Pike’s Peak Line Dance … or Bust! That’s how the dancers attending this event felt despite headlines proclaiming the ferocious forest fires decimating parts of Colorado Springs to be the most costly fires ever in the State of Colorado. Just the week before the event the fires were still not under control and smoke was everywhere. But obviously the event was meant to be; by the time we arrived the sky was a clear bright blue; there was no smoke to be seen anywhere and the air was crisp and fresh.
But you can imagine what stress this could create for event directors. Particularly as this year the event had been moved from a small locally-owned hotel to a large hotel that is part of a national chain. A.J. and Scott Herbert had to sign a contract with the hotel well before the date and were on tender hooks as the days went by and the fires grew. What an impressive couple these two are though, you would never know there had been anything to worry about … including coming into the hotel to discover that only 1000 square feet of dance floor was available instead of 5000, potentially bringing new meaning to the instruction “Take small steps”!! That problem was promptly rectified along with others, all behind the scenes.
A.J. and Scott met in 1993 at couples and line dance lessons sharing their love of dance. Although they both work full-time as IT specialists they went on to perform together, choreograph and teach two classes a week as well as run a number of smaller day workshops during the year along with PPLD or Bust! Initially this event was just a small local event but through the years it grew so much that dancers were being turned away and more space was needed hence the move to the Doubletree Hotel in Colorado Springs this year.
A.J. and Scott together with Jo Thompson Szymanski, who lives in Denver, form the heart of the event. Other regular instructors include Juliet Hauser from California (what a lovely person she is) and everyone's favourite John Robinson. Returning guests this year included the popular duo Michael Barr & Michele Burton and Ruben Luna who always has time for everyone. I had the honor to be invited for the first time as a guest instructor along with Scott Blevins who seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself at this event.
But what event starts with a trip to the Wild West?!! This one does!! On the Thursday evening off we headed to the Copperhead Road Saloon where A.J. and Scott teach on a Thursday night. It’s a huge place full of antiques and funky decor that amuse and delight. The Saloon has separate areas so you can dance your little tootsies off while your non dancing friends have a chat sitting in the couches in one of the rooms off to the side or they can sit out on the patio listening to live music. With A.J. on the dance floor and Scott playing the music you can’t help but have fun and lose all your inhibitions!! After all there is a pole right in the middle of the dance floor!! A.J. just might have a story to tell you about that!
We could sleep in the next morning as the event didn’t start until early Friday afternoon and everyone learnt together in the main ballroom. Jo Thompson Szymanski warmed us up with a technique workshop after which classes went on until 6 with a meal break before the Evening Party at 7:30. Since Jo has been unable to travel to events for quite a while, this weekend was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to dance with her. I am very happy to report that Jo looked extremely well and is as fabulous and charismatic an instructor as she ever was and as graceful a dancer. We were also in for an extra treat as young Anna kept her Mum and us company for the weekend and what a delightful little girl she is with Jo's style and grace. Tim Szymanski also came along to check out what we were up to and joined in with some west coast swing with Jo.
Saturday morning check-in was early at 8 as many local dancers came in for the day. The registration was carried out very efficiently and the volunteers were delightful, nothing was too much trouble for them. The Herberts had put on a very tasty continental breakfast included in the package. Also included was a boxed lunch with a huge sandwich that would last a lost hiker for a full week!! There was a choice for classes during the day, either the spacious main Ballroom with intermediate dances or the smaller (although still a good size) room for beginner dances. I will list the dances taught below, but on the Saturday afternoon Jo and Scott taught their newly choreographed dance ‘Through The fire’; step sheet not yet available. This was their first creation together so it created quite a buzz.
The Evening Dance was sooooo much fun!! The instructors, together with Flag Bearers, put on a short patriotic performance and the rest of the evening we just danced, and danced, and danced etc., etc!! Jill Babinec did a great job of keeping the floor full. I should add that whenever there were dancers sitting down, one of the instructors would start an easy dance that everyone could follow and soon the dance floor would be full again.. There were also a number of beginner dances taught over the weekend as alternatives for more difficult 'hot' dances.
Sunday morning started at 8 with Line Dance Church led by Jo followed by classes in both rooms, all the way through to 4. There was a lunch break during which Door Prizes were given out and I don’t know when I have ever seen so many donated prizes, lots of smiling faces!! The Grand Door Prize was admission to next year's Pike's Peak event and Scott Blevins donated a complimentary pass to The Marathon. The 50/50 was drawn with a happy dancer going home with $340 in her pocket. Money raised at this event usually goes towards funding Pike’s Peak Line Dance Scholarships, a wonderful concept that A.J. and Scott came up with. Through the Fund they cover the costs for the event for chosen dancers who would love to come but can’t afford to. However, this year, understandably, the money raised went to the local Fire Fighters Association.
So, is this an event I would recommend? Most definitely!! It’s an extremely friendly event; all of the volunteers together with A.J. and Scott make you immediately feel part of their line dance family. Their warmth and inclusiveness helped even the shyest person to come out of their shell. As one dancer said to me “I came here on my own feeling rather anxious and leave knowing I have made lots of new friends”. All the instructors mingled and chatted and had as much fun as the dancers. There was a good mix of dances of all levels and types of music, something for everyone I would say. The Hotel is modern with comfortable spacious rooms. You can eat all your meals either in the Hotel Restaurant or the Bar/Lounge or alternatively there are many places to eat within walking distance if you don’t want to get into your car.
Colorado Springs is in a gorgeous part of the world with the spectacular Pike’s Peak at 14,115 feet towering over the city. There is lots to do if you want to come earlier or stay later. A.J. told me that they have a spectacular fireworks display from the top of the Mountain on July 4th. You could take a scenic ride to the top of the mountain and cycle down if you feel particularly adventurous! White water rafting is another possibility or spend a few days visiting local museums, interesting little towns, fishing, hiking in the Garden of the Gods, or golfing.
A.J. and Scott’s absolute main focus is to make sure that everyone enjoys themselves and they achieved that aim in spades. They are warm and caring people who have a loyal group of line dancing friends and volunteers. There is more to line dance events than simply learning dances and the Herberts have created a welcoming inclusive atmosphere that had dancers calling out as they left ... “See you next year, same time, same place!”
Dances written by Instructors unless otherwise noted:
MICHAEL BARR & MICHELE BURTON
You Know You Know
Just A Matter of Time
Midnight Train Tomorrow
Smack Dab by Tajali Hall
Gypsy Rose by Lorraine Kurtella (Beg)
Roll That Rag Top (Beg)
Louisiana Sailor (Beg)
Let It Bay Be (Beg)
Nice and Slow
Straight to Memphis by Kate Sala
Through The Fire by Scott & Jo Thompson
Naughty Baby Lite
Somebody That I Used to Know by Max Perry (Beg)
Misty Blue by Julia Wetzel
Clear Blue Eyes (Beg)
Night Club Floor Split (Beg)
Search The Whole World by Michele Perron
Go Seven by Ria Vos (Beg)
Just The Two of Us
Sexy And I Know It
Corazon by Jesse Garcia (Beg)
Imelda's Way by Adrian Churm (Beg)
One Last Lie by Ruben, Scott Schrank, & Irene Tang
Lil Yeller Blanket (Beg)
Moves Like Jagger by Yeo Yu Puay (Beg)
Big Bang Boogie (Beg)
Unmistakable by Darren Bailey
Half Past Nothin by Neville Fitzgerald & Julie Harris
Love Repeats by Michele Burton (Beg)
Wrapped Inside Your Love by Amy Christian Sohn (Beg)
All Good by Kate Sala (Beg)
Quanto Amore by Vivienne & Fred Buckley
Hands On My Heart
Still Water Runs Deep by Vivienne & Kim Ray
Blue Cha by Vivienne & Fred (Beg)
Permanent Press (Beg)
Wanna Fly by Vivienne & Fred
JO THOMPSON SZYMANSKI
Good Morning (Beg)
Through Fire by Jo & Scott Blevins
Meant To Be by Jo and A.J. Herbert
Hole In The Wall
East of Jerusalem
Pray It Away (Beg)
Going Home To Jesus (Beg)