“There is no city quite like Las Vegas”. I know it’s been said many times before, but here I am saying it again!! This was my sixth year of flying down for the Vegas Dance Explosion and the city still retains its unique aura. That’s part of the allure of the Dance Explosion that it gives you a chance to explore a city of neon lights, luxurious casinos and over-the-top attractions as well as dance your little tootsies off!
The Riviera Hotel and Convention Centre (right on The Strip) is the home for the Explosion and dancers started arriving Wednesday morning. Workshops start Wednesday afternoon with the last goodbyes being said late Sunday night after the Awards Show. There are four workshop rooms with classes starting at the civilized hour of 10 a.m. No classes during the lunch and dinner break although a DJ mans the controls for one room of open dancing. I really like this idea; you can go for lunch with your mates and not worry about what you are missing!!
There is no wasted dance time at this event. Wednesday evening is the only time for Instructor demos as they are subsequently streamed on the TV in your hotel room. Just put your feet up and watch your instructors strut their stuff. There are also no separate reviews as all dances (except for the beginners) are taught twice. It alleviates the dreaded decision of which class to go to at the same hour and/or gives you an opportunity to try that particular dance one more time!
For the evening dances each workshop room has its own flavour. The Beginner Room (led very capably by John Grrowler with instructors popping in and out to help) was active every evening. Right next to it was the ‘Play List’ Room and dancers checked out the list and made sure they were back in time to dance their favourites. Across the corridor was the main ballroom with the indomitable DJ Louie at the helm. This was a busy room at night and Louie did an excellent job of mixing and matchin’! The next room along went at a more relaxed pace with Michael Diven and Larry Bass taking turns at keeping dancers happy. Both were very approachable and were more than happy to play any requests from dances that filled the floor to a particular groups’ favourite.
So onto your instructors ….Home grown US instructors included favourites Michael Barr & Michele Burton (‘CanAm Tango’ was very well received); Scott Blevins, back after a little hiatus, giving dancers an opportunity to brush up on ‘Private Dancer’; new to the event was the warm and friendly Larry Bass from Florida (I really enjoyed ‘Guitars & Whiskey’) and gregarious Michael Diven took us on a ‘Free 4 All’. Meanwhile Guyton Mundy got arms movin’ for ‘Imma Be’ while the down-to-earth and approachable Bev Carpenter kept the beginners happy and smiling with a good mix of dances; and I really enjoyed ‘Lover, Lover’ in that room taught by the delightful AJ and Scott Herbert. Energetic Ruben Luna got a great response to ‘Smooth Operator’ which he wrote with Michael Barr and Scott Schrank; and we were delighted that even Event Director Jackie Miranda took time out to get us ‘Jumpin’ the Gun’! Dancers were also happy to learn from the 2009 Choreography winners. Sue Hsu & Kathy Chang’s dance ‘Under The Sun’ packed the dance floor so dancers were eager to learn their new offering ‘Here Comes the Sunshine’. What charming instructors they are. The very pleasant Mae Westhouse also had a new dance to teach ‘Still Dancing’ which certainly summed it up at this event!
Europe had strong representation. It is a joy to watch Rachel McEnaney dance and a pleasure to be in one of her classes. For something a little different, “Ooh I Like That!” (Circle Dance) certainly hit the spot. Jo and John Kinser had a number of popular dances already on the dance floor and this year ‘Dancing In The Moonlight” joined them. Niels Paulson returned to an appreciative audience and ‘Hallelujah” pulled a big class. John Grrowler wore two hats as DJ and as Instructor. As instructor he taught a dance he co-wrote with his Missus, Maureen, "On The Ridge". John was also known for his dummy on the Saturday night ... if you want to know what that means you had better send him an email!! Roy Verdonk has so much energy he makes me feel tired just watching him! Good crowd for “Better Than Nada”. Cato Larsen was new to the event and made friends easily. ‘Tired Of Being Sorry’ went over well. From further afield, talented young Phillip Sobrielo travelled from Singapore. As well as instructing Phillip also gave styling lessons with eager dancers willing to get up early in the morning in order to learn to dance just like him!
There were two Canadian Choreographer winners from 2009 there this year. Cathy Montgomery is a clear, patient and friendly instructor and “”Ooh Baby” hit the spot. ‘Moonlight Madness’ (by Cathy and Kathy K – Double Trouble) still filled the floor as did ‘Sunglasses’ written by Tajali Hall. What a talented dancer Taj is and her “Pointe Loca!” went over very well.
I was very happy to be part of the Explosion again. Thanks so much to the patient dancers who filled both my classes for ‘Latin Crazy’. I also taught ‘Love In One Shot’ and ‘Distant Shore’. The step sheet for ‘Distant Shore’ didn’t make it to the step sheet booklet so do get in touch if you’d like a copy and also the shortened version of the song. The beginners were a delight to teach and for them I took along ‘Country Hitch’ and ‘Blue Night Cha’ with “Let’s Chill’ as a warm-up in all the classes. Many thanks to everyone who made me feel so welcome. At one point I lost my camera and every few steps there was a concerned dancer asking if it had been found…. such a lovely group of people. Luckily the camera was found by a night-time security guard and I got it back just before I was about to leave for the airport on the Sunday morning.
Another very enjoyable aspect of this event is the choreography competition where the competitors teach their dances to the instructors who then join them on the floor. I was one of the judges and had a ball. I think this is the absolute best way to judge a dance. Winners of the competition go on to teach at the event the following year. This year as before competition was tough and many congratulations to the winners:
Division One Choreography Winner:
Spoon Full Of Sugar by Amy Glass
Division Two Choreography Winner:
Hello Dolly by Lorraine Kurtella
There was only one show this year, on the Sunday night at the Awards. Feedback from the dancers revealed understandably that many of them wanted to take advantage of the shows on the Strip during the week and then pop back to dance for a while if they still had the energy. Dancers still enjoyed themes though with the colourful 60s on the Friday night and PJs, cookies and milk on Saturday.
At the Awards Show there were talented performances as always by the instructors with chuckles thrown in (of course Doug as MC was extremely serious as usual!) and a special appearance from one of the Temptations (Richie) from Jackie and Doug’s theatre, The Majestic in Pigeon Ford, brought cheers from the dancers. The Awards were announced during the evening with Doug noting that the largest number of votes ever had been received. The worthy winners were as follows:
Beginner Dance of the Year: Under The Sun by Sue Hsu & Kathy Chang
Intermediate Dance of the Year: Quarter After One by Levi J. Hubbard
Advanced Dance of the Year: Hey Ruby Debbie McLaughlin ** Trouble Is by Scott Blevins
Humanitarian Award: Rosie Multari
Horizon Award: Debbie McLaughlin
Team Choreographers: Michael Barr and Michele Burton
Dancers’ Friend: Ira Weisburd
Internet Video Instructor: Juliet Lam
Dancer: Jo Thompson
Male Instructor: Michael Barr
Female Instructor: Rachael McEnaney
Male Personality: Niels Poulsen
Female Personality: Jo Thompson
Regional Instructors: Juliet Lam
There was also a new addition of Line-Dance Church led by Doug on the Sunday morning before classes started and it was very warmly received with donations to be sent to Jo Thompson.
So let’s summarize …. An Event that stands on its own with “big name” choreographers from all over the US and from over the pond, lots of classes to choose from for every level and taste in music. Experienced and very capable Event Directors … for the first few days Jackie managed the event on her own as Doug had to stay behind in Tennessee to direct the performances in their own theatre, the Majestic. However, Jackie still found time to teach and join the dancers on the floor at the evening dance. IN ADDITION … you have all of Las Vegas at your disposal, for gamblin’, shoppin’, eatin’, show hoppin’ or just plain ole sight seein’ with your jaw hangin’ down! You could never get bored. Attendance at this event was close to 800 with dancers from all over the world and there were a lot of smiling dancers promising to return next year. Lookin’ forward to seeing you all then!
PS You can also get married in Vegas which is precisely what one dancer did! She and her now husband got married at the Excalibur in glamorous medieval regalia. Another aspect of line dancers … adventurous and romantic!!
DANCES TAUGHT: written by the Instructor unless otherwise noted
It’s Amazing (I)
Dog-gone Blues, Barr, Burton, Szymanski (I)
A Little Love, Barr, Burton, Szymanski (B)
Midnight Rendezvous (B)
EZ Cha Cha, Yu (B)
EZ PZ Lollipop, Small (B)
Another Saturday Night (I)
Askin’ Questions (I)
Guitars and Whiskey (I)
Baby Doll Waltz (I)
Oughta Be A Law (B)
Sunshine Swing (B)
So Said Joe, Potter, Potter & Blevins (I)
Private Dancer (I)
Trouble Is (I)
Can Am Tango, Barr, Burton, Perron (I)
Shake Your Groove Thing (B)
Hello Dolly, Kurtela (B)
Zenyatta’s Waltz (I)
My Bobby McGee (B)
Cotton Eyed Joe, Brooks (B)
Alligator Walk, Bass (B)
SBS Shuffle Boogie Soul, Weisburd (B)
Free 4 All (I)
Shiner’s Waltz (B)
Stuck on You, Diven Jaio (I)
On The Ridge, John & Maureen Growler (I)
Where I belong, Maggie Gallagher (B)
Grosvenor Groove (B)
Magic, Richard Musgrave (I)
Pointe Loca! (I)
I Just Wanna Know, Hall, Trepat (I)
A.J. & SCOTT HERBERT
Brooklyn Blues (I)
Lover Lover (HB)
Wild Flower Rock (B)
Swingin’ Rimes (HB)
SUE HSU & KATHY CHANG
Here Comes The Sunshine (B)
Raining Cats & Dogs, Watson (B)
JO & JOHN KINSER
Bust A Move, J&J Kinser, Sobrielo (B)
Find a Way, J&J Kinser, Furnell (B)
Euro Mess, Kinser, Poulsen, Trepat (I)
Dancing In The Moonlight, J.&J Kinser, Furnell (I)
Night Work, J&J Kinser, Furnell (I)