The daffodils had just burst into bloom, the robins were chasing the worms while the squirrels and raccoons started their ritual spring archeological dig of my lawn and I knew for sure that it was time for the Tim Gillis Dance Weekend in the Catskill Mountains in New York State!
The TG Weekend has been a rite of passage for dancers for many years and I'm going to tell you why. First of all, everyone has heard of the movie 'Dirty Dancing' so the beautiful Catskill Mountains most appropriately are synonymous with dance! However, the resort that is portrayed in the movie is nothing like the Honor Haven Resort and Spa where we stay and dance our little toes off. The surroundings are just as gorgeous with forested rolling hills all around, a sparkling lake, a waterfall just a few minutes walk away and a lush golf course even closer. However, the Resort is a 21st century version with ongoing renovations and updates to make it even more attractive and modern. More importantly this Resort cared enough for the dancers to have the Mirandas build enough dance floor for two large dance areas. They are excellent floors as you can imagine.
Once you set foot in the resort, you don't have to think about anything else but dancing, eating and having fun!! All your meals are included in the package. You can start early by taking adventage of the special Thursday night package. For only $79 you have a comfortable room for the night, a delicious dinner and breakfast buffet, and special dance lessons of dances that will not be taught during the weekend. Those arriving on the Friday afternoon are greeted with a welcome party that includes an open bar and hors d'oeuvres. Then the dance workshops begin (6 an hour including couples, each class repeated) and continue until mid-day on Sunday. However, I was told time and time again that dancers really loved the fact that all the workshops stopped for both lunch and dinner when everyone had a sit-down meal together in the huge dining room which overlooked the rolling hills. It gave dancers a chance to catch up with their friends, make new ones, compare notes about classes taken and even dance! Mike Serban is the DJ during the meal breaks and this year something a little different was tried and Mike put on music for dances taught during the day. I should note here that Tim takes his dancers' comments very seriously and tries to do everything he can to accommodate concerns or requests. So, he will be reading your comments carefully to find out if you were happy with this new arrangement.
Many events offer a number of choices and this event most certainly does, but what is unique and what I particularly like is that there is no sense of any group being second class citizens. The designation of the evening dance rooms is changed each evening. For example, one evening the West Room (gorgeous newly renovated ballroom) was designated the country music room for couples and line, while the next evening it became the mainstream room and both days the designation changed after midnight; likewise with the Nightclub. The Lower Lobby was a lively gathering spot with beginner friendly/easy intermediate dancing. Some dancers settled in here for their base while others stopped to dance a few as they moved between the West Room and the Nightclub. The Lobby was also host to the late-night breakfast on Friday and the ice cream sundaes for those still hungry late on Saturday.
Let me add here that the DJs did an excellent job. They were most responsive to requests, often reminding dancers to let them know what they wanted played. Mike Serben did yeoman's duty as the very approachable DJ in the Dining Room during the day and then the Main Lobby until late in the evening, while at the same time teaching patterned partner dances with wife Dodie. Donna Shea played a similar role, teaching couples with Mike Quigley as well as DJing in the West Room. At one point there was nothing on the request list so Donna was up with microphone in hand leading an easy fun dance, just the kind of DJ you want! Bronco Jim is a very experienced DJ and has worked with Tim and his band for many years. He is multi-talented as he also designed and maintains the Band and Dance weekend websites timgillisdanceweekends.com Bronco is a low key friendly individual who wants the dancers to have fun and it shows. Ellen Kiernan from New York took over from Mike as DJ later in the evening in the Lobby and was often seen walking around asking dancers for requests. This event was indeed very well served with excellent DJs who set the tone for the evening dances.
But, of course, a very key ingredient of an event like this is the instructors. First of all, the Ladies from the Northeast are terrific. They are supportive and encouraging of one another on top of which they are so much fun to be around! I'll take them in alphabetical order! If you want to get your hips movin' you have to take a class from Forty Arroyo! She dances with a wonderful Latin flair that, try as hard as I could, I just couldn't emulate! Forty is funny, full of enthusiasm and is also a talented choreographer with competition wins for a number of her dances. Rona Kaye has a hilarious dry sense of humour and at is a very capable instructor and taught some popular intermediate/advanced dances. She also did a special late night teach of her own new dance . Lynne Martino should go on the stage! She and John Robinson brought the house down in the show with their version of a rather elderly Ken and Barbie! It will be worth buying the Event DVD just to watch it again! Lynne is a lovely person with time for everyone but she also is an excellent instructor and choreographer and has had a number of choreography competition wins.
This was Johanna Barnes' 5th TG weekend event. Many of you might remember that the talented Johanna has competed extensively winning UCWDC Championships. She is also an award winning choreographer and in the show demonstrated her talent as a singer. Dancin' Dean was new to the event this Spring and did a terrific job of instruction with large classes. He is one of those individuals who just fits right in. Robert DeLong is a very talented young choreographer with competition wins and a published dance to his name. This year his class was full for his new dance "No Privacy". Friendly Lynne Flanders was invited to teach at the event after placing 2nd and then winning the choreography competition at Tim's event. You have to look out for Lynne's "turkey" hat in the Show DVD, she has a quirky sense of humour!!
Flying up from Florida, Arline Winerman, the Event Director of the very successful Tampa Line Dance Classic, is a delightful addition to any event. You have Arline to thank for the "birthday" routine in the show! Scott Blevins needs no introduction and he pleased many of the dancers with the new 'Broken Glass' and an older classic "I'll Tell You What". This was Scott's third time teaching at Tim's event and he commented on how much he enjoyed himself. Keeping the energy and fun level high as always, John Robinson is like the energy bunny but with even stronger batteries! John rarely left the dance floor in the Lobby, tackling every dance with gusto and his own unique flair, keeping us hugely entertained and often in fits of laughter. We danced John's "Jive Walkin''; is that ever a fun dance, time to bring that one back.
This Spring there was a special star attraction in the form of Female Superstar World Champion from the UK, Rachael McEnaney. It took Rachael a 17 hour journey to arrive at the Resort but that didn't seem to deplete her energy. Her classes were packed and she taught dances she had written for all levels. Rachael is an excellent instructor, clear and concise and attune to her students. She is also a delightful young woman and was very natural and approachable; her presence was enjoyed by all.
I should add that the couples had excellent instruction from Mal & Linda Zerden, DJ Donna & Mike Quigley, and Mike & Dodie, whose lovely little 4 year old daughter Jennifer, the image of her Mum, is everyone's favourite. And, if you fancied yourself as a warbler, Dominic Trimboli gave everyone the opportunity to become a star in the karaoke room!
We now come to a key individual, Rose Multari. Rosie has been the Dance Coordinator for the event since 2003 and the producer/director of the show. In addition she also instructs at the event. Quite a load for an already busy person. However Rosie is a wonderful organizer and seems to have inexhaustible energy and an enthusiasm that pulls us all along in her wake. Gathering such a disparate group together for a show with very little rehearsal time takes a particular kind of personality and Rosie seems able to produce miracles …. somehow or other the routines come together!!
While I'm here, why don't I tell you more about the Show. The theme was birthdays and anniversaries, and we started off birthday acknowledgements with the months of the year parading onto the floor, otherwise known as your instructors wearing signs around their necks and most peculiar hats courtesy Arline (whose birthday it was that very weekend). We were then treated to Mary Poppins gone slightly to seed, as well as the Beatles who were even seedier, let alone Ken & Barbie (see above)!!! We had some lovely ladies entertain us with umbrellas (OK, don't let your imaginations run wild!) while Johanna sang, Then some terrific routines from Donna & Mike (2-step), Mal & Linda (ECS) and Rachel and Scott wowed us with a WCS freestyle. How do they make it seem so effortless? If that kind of styling could just be bottled …. any suggestions how to do that?! Cat Woman (looking amazingly like Rachel) somersaulted off the stage and thrilled us with an amazing dance routine and spins that left us with our jaws dropped. It was then time for the finale with all the instructors, fingers crossed that everyone remembered what they had to do and the order in which they were supposed to do it! Little did the audience know that if Rosie pulled on her ear lobe Chris had to turn on the disco lights to distract the audience from whatever disaster was in the making!!! I think he only turned them on 350 times during the performance – just kidding, but it did become the standing joke during rehearsals!!!! But there was an unexpected addition to the show when Todd Lescarbeau went up onto the stage to do a beautiful job of singing 'Amazed' and then proposed to his astonished girlfriend, Staci. There wasn't a dry eye in the place when she said "Yes"!
But we couldn't have all this fun if we didn't have Tim, our fearless leader. Always roaming around with time to chat and checking to make sure that everyone was having a good time as well as telling a joke or two! Tim has created an event that feels like family and everyone is pulled very happily into the fold. Tim's heart is in country music and for an hour both Friday and Saturday evenings, his band played, with vocals by Tim, and the talented Judy, Lucy and Joanne. The performances were thoroughly enjoyed by both dancers and listeners. However, Tim's priority is to have an event that attracts dancers of ALL music tastes and dance levels and he has most definitely succeeded with his Dance Weekends, there were plenty of options this Spring weekend to keep every dancer happy.
PS I want to thank everyone who came to my classes and were so patient with me and to all who smiled when I went by and made me feel so welcome at the event. Many thanks also to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers who work so hard to make sure we enjoy ourselves.
DANCES TAUGHT (alphabetical and choreographed by instructor unless otherwise shown)
Born 2 Dance, Julia Ann Kennedy
Cajum Mambo Walk, Max Perry
Jai Ho, Amy Christian Sohn
Dance Sista (Thursday teach)
A Single Moment, Aiden Montgomery
Cowboy Up, Shannon Finnegan
Oh, Babe! (Thursday teach)
I'll Tell You What
Why Did You Lie, Jo Thompson & Deborah Szekely
All Yours, Christopher Petre & Angela Genduso
Kiss A Girl, Wes Smith
Hot & Hazy, Patrick Fleming, Bracken Ellis Potter, JP Potter
Shooga Mama, Patrick Fleming, Bracken Ellis Potter, JP Potter
Country Boy, Marmita Beal
Cowgirls Don't Cry, John Dembiec
Feel That Fire, Nicky Jackson
Let Me Love You, Masters In Line
Nu Flow, MIL
Poker Face, Craig Bennett
Syncopated Rhythm, Rob & Michelle Fowler
Ol'Skool Company (new ... Saturday night teach)
Holding On To Yesterday, Peter & Alison
Little Tango Cha, Jan Wyllie
Marry For Money, Dixie Lynn
Here's Looking At You, Steve Lescarbeau (Thursday teach)