Dancing with the Stars 8: Nancy O’Dell and Tony Dovolani

February 18, 2009 at 6:00 am | Posted in ballroom dance, Dancing with the Stars, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Hey Everyone,

Today’s featured couple is Nancy O’Dell and none other than our own Tony Dovolani. Much thanks to Sammi T for helping with these bios, she has been doing a wonderful job of sharing the workload on these with me! Remember that if you would like the chance to learn from the same great instructor as Nancy, you can find lessons with Tony at Ballroom Dance Channel or at the ITunes App Store!

Nancy O’Dell is perhaps best known as being a co-anchor on Access Hollywood with Billy Bush. She also has been a contributor for NDC News and Dateline and was ranked in Shape Magazine’s 20 Hottest Stars Right Now list. She is known as one of Hollywood’s leading entertainment journalists. She has also covered several awards shows, such as the Oscars, the Grammys, The Golden Globes, ESPN’s ESPY Awards and the Emmys. (In addition, she has also done pre-show, backstage and post show interviews for several of these events.) Nancy also co-hosted Miss USA, Miss Universe, the Hollywood Christmas Parade and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NY.


• Nancy was the original host of Nashville Star
• Co-hosted the Tournament of Roses Parade for eight years. (For six years, Al Roker was her co-host)
• Covered Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
• At the request of former First Lady Laura Bush, Nancy interviewed her in 2004 and 2005.
• Appeared in She has appeared in Thank You For Smoking, Scream 2, Scream 3, Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat, Charmed, Joey, Third Watch, Dirt, Beverly Hills, 90210, Days of Our Lives, Melrose Place, General Hospital, Just Shoot Me and Ally McBeal.
• Very active with the Red Cross, March of Dimes and Childhelp USA
• On February 1st, 2006, South Carolina declared it Nancy O’Dell Day.
• Married to Keith Zubchevich and has one daughter with him as well as two stepsons from his first marriage.
• Was valedictorian in high school.
• Graduated Clemson University with summa cum laude honors.
• Previously worked as an anchor in Myrtle Beach, SC (WPDE TV), as an anchor and crime reporter in Charleston, SC (WCBD TV) and as an investigative reporter in Miami at NBC affiliate WTVJ TV.

• Three Associated Press Awards
• Two Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Awards
• Is a seven-time Emmy Award nominee.
• Nominated two years in a row (1999 and 2000) for the prestigious ICG Publicists Guild Media Award, recognizing excellence in entertainment reporting

Tony Dovolani (born Driton Dovolani) was born July 17th 1973 in Pristina, Yugoslavia, which is known today as Kosovo. His dancing career began at age three and when he was fifteen, he moved to the United States, where he enrolled in classes at a local Fred Astaire Dance Studio. Since then, he has won many championships and world titles, mostly with his partner Elena Grinenko. The two retired as the undefeated World Rhythm Champions in 2006. Since then, he has appeared on seasons 2-8 of Dancing With The Stars.

• In addition to ballroom dancing, Tony is also trained in ballet, folk and jazz.
• He helped develop Ballroom Dance Channel in order to let people learn ballroom dancing in their own homes.
• Appeared in Shall We Dance?, which also starred Jennifer Lopez.
• He is married to Lina and has three children with her, Luana (3 ½) and twins Adrian and Ariana (5 months)
• In Season Two of Dancing With The Stars, he placed third with wrestler Stacy Keibler.
• In Season Three, he was partnered with Sara Evans, who dropped out due to her divorce.
• In Season Four he was paired with Leeza Gibbons and they came in tenth place.
• In Season Five, he was paired with Jane Seymour and they placed sixth.
• In Season Six he came in fourth with Marissa Jaret Winokur.
• In Season Seven he came in sixth with Susan Lucci
• His partner for Season Eight is Nancy O’Dell.

• 2005 Ohio Star Ball American Rhythm Championships
• 2005 World Rhythm Championships
• 2006 PBS American Ballroom Challenge Rhythm Championships
• 2006 Emerald Ball Open Professional American Rhythm Championships

Superstars of Dance, Night 2

January 5, 2009 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Hey Everyone!

Glad you’re back with us for the recap of the second night of Superstars of Dance. For a rehash of the first night, please click here. We’re starting tonight with a quick recap of last night, ending with a final shot of those incredible Shaolin monks. I just have to say that while I am enjoying Michael Flatley very much, if his co-host doesn’t learn some descriptive words, I might scream. I’m tired of the word ‘amazing’ already!

Los Huinicas Gauchos are the large team representatives for Team Argentina. While this group is entertaining, I have to take issue with it being truly called dance, because of all the emphasis on the drums and other props. This is more like entertaining tricks to me than dance, I’m sorry! I guess my definition of dance must be too limited, or I’m too spoiled by So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars, this isn’t cutting it by a long shot. They score a 48, giving them a new combined total of 171.

Mythili Prakash is the second soloist from India, and she will be doing a cultural dance for us tonight that I can’t even begin to spell. This is another form I am completely unfamiliar with, but it is fascinating to watch, and she appears to be very good at it. We’ll see what the judges say, since they are the experts, but I will comment that she has great musicality and I see why she was asked to take a break from touring to compete here. She scores a 58, putting them tied for first with Argentina with a combined total of 171.

Ireland’s second soloist is Kelly Hendry, another step dancer. I know it is a cultural dance for their country, but I have to say that I am a little disappointed that Ireland didn’t diversify their dance types a bit more. Kelly does have beautiful lines and extensions, and is very expressive, something I thought was not allowed in this form of dance. If there is someone reading that knows more about this art form, could you explain in the comments, both for me and for the other readers of this blog? Thanks! Kelly scores a 56, giving them a new combined total of 179, squarely in the lead.

Team Australia has selected Henry Byalikov and Giselle Peacock, a Latin ballroom couple currently performing in “Burn the Floor” as their couple for the competition. I really like what they have done here tonight, the chair seems like a third dancer with the way they involved it in the choreography, without making it all about the props. It was about the dance itself, which was a freestyle. Henry and Giselle earn a 56 as well, giving them a new combined total of 170.

Team Africa has selected Victor Da Silva and Claudia Savvides, another ballroom pair, as their couple for the competition. Good heavens, but they are hot! I almost feellike I shouldn’t be watching. Unlike our other ballroom couples, this pair seems to have stayed closer to just one dance, a rumba, and delivered a very lyrical interpretation, full of stunning lifts. It doesn’t hurt that Victor is one sexy man, and in the name of fairness, I have to tell you that my husband is quite taken with Claudia. To give you Dancing with the Stars fans a point of reference, they have the same kind of chemistry as Edyta Sliwinska and Alec Mazo, or Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff. I’m not sure if these two are involved off the floor, but maybe they should be if they are not! If you’d like to learn the rumba on your IPod or IPhone, please check out our new app at the ITunes store. The salsa and waltz are also available. Victor and Claudia scored a 59 individually, and is tied for second with a combined total of 171.

Team China has selected Yang Yanan as their second soloist, and he is another of the Shaolin monks, the same company that amazed us last night. I enjoyed them last night, and am enjoying Yang tonight, but like with the Argentinian group this evening, I have to take issue with the use of so many props. This is entertaining, to be sure, but is closer to martial arts than dance in my opinion. I guess I’m not completely out of my tree, because the judges are having the same complaints with content. Yang receives a 51 individually, and they have a combined score of 168 at this point.

Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards is a tap soloist competing for Team USA tonight. If memory serves, Dormeshia had an amazing audition for So You Think You Can Dance, and just didn’t get the hang of other dance forms well enough to do the all around competition. She puts in an incredible performance tonight, solid and not overly flashy, letting her skill speak for itself. Dormeshia scored a 55 individually, and a 169 for the new combined total.

Team Russia has selected a team of Cossack dancers for their large group. Remember this from Twitch and Josh?

Yeah, like that, but with a whole team of them! Dang, the stamina this must take, and the strength. That was very entertaining, and was dance, as well. Thank you, Team Russia! I’d like to note that Maria, the judge from Team Argentina, seems to be a real witch. She can get on her broom and fly back, as far as I’m concerned. Team Russia had a 51 for that performance, and a combined score of 165.

Team India has a Bollywood team for their large group. Ugh. These cameramen are making it SO hard to watch this show. I don’t need tricky camera angles, okay? I need to see the team that is dancing. Also, we don’t need or want to see the crowd! THEY can see the dancers, I deserve the same respect! While I enjoyed what I could see of the routine, I think this dance style was executed better on the last season of So You Think You Can Dance, and it was a new form to all of those dancers. Look:

Again, the judges seem to be in line with my comments, and they scored a 54 for the performance. This gives them a combined total of 225.

Mamela Nyamza is the second soloist for Team Africa. She will perform a cultural dance or us this evening. Gee, I wish I could see more, but the arty lighting just blinded the camera! Based n what I’m seeing here, quite a bit of contemporary dance has roots in the tribal dances of her country. I thought it was risky and different, although I found her screams a little distracting. Mamela earns a 58 for her performance, and 229 for a combined total.

Miriam Larici is the second solo artist for Team Argentina. You’ll remember her as half of the scorching hot tango duo from last night. Tonight she has very cleverly brought a man’s shirt with her onto the stage, and is using it much like a partner, almost as if her lover has gone away, and she is left with her memories. I thought it was a stunning performance. It earns her a 57, and a 228 combined score. Hey, does the Chinese judge know any number other than 8? I don’t think I’ve seen him deliver any other score, although my husband thinks he may have given out a 7 last night.

Damien O’Kane and Bernadette Flynn are dancing a jig as Team Ireland’s couple. Damien was the soloist last night for the team. I think that of all the performances by their dancers, this one is my favorite, because there is a nice balance with the storytelling and all the dance. Neither side suffered, you understood the story, and the choreography was magical. Damien and Bernadette scored a 58 for this routine, and here’s a news flash…China knows the number 9! Their combined score is now 237, placing them squarely in the lead.

Team China has selected an acrobatic team, Zhen Zhu Zheng and An Nan, to compete as their couple. They have taken time off from performing in the Big Apple Circus to compete on the show. Again, while their act is entertaining, I’m not at all sure it is dance, but maybe I am just to rigid in my definition. This seems like walking and posing to me. I’m sure it is very difficult, I just don’t think it is dance. The judges seem to agree, citing a lack of content once again in almost all cases. They score them with a 53, and a combined 221. China and India are eliminated in the duet portion of the competition.

Our second soloist from Russia is Maria Kochetkova, a prima ballerina. What a lovely young woman she is, and while I am a ballet novice, I thought that was beautiful. Well, maybe I am not too far off the mark, because Maria has scored a 63, giving Russia a tie for third with a combined 228.

Team Australia’s second soloist is a contemporary dancer named Reed Luplau. Why is there so much falling down and rolling around in contemporary dance? I am being serious, I don’t understand. Is it supposed to be representative of something? To me, it just is making him look like he has less content than the beautiful young prima that just danced. His leaps are stunning, however, and overall I really enjoyed the performance, even if I don’t understand parts of it. Reed is scored a 65 for his solo, placing him in first, and giving Australia a combined score of 235. We also just eliminated a lot of the soloist field, and had a vote for who would get to stay for the last place in the solo portion. Robert Muraine from the United States won that vote.

Our last performance tonight is the large group for Team USA, The Groovaloos. They are a hip hop team, of course, and a dang good one at that. Quit showing us the audience, though! If they are cheering, we missed something good on the stage! That was very easily the performance of the night. I didn’t like the music much, it just isn’t my thing, but the dancing was off the chain!!! The Groovaloos are scored a 67 for Team USA! Whoo hoo! This gives USA a second overall for the night, with a combined 236. Russia and Argentina are removed from the group competition.

That’s it for the first week of Superstars of Dance. Please make sure to come back next week for the recap, and if you are inspired by all this dancing and want to try your hand at some ballroom, please make sure to visit us at Ballroom Dance Channel. With instructors like Nick Kosovich, Tony Dovolani, Elena Grinenko, Yesenia Adame, and Paul Barris, how can you go wrong? See you soon!

Keep Dancing,
Ballroom Dance Channel

Superstars of Dance, Premiere

January 4, 2009 at 11:07 pm | Posted in ballroom dance, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Hi Everyone,

Welcome to the premiere episode of NBC’s Superstars of Dance! Many of you may be familiar with my work covering Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance for TV Grapevine and then Ballroom Dance Channel. I’m still active with Ballroom Dance Channel, but the site has grown in a way that we thought it would be great to have our own blog not attached to the social part of the site. If you enjoy my reviews, please bookmark this blog, and tell your friends. We talk about a lot here, in fact, anything ballroom that I think people will want to know about. If there is something you think we should be covering, don’t be shy, leave it for me in the comments! Now, on to the show….

This show is going to win brownie points from me for letting Michael Flatley host. I could listen to his lovely Irish brogue all day! I’m sure the guys being forced to watch by the women in their lives will enjoy looking at the beautiful Susie Castillo, as well. We have one judge from each of the countries participating, and the scores will be added for a highest total. I don’t quite have my brain wrapped around how we win, yet, though.

First to dance tonight is the group for Team Ireland. This isn’t going to be like tryouts for SYTYCD, they have the touring company from Lord of the Dance as the group performance. How we will ever choose a winner, I don’t know, but I think I’m glad I don’t have to vote!!!! Ireland’s group performance scored a 65.

Next is Robert Muraine for the United States. Many of you will remember Robert if you watched this last season of SYTYCD. Robert is the amazing popper that made it to Vegas, and then chose to go home. They had him on the finale against the robot guy from the year before. I can’t believe he’s not double jointed! Robert scores a 57 for his solo performance. I guess the international judging panel isn’t used to this ‘contortionist popping’.

Argentina has a lovely soloist named Carolina Cerisola, doing a jazz cabaret routine. It was lovely, but I’m used to that type of performance being a paired thing. Carolina scored a 58 tonight.

Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis are the ballroom couple from Russia! Well, guess I’m rooting against the United States now…sorry! Yes, it is the Pasha and Anya from SYTYCD. Oh, how I have missed my Pasha! That was one hot freestyle, trust me on this and look on Youtube. Pasha and Anya scored Russia a 64, putting them just one point behind Ireland’s step dancers.

India has chosen two ladies to compete together as a couple in the Bollywood style tonight. After seeing these two talented women, I see why the judge from their country has scored everyone else so low! Everything else looks boring next to this style. Obviously I am not fluent in this style of dance, because they were scored a 51, and the judges nearly universally said the dancing was weak in this form.

Sean Robinson is doing a solo tap routine for Team Australia. I really liked Sean, he was charming, and very, very good! Sean ties with Robert from the United States with a 57.

Bei Zhing is dancing the ribbon dance for China as a soloist. I can tell this show is going to be quite the education for me in several types of dance, because I knew nothing about this style and had never seen it before tonight. I thought it was quite lovely, but again, I definitely don’t know what I’m looking for! Bei was scored a 51, tying her at the bottom with Team India.

Team Africa has selected Umoja for their team. They reminded me of the show Stomp, but that was much better! They scored a 57, tying them with Australia and the United States.

Team Australia has a contemporary/hip hop large group, I don’t think there was a name given. I see elements of several types of dance in this one routine, drawing on ballet with an emphasis on aerial work. They score a 57 for that routine, and have a combined score of 114.

Damien O’Kane is competing as a soloist for Team Ireland. He’s a step dancer, like their large team, and while I enjoyed his performance very much, the step dancing is more compelling to me when it is a large group, not a soloist for a whole routine. I love that Michael Flatley isn’t afraid to show that he’s rooting for Ireland, it is very endearing. Damien scores a 58, giving them a combined score of 123.

Sduduzo Ka-Mbili is doing a warrior dance as a soloist for Team Africa. Although it is certainly a far different story than the Bollywood style tells, it is clear this man has a story to share with us, and he does so in a very entertaining manner. The crowd really loved him, and so did I. The judges were all over the map, it seems like they either loved or hated this one, finding little common ground. He scored a 55 individually, giving them a 105 combined.

Team USA pair Georgia Ambiarian and Eric Luna are doing a cabaret routine tonight. Georgia and Eric teach at a Fred Astaire in Cinco Bayou, Florida, and are champions many times over in their form, which is a paired theatric type dance. To learn more about them, click here. They score a 57 for that riveting performance, giving the United States with a combined total of 114, tying them with Australia.

Ooh! Argentinian tango time! Dang! That was hot. I almost felt like I shouldn’t be watching. The judges loved it as well, giving them a 65. This knocked Pasha and Anya off the top of the individual leader board, and tying them with Ireland overall with a 123.

Julia Banter is dancing as a soloist for Russia. She is very expressive during her contemporary routine, reminding me a bit of Courtney Galliano from this last season of So You Think You Can Dance. I guess the judges aren’t into this type of routine, because she got a 50 for that solo routine, giving them a combined 114. They are now tied with the United States and Australia.

Amarapali Ambegaokar is a soloist for India this evening. That was amazing, but very hard to explain. She had bells on her pants legs and used it to dramatic effect, impressing the judges greatly, along with the audience. A 62 was awarded for that solo performance, and their overall total is 113.

China’s Shaolin Monks are the final dancers tonight, as Team China’s large group. I can’t even figure out WHAT to tell you, that was so amazing. Team China had a 65 for this performance, and a 117 overall.

Come back tomorrow night for 16 more performances from these amazing teams. I had fun tonight, and I hope you did too! To pass the time until tomorrow’s performances, why not stop by the Itunes store and try out our new apps, the rumba, the waltz, and the salsa? We’re easy to find in education, just search ‘ballroom’. With instructors like Yesenia Adame, Paul Barris, Elena Grinenko, and Tony Dovolani, and the ability to take your lessons with you on the go, you can’t go wrong!

Keep Dancing,
Ballroom Dance Channel

Ballroom News and Notes, December 22

December 22, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Posted in ballroom dance, Dancing with the Stars | 1 Comment
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Hello Everyone!

Just a few small notes today for your reading pleasure. First, I’ve just received word that our own Tony Dovolani is in his home country of Albania, along with professional partner Elena Grinenko, to be given an award. We don’t know much more at the moment, but as soon as Tony returns to U.S. soil, expect more details here on the blog! Remember that if you’d like to take lessons from Tony and Elena, you can visit us at Ballroom Dance Channel.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Details are beginning to emerge about the upcoming show on NBC, Superstars of Dance, which premieres on January 4th before moving to it’s regular Monday night slot starting on January 5th. I’m so excited about this show, which is being produced by Nigel Lithgoe, the brains behind So You Think You Can Dance. The Fred Astaire national blog reported over the weekend that 2 of their instructors, Georgia Ambarian and Eric Luna, will be competing for the United States on the show. Georgia and Eric dance at the Fred Astaire in Cinco Bayou, Florida. Stay tuned to our blog for more details about the show as they emerge.

If you’re looking for a great way to spend some of the extra hours off work this week, why not give our free salsa lesson a try? Our lesson is taught by Yesenia Adame and Paul Barris, the pros that were featured in the salsa demonstration on season 7 of Dancing with the Stars. We hope you’ll enjoy it, and be inspired to try some of our other lessons as well. Have a great week!

Keep Dancing,
Ballroom Dance Channel

Heads up, Tony Dovolani fans!

December 9, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We just wanted to let you know that Tony Dovolani and Elena Grinenko will be teaching as guest instructors for the Belmont, Massachusetts Fred Astaire Studio tomorrow from 1:30-10:30pm. Please visit the Belmont Citizen’s Herald for more information. Don’t forget to come back to Ballroom Dance Channel for your fix for all things ballroom! If you can’t make it to a coaching session, why not try our free salsa lesson instead?

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