VAIL — Take any preconceived notion you may have about ballroom dancing — the stiff movements, the long gowns, the serious faces — and shake it up. Shake it up with sexy Latin movements, glittering dresses and the high-energy stage presence of some of the best ballroom dancers from around the world.
Taking place Friday night at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater as the second-to-last performance of the Vail International Dance Festival, the Ballroom Spectacular brings six couples to the stage who are always hard at work perfecting their performance.
“You wake up and dance 10 hours a day to practice for something like this,” said Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine, who produces the dance event and has been dancing in the festival for more than six years. “It’s 11 a.m. in New York and I’m already exhausted.”
Exhaustion doesn’t get in the way of Pierre-Antoine and his partner, Liana Churilova, however, as they’re known for their captivating body language.
“I’ve been dancing for 20 years — I know where to fish for the energy,” Pierre-Antoine said.
The 22-year-old Churilova came to America from Russia five years ago, after Pierre-Antoine invited her to become his new partner.
Snappy music, great costumes
The couples will preform various ballroom dance styles, including international Latin, international standard, American smooth, theater art and West Coast swing. Once each style has been presented and performed individually, they will come together for a group dance.
Pierre-Antoine and Churilova will be doing American rhythm, which incorporates cha-cha, rumba, swing, bolero and mambo.
“I always enjoy the Ballroom Spectacular night of the festival — this will be my third year going back,” said Eagle-Vail resident Bonnie Gehrmann. “The talent these dancers have is amazing.”
The soundtrack the dancers perform to is something that will continue to shake up that once stale image of ballroom dancing you may have had — James Brown, Leona Lewis and Justin Timberlake just to name a few. Hearing familiar music makes it that much more enjoyable for the crowd; looking around and seeing people bob their heads and clap their hands to the beat is not uncommon.
“I go strictly for enjoyment,” Gehrmann said. “I’ve always been fortunate enough to sit fairly close to the stage, which I recommend so you can really see those great costumes.”
‘It’s about self-discovery’
The dancing is inspirational, especially for the younger crowd. Colin Meiring, the ballroom dance instructor at the Vail Valley Academy of Dance, chaperones trips to the festival for his aspiring students.
“Ballroom Spectacular is one of my favorite nights,” Meiring said. “It’s good to have the students see what you’re teaching them, being performed on stage.”
Similar to how fresh powder perks up people in the winter, the Vail International Dance Festival provides the same level of excitement for the summer. Meiring’s students look forward to the performances all year long.
“It’s rare to get opportunities like this to see amazing dancers,” said 14-year-old Serena Kozusko, who has been dancing at the Vail Valley Academy of Dance for six years now. “They do what I want to do when I get older.”
With titles as prestigious as “World Showdance Champions” held by partners Micheline Marmol and Craig Smith, and “U.S. Open Swing Dance Champions,” held by partners Torri Smith and Benji Schwimmer, you would think there would be a lot of pressure put on the evening’s show.
“It’s just rhythm,” said Pierre-Antoine, who holds the title of Latin Dance Champions with his partner Churilova.
“I quickly realized it’s not about winning a title, it’s about self-discovery and self expression,” he said.