Not many North American dancers get an opportunity to travel to Holland, Denmark or Norway so Arline Winerman reckoned she would bring those countries over to them. Thankful we were indeed that she brought them to the Tampa Classic in the form of Raymond Sarlemijn (Holland), Niels Poulson (Denmark) and Cato Larsen (Norway). It was not surprising, therefore, that the numbers were good for this event held on November 13-16, 2008. Word had also spread that Arline runs an excellent event and, in addition, Tampa is a great place to visit with lots to do and warm weather to do it in!
But for those of you who have never been to the Classic, I’ll give you a little background. The hotel is just a few minutes by shuttle from Tampa Airport. You won’t need a car as the shuttle will also take you anywhere within a two mile radius of the hotel and bring you back as well – handy if you want to enjoy a few glasses of wine at dinner. The hotel is known for its welcoming staff and its warm chocolate chip cookies! This year there was some disruption as many of the rooms were being renovated but next year everything should be fine and sparkling new. If you would like a break from dancing, there is a very pleasant pool and hot tub area in the middle of the hotel with some lush greenery surrounding.
The dance space consists of one very large ballroom that is split for two classrooms, a second good size room and this year Arline added a dance floor in the foyer. All wooden floors were good. Anywhere from 2-4 classes ran each hour in these rooms plus open dancing and in the evening there were dance previews, reviews of the dances taught plus more open dancing so there was lots of choice. Arline also made sure that there was choice of levels of dances. I should add that Arline and her volunteers do a great job of decorating and this year there was no missing the colourful theme of Fiesta from the Pink Flamingo with his poncho greeting us as we came in to sombreros stretching as far as the eye could see!
But we were here to learn and dance so let me talk a little about the instructors. Besides the special guests, there were many talented individuals ready to teach us. There are excellent instructors in Florida and their classes were full. Terrific dancer Guyton Mundy kept the funky crowd happy but for those who don’t like arms ‘Only Gets Better’ looked impressive with some most unusual steps. Delightful Marilyn McNeal from Ocala taught two of the most popular dances, ‘Bossy’ and ‘Purple Rain’ which I think was probably one of the most packed classes. Kathy G. and Stella Cabeca both from Miami, are very popular instructors and always have full classes. In the beginners’ room, the very pleasant Diane Hogan popped over from Ft. Lauderdale to teach us. We also had representation from The Villages in the form of fun-loving Margaret Koll and friendly instructor Carol Simmons. They both chose excellent dances to teach. Carol had co-written two of her dances with Sandra Speck, both of which were well received. Arline also took time out of her busy schedule to teach as well.
Coming from further afield in the US, first of all we had John Robinson. You can’t help but have a smile on your face when John is around. So I consider John as a medication that increases our endomorphins and is much less expensive and a lot more fun!! In addition he is a wonderful instructor and choreographer; there was a lot of interest in ‘We Should Be Dancing’. Scott Blevins always pulls in a crowd and many of his dances were on the dance floor, dancers particularly enjoyed ‘Keep It Real’. Junior Willis is a real crowd favourite, what a nice guy! Everyone wanted to learn the very popular ‘Faith In Love’ co-written with Craig Bennett , what a beautiful dance. From California we had Michael Barr with Michele Burton at his side. These two, with their natural friendly ways, are very popular with the dancers and there is always a crowd to learn their dances.
Bryan McWherter did his usual irreverent and side-splitting job as MC of the Show but he also pulled in a big crowd for his teach of ‘Tango Cha’. Glen Pospiesny, one of the Event Directors of the very successful Windy City Event, took the dancers through ‘Sneaker Night’. Unfortunately Mark Cosenza couldn’t make it as he has been very ill but thankfully is now on the road to recovery. Jill Babinec capably took over his class. Barry Durand took time out of his schedule preparing for the World’s in Orlando this coming January to teach his own ‘Single Ladies’. Talented newly wed, Bracken Ellis Potter, taught a selection of her own dances including ‘Buble Sweet’. Lou Ann Schemmel (California) and Rona Kaye (New York) are very experienced instructors and bring excellent dances to the dance floor. It’s a pleasure to take a class from them. Rosie Multari is always a delight to take a class from and included one of her own dances ‘Ain’t Going To Hitch’. The charming Amy Christian-Sohn was fresh to the event and dancers were happy to learn one of her new dances ‘Good Good’.
Now to our instructors from across the pond; Neville Fitzgerald from the UK is extremely popular in the US and his classes are always full. It is also a pleasure to see Julie Harris who writes many dances with Neville. ‘I Can Feel You’ was particularly enjoyed by the dancers.
Just over the Channel from the UK are the tiny countries (certainly in comparison with the US and Canada) of Denmark and Holland. Raymond told me that despite its size, Holland has a large population and one out of every forty people in Holland line dances. It is not unusual to have 10,000 dancers compete at an event! So that makes it all the more impressive that Raymond has won 18 World Titles for his choreography. You could not miss Raymond, he stood head and shoulders above the crowd, literally! What a fabulous dancer he is yet he paid as much attention to teaching beginner dances as he did more advanced. It took me back to the time when everyone would do the same dances but the more experienced dancers would add in lots of fancy variations. That’s what Raymond showed the dancers that they could do. He is a delightful man with a twinkle in his eye and a gentle sense of humour. His gorgeous and friendly wife Line was also a fantastic dancer.
Handsome Niels from Denmark, with his bright piercing gaze, is a beautiful dancer and now has a fan club in North America for sure. Niels told me that he used to compete but is now a social dancer, choreographer and instructor, teaching 11 classes a week of all levels. He is a great believer in floor splits so that everyone can dance together and sometimes even writes a beginner dance to one of his intermediate creations. Niels’ classes were very popular and ‘I Held Your Hand’, first taught at 9 in the morning, continued over the weekend with impromptu review sessions, one even in the Hotel Lobby!
With ‘Am I’ a huge favourite on North American shores everyone, of course, wanted to meet the choreographer, Cato Larsen. Smart in his white jacket, Cato is a delightful, sociable man and his dances were very well received. Chatting with Cato, I discovered he is very serious about our line dance world. He has a wide-ranging website which includes a section with extensive descriptions of dance steps. Cato would like to see standardized step sheets that can be understood all over the world. Cato is gradually translating his site into English so hopefully we will all soon be able to benefit from his efforts.
I should add here my thanks to all those dancers who came to my classes and made me feel so welcome. You were the best; you came ready to have fun and you made my classes a pleasure to teach.
Aside from classes, there was a pro-am competition with more competitors than ever before. This is a great way to try out competing. Choose a dance you’d like to do and if your instructor is not there Arline will find someone to dance with you. Then just get on the floor and dance it. You are not judged against anybody else just how well you perform in two categories, dance steps to the music and enthusiasm. The audience always enjoys this event as do the judges (I was one of them and had a great time, many thanks to the competitors for making the judging such a pleasure).
Saturday evening started with an excellent buffet dinner, tasty and plentiful, then the show, short but sweet. Some terrific dancing and some hilarious moments. However, after so much learnin’ dancers want to get on the floor themselves and the DJs worked hard to make sure everyone was happy. DJ Louie organized the equipment in all the rooms and kept the floor lively in the main ballroom (I still haven’t found out if Louie ever sleeps!), Olivia Ray, as always, does an excellent job in the all request room. This room was called the beginner room but, in fact, I would say it is more of a mainstream beginner/intermediate room. Olivia is very approachable and receptive to any requests and kept the action going until 4:30 a.m. on the Sunday morning! Jill Babinec was new to this event and kept the music playing in the Foyer. Jill is a terrific dancer and often jumped up to lead the dances, plus she sure is funny!
All too soon the event came to an end and there was “Goodbye” and “See you next year” all around. Another excellent event organized by Arline who is always available with a ready smile and a hug. Arline gives of her all to this event and cares deeply that all her dancers should have the best time possible. We are fortunate indeed to have someone like her at the helm. Next year, Arline has persuaded Maggie Gallagher to head over the pond. I think this event will sell out quickly so make sure you get your registration in. After all, you’ve got a whole year to rest your weary feet!
DANCES TAUGHT:- written by instructor unless otherwise stated, however, I’m not sure of all of the choreographers so if I’ve missed one or got one wrong please let me know and I’ll make the correction – thanks!
Hot Spot by Robert Lindsay, Paul McAdam & Peter Metelnick
Shake Your Groove Thing by Michele Burton
See Ya Later Alligator with Michele Burton
Put A Little Love by Kim Swan
Solo No More
Stop Messin’ With My World
Keep It Real
Love Worth Waiting For by Maria Tao
Mambo Aiya by Laura K.
BRACKEN ELLIS POTTER
I Can Feel You
When I Grow Up
Love’s On The Inside by Jill Babinec & Scott Schrank
Sting Me by Pam Leader & Raymond Crum Jr
What’s The Deal by Craig Bennett, Dee Musk & Shaz Walton
Lost In You by Rachel McEnaney
Do You Love Me? by Rob Fowler
Come Baby Come Merengue by Irene Groundwater
Mejor Que Nada by Hombi Stompers
Downpour by Paul McAdam
Shirt by Wes Smith
Let Me Work It by Ruben Luna
Little Red Book by Dee Musk
Laid Back ‘n Low Key by Peter Metelnick & Alison Biggs
Are Your Eyes Still Blue
Scared Of Heights
Bossy by Michele Perron
Purple Rain by Rachel McEnaney
Tango Cha by Jo Thompson Szymanski & D. Szekely
Let It Go!