During the worst winter many could remember and a Spring that didn't seem to want to surface, Ontario dancers needed something to look forward to when the warmth finally landed in Toronto. It eventually arrived a week or so before Celebrate Dance!! Spring obviously wanted to join in the dancing!
But “What is Celebrate Dance?” some of you might be asking. Well, it is a line dance weekend event held in Toronto, Canada. Robert Mah started the event four years ago in memory of his wife Carmen. For the first few years it was held in a hotel outside of the city but in 2012 Robert moved the event to the Sheraton Hotel & Convention Centre close to the airport. The number of dancers attending jumped immediately and increased again each year. They travelled from all over Ontario, flew in from western Canada and the US and some from Europe. The world renowned instructors came from Holland, Denmark, the UK, the US and across Canada.
But let’s get to the nitty gritty!! The Sheraton is a lovely hotel, comfortable, modern rooms, restaurant on premises and walking distance to a good choice of restaurants. Just a few steps away from the Lobby inside the hotel is the Convention Centre and our ballrooms. Robert expanded the dance space this year and will be doing so again in 2015. There was one large ballroom and two smaller rooms, so three classes each hour. Although the dance action started with the Thursday evening dance, in fact frantic activity commenced at 5 p.m. when David Laurin and his team could at last take over the ballroom to put down the dance floor. It is an enormous undertaking and the start of the dance was delayed but being able to dance on Robert’s hand-made floors made it all worthwhile. Meanwhile Olivia Ray was setting up and balancing the music sound on totally unfamiliar equipment after taking over from JP at the last minute. It was a real challenge but she calmly persisted with help from others and soon everyone was having fun on the dance floor.
Friday morning started with Dance Previews for that day at 9 With Gerard as MC the demos were efficient and quick and all were completed in 30 minutes. That gave the dancers an opportunity to warm up on the dance floor before classes began. There was a mix of levels taught over the weekend but there were complaints that there were not enough beginner dances on the schedule. Robert listened and next year there will be a dedicated beginner room, classes on both Friday and Saturday with the Easy/Classic Evening Dance room will be doubled in size. There were previews again that day at 5 for both Saturday and Sunday. Once more these were quick and efficient. This worked extremely well. Those who wanted to see the previews stayed, if you wanted to go eat early you did. No breaking up the energy at the Friday and Saturday evening dances for previews, it was a great idea to make the change … again, Robert listened to the dancers.
So let’s get to our instructors … what a talented group they were. Ria Vos travelled the furthest flying in from Holland. She has won the coveted International Instructor of the Year Crystal Boot Award four times and numerous other CB Awards for her choreography. It was a thrill to have her here in Toronto for the second time. (She taught at Fred & my Spring Workshop in 2012) Her classes were packed and there were so many of her dances played in open dance that I am sure her feet were hurting by the end of the weekend! I will list all the dances taught below, but my favourite of Ria’s was ‘Coca Cola Shake’, such a fun dance that fits the song perfectly. There was one other dance that Ria taught quite unexpectedly. She stayed at my house for one night before the event and I played some music that I had set aside for dances. She loved one track and instead of sight-seeing we worked on a dance finishing it just before we left to go to the hotel on the Thursday. Robert kindly let us teach it, so at 9 a.m. Saturday bleary eyed dancers packed the class and gave a whole-hearted ‘thumbs up’ for ‘Zee Zee’. Ria plans to teach it at Eurodance this coming weekend and then the step sheet and videos will go up on the Internet.
Niels Poulsen flew in from Denmark. This was also his second visit to Canada; Niels taught at Lily Choi’s event last October and was enthusiastically welcomed by the dancers, this response was repeated at ‘Celebrate Dance!’ Niels has also won numerous CB Awards and his dances are very popular in Canada. He was most approachable and was always on the floor leading his dances in the evening. Dancers enjoyed the challenge of his ‘Suicide Waltz’ (written with Debbie McLaughlin and Joey Warren) but for me I thoroughly enjoyed his beginner ‘Such A Fool’ as did everyone else in a filled to the brim class.
Home grown choreographer Peter Metelnick is now a resident in the UK with his partner Alison Biggs. They took the opportunity while in Toronto to visit with family and also to fly over to Banff, this had been on Alison’s list of wishes so a dream come true!! Local dancers took the opportunity to catch up with one of Canada’s most successful choreographers and also with Alison. Their choreography is extremely popular here and the dances they taught at the event were very well received. I heard good things about ‘Young Blood’ and lots of smiles for the classic ‘Destination Dancefloor’.
Another UK Representative was Dee Musk, also on her second visit to Canada. Dee’s dances are also very popular in Canada and Dee was on the floor leading many of her older as well as new dances at the Evening Dances. She was surprised but delighted that her classic dance ‘That’s The Day’ packed her class in the main ballroom. ‘Laughter in the Rain’ proved popular in the Beginner Room. A little bit of a challenge for beginners but manageable and Dee’s sense of humour pulls everyone along!
From the US, Scott Blevins is a regular in Toronto. Scott comes every year on his birthday in October to teach at Lily’s workshop so he is now just part of the gang!!! Regardless, everyone still wants to take his classes and ‘Cha Cha Burn’ in particular was absolutely packed in the main ballroom, everyone wanted to learn it either for the first time or from the Master himself!! What a terrific dance, although I must confess I am going to have to put in a lot of practice to get it down pat but it will be worth it!
John Robinson is always a pleasure to have at a dance event; he is such a likeable individual as well as talented dancer and instructor/ choreographer. John is known for finding good dances to teach. As well as teaching his own ‘Show Me What You’re Working With’, one of his most popular classes was his teach of the classic ‘I’m Movin’ On’ by Craig Bennett, such a beautiful dance. Thanks to John for putting together a routine for the instructors for the show. With limited time to practice and short notice, he pulled it all together!
First time teaching at CD! for Will Craig. Will has a following here in Canada; a number of his dances were on the dance floor at night and his classes were full. Will is a smooth, funky dancer and I could see dancers trying to emulate his styling. ‘Get My Name’ which Will wrote with Guyton Mundy pulled in the dancers. Another first timer was Vicky St. Pierre. Currently living in the US but originally from Quebec, Vicky’s French accent charmed as did the young Instructor herself. What a delightful person she is as well as talented. She impressed everyone with her performance in the show, her first time dancing solo in the Saturday show. Vicky is relatively new to the line dance scene but I can see her going far. Dancers enjoyed learning her latest choreography.
What can I say about Gerard Murphy, except that he seemed very mellow yellow at this event!!! Gerard is originally from Newfoundland but lives in Halifax now. He has been a popular fixture on our line dance scene for many years now and is known both for his choreography (a long list of major dance hits) and for his quirky sense of humour. Gerard did a wonderful job as MC at the Previews and the Show and as I type this I’m laughing at the image of him in my mind ….. It is of a tall bean pole with a yellow hat and mask, yellow T-shirt, a yellow tutu (yes, a yellow tutu), bony knees (sorry Gerard!) and long fluffy yellow leg warmers (I am sure there is a more formal name!). Gerard kept us all in stitches!! At the same time his classic teach ‘The Way’ packed his class and the dance floor in the evening.
Michele Perron flew in from Vancouver. What a stylish dancer she is, wish I could move like that! ‘Stuff You Gotta Watch’, Michele’s classic teach filled the floor, as did ‘Push’ and her new teach ‘Polythene Cha Cha’. Judy McDonald was busy handling many of the ‘behind the scenes’ jobs that are involved in an event of this size but still managed to teach a few classes. The Beginners and Instructors enjoyed her ‘Basics for Beginners’ technique class and dancers enjoyed her new dance ‘Come Get It’. Many thanks to all the dancers who came to my classes. I taught ‘Ami Oh’ as my Classic, ‘Streets of Mexico’ and I was thrilled to have a packed class for ‘Open Hearts’ (written with Fred Buckley, Kate Sala and Jose Miguel Belloque Vane) which also packed the dance floor at night. Thanks so much to everyone for dancing ‘Open Hearts’ and teaching it. (Note: My apologies for starting the class for ‘Open Hearts’ early … my watch was fast and I thought I was starting late and only found out my mistake at the end of the class. I know there were dancers who missed the beginning of the teach. Next year we will have clocks in each ballroom so there can be no confusion!)
Now on to the DJs who did an excellent job. Olivia took over the Main Ballroom at the last minute and did a great job. She had an extremely lengthy list of requests and worked hard to accommodate as many dancers as she could, keeping the floor full but at the same time allowing smaller groups the opportunity to dance their choices. A favourite with Ontario dancers, DJ Lynn Warden took over the controls in the Easy/Classic Room. She did a grand job, flexible and adaptable to anything that came along!! The dancers loved it when the instructors came in to do a one wall …. Niels was a favourite with ‘Such A Fool’, so nice to see him in that room. Dee kept the dancers laughin’ leading a number of her beginner dances and also doing a quick teach of Michele’s ‘Smokey Places’ which is a standard in the UK. Ria danced in the room as well. As one beginner said to me, “It was so nice to feel that the instructors cared about us as well”. Another added, “So great to have the one wall quick teach, it enabled me to do so much more dancing than I otherwise might have done”. As a result of its popularity, the Easy/Classic Evening Dance Room will be doubled in size next year, again …. Robert listens.
Fred Buckley took the controls for the first hour of easy dancin’ on the Saturday and Sunday mornings and I saw some rave evaluations of his sessions. Fred is always very conscious of the beginners and did quick little teaches so they too could dance. After all intermediates can dance to anything but beginners are limited. If they don’t feel comfortable and confident they won’t come again and we need them to keep our line dancing world alive. Many thanks to Fred for making that happen.
There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that the dancers don’t know about. This event has an extra responsibility and that is the laying down of the dance floors made by Robert. As I mentioned above, many thanks to David Laurin for taking that on. Thanks as well to Donna Laurin for her tireless work during the year and at the event managing the registration and numerous other administrative tasks that are necessary to enable the event run smoothly. She greets everyone with a smile and makes it all look easy. Thanks to Sue Rodgers for working at the door with a friendly greeting for all as well, also to Tina Veliotis for managing the hospitality suite (your instructors need some sustenance!) and to Judy McDonald for all her efforts as I mentioned above.
And, of course, there wouldn’t be an event without Robert Mah’s vision. He took a chance holding the first Celebrate Dance! in memory and tribute to his wife Carmen, and now look where he has taken us ….. to a fully fledged Canadian LD Weekend Event. Celebrate Dance! has now come of age and is truly an international line dance event that can hold its head high among other large weekend events across North America. So don’t forget to mark in the dates June 4-7 2015. Simon Ward, Shaz Walton and Neville & Julie have already confirmed, more names coming soon. Keep checking the website http://celebratedance.wordpress.com/
We also couldn’t hold the event without the dancers’ support. Thanks so very much to everyone who came from near and afar determined to have a good time! You are much appreciated and looking forward to seeing you again next year. Come a few days early or stay on after the event and explore our beautiful city of Toronto.
DANCES TAUGHT (choreographed by instructors unless otherwise noted)
ALISON BIGGS & PETER METELNICK
Young Blood Int
Hit The Road Jack Beg
Destination Dancefloor Int (Classic)
Turn My World Around Int
Not Through Loving You Int/Adv
Swing Time Boogie Int (Classic)
Cha Cha Burn Adv (with Jo Thompson Szymanski)
No Goodbyes Adv (with Nocola Lafferty)
Don't Wait Int/Adv (with Johanna Barnes)
So Feisty Adv (with Tajali Hall)
Not A Bad Thing Int/Adv (with Holly Easton)
Smooth Criminal Int (Classic)
Get My Name Int (with Guyton Mindy)
The Way You Move Int
It's a New Day B/I (Rob Glover)
Party Up Int (Classic)
Come Get It Int
Girls Rock B/I
Roma Cha Int
The Way Int (Classic)
Black Velvet Band B/I
Grab Someone Sexy B/I
Triple X Int (with Maria Maag)
Rather Be Int
Laughter In The Rain B/I
The Shoebox B/I
That's The Day Int (Classic)
Air Balloon Int
Dat Thang Int
Polythene Cha Cha Int
Stuff You Gotta Watch Int (Classic)
Just One Reason I/A
Blue Sky I/A (Classic)
Suicide Waltz Adv (with McLaughlin & Warren)
Such A Fool B
Come With Me Int
Gentle Int (Ann-Kristen Sandberg)
Mixed Up Int (Pat Stott & Carrie Ann Green)
Show Me What You're Working With Int
I'm Movin' On Int (Classic) (Craig Bennett)
(Rather Be) Without Int
VICKY ST. PIERRE
Shaky People Beg
It's Tricky Int (with Rob Glover)
Little Red Corvette Int (Classic) (Rob Glover)
Na Na Int
Ami Oh Beg (Classic)
Streets of Mexico Easy Int.
Open Hearts Int (with Fred, Kate & Jose)
Coca Cola Shake Int
Sister Kate Int (Classic)
Walking Through B/I
Zee Zee Int (with Vivienne Scott)\
If I Don't I/A
Like A Lover Int