Shall we dance? |

Shall we dance?

Leigh Jude Vogel

Movie goers got downright misty watching the film, “Shall we Dance?”

The little-known, yet astonishing Japanese import touched audiences around they world as they witnessed the suppressed passions of a lifeless accountant and apathetic dance teacher wildly unleash as a result of gliding their way together through the art and sport of ballroom dancing. Onlookers needed just a few brief moments before they felt the rhythms and tempos beating within themselves.

On August 9, residents and visitors of Vail will be able to witness this dazzling art form firsthand.

Three-time U.S.A. Ballroom Champion and choreographer, David Hamilton, is bringing to the Vail International Dance Festival an 80-minute performance that he promises will, “truly dazzle the audience.” The show, titled “Steppin’ Out With Ballroom’s Best,” consists of “every ballroom dance you can do,” including the waltz, tango, fox trot, Viennese waltz, quickstep, polka and world-country western.

“It’s going to be a great presentation,” he said. “We have no story or theme. We roll right from one dance to the next and we will also present a huge, emotional musical display.”

Not only will the choreography and energy astonish the viewer, but so will the dancers.

“Everyone in the show is a champion in his or her respective category,” explained Hamilton. “They all hold titles in this country and are currently active in competition. They are in the peak of their games right now. And, this group is absolutely gorgeous.”

The dancers he chose, with great selectiveness, for the Vail performance come from countries throughout the world, including the former Soviet Union, Austria and Canada. Couples Shalene and Ben Ermis are the United States American smooth ballroom champions, Julia Ivleva and Igor Litvinov, as well as Valentina Kostenko and David Weiss are United States rising star champions, Elena Kryuchkova and Andrei Gavriline are British world “rising star” Latin champions, Lisa and Gary McIntyre are world country champions and Vivienne Ramsey and David Howland are cabaret dance world champions.

Throughout the show, the audience will experience solo and couples performances, as well as other various arrangements of the group. The dancers have been outfitted in costumes designed by the world’s top ballroom dance designers. Hamilton, who retired in 1998 and has not performed since, will grace the stage solely for the Vail audience.

“Ballroom is hot right now,” said Katherine Kersten, the festival’s producing artistic director. “And it’s growing incredibly throughout the world. These dancers are artists and they should be viewed as such. They are such perfectionists with such discipline and strength. Every time I see them, I want to become a ballroom dancer.”

The art and sport of ballroom dance includes a history which dates back several centuries and through its evolution, holds on to characteristics dating back to the 1500s. This form of social dance can be viewed in renderings of the century-old royal courts of Europe and in images from dance halls throughout the world. Currently, millions of people throughout this country are competing in amateur and professional ballroom competitions.

As of 1997, ballroom dancing has been recognized as an Olympic sport, a plight that had previously been down-played by officials for many years. Referred to as DanceSport, ballroom dancing is not currently a medaled sport, but leaders of the industry are working toward that goal as well.

“There’s been a much larger awareness of ballroom dancing over the last 10 years,” explained Hamilton. “We have seen a huge uprising in the U.S. This kind of dancing is different than a routine. You get to see the passion and intimacy of two personalities working off of each other. I think this industry touches people’s lives. I’ve seen the dancing bring marriages together. There’s nothing else on Earth like this.”

Festival dancers Shalene and Ben Ermis, and Lisa and Gary McIntyre, will be seen in the 2004 American remake of “Shall We Dance?”

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