The dance community continually strives to recognize the best of the best on the dance floor, but we rarely take the time to truly honor and recognize those people who give so much to help dancers achieve their goals. That’s why we introduced the BC Legends of Dance Awards.
When we first started Delta Cup, one of our objectives was to make the event a little different from other competitions. First of all, we wanted it to be more relationship-focused in a world where too many competitions are cookie-cutter events devoid of passion or character. We wanted the event to offer special touches like bouquets for every member of key Open-level events, not just for the winners, high quality certificates for Pro/Am competitors, and small trophy cup mementos for all the kids. These are small things but they make a difference to how people feel about competing. We also wanted lots of perpetual trophies because dancers care about the hardware, and we’re thrilled that the dance community rose to the challenge and have now sponsored a staggering 29 perpetual trophies!
Recognizing those who make us better
We also wanted to find a way to honor the great coaches who work hard to support the dancers in striving to be better at this great art form known as ballroom dancing.
Vancouver’s dance community isn’t as large as those in Toronto or Montreal, so we often struggle to get coaching opportunities with the biggest names in the ballroom world. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have amazing people here. We have some really great coaches in Vancouver, and they are truly committed to this area. Wendy and I felt that recognition was essential to support the figures who go above and beyond, who hang in there in an often challenging environment and who build the dance community through their passion and example.
The result of a planning process was the BC Legends of Dance award, a beautiful hand-sculpted glass trophy honoring one figure or couple each year who represented excellence in our dance community.
Criteria for the BC Legends of Dance Award
We set some criteria to guide the decision-making process.
First, it is important that the Legends of Dance winners achieved success as competitors at a high level. As great dancers themselves, they earn our respect and demonstrate not only skill but the discipline that marks a champion.
Secondly, they needed to be involved in actively guiding and supporting the ballroom dance community. This typically means that they are coaching or teaching.
They needed to have a good reputation in the community as people of character and integrity who put the needs of others first.
Finally, we felt that, to be eligible for the award, they needed to show a passion for dance that goes above and beyond what is normally expected.
It’s also important to mention that this award transcends the dance politics currently going on in the ballroom world. For this award, organizational affiliation is not a factor in the decision.
As Delta Cup organizers, we hold discussions on this issue for many months. There are many great coaches in the area. We debate the award recipient over countless dinners and coffee meetings. There are many figures equally deserving of this year’s award, so it’s a real challenge trying to pick just one. But eventually, through a long process, the best choice becomes apparent.
2018 Award Winners: Joel Marasigan and Clara Shih
Joel and Clara first met at the UBC Dance Club. Neither of them had ever danced ballroom before, joining the club purely for the social aspect. Before long, they found themselves involved in local competitions at the novice level. They danced with separate partners and were in close competition against each other as they began their romance off the dance floor. Before long that romance extended into their dance partnership. They became adept at the Ballroom genre, becoming BC Champions, Western Canadian Champions, Canadian Championships Silver Medalists, Canadian World Championship representatives, and earning many other international titles won in the USA and as far away as Singapore. They spent several years training extensively with their mentors, World Champions Luca & Loraine Baricchi before returning to Vancouver, where they got married and are juggling raising a family with their dance teaching business. Working primarily out of Broadway Ballroom as JC Dance Co, their contribution to the Greater Vancouver dance community has been legendary. They introduced the PEAK performance training program designed to enhance the overall conditioning of local competitive couples, opening that program to anyone interested, regardless of who they were training with. While supporting a performance dance team and other initiatives, Joel and Clara have given of themselves in many ways and continue to be great ambassadors to the ballroom dance world. They support all the local competitions and the local events. They are highly deserving of the BC Legends of Dance award for 2018.
2017 Award Winners: Roland and Ekaterina Michtchenko
Roland and Ekaterina Michtchenko have been one of the best-known Latin and Ballroom teachers in the Vancouver area for many years, and Ekaterina also teaches high-level American Smooth. Although they were our Latin coaches during a good part of our competitive career, this was not a criteria in choosing this couple as Legends of Dance. What made them the deserving winners was their consistent character and integrity, combined with a passion for quality dancing and their background as successful professional competitors. Katerina was a Canadian Smooth Professional champion and the two of them achieved numerous titles as both amateurs and professionals. When they were still amateurs training at the original Grand Ballroom location on Mayfield Place in Richmond, they would take public transit at the end of a long work day to the North side of the Knight Street bridge and walk, yes walk, all the way across the bridge and to the ballroom because no buses serviced that corridor. Anyone familiar with the area will immediately understand the incredible depth of their commitment to dancing. During a SnowBall Classic event a few years ago, Roland showed up to watch his couples perform. What made this special is that just a few hours earlier he had been the passenger in a car that was hit on the passenger side by another vehicle running a stop sign. As soon as he was released from St Paul’s hospital, still in tremendous pain, he went right to the competition to encourage his couples! That kind of commitment is just another example of the legacy that this award is meant to recognize.
2016 Award Winners: Andy and Wendy Wong
In 2016, for our first award, the choice was easy. Andy and Wendy Wong are without a doubt the best known and most highly respected figures in the local dance community. Having won the BC Championships numerous times in both Latin and Standard disciplines, Andy gave up a promising career as a pharmacist to turn professional and open a studio. The Grand Ballroom was a testament to Andy and Wendy’s incredible passion for the local dance community. Over the next 20 years, it became home to hundreds of dancers. From across Metro Vancouver, dancers would congregate there for lessons, practice, special events, and competitions like the Grand Ball, Pro/Am Fiesta and the UBC Gala Ball. Andy built his business on a philosophy that treated the dance community like family. There was a deep warmth there that went beyond than just running a great studio. And his legacy continues today as he teaches private lessons and is an active Pro/Am competitor. In fact, he continues to develop his professional knowledge through accreditation at the Fellowship level. Andy and Wendy show their unwavering support for ballroom dancing through generous sponsorship of every competition event taking place in the region.
We’re looking forward to presenting the next BC Legends of Dance Award to this year’s winner. The presentation takes place during the Sunday evening session of Delta Cup.