I felt like a fan standing with an autograph book, a little awestruck, eager to see her heroes as I waited at the airport to collect Robbie McGowan Hickie and Kate Sala. Finally they were going to step onto Canadian soil. It was such a thrill that all the planning was coming to fruition. The workshop had sold out last October and it had a long waiting list, so it was more than just me anticipating this moment. I had met Robbie before but not Kate, so there were a few butterflies in my tummy! Suffice to say as I soon found out, no need to worry, they were the best guests you could possibly have.
I can hear you saying “there she goes again, let’s move it along”! Robbie & Kate came in on the Friday and the workshop was the very next day. But these two showed no signs of jet lag, energy high as we headed over to the Hall. The workshop started promptly at 12 with Kate taking the stage. I had explained that we have a good number of Beg+/Improver dancers who attend our workshops and we wanted to make sure that they were able to dance so Kate started off with ‘Made it to Memphis’ to ‘Never Made It To Memphis’ from Scooter Lee’s new Album. It was an excellent choice and boy is Kate a terrific instructor. A great sense of humour, clarity in her instruction, patience and responsiveness to the dancers resulted in confidence and laughter which I reckon is the best combination. In between instruction we always have open dance and it was the opportunity to do all our ‘Robbie and Kate favourites’. I think we could have danced the whole weekend and not be able to do them all. To give you just a few, during the course of the day we danced .... Amame, Shakatak, Keep on Dancin’, Drip Dropping, Wanna Be Elvis, Cool Chick, Stomp ‘n Kick, Just a Kiss, Louisiana Swing, Go Mama Go, Black Horse, Walking Backwards, Yolanda, She Believes, Not Like That, Sea Salt Sally, Lollipop, Nitty Gritty, Fire On Ice, Emotions, Simplemente, A Gigolo, Little Bluff, Sundown Waltz, and on and on and on!!
Next up was Robbie with ‘Inspiration’ to ‘Heaven In My Woman’s Eyes’, just a gorgeous track with a smooth dance that everyone enjoyed. Then ‘No Way’ to ‘Come On Over’ also really enjoyed by all the dancers. We were all a little in awe as the great man took to the stage but his down to earth unassuming manner soon put us at our ease. Robbie is an extremely capable instructor; he took his time to make sure that everyone was comfortable with the steps and when the music came on the dances flowed. We were happy campers for sure!!
As we moved to the more advanced dances, Kate treated us to ‘Party Freak’. This is such a fun dance and I’m sure it’s going to be a big hit. It is a real treat to watch Kate dance; she has such energy and vitality and makes even the simplest steps look funky and full of attitude. Add to her impressive dancing ability, her outstanding choreography success and we were indeed privileged to have Kate in Toronto.
It was ‘On The Line’ with Robbie next. I loved the country option ‘Lonesome Wins Again’ by Stacy Dean Campbell but I also enjoyed the dance to ’10 Minutes’ (Play & Win Radio Edit) by Inna. Lots of smiles for this dance. Steps that everyone could do but with interesting sequences that made you think. Trying to analyze Robbie’s amazing success I have come up with the conclusion that he consistently chooses music that appeals to all and his choreography is achievable yet always has interesting twists and curves. Now, if I could just market that conclusion .....! Robbie has been my idol for all the years I have danced even before I became aware of the nature of choreography. Then even more so when I realized the challenges in writing line dances. What an honour it was to have him here teaching on our stage.
But there was one more dance to go and that was a dance that Fred & I jointly choreographed with Robbie & Kate. This had to be a pinnacle for me. Back and forth over the email we went and finally came up with the final version of ‘Dr. Flame’ to ‘New Flame’ by Dr. Victor & the Rasta Rebels. We demoed the dance before Robbie & Kate taught it. "As long as I don’t trip" I muttered to myself at the thought of dancing next to my two heroes but thankfully I didn’t and thumbs up from the dancers after it was taught.
A break for a meal at local restaurants, followed by a presentation at which our Guests were ‘certified’! Then a full night of dancin’ with DJ Fred at the helm. I think at one point Fred had over 100 requests!!! However, he did a terrific job of making sure that everyone had an opportunity to kick up their heels. Kate and Robbie chatted with all the dancers to their delight and, of course, what a thrill to dance right next to these internationally renowned Choreographers and see exactly how they envisioned our favourite dances.
But the weekend was not yet over. On the Sunday the incomparable Emily Woo and her helpers hosted a huge party for us in a Chinese restaurant just north of the city. Robbie & Kate taught an easy dance each then later in the evening the four of us taught ‘Dr. Flame’. Lots of Robbie & Kate dances on the floor and, again, the dancers were so happy to have the choreographers join them. I was honoured to have a number of my dances on the floor as well, and in addition Fred & I led ‘Blue Cha’ and ‘Latin Crazy’. These dancers sure dance, they started before 5 p.m. and didn’t finish until midnight. Some of the dancers rarely sat down so I think they must have absorbed their meal by osmosis!! And what a meal it was, the courses kept on coming! Emily had a delightful presentation acknowledging her guests and they were touched and very pleased. I don’t think Emily stopped moving for one minute, she called many of the dances, and at the same time took time to speak to her guests while keeping one foot on the dance floor! What a whirlwind of energy she is!
This was the first time both Robbie & Kate had been to Canada so the next day off we went to Niagara On The Lake for wine tasting and Niagara Falls. The wine was a hit and they reckoned the Falls were magnificent. The next day was a quick tour around the city with, at one point, Kate laying flat on the ground trying to get a photo of the full CN Tower! Too soon it was time to take them to the airport. The house sure felt quiet after they had left. What delightful guests they were. They were interested in everything; Robbie used to be an antiques dealer and was appreciative of our old house and Kate is a graduate in Art and Design so she and my husband had plenty to talk about. We had lots of laughter and loads to talk about. What genuinely nice people they are; I feel privileged to have gotten to know them.
Let me add that we couldn’t have done this workshop without all the dancers who support us and we thank you so very much for having faith in us. I also want to thank my helpers who are always there to do the myriad of jobs that need to be done in order to have the workshop run smoothly.
Thanks to generous dancers the Raffle raised $285 for the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children and the 50/50 raised $90 to sponsor a youngster for the Dance Program at Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre in East Toronto.
The date for the Spring Workshop next year is April 28. Keep your eyes open for details on www.stayinline.ca