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It’s strictly ballroom in Costa Mesa as hundreds of dancers compete in California Open

Arynne Cole, 15, of Provo, Utah, practices for the California Open DanceSport Championships in Costa Mesa on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

It’s been strictly ballroom at the Hilton of Orange County in Costa Mesa since Wednesday as hundreds of dancers partnered up for a chance to waltz, foxtrot, swing and rumba their way toward victory in the California Open DanceSport Championships.

The semifinal round of the senior open ballroom scholarship at the California Open DanceSport Championships Friday.
The semifinal round of the senior open ballroom scholarship at the California Open DanceSport Championships at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The five-day competition drew upward of 800 contestants competing for medals in multiple dance categories for amateurs and professionals alike. The contest is open to a wide variety of styles and age ranges, according to organizer Debbie Kusumi.

“We have events for all age levels — we’ve got kids from 4 years old to people in their 90s,” said Kusumi, who herself was a ballroom dancer for some 20 years before retiring from the sport. “It’s just like ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”

Olga Tsikalyuk, of Monrovia, at the California Open DanceSport Championships in Costa Mesa on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The competitions got underway Wednesday afternoon and are scheduled to conclude on Sunday, with recognition of gold, silver and bronze medal winners. Kusumi said while most entrants reside in California, this year’s contenders came from all over the nation and even Canada.

Although pulling off such a large event is no small feat, Kusumi, who hails from California but currently lives in Arizona, is dedicated to the artform.

“It is so much work,” she said. “[But] it’s my life.”

For more on the California Open DanceSport Championships, visit m.californiaopen.com.

Amy Jennings, of Arizona, looks out at the dance floor Friday during the California Open DanceSport Championships.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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