The most resounding names in the history of Standard dancing have held the title of World Games Champion at one point in their careers. The list goes back to the first participation of DanceSport in 1997 Lahti, FIN. Hazel Newberry – Christopher Hawkins, GBR, won there. Kylie Jones – Jonathan Crossley, GBR, claimed first in 2001 Akita, JPN, Edita Daniute – Arunas Bizokas, LTU, in 2005 Duisburg and Silvia Pitton – Paolo Bosco, ITA, in 2009 Kaohsiung, TPE. Finally, in 2013 Cali, COL, Claudia Koehler – Benedetto Ferruggia, GER, edged out their closest opponents, the Konovaltsev siblings from Russia, to dance to gold – after they had to content themselves with silver four years earlier.
Well, four years after Cali, Benedetto and Claudia are the first Standard dancers ever to return to The World Games to defend their title. And it will not be easy! After the Konovaltsevs, the runners-up in Colombia, have retired from competition, it’s another Russian couple which could put itself between the Germans and the gold in 2017 Wroclaw: Dmitry Zharkov and Olga Kulikova are undefeated for the past seven months and in seven major competitions.
It will be a clash of titans and – even more so – a duel between couples dancing in different divisions. Benedetto and Claudia are professionals and Dmitry and Olga are … NOT. Careful: this is only put this way to avoid that the word “Amateur” has to be used to describe the status of the Russian couple. What distinguishes the professional from the non-professional dancers is best described on the WDSF website:
It is a century-old distinction that was brought about by trade restrictions imposed on young dancers by older dancers. Today, every dancer turning professional looks back at a successful career as “amateur.” And the quotation marks are perfectly in order: the status does no longer exist! All dancers can win purses in competition and receive remuneration for lessons and shows. The two camps have drawn together, to a point that distinguishing between them is probably the hardest part.
Aside from Koehler – Ferruggia there are a few other professional couples taking advantage of the rule that allows them to dance against their non-professional peers in The World Games. All their other competitions are held within the division only. Who do the experts expect to be dancing the Standard Final of The World Games 2017?