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Let Freedom Swing! hahahaha Yaaaaaay first year, brand new event, wsdc points!, short two-hour drive from DC, YAY!
We have a BEAUTIFUL day today, a total surprise because the forecast was for torrential downpours of freezing rain.I was worried about flight delays, dangerous driving, drenched stressed-out dancers arriving late …. but none of that! It is beeeeee yuuu teeee ful!
We’re at the Philadelphia airport’s Ramada Inn, an old hotel with construction blocking the front door and a small lobby. I arrived late last night (trying to avoid the monsoon during Friday rush-hour) walked up to the front desk and thought uh oh. Not good. But! Another delightful surprise! The rooms are old but great in a utilitarian kind of way. Balcony on every room (fresh air! I hate breathing Legionnaire’s Disease all weekend) and individual heating units which actually heat! Or cool! You don’t need the whole hotel system changed to adjust your own room temperature. Big and roomy – I’ve got a couch, coffee table, eating table with two chairs, *and* a work desk with adjustable ergonomic chair. And a big open area. And two sinks with lots of counter space. Super long bed (my feet hang off the end of most hotel beds) and – gasp – fitted sheets! Free wifi! (most hotels charge $13/day.) And the nicest staff – especially Oreta at the front desk. I’ve checked out the ballrooms and practice rooms (they’re still laying floors and setting up tables) and they look good, bright and cheerful.
Grant is here, shoes all set up, the wall outside the ballroom is lined with shoes.
People arriving in droves now … Registration desk just opened. Robert Cordoba is here, John Lindo, Bridget and Arjay, Deborah Szekely, Jennifer Lyons … I’m assuming that because this is brand new we’ll get Philly, DC, New York, and maybe Boston. We shall see! Very exciting.
I’m by myself this weekend cause Genieboy’s in Tokyo. Dancing! Supposed to be there for work but he found the west coast community. There is west coast in Tokyo almost every night of the week! Tomorrow night there’s a west coast “marathon” – wonder what that means.
Here is Genieboy with some new friends:
Tonight is Strictlys, tomorrow Jack and Jills.
Here’s the site:
We’ve just finished JJ’s and have a four-hour break for workshops and dinner.
Rob and Sheila, event directors, are pleased – 400 people! – pretty good for a first year in a community that’s not been on the map. Bunch of us were saying we don’t recognize any of the newcomers or novice, which means they don’t travel and are probably local, which means they’ve come into the community via Rob and Sheila’s dances and group lessons. Kudos Rob and Sheila! It would be nice if there were a Philly community. Here in the local area there is a small handful – a toddler-sized handful – of very good long-time dancers but none of them have ever taken any kind of leadership role here to teach or build a community. And they don’t attend local dances. So they’re invisible. There really is no community here. Yet. But judging from this event it looks like Rob and Sheila are building one.
Nice “Meet and Greet” yesterday in the hospitality room – cookies, grapes and cheese, tea and coffee, couches and chairs, Rob and Sheila strolling around dressed as George Washington and Betsy Ross, personally welcoming everyone.
Opening Ceremonies last night: Sascha Newberg (looking fab! Elegant, artistic, and hip all at the same time) sang the Anthem, Royston (on the mic for the weekend) adding “I couldn’t hit that note if you forced me into a splits.”
The only agenda for the evening was Strictlys. Judges: Jessica, Jen DeLuca, Arjay, John Lindo, Deborah, and Jennifer Lyons. Twelve Novice couples, seven Intermediate, and oops forget how many Advanced/Allstar (they danced in heats of two).
Winners (100% of the registration fees went back to the winners):
1st John Nye and Amber
2nd Michael and Janet
3rd Anita and David
4th Louis and Stephanie
5th Cory and Francois
1st Jim (Yin Chi) Chow and Jessie
2nd Keith (Yen Chi) Chow and Karen
3rd Nicholas and Giselle
4th Steve Wilder and Nanette
5th Alan and dang I didn’t get her name
1st Jody Moscari olo-olo-olo-lol-lol-lol-donatella-pecorino-romano-lambrusco-ferrari-olo and Abby. Stone.
2nd Brad and Sarah Wheeler
3rd Dave Damon and Mariele (who, I discovered today standing in the jj line, is an even spacier, flakier, dumb blonde than me, which is an accomplishment. You have to meet her. She’s funny, poor thing.)
4th Roy and Faith
5th Dennis Riley and Lee Mansfield
Five minutes after awards Lindo (contest coordinator) posted scores outside the ballroom where they remained for one half hour only. No pictures allowed.
John Festa DJ’d early, then Anthony DeRosa (wow is he GOOD! Our new favorite DJ. In addition to Helen, Louie, Kelly, and Victor of course. Special side room for beginner dancers, with music just for them (hopefully meaning the tempo and rhthym were easier to manage, hopefully not meaning “blues only” or “gross songs nobody liked then and still don’t” which is often what is played for beginners which might not be the best way to get young people excited about west coast, saving up all the worst music for them.)
Today was JJ’s. Judges: Jessica, Deborah, Arjay, Cordoba, Festa, and Jennifer Lyons.
No videographer this year so videotaping was encouraged – funny to look around the ballroom and see a wall of video-cameras hovering mid-air.
Robert announced that because the wsdc made an error – listing the event under its registry member events – and people then signed up thinking they’d get points – that because of this error the wsdc decided that points would in fact be awarded. (The rules state that an event can’t give points till its second year.) And he encouraged us to support the wsdc since the wsdc exists to take good care of dancers – the rules are designed with only that one purpose in mind. Probably a good reminder at the beginning of this new year of massive promotions and demotions.
The floor bounces. This was in my notes at this point so I thought I’d mention it. (It’s been explained to me that this has to do with the carpet. At Spotlight New Year’s, for instance, the floor slid half-way across the room – almost into the wall. People were rearing up screaming, like a huge wave was approaching. Okay just kidding people weren’t rearing up screaming. But Becky (wonderful videographer for Spotlight) had to untape and retape her cables several times to keep up with the floor and it really did slide half way across the room. That floor REALLY bounced, like a trampoline. But enough about Spotlight.)
Okay so Jack and Jills:
Newcomer two heats, 25 girls, 15 boys.
Novice two heats, 22 guys, 2 gals.
Intermediate two heats, 24 of each. (I think. I was busy being blonde with Mariel and then dancing.)
Advanced/Allstar two heats, 18 girls, 10 boys, two couples per heat and then an all-skate.
Five-song break till finals … and … Here are your Jack and Jill Winners! For the very first Freedom Swing wsdc-sanctioned brand new event! Drum roll!
Oh oops they haven’t announced winners yet. Later tonight.
In one hour (at 8:30): Evening show (some classic routines I hope I hope?) then Rising Star. And *then* Awards. And that’s it! After that it’s social dancing all night. Tomorrow is workshops only.
Okay there were not 22 guys and 2 girls in Novice. I said that but the mistake was totally not my fault, it was my mouse’s fault. My mouse had a ghost moving it all weekend, relocating chunks of sentences all over the page, deleting words, reappearing them three paragraphs later, creeping around on its own like a Ouija board. Ooo-wee-ooo. Fuhreaky. I’m serious here, not joking. My mouse was scaring me.
My mouse makes mistakes but I don’t. What I tell is 347% exactly the way it happened.
Anyway there were not two but 25 girls in Novice. Also in Strictlys it was Keith (Ying Kit) Chow who took 1st with Jessie, and Jim (Ying Chi) Chow who took 2nd with Taryn. Also also: Cordoba and Brian Kidd DJ’d Friday not Anthony DeRosa.
So Saturday night’s show!
Five great performances, Robert emcee-ing. Robert does such terrific intros! We’ve talked about this – it’s not done haphazardly at all. He prepares. He wants to honor people, give respect, acknowledge people for their years of commitment and accomplishments. He wants the community to know who they are, know the work that goes into what we see on the floor. He wants us to appreciate our shared history.
So first to dance was John Festa, the wonderful, famous Festa (with Jessica Cox as his partner.) Robert gave a lengthy loving introduction adding “I’ve always been impressed by John’s teaching ability. His dancing ability. And his … his … CLOTHING. [long pause] [followed by audience erupting in laughter]. Robert’s timing is impeccable. Last year Festa was inducted into both Living Legends and the WSDC Hall of Fame. John Festa is the reason my husband is a swing dancer. Genieboy saw Festa (with Ramiro) and in that moment knew he had to do that. (This weekend two other men independently mentioned to me that Festa is the reason they’re dancing. He’s an amazement.) And then Robert introduced Jessica. Jessica once won a bingo game.
But what a gorgeous dance this was! “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” – lovely jazz version (Glen Miller maybe? Ray Conniff?) Man oh man! So SMOOTH! They slid to the music. They *were* the music. Quick little twists and poof! the slot changed angles, blip, ronde, poof! the slot moved back again, so gentle, graceful, soft shapes and pictures on the floor to every sweet jazzy turn of the music. It melted in your mouth this dance, an exuberant sunshiney joy of a dance. And Festa so handsome in his shiny copper and black lace brocade jacket! So elegant. Not a person in the room not smiling and tapping their feet and nodding their head in time.
Next Robert and Deborah (maybe the longest introduction Robert’s ever given but how could he not? Between these two? They’ve done and won everything) and oh my goodness an astonishing performance. People said later that of everything they saw this weekend and maybe everything they’ve ever seen ever that this dance of Robert and Deborah’s was maybe their favorite thing. Pure lead-and-follow (which Robert, aghast himself, said afterwards he knew for a fact was actually truly lead-and-follow) to “Rock With You,” a smooth jazz remix and a choreographer’s (or leader’s) candy basket of a song crammed with treats – hits, sudden stops, rhythm changes, witty plays on the melody. Robert couldn’t have enjoyed the song more. And Deborah danced with him that way she does, as an extension of him, finishing his sentences, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry on his ice-cream sundae. What a dance. Jaw-dropping.
Then Jessica Cox, formally introduced. Robert told us she’s done plenty more than winning a bingo game, dancing since she was six (“She was just legs, arms, and a head stuck on top. No torso”) many time USOpen winner, and known and beloved around the country and the world for spreading fun, cheer, support, passion, and generosity of spirit and love. Jessica, as everyone who has ever met her knows, walks into a room and the sun shines. She’s a joy, a bubbly, bouncy joy, with an enormous smile and a loud infectious laugh.
And John Lindo, her partner, who’s won every Jack and Jill and Strictly there is to win, and whom, Robert told us, he met in Texas in 1990-something (cough*ahem), where they were both attending a two-step workshop, and in the morning he hears knock knock on his door and it’s Lindo inviting him across the hall to his room where he and some friends had brought a hot-plate and were cookin’ up a hearty Texas breakfast (“Who does that?!?” Robert asked us, “Who brings a hot plate to the hotel?!?”) and Robert and Lindo have been friends ever since. Lindo runs a brilliant event in June – Liberty Swing! Not to be missed! (Updates from last year’s Liberty are here if you want to get a little bit of a picture of what it’s like:
Pictures are here:
John and Jessica are great together. They danced to “Breaking Me,” beautiful, dramatic, and hilarious.
Next Arjay and Jen DeLuca with their brand new Classic routine! Wow! It’s great! “Moves Like Jagger,” sexy acoustic remix (Arlene Zelena? Katie Stevens?) Jen’s sultry, snappy, lightning-quick Florida funk, Arjay’s intricate, emotional musicality, and lots of swing! Love this routine, love love. Oh and their outfits! Sooo cool! So artistic! Sizzlin’ hot! (Jen sexy thang in a leopard bra – saw a few guys wandering around dazed afterwards bumping into walls saying what dance, she danced? Who did she dance with?) Pictures! Pictures! I gotta get the pictures up! Jen and Arjay’s costumes! Festa’s jacket!
And finally Jessica and John Lindo took the mic to introduce Robert and Nicola, saying they always get such great intros from Robert and now they’d like to return the favor, Jessica telling what wonderful dancers the Roystons are and what a loving couple. Robert was last year inducted into the Hall of Fame Lindo told us (adding that this is because Robert is O.L.D. which is also why Cordoba and Festa are in there, because they are all old, very old) and this year Robert and Nicola, both of them, have been inducted into Living Legends. Jessica and Lindo interrupting each other to lavish praise and compliments on the Roystons until a tiny voice from the far back of the room called “We better not suck tonight …” and Robert and Nicola came out to perform their gorgeous Showcase routine, “Edge of Glory,” this time with changes in both choreography and style of movement style which affected the whole tenor and feel of the routine. Palpable, obvious difference, best we’ve ever seen them dance this routine.
And then Awards! Hope I caught these names right. I’m sure I did, because I am 347% good at catching names.
$2,110 total given in prize money which was 100% of contest registration fees – Rob and Sheila gave all the money right back to the contestants.
And the winners of the first Philly event! Freedom Swing 2012! ….
5 James Cahn and Marissa Vleheleny
4 Bruce Hflafla and Christina Chadwick
3 Peter Boo and Dawn Boobalefski $100
2 Cory Flower and Christina Ricci $185
1 Lucas Win and Nicole Crack $310
5 Brian Kane and Amber Hicks
4 Randolph Peters and Barbara Jackson
3 Marla Mills and Lauren Zerlefkey $125
2 Curt Kothera and Nadya Serova $190
1 Lou Sheridan and Daphne Blahblah $315
5 Roy Legaspi and Angela Risser
4 John The Rock Nye and Cali Buntin
3 Sean Brennan and Sarah Wheeler $90
2 Ying Chi and Mariel $104
1 Jason Lane and Sally Charles oops didn’t catch how much moola
5 Dave Raines and Stephanie Risser
4 Matt Smith and Alysia Marie Bonvino
3 Brad Wheeler and Sascha $80
2 Dave Damon and Kay $125
1 Alan Lee and NaKedra Higgins $200
Pizza Party after Awards, there in the back of the ballroom, and actually enough pizza! No long lines at the tabe and a stack of realllly good pizza. We always get hungry after awards so this was so appreciated, people loved it.
Speaking of good food: Karen Beck invited a bunch of us out for authentic Philly Cheese Steaks. I had to miss out (dang. my loss. what a loss) but I have had Philly cheese steaks and they are gooooood. I’m thinking Philadelphia cheese steaks need to be a part of this event somehow. Karen also brought our table a bag of to-die-for authentic Philadelphia Hot Pretzels with a big bowl of good mustard for dipping. The smell of these pretzels! You could faint from delight. Karen is an angel. I’m thinking Philadelphia Hot Pretzels need to be a part of this event too. Karen also brought Philadelphia cheese cake. Karen! Karen! I love you Karen! Cheese cake? Authentic Philadelphia cheese cake? Yeah I think cheese cake needs to be a part of this event.
Saw Rob and Sheila on my way out Sunday afternoon – all smiles. Sheila didn’t have final numbers yet but she knew they got well over 400 registrations. That’s great for a first year!
(slowly being uploaded. takes me a while)
So that’s it for Philly 2012! Next stop: Capital!
Oh my GAWD what a great New Year’s! Four days of brilliant moments. SO MUCH LAUGHING! My stomach will never recover.
I don’t know where to start! Maybe with Doug’s latest genius creation, yet another brilliant idea: a new division, the “Jack and Jill Classic” in which Allstars and Pros draw names on Friday night (even this part was funny – Doug held the small glass bowl containing the follower’s names and every leader who walked out there had some problem simply pulling a piece of paper out of a bowl. Either their hand got stuck, or they poked Doug in the face, Jason Barnes’ hand fishing around on Doug’s bald head instead of in the bowl, Brennar on tip-toes couldn’t reach the bowl because Doug purposely held it too high, Rob Jackson held his hand so high Doug on tip-toes couldn’t get the bowl up high enough. You get the picture – it was a hilarious hot mess) and also draw a CD with music pre-cut to 2:30; having two days, till Sunday night, to put together a new routine with this partner, to this music, using other people’s old routine costumes.
Two days to prepare in between participating in all the rest of the event’s activites, competing in other divisions, judging, teaching privates, performing, giving workshops, and social dancing. And in some cases taking care of young children too (Jason and Amy Barnes brought April, Jason and Sophy brought Jasmine and Jade, Matt and Crystal brought their little pistol Lilly.) But wait till you see videos of these routines. You will be floored. SO FUNNY! So brilliantly creative! Such great dancing!
Chris Van Houten and Chelsea Rodgers came out in black spangles and sequins, dancing a cool disco-ball swustle to “Missing You,” Chris lapsing every few bars into crazy head flinging reminiscent of the famous Will Ferrel/Jim Carrey/Chris Kattan “What is Love” skit. 20 seconds into the routine Sheven Kekoolani, in his trademark black and white argyle sweater, walked just in front of the backdrop from one side of the floor to the other, not even trying to go unnoticed. Seemed a little disrespectful. Chris and Chelsea had no idea Sheven had done this, they were up at the front of the floor dancing earnestly (with the exception of Chris’ momentary fits.) And then 15 seconds later Sheven appeared again, walking back the other way, stopping in the middle to do a b-boy airchair freeze and swaggering down to the other end to disappear behind the drapes. This seemed not only disrespectful but even rude, trying to steal the show like that. 20 seconds later Sheven appeared a third time but now accompanied by six other guys rolling onto the floor in formation: Hieu Le, Chris Moy, Jon Elms, Mineh Ishida, Han Doan, Yu Sun, and Sheven – it was an Asian Invasion! Leap-frogging, b-boying right up into the middle of the floor, totally upstaging Chris and Chelsea and then running over to join them in a rioutous chorus line can-can finale. The whole thing carefully choreographed. Earlier in the day we had seen a roomful of Asian men and Chris Van Houten laughing together in secretive discussion but even we were taken by surprise. They got us! They got us good! Oh my goodness people were just dying laughing.
Jason Miklic and Erica Smith performed a FANTASTIC routine, put together in 45 minutes on Sunday afternoon, to “The Way I R.”
Brennar and Colleen (“Colleen MacDonald” as Doug mistakenly announced – oops – Colleen is now Mrs. Uspensky!) in a FANTASTIC rendition of “More” (the Jordan and Tatiana acoustic routine version, by Alex Vargas). (Brennar and Colleen spent the weekend drawing each other for every contest – if they didn’t know each other before they do now!)
Jason Marker and Crystal, “After The Love is Gone,” yet another total Matt spoof. Poor Matt Auclair! He spent his New Year’s being made fun of, relentlessly picked on from everyone in every direction. And if anyone knows how to make fun of Matt Auclair it is his beautiful wife Crystal Auclair who knows intimately his egg-beater, washing-machine, sprinkler – alllllll his moves, both on and off the dance floor. This routine was fall-down funny.
Lori Hayner and Niko Salgado (graciously stepping in for Sean McKeever who had drawn Lori on Friday night but wasn’t able to dance) to Danny Gatton’s “Funky Mamma.”
Arthur “MacDonald” as Doug announced it (formerly Uspensky) and Stephanie Risser, in mildly indecent matching sleeveless black vests (no shirt underneath) and tight black pants, to Apple Bottom Jeans … and … surprise! They re-cut the music to include two surprise segments of Justin Timberlake’s famous hilarious “D!(% in a Box” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9HloS9Ukto&feature=related)
Carlos Garcia and Taletha to “Get Up Get Down Get Funk Get Loose” – with all sexy dips and drops done by Carlos instead of Taletha, carrying on the rest of the routine as if nothing unusual was happening. Hysterical.
Our favorite of the night, Jason Barnes and Courtney, to “Smack That.” Oh. My. Gawd. This was priceless. We had passed these two practicing in the lobby several times since Friday, each time stopping to ask how it was going and each time being shown what they’d come up with so far, telling us how hard it was to figure out interesting ways to “smack that” (the lyric repeats over and over.) It looked like the routine was coming along – we didn’t see anything particularly great or horrible, just a lot of competently danced west coast with a few pats on the butt. At one point – this must have been very late Saturday night (Sunday morning, I should say) – we passed them still practicing, by now looking particularly frazzled. They said they were so tired they’d become giddy and their choreography was devolving into complete smut, demonstrating some of the more recent ideas they’d come up with. Pretty bad is all I’ll say. Very funny, but pretty, pretty bad. It’s a wonder the hotel staff hadn’t called the cops.But somehow by Sunday night they pulled it together and the final product was ridiculously funny.
So picture this: Jason Barnes is a very big man – maybe 6′ 7″. Courtney curled her pretty blonde hair and wore a pretty yellow shirt under a black bustier. A very big man and a very pretty girl. So the routine starts with nice dancing, a few polite “smack that’s” and a lot of swing. And then Jason bends her over and WOP! smacks the living daylights out of her butt so hard it resounded at the far side of the ballroom – so hard she went flying forward, stumbling trying to catch her balance and not fall on her face. One powerful loud-ass smack. When she came up for air her face was bright red – she looked genuinely surprised, and the smile plastered on her face had a different character than before. It said “REALLY JASON? REALLY?!?” As they continued dancing you could just feel her getting madder and madder. And then they did something between his legs to the lyric “tae bo” and he smacked her on the side of her head so hard he said afterwards he worried he’d knocked her out. She was getting beat up. So when it came to the end of the routine, the final “smack that” lyric, and Courtney wound up, hauled off, and smacked Jason so hard across his face and neck that she sent him reeling across the floor falling down flat on his back to the last note in the song, when she finally did that you knew exactly why. She smacked the bejeezus out of him. It was such an outrageous routine the audience just fell out of their chairs laughing, crying and laughing, jumping up cheering in a standing ovation that just wouldn’t be calmed down. One of the funniest things we’ve ever seen. We talked to them later (Jason had a huge red welt across his neck) and they said they practiced it by dancing to the point of the smacks, saying “and here you hit me,” agreeing that when it came to the actual performance they would truly clock each other. And they did. Sooooo funny. Unforgettably funny.
Jimmy Mulligan and Annemarie (looking like Elly May Clampett in pigtails and a checkered shirt), gorgeous dancing to “Beggin’.”
And last of all, to the wonderful “How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong,” Matt Auclair and Connie Gauthier, and poor poor Matt – even Matt himself was making fun of Matt Auclair this weekend. And poor Connie, too! Having to dance egg-beaters and washing machines with new and even more complicated speed-demon innovations, like going up and down up and down while rotating around each other WHILE doing a washing-machine! Hilarious, astonishing dancing.
These routines came on Sunday night at the end of a long, fabulous weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much or as hard as I did this event. What a blast!
LOADS more to tell!