What makes a line dance event successful? There are many answers .... a comfortable hotel, good dance floors, DJs who are responsive to the dancers, talented and friendly instructors, well organized schedule, plenty of water stations dotted around, reasonable places to eat, maybe a vendor or two ….. But, most of all, an Event Director who cares from the heart. And the Tampa Bay Line Dance Classic has had this in spades for the last eight years. This past weekend dancers turned out in huge numbers to make this year’s event the biggest since its inception. They wanted to make sure that Arline Winerman realized what an impact she has had on their dancing lives with her hand on the helm of the Tampa Classic.
This is an event that is all heart. Dancers don’t see the enormous amount of work that goes into the preparation of the event, but they do notice the decorations that adorn every room, the care to detail and Arline’s constant presence. She is always readily approachable and open to chat with everyone. There are invariably unforeseeable problems; that is just life, but if Arline can do something about your problem she will. She carries this attitude over to her relationship with her instructors and they love her for it. This shows in their sense of being valued members of a team and this attitude in turn benefits the dancers.
But this was the year Arline had decided that it was time to turn over the reins. Jennifer and Jason Cameron will no doubt continue with the success of this wonderful event and at the same time add their own personalities and ideas, but for the moment it was the year to acknowledge and pay tribute to an individual much loved by her dancers.
So let me tell you a little bit about the event. It is held in the Doubletree Hotel and I always look forward to the warm chocolate chip cookie that you receive on registration! The particularly large number of dancers caused a few problems this year but one dancer told me that her group received complimentary breakfast vouchers and another group received a basket of goodies in their room as an acknowledgement of problems that had arisen with their registration. The staff certainly works hard to try to make the dancers happy and are always very pleasant.
The event starts with a dance on the Thursday night then classes commence Friday morning and go through to Sunday at 3. There are four dance rooms, all with good floors, with one retained as a beginner room. There are open dance options during the day as well for when your brain has reached its learning capacity! The rooms are all close together so you can pop from one to another very easily and have a chat to your mates as you pass them by…this is a very sociable event.
So on to the instructors. The local instructors were as always well represented. The smiling Carol Huban did yeoman’s duty in the beginner room while Marilyn McNeil, an extremely capable instructor, taught ‘Shanghai Express’ to a most appreciative class. It was great to see Stella Cabeca back, you can’t help but have fun in Stella’s class, try ‘Bora Bora’. Kathy G. (such a pleasure to watch Kathy dance) took the dancers for ‘A Walk On The Wild Side’, while patient instructor Sandy Albano taught the challenging ‘Don’t Miss A Thing’ and Maurice Rowe took us down memory lane with ‘S.X.E.’. I couldn’t quite get the moves exactly like Maurice but no doubt if I practice 24 hours a day they will come! Guyton Mundy had a huge class for “You’re Amazing”, no arms folks and a beautiful piece of music. The more traditional (!) Guyton dancers opted for ‘Imma Be’. Arline also took time out to teach in the Beginner room to happy dancers.
From further afield we had Scott Blevins who drew large crowds to his classes and concentration on faces for his latest ‘Private Dancer’. Scott also taught a dance that packed the floor each night ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ by Helena Jeppsson. Dancers were very happy to learn from the popular and friendly Michael Barr. ‘Smooth Operator’ was a big hit on the dance floor. You take a class from John Robinson with a smile on your face and quite a few outright chuckles. At the same time you learn excellent dances and I really enjoyed ‘The Way You Are’. Mark Cosenza and Glen Pospieszny brought us Choreography winning dances from their successful ‘Windy City’ event. Junior Willis is everyone’s ‘Boy Next Door’ (we wish!) and all enjoy his classes; ‘Boys In The Summer’ suited the weekend for sure and “Wonderland Waltz’ by Rob Fowler was played numerous times over the weekend. Amy Christian-Sohn is a delightful addition to any event and she taught ”Chatelaine’ co-choreographed with Michele Peron. Rona Kaye led the dancers along the ‘Tightrope’ (her own dance) with humour and patience.
The Beginner Room had excellent instructors including Frank Trace who did a terrific job; his ‘Cooler Than Me’ packed the floor. What a positive and encouraging individual he is. Bracken Ellis-Potter also did an excellent job in that room. It was heart-warming to be in the class as she taught her Mum’s dance (Linda Ellis) ‘Rock Me Baby (good beginner) and I also enjoyed Bracken’s own dance ‘Try Try Try’. Rosie Multari is always so much fun and her energy is contagious. You had to be there for her teach of 'Shanghai Squat' for which she was a co-choreographer.
There is always representation from over the pond at this event. Young Craig Bennett had packed classes and I think his ‘Box It Up’ was one of the most popular dances of the weekend. Dee Musk always has dances on the floor in the US, and her ‘Lead Me On’ definitely appealed to the dancers. Neville Fitzgerald & Julie Harris are Florida favourites for sure and their classes were full with many dancers tackling 'Nothin' Better'’. There was a ‘Welcome Back’ to Shaz Walton who has a reputation for a bit of a challenge but the dancers were up for ‘Written In The Stars’. New kid on the block, Alan Birchall, took us down memory lane on the dance floor at night with his award winning dance ‘Wave On Wave’. Always with a smile on his face and a ready word, Alan was a pleasure to have at this event and dancers enjoyed ‘Edge of Desire’.
My thanks to everyone who attended my classes and also who stopped to chat and welcome me back to the Event. I appreciated your patience with ‘Love In One Shot’ in a packed room as you danced elbow to elbow and I think some were chair dancing at the back! You were a terrific crowd. Thanks also to the ‘Latin Crazy’ dancers and ‘Distant Shore’ and ‘Country Hitch’ with ‘Blue Cha’ thrown in.
Of course, another essential ingredient of an event are the DJs. Louie St. George starts early in the morning organizing all the equipment for the rooms and then keeps the music moving in the Ballroom as well as for the Show. I don’t quite know when he sleeps! Big Dave kept the Woodlands Foyer humming. It was a good spot for socializing as well as just popping onto the dance floor. Dave is always receptive to requests. Meanwhile Olivia Ray pressed the buttons in the Beginner Room both for the classes and evening dances. Olivia doesn’t wait for requests, she constantly reminds people to come and tell her what they want to dance. This room was extremely busy all weekend both during classes and for the evening dances when the floor was invariably full with beginner/intermediate/main stream dances.
Following a terrific suggestion from Jason, the schedule this year was changed to give more evening dance time. There were some dance reviews on the Friday evening but they were all finished by 10:30 p.m. and none at all on the Saturday evening. In fact after the show on the Saturday it was just straight open dancing as the previews were presented during the afternoon. It was SOOOOO much better! The dance floors were hoppin’ every evening with happy dancers.
The Dinner on the Saturday was excellent and everyone looked FABULOUS!! Black, white and silver glamour; can’t beat those fashion conscious line dancers! We did our own 'SBS (Shuffle Boogie Soul)' Flash Mob Routine before the show, thanks Ira for this fun project taken on by groups all over the world. Lots of special moments in the show ….. John, Michael and Junior looked gorgeous with their tuxes (and great performances); Bracken and her two cohorts Junior & Patrick would give Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers a run for their money; intricate and impressive dance routine by the ‘Sweet & Sassy' Dance Team from The Villagers led by their leader Christine Bass; Ed, also from The Villages, made us smile; Stella & Jennifer treated us to a smooth waltz routine; Trish St. Denis and her Team sparkled; Guyton and Carey Parson were hidden beneath black and white but couldn’t disguise that fancy handwork; a charming routine by Alan Birchall and girlfriend Jackie plus Scott & Natalie Mundy wowed us with a great west coast swing.
However, the highlight was a surprise tribute to Arline. To her astonishment Jennifer took her to a seat in the middle of the dance floor. In came Neville and Amy to serenade her before instructors and dancers in top hats circled her to dance “Hello Arline (Dolly)” This was followed by a presentation of flowers, a plaque and a memory book signed by all attending the event. The crowd roared its approval as all took to their feet to acknowledge a much loved instructor and Event Organizer. At that point, with tears in her eyes, Arline handed her crown over to Jennifer and Jason. I reckon there were many dancers discreetly bringing out their hankies.
What a grande finale. Enough to say that this event will be etched in our memories for a good long time. We are happy that Arline will still play a part at the event but hopefully will now be able to relax and enjoy herself as well. I wish Jennifer and Jason every success with an Event that has far surpassed it’s more humble beginnings into a “must go to” for hundreds of line dancers from all parts of the world. I know the event will be in good hands.
PS Congratulations to the winners of the Pro-Am Dance Competition and to all who competed. This is really a fun event, next year do grab your instructor and come along to compete and have fun.
$1200 was raised in the 50/50 on the Friday night, $600 to go to Jo Thompson Szymanski with love and the other $600 went to one very happy dancer.