***In Memory of Carmen Mah***
‘Celebrate Dance!’ was the title and that was what we did the weekend of September 3/4/5 in Burlington, Ontario in celebration of the life of Carmen Mah. Carmen was a well known instructor and dancer in Ontario who very sadly passed away last year at the age of 54. Carmen is still missed by the line dance community.
Carmen loved going to dance events and talked about possibly organizing one herself. Frequently she was the first one to greet you with a wide smile when you entered the ballroom at any of the big events across Canada and the US and she was often one of the last dancers on the floor at night (or the next morning I should say!) At her side would be hubby Robert, who was her biggest supporter. When Carmen first started teaching Robert was right there to help her with her equipment. A little shy, at first Robert kept to the side and didn’t join in, but he told me that when Carmen went from one line dance class a week to dancing six days a week he reckoned he needed to learn otherwise he would never get to see her!!
As you can imagine, it has been an extremely difficult time for Robert and his and Carmen’s three children as they have grieved for their loss. However it was during this period that Robert decided that he wanted to create a joyous memory of his wife and he came up with the idea of holding a dance event in her honour. Hence ‘Celebrate Dance!’.
Many of Carmen’s favourite international choreographers and instructors were invited to teach including Scott Blevins (US), Rachael McEnaney (UK), John Robinson (US), Joanne Brady (US), Amy Christian-Sohn (US) and Jennifer Choo Sue Chin (Malaysia). Michele Perron flew in from BC and Gerard Murphy from Nova Scotia. Local instructors/choreographers included close friend Donna Laurin (she and husband David worked tirelessly helping to organize and run the event), Judy McDonald (who also helped with the organization), Double Trouble (Cathy M. and Kathy K.), Zandra McCallum (also a close friend of Carmen’s) and I was also honoured to be invited.
The event was held in the Burlington Hotel and Convention Centre. There was a good restaurant in the hotel but you only had walk across the road to have your choice of six other restaurants, so there was no trouble getting fed! The hotel is under renovation so there were a few hiccups because of that, but the rooms we were in were already renovated and were spacious and comfortable. There was not far to go to reach the ballrooms. It was here that Robert really set his mark….he made all the dance floors! Yes, from scratch! What a tribute to Carmen. Robert wants to personalize the floors as well, so if you would like your name on one of the squares, for $10 he will add whatever you would like written. For example MY square (I’m possessive already as you can tell!) will say “STAY-IN-LINE and have fun! Vivienne Scott” So put your thinking cap on and come up with your own words!!
The event started with a dance on the Thursday night. JP Potter from California and Lynn Warden, Ontario, were the event DJs. It is hard for a DJ to come from the outside without knowledge of local dance favourites and manage to please the dancers. However, JP Potter had a request list set up on Robert’s website well before the event and he did an excellent job of trying to accommodate all tastes and levels. Local dancers all love Lynn; she is a delightful individual and a most responsive DJ so her room was a pleasure to dance in as well. Let me add here that both night time ballrooms were equally attractive; there were no second class citizens here! I really appreciate the effort Robert put in to ensure this.
Friday morning started at 9 with a preview of the days’ dances; there were three classes each hour going through to 6 p.m. Then back to the dance floor at 7:30 for the evening dance with a break at 10 p.m. for a preview of dances to be taught on Saturday and Sunday. I gather the dance floor stayed open until the wee hours of the morning!
On the Saturday, Joanne started the morning off in one room with Zumba Gold; there was a good turnout and very positive reports on that session. At the same time the dancers had the choice of open dancing in another room with beginner dances only. This was an experiment that was very well received and the room was full.
Another full day of classes and then time for the special dinner. Boy was that a good meal! The roast beef was extremely tender and the chocolate cake was to die for!!! It was then time for the show. Amy looked gorgeous and pleased us with a taste of Indian dance, the graceful Jennifer performed the dance that brought her and Carmen together, Michele and hubby Brian delighted with some smooth moves, Gerard and his flash mob dancers filled the floor with energy and Rachael brought us to tears with an absolutely stunning performance. I should add here that Joanne did a terrific job of MCing both the dance previews and the show; she was very supportive to the performers (who are often very nervous, dancers might not realize this!), funny (as always) and she moved things along at the same time, it was a good job.
But there was another act that moved us all. You might remember that I mentioned that Robert is quite a shy individual. Well, there he was in the middle of the dance floor with a microphone in his hand dressed in a sarong. He explained that it was a traditional sarong brought for him by Jennifer and Jan and he added with a smile that the mystique of what men wear under it is somewhat like the Scottish kilt and he hoped there would be no costume malfunction! Robert told us that he loves karaoke, also plays an electric guitar and when he first met Carmen he serenaded her, so he sang to us one of her favourite songs; there was truly not a dry eye in the place.
But there was one other surprise, this time for Rachael. I presented her with an award that she won in New Zealand for ‘Best International Dance 2010 – Rhyme or Reason’. When the Award Organizers heard that Rachael and I would be at this event together, they asked if I would make the presentation, they felt that Canada would be an excellent stand-in for New Zealand!
Everyone looked rather jaded on the Sunday morning! I gather there there were dancers on JP's dance floor until 4:20 a.m. yet JP was impressively at the controls of his sound sytem at 10 a.m. for the first class. The later class start would have suited Carmen as Robert told me that she did not like early morning classes! The classes carried through to 4, then an hour of open dancing and finally the remaining dancers reluctantly left for home at 5 p.m.
The list of dances follows below; there was a mix of new and classics, beginner and more advanced. I liked the classics idea because as well as having fun walking down memory lane, it also cut down on the number of new dances that were taught over the weekend, that way hopefully it will enable us to remember more of the new ones we learnt!
All the instructors worked extremely hard, they chatted and socialized with the dancers and went over steps in the corner! There was a very friendly atmosphere, plus the way the space was organized with the rooms fairly close together dancers were constantly passing each other in the corridor so by the end of the weekend I reckon I had had the opportunity to say ‘Hi!’ to nearly everyone! It is always such a pleasure to meet up with dancing friends and make new ones, that’s a really special aspect of our dance community.
Many many thanks to Robert for organizing this excellent event and to all the volunteers who worked so hard. Carmen would have loved it; I could see her flitting around from room to room and rarely sitting down. I am sure she would have been so proud of Robert and also it would warm her heart to know that she will be remembered through ‘Celebrate Dance!’; beyond doubt a very fitting and joyous memorial.
PS Robert is considering changing the date for the event for next year and would like everyone's input. He has three different dates on his website and you can vote for the date you would prefer or there is the option to suggest another date, so go to celebratedance.ca and have your say!
(written by Instructor unless otherwise noted):
Hold on Tight (I/A) I loved this dance & it was well taught by a very patient Scott but it will need some practise!
Together Forever (I) Classic
5-10-15 Swing (I/A)
Fangbangers Cha (I)
Love Don't Run (I/A)
Joanne's classes are always so much fun.
Mr. Postman, Karlsson (B)
Swing It, Starnes (B)
Boogie Woogie Rhythm, Thompson (I)
1-2-3-4, Poulsen (B/I) I'd heard a lot about this dance and it was flowed very well
Hideaway Cha, Brady, Marshal, Thompson (I) Classic
JENNIFER CHOO SUE CHIN
Sweetie, Tygesen & Poulsen (B)
Aces Go Places, Jennifer & Eddie Tang (B)
Hey Ladies (B/I)
Chilly Cha Cha, AT Kinson (I) Classic
Zoobie Doobie (B/I)
At This Moment (I) An unusual and lovely waltz, this is where I actually attempted arm movements, I need some coaching from Jennifer though!
Amy is a treat to watch dancing.
Are You Ready? (I)
Will Do You Good (b)
Higher Ground (b)
Feels So Good (I) Classic
The Bongo Song (I) Lots of practising in the corner for this one!
Always, Amy & Steve Lescarbeau (I)
DOUBLE TROUBLE (Cathy M., & Kathy K.)
This two are great instructors and you laugh your way through your steps!!
Deuce Coupe, Cathy M. (B/I) Classic
Scrappit, Kathy K. (I) Classic
Nice to see these two classics back on the dance floor.
Baby Tonight, McGowan Hickie (B/I)
I Said Oh Oh (B/I)
Never Gonna Change My Tune (I)
Diamonds In The Moonlight (I)
This Life, Multari (B)
Boardwalk Rodeo Stomp, Nivens & Bowers (B)
Such a lovely lady and patient instructor.
Romantasy, Peter & Alison (I)
Just Want to Dance, Carmen Mah (B)
Tango Perhaps, Carmen Mah (B)
Closer to My Dream, Peter & Alison (I)
Hot Mess, Curtis (B/I)
Live a Riviera Life, Sittrop (B/I)
Amigos Waltz, Sorensen (B) Lovely story ... this dance was specially choreographed for Janet Martin and Liz Visser from Fenelon Falls, Ontario. It so happens that they came to this event and coincidentally Donna chose to teach the dance! I think they should all buy lottery tickets!!
London Rhythm Swings, Audri R (B)
How Come The World Won't Stop (A) Classic
About That Walk (I)
Alabama Slammin; (I) Great dance and I really enjoyed Rachael's instruction, she is very easy to learn from. and fun at the same time!
Free Fallin' (A)
Purr Kitty (B) Easy and fun beginner dance
Cryiny Over You (B)
Mr. Mysterious (I)
Country Shakin' (B/I)
Country As Can Be (B/I)
Sweet Memories (B/I) Classic I loved this dance when Judy first brought it out and it was a pleasure to dance it again
8&! (B/I) Classic
Ain't Leavin' (B/I)
Lover Lover (B/I)
Crabbuckit (I) Classic Nice to see this favourite back on the dance floor
Defying Gravity (I)
Good Vibrations (B)
Rhythm of Life (B)
What's Up Lonely (I)
You Won't Dance Along (I)
Road to Ruin (I)
Straw Dust (B)
Bossy ... A Little Bit (B)
Tangled In Time (I)
Push (B/I) Classic
Catch A Hip Cat (B/I) Classic
Soft & Only (I) Absolutely beautiful dance, you just glide over the floor. Michele writes some wonderful dances.
Sugar Coated Darling (I)
Always a lot of fun to learn from John and to dance beside him although he can be a bit distracting at times! when he adds in "John" variations and you end up laughin' rather than dancin'!
Timeless, Andrews & Dean (B)
Hook Me Up, (B)
Forever & One Day (I)
The Thrill Is Gone, Kinser, Furnell (I/A)
Love's Kiss (I)
Love Is The Word, Schmidt (I)
Destination Dancefloor, Peter & Alison (I) Classic
Midnight Mix, Speck (B)
Smooth & Slotted, Tang (B)
Wishes (B/I) Classic
Jungle Rhythm (I) Classic
Dr Flame, Vivienne, Sala, Buckley, McGowan Hickie (I)
Hands On My Heart (B/I)
Good Time George (B/I)
Love, JoAnn, Sorensen (B)
Believing In The Power, Kristensen & Brendholt (I)
Pot of Gold, Hrycan (I) Classic This is one of my all-time favourites
Nothin' But the Music, McLaughlin (I/A) This was a tricky dance but Zandra is a very patient and experienced instructor and by the end of her teach everyone was facing the right way and smiling as they did so!