I’m sure I’m not the only one who is somewhat anxious when I’m setting off to visit the dentist. So it was quite surprising that I was very cheerful as I flew down the highway to Newton Falls, Ohio on October 3. After all, I was en route for a whole day with a dentist, Dr. Jill Babinec, in charge! For those who have never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jill, let me introduce her. My first awareness of Jill was at the Ft. Wayne Showdown. There was this very cute petite young woman with a wide mischievous grin sitting behind the DJ controls. She had a wicked sense of humour indeed. I discovered that she was a couples dancer and DJ but was becoming involved in the line dance scene as well. And what a terrific dancer she was, rhythm in every pore. Next thing I heard she was instructing and also writing dances. She began to appear as a popular DJ at big line dance events, always approachable and open to requests and up on the dance floor with everyone else. What I didn’t know at that time was that she also organized her own annual line dance workshop as a fund raiser for Breast Cancer research which is a cause after her own heart. When she invited me to teach at the event I was delighted to say “Yes!”
Fast forward to Fall 2008. It’s a beautiful time of year to drive to Newton Falls. Such a pretty part of the world. With a bright blue sky above us we passed fields of grape vines, colourful trees of red and orange, and charming little towns with Lake Erie glistening to the north. We were booked into the Holiday Inn Express just a few minutes drive from the event hall. We were impressed with the attractive hotel. It had large, comfortable and modern rooms and bathrooms to die for – I want that floor tile for MY bathroom! It was very reasonably priced and included a full breakfast. We headed out to eat in town at ‘Faces’, do try their jojos instead of fries – very tasty! Some of the dancers headed off to a local country bar to get started on the weekend while others headed back to the hotel to put their feet up in preparation for the Big Day!
The workshop hall was a new venue for Jill. It was in a community centre just a few steps away from the main street in the small town. The hall was large and bright with a high stage. This was fortunate as the hall was full. One hundred & forty dancers had pre-registered but many more turned up at the door. Word had obviously spread that Jill runs good events! The dancers bought raffle tickets, 50/50 tickets and participated in the auction which had some great prizes. Super J Mart was also set up and there was quite a run on John’s latest T-shirt with the slogan ‘Oops, I variated’! Then the day began. I started off with a simple dance that is just pure fun, ‘Oh Suzanna’ by Chris Watson and Bill Larson. The dancers responded with lots of smiles and we were on our way. Jill interspersed the instruction with plenty of open dancing which gives the dancers’ brains a rest and their bodies time to loosen up!
Young Bryan McWherter was my co-instructor. I’ve known Bryan for a long time now and we Canadians were delighted at one time to discover that Bryan’s mother was born in Canada so he’s got some Canadian blood in him!!! Bryan is a lovely young man, sociable and happy to have a chat with anyone. He is also a gifted dancer who has danced from a very young age, and a talented choreographer. In addition, he is a very capable and entertaining instructor. Bryan had three dances for us. He started off with two of his own new creations, ‘Let Me Go’, to The Ting Tings, one of those songs that you won’t be able to get out of your head! Then the lively ‘Calabria’ to Enur feat. Natasja, a song he heard while holidaying in Mexico and we all pretended we were dancing under the palm trees! Finally ‘Tango Cha’ by Jo Thompson Szymanski & Deborah Szekely. It’s a great dance which has had quite a bit of press lately.
I carried on with ‘Pirate On The Run’ which I choreographed with Kim Ray from the UK. I was happy to get a good response to this dance which I will pass onto Kim! Then finished with ‘Forever Dancefloor’ written with Team A&S to ‘Forever’ by Chris Brown which a dancer renamed ‘The Fruit Salad Dance’, there’s a story behind this you might gather! There was also a spontaneous teach by Mary Bowman from the Celebrity Urban Line Dancers of a fun easy dance. Sharlene Sipple acted as translator to put the dance steps into line dance language which created much merriment.
Lunch was included as part of the day package. It was excellent and plentiful and having it right there made the day flow much more easily than if we had to race out to find somewhere to eat. The workshop ran from 9-4 and then dancers were on their own for the evening meal. Jill had prepared a map that showed the various eating places in the town but some of the dancers went back to the hotel and ordered in so they could rest their weary feet! Doors opened at 6:45 and dancing began at 7. Jill taught her latest dance ‘Love’s On The Inside’ to ‘Feel Good’ by Gwen Guthrie, choreographed with Scott Schrank. It has interesting steps and a smooth piece of music. Then the floor was open for all request dancing with Jill ably at the controls and constantly reminding dancers to bring their requests to her. At the end of the event we were treated to an impromptu, entertaining and rather manic performance of ‘Yes, You Won’t’. Bryan, Jill and John left us exhausted just by watching them! Boy they sure can dance.
I had a great time at the workshop. The dancers were a warm, fun loving group and were very welcoming and patient with my teaching. I enjoyed meeting the outgoing and friendly Frank Trace whose dances, ‘Adaptable’ and ‘Duck Soup’, are being enjoyed here in Toronto. Then there was Mary and her dancing friends whom I met at an event in the Catskills earlier in the year and who decided they would come to Newton Falls to catch up with me here. There was Sharlene and Rich who have emailed me in the past; it’s great to put a face to a name. I feel blessed to be part of our inclusive line dance community.
Jill and her helpful, smiling volunteers ran a very well organized and friendly event. There were a few kinks with the new hall in that the wooden floor had some slippery spots during the day. However, Jill and her volunteers got out with mops during the supper break and the floor was much better in the evening. She also plans to have the vendors and prizes in the outer lobby next year so the seating will be more spaced around and the floor will then be less crowded. However, it was terrific to see such a good turn-out.
Jill announced that Joanne Brady and John Robinson will be the guest instructors next October. These two are an entertaining duo and with Jill in the charge the event is not to be missed. Now …. I’ve just got to find a local dentist exactly like Jill!!!! I should add here that Jill is also an expert in martial arts -- multi-talented indeed.