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Heelwork to Music in the UK

International Freestyle 2020
Judges 
Kath Hardman
Pamela Ruscoe
Dawn Hill

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This day’s competition would be so diverse from the normal classes to judge with routines being performed by handler and dog teams from 12 different Countries which would obviously be of differing and hopefully exciting styles.

As for my own judging – I would be increasing my level of judging again – after all, these would be the top performers from each of those 12 countries and as such an even higher standard of work would be expected.

The Main Arena was absolutely full of people wanting to watch this exciting day of entertainment as we three judges took our seats ringside!






















First to take to the Arena was Monika Ballerina from Switzerland with Breeze Jumping Kiwis. Monica and Breeze worked smoothly to “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence a very slow, yet dramatic piece of music and lyrics which Monica had interpreted with a lot of good advanced moves including some difficult distance work, with the dog facing or backing to her as she seemed to avoid all eye contact with Breeze. The cueing of Monika to this lovely dog was very subtle and nicely accurate too.

















Next into the arena was Christine Elisabeth Berczes & Silver Dream Aussie’s Top Secret - an Australian Shepherd pet name Meredith. This team from Hungary worked to “Beauty and the Beast” another slow gentle piece of music which Christine used well with covert verbal cues whilst “reading” her book. The dog, which had a lovely attitude, covered some great distance to work with its back to Christine, not easy in such a large arena! There was a very smart costume change part way through which the dog didn’t react to which ended with Christine in a flowing golden gown, very innovative. A super end pose finished this routine where Meredith laid her head onto Christine’s neck. 


























The Czech Republic was the next Country, represented by Monika Zapletalova & Afrodite Mayby Simple Elegance, a red tri Border Collie. This team performed to “Carol of The Bells” by Lindsey Stirling. Monika and Mayby flowed around the ring with this routine which contained lots of circles and weaves and a lovely length of the dog walking backwards. Monika wore a Lycra top and a netted skirt but this didn’t affect this little dog’s focus – keeping its eyes on Monika throughout the performance. 





















Marianne Elise Methi from Norway was the next competitor with her Border Collie, Very Vega performing to a comical piece of music “What Does The Fox Say?” by Ylvis Brothers. This was such an entertaining routine with Vega actually showing fabulous musical interpretation – this routine had been really well choreographed and very innovative and included great use of the available ring space, something a lot of handlers don’t taken into account although it is in the marking system. There were some great paw crosses at a distance – back of the dog to the handler and also some fabulous “free turning jumps” at a distance – something I haven’t witnessed before. A great routine with added touches of difficulty throughout.





















The next competitor was from Denmark Emmy Marie Simonsen & Border Collie, Littlethorn Feet of Flames performing to “Hocus Pocus” by John Debney. This team had represented Denmark at Crufts several times. Emmy entered the ring dressed formidably as a witch with a long gown and witches hat and she wore a false nose to complete the picture. The routine took us through a story and Hero collected ingredients together placing them in the cauldron where he cleverly mixed them up with a huge wooden spoon. Hero was very keen to work with Emmy giving very subtle cues – the arena did not faze him at all and he did everything he was asked to do be it working close to his handler, poses or distance work.



















Brigitte Van Gestel from The Netherlands & her Border Collie, Nice of You to Come Bye Royal Purplev were the next team to enter the arena performing to “The Wizard and I” from Wicked The Musical. Brigitte is another regular Crufts International Freestyle performer and she and her dog A’Mayzie didn’t disappoint the audience – the routine started with A’Mayzie hidden inside a large trunk which she emerged from waving a paw to Brigitte. The routine was very neat with some very polished poses and a good length of lateral distance work and a slow motion cross front leg walk forwards.





















Our next competitor was to have been from Italy, however, travel restrictions meant she was unable to make her way to Crufts this year. However, as entries are restricted to just 12 places there were two reserves waiting to step in in case someone couldn’t attend, so at very short notice, Monis Guignard with Eidelweiss were able to compete representing France. This team performed to “The Phantom of The Opera” by Lindsey Stirling. The routine contained a lot of distance moves including a huge outrun when the dog actually ran round behind the judges at such a speed it was difficult to keep eyes on the dog 100%. The routine flowed from move to move very nicely and it had been well planned with good changes of pace.



















Michiko Matsuura & Border Collie, Magnetic Missy took centre stage next having travelled to Crufts representing Japan. Michiko and Missy worked well together performing a well flowing sequence of moves. Michiko’s dress was quite exquisite – a deep red sparkly material with gold fringing and she wore an elaborate feather in her head dress. The beat and energy of the music suited the dog whose tail wagged throughout.
























There was no mistaking the next Team as the entered the arena – the applause and cheers could have lifted the roof! Yes it was the turn of Nicci Hindson and her Border Collie, Comebyanaway Wildest Dream who had only won their place in this International Final on Thursday by taking first place in the UK Freestyle Final. Nicci was still showing her pride and happiness – with a huge smile as she entered the Arena. Her music was from Mary Poppins Return and she had chosen “Trip A Light Fantastic” for their routine. Well trained, Elsa, zoomed at break neck speed through the routine, but Nicci could still show her skill by Elsa holding poses where they were needed to reflect the music. Good use of the Lamp Post Prop too with Nicci standing on it or jumping off it and Elsa circling in as many ways is possible! This was a great routine which took third place today.

























Sweden was the following country and they were represented by Elisabet Browaldh & Kummin Av Ulfsater working to “Grease Mega Mix” by John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John. This little dog, Kunmin, is a Schapendoes, a Dutch breed which responded to cues really quickly and effectively. This routine had some fabulous innovative moves which suited the music perfectly – the dog “typed and printed” a love letter, “drank” from a straw – the dog’s energy never wavered and the resulting routine not only ticked most of the Scoring Criteria boxes but was absolutely entertaining for the crowd of 7,000 people watching in the arena. Elisabet should be very proud of her performance with Kunmin as the gained a score which earned them second place.

















Sarah Apel her dog Ridick Vom Teufelsjoch were the next to perform – representing Germany they worked to “Thriller” By Michael Jackson. Sarah’s movements were well choreographed for this music as she was brought out of the grave by Ridick. The routine flowed well with this team working well together, very subtle cues and selection of Freestyle moves with quite a bit of Heelwork using a grave as a prop. Sarah’s costume was very clever and her make-up extremely scary!



























Elke Boxoen & her Border Collie, Just Jump Jessy was the final team to take to the Arena working to “Once Upon A Time”. Elke took the part of a young girl and Jessy was the evil image seen through the mirror. Elke and Jessy started the routine as far away from each other as possible in the arena, both standing in opposite corners on the diagonal with a super large mirror between them. This routine was absolutely outstanding – the best Freestyle routine I have had the pleasure to judge in over 20 years of judging – it contained amazing distance work and this pair mirrored their actions, Jessy never took her eyes away from Elke – it was a truly remarkable routine for which I was honoured to give a full 10 points for Musical Interpretation. I don’t feel I could explain the magic this routine brought to the Arena – you could hear a pin drop as everyone was spellbound! WOW! Yes Elke and Jessy were today’s winners of the International Freestyle Competition!
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Photographs courtesy of Richard Moss
Furtography
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