Petite, vivacious, lovely smile, welcoming, caring, thoughtful; all these adjectives come to mind when you think of Arline Winerman. In additon, wonderful organizer, detail person, terrific instructor. "She can't be completely perfect", you might say, so I'm going to keep on checking to see if I can come up with anything that will be confirm your observation!! I have a feeling it is going to be difficult!! And that is why the number of line dancers heading to Florida the first week of November to attend the Tampa Bay Line Dance Classic keeps on growing.
The soft warm fragrant air was balm to my soul as I stepped out of the Tampa airport. I took off my jacket and lifted my face to the sun. The shuttle came quickly and pretty soon I was deposited at the lobby of the Doubletree Hotel just ten minutes away. There was an air of anticipation as dancers checked in and greeted their friends and the vendors started setting up their stalls. And, of course, we were all eager to get our cookies - the Hotel's claim to fame!! They are wonderful; warm, soft yet chewy with just a little crispness and loaded with succulent chocolate chips that just melt in the mouth! Worth the trip for the cookies alone! (I think I must have been an advertising copywriter in a previous life!!)
Last year Arline moved the event to the Doubletree Hotel to accommodate the growing number of dancers. It has much more room for the dancers but this year Arline changed the room format; she wanted to allow more space for dancing and at the same time to limit a little the number of dances taught so that dancers were not overwhelmed. So instead of four smaller dance rooms (one with a very tiny dance floor), there was one large ballroom, one other good size instruction/review room and a third room with a large dance floor which doubled as the second ballroom as well as the beginners' room. The spacing worked out extremely well.
But let me back up to when the action started which was the Thursday evening. The partition was taken away and there was just the one huge ballroom which was a hub of dance activity. I can't remember seeing such a full dance floor on a Thursday evening before an event; it was definitely the place to be. Friday morning started bright and early with the registration desk opening at 8:30 and classes starting at 9 and going through to 5 with a lunch break from 12-1 with a room set aside for open dancing for the truly addicted line dancer who never eats when there are dances to be danced!! Classes were much the same on the Saturday this time without a lunch break and on Sunday they finished at 3 p.m.
So who did the dancers learn from? As usual, there was excellent instruction from Florida instructors. Kathy G from Miami pulled in a large crowd - her dance 'Cute! Cute! Cute!' filled the floor every time it came on. Stella Cabecca also flew in from Miami and as always there is lots of laughter in her classes. Bill McGee tackled some tricky dances with aplomb and good humour while Marilyn McNeal from Ocala, who always chooses excellent dances to teach, packed them in with one of the most popular dances of the weekend 'Don't Feel Like Dancing'. In the beginners' room popular Jean Brewer from the Villages taught a selection of beginner dances to suit everyone's taste along with the very pleasant Mary Ann Young and talented young AJ Clayton (a terrific dancer I might add!). Another addition to the beginners' room was a smiling Ian Forster from the UK. Ian was over introducing an interesting new curriculum for teaching beginner line dancing in conjunction with the musical group Brushwood and choreographer/instructor Val Myers. Ian is obviously committed and wants to ensure that line dancing continues to attract new participants in such a way that they are not overwhelmed when they first step foot on the dance floor. If anyone is interested in his intriguing concept they should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
And, of course, Florida's own Guyton Mundy was putting the funky crowd through their paces with some challenging and unique 'Guytonese' dances! It's always fun to watch Guyton at work. Moving from local to the furthest afield instructor, we need to go to Robin Sin from Singapore. Friendly Robin and his fellow dancers from Singapore and Happy Khim from Malaysia brought much enthusiasm to the line dance floor. It was great to have them there. Then we had a large number of instructors from the UK. Well known internationally, popular choreographers Peter Metelnick and Alison Biggs always attract large crowds for their varied choice of dances and music. Talented Neville Fitzgerald has a big following of dancers in the US as was demonstrated by his full classes. In the meantime great dancer Shaz Walton, although a newcomer to the event, attracted a lot of attention with full classes.
Popular instructor Michael Barr travelled across the continent from California to bring some great dances to the Florida crowd. Meanwhile Junior Willis charmed all in his class while Bryan McWherter brought a smile to everyone's face. Mark Cosenza and Glen Pospieszny, fresh from the success of their action-packed Windy City Event, kept the dancers in line with some good dances. All the dancers in Maurice Rowe's class reckoned they wanted to dance just like him! And, of course, one of those instructors whom it would be impossible to clone is John Robinson! His liveliness and sense of fun raises the energy level on any dance floor. I should add that I had a lot of fun teaching at this event and I would like to thank all those patient dancers who came to my classes with cheerful faces and lots of smiles!
Saturday night brought a tasty buffet dinner followed by the evening show. Among the entertainers, the colourful Joy Luck Club Dancers took us to traditional China with their fan and umbrella dances and were a delight to behold. Meanwhile the Village Ladies with their rather startling ruby red lips got us all giggling, and the Sumo Wrestlers brought forth some belly laughs (no pun intended!). The Pop Shop kids, taught by Guyton, were terrific and their enthusiasm for their dancing was obvious. Guyton and Natalie treated us to some smooth moves, as did John, Michael, Junior, Maurice, Zac, AJ and Christine. We were indeed fortunate to watch some great dancing which was, as always, introduced by none other than Mr. MC himself, Bryan McWherter!
But, as well as learning and watching, dancers want to give their brain cells a rest and just dance and there were many opportunities for just that. Louie, as always, kept the main ballroom hopping with a good mix of music. This man never seems to sleep although I did catch him at one point laying down on the couch behind his system with a sheet over him - a first for sure!!! Olivia Ray was open to any suggestions in the second ballroom, "So, what would you like now?" was her regular refrain. As a result, the floor was always lively. She was supposed to finish at midnight on the Saturday but it was well after 2 a.m. that she finally played "Good night Irene"! Meanwhile, Big Dave manned the controls in the instruction/review room. This was great as it saved the wasted time which can often occur when instructors try to work out which buttons do what!! Dave is a very pleasant, helpful individual to have around and is an experienced event director himself. He has an excellent website with some great suggestions for fun event activities worth checking out.
While dancers were kicking up their heels, others headed off to the review room to make sure they really did know the steps to the dance they had learnt during the day. This was a very successful addition to this event with lots of dancers taking the opportunity to refresh their memories ... "Now was that a shuffle or a kick ball change he told us to do earlier during the day?"!!! Another option for dancers was to take part in the Pro-Am for fun Competition. This worked very well and the dancers who participated did a great job with lots of energy and enthusiasm.
All too soon, it was time to pack our bags and say our goodbyes. A number of the dancers were staying over and heading off to wander along the beautiful local beaches or head off to Busch Gardens and or even travel down to the Keys. Once you're in Florida, there are no end of things to do and sights to see. Arline told everyone to mark down the first weekend in November for next year's event - so make a holiday of it and add a few days each side to enjoy Florida's many attractions.
But before I close, I want to say how much I appreciated and I know other dancers did, the evident thoughtfulness that had gone into this event, the care and attention to detail to ensure that the dancers all had a good time. The volunteers had spent hours blowing up the hundreds of balloons which brightened up all the rooms; the registration ran smoothly thanks to Jennifer and Jason Cameron and the volunteers who helped them. Our line dance events could not run the way they do without dancers willing to give up some of their dance time to help out. And, of course, to Arline who started organizing this event the day after the last years finished!! I don't know how she managed to stay looking so cool, calm and collected and retained her sense of humour. If she could put whatever she has in a bottle and sell it, she would make a fortune! So ... many thanks to Arline, Jenn and their volunteers, all of whom have earned the right to put their feet up for a little while at least!!!
...And Fell In Love
Just a Matter of Time
Rhythm of Falling Rain
Whenever I'm Lonely
Waltz For More Tears
Let It Swing
The Last Samba
MARK COSENZA AND GLEN POSPIESZNY
Walk Like A Man
Where R U?
You Turn It On
Get Down Tonight
A Little Crazy...
Something About You
Don't Feel Like Dancing