Make us your home page
Instagram

Ballroom dancers show the art of connection

By STEPHANIE HAYES

Times Performing Arts Critic

PINELLAS PARK

Ballroom dancers can spot each other in the world. Perfect posture, feet turned out, dramatic smolder, fearless gaze across a salad bar or cash register. Now put two together on a dance floor, slick the hair, fan the eyeliner and, holy geeze, get a pacemaker.

Ballroom dance is a sensual thing, full of hips and eyes, tension and release. But it couldn't all be so intangible, could it? Perhaps the more soft-bodied and slumped among us could learn from the pros, condense the fire of ballroom into workable tips for Valentine's Day.

Shelia Davis and Sergey Barsukov agreed to demonstrate the mechanics of connection. They'll compete in the Superstars Dancesport Championships this weekend at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. The competition draws dancers from all over the world, this year including Louis van Amstel from Dancing With the Stars.

We met them at Bayou Dance Club with their coach, Michael Chapman, one of Superstars' three organizers. He's also a judge and was a world champion ballroom dancer in the 1990s.

A fete had already convened that afternoon, mostly senior citizens practicing quick steps among garlands of paper hearts. Davis and Barsukov sauntered in with stick-straight spines and serene smiles.

They're not a couple in real life. He's 29, she's 49; he lives in St. Petersburg, she lives in Naples; he's professional, she's amateur. But together, they had that thing that turns a good partnership into a phenomenal one.

"When you have it, it just clicks, and you know it," she said. "And it's just like, 'Oh, my gosh.'

"It's a dance marriage," he said.

They decided to partner in the pro-am category (the arrangement used on Dancing With the Stars). The first time they practiced, he told her to fall back blindly into his arms. She did. He caught her. There was trust, the first foothold of connection.

At the Bayou, Davis took Barsukov's hand. They locked eyes.

Chapman narrated.

"They want to create the eye connection. You have to have a balance of working out to the audience, but mostly working in, because that actually draws the audience into them."

Their hips touched.

"That's where the woman feels the man's lead. The energy, the energy!"

She spun, the hem of her red gown whipping in circles.

"The woman is the diamond. She's the picture in the frame, and he is the frame. He's never to compete. She's always at the end of his hand to showcase what he develops. Because usually the man develops the woman's dancing. He partners her. That's why we want the woman to be jeweled up with rhinestones, with beautiful colors and hair and makeup. At the end of the day, she's on his hand, so we want her to be absolutely beautiful."

There were some things for us average bums to take away. Make eye contact. Make hip contact. Always let a woman feel amazing. Have trust and respect.

But in dance as in life, there was something hard to define.

Emma Vincent is 90, barely tops 5 feet. She goes by "Dolly." She dances several times a week, and on this day she also wore a fetching red skirt that twirled in circles. Barsukov was once her dance teacher.

After his dance, she scooted to him, blushing, and got a big hug.

There was just something about him.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716. Follow her on Twitter at @stephhayes.

If you go

Dance events at the Superstars Dancesport Championships run Thursday through Saturday at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, 501 Fifth Ave. NE. Friday includes a Valentine's Day masquerade dinner featuring performances by Bulgarian champions Delyan Terziev and Boriana Deltcheva. Tickets range from $25 to $110. Visit flsuperstars.com or call (863) 668-9668.

Ballroom dancers show the art of connection 02/11/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 10:41am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ticket window: Shania Twain, Chicago, George Benson

    Music & Concerts

    Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:

    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01:  Singer Shania Twain performs during the debut of her residency show "Shania: Still the One" at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on December 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
  2. Plan your weekend Aug. 25-27: Craig Morgan, Wearable Art 13, SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    USF

    Pete Davidson: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Expect to hear about his recent trip to rehab, since he's known for his confessional …

    The 12th annual Wearable art Fashion Show was held at the Dunedin Fine Art Center on Saturday evening, August 27, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  3. Pasco Events for Aug. 25-31

    Events

    25 Friday

    Feeding Pasco's Elderly hosts inaugural Leadership Breakfast: The Pasco County Elderly Nutrition Division/Feeding Pasco's Elderly will host this east Pasco event to mirror the Ambassador's Breakfast fundraising event that has been held the past two years on the county's west side. County …

  4. Local craft beer of the week: Cherry Pastelitos, Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa

    Bars & Spirits

    On Saturday, Tampa's Coppertail Brewing Co. will celebrate its third anniversary with a Florida weisse festival, showcasing densely fruited tart wheat beers from more than a dozen Tampa Bay area breweries including, of course, many of its own brews in this summer-friendly style.

    Center: Coppertail Brewing’s Cherry Pastelitos. Flanking it are Coppertail’s BOMP (blood orange, mango, passionfruit), left, and Pinky Swear (pink lemonade-flavored).
  5. 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' opens run at Show Palace Dinner Theatre

    Stage

    The Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson takes a nostalgic swing through the 1950s and '60s with its production of Smokey Joe's Cafe, which opens Aug. 26. The local offering of the longest-running rock 'n' roll revue in Broadway history features the legendary pop tunes of hit makers Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber. …

    A local production of the 1950s and '60s musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe" opens Aug. 26 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.