“I wonder what she’s going to do this time?” was uppermost in my mind as I headed out to the Holiday Inn Select near Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Adele has a whacky sense of humour and knows how to throw a party for sure. The theme for The Great Big Party this year was ‘Toys’. She had already asked the instructors to send her a list of five favourite toys from their childhood. There was no telling what she might do with this information!!
I should back up a little. For those of you who don’t know her, I am talking about Adele Plantamura from the US but considered an honorary Canadian by those of us up in the Great White North! A fixture on our line dance scene for many years, her support of our dance community has been very much appreciated. Adele is one of those people you see everywhere … always working behind the scenes in various essential capacities, extremely efficient and always with an open, friendly smile; the kind of person any Event Organizer wants to have on board. So when she started running The Great Big Party three years ago there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it would be well organized and that they would feel welcomed.
I arrived early to find the decorating crew hard at work, in fact they had been working since the night before. And what decorations! They were terrific. We had an actual castle in the main ballroom and balloons designed and pulled together somehow (don’t ask me how, I can’t even thread a needle!) to make all kinds of colourful shapes. It was wonderful with many thanks to the creators Nelson Clarke and Cathy Jones from Ottawa. The time, effort and creative energy that went into changing rather staid hotel rooms into colourful fairytale ballrooms was enormous and we should be so thankful and in awe of the talents that we have in our line dance world and here in Ontario, just on our doorstep. And also to the volunteers who worked so hard with them to put this all together. With Sheila Lavallee at the helm of the registration desk, the volunteers there worked long hours always with smiles on their faces. Meanwhile there were volunteers who made sure the instructors were fed and looked after, those who manned the doors, and others who carried out other work needed behind the scenes. These are our anonymous heros and I’d like to let them know on all our behalf how much they are appreciated.
But I should add here that volunteers I spoke to said they would do anything for Adele. And certainly the sense was that Adele inspires loyalty from people who work with her; she is one of those people who truly appreciates the individuals around her and ‘what goes around, comes around’ as they say! So the scene is set for a colourful, friendly event so let’s get to the action!
The event started on Friday evening with three classes and then two dance rooms from 9 to the early hours of the night. Classes started at 9 on the Saturday morning running through to 6. From 12-2 reviews of the dances taught were scheduled along with demos of the Sunday dances. This worked extremely well. Anyone who wasn’t interested headed off for lunch or a swim – lovely pools at the hotel both indoor and outdoor. In fact, the hotel was excellent, with spacious well appointed rooms and very friendly and helpful staff. It is just a quick shuttle ride from the airport and close to the main highway for anyone driving. Restaurant in the hotel plus other restaurants closeby so no-one went hungry!! Saturday evening brought a treat for the dancers. Guyton’s best friend, puppet Pip, came along for a visit and his armchair chat with Zandra and then Adele was priceless. Suffice to say you should buy the video!! The latest Toronto Supermodelz Chrissie, Zandraaa, Johnny, and Vivy led by the one and only Geraaaard strutted their staff on the catwalk. They were followed by an impressive routine gracefully performed by Abby’s talented dancers 'Dancespin'. The Flintstones happened by shortly after with a rather motley collection of friends who all looked vaguely familiar! I actually hadn’t realized that line dancing had originally started in the cave man era!! (Check out the photo if you don’t believe me!) We were privileged to be in on the preview of dances choreographed by groups of dancers that very same day in Gerard's class. The three groups competed for the privilege of winning TGBP Dance 07 -- look out for the winning dance 'ToyBoy' coming to your dance floor soon.
We had a peek into a sleep-over at which toy soldiers come to life with an impressive drumless dance routine. What a treat as the soldiers partnered the sleep-over girls for some stylish moves. Great dancing by Guyton and Natalie Mundy, Nelson Clarke and Cathy Jones, and Alex and Cindy Brunet Then John introduced us to his ‘Brand New Girlfriend’ … ask for an introduction yourself next time you meet him!! Adele had another special treat for us later in the evening …. We had kiddie’s party food (after all we are all kids at heart!) – pogo dogs, hamburgers, lots of candies, verrrrry sweeeet drinks(!) , even an ice cream cart was on hand. I should add that when we got hot during the day we could just head down for a snow cone. What a generous individual she is, we had a lot of fun partying for sure!
But who taught you might ask so I’ll take the instructors in alphabetical order. Scott Blevins is no stranger to Toronto, in fact it has been said that it might be time for Scott to buy a condo up here! He certainly has a large fan base and many of them were at this event. Scott’s classes were consistently full. He chose a mix of dances to teach “Nacho Daddy’, ‘Octagogo’, ‘Pucker Up’, ‘Sail Away Cha’ and ‘Soul Energy’ (written by Michele Perron). Frank Cooper is home grown and hails from London, Ontario. He is the talented choreographer of many internationally successful dances including ‘Home’ and ‘Crown Royal’. At this event he chose to present a dance written by Liz Bogan and Ed White entitled ‘Will You Still Believe’ as well as a new one of his own ‘Move’.
Fresh from winning two awards at the Vegas Dance Explosion, Double Trouble (aka Cathy Montgomery and Kathy K.) had some good dances for us. Great track for ‘Don’t Worry’ written by Kathy K., also Double Trouble’s dance ‘Love Again & Again’. They also taught ‘Just Kiss Me!’ by Jill Baker and ‘Yer Groove Thing’ by Heather Frye. You can’t help but do some chuckling in Double Trouble’s classes. A successful UCWDC dance competitor winning two World Championship Titles, Bill MacLeod is another one of our successful local instructors. Bill is also a choreographer and presented his own dances ‘Because I Cry’ and ‘Tenderness’.
Zandra McCallum is known for picking great dances to teach. Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario she is a very popular instructor with a great sense of humour and dancers here enjoyed her classes. She taught ‘Comin To Getcha’ by a relatively unknown UK choreographer, Jo Conroy, as well as ‘Time 2 Fly’ by Kate Sala. With a background in many forms of dance including ballroom, jazz, hip hop and tap, Abby Mina from Toronto has competed all over the world. A lively, fun loving instructor and dancer, Abby is also a choreographer and presented his dance ‘Until Then, It’s Not Goodbye’.
I knew that Christine Mui was a talented line dancer but I didn’t know what an exceptional singing voice she has until she sang our National Anthem. I then found out that she has been singing with choirs for many years. But she has lots of other talents as well including a talent for teaching. She presented a very popular dance from the UK entitled ‘Is It So?’ by Maggie Gallagher and also ‘Spanish Lullaby’ by Johanna Barnes and Zac Detweiller.
If you want to work out how to move your hands and feet at the same time you need to take a class with Guyton Mundy. For me, Guyton’s classes are a performance that I enjoy simply to watch! From Orlando, Florida, Guyton has carved a special Guytonese niche in our line dance community. Dancers were eager to learn his latest dances ‘Angel’, ‘Bring It On Down’, ‘Cheatin’ Myself’, ‘Hick Chicks’, and ‘Come On And Dance’ and ‘How Kud U!? both written with Rob Glover.
Canadian Gerard Murphy has a loyal following in Ontario and has written many very successful international dance hits including ‘Crabbuckit’, ‘The Way’, ‘Heave Away’ and so on. With his own unique brand of humour and style, Gerard taught to full classes. Dancers were eager to learn ‘Take Me On’, ‘Do It’ (already popular), ‘Eye Candy’ and ‘Supermodelz’ written with Kathy Hunyadi.
We were fortunate to experience the talents of both Scott and Debi Pancoast. Debi is a wonderful dancer and a clearly experienced, very pleasant instructor. She taught ‘P.D.A.’ by Robert De Long, a talented choreographer from Debi’s neck of the woods in Connecticut. Meanwhile with a smile on his face, Scott kept the floor of the main ballroom lively all weekend; I’m not sure if he managed to get any sleep! I should note that Lynn Warden, the DJ in the ‘Country, Classics and Oldies’ room didn’t seem to get much sleep either! Lynn is always responsive to the dancers and has a warm, friendly, unintimidating manner that allows even the shyest dancer to venture to put in a request!
Of course, John Robinson needs no introduction. Well known and very popular with Ontario dancers, John is always fun to be around at any event; his enthusiasm and energy are infectious. He taught a mix of dances including ‘Drop Dead Smile’ written with Pepper Siquieros, ‘Foolish’ by Nancy Morgan, ‘Global Warming’ by Scott Schrank, ‘Unfaithful’ by Craig Bennett’, ‘Hustle-licious’, ‘J.J. Jam’ and ‘Shades’.
That’s the cast of characters. I was also honoured to be invited to teach and would like to thank those dancers who came to learn ‘No Tricks’, ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Head Over Heels’, written by Andrew, Simon and Sheila.
So let me recap, a quality hotel, talented instructors, capable, helpful and friendly volunteers and an Event Organizer whose total focus was on making the weekend as much fun as she could for the dancers who attended and for whom nothing was too much trouble. The Great Big Party was well named. Many, many thanks Adele for your hard work and caring.
BTW Adele converted the list of the instructors' favourite toys into a guessing game for the dancers. The winning three only guessed 5 out of 17 so it seems that the toys you choose as a youngster don't necessarily reflect what your character will be like when you become a line dance instructor as an adult!!
Another BTW In case you were wondering what Adele is doing wearing a monkey suit (!) in the above photo, she wanted to make sure that we were fully aware that life is more fun than the barrel of monkeys that was conveniently located by the registration desk!!!
Funny Story about the Scottish Dancers! Helen and her family came over to visit an Uncle who lives here planning the date so that she could come to The Great Big Party at the same time. At the last moment Olive decided to surprise Helen and book a flight over as well. However a few days after Olive booked her flight, Helen announced that she was reconsidering coming to the event as she would be all on her own! Suffice to say Olive spent a good chunk of time persuading Helen that it was a chance of a lifetime to go to such a fantastic eventic and that she really shouldn't miss it! Ultimately it was indeed a surprise and Helen was stunned to see Olive in the lobby of the hotel. Good story of dancin' friendship wouldn't you say?!!!!