I couldn't believe my good fortune! Another invitation to teach at the Tampa Bay Linedance Classic, an event I had so enjoyed the previous year. I felt so honoured to be asked for the second time by Event Directors, Scott Hucks and Arline Winerman. So, when gloomy and grey November rolled around in Toronto, I didn't skip a beat, just hopped into that plane to the warmth and colour of Tampa in Florida!!
Yes, it was time for the second Tampa Bay Linedance Classic. The first year for the event was a terrific success and word had obviously got around. This year the host hotel soon filled up; the overflow hotel then followed suit and a third hotel was added to the list. There were some renovations in progress as the main Hotel had recently been taken over. The Bar area was now much more spacious and a good meeting point and the rooms were as comfortable as before. For those of you who haven't yet been to this event, I should let you know that the hotel is very conveniently located. It's just a few minutes from the airport and a short walk away from a large shopping mall with a good food mart. There are restaurants close by and it's also not far from downtown Tampa. There are nearby golf courses which my husband took advantage of and a short 20 minute drive will take you to the Gulf Beaches. It's a great idea to tack a few days on either before or after the event to check out the local sights as Tampa is an interesting spot with much to offer. I went into more detail in my review last year so do check it out! Some of the dancers opted for a four day cruise starting on the Monday from Tampa Harbour which would take them to Cozemel and the Cayman Islands. Sounded like a great idea to me!!
However my main focus was obviously on dancing! Scott and Arline seemed totally in control of everything. They were well organized and registration was soon underway for the early birds who arrived Thursday evening. Pizza was by the most attractive pool and the ballroom was open for dancing. An hour was set aside for registration on Friday morning and it went very smoothly. At 10 the dancers got the opportunity to see what dances were being taught during the day before the action started and continued until 2 on Sunday. There were four workshop rooms with one allocated for beginners' classes or open dance every hour so there was plenty of choice. Last year the dance floor space had not been big enough in some of the rooms but these floors were extended this year. I should add that there were Mardi Gras decorations in all the rooms which added a festive atmosphere. In fact there were lots of thoughtful touches including candy put around, foot bath on Sunday and more which were an indication of the care and attention to detail put into the event by Arline and Scott. In addition, they were always around smiling and helpful. You couldn't have wanted better hosts and organizers.
Again this year I found the dance reviews, which were repeated on Friday and Saturday evening, to be very helpful as did many of the other dancers. Although it is often difficult to judge a dance without actually dancing it and feeling how it flows to the music, it is possible to decide whether you like the song and that can help in this difficult decision! However, it can be frustrating when there are dances you want to learn all being held at the same time. Nevertheless decisions had to be made but do note that there were many classes that I didn't get to. In fact there were over 80 dances taught. New instructors for me were Dawn Sherlock and Nigel Amon from the UK. Dawn and her friend Carol Baker stayed with Carol Cravens and husband, Bucky, for the week. Carol's daily newsletter is invaluable for finding out about Florida dance action and beyond. I particularly enjoyed Dawn's waltz 'Somewhere to Cry' and I thought she taught with clarity and patience. Nigel most competently taught MIL's popular 'Fantasy' which attracted interest as there's been word of it on the airways!!
The Florida instructors were terrific. Lucky for the dancers, Arline took a moment out of her busy schedule to teach 'Buy Me a Drink' and 'I'm Walkin'. Dancers were happy to learn 'Under Your Spell' from Kathy G. and 'Hot Fudge' from Bill McGee. Both instructors teach in a relaxed, fun manner. You cannot help but enjoy yourself in Stella Cabecca's class and, as always, she kept us in stitches as she taught Michele Peron's 'Zest Appeal'. Guyton Mundy, as usual, attracted a big crowd. As well as being a terrific dancer, Guyton is an excellent instructor and I thoroughly enjoyed his teach of 'Sum'm, Sum'm'. (I tend to go for the 'no arms' dances!! However, 'Lose It' looked like a lot of fun despite Guyton's arm being in a sling!) In the King Palm Room dancers learnt from local instructors Janis Graves, Jane Marie Dorsey and Sandy Schoenberg. The quality of instruction by Florida instructors is high and the dancers down there are fortunate to have such enthusiastic and friendly teachers.
From across the pond, the very talented Peter Metelnick and Alison Biggs taught a mix of dances to appeal to every taste. These two consistently produce excellent dances. It's a difficult choice but out of those I took I think my favourite was 'Make Your Mind Up' closely followed by 'Better Life'. For the second year, Jackie Miranda flew over from California, this time accompanied by her husband, Doug. I was very impressed with how relaxed they seemed to be when they have their own event in Vegas happening just a week and a half away! However, they always seem to have fun with their teaching and 'Staying Alive' put smiles on everyone's faces while the flowing 'Let It Be' was a crowd pleaser.
'Funkilicious' by MIL taught by Scott Blevins from Chicago was well received and I enjoyed Scott's teach of 'What It Is'. Scott believes in spending time on concentrating on technique so dancers can get the full pleasure out of the dances he teaches and is patient as dancers attempt some of his more tricky moves. John Robinson, as always, is a lot of fun to take a class from and always a delight to watch dancing. I enjoyed 'Summerlove' and was delighted to see one of John's older dances 'Dangerous' hit the floors again. It was a tremendous success with those relearning it and for dancers for whom it was a new treat. What a terrific dance it is and a highlight for me was watching John and Jackie Miranda dance with it with their own unique variations in the back row at the Saturday night dance!
Looking relaxed after the success of their Windy City event in October, Glen Pospieszny taught his dances 'Every Little Step' and 'Evercool' while Mark Cosenza took to the floor to teach his new dance 'Under the Boardwalk'. to a great song mix. Always with a ready smile, Junior Willis from Tenessee was a favourite and although it's an advanced challenging dance, many of the dancers were more than willing to tackle Junior's 'Santa Maria'. Ron Kline, although a well known choreographer in Michigan and the surrounding areas, was a new face to many down here. I didn't get a chance to try it but 'Another Man Done Gone' looked really fun in the demo and I saw many smiles from other dancers watching it. Dancin' Dean had also come down from the chilly north. Dean is up on hot dances from the UK and ably brought another MIL dance to the floor with 'Wicked Wish'.
Bryan McWherter wore two hats at this event. As Instructor he capably taught the very hot dance 'Wanna Wanna' which I learned earlier this year in the UK but definitely needed a refresher! His second role was as MC for the show (which I will come to later!) and he was most impressive. This is a critical role and Bryan managed to move the action along in an efficient manner yet with patience and humour.
I had some delightful and responsive dancers in my classes to whom I taught 'Still Waters', 'Good To Me', 'About You' and 'Just 4U'. In addition, in response to requests from a number of dancers, I had an extra class in which I taught 'Wishes'. Thank you so much to all the patient and friendly dancers who made my classes such a pleasure. Also to my Canadian dancing friend, Cecile Cramer, who demoed with me despite her stage nerves!!!
The Friday evening dance brought us the Red Hat Ladies and it was a delight to see the splash of red ranging from hats to boas hit the dance floor headed by Jane Marie Dorsey. The Pro Am competition took place this evening as well and there was a good response from the dancers. I think it's an excellent way to encourage dancers to try out competition.
The Saturday evening dinner/show was sold out. We were treated to a buffet in the restaurant and then headed to the Main Ballroom for the show. Arline had hinted earlier that this was going to be an exceptional show and she was right. The highlight was a line dance by a dance troupe which included three dancers on stilts. Their performance was absolutely amazing and their costumes were splendid. It was most impressive. I thought Arline had hired a professional troupe and was astounded to hear that it was Bill McGee and his group who had practiced many months for this event. If they ever perform again, don't miss it.
We also enjoyed great clogging by Junior, an entertaining dance routine by Doug and Jackie, hip hop action by the talented Guyton and friends including wife Natalie and John R., a very funny dance skit by Peter and Alison (Stella and Scott also got thrown into the pot) you just have to see this one, it can't be adequately described!! Dancin' Dean got us on the floor with Zydeco Lady and the grand finale was a performance by the Honky Tonk Stompers from New Orleans who finished by showering us with colourful beads. It certainly was a wonderful Mardi Gras.
Great prizes were also won including weekend passes to Doug and Jackie Miranda's 'Gotta Dance' in California ; Tarheel Dance Classic; Mark, Glen & Eve's Windy City Line Dance Mania; Olivia Ray's LDI event in Virginia; Suncoast Jamboree in Daytona, Florida; Line Dance Showdown in Boston, the MIL event in Fort Lauderdale, Scott Blevin's workshop in Bonita Springs and Tampa Bay Linedance Classic 2005. In addition there were two gift certificates to Western Trend clothing store in Largo and $250 won on the 50/50 plus door prizes and excitement when dancers saw their numbers on the notice outside the door. There were indeed a lot of happy dancers at the end of this part of the evening!!
I should also at this point comment on the DJing at this event. Oliva Ray was in charge of the King Palm room and her pleasant, easy going manner made this a relaxed room in which to dance. She was there long hours and had DJ responsinility for the Pro-Am Comp as well. She always had a friendly smile for the dancers -- thank you Olivia. Olivia has her own LDI event in Virginia which I'm sure is a lot of fun with her in charge! Meanwhile responsibility for the evening dances in the ballroom lay on DJ John Lindsay, a new DJ to me. A tall, lanky young man, always with his baseball cap on, John looked like he had just accidentally ended up standing behind the sound system! But that was a misleading perception!! He was always on the ball. I was present when he was being confronted by instructors with the music for their demos at the same time as Bryan was trying to coordinate the schedule with him and dancers wanted to dance. Not a flicker of panic or impatience crossed his face! He was responsive to requests yet at the same time watched the floor to ensure that following a small dance crowd there would be something that would bring everyone on the floor. This role is such a tricky one as the DJ tries to keep everyone happy and we have such varied tastes but John did a terrific job. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening dances -- many thanks John.
This terrific event had a rather unique aspect to it that I haven't encountered at other events. That is the sense that the Florida instructors consider themselves your hosts as well as the Event Directors. To give you an example, a hospitality room was set aside for the instructors to go for lunch. This year, Florida instructor Marilyn McNeil and her husband Ray volunteered to cater the meals and we instructors feasted on two wonderful home cooked meals. When I asked Marilyn about this she responded to the effect that Arline works so hard and they wanted to help to make the instructors feel welcome. You can imagine how good this made the out-of-state instructors feel and for sure this warmth flowed on to the dancers. In many different ways the Florida instructors reached out to everyone coming down to this event in their State and it was most appreciated.
Of course, special thanks to Arline and Scott who worked tirelessly on our behalf always with a smile and a sense of humour. The work involved in running an event of this magnitude is enormous and I'm sure can seem never-ending at times. Plus this year dealing with the trauma of the horrendous hurricane season that hit Florida. I'm very thankful that the two of them decided to take on the challenge of the event in the first place and now that they're going to hold it for a third time in 2005. It's going to be the first weekend of November so make sure you mark that down in your calendar. I'll look forward to seeing everyone again then! I have a little time now to rest my feet before that date rolls around!!!