It was that time of the year again; the leaves were changing colour in Toronto and the cool air creeping in. However, I knew I still had a little bit more of summer to enjoy. To my good fortune, I had been invited to teach for the third year at the Tampa Bay Linedance Classic. I was looking forward to seeing all the dancers who had greeted me with such friendliness and warmth on my last visits.
There were some changes afoot though as the event had changed hotels. I had really liked the previous hotel so it was with a little trepidation that I made my way to the Doubletree Hotel just a few minutes shuttle ride from the airport. It was a pleasure to see the sign hanging over the Reception stating ‘Welcome Tampa Bay Line Dancers’. Nothing like feeling right from the beginning that the hotel was happy to have us stay! An easy check-in and off to a comfortable room.
I made my way to the registration desk passing a number of vendors offering some great dance clothes and accessories. As usual, Arline Winerman was there with her warm smile. Arline is a really genuine and caring individual and it shows in her event. There are many, many small extra touches that indicate the effort that she puts in to ensure that the dancers enjoy themselves. As well, she is always available to chat and respond to concerns as well as to have fun. We are very fortunate to have Arline in our line dance community. Meanwhile Co-Event Director Scott Hucks was filming the dance videos so that dancers would have something to jog their memories at home when they tried to recall all the dances they would learn during the weekend. Scott is an experienced Event Organizer; you should check out his website to find out about other LDI Events that he is involved in organizing including the popular Tarheel event held in September. He initiated the LDI experience in order to give dancers the opportunity to attend low-cost (one price covers all workshops), quality line dance events.
The change in venue had been necessary to accommodate the growing event. Arline had spent many hours checking out local hotels until she found one that was suitable. She and Scott have signed a three year contract with the hotel. The classrooms in the Doubletree were all bigger and when the doors were opened for the evening dance the space was very large. There was a spacious area near the registration desk with tables and chairs which made for a comfortable ‘put your feet up for a minute’ spot and was used for the Saturday night buffet. Arline had arranged for snack food to be available so dancers didn’t have to waste any time looking for somewhere to have lunch. At the same time the food was very good at the hotel bar and restaurant. I was advised to have the lobster bisque and it was excellent!
The classes started at 10 on the Friday morning and while John Robinson taught ‘Get It While It’s Hot’ next door, I was very pleased to have a full class while I taught ‘Jailhouse Creole’, a fun beginner dance written by Double Trouble, local Ontario Instructors, and ‘Good Times’ which I wrote with Fred Buckley. For the rest of the day, dancers had a choice of two or three classes and there was usually a room available for open dance. This had been specifically requested at last year’s event and Arline ensured that concern was addressed.
Friday evening started with the demos of the dances to be taught the next day and dancers had a choice of staying in the main ballroom til the wee hours of the morning or heading over to Timberwood where Olivia Ray kept the floor hopping to midnight. This was the first opportunity I had had to spend some time with Olivia who also runs her own LDI event in May. What an accommodating and very pleasant DJ she is. The dancers felt very welcome in her room and their requests were speedily played.
Regardless of the hour they finally crept into their beds, the dancers were ready to dance at 9 the next morning! On Saturday, there were three classes an hour to choose from and I had the 12 noon spot where I taught ‘One Bad Day’ (then I’ll be OK!)' and everyone danced around a box of chocolates – no kidding! Then ‘Soft & Slow’. The dancers loved Josh Turner’s ‘Your Man’. As one dancer said to me, ‘I hope he’s as hot as his voice’! The Pro-Am competition took place during the day and it has grown at this event. Largely I feel because of the confidence it gives new competitors to have their instructor right beside them. It’s a great idea and deserves consideration at other events.
But let me tell you a little about the instructors. They were a diverse group of talented choreographers and teachers. Peter Metelnick and Alison Biggs were returning and as always taught to full classes. They offered a choice of dances of all levels and types of music from the more advanced ‘Pirates of Dance’ to the lovely country track ‘Walk Back To Me’. John Robinson, of course, is always a favourite of the dancers and puts all his energy into his classes which were packed. ‘Clouds in My Eyes’ was definitely a crowd pleaser. At one point during his class, Guyton Mundy jokingly called out to the spectators “So line dancing is a spectator sport?!" "It is now!" responded one of the dancers in the audience. And it sure was as Guyton taught his latest ‘Shake’! A terrific instructor, Guyton is also a lot of fun to watch.
Newbies to the event this year were the Brit Pack. It was a pleasure to put faces to their names. Up here in Toronto we have enjoyed dances by Neville Fitzgerald and Dee Musk and they didn’t disappoint. Both competent and pleasant instructors, the dancers enjoyed learning from them. ‘Waitin’’ by Neville and ‘Shake Ya Body’ by Dee proved popular. Together with Big Dave, they taught ‘Never Again’ which also went down well. I enjoyed a chat with Dave who is having a great time on his trip and is packing a lot into it. He explained that there is usually one room at UK events and he found it an interesting experience to attend an event with choices each hour. It made it a little difficult to DJ the evening dances in that there were a large number of dances taught and obviously everyone couldn’t attend every class. Dave was impressed at the tolerance and patience of the dancers who were willing to sit and watch at the evening dance when there was something they didn’t know. Dave worked at the DJ table with Louie and I got good feedback on his responses to requests and his friendliness towards the dancers. Another new face was Michelle Jackson. I peeked into her class and thought what a lovely dancer she is.
But I’m just beginning! Bryan McWherter, who is an excellent instructor, actually got me doing hand movements with ‘Feels So Good’ by Amy Christian while Junior Willis, who you would never know was suffering from an acute back problem, had a full class for ‘Double J. Switch’. Mark Cosenza, one of the Event Directors of the very successful Windy City Event, taught a Toronto favourite ‘B Squared’ while his co-Event Director Glen Pospiesnzy got feet moving and arms posing with ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’. Meanwhile, Canadian choreographer Judy McDonald got shoulders twitching with ‘Hollaback’!
Florida is fortunate to have excellent instructors, a number of whom are well known beyond the Florida border, and it was a treat to learn from them at this event. They chose an excellent selection of dances which I’m sure will make their way to many line dance classes. Outgoing Stella Cabecca from Miami as always makes learning fun and popular Bill McGee from Orlando, with his easy going manner, pulls in a large class. Bill also taught a couple of his own dances including the fun ‘Sugar Train’. Marilyn McNeil who teaches in Ocala is a very capable, pleasant and patient instructor who is easy to follow. Kathy G. is always lively and you couldn’t fall asleep in her class! The beginners’ room dancers were lucky to have Nancy McDavid, Lindy Bowers and Charlotte Williams who offered good dances and friendly instruction. Arline also taught a class on the Friday – what an amazing woman!
But there is more to an event than the classes and on the Saturday evening everyone came down dressed in their ‘Hawaiian’ finery ready for the buffet. With lots of people to feed, there were three sittings but there was plenty of food and it was very tasty. The dancers then piled into the ballroom where they joined me for a bit of pre-show fun with ‘Clap Your Hands’. The show as usual brought terrific dancing together with lots of laughs and good fun. A very touching part of the evening was John Robinson’s routine dedicated to Jo Thompson who is courageously battling a serious illness. I had been co-opted by Peter and Alison for an award winning flamenco routine or at least that was what I had been told until I saw Peter’s costume! Do check out the photos because words don’t do it justice!! Bryan did an excellent job as MC keeping us smiling and the show moving at the same time.
It was then time for the dancers to take to the floor with a break for the instructors’ demos. There was also a break where a group of instructors attempted to write a dance together. It was an interesting concept that perhaps could be done during the day another time. Come the evenings dancers don’t want to sit, they want to move their bodies and enjoy their favourite dances. The equipment in the ballroom was amazing. Louie had set it up so that it could be used during the day in the classes and then it made for surround-sound for the evening dances. It was a lot of work keeping on top of the sound systems and Louie was very busy during the day but I still saw him enjoying himself on the dance floor from time to time! The DJ’s job is one of the hardest as it is extremely difficult to please everyone but we are fortunate to have skilled people like Louie willing to take on this responsibility so we can have fun on the dance floor.
All too soon it was time to leave on Sunday. I want to thank everyone who made my classes such a pleasure to teach and who took the time to stop and chat. What a friendly and supportive group. It was great to meet up with old friends and make new. I would also like to add my appreciation to Carol Cravens, editor of the TKANDR Florida e-newsletter, for spreading the word about these events and to all the instructors for making this particular event another one of those jewels to put in our line dance memory banks.
I should add that the weather was beautiful and there is tons to see and do in and around Tampa (do check out my report from 2003 for details). So, add a few days either side of the Classic and make it a wonderful vacation. Many thanks to Arline and to Scott and their helpful volunteers for all the hard work and commitment that resulted in an excellent event that had something for everyone. Don’t forget to mark the first weekend in November 2006 for Linedance fun in Tampa.
PS I had an Assistant Photographer at this event, Diana Gammon, who took some great show photos! Do check them out.
If you'd like a copy of the video of the dances and the Saturday evening show contact Scott Hucks, who as well as being the Co-Event Director, was the photographer for the event. All the dances that you see below are on the video and for just an extra $10 you can include the Show. So get your order in now!
*Peter Metelnick & Alison Biggs:
Love’s Whisper, Metelnick/Biggs
Pirates of Dance, Metelnick/Biggs
Double XL, Metelnick/Biggs
Wikked Lil Girls, Metelnick/Petrie
Push The Button, Metelnick/Biggs
Walk Back To Me, Metelnick/Biggs/Albro
Get It While It’s Hot, Robinson
Clouds In My Eyes, Robinson
When You’re Around
Shake Ya Body
Bring It On
Cocoa Puffs, Detweiller
Natural Selection #64
Take It To The Floor, McWherter
We Be Burnin', McWherter
Feels So Good, Christian
I’m Movin’ On, Bennett
Never Again, Lawrence/Fisher
*Mark Cosenza & Glen Pospieszny:
B Squared, Cosenza
California Bounce, Cosenza/Anderson
Get Over Here, Cosenza
Hernando’s Hideway, Verdonk/Boogh
Hot Thang, Willis
Do It All, Willis
Long ‘n Hot
Double J. Switch, Willis
Bomshell Stomp, Marshall/Hedges
Have A Ball
I haven't been able to find out the choreographers of all the dances so if you know one I'd very much appreciate it if you could let me know and I'll add the name. Also if I've missed a dance that was taught I do apologise and would like to include it. Many thanks.
Jailhouse Creole, Double Trouble
Good Times, Scott/Buckley
One Bad Day (Then I’ll Be OK!), Scott
Soft & Slow, Scott/Buckley
Don’t Let Go, Scott
Clap Your Hands, Scott
Thunder & Lightning, Lafferty
Eleven ’01, McDonald/Brady/Arroyo/Frohn-Butterly/McLeod
Get It Poppin’, McDonald/Willis
Go On, McDonald
No Place To Go, Wood
Ready to Ride, Metelnick/Alison Biggs
Little Bit of Ballroom
Careless Whisper, McAdam
Be Strong, Watson
You Can Try, McGee
Sugar Train, McGee
Run For The Roses, Mucari
The World, Gallagher
Backseat Blues, Albro
After Party, Rowe
That’s Life, Barnes
Get ‘N By
Get Down In Hicktown
Make It Up, Gallagher
Hickety Bickety, Rowe
Work In Progress, Bowers/Winerman
Jump Back Baby
Little Ship, Bader
Wasn’t That A Party, Halvorson
*Debra Cleckler taught technique & styling