Even though I have lived in Canada longer than I lived in the UK, I visit regularly and feel like I have a toe hold in both countries! My parents are now in their nineties and are still living in their own two storey home in Essex. My mother still potters in her garden while my father, who is a night owl, bakes apple pies and rock cakes after midnight keeping us awake with the crash of pots and pans!
I spend most of my visit with my parents and catching up with my sisters and their families. However, I always like to sneak in some line dancing and see my dancing friends as well. This year's visit I started by visiting friendly Mick and Wendy Bennett of the Tulsa Shuffle Line Dance Club close by in Leigh on Sea. They have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and also organize day workshops. Mick is a conscientious hard working instructor who gives as much attention to his beginners as he does to his more advanced dancers. He has choreographed a few beginner dances and you can find them on his website www.tulsashuffle.co.uk
The next visit was to Teresa & Vera's Thursday class in Stanford Le Hope. As always, with T & V in charge the large class was full of laughter and good fun. I met the two 8 years ago now and always try to pop out to see them. From their first massive hit 'Quando When Quando' (Vera told me they were astounded at the success of this dance which they only wrote because some of their dancers liked the song) the talented duo have turned out consistently popular dances. Right now they have major hits on their hands with 'Dance Like You're The Only One' and 'Black and Gold'. It is also a real joy at this class to meet up with dancers who made me feel so welcome when we lived back in the UK 2000/01. In particular, Roger and Dot who were part of my Honky Tonk Team in 2000. Also Mary Brennan who was one of the first dancers to invite me to join her group that year. As a result, I ended up doing a regular radio program for husband John, a very talented individual, who initiated and runs LINK radio, a thriving radio station in Essex.
I also visited Carol Simmons' friendly and enthusiastic class, the Caroliners, who dance in the Smallgains Hall on Canvey Island. I actually first met Carol in The Villages in Florida where she lives for six months and teaches line dancing over there. Carol is a hard working instructor and takes UK dances to the US and vice versa, trying to ensure that all her classes are up on the latest dances in the charts. It was quite a coincidence that she moved so close to where my parents live for her six months here in the UK. Carol kindly took me out to a dance in Billericay run by local instructors, Janet and Maureen. They played an excellent mix of dances many of which I already knew or could pick up on the floor. Although the pace of learning new dances has increased (for good or bad depending upon which side of the fence you sit!) by the fast circulation of dances on the internet, I've discovered that it has also allowed for more cross-over of dances internationally, particularly bigger hits, which means that you can travel distances and still find some dances that you know on the dance floor. However, it doesn't necessarily happen. I always look forward to dancing 'Patient Heart' while I'm over in the UK and this time 'Into The Arena' was on the floor a number of places. I loved these dances when I was in the UK in 2000 and they were huge hits. Interestingly though, neither of these dances took off in North America much to my frustration!
The highlight of my trip was teaching at Kim Ray's workshop in Milton Keynes with Alan Birchall. It was an excellent venue packed out with friendly line dancers who made me feel immediately at home including the volunteers at the door who welcomed everyone with smiles and cheerful greetings. It's a large hall which converts into a theatre, so there's a high stage and good accoustics. Kim is a popular host. She is a delightful person with a hilarious sense of humour, very quick on the uptake! It is always special when I meet a choreographer I admire and Alan was very pleasant and friendly with no airs and graces! Alan's latest dance 2025 was a definite hit with the dancers and I'm sure it will soon be spreading around. Kim's 'Inside Out' filled the floor, she has a big hit on her hands with this one. She is a star who is rising to the top for sure. The floor was kept moving all day by Phil Partridge who was an enthusiastic and responsive DJ. Kim also gives up and coming choreographers the opportunity to present their dances and we enjoyed watching talented Kumari Tugnait, Michael (Bimbo Boots) Lynn and David Jordan perform their latest creations.
I was very pleased to see Kim's sisters in law, Trish and Sonya at the event. Their first experience of line dancing was over with us in Canada in April and they are now hooked! It was also a pleasure to meet up with Geoffrey Evans, an instructor from London with whom I've been emailing for quite a while about my dances. He came especially to meet me together with another friendly London instructor, Michele, partner Noel and some of their dancers. It's always great to put a face to an email name and what a charming man Geoffrey is. For his class information go to http://groups.msn.com/DizzycowpokeLinedancing
If any of you are going to be heading over the pond do check out line dancing places and events (Kim runs four a year) as the UK dancers are most welcoming.
While I was over I taught 'Our First Love' to the Tulsa Shuffle LD Club and T&V's class, 'Wonderland' & 'Centred' at Kim's workshop and 'Small Stuff' to the Caroliners. It was such a thrill to see both 'Our First Love' and 'Pirate On The Run' on the UK dancefloors. Many, many thanks to everyone dancing and teaching these dances.