Dancing With Our Stars 2018 Recap

Whether you’re an avid devotee or new to ballroom dancing, most people have heard of the hit series Dancing With The Stars. Annually, we hold our own version of the competition, combined with our Silent Auction benefiting the Sunshine Kids.

We don’t pair up amateur celebrities with professional dancers, however. Dancing With Our Stars is three rounds made up entirely of our professional staff. But of course, we have to have some twist to it. That’s part of the excitement!

Scores are a mixture of in-studio voting and scores given by students we asked to be Guest Judges for each evening. The winners’ names get engraved onto our famous Mirror Ball trophy, complete with bragging rights for the year.

The first two rounds consisted of Smooth and Rhythm — but they were randomly assigned pairings. No professional dance partners are allowed to dance together, and they are only allowed to dance Arthur Murray school figures. So it is exactly what our students are learning!

The judges for our first two rounds were Angie D. and Jerry R. from our Cranford studio, and Faith L. from our Hillsborough studio. Dances were also randomly assigned. (Waltz, Tango, or Foxtrot for our Smooth round, and Cha Cha, Rumba, or Swing for our Rhythm round.) Our judges gave feedback on each dance, just as judges at a Freestyles or Medal Ball would. Scores were close, even starting the night on a back-to-back Waltz spree. Thankfully, Rhythm heated things back up.

Our Finale featured professional dance partnerships that our staff would compete with. These routines were choreographed and practiced for months together. Our Finale night was also televised on a local Cranford station to help us promote our Silent Auction and Theater Showcase Night, benefiting The Sunshine Kids. All proceeds from the show plus our Silent Auction went directly to them.

The special Guest Judges for our Finale round on July 27th were Karen H. and Barbara G. from our Cranford studio, and Marianne M. from our Hillsborough studio. Scores were even tighter as the polish in each of the performances was clear. Each professional pair did one of their competition numbers, plus original numbers that had never before been shown to any public.

The creativity in each number was obvious. Highlights include an Indiana Jones number complete with a whip, recreating Marilyn Monroe’s famous flying skirt scene, some stunning lifts and shocking drops, and a particularly memorable number with a man in a dress and a woman in a mustache.

Judges’ scores remained tight through all three rounds, so it came down to the popular vote. Chris and Kate from Cranford ended up earning the right to put their names, for the first time, on the coveted Mirror Ball trophy for 2018.

Chris & Kate with the Mirror Ball trophies.

A recap program of our Finale night can be found here online, courtesy of Channel 35 in Cranford.

 

A Recap of Our Spring Freestyles 2018

Our 2018 Spring Freestyles was on March 2 and 3, and it was an absolutely amazing time! It was our second year as a two-day event. It was also the first year that Arthur Murray Paoli and Narberth could join us, making for a total of six schools attending, our biggest yet. Curious exactly what a Freestyles event is? Check out our blog post explaining here!

In line with the Kings & Queens theme, our Guest Judges were the illustrious Bob and Cynthia Long, of Arthur Murray Albuquerque, the creators of the current Arthur Murray syllabus. Despite having judges, Freestyles is not a competition, and is instead focused on giving feedback to the students — as well as being a celebration of their dancing. It is a great learning opportunity, both offering an outside perspective as well as valuable floor time.

“If the studio is the practice field, then Freestyles is game day,” says student Jerry Cerulli of the event. Jerry has been dancing with the Cranford studio for over 5 years, and has been dancing in our Freestyles events since his first year with us.

We also had a full Juniors Division on Saturday for the first time. With nine students in the Children’s Programs for both Cranford and Hillsborough, the kids had the opportunity to dance in heats with their instructors. For some of them, this was their first Freestyles events, but others have danced with us in prior Freestyles.

For some of our students, this was their first time dancing in a Freestyles event. “Fun — the first thing that comes to mind is ‘fun’! It was a lot of fun,” says student Diane Toma of her first time. Diane has been dancing with the Cranford team since last August.


The grand finale of the weekend is always our formal banquet, held on Saturday night. Unless you’re ready to dive right into the dancing portion of Freestyles, we always recommend joining us for the evening portion. It’s a great opportunity to cheer on your fellow students, enjoy dinner, watch professional shows, and let loose on the dance floor with your Arthur Murray family. It’s an excellent way to see what Freestyles can be about if you feel you are not ready for two full days of dancing just yet.

We hold this event twice a year, in the Spring and Fall, so your next opportunity to join us is in October. We can’t wait to see how many of you will join us then!

But What IS Freestyles?

Whether you’ve heard the term from an instructor or another student, or saw it on the calendar, or heard it in an event announcement, or have seen the poster in our studio — we like to talk about our events here, in case it weren’t obvious — you’ve probably heard the term “Freestyles” before. Of course, hearing about something is very different from knowing what it is, so you may still be wondering — what is Freestyles?

Think of Freestyles as a mini dance vacation, one or two days long. You get to spend as much time as possible dancing, as many dances as you can, giving you vital floor time. The more you dance, the faster you feel progress with your dancing. You dress up and feel glamorous, both on the dance floor and for the evening banquet. Other Arthur Murray schools attend, allowing you to catch up with (or meet!) your extended Arthur Murray family. It is a celebration of YOUR dancing and dance journey!

The dancing portion of the day is full of heats, which are basically “rounds” of dancing. One Waltz heat is one time you will be out on the floor with your partner or your teacher dancing Waltz. There will be other students and staff on the floor as well, dancing the same dance, so you won’t be alone. Those on the sidelines will be cheering and watching.

The event begins with Country Western style dancing. This is a great way to warm up and let loose on the dance floor. Next, we take off the boots and hats for long dresses and suits for the Smooth dancing (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz). No matter your level, it is always fun watching how your Foxtrot will progress through the levels. After lunch, the skirts get shorter and the ties come off for the Rhythm and Specialty dances. The energy in the ballroom works itself into a frenzy at the hip sway to the music.

That evening (Saturday evening for our two-day Spring Freestyles), we host a formal banquet, with a fun theme to match. There are professional shows performed by the staffs of the various schools attending, so everyone gets the chance to see their instructors perform as they would at professional competitions.

After the event ends, we compile all of the feedback from the guest judges to give back to each student. “But it’s not a competition!” you repeat, puzzled, and that’s still correct! You are never scored against other students. You are given feedback, which is for noncompetitive events — it is a standard of expectations for your level. (Scores, by contrast, are given for competitive events.) It will be an outside perspective, however quick, on your dancing and where you are in your dance journey. It is by no means a perfect glimpse into your skill (there are a lot of others on the dance floor in every heat, after all), but all together, it can be a very good idea of how well you are dancing for your level.

A Recap of the Fourth Annual Murray Awards!

On Friday, December 15th, we celebrated our fourth annual Murray Awards! It is our end of year Student Appreciation Party and it was a great success!

Despite the dreary weather, we welcomed students of both Arthur Murray Cranford and Arthur Murray Hillsborough into our Cranford studio. Both studios are owned by franchisees Danila and Nuria Kartashov. It was an exciting time to have students from both studios in one place for such a grand affair.

The event was catered, with tables set out for students and staff to enjoy dinner together. Students excitedly dressed to the nines to show off their style and enjoy a fancy night out with their Arthur Murray family. Music played throughout the night for plenty of social dancing, with everyone keenly taking advantage. There were line dances, partner swapping games, and even a conga line or two.

A very special feature of our Murray Awards every year is our professional shows – and this year was particularly special. It had been requested that there would be a return to some past professional dance partnerships, so special routines were created with that in mind. There had also been a round of performances with the staff’s current professional partnerships, so students got to see not only a wide variety of dances, but also partnerships they may not have seen before – or for many years.

One of the most looked-forward to parts of the evening was our awards portion. There are several awards our team gives out every year, including our Student Ambassador (Barbara Gabris) and Funniest Dance Moment (Ira & Alex Augenzucker) awards. There is also the Most Improved Dancer award, which is voted upon exclusively by students, and it resulted in our first-ever tie, Jennifer Cerulli and Patsy Trine, both from Cranford. The coveted BASA (Best Accidental Step Award) went to Ira & Cynthia Herman from Hillsborough. We also honored those students of ours who have been with our studio for five years – and soon enough, we will be able to give out awards to ten-year students as well!

At Arthur Murray Cranford and Arthur Murray Hillsborough, we greatly appreciate our students’ commitment and loyalty. We are incredibly proud of each and every one of our students, and while we cannot throw such grand evenings every night, we want to be sure that it is known that we appreciate YOU! Thank you to everyone for not only making our Murray Awards a success, but to sharing their dance journeys with us.

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Hillsborough Grand Opening!

On Friday, September 8th, Team Arthur Murray Kartashov officially held the Grand Opening of their new location in Hillsborough, New Jersey. With food, drinks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and, of course, a lot of dancing, it was a grand affair as students and staff of both Cranford and Hillsborough locations came to help celebrate.

Hillsborough Township did its part to welcome Arthur Murray as well. Several prominent members of the city, including Mayor Carl Suraci and Business Advocate David Kois, joined the celebrations and helped cut the red ribbon with franchise owners Danila and Nuria Kartashov.

“A big thank you to the Hillsborough area for welcoming us here,” Danila said. “We are looking forward to changing lives through dancing.”

This is the second Arthur Murray location opened by Danila and Nuria Kartashov. Both Danila and Nuria have been dancing since childhood – Danila in Moscow, and Nuria in Madrid. They met and began their partnership in 1999, and joined Arthur Murray – and tied the knot – in 2001. They became owners of the Kenilworth location in 2010, and moved studios to Cranford in 2015. The Hillsborough studio first opened its doors at the beginning of June 2017.

“We are so blessed to get the chance to share our love of dancing with our new Arthur Murray family in Hillsborough,” Nuria said.

“It was truly a blessing to see so many faces, both old and new, come support us in our new endeavor,” said Alexis Martinez, the New Student Director of Hillsborough. “These past few months have been amazing and I cannot wait to see how many lives we can change through dancing.”

The rest of the Arthur Murray Hillsborough team boasts of varied and impressive experience as well. Alexis, also an Instructor there, has a background in multiple styles of dance, including tap, ballet, and jazz. The other two full-time instructors at the Hillsborough location, Keenan and Laura Smout, have both led lives full of dance. They are the newest members of Team AMK.

“It was great to have families of both studios come together for exciting night of celebration!” Keenan said of the event.

His wife, Laura, agreed. “It was a fun-filled night seeing our awesome students and sharing a great time together with our new addition to the Kartashov AMpire!”

After their successful Grand Opening, Arthur Murray Hillsborough looks forward to sharing the Arthur Murray passion for ballroom dance with the Hillsborough community.

Theater Showcase “Around the World”

Arthur Murray Cranford and Hillsborough celebrated following the final curtain for their annual fundraiser showcase on August 12. This year, owners Danila and Nuria Kartashov supported the Sunshine Kids. The non-profit organization helps children with cancer by providing positive group activities and emotional support.

Arthur Murray instructors from Cranford and Hillsborough express themselves before the show starts.

Most students spend months preparing routines. Diane, a newer student at Cranford, said the show exceeded her expectations. “It was far superior than what I had envisioned. So professional. No detail, from costuming, lights, and jewelry was left out.” She felt proud to be a part of the Arthur Murray family’s gesture to help the cause.

Arthur’s Kids strike a pose before their debut performance.

Jerry, a student at Cranford, says theatre night is unlike any other event. “You will never be so alone, but you will never feel as validated – and thankful – as you do when it’s over.” This was Jerry’s fourth year supporting the theatre event.

Among the performers was the Arthur Murray Kid’s formation. In their debut showcase, children from four to six years old took the stage with their team of instructors. Learning to dance doesn’t just teach you how to dance. It requires focus, dedication and helps with social skills. For the Kartashov owners, ballroom dance is the perfect mixing ground for kids to experience it all.

THE SHOW

This year’s themed “Around the World”  show featured 54 different students from the Arthur Murray family showcasing dances from different countries. The hour and half show started in North America, with the USA and Mexico before hopping the ocean to Asia.  There was everything from the traditional flavor of Japan to the current pop sensations of South Korea – and a strong Bollywood flavor. After brief visits to Australia and Africa, the show went into intermission.

Arthur Murray staff and students celebrate!

Before the second act started, Steve Janett – speaker for the Sunshine Kids Foundation – thanked all of the Arthur Murray family and viewers for their support. Aisha Guadalupe joined him onstage to speak first hand of the support the Sunshine Kids afforded her while she battled cancer.

The curtains lifted once again, this time in the cold and grandeur of Russia. Several group numbers kicked off the second act, including an adult  formation and some dancing penguins. Next up was South America – everyone wanted to move their hips whether in Colombia, Brazil or Costa Rica. The show finished in Europe as the entire cast came on stage for a final bow before the curtain closed.

 

Boston DOR 2017: “What a wonderful competition!” Part 2

Debbie Ford with instructor Kennedy dancing Country Western.
Newcomer Wedlyne Pluviose with instructor Kennedy.

Dancing continues on Saturday with the open category. For this division, teachers and dancers are not limited to syllabus material. Many let loose on the floor, whether executing well rehearsed choreography or adding their own special touch to the moves.

Recognizing the desire for an environment more suited for social dancing, Arthur Murray now includes club-style events. Rather than looking for perfect footwork and frame, adjudicators want to see a strong connection between the dancers – as if the two of them just met and spontaneously danced!

Debbie Ford, Jim’s wife, danced in the country division with her instructor, Kennedy. She called it taking a crazy risk. “My goal was to stay calm (sort of!), do MY best, and not get upset if (WHEN!) I messed up a pattern. I am pleased to announce I accomplished my goal as best if possible for me.” Debbie and Kennedy won second place out of fourteen other couples.

The team wins the Spirit Award & Top Studio.

The evening ended with a red carpet banquet followed by the professional competition. Newcomer Wedlyne Pluviose says she had never seen so many professionals in one place. “I expected to get a weekend of dancing – but I got so much more! To see the different levels, the work that goes into competing, the kicking, the flipping – it made me want to compete more and do a solo next time!”

Hillsborough instructors Keenan and Laura won their first Arthur Murray event as Future Champions in rhythm. From Cranford, Valerie and Lance debuted in the professional smooth division, along with Kennedy and Colleen, and Chris and Kate who made it to the semifinal.

Cranford took home two team awards: 2nd place Top Studio and the coveted Spirit Award. First-timer Eric Adams won his category as Top Newcomer; Jerry and Jennifer Cerulli also won their respective Top Associate Bronze awards.

Boston DOR 2017: “What a wonderful competition!” Part 1

The Cranford Pink Ladies & T-Birds enjoyed the early arrival Grease party!
The Cranford Pink Ladies & T-Birds enjoyed the early arrival Grease party!

Each year in early summer, Cranford and Hillsborough travel up the coast with a team of students to attend the Boston Dance-O-Rama. This year’s team included: Eric Adams, Jerry and Jennifer Cerulli,  Jim and Debbie Ford, Kerry Francis, Wedlyne Pluviose, and Lynn Rabadeau. Located in Quincy, BDOR entices Arthur Murray studios from across the North American continent for four days full of camaraderie, spirited cheering, sparkles galore – and plenty of dancing.

Kerry Francis with her instructor Danila in a dramatic Tango.
Kerry Francis with her instructor Danila in a dramatic Tango.

This year, BDOR kicked off with a Grease themed early arrival party on Thursday. The Cranford Pink Ladies and T-Birds met up with other studios for a night full of crooners, hand jives, and hula hoops. They dined in true 50’s fashion on burgers and root beer floats (though some of us really just wanted the ice cream). A live band belted out some of the most popular hits of the era – and we were only too happy to add our voices.

Jim Ford with instructor Valerie in his solo Argentine Tango.
Jim Ford with instructor Valerie in his solo Argentine Tango.

The dancing started early the next day with the closed category freestyles. This refers to the type of material danced. Closed material is Arthur Murray syllabus steps – and some variations – only. Dancing in this category helps the student create strong muscle memory in the basic steps and technique. Dancers are given a proficiency score, not a ranked number, to help their teacher recognize where they are within their current level.

Dancers of all talents and levels joined the Cranford team this year. Gold Bar dancer Kerry Francis, a very strong competitor, said everyone in team Cranford did amazingly well. This year, she wanted to have fun at a competition. Kerry said of her instructor, Danila, “Not sure how you put up with me but I really achieved my goal of having fun at a competition again. I could not ask for a better partner. You continually inspire me to get better.”

Jim Ford, a seasoned BDOR veteran, observed the level of dancing this year was extremely high, which motivated him to do better. This was the first year Jim performed a solo Argentine Tango with his teacher, Valerie. “I really went out of my comfort zone. We are constantly being challenged to do better. My stamina has increased tremendously along with muscle memory and my mental capability to remembering all the steps in a dance.” Jim attributes this to the level of preparation leading up to the event.

Winning Arthur Murray Swag: A Beginner’s Guide To IDF

Even if you are new to Arthur Murray, you know we like to party. Each spring we amp up the party during an Arthur Murray worldwide bonanza called International Dance Festival.

International Dance Festival is an international competition between all 280+ studios. The objective is to increase student involvement in the studio; what better way than to throw theme parties and special classes?! As a student, you earn points for your studio with everything you do, such as: sponsoring your teacher, taking a lesson, attending a group class or party, having a coaching lesson – or sharing this blog.

But, hopefully, you’re already doing most of that regularly. To make it more enticing, each week is themed and ends in a finale Practice Party. We transform the studio into a tropical getaway, or a magical castle, or a wild west saloon – and then the fun begins. There is still general dancing and spotlights, but we add a special dance activity – like Tetris Merengue or Tango Battleships. And did we mention food?!

International Dance Festival involves you – the student – sponsoring your favorite teacher. You might have seen names on park benches or on the backs of chairs at the theater. Those patrons want it publicly known they support that particular project or art. Much in the same way, sponsorship is public acknowledgement of how much you appreciate and support your teacher – you just aren’t able to permanently stamp your name on them.

Sponsorship is the first step to earning festival points for yourself. If parties and food weren’t enough, we add in free stuff. Sponsoring enrolls you in a grand prize give away as well as special access to festival group classes and discounts. The more you immerse yourself in the studio, the more points you earn, the closer you get to winning!

Your teachers always have your best interest at heart. Don’t be surprised when they ask you to be a part of this year’s International Dance Festival by sponsoring them, doing a spotlight, or dressing crazy. Or – even better – sponsor them before they ask. It’ll make their day.

Third Annual Murray Awards Celebration A Huge Success!

Arthur Murray Dance Center of CranfordDecember 16th marked our third annual Murray Awards celebration! The banquet event was held in our Cranford dance studio, beginning at 7 p.m. It was catered with delicious food, so our many guests were sure to bring their appetites!

We hold the Murray Awards as a thank you to our students for their loyalty and commitment. The party celebrates YOU! Every year, it is an excellent opportunity to get dressed to the nines, celebrate with your fellow students, and see who has won the variety of awards we give out.

This year we gave out a wide assortment of awards. We honored the students who have been with us for five or more years. There was a Most Improved Dancer category, which was decided completely by student vote—the staff had no input. As always, there was the coveted Best Accidental Step Award. Categories change yearly, so there are always surprises in store.

Here at the Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford, we greatly appreciate the trust and loyalty of our students. Whether it’s a student’s first or tenth year with us, we’re thankful that they chose us to help them on their dance journey. We have the greatest student base around, and we are indescribably proud of all of you. The Murray Awards are a chance for us to give back just a little sliver of the appreciation, trust, and devotion that you have shown us.