Sunday Evening at the Snow Ball
By Kevin Viratyosin
On the evening of Sunday, January 11th, I took the light rail to the Mall of America, where my partner Karen was going to pick me up to go to the Snow Ball, but when I arrived, I saw a small crowd of people walking through the transit station. They wore sporty jackets, and their hair was slicked back, put up, and bejeweled; it was a familiar sight. I followed them into a shuttle to the Hilton and called Karen to let her know I'd meet her there.
Karen arrived at the lobby shortly after I did, and we went upstairs to get our tickets and find our seats for the evening show, passing by the swath of dancewear and photography vendors that one expects to find at one of the staple events of the Twin Cities area. Sunday's evening session began with the professional showdance category, which, as a collegiate dancer, was a spectacle I don't see very often; it was quite a treat to see how the competitors interpreted the music when given such freedom. One particularly entertaining performance was by Kyle and Allie Spinder, who performed a Mary Poppins routine, their costumes complete with soot marks on the lead's cheeks. Their take on "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" captivated the audience and had everyone clapping along.
Next were the pro/am events for Latin and smooth. This was also something I had heard a lot about before but never had the opportunity to see (thankfully there was a helpful guide in the program explaining the events' labeling). What I really liked about these events was being able to see professionals whom I had only seen teach before show off their dancing as more than just an example to a class. Mariusz Olszewski was genuinely connected with his students, Gene and Elena Bersten shared fire with their students on the dance floor, Kate and Gordon Bratt were cool and classy with their partners, and Scott Anderson and his students were bursting with fun.
The highlight of the evening was the open professional rhythm and smooth events. It was apparent that the professionals were really pulling out all the stops. The density of skill and energy on display was crackling. My favorite part of watching professionals dance is how they'll often engage the audience in their dancing. A couple will whip up a huge shape sometimes inches from your face and then hold it, making eye contact, as if just for you.
Capping off the night was a special show consisting of a variety of performances not limited to traditional, competitive ballroom. The Twin Cities Swing Club danced a lively Lindy hop with audacious lifts, Nadine Messenger and Jonathan Chen treated everyone to a sizzling mambo, and one couple's romantic rumba even received a standing ovation. Finally, a hip-hop group came in and wowed the crowd with their impressive freestyling.
The Hilton in Bloomington was certainly the place to be on Sunday evening. Thanks go to Donna Edelstein for putting together such a wonderful and well-run event. I hope to go next year and see what new and exciting performances are on display!