“Don’t forget to check this station regularly for road and school closings. Don’t drive unless you absolutely have to. The storm, heading in from the west, should be hitting Toronto at approximately 11 a.m.” So said the radio announcer as Rita and I started our trip down to Fort Wayne directly towards the eye of the storm! “Well, they’ve been wrong before”, I suggested to Rita, “Hope you’ve got all-weather tires on your car”, she responded!!! And so our journey to the Fort Wayne Showdown 07 began. And quite rough going it was indeed, through snow, sleet, ice pellets, freezing rain, pelting rain and finally heavy fog! Everything was thrown in except for the kitchen sink!! But, as I’ve said before, we line dancers are tough and if we want to dance we’ll go to great lengths to make sure we do!!! Nearly nine hours later we thankfully arrived at the Holiday Inn, downtown Fort Wayne, and checked into our room. The hotel is just a few minutes away from the event venue and operates a shuttle every hour but we were told just to call if we needed a lift. The hotel has very friendly staff and some dancers told us that their driver stopped off at Wendy’s at one point so they could get a late night snack!
Rita needed a rest but I had a quick change and headed off to the Scottish Rite. For those of you who have never been to this event, it is held in a most unusual, interesting building. Check out my review from last year to find out a little about its history. Suffice to say each workshop room has its own character and most of them have wooden floors; there’s also a large auditorium which works very well for the choreography competition and the show as well as classes. It's a great place to hold an event. If you drive, there's a parking lot just across the road.
Our hosts are Barry & Dari Anne Amato and Jamie & Barney Marshall. They are well organized and their energies are geared to ensuring that the dancers’ needs are priority. All of them (except Barney who is a very special honorary member of our line dance community) have taught at numerous events across the country for many years so they’ve got a good idea of what makes an event successful in the eyes of the dancers and they put an enormous effort into this one. And, most of all, they care. The volunteers are terrific and you are always greeted by a cheerful, smiling face. Your registration package includes your name tag and your most precious commodity your ‘TV Guide’ aka your event schedule. The Showdown offers both line and couples classes and it works very well; there is no conflict and there are many dancers who take advantage of both. A special evening dance and pasta supper was on offer for dancers who arrived for the Thursday evening but the weekend started in earnest when the doors open for registration at 8 a.m. on Friday morning, classes began at 10 a.m. and didn’t finish until Sunday at 11 a.m.
“So, who were the instructors?” you might ask. Well, they came from all over the country and a dedicated bunch they were indeed. Quite a number were stranded in Chicago for most of the day on Thursday as their flights to Ft. Wayne were delayed for hours due to thunder storms and tornados. They finally took the matter into their own hands, rented a car and drove to Ft. Wayne through the fog. Although, unfortunately, quite a bit of their luggage didn’t follow them until later in the weekend! That said, they all made sure they had their dancing shoes with them!!!
I’ll go in the order of the teaching schedule. The energetic and fun loving John Robinson taught a mix of dances of all levels, country and non country and walked down memory lane with one of my favourites, ‘Hot Potato’. Talented Michelle Burton traveled over from Northern California and had full classes; ‘Divisadera Cha’ attracted a full house. I checked out a beginner class taught by Mona Puenta from Texas. It was the first time I had met her and what a gentle and kind person she is, very patient with dancers who weren’t sure of even the basic steps. Next we come to Joey Warren. He is such a nice young man and extremely talented to boot, a perfect mix! It was fun to watch Joey and Barry teach a dance they wrote together ‘Tainted Love’ (I/A). A smooth dancer, Dean Gambino taught one of my favourite dances of the weekend ‘Cardiac Rock’ – you sure get your heart rate moving with this dance and it has a neat little tag. Friendly local instructors Pam and Eagle Lindsey have two strings to their bow teaching both line and couples. If you’re in Fort Wayne at any time (other than the Showdown weekend, of course!) and would like to do some dancing check out their excellent website.
Popular Scott Blevins, fresh from winning ‘Advanced Dance of the Year’ at the Vegas Dance Explosion, drew a large crowd. He taught his winning dance ‘Breakfree Cha’ but also offered a few easier dances, including ‘Sail Away Cha’ which really flowed and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Karen Hedges is an experienced Event Director herself and runs the successful event, Dancin Up A Storm, in Kansas City, Missouri. Karen wrote the popular ‘Bomshel Stomp’ with Jamie and she taught a good mix of dances at this event. The ever popular Joanne Brady needs no introduction. Winner of ‘Personality of the Year’ at the Vegas Dance Explosion, Joanne can teach dances of all levels in such a way that laughing dancers learn with ease. Her class on the popular UK dance ‘East to West’ was packed. Talented Michael Barr from Northern California is a very successful choreographer and I was delighted to see that he brought back one of his older dances ‘What’s Your Name’. When I was in the UK a few years ago this dance filled the floor every week at the club where I danced.
A talented musician as well as instructor, Larry Harmon taught ‘Mr. Pinstripe’ currently a big hit on the dance floor. The class was full of wannabe funky dancers for Jill Babinec’s teach of ‘Sexy Back’! A terrific dancer herself, Jill is also an excellent DJ and her bubbly sense of humour and enthusiasm make her a fun person to be around. The popular Doug & Jackie Miranda, Event Directors of the extremely successful Vegas Dance Explosion, brought their dances and Jacaranda fashion, designed by Jackie, to Fort Wayne. (You can also purchase Jackie’s designs from their website) They taught the popular ‘Madhouse to the Max’ and also presented a new dance ‘Rainbow Connection’. Meanwhile, Jamie, who never seemed to stop, took time out of her busy schedule to teach her popular dance ‘With You Forever’. Mark Cosenza was delayed but luckily for the dancers managed to get to Fort Wayne in time to teach ‘B Squared’ and ‘The Truth Hurts’. Local instructor, Bev Carpenter had happy dancers in her class when she taught ‘Stagger Lee’. Bev also competed in the choreography competition with her dance team backing her up. I really enjoyed teaching my classes and would like to thank the dancers who came for making them so much fun.
I should add that the couples classes were well attended. They had some very talented instructors including John Lindo & Annmarie McCabe, Randy & Jennifer Jeffries, Donna Caudill, Alice Daugherty & Tim Hand (who were also DJs for one of the dances), Sam & Chris Wetzel, Kristin Geil-Ham, Jane and Rodney Schomas, Jason Miklic & Sophy Kdep, and Andy & Peggy Williams.
If you felt like a break from dancing, you could check out the Celebrity Auction. There were a lot of interesting articles there autographed by famous country artists. It must have taken hours of hard work to gather these items together. The proceeds from the auction were to go to the ‘Shriners Children’s Hospital”. Alternatively you could sit yourself down in the Auditorium and enjoy the Choreography competition. The winners taught their winning dance on the Sunday morning. If you were hungry you could get a snack from the Snack Bar or try the buffet in the Danc-A-ThoN Diner. My room mate informed me that the ribs were excellent and that the chef had explained that the secret was to boil them for three hours with some secret ingredients! She also waxed enthusiastically about the macaroni cheese!
But as always dancers don’t just want to learn, they want to DANCE!! DJ Louie St. George kept the floor moving each evening. He played the dances taught during the day, the mainstream hits, some newer up and coming dances, as well as tested our memories with some older favourites. Ask Louie about some of his driving adventures pulling his trailer home after events. Be thankful that he’s still around to keep us laughing and our feet moving on the dance floor. On Saturday evening we had a treat with the Lowcash Cowboys. They were most entertaining (and rather cute!) and even taught us an easy line dance. At the same time in the Auditorium the Strictly Swing Competition was in full swing(!) hotly contested with prize winnings totaling $1000.
Whereas in most events Sunday brings dancers beginning to slow down and preparing to leave, the Sunday morning in this event brings heightened anticipation and excitement. For the fourth year running the Amatos brought their special magic to the Showdown in the form of ‘K-Tel Presents Dance Hits of the 1980s’. The instructors had just four limited opportunities to rehearse together and some less than that as they were delayed by the weather on the Thursday. If you saw a few of your instructors in a corner with intense expressions on their faces practicing dance steps you didn’t recognize, chances were they were preparing for the show. For many of us, by the time Sunday came the routines were becoming intermingled, a bit like that time you started doing ‘Keep on Dancin’, moved into ‘Rio’ and finished with ‘Bosa Nova’ when really you wanted to dance ‘Trust Me’!! But, as it has for the last four years, with the talented and creative Amatos in charge the show came together wonderfully with its mixture of laugh-out-loud hilarious comedy, terrific singing and harmony, and great, great dancing. I am so proud and feel fortunate to be part of our line dancing community when I see the talent that we have on display. We are lucky indeed. It is worth coming to the event just to watch the show. Do check out the photos.
So at last it was time for everyone to head home. Many, many thanks go to the multi talented Barry and Dari Anne Amato for all their efforts to keep us entertained and to Jamie and Barney who were tireless, always around socializing and keeping an eye out to make sure everyone was happy. "See you next year" was the cheerful refrain as the happy dancers streamed out, "Same time, same place."
Many thanks to Rita Witrylak for
mastering my camera and taking
great show photos.
Love Is Alive
Don’t Mean Jack
What’s Your Name
Who Can it be Now
And Fell In Love
Boo Boo Bounce
Sail Away Cha
Swing! Sweet Pussycat
Break Free Cha
Used To Be A Time
East to West
That Cat Is High
Red Hot Rock N Roller
Rock This Party
Step Right Up
Choreographer Competitors -- Bev Carpenter, Heidi Hollan, Sharlene Sipple, Lyle Hofer, Scott Shrank, Deron Pardue, Jace Andrus, Michael Beall, Denise Boyle, Derrick Walker, Dorothy & Ken Lubin, Kody Holbrook.
1st Place - Newcomer/Novice - C
Derrick Walker - Finding A Good Man
1st Place - Newcomer/Novice - NC
Scott Schrank - Brandy
1st Place - Intermediate/Advanced - C
Scott Schrank - Trying To Love You
1st Place - Intermediate/Advanced - NC
Denise Boyle - Isn't She Lovely
1st Place - Phrased - C
Sharlene Sipple - Help Me