Asheville Daily Planet
RSS Facebook
Heritage Classic draws some of world’s top dancers
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:12
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Once again, the pro show was a highlight of the 30th annual Heritage Classic Dancesport Championships, which featured competitive ballroom-style dancing from  Feb. 28 to March 4 at the Omni Grove Park Inn in North Asheville.

The pro show — performed in four different segments during the finale night between competitions — featured
dazzling performances by Emmanual Pierre-Antoine of Haiti and Liana Churilova of Rusia, former World and United States Professional Rhythm Champions. Now retired from competition, it was their final show performance.They live in New York.

The crowd cheered and applauded and, after a final farewell performance, gave the pair a standing ovation in the Grand Ballroom. 

Dancers, fueled by energy, passion and excitement, included world professional champions in the NDCA-sanctioned, ballroom dance competition.

Elevated seating on three sides provided sweeping views of the dance floor.

The organizers, Colin and Joy Hillary, are former competitors and champions, They represented their native country, Australia, in the 1970 World Professional Latin Championships in London, England.

A number of local participants won top awards, including 22-year-old Ariah Avery, who danced with with her teacher Zeki Maviyildiz in the pro-am competition. They represented the Asheville Ballroom.

In a March 18 interview with the Daily Planet at the ballroom, Avery said with a smile in reference to Maviyildiz, “He’s the ‘pro’ and I’m the ‘am.’”

Avery won first place in her individual heats. “All of my dances were done as pro-am open gold american rhythm,” a division for young adults, she noted.

Avery said she was excited to take lessons and coaching from Pierre-Antoine at the Asheville Ballrom after the Heritage  Classic. 

During the coaching session, she danced with Maviyildiz as the Haitian native tweaked her routines. “He (Pierre-Antoine) talked mostly about footwork and floor pressure. He was really into technique.”

Antoine-Pierre said that “he didn’t believe me,” referring to the passion of her dancing. “Later, after working with me, he said, ‘I believe you,’” now,” Avery said, looking pleased.

As for memorable humorous moments at Heritage, Avery said, with a laugh, “My earring flew off (her ear) during the competition,” but fortunately did not hit or hurt anyone.

 “Last year my earring flew off and hit another instructor, John King, while he was dancing  on the floor close by, with his student. Although I didn’t know it was missing until I was off the dance floor and realized I only had one earring!”

On another amusing note, Avery said, “My heel got stuck to my mid-thigh dress. I had to yank it (the heel) out of my fringe,” tearing her dress — “and I had to bow after that.” 

So what were some of the memorable highlights of this year’s Heritage Classic for Avery?

“The older ladies in the category for ages 51 and up doing splits or balancing on one leg,” she said “It’s amazing because it’s inspiring” to younger dancers. “If they can do it, I feel I can do it.”

Also, Avery said, “It amazes me the dresses.” She told of admiring what she described as “a simple dress, but beautiful — for $6,500... The dresses are one of a kind.”

As Avery has learned, she noted, “The dresses are all done by hand. The stones are placed by hand. Price range for (ballroom competition) dresses” range from $1,500 to $10,000.” She added that the dresses’ cost are high because they feature Swarovski crystals, quality material, embelishments abd “lots of opening in places — and sometimes are strappy” and/or have lots of feathers.

She added, “Men pretty much wear all-black, but a couple of the men wore shirts that picked up the color of their partner’s dress. I like when the leader’s costume complements their partner. It makes a couple stand out on the floor!”

As for the Heritage Classic, she said there were “definitely a lot of collisions” between the couples competing. “It’s all about two couples with a routine going in different directions. In rhythm dancing, it’s nobody’s fault.”

At that point, Avery defined “rhythm dances” — featuring a distinctive hip motion — as including cha cha, swing, bolero, mambo and rumba.

In contrast, she said the “smooth dances” — featuring a gliding motion — include tango, foxtrot, waltz and Viennese waltz.

“When waiting to go out (to perform) — I’m usually asking for words of encouragement,” Avery said. “Zeki  (her partner and dance teacher), with a Turkish accent (but in English),” would tell her,  “You’d better do good!” she said with a laugh. Then, he would add, “Just be confident, breathe and focus.”

As a competition dancer, she said, “If you mess up, you just keep going on like nothing happened at all. Keep your poise.

“It’s part of the acting. You walk out there, with your body up and fierce with attitude — and you have confidence. Some judges watch how you walk onto the dance floor. They want to see your confidence and what makes you stand out.

“I have experienced some mild muscle pain in my leg while performing and because I knew it was nothing serious, I just went on like nothing happened. When competitors make mistakes or have collisions, they are to go on with the dance like a champ!.

“When I perform, I try to be in ‘the zone’ and focus on what I;m going to do. I don’t focus on what’s going on in my personal life. I have to leave my drama at the door.”

Among the dancers that impressed her at the Heritage Classic were “a brother and sister couple …. They danced smooth…. They had extreme confidence and they were really comfortable with each other. You could tell that they were connected They were in their 20s.”

Avery added, “I love making eye contact with audience members” while dancing. They smile back at me — or clap... I’ve been dancing socially for five years. I’ve been competitievly for a year in January.

Regarding her interest in dancing, Avery said, “It’s definitely my passion, I want to be a stronger competitor. I am also a new instructor, I was certified in bronze american smooth and rhythm about six months ago. I love it!”

There were four general categories of dance competition at Heritage: American Smooth, American Rhythm, Standard and Latin. Also, there were theater arts and solos. These categories were represented with Pro-Am and Pro-Pro.

For a list of the winners, visit



contact | home

Copyright ©2005-2015 Star Fleet Communications

224 Broadway St., Asheville, NC 28801 | P.O. Box 8490, Asheville, NC 28814
phone (828) 252-6565 | fax (828) 252-6567

a Cube Creative Design site