As the snow and ice in Toronto disappeared below me, I relaxed into my seat as I headed down to the warmth and friendliness of The Villages in Florida. Some of you might remember that I taught at a workshop there last year and I was delighted to be invited back again. The Villages is a unique place; it’s one of those concepts that really works in practice. It is a small town, divided into Villages, of thousands of incredibly active retirees, 55 or older. To say that it’s hard to keep up with them all is an understatement!! You can bet your life that there’s a club for anything that you are interested in and friendly people to welcome you in. But, probably, one of the favourite activities at the Villages is line dancing! It is indeed a line dancer’s heaven.
It’s smooth sailing all the way to The Villages. From Orlando Airport, The Villages operates its own shuttle and waiting at Sumpter Landing was my host and Event Organizer, Jean Brewer. Since Jean and her husband Dick retired to the Villages a number of years ago I don’t think her feet have touched the ground! She is dedicated and committed and one of the leading forces and guiding lights behind the Villages line dance scene. The Festival Workshop was her initiative and it has proven to be very successful, this year was no exception.
This time around I came a little earlier and left a little later so that I could enjoy more of what The Villages has to offer. Naturally this included attending a number of the many line dance classes. There is a plethora of choice for any level of dancer. But aside from the line dancing, there are many sights to see. The Villages themselves are beautifully groomed and laid out with the green of the golf courses wending their way through the attractive homes, lakes glimmer in the sunlight and the lively Squares are a focus for evening entertainment and dancing, restaurants, shopping, cinemas and just sitting with a coffee drinking in the action. Golf carts are definitely the vehicle of choice and I had two driving lessons, this time with Jean finally concluding that I’m now fully competent to take over the wheel!! It’s like being a kid again whizzing around in one of these carts and the individuality displayed in design and various attachments on the carts certainly confirmed that many of the Villagers feel the same way!
The Festival Workshop was arranged for the Sunday but the Saturday evening Jean organized a dance with a pot luck dinner (terrific food!) so that the festivities could start early. It was a pleasure to meet up with many of the dancers whom I had met last year and also to say hi to my co-instructors Marilyn McNeil (the popular local Instructor at Midnight Rodeo) and Arline Winerman (the very capable Event Organizer of the successful ‘Tampa Bay Line Dance Classic). I was happy to go down memory lane as the dancers requested ‘Wishes’, ‘Fiddlesticks’, ‘Still Waters’, ‘Soft & Slow’, and I had to check my step sheet so that we could dance ‘Good To Me’! It was also a pleasure to dance ‘Ami Oh’, ‘On My Mind’ and ‘No Tricks’. Many thanks to The Villages’dancers and instructors for their support of my dances. It was a real pleasure to see the dancers enjoying them.
The next day friendly volunteers greeted the dancers in the beautiful Laural Canyon Recreation Centre as they poured in for the event. St. Patrick’s Day was the Theme so green was the colour of choice! Dancers of all levels attended so between the three of us we taught a mixed bag of dances and the general consensus seemed to be that there was something for everyone.
Marilyn taught two fun Improver dances, ‘Crazy Foot Mambo’ by Paul McAdam, and ‘Dance Like You’re The Only One’ by Teresa & Vera. For the intermediates she taught the tricky but satisfying ‘L’Appuntamento’ by Paul Dornstedt. Arline taught another Teresa & Vera dance, the beginner ‘Cruising On A Summer Night’, beginner dance ‘Shiftwork’ by Helen Born & Nita Lindley, beg/int ‘White Rose’ by Gaye Teather and intermediate ‘Only U’ by Andrew, Simon & Sheila.
I taught two beginner dances ‘Just Kiss Me’ choreographed by Canadian choreographer Jill Baker and ‘Oh Suzanna’ which was the ‘Australian Beginner Dance of the Year 08’ written by Chris Watson and Bill Larson. For the Improvers I taught ‘Flames of Love’ with ‘Ribbons of Love’ by Boney M as the clear favourite for music. The intermediates enjoyed the waltz ‘Pirate On The Run’ which I wrote with Kim Ray. We danced it to a slower waltz so everyone could dance it, as well as the faster song. I also taught a completely new dance written by Fred Buckley and myself called ‘Small Stuff’ to ‘Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff’ by a talented young Canadian Country singer/songwriter Sean Hogan. Sean told me that if dancers write to him saying they are a “line dance friend of Vivienne” he will charge them only $12 for his CD ‘Southern Sessions’ which will include shipping and taxes. The CD is excellent with lots of great dancing music as well as the song for ‘Small Stuff’ so it’s a terrific deal. Sean’s website is www.seanhogan.net and email address barn3muse@Islandnet.com It’s always exciting to find great new talent.
The workshop package included the step sheet book and a tasty lunch. Jean had donuts and coffee out all day and water was always available. Jan Ramsey did a good job as DJ keeping us on track. The evening dance started with a review session which moved quickly and efficiently leaving time to just have fun on the dance floor with requests. Another tremendous job of organization by Jean. Despite all the work involved in putting on an event like this, Jean is tireless and always seems to have a good time; her enthusiasm inspires everyone around her. Thanks also to the volunteers who worked so hard. The smiling faces said it all.
But I still had a couple of days before heading home and I enjoyed myself at classes led by very competent instructors Darlene Miller, twins Margaret Koll up teaching & Rose Knosp at the back, Carol Simmons (who spends six months teaching in the UK then back to The Villages) and Jan Ramsey, as well as teaching at Jean’s large classes. I had the opportunity of watching the ‘Sweet & Sassy Villages Line Dance Team’ at one of its rehearsals with leader Christine Bass. They have a terrific routine which I know people will enjoy. Line dancing at the St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in the Square was an experience in itself and I had a great lunch at a local Tea Room as well as also trying out the wide variety of excellent restaurants in The Villages. My final dance experience was at the Katie Bell Club dancing to the ‘Sounds of Time’. You could never be bored at The Villages, but more importantly, the wonderful hospitality of the people who live there, and the dancers in particular, make you immediately feel included as part of the gang. To check out The Villages go to www.thevillages.com Don’t forget to pack your dance shoes if you head down that way!
A personal heart-felt “thank you” to Jean and Dick for their wonderful hospitality, as well as to all the instructors and dancers who made me feel so welcome.