CHANGE AT THE TOP!
The Tampa Bay LD Classic has been a very successful event in the capable hands of Arline Winerman for many years so change at the top brought with it a little apprehension in the minds of some of the dancers who have faithfully attended every year. What many of them didn’t know was that Jennifer Cameron had been handling the registration and other organizational duties for a number of years so she already had a good understanding of the event. Plus she and husband Jason also run two other successful events, the ‘Line Dance Showdown’ and ‘Fun In The Sun’. The challenge was to retain the unique atmosphere of this event and at the same time add Jen’s own personal stamp.
But you can all relax immediately -- you will still get your warm chocolate chip cookie on your arrival at the Doubletree Hotel!! In fact, don’t tell anyone but I ended up with three, lucking out with a room-mate who is on a diet! The registration is exactly the same with Jen and her helpers behind the desk; lots of choice still with the vendors and Arline still there to greet you on the way to the ballrooms. Thursday was still a free dance night with both ballrooms open so locals could pop by to join in the fun.
As usual there was an international flavour to the teaching staff along with instructors from across the US which included some of Florida’s top instructors of which they have many.
So let’s start with ‘from across the pond’! It was Ria Vos’ first trip to the US. Although she has been very well known in Holland for a long time, it is only over the last few years that her dances have catapulted up the charts in the UK and the US and they filled the dance floors at the weekend. What a wonderful choreographer she is and she seems able to turn her hand to all levels and all types of music. I took a couple of Ria’s classes (including the advanced ‘Language of the Heart’, just beautiful) and she is a very pleasant, clear and patient instructor. Ria was most entertained when dancers clapped at the end of every 8 count section; I guess this must be a North American thing!!! Plain relief I reckon that we managed to get through that 8 counts!
From the UK we had Debbie McLaughlin and Dan McInerney. Debbie has been garnering a lot of attention among intermediate/advanced dancers in North America and had good classes. Her dances cleverly capture the intricacies of the songs she writes to. Dancers were happy to learn ‘Prejudice’ which is already popular. Dan McInerney is also becoming known in the US and dancers were pleased to see him here in Tampa.
Scott Blevins flew down from Chicago and as well as teaching took on the role of MC, more about that later. Scott has a huge following and his dances filled the floor. However, he also has a reputation for writing tricky dances that can make a somewhat less confident dancer rather nervous about taking one of his classes! Let me put your mind at rest; I took ‘5-10-15 Swing’ which definitely took some concentration and my right foot and left foot seemed to have minds completely separate from my own! That said Scott went over the steps as many times as requested and made us all feel that ultimately we WOULD get this dance! If you want an easier Scott dance ‘Freak A Little More’ is BIG and fun!
Michael Barr and Michele Burton from California are firm favourites for sure down here. They are friendly, sociable and always seem to be having a good time. That’s aside from the popularity of their dances. Michele’s ‘Fundamental Swing’ is already hitting the floors and we all felt part of a Broadway show when she taught ‘Rag Top Down’. ‘Drinkin’ Wine’, the winning dance from the Pro Team Choreography competition at the Windy City event, written by Michael Barr (and taught by him), Frank Trace and Gerard Murphy, was played numerous times over the weekend. Everyone loved the ‘stop/looks’!! Just checkin’ on my neighbour, although I have to say that I always seemed to be looking in the wrong direction from everyone else!
Bracken Ellis-Potter also flew in from California and had a large class for her ‘Moves Like Jagger’. Bracken has written some excellent dances but she also has a new project and she treated dancers to a session of ‘Cardio Line Dance’. I peeked in and dancers seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
It was Barry & Dari Anne Amato’s first time to teach at this event and dancers were delighted to see them back instructing as other work has taken them out of the line dance scene for a while. They have a distinctive style of dance and we all want to look just like them when we do those moves!! The beginners enjoyed ‘Boondocks’ while the intermediates took on ‘Guitar Man’.
I don’t think Frank Trace ever sits down! He just loves to dance and is so approachable and enthusiastic; if he was not dancin’ he was chattin’ to the dancers! His classes were full. Frank choreographs to a wide range of music so there was something for everyone. I particularly enjoyed the flowing ‘Love Letter Waltz’, such a beautiful song.
Popular Junior Willis from Tennessee had his hands full with clogger ‘wannabes’! I think it is because Junior looks soooo cooool when he does his clogging routines! Thankfully he kept his classes reasonably simple although to the unsophisticated eye the dancers looked most impressive. Junior also taught his regular line dance classes and the hip bumps in ‘Jingle-Jangle’ seemed to impress the audience!!
I just saw Rosie Multari from New Jersey a couple of weeks ago when she came up to Toronto to teach at my Fall workshop. The dancers loved her there and the Florida dancers felt much the same way! Rosie is so much fun to have as an instructor and she also chooses great music for her dances. ‘Marry You’ is an easy dance that hits the notes perfectly as did her brand new dance ‘The Best Thing’.
And, of course, as always John Robinson adds sparkle, humour and energy. He certainly needed energy this weekend as he and Chris were rushed off their feet making ‘design your own’ T-shirts. Once dancers saw a few of them on the dance floor they all wanted one! It’s a terrific idea. But John still had time to teach and once we got used to starting on ‘apple, ice cream, socks, water melon’ (or something like that!) we all had a great time with John. I particularly enjoyed ‘Party Shuffle’, a real choice of music for this one, not sure yet which song I prefer!
Then the Floridian we all know .... Guyton Mundy. Guyton had quite a selection of dance teaches, including ‘That Kinda Lovin’ for those who don’t like to move their arms around this way and that (sorry Guyton!) However the most popular teach for both dancers and watchers had to be ‘Jump In Da Line’. Deceptively easy at first, life became far more complicated when you had to move into a different line, dance around in a box and then sling your arms around, while at the same time you were laughing until your sides ached .... and that included the audience!!!
As I mentioned above, Florida has a plethora of excellent instructors and we were treated to classes from some of them at the weekend. Marilyn McNeil, Kathy G. and Sandy Albano are crowd pleasers and excellent, experienced instructors. They bring the latest ‘hot’ dances to the floor. This year among the dances they taught were ‘Show Me The Love’ by Simon Ward taught by Marilyn, 'Walkin' Blues' by Jill Babinec & Debi Pancost, taught by Kathy (Jill was on hand to teach us some attitude! ) and 'Never Enough" written by Joey Warren and taught by Sandy. Nice to see Joey there to give support.
Zac Detweiller is one of the nicest young men you could possibly wish to meet and a very good instructor. Zac taught ‘Caribbean Pearl’ written by one of the UK’s favourite choreographers, Maggie Gallagher. I met Maurice Rowe quite a few years ago when he was a young competitive dancer and he impresses just as much with his smooth and athletic dancing now as he did then. Just watch Maurice do a cartwheel and end up right back in time with everyone else in line!! Maurice brought back ‘Deja Vu’ written by JP Potter who was one of the DJs for the event. Lisa Johns-Grose taught in the Beginners room and what a unique style, she sings the instruction! It is really fun and certainly helps you pick up the steps! She included one of her own dances ‘Lucky Break’. Arline, of course, always teaches interesting dances and I particularly like ‘Purr Kitty’ by Rachael McEnaney. It’s a bit nippy but once you forget about your feet, you can really have fun with this dance.
Thanks so much to everyone who came to my classes. Sorry you were dancin’ on the chairs on the Saturday morning with ‘Hands On My Heart’ but you were a very patient group who put up with ‘T-Junction’, ‘Snake’, ‘May Pole’, ‘Timmys’ and so on with smiles on your faces! Great to dance 'Dr Flame' with so many of you. So nice to get such a positive response to my impromptu teach of beginner dance 'Beach Thang!' which I co-wrote with Dancin' Terry.
Talking about the evening dances, Louie and Olivia were terrific as DJs. Both were at the controls most of the day and on into the wee small hours. Louie did all the set-up plus the music needed for the show which is an enormous task. Without the DJs we wouldn’t be dancing so they deserve an extra round of applause. Thanks also to JP who gave Louie a much deserved rest from time to time. I thought the evening dances were terrific, both floors kept full. Louie’s room tended to the ‘latest and hottest’ dances requested with some classics thrown in, while Olivia’s room was predominantly beginner/improver and mainstream and she was very responsive to requests. There was also open dancing in the Lobby both Friday and Saturday afternoons and that proved very popular.
And the show ..... lots and lots of laughter! The theme was the Wild Wild West and wild it was indeed! We had handsome cowboy hunks, not so pretty cow girls; we had judges, sheriffs, so on and so forth!!! We had Jen & Jason and their back-up team taking their winning ‘Wild Wild West’ dance to new heights. Then, as always, we were impressed by the Amatos and their precision dancing. There was lots of dancer participation including those now ‘pro’ cloggers! Plus some funky back-up dancers most definitely put Guyton in his place! Excellent teamwork from the Sweet 'n Sassy Dance Team led by Christine Bass from the Villages and also Trish St. Dennis and The Glitter Sisters.
I must add here that Scott was an excellent MC. It was really gratifying to hear some background on our instructors acknowledging their talents; while at the same time he kept us smiling and the show moving along so that by the end we still had plenty of time to dance.
Jen changed the timing for the dance previews this year so that they did not disrupt our social dancing. They were held at 7 p.m. on the Friday and 1 p.m. on the Saturday and didn’t take long. Reviews of the dances taught were on the Friday evening and Sunday during the dayand were kept short and sweet (mainly because everyone was terrified of Scott!! But that’s another story!!)
The Pro Am Competition was another success with more dancers competing and a packed room; there wasn’t a spare chair and people were sitting on the floor to watch. I think this is the only event that has a competition like this, many thanks to Arline for the concept. The idea is that you have an instructor dance with you when you compete. This way you can just peer over your shoulder to check what they are doing if you’re not sure what comes next! It works most of the time except when they too forget the steps! Nice to know your instructors are not perfect either!
So summary ... Jen managed to keep the distinctive flavour of the Tampa LD Classic so that we all still felt at home while at the same time she smoothed a few rough edges and gave us more dancin’ time. She worked very hard but come the evening she and Jason let their hair down and joined the dancers on the floor, always nice to see that. It was an event that genuinely caters equally to all levels and tastes in music and it still does. November is a great month to be down in Florida. You can extend your trip beyond the event and join Florida dancers at their classes, go to the numerous attractions, do some shopping or simply walk on the beach. The Tampa Bay LD Classic has it all. Many many thanks to Jen, Jason and their helpers.
DANCES TAUGHT Choreographed by instructor unless otherwise noted,
(If I've missed something or made a mistake do please let me know!)
Lonely Again (I), Neville Fitzgerald & Julie Harris
Never Enough (I), Joey Warren
BARRY & DARI ANNE AMATO
Guitar Man (I)
Missouri Swings (I), Michele Perron
Sara Smile (iI
Shackles (B), Jo Thompson Szmanski
Heavenly Waltz (B/I), Berthe-Rose Park
Drinkin' Wine (I), Michael, Frank Trace & Gerard Murphy
Sweet Taboo (I)
5-10-15 Swing (I)
Freak A Little More (I)
Hurt Me So (I)
Fangbanger's Cha (I)
Hold On Tight (I)
Charleston Swing (B), Rosalee Musgrave
Sweet Georgia Brown (B), Michele & Lorraine Kurtela
Fundamental Swing (I)
Rag Top Down (I)
Carribean Pearl (I), Maggie Gallagher
Meant 2 Be (I), Joanna Barnes
BRACKEN ELLIS POTTER
Moves Like Jagger (I)
Nightclub Fillestar (B)
Hollywood Edge (I)
Cardio Line Dance
Walkin' Blue (I), Jill Babinec & Debi Pancost
A Drink In My Hand (B/I), Sandy Goodman
Jazzy Girl (I), Jo & John Kinser
Honeycomb (B), Jeffrey Abcouwer
Lucky Break (B)
Bad Angel (B)
Stand By Me Rhumba (B)
Free Fallin (A), Rachael McEnaney
Leave Your Mark (I)
Goodbye Kiss (I), Debbie & Joey Warren
Don't Need This (A)
Love On Top (I), Kate Sala
Show Me The Love (I), Simon Ward
You Better Stop (I), Stephen Rutter & Claire Butterworth)