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It is POURING! Not just raining but serious torrential downpour. Palm trees outside the room bent over sideways, whipping around like the hair’s gonna be blown off their heads. A flash flood warning is in effect until midnight. Remnants of Hurricane Isaac maybe? Mike says yesterday afternoon brought a ferocious dust-storm – they have a name for it – “The Boobs” or “Her Boobs” something about boobs I asked him to repeat it twice and then got embarrassed and stopped asking. He said people flying in got caught in this big boob in the sky which I’m sure some of them didn’t mind. At any rate we are “having some weather,” as they say. This time last year we were splayed out on our lounge chairs beside the pool sunbathing in the dry desert heat.
All of Facebook seems to be making their way here – Desert City is famous for being everybody in the world’s “favorite event of the year,” seems like, you hear that over and over, and it did win “Best Event Under 500″ at the WAG awards two years ago. This is a party event – with or without thunderstorms. Long lazy days, dancing all night, parties all night in the pools (lots of big and little pools, waterfalls, fountains and grottoes tucked all around the property) parties in the rooms. just one big party. No routines, no NASDE strictlys, just partaay.
This is a resort – golf, weddings, conventions – with walkways, paths, winding terracotta staircases, lattice balconies, hidden grottos, and many buildings of different shapes and configurations all painted desert gold or clay colored stucco. Charming and atmospheric. Super duper friendly, accommodating staff. I learned from last year’s mistake so this year am close to the ballroom in a lovely suite (think the entire event room block is 2-room suites) so I’m cozy and happy except that Genieboy isn’t here with me so I have no one to be irritated with. It’s disorienting.
As charming as it is this is the last year at this venue. Mike has been lusting after an AMAZING property – owned by the same company – an enormous, splendiferous water-park wonder-world right next to the airport – and next year we will be there! Ohhhhhh boooy! Make your arrangements early (and maybe plan on extra days – this is a top vacation spot) cause I have a feeling next year will sell out.
Never made it to the ballroom last night (long day of travel on icky USAir which doesn’t have even have radio much less movies or wifi) but was welcomed as I arrived with huge bear hugs from Deborah Szekelelelely, Victor, Sarah Grusmark, Mike Heath, Laurie Schaefer, Brent and Kellese, Alex Waller, JB and Robin Brodie, and Mr. Mike Gadberry himself; pools were filled with dancers I could barely make out in the dark; lotsa people carrying shoe bags heading towards the ballroom. Parking lot was so full you were lucky to find a space. Jordan and Tatiana kicked off the event with their opening workshop at 7 pm. It’s 11 am as I write and everyone’s still sleeping so I have a feeling it was a grrrrreat night of dancing.
Today is workshops all day – Brent and Kellese, Maxence, Mark and Sharlot, Tony Schubert, Brandi (who looks fantastic because she drinks disgusting smoothies made of blenderized frog,) Ben and Melissa, Benji, Jessica and Lindo, Parker, and Michael Kiehm (what a lineup, right? And that’s only today! More tomorrow! So much exceptional talent and information here, you could get a PhD in west coast this weekend.)
Tonight: Jack and Jill prelims (including Masters – Mike wouldn’t neglect Masters since he IS one.)
No more rain! Dried up after that last update and it’s been rain-free ever since! Muggy, like we’re on the inside of a cloud. (Heavy Cloud – la la la boom! – but No Rain.)
Phoenix weather – who knew? They have interesting names for things around here.
“The Boob travels at 100 km/h (60 mph) and approaches with no warning. The wall of sand can be 100 km (62 mi) wide, several kilometers in elevation. Rain does not appear at ground level but evaporates in the hot, dry air, a phenomenon known as Viagra.”**
Phoenix meteorologists evidently have one thing one their mind and it’s not the weather.
Some cool pictures of Phoenix Boobs:
On a more serious note, Maxence has attached a video camera to his forehead and is leaving it there for the entire weekend, filming everything in front of him. It’s waterproof which means it will be on his forehead in the shower so I hope he doesn’t look down. This video will be priceless! A classic film is in the making here at Desert City.
Just as I expected, sounds like last night’s dance was off-the-chain. 300 people were still on the floor at 4am. Last year 175 on Thursday night … this year 300 sheesh! Crazy great, ‘specially for what is (or was) a “small” comp. Mike says registrations are up 120% from this time last year. Only six years old and Desert City has already outgrown three venues. Sick!
Ballroom is huge. Floor is big and spacious framed by the backdrop drapery in black and gold; round tables three-deep on three sides with two rows of risers in the back and behind these, comfortably spaced out around the perimeter of the room, all the vendors (clothing, jewelry, massage corner, Brad’s photography table, nutrient drinks, shoes); no special lighting (I don’t think – I might be wrong) but the ballroom lighting itself is quite bright and cheerful.
Cheerful is the word for Desert City – it feels cheerful here even in this grey foggy weather. Great vibe, friendly, happy, sunny, cheerful energy here. Fun.
Looked in on a bit of a Ronnie and Brandi workshop in the main ballroom – it was packed. Ronnie is emceeing all weekend! I’m excited, haven’t ever heard him on the mic and I’m expecting total funness cause Ronnie is One. Hilarous. Dude. Smart, funny as hell, and often inappropriate (which I’m hoping he will be and I’m sure he and Mike are hoping he won’t be.)
Jonathan Rogul just posted on FB – gonna be a surprise performance, not announced on the program, at tonight’s Opening Ceremonies (in an hour.) Ooh goody love surprises, wonder what they’ve concocted … can’t wait!
Brasilians are here! Diego, Jessica, Priscilla and three others! Love the Brasilians! Saw Diego and Jessica in the ballroom and we couldn’t understand a word each other said so Diego just kept kissing me, kissing the air around my head, kissing my hand, kissing my cheeks again, saying “more hotter Desert City than anywhere in world happy we here happy happy!” I think they’re happy and they love kissing. They’re here for nine days!
Saw some UK folks. And Libby (sans Brady) from Australia! Libby and I were in mid-hug when Shoshi came bounce-bounce-bouncing in and leapt – and I mean leapt like an oversized Labrador Retriever leaps on you when you get home from work – leapt up onto Libby knocking her out the door and almost down the terracotta staircase into the pool. What a duo! At Sin City everywhere you looked there they were again, holding hands, glued to each other arm-in-arm, long and leggy supermodel fashionistas dressed to make men stutter. Libby the Ozzie all fun and smiles, Shoshi staring above your head, off into the distance, expressionless, muttering mono-syllables with a Russian accent. Laurel and Hardy meets Boris and Natasha. I love these two!
Everybody and his grandmother out shopping for food this afternoon. For all-night room parties and 5 am munchies must be. Liquor sold in the supermarkets here. The restaurant on the property serves decent food at decent prices (just had our usual comp dinner of chicken caeser salad no dressing no croutons for $11 – standard price at hotels across the country.) There’s a second restaurant way high up on the mountain – Mike says $500 a plate (slight exaggeration) with panoramic views etcetera etcetera … yeah, no, most of us won’t be eating there.
Melissa Rutz is here, just back from Singapore! Jordan and Tatiana, and Kyle and Sarah are just back from Stokholm. Our pros are all around the world, so cool, I love it. Chuck Brown (himself either just returned from Singapore or still there) told me last weekend that there is now west coast in 23 countries!
Fashion alert! Hats! Sassy fedoras and fisherman’s caps in all kinds of patterns and colors spotted on girls in the ballroom and around the fountains!
**Paraphrased with 347% accuracy from wikipedia
What a rowdy crowd! Packed ballroom whistling, pounding and screaming for Novice prelims (which came even before Opening Ceremonies.) There is huge support for beginner dancers here, huge excitement and “ownership” of the new dancers, and it shows in how they dance. Novice dancers are good here, really good, clearly getting a strong foundation in basic technique right from the start. Lots of kids danced in Novice – little kids – with big attitude. They seemed un-phased that most of their partners were several feet taller than them. What’s most noticeable about these kids is that each seems to have already found his or her own personality as a dancer, a thing which, among adults, seems mostly (maybe only) to be found among Champion level dancers. These kids dance as *themselves*, they’re each uniquely themselves. I’m sure all this novice-level expertise can’t be only because of Laurie Schwimmer but I’m also sure much of it is indeed because Laurie lives and works in Phoenix. The Schwimmers – what an amazing family they are.
45 leaders in Novice prelims, 89 followers, four heats. Judges: Phil Adams, Carrie Lucas, Laurie Schwimmer, Nathan Miller, Buddy Schwimmer, Jeannie Tucker, Jackie Ford, Dawne Kiehm, and Chief Judge for the weekend, Cathy Tigges.
As Ronnie said the judging panel this weekend represents 300 years of experience. Top-notch expert judges this weekend – I love it.
I sat beside the Brasilians – talk about loud and rowdy! Man do they yell. The six of them make as much noise as 20 other tables combined. Diego bellowing to Armando “Paquerar! Paquerar!” which they asked me “if theees girl beautiful, in English you say “heeet on her” right? We tell Armando “THIS GIRL SHE EEES BEAUTIFUL! HEEET ON HER! HEEET ON HER!” I love these guys.
So who made Novice Semi’s?
Armando “Hit On Her” Guimaraes
Joel Van Bergen
Three songs for semi’s, Dave Koppelman DJing:
Sweet Home Chicago
Click, Click, Click; and
Bright Lights Big City
Judges for Novice Semis:
Phil Adams, Laurie Schwimmer, Nathan, Martin Parker, Buddy, Jeannie Tucker, Jackie Ford, Dawne Kiehm, and Chief Judge Cathy Tigges
Opening Ceremonies and the “surprise!”
First “Team Diva,” eight ladies in hot pink dress shirts with bright red collars, gray vest, pants, and tails, black and white oxfords, diamond neckties, and top hats; dancing to “Steamed Heat” (from “Pajama Game”) choreographed by Laurie Schwimmer. Snazzy!
Next, “Senior Company,” the two Clonch sisters Hannah and Nicole, two blondes Madison Malone and Victoria Henk, and one kwazy wunnerful boy in the middle, Chris Dumont, in a piece choreographed by, who else but another Schwimmer, this time Lacey, to “Rock and Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain)” (Skrillex) – a crazy wild marvelous thrashing bad ass jazz-dance piece which looked exactly like the song sounds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIyE3EDCigE). Lacey is incredible. These five dancers were SUPER incredible.
And then, the surprise. Ronnie said “sorry I have no notes to be able to introduce this next act. All it says here is “Desert Heat. Moments In Black.” and out came six very hot, very good looking guys, in black clothes and wigs, dancing to “I’m Sexy and I Know It” – when they turned around they had
“W H A T ? ?“
one letter on each arse – and they ripped off their wigs and strutted around and they were actually so damn hot, and actually knew it, you kind of couldn’t actually laugh you kind of felt more like squealing. I did at least, as did all the giggling women sitting around me and probably many of the men. Then they dragged poor Peggy Allen up (they’d told her they’d be needing her to hand out flowers so please sit close to the front) – she returned to her seat visibly shaking, shocked to have found herself lifted and passed from one guy to another, the centerpiece of the show.
The sexy guys of Moments In Black: Tony Schubert, Mike Carringer, Brett Navarre, Thomas Carter, Jonathan Rogul, and Cary Maunder.
When it was over Ronnie picked a wig up from the floor and called Gadberry over to put the wig on his head and pose for the cameras, explaining that he and Mike are having their own contest this weekend called “You have more hair than me.”
Masters JJ Prelims (18 guys, 30 gals, two heats) (Judges: Phil, Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Buddy, Jeannie, Jackie, Dawne, and CJ Cathy)
Intermediate JJ Prelims (33 guys, 52 gals, two heats) (Judges: Phil, Laurie, Nathan, Martin, Buddy, Jeannie, Jackie, Dawne, and CJ Cathy)
Joshua Danger Baine
T J Benash
Cesario Dos Santos
Allstar JJ Prelims (Judges Phil, Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Martin, Buddy, Jeannie, Jackie, and CJ Cathy)
(DJ’s Shawn Jessup, Dave Koppelman, and Victor)
Heat 1 (in which three people, at three different moments, fell flat on the floor. Not on purpose.)
“Fine Brown Frame”
“Let’s Get It On”
“I Can Only Imagine”
Masters Strictly: (Judges Phil, Laurie, Nathan, Martin, Buddy, Jeannie, Dawne, and CJ Cathy)
Patrick Plagens with Sue Fries
Martin Brown with Laurie Schafer
Louie Juarez with Jill Aversa
Ed and Mindy Halladay
Warren D’Aquin with Vivian Glucksman-Weiss
John Demenkoff with Bess Rodriguez
Mike Booth with Cheryl Grampp
Michael Heath with Sarah Grusmark
Warren Pino with Peggy Allen
All Skate to “Waking Up Slow”
Jam to “Take You There”
Final All-Skate to “Right Round”
This dance floor is SUPERB. Best best floor. Shiny smooth, seamless, wonderful wonderful floor.
Food vendor right outside the ballroom.
Israel is here this weekend, Japan, Brasil, UK. Texas, New York, even New Jersey.
Informative conversation about bra sizes in which we learned the term “boob salad” which is not a Phoenix weather condition but rather a female asset.
Ronnie: “If you have any questions – anything at all this weekend – ask Mike and he’ll have an answer for you if he’s sober enough to talk.”
SCHEDULE CHANGE ANNOUNCEMENT
Intermediate SEMI-FINALS added to schedule.
An Intermediate Jack and Jill Semi-Final division is now scheduled for 7pm this evening. Intermediate Semi-Finalists are:
Callbacks for Intermediate Semi-Finalist Leaders:
Samy Kaye Powers
Joshua Danger Baine
Cesario Dos Santos
(Alternate: Alphonso Aquilar)
Callbacks for Intermediate Semi-Finalist Followers:
(Alternate: Heather Sturgeon)
Are you friends with any of these folks? Please text, call, facebook, email, or let them know in person!
JACK AND JILL FINALISTS JUST POSTED:
Alt: Michael Heath
Alt: Cheryl Grampp
Joel Van Bergen
Alt: Cary Waunder
Alt: Samantha Burnes
Alt: JB Brodie
Alt: Ellyn Brady
The All-American Jack and Jill is just about to start, with 14,000 competitors.
Sun all day today! Pool time, hang time, workshops galore, extended breakfast/brunch/cocktail hour, total relaxing funness all day so far!
In 20 minutes we start back up again, competing till midnight …
Tonight’s events in backwards order …
[drum roll] AND YOUR WINNERS ARE … [drum roll]
Masters Jack and Jill!
5th Louie Juarez and Susy Fries
4th Jack B. Ray and Jill Aversa
3rd Warren Pino and Mindy Halladay
2nd Bob Brown and Bess Rodriguez
1st Place Mike Booth ad Laurie Shafer
Masters Strictly Swing!
5th Patrick Plagens with Sue Fries
4th Martin Brown with Laurie Shafer
3rd Mike Booth with Cheryl Grampp
2nd John Demenkoff with Bess Rodriguez
1st Place Warren Pino with Peggy Allen
All-American Jack and Jill!
5th Michael Kielbasa and Tara Trafzer
4th Mark and Sarah
3rd Jordan and Nicole Clonch
2nd Arjay and Patty Vo
1st Place Michael Kielbasa and Brandi
Strictly Swing “B”!
5th Bret Navarre and Leslie Bricker
4th Brandon Manning and Kelly Reiss
3rd James Cook and Sami Sekhon
2nd Tony Schubert and Kristen Humphrey
1st Place Josh Williamson and Madelyn Finley
Strictly Swing “A”!
5th John Lindo and Melissa
4th Maxence and Jill Demarco
3rd Ben Morris and Tatiana
2nd Michael Kielbasa and Patty Vo
1st Place Jordan and Jessica
[drum roll] AND YOUR FINALISTS FOR TOMORROW’S JACK AND JILL FINALS! [drum roll drum roll drum roll]
INTERMEDIATE JJ FINALISTS:
Cesario Dos Santos
(alt Joseph Ivy)
(alt Laura Klipp)
ADVANCED JJ FINALISTS!
(alt John Piper)
(alt Camille Webb)
So here’s who competed and how those divisions looked this afternoon and evening:
All-American JJ prelims: six heats of 23 couples! In other words that 14,000 competitors figure I joked about in the last update turned out to be pretty accurate. Huge division – all levels, Novice through Champions, thrown into a big pot, stirred, and poured out in random pairs to dance to three songs each.
All-American Finalists (dancing in two heats):
Mark and Sarah
Lindo and Mikaila Finley
Jordan and Ellen Colonna
Jerome Louis and Laureen
David Guido and Ellyn Brady
Arjay and Patty Vo
Brandon DEtty and Melissa Rutz
Michael Kielbasa and Brandi
Ben Morris and Liiana Claxton
Corey Flowers and Tatiana
Lindo and Lauren Hubbard
Robert Campos and Kellese
Michael Krause and Kara Frenzel
John Piper and Tessa
Jordan and Nicole Clonch
Michael Kielbasa and Tara
“Down In The Valley”
“The Way You Do The Things You Do”
And their judges Phil, Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Buddy, Jackie, Dawne, and Chief Judge Cathy
Advanced JJ Prelims (in two heats):
Wait a minute hold everything …
Did I really just type “BJ” “PJ” and “CJ” ? hahaha “BJ PJ CJ” “BJ PJ CJ” lalalalala new song
Okay never mind, continuing on …
J. Erik Thompson
Judges for Advanced: Phil, Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Martin, Buddy, Jackie, Dawne, and CJ Cathy
“Turn It Up”
“I Don’t Know”
a blues standard – I call them all Spankin’ Leroy
“Gimme One Reason”
(Dave Koppelman (DJ for most of the comps this weekend) played “YMCA” between heats and after the chorus Ronnie said “Alright. Turn that off, that’s enough. You guys didn’t stand up, no one stood up. You were all lower case letters.”)
59 Couples in the Strictly Swing “B” prelim. They danced in two heats, to
“Strawberry Letter 21″
“Hold My Hand”
“Do You Remember”
Strictly Swing “B” Finalists:
Tony Schubert with Kristen Humphrey
Corey Flowers with Celina Ornori
Jason Bryan with Larisa Tingle
Jerome Louise with Lisa Toepel
Justin Zadro with Mikaila Finley
James Cook with Sami Sekhon
Andrew Slac with Elena Kon
Bruce and Ashley Randall
Thomas Carter with Kristin Fangmeier
Bret Navarre with Leslie Bricker
Matt Richey with Renae Cuevas
Brandon Manning with Kelly Reiss
Josh Williamson with Madelyn Finley
All-Skate: “Spankin’ Leroy”
All-Skate: “Love Stoned”
And finally the Strictly Swing “A” Prelim:
(Ronnie said “Strictly Swing A – I sound Canadian – Strictly Swing, ‘eh?)
34 couples in two heats:
Aray and Tara
Ben and Tatiana
Brent and Tessa
John Lindo and Melissa
Jordan and Jessica
Kyle and Torri
JB Brodie and Jessica Caetano
Michael Kielbasa and Patty Vo
Parker and Brandi
Diego and Anyssa
Steve Hall and Janelle Guido
Josh Sturgeon and Lara Deni
Cameron Crock and Dana Simonetti
Brad and Tashina
Josh Clark and Bess
Sean McKeever and Deborah Szekely
Ben McHenry and Sarah
Mark and Sharlot
Scott Mason and Malia
Maxence and Jill DeMarco
Myles and Kara Frenzel
Chris Dumond and Victoria Henk
Nick King and Laureen
Demetre and Kellese
Warren Pino and Pamela Pomoroff
Geoffrey Nighswonger and Shanon Tobin
Rome and Taylor
Michael Miller and Camille Webb
Carlus and Terra Deva
Bob Tucker and Anastasia Tsimbidis
Brandon Gautreaux and Yenni
Edwin Li and Libby
“All Night Long”
“Heart Attack and Vine”
“Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”
“You Me and The Music”
and the Finalists, dancing spotlight:
Ben McHenry and Sarah to “Come Together” (some cool acoustic version. Victor was the DJ for this division – awesome music choices. Love Victor’s music. Oh, and speaking of Victor, Louis is in Taiwan DJing a comp there and says to say HELLO EVERYBODY AT DESERT CITY! HELLO HELLO HELLO FROM LOUIS! and he also says PLEASE SLAP VICTOR UPSIDE THE HEAD!” so I am passing the message for Louis: please, when you read this, go find Victor and give him a slap on the back of his head, from Louis. He’ll feel very loved.)
Brent and Tessa, to “I Get A Good Feeling” (some other cool acoustic version. all Victor’s cool acoustic versions are newer, differenter and way cooler acoustic versions of everything.)
Dmitri and Kellese to “Valerie”
Jordan and Jessica to “Novacane”
Nick and Laureen to “Ultimate Insult”
Kielbasa and Patty Vo to “I’ve Got a Disease” (that name cracks me up. I can’t even write it here without a fit of giggles welling up in my chest. It’s that word – it makes me nervous.)
Maxence and Jill Demarco to “The Way You Make Me Feel”
Arjay and Tara to “Big Bang” (a cool acoustic version) This was a very very very funny dance. Espcially the part where he crouched down behind her and on “big big BANG” she butt-bumped him in the face.
Kyle and Torri “Things are Gonna Change” (my current favorite song) (Kyle’s bib was number 50 – except it was actually number “50% OFF SALE PRICE” because he was using the sign from the shoe table as his bib.)
Lindo and Melissa to “Wait Till The Water Runs Dry” (a different cool acoustic version)
Sharlot and Mark to “Ain’t No Sunshine” (the wonderful can’t-be-improved-upon original version)
Sean and Deborah to “I’m So In Love With You”
Ben and Tatiana to “Best You’ve Ever Had”
and the All-Skate to the current hot song: “I Like How It Feels”
Victor and Kelly are DJing right now … their music is SO good.
Don’t forget to slap Victor.
oh and also: a stray breast may have wandered out of its stable. check Bruce’s video stream – maybe we were just imagining it.
oh and ALSO also: Brad is here taking pictures and they’re awesome as usual. So awesome.
Don’t forget to slap Victor.
Good Morning Dezzzert Citaaaay!
[stretch] [yawwwn] [stretchhh]
Hey youse! Howya’ do-win?!?
It is a BEAUTIFUL GORGEOUS windy sunny lovely Arizona day today! Puffy clouds, blue skies, palm trees waving hi … Distant sounds of splashing and laughing float up into my balcony from the big pool and waterfalls just down the mountain …
I haven’t mentioned late-nite dancing which has been the real highlight of the weekend so far. Packed ballroom both Friday and last night, well into daylight. In fact people only left this morning when the first workshop started. Room parties, balcony parties, pool parties, hot-tub parties around every corner.
On the agenda for today, Jack and Jill finals. That’s all! Beginning at 1pm our time, which is 5pm in Rio de Janeiro – happy hour! – so I think it’s a good idea to have a Peach Bellini balcony brunch right now to get ready.
Final Awards at 4 or so, dinner, pool, and another night of dancing until this time tomorrow.
Perfect combination here of seriousness (you feel the respect for our dance – the highest standards in judging, the highest demands and expectation from the dancers) combined with plain all-out fun and the breathless joy of dancing.
Desert City is on our Short List.
Don’t forget to slap Victor!
AUGHGHGH! On my way to airport! AUGHGHGH! Rushing rushing return rental car where’s a gas station hope I don’t crash what is the PROBLEM with google maps can’t read this STUPID Ipad while I’m driving luggage feels too heavy gonna be a problem hope I didn’t leave anything in the room please no giant boob in the sky please please …
Lots to tell but no time at this exact moment, yesterday SO FUN SO SO FUN
5th Sean Carney and Karla Catana
4th Joel Van Bergen and Celina Omori
3rd Montriel Jamari and Angela Baker
2nd Mike Carringer and Trisha Anderson
1st Place Matt Richey and Temre Brandt
5th Nick Moor with Maddy Finley
4th CJ with Mikky Finley
3rd Jason Bryan with Victoria Henk
2nd Thomas Carter with Kelly Reis
1st Place Bret Navarre with Skye LaPointe
5th Josh Williamson with Auntonya
4th Andrew Slac with Regina Shpigel
3rd Kevin Bretney with Hannah Clonch
2nd Jerome Louis with Terra Deva
1st Place John Piper with Nicole Clonch
5th Brad Whelan with Wendy Miller
4th Alfred with Malia
3rd Patrick Toepel with Jessica Pacheca
2nd Ben McHenry with Chelsea Spika
1st Place Chris Dumond with Janelle
5th Maxence with Sarah
4th Maxence with Tara
(“Maxence and Sarah, Maxence and Tara! Maxence and Sarah, Maxence and Tara!” lalala new Maxence song sorry I’m rushing I’m not right in the head)
3rd Arjay and Patty Vo
2nd Ben and Jen (um, “Ben and Jen, Ben and Jen, Ben and Jen” sorry sorry can’t help it)
1st Place Jordan and Roooooooootz
Not all contestants had realized they’d be up on stage in front of the cameras, their every facial expression televised live all around the world, just them and their partner all by their lonesome selves for two and a half long long minutes … hahaha pretty exciting!
Masters Finals Couples
Mark Endo and Kelly Wentling
Ric Shube and First Lady of Phoenix Peggy Allen
Louie Juarez and Susy Fries
Mike Booth and Laurie Shafer
Russ Hausske and Linda Marcus
Martin Brown and Glenda Smith
Patrick Plagens and Dawn Deeks
Warren Pino and Mindy Halladay
John Demnkoff and Vivian Glucksman-Weiss
Jack Ray and Jill Aversa (Ronnie: “Jack and Jill?!? JACK AND JILL??!? hahahah okay Now THAT is just FUNNY!”)
Bob Brown and Bess Rodriguez (Ronnie, walking off the floor, passed by Patty Vo crouched down trying to help re-pin Bess’ bib. Ronnie: “Wait. There are three of you here. This is supposed to be a couple, not a ‘throuple.’ Somebody sit down.”)
(Judges: Phil, Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Martin, Buddy, Jackie; and Chief Judge Cathy)
All-Skate: “Every Time I Roll The Dice”
Jam: “DJ Got Us Falling In Love” (a Masters Flash Mob! Seriously, we should do this. Old folks springing up from benches in the mall (ok maybe not springing) to do west coast. We should do it! No we shouldn’t.)
All-Skate: “I Like The Way You Move” (I think Dave Koppelman likes this song. I don’t recall hearing it played as competition music anywhere else in the country in, like, I don’t know how many years. This weekend I heard it at least once every seven and a half minutes, maybe more frequently. I happen to love the song so I am enjoying the earworm that’s been singing it all day and all night in my sleep for the last 72 hours.)
Funny story between divisions: Janelle Guido told us about a guy at a comp coupla years ago (we won’t name the guy or the comp) who showed up with major holes in his pants. Big holes in inconvenient places (or maybe convenient, from his perspective.) This guy would do dips with Janelle and the other girls and he would Lock. You. Down. in a stranglehold from which you could not escape and from your perspective down there those holes would definitely be inconvenient. I forget what prompted this discussion. Oh now I remember, it was Janelle smiling for the camera with lettuce in her teeth.
Novice Finals Couples
Gabriel Munoz and Tracy Preston
Matt Richey and Temre Brandt
Joe Foster and Jessica Green
Brenden Hansen and Galia Ilakov
Jay Groh and Monica Peterson
Corey Flowers and Linda Marcus
Joel Van Bergen and Celina Omori
Sean Carney and Karla Catana
Mike Carringer Trisha Anderson
Montriel Jamari and Kimberly Boyd
Jonathan Rogul and Angela Baker
Devin Guiliano and Susan Gucciardi
Armando “HEET ON HER!” Guimaraes and Caitlin McCarthy
Andrew Cheung and Corrie Schwartz
(Judges: Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Martin, Buddy, Jeannie, Dawne, and Chief Judge Cathy)
oops! Forgot their all-skate songs! Their Jam song was “Dangerous.”
Intermediate Finals Couples
David Guido and Rachel Cureton
Cesario Dos Santos and Rehanna Loncar
CJ Wheelock and Miki Finley
Justin Zadro and Leigh Young
Patrick Plagens and Christy Parker
Thomas Carter and Kelly Reis
TJ Bednash and Sammi Sekhon
Bret Navarre and Skye LaPointe
Hareesh Kapoor and Amanda Thompson
Jason Bryan and Victoria Henk
Nick Moor and Maddy Finley
(Judges: Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Martin, Buddy, Jeannie, Dawne, and Chief Judge Cathy)
All-Skate: Spankin’ Leroy
Jam: Up Against The Wall
All-Skate: more Up Against The Wall
Intermediate level girls out here in the wild west dance totally differently than Intermediate girls back east. It’s easily noticeable. They’re “dancerly,” for one thing. They all look as though they’ve had training in modern, jazz, maybe ballet. They have posture and grace and no stray body parts (like hands, feet, or head) which aren’t cooperating. But what’s most noticeable – moreso in this division than any other – is a huge amount of styling and flourish. Maybe too much but I’m not sure about that – maybe not too much. Mesmerizing for me as a female dancer to watch these girls. I saw a little of this among Advanced girls, too but practically none in Allstar girls. In Champions none at all. Champion girls dance “their dance” and are – don’t know how to describe it – “quieter” might be the word, even with their spectacularly dramatic movements. Intermediate girls reminded me a little bit of Alyssa Glanville (if you don’t know her you will, soon, a superbly gifted natural talent, showed up on our circuit couple years ago with her own unique style – thrilling to watch) and some of what I think I was seeing was like imitation Alyssa-ness spreading through the community (knowing her I’m sure she’d be embarrassed and flattered to know this.) Whatever it is they’re doing, they’re doing a lot of it, and, like I say, I couldn’t stop staring. I want to do it too, whatever it is, although I’m not sure how it would look on a Senior Citizen. Who cares, I want to do it anyway it’s cool and YOLO.
Advanced Finals Couples
Jerome Louis and Terra Deva
Andrew Slac and Regina Shpigel
Tony Schubert and Liza Hillman
Kevin Bretney and Hannah Clonch
Peter Fradley and April Sakaluk
Jason Sun and Mariel Manzone
Geoff Nighswonger and Brandy Richey
Louie Juarez and Elena Kon
PJ Fritzler and Shoshi Kushnir
Josh Williamson and Auntonya Rogers
But uh oh! Kevin Kane made finals but was nowhere to be found. Not in the ballroom, not outside, nowhere. Ronnie borrowed someone’s hot pink crystal-and-glitter blinged-out iphone and called him – on the mic – which would have been hilarious if he’d have answered but he wasn’t even answering his phone. Where was Kevin? Great guy, very responsible, unlike him to just not show.
While we waited for Kevin to appear Ronnie asked Buddy to sing for us! Buddy is a singer! Who knew? As you would expect, just like his dancing his singing explodes with gusto, humor, and art. He crooned “Mountains of Love” and when Kevin still didn’t show “Hello Dolly” a la Louis Armstrong. The Schwimmers! What would the west coast community be without this family? I can’t even imagine.
Still no Kevin.
So. They hated to do it, hated to replace Kevin, but they called in the first alternate. Guess who it was? The enormously beloved and enormously ENORMOUS John Piper, enormously not dressed for dancing in enormous jeans which looked like they might slide down to his knees and a t-shirt even more enormous than his hair. The audience went WILD, seriously crazy wild, screaming, clapping, jumping up and down … everybody loves Piper. It was a moment.
And then who should walk in but Kevin.
So they let Kevin dance too. And because they had now added an extra leader, they called up the female alternate, too, Camille Webb.
So these three couples also danced for Advanced finals:
Kevin Kane and Aly Yorek
Brandon Manning and Camille Webb
John Piper and Nicole Clonch
(Judges: Phil, Carrie, Laurie, Nathan, Buddy, Jeannie, Dawne, and Chief Judge Cathy)
They danced to:
All-Skate: Spankin’ Leroy
All-Skate: more Sweat
You already know who won Advanced – Piper and Nicole. If only you could have heard the crowd then hahaha. Ronnie announced it like this “5th place, 4th, 3rd …. and wait till you hear who’s won First Place! You’re gonna love this! JOHN PIPER AND NICOLE CLONCH!!!” and I am telling you the whole ballroom went crazy, jumped up, standing ovation … hahahaha. It was great.
The other thing noticeably different about dancers out in the west is that they seem to enter in on “1,” from the anchor, with a burst of new energy each time. “Commitment” maybe it could be called? I dunno something I can’t put my finger on. It’s not that they’re rushing in, not that they’re faster (at least I don’t think they’re faster. Or are they? They do seem to fly.) It’s just some quality of more energy going in, like each step has a purpose. Sounds like I’m dissing the entire east coast, mid-west, and actually, come to think of it, the entire international community here. That’s not what I mean. I’m just searching for a way to describe a wonderful quality I see here in Phoenix and in California, too. I’m sure you teachers out there know what I’m struggling to define and can (and probably already have) put it into words.
Jeans allowed for comps at this event. Cowboy country! – you gotta wear jeans! And no one had to say it aloud it just went unspoken that nicer jeans – dress jeans and a dressy top – were more respectful and appropriate. There were some smokin’ hot jeans out there on the floor. Guys and girls. Brandi comes to mind.
Speaking of cool clothes – Laurie Schwimmer wore, I dunno, 22″ shiny rust-colored patent-leather heels on Saturday night and then on Sunday 28″ platform heels black leather bedecked in steel spikes. Cathy, beside her, also had black leather heels but hers covered with steel studs, on her forearm a “City of Angels” tattoo with an assortment of black leather, spiked, studded, and very Goth bangles and bracelets sliding up and down over the tattoo. These two gals together were Serious. Bad. Ass. Two Punk-Rock Biker Chick judges. Man I love fashion statements!
The first social-dance song after this division and before Allstars was “Mountains of Love,” the original Johnny Rivers version. I like Buddy’s version better.
Been home for a week – suitcases still fully packed. Argh! Gotta unpack so I can re-pack for Boogie in a week and a half. Argh! All this suitcase stuff making me talk like a pirate, no idea why.
Haven’t finished telling about Sunday, the final big show of the weekend: Allstar and Champion JJ finals. Spotlight of course, like all Sunday finals.
Twelve Allstar couples, dancing to fast blues, Victor DJing:
1. Chris Dumond and Janelle, “Fine Brown Frame” – hilarious, creative, playful choreography – great way to start the division. On “I want to scream!” they simultaneously faced the audience and screamed; on “broken down chair” Chris made like he was sitting on a chair then fell on the floor; on “get it on and on and on” they kind of got it on and on … hilarious. They fly across the floor with such energy, these two. Their footwork and technique are spectacular. Great dancing rewarded with a well deserved first place win.
2. Cameron and Bella, “Sadie”
3. Alfred and Malia, “Sweet Home Chicago”
4. Patrick and Jessica Pancheca, “Spankin’ Leroy”
5. Nick and Dawne, “Spankin’ Leroy”
6. Carlus and Ellyn, “All Around The World”
7. Ben McHenry and Chelsea to “Move Across The River.” Chelsea makes funny faces while she dances (like this: http://tinyurl.com/975xtqp) which I, of course, love but she, of course, doesn’t love as much and in an effort to stop has made a public request that if anyone catches her making funny faces while dancing we should … actually I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. Short of yelling “CHELSEEEA!” and pointing wildly at her face which might scare her partner. All I know is my camera was glued on her face hoping for something especially goofy and I if I’m lucky I may have caught one or two good ones. She made a point of lunging at me towards the end throwing everything out of focus so I might have come home with only a blurry picture of an eye or nostril which I will post on Facebook and tag her in. (just kidding)
8. Rome and Shannon dancing to that blues standard – you know the one – with the “brrrrrrrrrrzzzp” up the piano keys? What’s that called? Spankin’ Leroy?
9. Warren Pino and Lisa Brink, “Baby Work Out”
10. Brad Whelan and Wendy Miller, “Danny’s All Star Joint”
11. Edwin Li and Kara, “Bad Case of Love”
12. Diego and Taylor, “Let The Good Times Roll”
and the All-Skate to Whistle (the “DJ eMPea” remix)
Judges for this division were Phil, Carrie, Nathan, Martin, Jeannie, Jackie, Michael, Buddy, Laurie, and Chief Judge Cathy.
I was lucky to be sitting next to Jeannie Tucker and between divisions we had a quick conversation about our shared frustration with the lack of manners in today’s laid-back, wonderfully egalitarian and possibly overly casual United States. No one seems to know or care about rules of etiquette – barreling through doors, charging down the wrong side of the sidewalk, yelling in public places and the halls of the hotel, allowing kids to run around tables in the restaurant — a general lack of respect for the feelings and comfort of acquaintances and strangers. It was great to find in Jeannie a kindred spirit. We talked a little afterwards, too, and I learned that Jeannie Tucker has had a marvelous and unusual life so far. What a treat to get to know her a little bit!
Jeannie’s been dancing and performing since she was three – she actually had a SAG card at that age and was in the first national Gatorade TV commercial ever made. If you watch So You Think You Can Dance you may know of Mia Michaels, the Emmy-winning choreographer. Mia’s dad, Joe Michaels, had a studio and took Jeannie on as his student, Jeannie grew near Mia and her sister spending holidays together on their houseboat, travelling around the country and the world performing on cruise ships, and in Miami Beach as the opening act for artists who are today household names.
Jeannie’s parents were open-minded adventurers, explorers of the world and lovers of the world’s cultures. Jeannie’s dad had been an engineer and officer in the military for 27 years before Jeannie was born; her mom was (still is, at 89!) an artist. When Jeannie came along they were older than most parents, having raised two sons years before and after losing one tragically in a fire, having Jeannie as a second “go-round” almost, to enjoy the pleasure of parenting another time and to take their new daughter around the world, revisiting their favorite places they’d lived in in the years before she came along, this time with the freedom that being retired gave them.
They set off travelling around the globe with their little girl, living in the most remote and rural countrysides of Spain, Morocco, Greece, India, Pakistan, the Sahara Desert, camping across Europe in a refurbished VW Van. Jeannie learned Flamenco and Belly Dancing, Greek folk dancing and the traditional dances of Europe and Asia. She loved any percussion instrument and learned to play the drums and cymbals of cultures around the world.
It was years later as a young adult back in the States, years after a competitive ballroom career and a severe car accident which left her with major spinal damage, only partial use of her left arm, and a prognosis that she would “never dance again,” that Jeannie discovered west coast and it’s epicenter in West Hollywood; and Kenny Wetzel, Mary Ann, Carlito, Sonny Watson, and her US Open partners. Like all of us she was instantly hooked, enthralled by our “street dance” circuit which had grown not out of a need to support studios but simply because people loved the dance.
She’s been dancing, coaching, teaching, and judging ever since. Enough years to have experienced the growth and evolution of our dance around the country and now the world, enough years to have a long view of our community and its history, characters, and challenges.
What a beautiful, wise, and elegant woman! One more uniquely marvelous person in the dance community, one whom I can now call a friend. There seems to be no end to marvelous people here. Something about this dance that attracts specialness.
And so to the last contest of the weekend: the Champions Jack and Jill finals. More women than men so Ronnie explained that five men would dance twice, with a final “Jam” instead of an “All-Skate.” Jordan: “So why don’t we just do two heats for the All-Skate?” Ronnie: “Cause then it wouldn’t be an All-Skate. It would be a ‘Half-Skate.’ [beat] You cheap skate. Sorry I couldn’t help it.”
Judges for Champions: Phil, Carrie, Nathan, Martin, Jeannie, Jackie, Michael, Buddy, Laurie, and Chief Judge Cathy.
Victor DJ’d, playing Contemporary.
1. Ben Morris and Yenni (“Benni?”)
Wait! Wait! Wasn’t there a song in the last Update? Yes, there was!
“Ben and Jen,
Ben and Jen,
La la la la,
Ben and Jen.”
Now there is a second verse:
“Ben and YEN,
Ben and Yen,
La la la la
Ben and Yen!”
And a chorus:
“Yen and Jen,
Jen and Yen,
Who’s the lucky guy?
And they danced to “I’m Stuttering.”
(Don’t even go there)
2. John Lindo (Ronnie announced him as “the Troublemaker himself”) and Torri dancing to “Damaged”
3. Michael Kielbasa and Tessa dancing to “Give Me Everything”
4. Brent and Jessica dancing to “After The Love Is Gone” (Brent rag-dolled Jessica so Jessica rag-dolled Brent – hilarious)
5. Parker and Kellese dancing to “Beggin’ “
6. Mark and Laureen (who, as she was drawing her partner out of the basket, whispered quietly to Ronnie (which he repeated loudly on the mic) “I want to dance with Deborah Szekely.”) They danced to “Come Closer.”
7. Jordan and Rooooootz danced to “Get Involved” (west coast with several bars of Samba)
8. Myles and Sharlot (Ronnie: “You wanna dance with Deborah Szekely too?” Sharlot: “No. I wanna dance with myself.”) dancing to “Forever.”
9. Arjay and Patty dancing WICKED LIGHTNING ROADRUNNER SPEEDY-GONZALES FAST to “Right Round”
10. Maxence and Sarah dancing to “Just Dance”
11. Kyle and Brandi dancing to “Telephone”
12. Jordan and Deborah dancing to “Please Don’t Stop The Music”
13. Ben and Jen dancing to “apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur, whole club was looking at her, she hit the floor, next thing you know, Shawty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low, baggy sweat pants and the Reebok’s with the straps, she turned around and gave that big booty a smack (HEY!) she hit the floor, next thing you know, Shawty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low”
14. Kyle and Tatiana dancing to “Heartbreaker”
15. Mark and Jill Demarco dancing to “I Like The Way You Move” (What is it suddenly with this song? I guess Victor likes it too, just like DJ Dave. I do too! Which is why, a full week later, my brain keeps hittin’ repeat-peat-peat-peat-peat.)
16. Maxence and Tara to “Dip Out of The Club”
and the final Jam to “Give Me Something Fried.”
Final Awards followed very soon after. Mike Gadberry, who isn’t a show-off and loathes speaking on the mic, gave the all-time shortest Thank-You in history (if I’m remembering right it was “Thank you everybody.”) An announcement was made that the resort’s water park would remain open late especially for us and that the late nite dance would go on into Monday for as long as we wanted to remain dancing. And we emerged from the ballroom out into the wide, lovely Phoenix air, the red clay, the pools and fountains, the pointed mountains in the distance, all bathed in long, low, golden shafts of late afternoon autumn sun, so beautiful you could cry.
And thus ended Desert City 2012. What a great comp!
Next year we will be at our spectacular new venue: The amazing Arizona Grand! http://tinyurl.com/7jejrx4
And now, I am sorry to say, I must close on a sad note. Many of you have by now heard that our dear friend and yours, Cody Melin, was found unconscious and not breathing by his wife Tracey, 4:00 am Saturday morning Sept. 15th. He has been in the hospital ever since, at this writing still unconscious, breathing with the aid of a ventilator, surrounded, at the behest of his doctors, by his closest friends and family who for three days now have embraced him in their love and prayers, beseeching and encouraging him to find the strength to fight for his life. Cody and Tracey are Showcase dancers – long-time members of the community, just last week at Desert City as happy and vibrant as ever. Our hope, love and friendship – and yours – from our hearts to Cody Melin.