GOLDEN GATE SIBERIA

On September 21-22, 2013 in Tyumen (Russia) an event took place that dancers from all over the world have been waiting for many years. This event will be discussed for a very long time; people will talk about each small detail that happened.

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We are all part of one big dance community, but all of us are committed to our specific goals and dreams about being in this vast world of dance. And when it comes to progressive development in ballroom dancing, there are some events that respected dancers and teachers should attend. We strive to be part of these events that are special, unique and will be able to bring some changes to the dance world. After all, history is written during such events, and new possibilities are discovered as we often refer as "success in ballroom dancing".

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On September 21-22, 2013 in Tyumen (Russia) an event took place that dancers from all over the world have been waiting for many years. This event will be discussed for a very long time; people will talk about each small detail that happened. I’ve heard the most diverse opinions about this event – before, during and after it occurred. But the fact remains – Open Dance Festival “Golden Gates of Siberia 2013” was more than successful! Also one of the main ideas of this event was fully accomplished during the tournament: dancers received ... 1 000 000 euros as prize money! And this is the very truth!

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I’ll tell you the whole story

A dance event of such caliber was held in Tyumen for the second time. For the first time “Golden Gates of Siberia” took place a year ago. At that time it was not in the form of competition, but as a show. World stars were invited to be a part of it. And it was a real full house! Tyumen audience loved the show, and event organizers decided to go further and make it bigger and more traditional - a DanceSport Championship. It was conceived with a brand new concept that will be discussed here.

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Tyumen welcomed guests with an unusual cold weather. As I walked out of the plane, I felt that it was already fall. But when I got to the hotel, the heat was on, so I felt no discomfort.

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Even before we settled in our rooms, the organizers gathered all the judges, who arrived the day before the competition, and took us to the hot spring. It felt like we were in paradise: classy SPA-complex, sauna, Turkish hammam, Russian bath, Jacuzzi and, the main thing, outdoor pool with hot mineral water, naturally streaming from underground. Judges had a very good time. Informal atmosphere and tasty herbal tea worked out pretty well: communication between the judges became more relaxed considering they all came from different countries and met each other here for the first time.

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In the evening the IDSA Annual General Meeting (International Sport Dance Association, the president – Svyatoslav Vlokh) took place, with delegates from more than 40 countries of Europe, Asia, USA and Australia. Participants developed and discussed main topics for the 2013-2014 season, came up with a timetable of international competitions, and held elections of leading authorities. IDSA’s website:http://idsa.com.ua/

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During the General Meeting there was a presentation of a new global project called «World Dance Tour», formed by special fund «Golden Gate Fondation» together with the IDSA. The point of this project is that there will be 40 championships held in different parts of the world. According to the results all participating couples will have their ratings. And, in September of 2014 in Tyumen there will a Grand Finale, where 24 best dance couples of the world will be invited. And apparently, the next Open Dance Festival "Golden Gate Siberia 2014" will also have a large cash prize fund.

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And now about the competition!

The organizers have done their best to make this event unforgettable! A modern center “Judo” warmly welcomed all fans of ballroom dancing. A huge hall, lots of space, practically square dance floor with sides of at least 16 meters each. All the walls of ballroom hall were draped with beautiful fabric with Russian patterns. In the center there was a wide stage with stylized gates, above which we could see a huge gilded inscription “Golden Gates of Siberia” and the beautiful golden flowers.

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Conditions for audience

You could take a seat in one of the two huge platforms with excellent view from any location. There were modern soft chairs, wide aisles and around the dance floor, on the three sides of the hall, there was a VIP-area with tables. It was very spacious and nobody interfered with anyone.

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Conditions for dancers

Changing rooms, wide aisles, seating areas, coffee shop. One thing that attracted my attention the most, was a special area in the ballroom that was fenced off from the audience where dancers could warm up and see everything that was happening on the dance floor. But the most interesting thing is that the dancers themselves were not visible to the audience. Great thoughtful decision!

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Conditions for adjudicators

Beyond any praise! There were two beautiful zones for adjudicators near the dance floor; three rows of tables, soft chairs, water, booklets and a minute-by-minute-timetable. But what impressed me the most was the judging room. One could rest on cozy sofas or have a tasty snack there. While in the room judges didn’t have to worry about being late to judge their events, because there was a huge display on one of the walls that broadcasted live the competition! I’ve already come across such a thing abroad, but I’ve never seen such a big display with a low but very clear sound! Due to the fact that all the judges had to start at 8:30am and finish after midnight, everyone had an opportunity to get free high-quality relaxing massage. Of course after such a procedure it was easy, pleasant and enjoyable to go back on the dance floor.

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Generally the entire competition was thought through with all the little details. There were competition’s symbols everywhere: in each décor element, on judges’ badges and writing tablets, in the lobby, in the whole hotel, and even everywhere in the city. Awards were of the highest quality! Handmade wooden trophies painted with khokhlomu and filled with chocolates. Oversized exclusive medals were given to all the finalists! Lots of flowers and gifts! Excellent awards!

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On each floor and entrance, near tables and judges zone, at doors and in corridors we could see polite men keeping order over everything. There were at least 30 of them! On any question you could get a correct answer. If somebody stopped in front of the sitting audience and interfered watching the competition, he or she was asked right away to take a seat. Such a team is a dream of any organizer! Moreover, I was impressed by a group of six young people, all dressed in white, who did only one thing: four times a day they would bring in and out the winners' podium for awards. And that was the only thing they did! That made me realize it was a 100% prepared competition.

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As a competition organizer, I’ve revealed a secret why at some competitions dancers have their best performance and at others it’s just “ok”. Before you even enter the building you can feel a unique atmosphere of the event. And dancers can feel it very well. If an organizer creates such an atmosphere when a competition does not annoy you, but gives an inspiration, then there’s the only thing left: just enjoy this event! Detailed description of this competition should help readers feel what really happened in Tyumen.

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The competition program was built in the classic form: kids, seniors and rising stars divisions - in the morning; 10-dance and show dance - in the middle of the day; pro-am, amateurs and professionals - in the evening. One day for Ballroom, the other for Latin. I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but in this case most of the dancers (for example, Latin) were at the competition for only one day, but from early morning till late evening. Pluses: not big expenses and possibility to see the city. But the negative part of it was that dancers had to be in a very good shape in order to be able to show the best performance throughout the competition. During big championships in England and France dancers usually compete almost every day, so pros and cons they can define themselves.

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Evening session of the first day surprised with its scale and at the same time frustrated with being very long. It started with a professional Russian folk group, who revealed great heartedness and generosity of a Russian soul in its lively dance. After the dance all folk dancers formed lines on the dance floor, and then their colleagues emerged holding flags of the countries participating in the competition. Then, dancers and adjudicators walked out from different corners of the dance floor and formed two columns in the center. And there it began... a 35-minute presentation of all the participants of the event!

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Due to the facts that a lot of top officials of continental dance organizations arrived in Tyumen, and that the competition was well supported by the city government, the microphone was passed from hands to hands at least ten times! The MC Stanislav Popov announced all the important people; among them were legendary Karl Breuer (Germany), Sandra Wilson (Great Britain), Svyatoslav Vlokh (Ukraine), Walter Wat (Hong Kong), Robert Bellinger (Great Britain), Jonathan Wilkins (USA) and other famous people. After all the introductions we all felt the great atmosphere of this championship. It’s Russia, after all!

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But unfortunately there were some problems: two girls, who stood motionlessly in national clothes, with heavy kokoshniks on their heads, fell unconscious one after another. Without any interruptions of the event, they were cautiously brought out of the hall. Thankfully judges were able to handle the presentation well. But later some of them said that they were also on the edge of loosing their consciousness.

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The apotheosis of the opening evening was the video presentation of the project “World Dance Tour”, which was broadcasted on two huge LED-screens. This show was so massive, widescale and very beautiful! Video presentation of «World Dance Tour» can be found on the website:http://goldengatefondation.com/

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Now let’s talk about the competition

During the two-day event there were nearly 1,000 couples competing. As always Juveniles constituted the less part of participants, but the amount of Juniors and Adults was much bigger. The biggest category was “Amateur Adults, Latin” that started off the competition with the 1/16 of the final (75 couples). And even though the quantity of the couples could be bigger, the quality was doubtless. Practically all categories had Blackpool’s current champions or at least finalists. So both audience and judges enjoyed the dancers.

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Usually when you have a great deal of judging, novelty degree of perception of couples gets lower eventually. But everyone wanted to keep on watching superb dancers at this competition. Amateur adult couples that competed in the show dance championship added special charm. Very often we see many professional duets performing a show dance, so for the first time in my life I witnessed such a competition between amateurs.

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Lots of excitement was added by the main intrigue of the event. The thing is, that for the first time in many years among the judges there were no:

- coaches of competing couples;

- representatives from one region;

- independent adjudicators from 3-5 countries;

- guest specialists from England;

- presidents of dance organizations.

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The judging panel consisted of 80 adjudicators from 39 countries! Just try to imagine these numbers! It was unusual and very pleasant to meet specialists from countries like USA, Singapore, India, Australia, and Hong Kong. Entire judge panel was structured in such a way that 13 judges from 13 different countries judged each category. Naturally, results could be the most unpredictable. And sometimes they really were! For example, I was surprised that a famous Polish couple Sergiu Rusu & Dorota Makar didn’t make it to the final. In spite of the fact that there were 8 couples in the final of “Amateur Adults, Ballroom”! After checking the results, I found out that judges from South-Eastern Asia did not recall them at all. No explanation to that. But every dancer should realize that even couples of the high rank should work hard at every competition as if it’s their last one.

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There is a reverse side to this. We are all used to some kind of “rating of the couple”. And sometimes a judge, being guided by this knowledge, recalls a couple to the next round just because these dancers have won some big championships. In addition, all judges know that adjudicators’ regulations say about absolutely impartial judgment that implies marking a couple right here & right now, not for its preceding achievements. Unfortunately, not every judge can mark a current champion down. And the main reason is a fear of incriminating incompetency.

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But if we follow the logic, how can a couple become a new champion if all judges evaluate only by the rating? Isn’t it the reason why all the top couples keep their positions for so many years? And what other dancers should do? Wait for the moment when champions retire? This topic deserves a long and detailed discussion. But as for now I can add only one thing: at this moment at all IDSA conferences and congresses there is an appeal – so judges would mark a DANCE, not a RATING. Probably exactly this appeal was heard at the General Assembly IDSA, and that’s why dancers performed their best during this event. Audience and all the judges noticed it.

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During the championship one more event occurred and have not gone unnoticed: for the first time an official IDSA Professional World Championship took place. And it wasn’t some small competition; it was an event with the best of the best. Michael Malitowski & Joanna Leunis, Andrea Ghigiarelli & Sara Andracchio, Andrej Skufca & Melinda Torokgyorgy, Domen Krapez & Monica Nigro, Evgeny Smagin & Polina Kazachenko, Valerio Colantoni & Yulia Spesivtseva, Rachid Malki & Anna Suprun, Marat Gimaev & Alina Basyuk, Nikolay Voronovich & Maria Nikolishina, Ivan Krylov & Natalia Smirnova, Maxim Kozhevnikov & Anastasia Grigoreva. And these are the names of just some finalists! There were at least 30 couples in each category. During the professionals’ finals the audience was raving! Respect to the organizers!

All the results can be found here: http://www.ggsiberia.com/results-golden-gate-open-dance-festival-tyumen.html

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And of course, as promised there was prize money! President of the Foundation «Golden Gate Fondation» Igor Samkaev shared the backstory of the event with the judges at an informal meeting prior to the competition. He said that he was wondering for a very long time why hockey-players or tennis-players earn money during championships, when ballroom dancers just invest their own. It was that moment when he had an idea to draw sponsors money to give it to dancers as prize money. And he wants to continue doing this on a regular basis. This way of thinking and, most importantly, the ability to carry out his plan, worthy of respect! “I have a sincere hope that the festival will become an attraction of our city”, - Igor Samkayev said during the meeting. “I want to finish my speech with such words: look how Tyumen dances together with the whole world!”

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The championship is over. Guests are gone. And the center “Judo” definitely is welcoming athletes of other kind now. But for a few weeks already I’ve been catching myself on the thought about Tyumen with admiration and nostalgia!

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I want to express special acknowledgment from all dancers, adjudicators and coaches to those great, enthusiastic and inspired people that created for us this celebration of dance called “Golden Gates of Siberia”, namely:

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- Igor Samkayev, city council deputy, general director of the creative corporation “SAMI”, for giving all dancers an opportunity to feel their uniqueness for the first time;

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- Vladimir Yakushev, the governor of Tyumen Oblast, for providing with the centre “Judo” which fully matches the event of such caliber;

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- Luca Tonello, a famous world-class professional, “Golden Gates of Siberia” project coordinator, for giving an opportunity to dancers to compete with the best of the best from different countries and to be evaluated by the best specialists;

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- Ekaterina Boroulina, a famous professional coach, “Golden Gates of Siberia” project orginizer, for that incredibly creative and inspired atmosphere which lasted the whole event.

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Special thanks to photographers who provided me with pictures for this article: - Mikhail Tuzov, “Photo Dance”, Russia (www.photodance.ru) - Maxim Didyk, “MostDance”, Ukraine (www.mostdance.com.ua)

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A special thanks to Dasha Sushko for helping with English translation of this article.

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I witnessed all the described above and found the time to share with readers my thoughts and impressions, the author of the article Gennady Khavkin

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