I saw Ballroom With A Twist at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Saturday, July 18. It wasn't my first time seeing the show, but this was definitely a favorite for many reasons. Read on....
First of all, thanks to Scott and Chris from Ballroom With A Twist for their kindness and courtesy. They amaze me with the work they do and the professionalism with which they do it.
I’ll start by saying I have seen BWAT several times and the pro dancers who serve as the headliners have varied from show to show. This way of rotating dancers in and out keeps things fresh and exciting and makes every show unique. I will add that the rest of the dancers in the show are extraordinary, and I enjoyed them just as much as the four headlining pros.
I planned this trip months ago. It was originally scheduled for January and then rescheduled for July 18 which worked perfectly for me, and I was especially pleased because it meant Tristan would be able to dance in this particular show because in January he was dancing with Strictly Come Dancing 2014 Champion Caroline Flack on the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour. Tristan's appearance was an added bonus, yet since this show was reasonably close to my home I knew I would be there regardless of which pros were performing.
An hour or so before the show was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at the incredible New Jersey Performing Arts Center, we (meaning Suzanne – one of the very kind ladies who help run Dmitry Chaplin’s fan support page, Dmitry Dream Team – and I) met with Tristan and Dmitry who are not only gracious and gorgeous, but also hilarious with very different senses of humor. If this dancing thing doesn’t work out, they could have their own comedy tour.
I had met Tristan a few times before and Suzanne had met Tristan in California recently at BWAT and knew Dmitry well so it was a fun time for sure. We chatted a bit, talked about going on stage during the audience participation portion (Tristan asked if I could climb the steps – all 4 of them – so I’m assuming he thinks I’m 90 instead of….not 90). That made me laugh all over again. We took lots of pictures, some of which I have already posted on this website, Instagram, and Tristan’s Facebook Fan Page.
The show began promptly and the constant movement is why I appreciate BWAT so much. I'm easily bored, but I didn't have a chance to be bored. There is no dead time, the momentum keeps building, and the lack of props and elaborate staging is a huge part of the appeal. It’s all about the dancing, the vocals, and the performance. The entertainment factor is off the charts, and there is nothing to blur that.
In addition to dance brilliance from a stellar cast, the vocals by Gina Glocksen-Ruzicka and Von Smith brought the house down. Whether it was”The Prayer”, “Imagine”, “Gravity”, or another number, they were perfect throughout and gave me chills with every performance. Those voices………
Tristan danced with Anna and with Lacey, Dmitry danced with Anna and with Lacey, and the four pros danced together. The pace of this show is exhausting as it never stops and when you watch the dancers come and go and interact with each other throughout, you barely have time to blink, much less get bored. I hope I’m not missing anyone because a lot of the dancers changed after the program was printed but here we go: CJ Blair, Tony Pututau, Armen Way, Kiki Nyemchek, Magda Fialek, Alla Kocherga, Jenya Shatilova, Serge Onik, Patricia Kaniowski, Casey Askew, Jacque LeWarne, Jana Sapir, and Nick Garcia – what can I say? There were so many highlights that I don’t know where to begin. “You Can’t Stop the Beat” was pretty spectacular. Serge’s non-stop smile got my attention. CJ and Tony always impress me with their power and ability to entertain. I was glad I finally got to see Armen dance live and he was a delight. One of my favorite dances? Kiki and Magda’s Samba. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, and I don't think I'll ever forget that performance.
There were a lot of moments at the “giggle fest” as we now call it because when Tristan, Lacey, Dmitry and Anna took the microphone, their collective senses of humor meshed so well that there was almost constant laughter. Magda’s yellow fringed/feathered Samba pants were the catalyst for plenty of laughs when Lacey suggested that Magda had borrowed them from Tristan. There was a Dmitry/Tristan exchange about body hair. Tristan introduced the birthday girl (Magda) and her "boyfriend Kiki" who were going to do a Rumba, except that wasn’t who was doing the Rumba so the ad libbing began with “Change of plans. CHANGE. OF. PLANS.” When Tristan finally got the right couple introduced he strolled off the stage with a “BE ROMANTIC” tossed over his shoulder. It was hilarious as were many other times during the show when Tristan was laughing about who knows what and the audience laughed right along with him. We heard a lot of giggles and saw a lot of grins throughout. The spontaneity of it all is reason enough to see the show. It is entertainment at its very best.
Anna, Tristan, Dmitry, and Lacey took a lot of questions about DWTS, partners, how long it takes them to prepare for a BWAT show and/or learn routines, etc. and somebody asked Dmitry when he was going to take off some of his clothes. Dmitry must be used to questions like that because he didn't miss a beat when responding.
NJPAC is an amazing venue with an old time opera house feel and it is enormous. The crowd was wild and crazy and there was a lot of whooping and applause and screaming out for favorite pros. I was lucky enough to sit next to a young man (maybe 9 years old) who told me that Nick is his favorite dancer, and he was delighted when Lacey answered his question about who was her favorite partner (Kyle Massey). I had never seen Lacey perform live and it was a treat and Anna mentioned that Lacey learns choreography faster than anyone she has ever seen. Anna is still one of my all-time favorite dancers and each time I see her perform, I am in awe of her talent. Dmitry? What can I say. He’s enormously talented, gorgeous, and sweet as can be. Tristan never disappoints. He is a natural host. His cheeky humor and quick wit along with all that talent are just what were needed to stir up the crowd, and it happened every time he took the stage. Oh, and kudos to Tristan for leaping off the stage and finding Allen Genkin who appears regularly in BWAT but was injured and unable to perform. They also brought Allen on stage for the audience participation dance in which my friend Suzanne also bravely joined in the chaos. I mean fun. I skipped that part - all those steps, you know - and captured those moments for Suzanne on camera instead.
Of all the times I have seen Ballroom With A Twist, this might be the best yet. Everything worked. Much loved pros stirred up the audience. Vocalists sang with so much passion and emotion that you could hear a pin drop when they paused for a breath. The cast was clearly adored by this very vocal and supportive audience. The pros had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish.
Meet and Greet passes were sold at intermission only and after the show a few people were taken in at a time. In other words, they asked who you came with and that was who went in while the rest waited outside the room. Somehow Suzanne and I ended up in the last group so it was another laughfest back with Tristan, Dmitry, Lacey, and Anna. Even though it was late and they probably just wanted to leave by the time we got there, they were generous with their time. Anna and Lacey both said that we were probably only there to see Tristan and Dmitry but I spent more time talking with Anna and Lacey as I had never had the opportunity to really talk with either before. Anna and I talked about her beautiful daughter (nearly a year and a half old now!) and I spoke with Lacey about a little of everything. Dmitry wrote a very sweet note to my daughter (because Tristan MacManus or not – whom she has met a couple of times – Dmitry is her all-time favorite DWTS pro). Tristan asked if I knew Linda was at the show. She's an amazing lady from our website who was also on the Strictly Come Dancing Mediterranean cruise a few weeks ago and had also been at the Princeton fundraiser in 2013. I explained that she's an enormous help on our website and "fills in when I need to get away from the madness". Tristan responded, "Or when you get sick of me." It hasn't happened yet, Tristan.
Thanks to all involved and a huge thanks to the security people at NJPAC because by the time we left the Meet and Greet (even though we only spent a few minutes there), the place was nearly deserted. I was pleased that we did get to say hello to Allen Genkin who was leaving the lobby when we reached it. Security had us wait inside while they called us a cab and made sure we got back safely. They were very courteous and when we apologized for the late hour, they assured us it was fine. THANK YOU!
And that was the end of the adventure, right? Nope. We got back to the hotel where there were fire trucks in front, lights flashing. We get out of the cab right behind the hotel vans….and all of the BWAT dancers who were also apparently staying at our hotel. There was no fire, fortunately, but apparently an elevator issue. We figured by that time the pros had had enough of us so we left them to it and began climbing stairs. As we were leaving early the following morning we shared the elevator with Lacey, who immediately greeted us and then exhausted me with the story of her insane schedule! She was lovely and very kind to us.
Those seeing BWAT this week in Beverly, Massachusetts or in any other BWAT stop along the way are indeed fortunate. This year’s show is simply brilliant.
As a side note, lots of Tristan’s fans came to see the show, and while we didn’t get to talk with all of them Saturday evening, we have received a lot of messages from some who were lucky enough to attend. It is wonderful to see such continued support for these former DWTS pros and the rest of the cast. Thank you Linda, Toni Ann, Ann J, Janie, Judy, Anna, Stacy P. Charlotte, Chris, Cristina, Olivia, Mari, Jake, and Lana C for letting us know you were there! I know you enjoyed this as much as I did. Linda was right when she said on our website forum that next time we need to have a MacManiac Meet and Greet because Tristan’s fans were well-represented! Have I mentioned how much I adore Dmitry, Anna, and Lacey as well? How much I respect and admire Gina and Von and every single dancer in the show? Each of those performers could have his or her own show and I would gladly go. They are that good.