CELEBRATE DANCE came of age in 2013. The event is the brainchild of Robert Mah who started it in memory of his wife Carmen. Carmen was a dedicated line dancer whose favourite activity was to attend line dance events across North America. Her dream had been to one day run her own event, so Robert decided to keep her memory alive in a manner which she would have appreciated. The first two years attracted decent attendance and Robert was pleased but this year the attendance almost doubled and the event pulsated. The Star studded Instructor Line-up no doubt had something to do with it!
Rachael McEnaney is a crowd favourite here in Ontario and never disappoints. What I particularly like and admire about Rachael is that, Super Star that she is, she has time for everyone. She is down to earth and approachable and makes everyone feel at their ease. At the same time her choreography tops all the charts; as well she is an outstanding instructor while teaching in a manner that everyone can understand. She has also won many dance awards and her performances leave us all in awe. She is a Line Dance Star we can all be very proud of.
I think Simon Ward has spent the larger part of this past year sleeping on planes!! And we are very fortunate that one plane dropped him down in Toronto!! Simon is someone who adds a crazy energy and enthusiasm to an event, he never stops moving and we are never quite sure what he will do next!!! He is the appealing boy next door with an endearing smile and generous warmth but he is also a superb choreographer and very capable instructor who will keep you smiling. Simon is also an excellent performer which he demonstrated in the Saturday night show, but if you saw his informal 'Dangerous' routine on the dance floor later in the evening I am sure you were wiping the tears of laughter off your cheeks like I was; that alone was worth the price of admission!!!
Scott Blevins has a loyal following in Toronto. He is very well known and gives a workshop here every October. His classes were packed for his teaches including a first for him, a waltz, but I'll talk a little later about the dances. Everyone wants to be the first to learn the latest 'Scott' dance! John Robinson is also well known in Ontario and teaches here fairly regularly and as always had full classes. John, as well as being a wild man from time to time!, is one of those 'you feel good to be around' instructors who makes learnin' feel easy and fun. Jamie Marshall is also a familiar face to Ontario dancers, many of whom attend her popular event in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 'Dance For All'. Jamie is a bundle of energy and knows how to put the 'fun' into party as she demonstrated as the MC for the Saturday Show!! Amy Christian taught at this event two years ago and was back by popular demand. Amy was my roomie and I can testify to what good company she is and also what a dedicated instructor. She is a very stylish dancer and choreographs with flair. Young, up and coming, Tajali Hall flew in from Calgary to teach at the event. Taj was heading off to Malaysia almost immediately to teach a workshop. She is a terrific dancer and talented choreographer and her dances are quickly spreading beyond the Canadian borders. Despite her responsibility as one of Robert's Second in Command, Judy McDonald also taught some classes. Judy's 'Cool Whip' still has the power to fill the dance floor as was shown at the Saturday night dance. Thanks so much to the dancers who attended my classes, you were up for some fun!!
Then there was last minute addition Daniel Trepat from Holland. Robert heard he was teaching in the US and invited him to Toronto before returning home. What a delightful young man Daniel is, he had us all completely charmed! And energy and enthusiasm! As one older dancer told me who took one of Daniel's classes, "He managed to get me moving my body in ways I thought completely impossible'! The highlight for me was Daniel's performance on the Saturday night. His dancing was superb but his personality particularly came through when he teasingly imitated Simon and Rachael's performances much to their and the audience's delight. It was hilarious and very well done. I am sure we will be seeing much more of this young man.
The DJs were JP Potter from California who did a good job in the main ballroom and Jill Babinec in the Beginner Dance Room ... you have to have fun with Jill around!
So now you know the cast, let me tell you about the setting. The Sheraton Hotel is close to the airport so very easy to reach for dancers who fly in. It is a smart modern hotel, good size bedrooms with comfortable beds. It is a short walk to the three dance rooms which were close together. During the day there were one large and two smaller rooms; during the evening two became one big ballroom and the other room was open dance for easier dances. The area outside the dance rooms had round tables set up and became the gathering spot. It made for a very intimate feel as you stopped for a chat as you went from one dance room to another. Doors at the end of this area led out to a grassed space with picnic tables so quite a few people enjoyed some fresh air in between dances. Also at the end was a small dance floor which was used for reviews in the evening. I have had mixed feelings about reviews at events as they often seem to sap the energy from the ballroom but this worked well as the reviews felt a part of the evening action rather than separate, also the instructors were told to choose just one dance to review and to move along quickly and that's what they did.
The Hotel has a lovely domed swimming pool, easily accessible computers in the Lobby and quite a few comfortable seating areas dotted around. I didn't eat at the Hotel restaurant so can't report on that but I did have the Dinner on the Saturday evening and it was excellent. There are a lot restaurants in the area as you can imagine with its proximity to the airport and many people went out for their evening meals.
The Event started with a dance on the Thursday evening. The first Demos were on Friday at 9 with classes starting at 10 and finishing at 5. Back again for the dance party at 7:30 until the early hours. Saturday morning from 9-10 there was a 'Beginner' open dance session in the Main Ballroom and the dance floor was packed, what a good idea this is. Classes started at 10 and finished at 4. There was Dinner at 6 for those who registered, and the show started at 8. Dancing again went to the early hours. On Sunday classes went from 10-4. The classes were full and Robert has booked larger ballrooms for next year. The date will also change to the weekend before Father's Day. Robert did an excellent job of organizing this event and I mentioned Judy before, but his other Second-In-Command, Donna Laurin, worked tirelessly as well to ensure that the event ran smoothly. Some of you might not know that Robert made the dance floors himself and announced that they are now open for anyone who would like to hire them so bear that in mind if you have an event coming up and need good floors. If you need a singer as well .... Robert sung to us on the Saturday night, a very enjoyable performance.
I am sure this will become a 'must go to event' on the international level now. Toronto is a beautiful city to visit at this time of year with lots going on so consider combining 'Celebrate Dance' with a visit to the 4th largest city in North America and play with our fun-loving local dancers.