
4th (4T/4/5) #104 L-B Diana Best/Alosha Anatoliy, Greensboro, NC
5th (6/5/4) #308 G-B Bob DeMarco/Jacqueline Rodriquez, West Palm Beach, FL
6th (4T/6/6) #189 L-B Katyusha Schaffer/Andrei Rudenco, Ft. Meyers, FL

Heat 601: L-C #44  American Rhythm Silver Closed Championship (C/R/SW)
1st (1/1/1) #151 L-C Susie Rugg/Nikolay Karchev, Milwaukee North, WI
2nd (2/2/2) #139 L-C Linda Fischer/Ken Hansen, Red Bank, NJ
3rd (3/3/3) #200 L-C Dawn Morehead/Yuriy Simakov, Durham, NC
4th (4/4/4) #135 L-C Vicki Mackarvich/Ronald Guillen, Ft. Walton Beach, FL
5th (5/5/5) #340 G-C Van Rojas/Tiana Ramirez, St. Petersburg, FL
6th (6/6/6) #198 L-C Dr. Gloria Halverson/Slash Sharan, Milwaukee, Central, WI

Heat 603: L-B #48  American Rhythm Open Championship (C/R/SW/B/M)
1st (1/1/1/1/1) #194 L-B Vicki Barbera/Jonah Schneider, Indianapolis, IN
2nd (2/2/2/2/4) #226 L-B Deborah Muzio/Evan Wellemeyer, Glastonbury, CT
3rd (3/3/4/3/3) #215 L-B Lynn Magnesen/Mark Thomas, Burr Ridge, IL
4th (4/5/3/4/2) #195 L-B Annette Monks/Ben Seifert, Houston Woodlands, TX
5th (5/4/5/5/5) #187 L-B Susan Schmitt/Kurt Roberts, Pewaukee, WI
6th (6/6/6/6/6) #129 L-B Bette Anne Duffy/Chris Germain, Chicago North, IL

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NDC Orlando - Day Two: There's a buzz going on

Wednesday's matinee session at the spectacular Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort venue was the first full day of dancing starting at 8 AM sharp. If the dancers were groggy with sleep, it was impossible to tell by the collective buzz in the room.

Ballroom lobby, Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort

Of course the vendors were already up and prepared to do business.

Anything a dancer might need: beautiful costumes, hair accessories, jewelry, make up and more!

Because NDC falls around Halloween time, the ballroom is thematically decorated, and this year it has a super hi-tech medieval castle vibe going on. 

A view of the ballroom.

The beautifully decorated and spacious ballroom has an extra floor to practice on, an absolutely dazzling lighting and sound system, and a spacious VIP lounge and area. Despite the ballroom's enormity, it feels very comfortable. Everyone's incredibly excited and happy to be here this morning. Today's matinee program (American Rhythm Bronze Closed Single Dance Divisions & American Rhythm Open Single Dance Divisions) was jam packed and fast paced.

Professional Closed Rhythm heats

The evening's Pro-Am competition in the open divisions, and in the closed Pro divisions were filled with some incredible dancing a true testament to the hard work of the students, teachers and this entire great dance organization.

Our guest blogger for the duration of NDC Orlando is Mark Smith of Fred Astaire Dance Studios/Indianapolis South

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NDC Orlando - Day One: Off and dancing to a glorious start




This year's National Dance Championships (NDC) at Orlando's Hilton Bonnet Creek is off and dancing to a glorious start! Over the next few days you'll get the flavor of one of the most prestigious dance championships in the U.S., through our blog postings of pictures, videos and commentaries. 

Dancers, both pro and amateur, from all over the country will either be competing for titles, or defending them. 

This event, much like the grace, passion and the incredible skills exemplified by our namesake, Fred Astaire, is the culmination of all those qualities, plus some hard work by our students, teachers, Judges, Examiners, choreographers, National competition organizers and coordinators, Co-National Dance Directors, Vice President, and President & CEO.

Dmitriy Kotsiyenko (Pro) and Selma McManus of Old Saybrook, CT. This is Selma's first national event and she's excited to compete and have fun.
Anna Kryvyk (Pro) and Larry Markowitz from Tarrytown, NY. He's attended two championships already this year!
Charles Kubelik of Deleware, OH with both his pro "buddy" teachers, Pam Robinson (L) and Gina Snyder (R).
Donna and Doug Fish are representing Bloomfield Hills, MI as an amateur couple. They're excited to compete in their first national event in 15 dances no less!

Tonight the audience was treated to roughly 100 routines in the Showcase, Solo and Novelty categories.

Kimber Petrucci (Pro) and Aidan Boutin of Middletown, CT, during his solo on "The King of Rock & Roll." 

Jade Benavides, along with dad, Jeff Benavides, cheer on mom, April Benavides.


 We're off to a great start. Stay tuned for more!





Our guest blogger for the duration of NDC Orlando is Mark Smith of Fred Astaire Dance Studios/Indianapolis South

Friday, October 18, 2013

Knight's Take - A Pro's Look at Ballroom Dancing

Forever dancing...

Stephen Knight, FADS Co-National Dance Director

When it comes to learning to ballroom dance, the possibilities are endless. Those who want to succeed at higher and higher levels must possess two very important qualities above all: patience and the ability to follow the learning systems in place.

In my travels to FADS studios all over the country, there’s that question that arises on so many lessons, whether it’s a professional couple or a Pro/Am partnership. That question is: “When am I going to be a good dancer?” My answer to that is: “Your definition of ‘good’ will keep changing because the longer you study, the more knowledge you’ll gain. Therefore, you’ll continue to want to perfect some new technique you just learned.”

Keep reminding yourself of the fact that, yes, you are learning new things! Learning takes learning. And that’s totally positive.  Each small step you make in your learning tells you that you really are getting better, and soon you’ll be ready for new information on your quest to being the best you can be!

My other advice involves following the systems that Fred Astaire Dance Studios has in place for a very simple reason: they were designed to get dancers to their goals. Too many times dancers find themselves backtracking as a result of skipping something earlier that was crucial to the whole learning process. For example, two problems I often see are a lack of ankle and foot strength. 

Dancers should work on their feet and ankles at the very beginning of the Bronze Program. Studying foot and ankle actions eliminates movement issues, balance concerns, commitment problems, speed, and problems with confidence. Too many times when I’m training a dancer, they will say to me, “I have no balance. Why not?” The reason is that their feet and ankles are untrained, so they’re weak.

Again,  this type of frustration that can be avoided simply by following the order of our systems. As long as dancers keep to the systems, they’ll make progress at a maximum rate. 

And never minimize the importance of patience. It’s not only a virtue in reaching for higher levels of achievement:  it’s a requirement!  Think about it: ballroom dancing is so many things to many people. It’s been called an art, a sport, a science, exercise, and a hobby.  It’s complex and it’s personal. Just the fact that dancing can is described in so many different ways tells you it’s going to take some time to find your groove! 

There’s one more very important point. Be your own judge of your own progress.  Forget all about comparing yourself to others because (thankfully) we are all different!

To happily dance, you’ve got to enjoy your own ride.

Monday, October 14, 2013

‘It’s Good to Give Back’: Military Families to Benefit from Fred Astaire Dance Studios Fundraising

W. Springfield FADS in the News as New England's Studios Team Up to Make a Difference

L. Williams, Pro, C. Bassett, C. Racco & Franchisee Robin Jedlicka (Photo by C. Dangona, The Reminder Publications)
Fred Astaire Dance Studios, West Springfield, is multiplying the benefits of dancing! Already offering every student who walks through its doors a healthier, more exciting lifestyle, the studio is now donating free dance lessons to benefit military families. The benefit work culminates in a glittering Dancing With the Stars-styled fundraising gala November 10 in Hartford, CT, called 'Dancing With Our Heroes.' 

West Springfield is one of 19 New England FADS studios working to build Connecticut’s first Fisher House for a total cost of $6 million. Located near VA and military hospitals nationwide, Fisher Houses are homes-away-from-home for military family members to stay as they support their loved one’s recoveries from service-related illnesses and injuries. The New England Region's goal is $200,000 toward the project.

The venue for the exciting ‘Dancing with Our Heroes’ gala is the gorgeous Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Tickets include cocktails and dinner, a silent auction, a professional show, and a long-awaited “Dancing with Our Heroes” competition! The Region’s website showcases each Hero and lets visitors cast $1 votes for their favorites. See

Fred Astaire Dance Studios nationwide have made military families' needs a primary focus all year long. Our Chicago Region, for example, offers free rehabilitative dance lessons to hospitalized military personnel; San Diego and Oceanside, CA, are planning a USO benefit, and other Regions are fundraising and planning projects to help.

Carley Dangona, reporter for The Reminder, visited Robin and Kim Jedlicka, Franchisees of the West Springfield studio, to meet Heroes Christine Bassett and Cheryl Racco and their Pro teachers, Lee Williams and Robin Jedlicka. 

Bassett, a retired Senior Master Sgt. of the Air National Guard and the Ludlow, Massachusetts, VFW Post Commander, says she learned about ‘Dancing with Our Heroes’ at a VFW picnic and called W. Springfield FADS with ‘no second thoughts!'  Bassett, whose first lesson taught her that ‘dancing is fun and mistakes are okay,’ loves her lessons and vows she’ll continue after the gala. “She’s doing really well,” said Williams, Bassett’s Pro partner for the event. “I’m really, really excited to work with Christine.”  

Cheryl Racco, another Hero-in-training at the W. Springfield studio, will waltz at next month's Hartford event with studio owner Jedlicka in honor of three very special veterans: her father and her two brothers.

Like other studios in the New England region, W. Springfield donates lessons to get their Heroes in top form for the gala’s highly-anticipated Ballroom & Latin Dance competition November 10. Winners will be selected by audience votes and a panel of celebrity judges in a format similar to Dancing with the Stars.  

Dangona’s article reveals how rewarding this endeavor has been for Jedlicka. "I think that it’s really good that we can use the FA franchise to raise money to give back. In addition to helping such a worthy cause, he said, “it builds camaraderie in the community.”

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

John Monte Award a Proud Legacy for Fred Astaire Dance Studios

FADS' Impact on Ballroom History

L to R: Martin Chiang, Jack Rothweiler and Wayne Eng, USDC 2013

Jack Rothweiler was taken by surprise at USDC 2013 on Saturday evening, September 7, when USDC CEO and President, Martin Chiang and Executive Vice President, Wayne Eng, called Jack to the stage to receive the John Monte Award. This honor is one of two service awards USDC gives each year to recognize one individual’s contributions to the dance world above all other people in the business.
The John Monte award is a tremendous honor in the field of dance, and its history is tied closely to our company.  Monte himself died in 1990, so our details about him came through the memories of someone in our business who actually worked with him: Richard LaValle.  LaValle was a member of the original Fred Astaire Dance Board, as well as a USBC Open American finalist with two dance partners in the Monte years:  Diana Montez (1972-1974) and Linda (Douglas) Joy (1975-1976).
John Monte’s life is woven into our history, as well as the history of the USDC.  In fact, we can thank Monte for the original United States Ballroom Championships, or USBC, which was eventually re-named the USDC. USDC determines the United States’ national Professional and Pro/Am Ballroom Dance Champions. Under Monte’s leadership, the first USBC took place in 1971 and was held annually at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City through 1974.
That year, 1974, also brought John Monte a monumental honor. The 1974 USDC program features a photo of Princess Margaret presenting him the Carl-Alan Award, 'the only American to receive this honor for his outstanding contribution to the popular entertainment field in Great Britain.' That contribution was bringing ‘Touch Dancing’ back to ballroom at a time when dances like the Twist and the Mashed Potato were keeping partners at arm’s length. *
Monte first set foot in the dance business as a Fred Astaire student when he was about 16. Like Astaire, Monte began as a tap dancer in an age when jazz and tap were king. His FADS company career began in 1954, about 7 years after Fred Astaire’s original dance classes began. 
The Fred Astaire Main Office was located at 487 Park Avenue in New York City at the time. The company's decision-makers gathered here to organize a 1958 ballroom convention at the nearby unfinished Park East Studio. During that 2-week convention, about 150 Fred Astaire people from around the country packed the studio which had no proper floor. LaValle recalls seeing John Monte here for the first time. 'A little guy on a raised platform with a piano,' the future Company leader sat square in the middle of the ballroom. It was his job to provide the dancing music for the convention!
In approximately 1960, John Monte replaced Frank Pagliaro as FADS’ National Dance Director. Monte became President of the National Council of Dance Teachers Organization (NCDTO) in the United States (the NCDTO evolved into today’s NDCA). NCDTO work called for Monte and his assistant, Dagmar Jarvel, to travel to Fred Astaire Dance Studios all over the country to provide teacher competition training and dancing tests.
By 1969, there were too many studio requests for Monte and Jarvel to manage by themselves.  Monte came to a Chicago FADS convention and announced he was putting together a company called “Dance Service Department” to help.  His idea was that Fred Astaire people from the various areas would support FADS dance teachers’ training sessions and promotions. Thus, the FADS Dance Board system was born!  (Monte himself assigned LaValle the Midwest region.)  The new regional format was highly successful in meeting the studios’ needs.
Mary Molaghan was the talented manager of the New England region. She and Monte formed a close partnership, and in 1971, they founded the American Ballroom Company (ABC) whose purpose was to establish U.S. ballroom champions, for there were none in those days.
At that time, the ABC was granted a charter from the NCDTO to run the official United States Ballroom Championships (USBC), now known as the United States Dance Championships (USDC), in all styles and divisions for Amateurs, Professionals, and Pro/Am. The charter, revised in 1975, is the same today.
Monte and Molaghan set about creating the USBC. LaValle remembers it was Molaghan who really 'put the USBC together' when, in early 1971 at a Regional Competition he attended in in New York, she entered a hotel room where Monte was holding a routine Dance Service meeting. Mologhan made the earth-shattering announcement that she and Monte were creating the first-ever U.S. national competition.  FADS had no official U.S. dance representatives in the ballroom world. The format she described would include an International Latin Style competition and an International Ballroom Smooth (then called American Standard). 
To everyone’s further astonishment, Mary announced that this competition would recognize all the top dancers in the United States, regardless of their company affiliation. This meant including Murray and the independents, too!  Furthermore, their competition would include a Pro/Am division to recognize those who were tops in the U.S., as well as one for top Amateur Couple.  Other than the winners of International Style, who would become U.S. Representatives to the World Championships, all would be recognized U.S. Champions.  Donna Smith, a FADS Dance Board Member who was there, said, “Mary, it sounds wonderful, but it could be a conflict of interest for us to promote this independent activity that is not just about Fred Astaire. What’s in it for us?” Mary’s reply became her legacy:  “Don’t worry kids, you’ll all get a piece of the rock.” 
The Area people began promoting this new event, the USBC, in their travels. The first USBC was held on Labor Day weekend, 1971, in the Waldorf-Astoria’s spectacular Grand Ballroom. Richard LaValle was 31 at the time. Still, he can recall the names of every Fred Astaire Dance Studios Champion in each division that weekend (and all the way up to the present day, in fact!)  “FADS,” he proudly recalls, “with the exception of 1983 and 1984, held the American Championships from 1971 to 1990.”
John Monte also served two 6-year terms as President of the NDCA (1975-80 & 1982-88). During that time he was elected Vice President of the International Council of Ballroom Dancers (ICBD). He was the first North American on the Presidium and the Joint Committee (ICBD/ICAD).
We’re proud of John Monte, which is why his name represents the second division of FADS’ SWAR report. But we’re even more proud that independent companies like the USDC recognize the important role he had in the history of ballroom dancing. Very few people have had the impact that John Monte had on the ballroom dance world. Jack Rothweiler, though, is one of those few.   
Martin Chiang credits Jack Rothweiler with 'rescuing FADS from bankruptcy to become one of the largest dance studios organizations and expanding overseas.' And though these accomplishments alone are remarkable enough, we are thankful he has done so much more.
The John Monte Award is reserved only for the greatest dance business leaders in the world. Our heartfelt congratulations go out to you, Jack Rothweiler.  And thank you so much.

Jack Rothweiler’s Contributions to the Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios Organization
In 2002, Jack’s first days as President were spent analyzing years of company statistics in order to build our stronger future.  The list of his further accomplishments takes up two full pages, so we have only included some highlights below.
Today, in addition to his duties as President, Jack successfully oversees the largest region in our franchise system, serves as Vice President on the WDC’s Board of Directors (since 2008), and is an active registrant of the NDCA (since 2003). 
Jack’s focus has always been to make Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios the biggest and best franchise operation in existence.  The entire company has grown and profited tremendously throughout the years of his leadership. This profit has come in many forms, but it is our financial security, collectively and individually, that Jack still works the hardest to secure. His ultimate aims are to give his employees —studio owners, area people and office staff alike — every financial opportunity that is available to them and to help them enjoy their working lives, as well as their retirements. That explains why Jack’s long-term goal as President has been to change the previous FADS mindset, the one that said,  “I am a dancer who happens to own a studio” to “I am a successful business owner who also excels in dancing.” Jack’s devotion to this proactive new mindset and the results it has brought now offer every Fred Astaire family member unparalleled opportunities in the world of dance.

Partial List of Jack's Achievements
·         Created the FADS Corporate Mission Statement
·         Increased and modernized our focus on education through creating H.O.T, a library of business, motivational and marketing materials, and studio staff training manuals.  
·         Produced an entire system of manuals to help structure our current franchise system and serve multiple training purposes.
·         Added trademarks and copyrights that have strengthened our company and protect our trade name.
·         Created a Business Council to aid in developing studios and enlarged the Board of Directors.
·         Re-designed and created new job positions to improve oversight of key areas of the company.
·         Created the Checkouts database and the Astaire Management Program, and upgraded SWAR’s functionality.
·         Developed data tracking systems to improve studio’s abilities to better their numbers: Not Ups, ATD interviews, and KPIs, for example.
·         Created our .info website to provide studio owners with practically everything they need to run their businesses, from archived TOP Seminar speeches to the newest studio products.
·         Developed the Studio Locator, an interactive map on the national website that provides full contact information for every Fred Astaire Dance Studio in the world.
·         Assisted in developing bigger and better FADS Championships, as well as a greater FADS presence at U.S. National Championships.
·         Created FADS logo products and logo-wear, and produced our own shoe line to further brand our name and secure additional revenue streams.
·         Developed a dress line for our newer competing students to make their competition attire more affordable.
·         Secured advertising in national periodicals (Dance Beat, Blackpool Project, and other regional publications).
·         Increased the number of our studios from 82 to 153 (as of this writing) and expanded Fred Astaire Dance Studios overseas. W now have a presence on 4 continents.

* Other Carl-Alan Award winners include the Beatles, Nancy Sinatra, and Donnie Burns (now President of the WDC) with Gaynor Fairweather (they won the award twice).  Other John Monte Award Winners Include:  Judi Hatton (2012); John Morton (2011); Frank Regan (2010); Rickey Geiger (2009); Rufus Dustin (2008); Jim Donaghey (2007); Pete Taylor (2005); Betty Silvers & Larry Silvers (posthumously, 2004); Brian McDonald (2003); Miranda Tang (2002); Fran Rogers (2001); and Sam Sodano (2000).