The Emerald Ball is one of the longest running competitions around, and Wayne and Donna Eng have had a hand in it since 1989. I have been to competitions that have been around for years, and while they were fine, they often become dated and fall behind the times. I haven't been to the Emerald Ball in a number of years so I was interested to see which direction it had taken. Would it be stuck in the '90s or take us into the future of Dancesport? Read on to hear what I saw at the 2011 Emerald Star Championship.
As I walked into the LAX Hilton I was struck by the excitement of the mass of competitors and Dancesport fans. They were milling about waiting for their next heat or to see their favorite dancers tear up the floor. I scanned the main floor and found Dore Designs set up right inside the front doors along with jewelry of all types and music vendors. This was just a taste of the diverse crush of vendors inside the event area, and who doesn't love to shop? The first group of vendors were accessible to both ticket and non-ticket holders While the second was placed inside the event area.
I approached the well-manned registration desk and was pleased to find everyone not only helpful but friendly as well. I have been to more than one competition where the staff seem like it was a chore to be there. I watched as others asked for tickets and packages and each time the staff had everything ready and within arms reach, also a welcome surprise! I won't tell you how many times I have been to a competition and had my packet missing tickets or not even put together yet. Major points in my book to the registration staff being on top of things.
After I picked up my tickets, and moved through the well manned check point to be stamped and sent through, I headed straight for the vender area. It was a fantastic ballroom sized area featuring all the standard fair from shoes and dance dresses to eyelashes and all the pretty bobbles you need to look your best from head to the tip of your 3 inch heels. This is always a favorite area for me, I like to see what the styles are doing and grab some new sounds to keep things fun in the studio. I would have like to see more non-competition clothing, you know a little flash for the social dance floor. Also maybe more music to pick from that was not studio music. However it was a great selection of everything you might need for Dancesport competition.
As I drifted into the ballroom I could see the lay out was better than most. There were no round tables jammed together all on the same level forcing those on the edges to stand to see the dancing. There were long tables at floor side and multi level stadium style seating on risers on the outside of the room. It was hard to find a bad seat in the house. Later in the evening I would hear the MC police those in the standing room area to be sure they weren't blocking the site lines of those who had purchased a ticket for a reserved seat.
As the event rolled on each day I was amazed at how smooth this competition was run. The on-deck area was highlighted by its own monitor so everyone knew when and where they where suppose to be. It is one of the only competitions I have ever been to where not only were they on time but often they where ahead of schedule. Unheard of!
As always I did my fair share of roaming to catch up with old friends and see what and who was where. Not only did I find two large practice rooms (a great place to learn by watching top dancers do their thing) with great dance floors but the also there were seminars scheduled through out the event with former champions in an intimate setting. Fantastic! I love that you can go to competition and expand your knowledge at the same time.
As each day passed it became clear this competition stands out from the crowd. I saw Wayne and Donna Eng almost everytime I was in the ballroom, talking to spectators and competitors like old friends and family. This is a the perfect competition for both seasoned dancers as well as first timers. Don't let the size of it scare you (11,000 entries), You can't find a better place to jump start your dancing! While I firmly believe that, you may need to approach true newcomers with the concept that if they dance at Emerald Ball they won't be overwhelmed by any other state side competition, start big! Also, they will have the opportunity to dance against people in their ability bracket, while still getting the motivation of seeing the best of the best each evening.
No competition would be complete without the professional divisions. Again my hat is off to the organizers for the way they placed the pros throughout the competition so there was always something new and exciting to look forward to each day. There was no single night that past without featuring a different division of professionals. International Standard the same night as American Rhythm. This assures that there are constantly people in the ballroom to cheer on each heat, rather than leave your students who dance on Sunday high and dry with no one floor-side to support them.
This is the type of event that will inspire a dancer to be better, to learn more, and set that bar ever higher. It offered top tier judges, professional dancers and of course students dancing at a standard not seen in most competitions. I love dancing, both socially and competitively, and I found myself with a whole new passion after all the numbers had been turned in and all the rhinestones and feathers swept away. I think Wayne and Donna will help bring us into the future of Dancesport and can not wait till next year to see what happens on the Emerald Ball dance floor.
Check in with us often and read what your favorite coaches, judges and amateur dancers had to say at Emerald Ball. Next up we'll have an interview with Florence Henderson of DWTS and The Brady Bunch Fame! Keep dancing and never stop learning!