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2024 USA Dance Nationals!

By Rose-Ann Lynch
Managing Editor
Photos by Carson Zullinger
Great Dancing! Great Fun!

Zullinger DSC1289In her March 20 email, USA Dance Nationals Registrar Daphna Locker advised us: “We have a very tight schedule and, in order to run on time, everyone must do their part. We will not be holding up events… Make sure to listen to the announcements and check the TV monitors during the day to keep on top of the schedule and upcoming events…Finally, have fun and dance well!”

Daphna wasn’t kidding!  What a schedule!  What an event!  What a weekend!  What fun!!!  

The USA Dance National DanceSport Championships, March 22-24, returned to the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 2024.  Under a new team of organizers, led by Ken Richards and Renata Shvarts, the competition hosted close to 800 competitors, ages 8 to 80ish, from across the United States, including Hawaii.  The competition was jam-packed with 3000 entries in more than 340 events, which drove a non-stop daily schedule from 7 a.m. to well after midnight.

Zullinger Hannah and JustinThose who attended the 2022 Nationals recognized and appreciated being back in the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downton Hotel.  The hotel once again presented a glorious ballroom that accommodated a 40’x80’ floor, a sizeable dais, and plenty of seating.  Dancers could easily warm up in the large practice room, and then walk across the hall to the main ballroom.  There was also a separate social dance/workshop floor, plus roomy changing areas, and plenty of vendor space. 

Vendors included two excellent hair and makeup companies – Love Image Studio by Kris and Lashes and Brushes.  Dance Production House provided photography and videography support, so no moment went uncaptured.  Plus, Showtime Dance Shoes came fully stocked for dance footwear requirements, and Perlina Dance Designs presented their ballroom gowns and Latin/Rhythm dresses.  These vendors were all kept busy.  However, the vendor that stole the show when the dancers were not competing was the USA Dance Consignment Shop.  It was all about the dresses and the prices.  Ladies could be seen dropping off, searching through, admiring, bartering, trying on, and purchasing dresses from the moment the shop opened in the morning until it closed each evening.  Some dresses left the rack and walked right onto the competition floor and podium.  It was exciting!

ZullingerBut, it was not just about the dresses and the vendors.  The Nationals Committee bumped up the entire game this year.  They coordinated generous scholarship donations through Ms. Vivian Beiswenger and Cunard World Cruises, and they brought in an impressive group of officials.

The 2024 Nationals’ panel of judges led by Co-Chairs Dan Calloway and Yuehwen Yih included United States Adjudicators: 

  • Ilya Barmotin (New York)
  • Hannah Cole (New Mexico)
  • Alan Dixon (California)
  • Viktoriya Drubetskaya (New York)
  • Dana Edwards (Ohio)
  • Lee Fox (Florida)
  • Jami Josephson-Chace (New Jersey)
  • Vladimir Karpov (New York)
  • Anastasiia Krivosheeva (California)
  • Roman Kutskyy (California)
  • Patti Panebianco (New York)
  • Lesya Sinitsa (California)
  • Karina Smirnoff (California)
  • Christopher Spalding (Indiana)
  • Irina Trebunskaya (California)
  • Karita Yli-Piipari (Georgia)
  • Christine Zona (Pennsylvania/New York)

The panel also included International Adjudicators:

  • Arunas Bizokas (Lithuania)
  • Carmen (Germany)
  • Salvatore Todaro (Bulgaria)
  • Tomas Vasicek (Czech Republic)
  • Ashli Williamson (Denmark)

Zullinger AdjudicatorsRounding out the National Officials were:

  • Van Hoang – Co-Emcee
  • Ricky Semlitz – Co-Emcee
  • Todd Wakefield – Music Director
  • Ruslan Wilder – Assistant Music Director
  • Daniel Dilley – Scrutineer
  • Ben Haut – Assistant Scrutineer
  • Daphna Locker – Registrar and the lady who took all our questions
  • Daniel Bowman – Deck Captain
  • Tiffany Bouquet – Deck Captain
  • Myra Coffield – DanceSport Rules Official – Lead
  • Margot Garnick – DanceSport Rules Official
  • Sharon Jones – DanceSport Rules Official
  • Andrea Mirenda – DanceSport Rules Official

Zullinger Pro-AmAnd the dancers…you guessed it…they danced.  There were Newcomers, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Open to the Championship level!  There were Pre-Teens, Juniors, Youth, Adult, and Seniors through Senior V!  There were Am-Ams, Pro-Ams, Solo Proficiencies, Teacher-Students, Formation Teams, Collegiates, and Professionals!  There were International Standard and Latin, American Smooth and Rhythm, 10-Dance, 9-Dance, and Show Dances, as well as social member night club fun dance competitive events!  What was the best event?  It’s hard to say.  What was the loudest and most fun to watch?  That’s easy…the Collegiates and College Dance Teams!!!

This year’s Nationals drew 16 College Dance Teams and representatives from 40 colleges and universities from across the United States.  Also, for the first time in USA Dance history, the University of Hawaii’s Ballroom Team flew in to take advantage of all that was offered and quickly became a crowd favorite.  This all resulted in a loud and exciting team match, with dancers and spectators cheering, laughing, and hugging.  The Team Match win went to Purdue University, the Highest Team Average Award went to the University of Hawaii, and the Top Overall Award went to 7-time National Champions — University of Minnesota.  Go Golden Gophers!!!! 

The college spirit was contagious and carried through the other events.  All weekend, it was non-stop great music, beautiful dancing, cheering, laughing, gorgeous gowns, elegant tailsuits and tuxes, sassy skirts, and cool Latin shirts (but not with rolled-up sleeves– yes, I went there). Then came the awards, revealing both new and some very familiar faces.


Amateur Adult Champions included: 

  • Yevgenii Taraniuk & Laura Makinen – International Standard
  • Artsiom Pazniakou & Daria Goryaynova – International Latin
  • Justin Chiou & Hannah Bundus– American Smooth
  • Stephen Sekoulopoulos & Sabrina Sharmeen – American Rhythm.  

Professional Champions included: 

  • Aleksandr Riabtsev & Mariia Oblakova –International Standard and International Latin
  • Alexander Romanov & Anna Blagodyreva – American Smooth.

For a complete listing of your USA Dance National Champions, see the photos below.  For the listing of all placements at Nationals, see the O2CM Results

2024 Winners Circle 1

2024 Winners Circle 2When couples weren’t competing, many took advantage of the workshops presented throughout the weekend.  The Collegiates were able to attend these workshops for free due to generous donations.  So, the following classes were full:

  • Smooth – Instructor Alex Romanov & Anna Blagodyreva
  • Latin – Instructors Daniel & Anastasiya Rubashevsky
  • Rhythm – Instructors Carlos & Liz Blandino-Lopez
  • Standard – Instructor Ruslan Wilder

When the workshops weren’t underway, the Social dancers were keeping the third floor moving.  And, after all, we are all Social Dancers…so, everyone was getting exercise and trying out their latest Social-scene moves!

Zullinger Yusuf&ElenaSo where does that leave us?  The 2024 USA Dance Nationals is behind us, and the future is looking good.  Perhaps, we should start by echoing a few words from Senior Vice President Todd Kirrane, “Special thank you to Ken Richard, Renata Shvarts, and Daphna Locker for your leadership in putting this event together.” Also, thank you to the entire Nationals Committee, Officials, Volunteers, Coaches, and Dancers.  You all make this event and USA Dance a special organization where we come together to do what we love.

ZullingerWhat’s next?  For our Champions, it is buckling down and getting ready for World Championships.  For the rest, you may take a little time off, but not too much.  USA Dance has two Regional Championships and a Challenge in June: 

  • Florida Sunshine Challenge in Tallahassee, Florida – June 7-9
  • California Regional DanceSport Championships in Los Angeles, California – June 14-15
  • Kansas City Dance Classic, in Kansas City, Kansas – June 29-30 (this is a new date for this competition)

Zullinger 250/8It’s a good time to get qualified because the 2025 USA Dance National DanceSport Championships are already scheduled!  They will be held…drum roll please… March 28-30, 2025, and will be returning to the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

You heard it here first!  So, rest today, then start reviewing your videos and photos, changing your choreography, perfecting your steps, working on your basics, finding a partner (if you don’t have one), and bugging your dance friends who missed the event. 

The more the merrier.  After all, we all want to, as Daphna said, “…have fun and dance well!”

ZullingerSr II Smooth


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