Colorado Springs, 2013
It was a little bit of deja vu as the date for Pike's Peak Line Dance Or Bust! came closer and Colorado Springs was fighting wild fires again but thankfully this time the smoke cleared well before the July 4th weekend and some of the stress fell off the shoulders of A.J. and Scott Herbert. That said, A.J. was just getting over pneumonia and Scott over a knee operation but you would never know it from the wonderful welcome you receive from these two as you walk in the door and their calm demeanor as they put the finishing touches to everything that is needed to prepare for a weekend Line Dance event. They declare themselves very fortunate in the dedicated volunteers who assist them. The volunteers are indeed terrific and make you feel immediately one of the gang. As well they seem to have as much fun as the dancers attending!
A.J. and Scott met through dancing in 1993, went on to perform as well as choreograph together, and also teach. They both work full-time as IT specialists but still manage to teach two classes a week, one of which is held at the Copperhead Road Saloon, a western bar with a great dance floor. It is a terrific spot and a trip to the Saloon is where those who arrive earlier start off the weekend dancin' on the Thursday evening. The event officially starts on the Friday afternoon.
Initially the event was held in smaller venues but as it became more popular more space was needed so last year A.J. and Scott moved it to the Doubletree Hotel in Colorado Springs. This is an attractive hotel with comfortable rooms and, in particular, beds ... much needed after a full day of dancin'! The hotel has a restaurant but there are also places to eat close by that you can easily walk to and a Target across the road for picking up some nibbles for the weekend or the toothbrush you forgot to bring! If you want to arrive a little earlier or leave a few days later there is lots to see and do in the area including traveling up the spectacular Pike's Peak which at 14,115 feet towers over the city. The Garden of the Gods is a gorgeous spot and a must visit, as well you can white water raft, fish, visit interesting little local towns, and eat at some great restaurants.
But we were here to dance and classes started at 1 p.m. on the Friday and carried through until 4 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon. There were two classes an hour with one room dedicated to Beginner dances. Both rooms had excellent floors. A.J. and Scott were not happy with the quality of the Hotel floors last year so this time around they rented the floors from an outside specialist company. The dance floors can make all the difference to the dancers and to A.J. and Scott that is the critical point. Their absolute focus is on the dancers and even though renting a good dance floor is costly, in their minds it was definitely worth the expense if the floors saved on knees, hips and so on! This is just one incident that demonstrates the way they go over and above the basics for their dancers. The continental breakfast both Saturday and Sunday and the lunch on the Saturday are other indications they really care. A.J. and Scott were always around ready to address any concerns or just to have a chat and at the same time they seemed to be having a great time, always nice to see in Event Directors.
A.J. and Scott change their teaching staff fairly regularly in order to expose their dancers to as many different styles of teaching and choreography as possible but Jo Thompson Szymanski has been working with them from the very beginning. Denver is her home so it was a natural connection but over the years she, A.J. and Scott have become close friends and as Jo told me "more like a line dance family". Even when she was going through major health issues and couldn't walk without aid, she attended the event and called out the steps to the dancers while sitting. Jo's bright-eyed eight year old daughter Anna always comes along as well; A.J. and Scott adore her and she brings a smile to everyone's face. Hubby Tim comes to keep an eye on Anna and pops along for the evening dance. Jo is a wonderful instructor, graceful and gifted dancer, talented choreographer and most importantly a genuine caring and giving individual. We can learn so much from the way she has handled the major health issues in her life. She led 'Line Dance Church' on the Sunday morning and described the 'Gratitude' Journal that she wrote during that time that included comments such as 'I am so thankful for the sun shining through the window'; this when she was in isolation. As she told us "There is always someone who has much bigger problems". It was a privilege to learn and dance with Jo at this event.
John Robinson is a consistent face as well, he is a natural fit for the Herberts. John is one of those instructors who can make learning any level of dance fun, in fact you learn from John without realizing that you are, although you do have to be prepared for the unexpected!! The other instructors this year included Joanne Brady. Joanne could easily do a stand-up comedy act but what particularly sets her apart is her ability to personally connect with everyone in her classes. You are not just a student learning a dance, you are a friend of Joanne's keeping her company in her class and at the same time enjoying the experience of learning a dance.
This was the second year for Scott Blevins to teach in Colorado Springs and although people tend to think of Scott as teaching intermediate dances he seemed to really enjoy teaching the beginners. I think he realized that some of the newer dancers were a bit intimidated and he teased and had fun with them; I could almost see their shoulders relaxing as smiles came to their faces! Ruben Luna is a sociable, gregarious instructor and choreographer whose enthusiasm for line dancing rubs off on us all. He is also a very kind man. Coincidentally we caught the same plane to LA on our way home. We were told it was overbooked and I hadn't been given a seat number so I was anxious that I wouldn't be able to board. The reason was that I had a 4 hour layover before flying on to Toronto during which my son and pregnant daughter-in-law were going to visit with me. This would be my last opportunity to see them before their baby is born in just a few weeks. Ruben offered to give up his seat for me if needed even though it meant he wouldn't fly out until the next day - what a generous offer and very much appreciated. Fortunately they squeezed me in!
This was my second year working with Juliet Hauser from California and what a lovely person she is as well as excellent instructor. She is a clear, patient and easy to follow instructor Juliet also has a keen sense of humour and if you value laughter she is a great person to dance beside!! Michael Diven can also keep you giggling!! As well as working full-time, Michael choreographs, teaches and also DJs for weddings; he has 100 weddings to DJ this year, all gained word of mouth. His energy and enthusiasm is catching. DJ Dr Jill also has quite a few arrows to her bow!! As well as fixing teeth (LOL), Jill choreographs, teaches dance and is a talented dancer albeit sometimes a rather "wild and crazy" one!!! If you've seen Jill on the dance floor from time to time you will know what I mean! Always open to requests Jill is a very approachable DJ and at the same time she keeps us all chuckling!
I want to thank A.J. and Scott so very much for inviting me to teach again and making me feel part of their line dance family. I felt completely at home and had a wonderful time, in fact I don't think I sat still for very long all weekend!! Many thanks also to the volunteers who greeted me so warmly and to all the dancers who came to my classes with smiles on their faces.
I should add that there was a patriotic performance on the Saturday evening and we were treated to a fine dance performance by Jo, John, Scott and Ruben followed by a group performance by the instructors and the volunteers. It was short and sweet but seemed to be much appreciated by the audience.
A.J. and Scott have already set the dates for next year so put July 3-4 2014 in your calendar and head to Colorado Springs, you won't regret it!!
DANCES TAUGHT written by the instructor unless otherwise noted:
Never Say Never (Int)
Booty Chuk (Int) with Lou Ann Schemmel
M.C.B.A. (Beg Contra) Malene Jakobsen
Can't Touch This
Voodoo Me Baby (Beg) with Julie Ellis
Wrapped Inside Your Love (Beg) Amy Christian-Sohn
A Little Party (Beg) with Ruben Luna
I Like Beer (Beg) Rick Todd
Stagger Lee (Int) Bracken Ellis
Sneakin' Back In (Int) Larry Bass
Precious Memories (Int)
Kick A Little Dirt (Low Int) Patti Nivens
Honey Pie (Beg) Maggie Gallagher
Mambo Moves (Beg) Larry Bass
Once In A Lifetime (Beg)
I Love It (Int)
Come With Me (Int)
Who What When (Int)
Sweet Treats (Beg)
Hot Dog Boogie (Improver) Francien Sittrop
Barefoot and Buckwild (Beg) GYTAL
You Got That Thang (Beg+) Rachael McEnaney
Boom Sh-Boom (Int/Adv) Rachael McEnaney
What Love REally Means (Int) Sue Hall
Trendin' (Int) with Jo & John Kinser, Philip Sobrielo
Blurred Lines (Int/Adv) Rachael McEnaney & Arhay Centeno
Everybody C'mon (Beg) with Bracken Ellis
Mini Barrel (Beg+) Niels Poulsen
A Little Jiggle (Beg) Lynne Martino
Waltzing at Twilight (Int) John Dembiec
Stay, Stay, Stay (Improver) Niels Poulsen
Drive By Baby (Beg)
Choo Choo Cha Boogie (Lower Int) with Jo Thompson Szymanski
Mean (Beg+) Randy Pelletier
Buzz Me (Beg) Frank Trace
Bounce Bounce (Beg) Frank Trace
Call Me Baby (Int)
Cranks My Tractor (Int)
From Latin With Love (Int) with Ria Vos, Karl-Harry Winson
& Fred Buckley
Be My Baby Now, (Int) Vicky St Pierre & Rachael MeEnaney
You Complete Me (Beg+) Karl-Harry Winson
Leave It To You (Beg) with Fred Buckley
Always a Good Time! (Beg)
Let's Chill (AB)
JO THOMPSON SZYMANSKI
Love Lifted Me Up (Beg+)
14C Fun Push (Beg Contra) Rob Fowler & Helen O'Malley
Wagon Wheel Rockin' (Beg) Gail Craddock
Forever Cool (Beg)
Amazing Grace I See (Int)
Kreedom (Easy Int) with Michele Perron
Ex-Squeeze Me (Beg Contra) John Robinson & Kathy Hunyadi
Humanized (Int) with Scott Blevins
I Love You, I do (Beg/Int) with Michael Barr & Michele Burton
Rita's Waltz (Beg)