Sixteen students from Pacific Ballroom Dance competed virtually at the California Open on February 28, 2021. Students filmed their routines to the music they received from the organizer, who gave specific instructions on how to film the dancing. Each event had to be filmed in one take, horizontally, with the camera following the dancers around the floor, keeping their entire bodies in the frame at all times. Partnerships were required to dance to the entirety of the music and submit their videos in advance to the California Open website without any post-production editing. On the day of the competition, up to six dancers were placed in a frame together to form a heat. Each heat was judged live by a panel of expert judges who gave scores and even had callbacks for larger events.

Youth Dancer Natalie Adams said, “I was glad to have something to look forward to. Eli and I had been working hard and without the prospect of nationals on the horizon, the California Open seemed like a good choice.” Natalie’s mom Heather added, “It was nice not to have to travel and pay for traveling expenses and filming was great because if there was a mistake, it could be redone.”

However, not everything about the competition went smoothly. Many parents missed watching their students dance because the times were posted in the Central time zone rather than California’s (and Washington’s) Pacific time zone. Predicting that many families might have missed this detail, parent Jennifer Maner grabbed videos of as many PBD kids as she could and texted the footage to families. “I recorded everything for everyone that I recognized because I figured moms would be missing out… I’m glad I noticed [the time difference] the night before!”

Many partnerships had great results. For example, Sara Wilcox and Lucas Leonard earned first place in Amateur Junior PreChamp Ballroom, and Lorenzo Gee and Ava Mecham earned first in Amateur Youth Smooth Championship. 

“In a lot of my events, we won because we were the only ones competing in that category, but we were still happy,” said Elijah Eugenio, who danced with Natalie Adams, Lindsey Maner and his younger sister Eve Eugenio in mixed amateur events.

The competition was well adapted to a virtual format and ran smoothly and on-schedule. It was entertaining to watch, but many still pine for a real, in person event. “This may have been the best of what we could get during these Covid times, and we’re thankful it was even an option,” said Heather. “However, I don’t feel like the kids truly got a performance experience.” 

Student participants included Natalie Adams, Brynn Bennion, Elijah Eugenio, Isaac Eugenio, Eve Eugenio, Lucas Fletcher, Lorenzo Gee, Ella Jones, Lucas Leonard, Brandon Maner, Katelyn Maner, Lindsey Maner, Ava Mecham, Blake Mecham, Dane Remer, and Sara Wilcox.

Pictured: Sarah Wilcox with Lucas Leonard (bottom middle), Brynn Bennion with Brandon Maner (top right), and Ava Mecham with Lorenzo Gee (top middle).