The first signs of Spring are always so pleasurable, the first robin, a crocus popping above the ground, buds beginning to appear on the trees, but here in Toronto another sign is the excitement leading up to the Spring Workshop! This is the fourth year that Fred & Eddie Buckley and I have brought international instructors over to Toronto. The dancers were thrilled to know that this year Dee Musk and Craig Bennett would be our guests. Their dances are well known on our dance floors and news of their Crystal Boot Awards had made its way over the pond. Craig was here once before but for Dee it was her first visit to Canada.
You cannot come to Toronto without visiting Niagara Falls so Dee and Craig were persuaded to come a few days before the workshop. Their journey began before they got on the plane though! Craig had to work from 5:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the Monday, then head off to teach his class. From class he drove all the way to Dee’s house. Arriving well after midnight he found Dee waiting at the door with a revitalizing glass of wine all ready for him! Off to bed for literally only a couple of hours and at 4:30 a.m. Dee’s husband Pete drove them down to the airport. Fast forward to late afternoon (Toronto time) we picked them up at the airport, drove home for a quick supper and then off to Fred’s class! By the time they got to bed that evening, I don’t think they were quite sure where they were!!!
The next day brought local sightseeing and then off to West 7, an authentic country bar just outside of the city, to visit one of our favourite instructors, Tammy Wyatt. The local dancers were thrilled to have an impromptu teach by these international stars and Dee and Craig were instant hits.
The next day was scheduled for Niagara Falls, one of the wonders of the world. First we visited Niagara On The Lake, an exceptionally pretty theatre town situated right where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. It is also in the middle of wine country and our duo couldn’t miss a wine-tasting session! They decided that Cabernet France Icewine is a “must have” for everyone’s wine cellar, that is if it lasts long enough to make it down to the cellar!!
To get to Niagara Falls you drive along with the winding Niagara River on one side and wineries and orchards on the other. We checked out the floral clock on the way and the Whirlpool. Unhappily the aero car was closed as Dee reckoned there was nothing she would have liked better than to dangle hundreds of feet above a vortex of water that can reach up to 68 m.p.h.! As we got closer to the Falls our visitors commented on the fog …. they were informed that it was the spray from the Falls that reaches high into the sky. When the sun shines there is always a rainbow in the mist. Cameras in hand, we were soon peering over the 100,000 cubic feet of water that pours over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls every second. Did you know that 20% of the world’s freshwater lies in the Great Lakes and most flows over Niagara Falls? Our visitors were suitably impressed. Lots and lots of photos later and it was time to head back to the city. A little more rested, the next day they headed off to visit the CN Tower, the world’s tallest tower (until just recently knocked off its perch by Burj Khalifa in Dubai!) at 553.33 metres (1,815 feet 5 inches). Our courageous Dee and Craig did a quick shuffle over the glass floor 113 stories above ground, no hanging about for them!
Sightseeing at an end but with energy still to spare it was time for Dee and Craig to meet our fun-lovin' Canadian dancers. They came from far and near, some driving four hours for the opportunity to dance with these international stars. The hall was packed to capacity with dancers on a waiting list with fingers crossed just in case someone broke their leg! There was something for everyone on the ‘teach’ list. Dee started off with her latest improver dance ‘When Will You Be Mine?’, very well received by the dancers, followed by a new Maggie Gallagher ‘Quitter’. Craig was next up with the energetic ‘Crazy Devils’ which he co-wrote with Guyton Mundy and Rob Fowler. Lots and lots of smiles with this one. We were then treated to ‘Baby Baby Baby’, Dee’s latest intermediate dance written to Canadian Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’. This needed some concentration but the second time around everyone got it and enjoyed the flow of the dance. Craig got us going with his latest ‘Standing In The Shadow’. Although fast moving, the steps flowed and the dancers picked it up very quickly and even managed to sing as they danced! With a bit of time to spare Craig added in one of my personal favourites ‘Kinda Busy’, great track and interesting steps. Craig also did a quick review of ‘Senorita’ a nice easy dance that everyone could relax and enjoy. The grande finale was a dance choreographed by Dee, Craig, Fred & I especially for the workshop called ‘Latin Crazy’ to ‘I’m Crazy’ by DJ Bobo. We were gratified by the positive response from the dancers who were eager to dance it a second time!
Then a break for dinner and back for more action and the evening dance with Fred at the helm as DJ. Our instructors did quick reviews and it was amazing how we were able to remember the dances taught earlier during the day! This was also the time when our visitors mingled and chatted with the dancers. I think for many of the dancers this was the highlight of the day. Comments we received included, “Dee & Craig were amazing & such warm friendly people too. I love to watch instructors who can teach & include so much humour into their lessons.” “I loved Craig Bennett and Dee Musk, excellent teachers, not to mention choreographers and really, really nice people. It was the best workshop I've been to.” “Both Dee and Craig were so personable, great instructors and great dancers and they shared some GREAT dances with us!
What more could I add? Dee and Craig gave their all, they were patient and clear instructors; friendly, funny and genuinely happy to chat with each and every one of the dancers. On top of which they are tremendously talented choreographers and have left us with terrific dances to enjoy on Canadian soil.
BUT they weren’t finished yet! Sunday evening was party time with Emily Woo, together with her delightful helpers and dancers in the Toronto Chinese Line Dance Community. Emily has a huge following and, no wonder, as you can’t help but have fun with Emily around! She is a ball of energy, a madcap and at the same time a most charismatic individual and instructor.
The party was held in a Chinese restaurant north of the city, jam packed with dancers impatient to meet these famous choreographers. We enjoyed a delicious ten course meal in between dances! Dee taught ‘When’ and Craig ‘Standing In The Shadow’. They and I together taught ‘Latin Crazy’. In addition, maybe a slight exaggeration but it seemed that almost every other dance on the play list was one of theirs!! So they were constantly on the dance floor leading their dances including ‘Hush Hush’, ‘Playing With Fire’, ‘Footprints in the Sand’, ‘Hands Up’, ‘Too Close For Comfort’, ‘Keep It Burnin’’ and so on….. A recipe for indigestion for sure, but it didn’t seem to stop them enjoying the meal!
We were also treated to a number of Emily’s dances. She has a huge success with ‘Nobody But You' and she recently joined up with Queendy Lee to choreograph the funky ‘Strong Baby’ which might well repeat that success. It was a pleasure to watch Emily and her dancers on the floor, their sheer energy and enjoyment of dance is contagious. I was very happy to join them for ‘Do That Again?’, ‘Turn Me On’, ‘Sweet Little Things’ and ‘Let’s Chill’. There is nothing better than dancing with smiling faces all around for sure!
But all good things have to come to an end and 6 o’clock the next morning there we were packing the suitcases into the trunk and heading off to the airport. Lots of hugs and off they went. Boy, the house sure seems quiet without them. Dee and Craig were terrific guests and kept our home lively and full of laughter. But memories remain for sure.
I can't finish without thanking our friends who are always there before and at the workshops to move tables, hang up decorations, fill the coffee pots, meet and greet at the door and all the myriad of jobs that come with running an event like this. We couldn’t do it without you. We also couldn’t do it without all the dancers who travel to join us at our workshops. Your support, enthusiasm, good humour and smiling faces are the components that make our events a success. We truly value you all.
On a sadder note, a well known dancer and instructor in our line dance community, Carmen Mah, passed away the weekend before our event. It was a real shock to everyone so the $200 raised from the raffle baskets prepared by Dale was donated to the Philip Wong Memorial Fund, the charity chosen by Carmen’s family. Carmen will be greatly missed on our dance floors and our deepest sympathy goes out to her family.
PS 50/50 Thanks to generous dancers at the workshop $140 was raised for the Eastgate Community Centre Seniors’ Programme and a happy dancer made lots of new ‘best friends’!!