Friday, April 12, 2013


LOS ANGELES, CA – This past weekend, America’s Top Ballroom and Latin Dance Competitors competed at the 33rd annual USA Dance National DanceSport Championships, where more than 1,000 of America’s top Ballroom and Latin dance athletes vied for national titles and placement on the World DanceSport Teams for the United States. Couples were selected to represent the USA at The World Games 2013 in Cali, Colombia, South America in August, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee. The USA Dance National DanceSport Championships is the official National
Championships for Ballroom and Latin competitive dancing, a recognized sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and known as DanceSport. And with Ballroom and Latin dancing popularity at an all-time high globally, the USA Dance Nationals is the most prestigious and largest competitive dance event of its kind in America.

For the first time at the USA Dance National DanceSport. Championships, USA Dance sponsored the Salsa 2013 National Championship, a World Qualifying Event, where the top salsa dance couples were invited to represent the United States at The World Games 2013. Under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee, the Salsa World Games will be held the weeks of July 25 through August 4, 2013.

The United States is one of only 24 countries invited to send competitors to the World Games in Cali, Colombia. At the Nationals, USA Dance selected three DanceSport couples to represent the USA at The World Games – one couple each for Salsa, International Latin and International Standard. For more information, go to:

In addition to the couples selected to represent the USA at The World Games in Colombia, approximately 20 DanceSport couple finalists were selected for competition at 11 other World Championships held throughout the year in countries around the globe. One of those was a couple from Hawaii.

The USA Dance Nationals is always a high energy, star-studded event. In addition to hosting an elite judging panel of nationally and internationally acclaimed adjudicators, throughout the weekend, many of the celebrity youth and adult couples who have performed on ABC-TV’s “Dancing With The Stars”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, “America’s Got Talent” and other television dance and talent shows, competed in their respective divisions.

Many of you love watching ABC TV’s “Dancing With The Stars”, now in its 16th season. About two-thirds of the dance pros on DWTS are USA Dance alumni. DWTS Judge, Bruno Tonioli, served as Honorary Judge at the National Championships, judging the prestigious 4th annual USA Dance 2013 Star Quality Awards, presented to 11 Championship level couples.

At the 2013 Nationals, we saw America's finest ‘real life’ dancing stars in action. The three-day, continuous dance event was held at the JW Marriott at LA LIVE in Los Angeles, starting at 8 am until 11 pm each day. Competitors from nearly every State, ranging from Pre-Teen (as young as age 7) and Youth (to age 18) to Adult (age 19+) and Seniors (35 to 70+), competed in all four major ballroom dance styles -- International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth and American Rhythm – ranging from Bronze, Silver and Gold to Novice, Pre-Championship and Championship levels.  Having said all that (most of which was borrowed from USA Dance promotional literature), let's move on to what this blog is really about - the Hawaii competitors.

This year seven couples from Hawaii qualified to compete at the USA Dance Nationals, making up "Team Hawaii" If you’ve been keeping up with the local dance community chatter and recent blog postings, you already know who the couples are: Glenn Okazaki & Anne Ho, Ivan John & Nancy Luckie, Edwin & Charlotte Bugarin, Mike & Lorrie Chun, Jackson Cho & June Choong, Miguel Heraclio & Rieko Ota, and your’s truly, Debra & Calvin Ota. Sadly, one of the couples (Miguel & Rieko) was unable to make it to the event. We hope that they will be able to join us at the next Nationals.

As we mentioned in our previous blog, the Hawaii Team came with a Hawaii support group, led by Roger Izumigawa.  As the Hawaii competitors danced their best, we could hear cheering from Roger, Isabella, Tracy, Synthia, and Prita.  Roger and Isabella were in the ballroom to cheer on each and every Hawaii competitor during all of their heats.  That means that they were in the ballroom as early as 8:00 in the morning and sometimes stayed past midnight !!

The banner and the Hawaii team spirit were obviously appreciated by the audience, as well as the judges,because we eventually started hearing people in the audience (not from Hawaii) cheering for Hawaii couples and yelling out their numbers, and Hawai couples were getting marked by the judges.  (The banner was donated by Miguel Heraclio, who unfortunately couldn't make it to the competition.  Right-on Miguel.  Thank You!!)  If you're interested in how each couple placed, you can go to Geoffrey Fells' blog.  Geoffrey is Hawaii's top ballroom dance adjudicator and he's always on top of how Hawaii competitors are doing at competitions.

The competitors from Hawaii covered just about all skill levels as well as age categories in the International style dances - Latin and Standard, with many couples doing both Latin and Standard and in two age categories.  Hawaii had couples dancing in Bronze, Silver, Gold, Novice, Pre-Championship, and Championship.  We covered Adult (19+), Senior I (35+), Senior II (45+), and Senior III (55+) (we would have had Senior IV as well, if this new category had been included in the Nationals).

Mike & Lorrie Chun competed in Senior II and Senior III in both Latin and Standard in Bronze.  This was their first major ballroom competition.  They qualified for the Nationals at the Southwest Regionals held in Culver City, California, earlier in the year.  At first, they were very reluctant to join us in competition.  Then, they said that they would compete in the Senior IV (65+) category.  USA Dance does have a Senior IV competitive category, but it was not included in this year's Nationals.  With hesitation, Mike & Lorrie entered Senior II and Senior III.  As you can see, they placed.  They were Medalists!  Lorrie was so thrilled!  We think they got the bug.   :-)

Jackson Cho & June Choong competed in Adult Standard Silver and Adult Latin
Silver and Gold.  Jackson & June have been traveling to the mainland with us for several years now, competing at various Regional competitions as well as in the USA Dance National Championships.  We've been to the Regional Championships in Seattle (where Jackson proposed to June), to the Regionals in Long Beach and San Francisco.  We've done the National Championship together in Baltimore.  And this was our second time competing in the Nationals in Los Angeles.  Jackson & June, like the Ota's love to check out the town and find good eats.  And, Jackson's getting to be a darn good photographer too.  Many of the photos included in this blog were taken by Jackson.

Ivan John & Nancy Luckie competed in Senior I and Senior II Novice and Pre-Championship Standard.  This was Ivan and Nancy's first USA Dance National Championship as well.  Their only prior competition experience, together, was the Hawaii Star Ball.  This was their first experience having to dance in semi-final and final heats.  They found it both challenging and exhilarating.  Ivan mentioned how different this competition experience was because of the camaraderie, not only among the Hawaii competitors, but from all the competitors they encountered. Great Job!!

Calvin & Debra Ota competed in Senior II and Senior III Pre-Championship Latin and Standard, Senior II and Senior III Championship Latin, and Senior III Championship Standard.  We also qualified for the Senior III Championship Ten Dance.  We skipped the Nationals last year, but we never stopped practicing.  This was the first year we ventured into the Championship Level.  Debra, especially, was thrilled to find that we were competitive and we could share the floor with Championship level dancers.  It was one of our better years.  But it only means that, now, we have to work that much harder for the next Nationals.

Edwin & Charlotte Bugarin competed in Senior I and Senior II Championship Latin.  This too was Edwin and Char's first USA Dance National Championship.  It was great to share the experience with them.  We could tell that they were intrigued by the level of dancing, especially among the younger competitors.  We were with them at the SouthWest Regionals in February when they beat the reigning Senior II Latin Champions.  They weren't able to score as well at the Nationals, but they were standing next to them as Championship Finalists.  They did well.

This next couple needs no introduction.  Very well known among Hawaii ballroom dancers, Glenn Okazaki & Anne Ho competed in Senior I and Senior II Championship Standard.  Although we haven't mentioned couple placements, we think Glenn & Anne deserve special mention as they were one of the two top couples in this Championship category and qualified to represent the USA at a World Championship event.  They are considering traveling to Mallorca, Spain in a few weeks to compete in the World Senior II Championships.  Getting to the Finals at the Championship level is no small task, especially if you're competing among 24 couples, or more, and having to go through quarter-finals, semi-finals, and then the finals.

We also have to mention, competitor and past student of Albert Franz, Yuko - now dancing with her husband Thomas Yu, out of Baltimore, Maryland.  Many of you know Yuko.  She was in the Hawaii ballroom dance scene for many many years - well before the Ota's started ballroom dancing.  In her heart, Yuko is still from Hawaii.  She and Tom have been good friends to us and have helped us along in our dancing.  Tom and Yuko are strong competitive dancers as well, having placed First in Senior II Championship Standard at the prior Nationals.

Throughout the competition, Tom & Yuko were very supportive of the Hawaii competitors.  Tom stood right next to Roger, holding up the Team Hawaii banner and cheering for the Hawaii competitors.  In fact, Tom probably held that banner more than anyone, besides Roger and Isabella.  Thank you, Tom & Yuko, for all your encouragement.

For some of us, going to ballroom competitions, including the National Championships, is not just about competition.  Yes, we take the competition seriously, but we also take time to explore whatever city or town we happen to be in.  We take time to research the local restaurants, markets, and shopping venues and we've had some great experiences along the way - and some really good food too.

Next year, the Nationals is scheduled to be held in Baltimore.  We know that there are quite a few more amateur ballroom couples out there, both young and more mature.  If you have the slightest interest in experiencing the thrill of participating in a National Championship, come see any of us who competed in LA this past weekend.  We don't think there were any among us who did not enjoy the experience and who would not be glad to share their experience with you.  Come join us next time.

You don't have to be from a particular studio, or with a particular coach, to join us at the Nationals.  We had seven couples qualified for this year's National Championships from Hawaii, and we all have different coaches.  If you can dance ballroom, whether International or American, and you want to join us at the next Nationals, you will be welcome.

With Aloha,
Calvin & Debra Ota