ESS 2014 Update #5 – Campfire Stories
“Oh what a beautiful bonfire! Much bigger than last year! All the chairs and mattresses and blankets! So pretty!”
“Put another log on, let’s make it really blaze.” “Oh wow, that’s nice and warm.”
“S’mores! Yaaaaay! I love S’mores!” ” Pass me three marshmallows!”
“We should tell ghost stories like last year, anyone got any ghost stories?”
“Got an Open story, US Open, not exactly a ghost story”
“Tell, tell!” “Dance stories! Great!”
“So for me, I had never been to the Open before, my mom just kind of dragged me, — drug me? – draggeded me? SHUT UP.“
“Here’s the thing about Parker back then. It was really weird cause he had that thing we called the “Slope Head.” (chorus: “Yeah hahahaha, he did have Slope Head”) Yeah, so — his head …. it went LIKE THIS! Little kids would say “Mom why can’t I see the top of that boy’s head when he’s looking straight at me?” As he grew up, the top of his head, it narrowed down fortunately.”
“Yes and just so you know, Jordan was all legs, no torso. He wore his pants like an 80-year old man. It was belted HERE. Because that’s where his waist was.”
“So it was ’93 and I went to the US Open, my first time, for only one day, and this kid Spencer (“The Body-Roll Guy!” “I remember that guy!”) so Spencer danced to a “Mask” song – “Addicted to Love,” or, wait, what was the song, (voices: “Business of Love!”) “And I saw him dance, and the movie had just come out, and I was like, THAT’S AWESOME. And then I watched the Juniors, and all of the St. Louis kids, and I was just like, the dance floor is like this firepit (“The Pit” “That’s what we called it, too” “We called it The Pit”) “And there was one level of people sitting on chairs, and then on the risers, and it went higher and higher and higher and it was like a sea of people that just went up and up and up, and that was my first experience of the Open and it really sort of changed my life. Cause I thought I really want to do that. And then I was at a church camp and there was some kid who was a really good dancer, and I thought “I’m never gonna be that good. Never. I’m never gonna be able to do that.” And I went to the Open and I thought “I’m never gonna be that good.” But I put my mind to it, and I was a dance dummy for three younger sisters so I had a lot of practice, and I learned to do it, little by little.
“Barry who went to the 93 Open?”
“Anybody seen videos of the 93 Open? Tatiana is always sitting on the stairs, to the right, like this, making a face, and she’s like uhhhhh when do we get to leave?”
“From the beginning it was Thanksgiving at the Disneyland hotel, and back then there were so few events so you would just see all these juniors that you met there and they became your BEST friends, and you’d be like “See you next year!” And there were really no other events to go to so you’d just see these people once a year but you’d become really close friends. It was a Thanksgiving tradition. I’ve been to every one, ever since 1993. Every single US Open.
“Nothing like being at the Disneyland Hotel, that time of year, all Christmas’d out.”
“And there weren’t practice rooms! So everyone practiced out in the hallway.”
“I remember Barry getting his nose rearranged by Beata Howe. She was AMAZING. She would spin like this, with her arms out like this ARGHGHGHGHGH! and her glasses just like, crooked.”
“And then Kyle danced with her for two years.”
“Cause I ducked!”
“What was cool about the Disneyland Hotel was that there weren’t practice rooms. So what we would do as little kids (“We’d spy on all the practice rooms!”) “What we’d do was there was this tiled area in the entryways, right in front of Pookie’s kitchen, where we’d go up the escalator and hide. And we would watch Barry, and (“and Mario” “Royston - and Royston!” “Cordoba!” ) all trying to psych each other out.
“What was funny about that was they wouldn’t run the simple push break footwork sequence. No, they would only run their biggest tricks. And they’d run them double speed, no music.
“They’d be like (demonstrates hyper fast ghosting) (chorus of laughing)
“And they’d be like, “Can we just do one of the simple patterns?” and they’d walk off.
“And BARRY would come out and he’d be like “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, hey you know we just got that little spin Beata? Can you like, one foot? And he’d be doing it over his back.
“And then ROYSTON would come out and he’d be like, “can we do the illusion sequence?” And then he’d be spinning – but he’d be STARING at you.
“It was a battle! At first we were scared. And then we were like, “We can’t wait till we get to do that someday.”
“I remember that transition time, when you’d walk into the floor trial for Juniors and your hardest move is an Apache Whip. But you do it extra fast next to Matt Auclair. And it’s funny cause that competitiveness of those guys - even though it scared us – we were like Gosh we can’t wait until we’re in that division.
“Back then it was all about those big trophies, and the jackets and the rings.”
“The first trophy that Jessica won, it was taller than her.”
“Yeah I remember your first Open – They rolled the nest out and you were in the nest!”
“You’d be in a much bigger egg now. A FULL CHICKEN. That would be amazing. In Masters some day you’ll come out – “This is my Farewell Tour” – and you come out in a cracked egg.”
“The Chicken Routine! 1990! What, it’s not on YouTube?!? Oh it will be now!”
“So we’re dancing our routine, and James and I were the only couple who did full-on lifts, like tea presses, (“James Adair – he was very much involved”) and because of us they put in the rule that Juniors can’t do lifts because every year I almost died. So we get ready to go into T-Press and the music goes silent. Off, totally off. And I know I’ve been told by teachers NO MATTER WHAT YOU KEEP GOING so I’m trying and trying to keep going — and then – I just started bawling. So loud. But they had us finish the routine, to the audience clapping! And that’s what we got judged on, us dancing to the audience clapping. The bad part is that we won but everyone said it was just because I cried.”
“At least you didn’t throw up Jessica!” (“Amy Walters!” “Amy Walters!” “Like Amy Walters!” “She threw up every year”)
“Amy Walters was a bad ass dancer! She was the girl to beat. Really amazing, another one from St. Louis, they were all so great. So Parker and Katie and Kyle and I were competing and we were so scared, and then Amy goes out and they keep having mistakes and then all of a sudden she’s like (demonstrating barfing) (“And then she runs off the floor”) ( “And she grabs a bucket, she’s puking in a bucket, we all felt so sorry for her”)
“It’s ever since then that I remembered to BREATHE. Cause she came out and she was like “I FORGOT TO BREATHE!”
“For those of you who don’t know Kenny, Kenny was the original emcee of the Open for — like – (voices: EVER! FOREVER)
“Kenny Wetzel is the reason we all have contracts. First year of the Open they were like hey Kenny would you emcee the Open? And he says of course! So Kenny goes to walk in and they stop him, “Hey Hey Hey Just a minute, you need a wristband.” So Kenny says “Oh, okay, I’ll go a wrist band.” And he goes to the desk and says “Hey I need a wristband,” and they say “That’ll be $150 Sir.” And Kenny says, “I’m the emcee!” “That’ll be $150 Sir.” Kenny says, “Okay, just do me a favor and put the podium right outside the door, and a microphone with a long enough cord, and I’ll work from there. Because I am not going to PAY to work for you.” And that’s when we all got passes, from then on.”
“I mean honestly, Kenny could never emcee today because, well, he’s terrible.” (much laughter and yelling) “You’re dancing, and you KNOW you suck, and WHILE you’re dancing and everyone is watching you hear Kenny, “COME ON EVERYBODY! THEY’RE WORKING FOR YA! WOOO!” *While* your song is going! And you’re dancing and you hear Kenny WOOOO WOOOOO OH YEAH OH YEAH but you know I just always believed him, I thought “YEAH! We’re WORKING for them!”
“Or you’d be dancing and you’d look back and you’d see this (making a Kenny face)” (laughter) “It was weird cause you’d watch the video – that would be around Christmas cause it took that long to get the videos of the Open – it wasn’t On Demand back then – and you’d get this video and you’d take it to Christmas and my cousins would be like WHO is that guy in the background? (yeah, they’d say “Who’s the bowler?”) “But they’d be like ‘But why is he TALKING while you’re dancing?’ “And you’d be like Well this is how it’s been, this is how it’s always supposed to be, that’s just what happens.”
“And he could be vulgar, he could be crazy! They’d play that dirty song “Strokin’” and Kenny would be like OH YEAHHHHHH or there’d be pretty girls in the lobby and he’s be like OH YEAHHHH! He was a dirty old man and we loved him. Everybody loved Kenny. Funny man.
“I remember being confused cause I thought “Strokin’ meant strolling, or walking, and I thought why is Kenny acting like that about strolling there’s something more here that I don’t understand”
“Who was the next emcee after Kenny?”
“Next emcee after Kenny was Barry. And Barry knew that you shouldn’t TALK during routines. So people were like, Is Barry going to SAY anything? Where’s the WOOOO?”
Suddenly the Clonch girls are SCREAMING
Both FREAKING OUT jumping up screaming falling all over everybody scrambling to get away in terror —– from — a cricket.
A small baby cricket, size of a baby pea.
Parker “It’s a cricket! Also known as a LION!”
But now the sisters start again — this time even more hysterical — serious shrieking – OMG! OMG! OMG! AAAAAAAAAAGHGHGHGH! screaming shrieking scrambling in panic cause THE CRICKET MOVED!
(Chaos, total laughter, whole place dying laughing.)
Hannah: IT WAS ON MY TOES IT WAS ON MY TOES!!!
Parker, after several moments, and a rearrangement of chairs, blankets, and roasting sticks, which had been thrown into chaos: “Okaaaaaaaay. Now that we are all safe, safe from crickets … “
“So we were practicing for the Open and we were in Juniors at the time, and all the Juniors have to be there really early. And Kellese was there, and Barry, and Beata, and James Leyva, and Jeannie Tucker is there too, practicing for Showcase. Kellese and we were in there watching, and Jeanne goes into a full-press lift, legs open, and she’s up there in this beautiful costume …
“And all of a sudden all we can hear is James Leyva, panicked, yelling “COOOOOKIE!!!!” And Kellese is yelling GIT DOWN! GIT! DAY-OWN! But Jeannie thinks Kellese means the song “Get Down On It” so she’s up there dancing “yeah, get down! get down!” and Kellese is yelling NO JEANNIE NO! – GIT DAAAAOWN!!” and James is yelling COOKIEEEE!!! but nobody knows what “cookie” is. Well, Jeannie has unfortunately not only forgotten her dance pants but she’s also forgotten her panties. She’s wearing nothing but nylons and this beautiful, skimpy costume which only covers her top half.
(total chaos, everyone explodes laughing and talking all at once) “I was eleven! I was only eleven!” “I was there too” “I was a junior and you’re watching this famous couple and you don’t see what the fuss is all you know is that someone yelled cookie and we’re like “What WHERE? A cookie? Where’s a cookie? I want a cookie.”
“In the early years of the Open I remember there were some iconic songs, like “Shake Your Tail Feather” and “Think” and “River Deep, Mountain High” – and it seemed to us that it wasn’t a big deal to do a routine that somebody had already done, to use the same music, that song for instance, three or four couples did it – Royston and Laureen won to it, Matt and Megan the same year, and Michael and Ginger won to it as well – so that routine has never lost.”
“If you ever want to win an Open, use that song!”
“The very first US Open all the judges were in a round circle. I came from Oklahoma, I walked out there and of course we had to go all Las Vegas. My dance partner put road-kill on me, all over me, I mean feathers ALL THE WAY top to bottom, I walk out there and everybody’s looking at me like What the h—?”
(laughter) “A leotard of feathers? oh no! was it pink?”
“It was purple. Purple feathers.” “What year was that?”
“It was 92. 1992.” “Was it 1994? 1996?”
“Let’s see, that was 1984.”
“WOW!!! WOOOOOOWWW! 1983?!? NO WAY! Wow!”
“Yes, 1983. In ’83 the judges went around in a circle. And then when we came from Texas and Oklahoma we were dancing straight, like this, so the next year Lance Shoemoen did his routine and all the judges were in a straight line, in the front. That was the first year the judges were in front.”
“And all that music that we danced to, it was all Big Band.”
“That’s right, it was all Big Band. So whenever someone says “Swing music is Blues” or starts saying all that they say about Blues being the original, real swing music – that’s not right. It was all Big Band. There was NO Blues. AT ALL. Never, you didn’t hear it.”
“Yeah, that’s what’s so weird when people say that I’m thinking no, it wasn’t blues, not at all. Look at the old videos, blues is not what you heard, blues is actually not “old school” swing music.”
“People today need to go look at the old tapes. It was all Big Band. And then later it was disco.”
“Lance Shermoen style.” “Mary Ann.” “It was very long slotted, no double-resistance, no pulse.”
“And Showcase was “The” division.”
“The Pinwheel was the MOVE!” “Yeah, the Pinwheel …”
“I liked your “Poison” Barry” “Barry in gold.” “Yeah, that’s why we chose Showcase because it was “the” division.” “Remember Ricardo and Lisa Cortez?”
“One really distinctive memory, because it was really a big routine at the time, was “I’m Alone On A Shelf.” A couple people danced it – Matt and Megan, and Debbie Ramsey and—–”
“Oh, and Keldee B!
“Does everybody know who Keldee B was?”
“Keldee B was who I wanted to be when I grew up. She had a body, and hair. And attitude!“
“So Jessica’s partner back then was James, and James’ mom Jody made a lot of the costumes for the pros.
“So ’95 US Open James and I walk into his room, and Keldee is standing there naked, staring right at us.
“And we, we … (“You fainted!”) (“You passed out!”) (“She was a Diva!”) “So she just stands there, naked, staring back at us. And we weren’t gonna LEAVE, so we just stood there – and she just stood there – and it was literally a stand-off.
“She’s competing in like an hour, and Jody – well you have to understand the way Jody did costumes – she would sew you in and then push you out on the floor. So Jody comes around the corner with pins out her mouth and she sees us, and stops, and she says “BOYS! BOYS! REALLY?!? GET OUT OF HERE!!!
“And we didn’t know what to say so we just said, “Um, well, thank you —-” (voices, yelling, rolling in laughter)
“And then like ten years later, at Swingtime in the Rockies, we’re out dancing Thursday night and there she is, out dancing! At Stampede! And we’re whispering “That’s Keldee B!” and then she just kind of saunters over and purrs, “Hey Jordan. Nice whip” (laughter) “It’s ten years later and she’s still, totally, (“A Diva!” “She’s a Diva!” “She is truly a champion” “Goddess” “A true Champion.”)
“What was that song that she and Robert danced to, that they won?”
(voices singing many songs at once)
“Barry I like your “injected with a poiiiiiisonnnnn” “I’m a Scat Man.”
“That was the first year that you could do Showcase and Classic, both divisions. Barry was the only one until Benji and Torri I think, right? – to do that, to make Finals in both? Barry was the first to do that, with Beata and Kellese, but the problem was Classic was the first night and then Showcase was the second night.”
“Yeah Finals was back-to-back and I dance LAST with Beata in Classic, and then FIRST with Kellese in Showcase! Back to back. Yeah, that’s what I did.”
“Such a bad ass routine!” (voices singing and ghosting the routine) “And that flick, that famous flick!
“Everyone’s gonna go on YouTube tonight and be searching for all these old videos.”
“Yes, those were iconic songs. Barry’s songs were iconic songs.”
“The songs of the 90′s weren’t blues songs, it was all disco.”
“And muscle shirts. 1998 and every guy on the floor at the Open would be in muscle shirts and vests. It was like Rash Guard. With a little turtle neck. You just wore the muscle shirt, even if you had no muscles you wore the muscle shirt, that was the uniform.”
“In the 90′s it was like “I’m gonna dance to Boogie Wonderland!” – THAT SONG CAME OUT IN 1979! “The wcs community – we were always like 15 years behind in terms of the music we were dancing to. So when Kyle and Sarah danced to Groove Is In The Heart that was huge, dancing to something even close to the era, even though that song had been out since 1990.”
“That routine was a big deal. I remember where I was when I saw that routine.” “Me too, I remember where I was when I saw that routine. Sitting on the floor at the Open.”
“We did it first in Seattle. In green. In Classic, against Charlie and Jackie who brought out “Avalon.” Avalon is one of the routines, like “I’m In Chains” by Robert and Deborah, that you don’t want to go up against. Cause you’re done. Doesn’t matter how good you are, you are DONE, cause those routines are so good, so good.
“And you won at the Open! You won Showcase that year with that routine!”
“I remember seeing that routine in Palm Springs and I remember thinking okay this is a new era cause there was this place where they stopped the music and she sits on his knee and kicks the bubble twice (chorus: yeah! yeah!) and it was like, like “Oh! A routine can be playful!” “And some people were indignant. They said “The music stopped! That’s not right!” (laughing) or all indignant “I’m not supposed to LAUGH during a routine!” “People didn’t understand there could be comedy. Or that there could be this element of creativity. Not doing things the way they’ve always been done, try to be a little different. That shocked a lot of people.”
“That was a big routine for us, changed the way we looked at things. We felt like they were saying, “This is a routine we’re doing not to please a judge, not to please parents. We’re doing this routine because we like the song and we want to dance to it.”
“And their costumes were really colorful (chorus: “HAHAHAHAHA yeah REALLY colorful!”) “The impact that it had on us was “This is very current.”” and I remember my mom saying “That’s just more FUN than what’s out there right now.” It had a really big impact for us. That was a big routine.”
“We’d go to Knott’s Berry Farm, and it was a big deal cause afterwards you’d get to dance at Patty Straight’s and you’d dance at Knott’s and you got to enter through the staff parking lot, like a VIP, and you got free tickets and cokes were 25 cents, our parents were saying “Our kids are performing at Knotts” and it was a big deal”
“At the Schwimmer’s studio we were planning shows for Knott’s, our Spring Show, and our Summer Show, it was a big deal.”
“One thing that’s definitely different is the whole concept of chasing points. That just didn’t exist. You never heard that. (chorus yeah yeah) We all were just working on our dance. Just because. It had nothing to do with divisions or points or anything. I remember the first contest I danced in, John Riddle event called Boogie and Blues, and I won the Novice. And when I won he says Good job kid, want me to buy you a coke? THAT WAS MY PRIZE (laughing) HE BOUGHT ME A COKE! I mean, I wanted to win. Let’s not get confused.” (laughing)
“Yeah we all still want to win. That hasn’t changed. But it wasn’t about points.”
“It was different too cause you had four events a year.” “Yeah, every event meant a lot.” “Is that crazy there were four events a year and now there’s like four a weekend? So crazy, so different!” “It was like months and months of preparation for an event. Each event had a lot of weight.”
Barry: “Remember the days where you couldn’t use the same routine?”
“What? Seriously?” “What what? Really Barry?”
“Yes, you had to do a different routine every time. For each event. Yeah, used to be like that. What changed that was Sharlot and Wayne. They decided to repeat the routine.”
“Wayne and Sharlot came to us and said we’ve learned that if you stick with a movement a little longer you can develop your movement, you learn more, grow faster as a dancer.”
“Wow I didn’t know that! So every time you had to have a new routine!”
“Until “Peel Me A Grape” – that changed everything – that one stuck around.”
“What do we call it when you do a routine longer than a year? We call it PEEL ME A GRAPE cause Beatta and Barry – no, Beatta and Mark Sheuffle – they would dance maybe one, two events a year, cause they’d be travelling,” (everybody’s singing Peel Me A Grape “as dancers we all dream” ….) “and they did that routine for, it seemed liked years.”
“Peel Me A Grape – omg – three sentences before they start and then she’s like sleeping on the floor, and then she starts dancing, omg I was like ohhhhhh woooow”)
“Kippy Belts?” “That was Mario, Mario wore Kippy belts, Cordoba …”
“You saw a routine go wrong?” “DON’T SAY NAMES” “No, COME ON say names please say names” (laughter)
“Pro-am, her whole top came off, sloooowwwwly, the straps came down” “OH NO A PRO-AM OHHHH, THAT’S SAD” “Did they finish it?” “Yes, they finished and got first place!” “OHHHH HAHAHAHA OF COURSE THEY DID that’s awesome” “Wait … somebody’s boobs fell out?!?” “Oh so many boobs have fallen out! So many times!” (laughter)
Remember when Lisa Faye, her heel got caught in her skirt! (“omg! oh no! oh no!”) “And she started dancing on one foot” “It was in a turn! And he kept her going” “Oh Lord” “And she’s like spinning …. until she gets that shoe out …. and she’s spinning and he’s … and her foot is way way all the way up, stuck up in the top of her skirt.”
“Remember Danny Griffin, and she had that pants suit on …. the blue and black … and all of a sudden, 20 seconds into the routine it starts to split! Up the butt, the seam in the butt! (oh no! ohhhh noooo!) No no no – but wait – we’re like OMG HER PANTS ARE SPLITTING OH NO! … and then 30 seconds later she rips it off and it’s a mini skirt! (laughter) Everyone was thinking OH MY GOD HER PANTS! HER PANTS! OH WAIT IT’S A SKIRT!”
“Every guy loved that girl. Every single guy.”
“She was GORGEOUS and he was HOT.”
Jessica: “I was really gawky growing up and me and Tat I remember we both like Steven White.”
“OHHHHHHH!” “STEPHEN WHITE!!! STEPHEN WHITE!” “OHHHH JESSICA SO BUSTED!!!”
Jessica: “NO NO NO A DIFFERENT STEVEN WHITE! – WAS THAT HIS LAST NAME? From St. Louis, one of the St. Louis kids! What was his partner’s name?” “RACHEL! RACHEL WHITE!” “It was Steven —, Steven—, Steven Morris!” “No, no, it wasn’t Steven Morris, that was Scott, Scott Morris, a St. Louis kid.”
“Back in the day, when we were all Juniors, there was a St. Louis crew. Kyle, Meghan, Matt Auclair, ALL the Auclairs, and …. ” (everyone’s yelling at once)
Jessica: “Matt Auclair’s mom went up to my mom one year and said “Listen, if you want your daughter to get REALLY good you send her to me in St. Louis” Buddy was like YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO ST. LOUIS!!”
“Steven JOHNSON! That was his name! He was so good!”
“I remember walking over and Tat is talking to STEVEN JOHNSON who was dreamy! And she was like a supermodel. And I was pigeon-toed, so gawky, braces, shy, and she was so cool and I was so jealous!”
“Tat was that height when we were eleven. She’s been that tall her whole life.” Parker: “We were almost the same height when we danced.” Jordan: “Everyone grew around her and she just never grew.” Tat: “First time we met each other in a Jack and Jill and Jordan was like this (she’s looking way down, patting a short boy on the head) And Jordan was looking up at me “Nice to meet you.” Jordan: “And the whole time I’m whispering moves to her “Okay look I’m gonna do this and you should do this”
Jordan: “Okay I want to tell a Buddy story. (voices: Buddy! Who doesn’t know Buddy?) “Okay so If you don’t know Buddy — if you haven’t EXPERIENCED Buddy, you have to understand. We experienced Buddy. Buddy would teach a workshop, and you’d take the class cause you wanted his knowledge, but you were TERRIFIED. And his method of teaching was he’d just kind of look around the room and he’d be like, ALEX, DO A WHIP! and then half-way through, “WRONG!!” (chorus of laughing) and you’d be like “NO NO NO SORRY BUDDY! I DID THAT WRONG I KNOW i DID! HOLD ON GIVE ME ONE MORE TRY!” (“HE’S STILL LIKE THAT HE’S STILL LIKE THAT”) (Clonches: He’s still like that! He still does that!) (voices: Dancing with The Stars just last week!) (voices all shouting Buddy stories all at once)
“But Buddy, he checked us at SUCH a young age, where all we were getting was praise. I mean, at that age, when you’re eleven years old, and you can do anything at all on time, all people are saying is you’re amazing. (voices: And then there’s Laurie hahahahaha) “And I’m like winning at these rodeos doing – whatever – slappin’ leather – cause I’m like only this tall, and everyone else is an adult, so I’m winning belt buckles, I’m winning hats, I’ve won boots, I’m winning vacations, I think I’m the MAN. So then they tell me “You need to audition for Jump Start, Buddy’s team.”
“So I come into this audition with Olivia. And they bring me into their practice, I’m there with my new partner Olivia Daso, we had just decided we’d become partners. And Buddy’s running the practice and he lets us stand in the corner of the room. And we’re just kind of standing there awkwardly, waving a little, “hi” and he lets us stand there for, like, 20 minutes. We’re not even part of the practice we’re just standing there in the corner, “hi i’m here hi um audition um watching—-, What should we be trying—-, Should we be learning this um—-” And it’s like he doesn’t even see us. And then he says OH! HEY THANKS FOR SHOWING UP ON TIME! and you’re like squeaking “I’ve been here for an hour?”
“Then he says “KIDS!” and claps his hands twice and it’s like the Von Trapp Family. It’s Jessica, it’s James, Benji, Heidi, Johnny, Julie, it’s ALL of the Junior champions and all of them are sitting in a line.
“And Buddy says “These are some new people they want to try out for the team this is Jordan he’s a cowboy, this is Olivia she’s a cowgirl, they want to be on Jump Start.”
“And there’s Jessica she’s like (he’s making a bored eeew face) and Buddy says “This is Jessica Cox. She’s a five time US Open Champion.” And you’re like ‘um what’s a us open?’ “And This is Benji, my son, the King” and Benji’s all like (he makes a face) (chorus of laughter and clapping)
“And Buddy’s like “ALRIGHT! Let’s play a song! Let’s have you guys dance!” (oh geez, oh no) “And EVERYONE’S seated in a line, staring at us. And my mom’s in the other corner shrinking, cringing.
“So me and Olivia are dancing and the Trapp Family are all shaking their heads, talking, ignoring us, making faces, Jessica’s twirling her hair (laughter) And so we dance and all you’ve ever heard from everywhere up until this point, is that you’re the best, you’re the best. But Buddy, he says to his kids, “Yeah, I know. He’s severely pigeon-toed. And she – she has a dislocated hip. And a bad shoulder. “WE’LL TAKE ‘EM!” (laughter)
“So my mom is signing a check, paying the dues cause now we’re part of the team, and she’s whispering, “THAT WAS SO HUMILIATING! SO HUMILIATING!”
“And it kind of stung at first — but right away we felt, “You know that was kind of nice. That was the FIRST time we’d heard ANY criticism. And from that point on it was like Oh, we haven’t arrived yet. It was so nice to feel “Gosh there’s still this huge, huge ladder to climb.” And I remember the next event where we’re trying to break into this clique and it was a journey, where we didn’t just feel gosh I’ve won a few contests so we’ve arrived. Buddy made us want to be better. We felt like we were working. From day one. It felt respectful.”
“Well look at ALL the kids who came out of the Schwimmers.” “Sean McKeever, Jessica, Torri, Jordan, Heidi, Benji, Lacey, Hannah and Nicole, so many great dancers.”
“Laurie Schwimmer had a girls dance team, Dance Attack (voices Oh! I was so jealous! So wanted to get on that team!) “I was on the team from fourteen to seventeen years old (voices: And there was controversy, that it was too sexy for the US Open) “But Laurie would be at US Open floor trials and EVERYBODY would be there, it would be crowded with people running their routines, and we’re there practicing for Cabaret and I’m not hitting my turns. It’s a fouetté section and I’m not hitting my turns. And Laurie goes “OKAY STOP THE MUSIC STOP THE MUSIC! EVERYBODY BUT JESSIC COME HAVE A SEAT! WE WILL RESUME PRACTICE WHEN JESSICA NAILS THESE TURN! (voices OHHHHHH OMG laughing) And I want to cry but I do my turns over and over and over and over, and then finally Laurie says “Good job Jessica! OKAY GIRLS LET’S GO!”
“Scary Laurie!” “There’s no one like Laurie!” “No one better!” “She’s the best teacher you can get.” (everyone talking at once)
Tatiana: “But don’t you put your kids in sports to teach them discipline? how to work hard? how to learn to be coached? That’s how she teaches, she raises them right.” (chorus of voices)
Clonches: “For our first Open routine, we were six years old, Laurie put me in this body suit with feather boas around my ankles, these huge feather boas, I couldn’t walk, and there were feathers dropping everywhere, I did my sugar pushes like this” (she demonstrates legs way apart)
Jessica: “I remember these girls when they were three years old in my studio. These tiny tiny matching creatures. Little stinkers, attitude, at three years old. And one of you was always poking the other one’s eyeball, and then you had to go into Time Out. (Hannah: “I pulled down Benji Schwimmers pants! In class.”) And I knew I should be yelling at that child but she was too CUTE.”
Barry: “Lynn Vogen was the original teacher for kids. The girls all started with Lynn Vogen, and then went on to the Schwimmers. Lyn was one of the most unappreciated dancers of her time. What a talent!”
“Good point of Jordan’s story and the Schwimmers is … you shouldn’t be focusing on points. (laughing “PARKER HOW DID THAT COME OUT OF THOSE STORIES?!?”) “No I mean it’s about constantly working on your dancing, that’s why you guys are here this weekend, it’s constantly working, always growing, and you know we are just as hard on each other when we watch each other’s routines to help each other out, we’re not nice, we’re critical, and we try to push each other to grow and get better, and we feel like that that has stopped – at certain levels – in the community at the moment – that attitude, that openness to critical feedback.”
Tatiana: “I have a story. Remember Boogie and Blues? Well I wasn’t dancing west coast swing yet then. My mom and my two sisters were, and they went to that event, and they saw Parker there. And they came home and they said OMG THERE’S IS SUCH A CUTE BOY NAMED PARKER I WANT TO SEE YOU GUYS DANCE TOGETHER!
“And I’m like Mom I do gymnastics. I don’t LIKE dancing, I don’t like west coast swing, I don’t WANT to dance, don’t want to do it.” I was so against it.
“And my mom says “Come to the US Open. it’s in November. You’ll love it. So my sisters are teaching me the push break, the underarm turn, and I’m like okay that’s enough I’m good, that’s enough.
“And then I go to the US Open and I am SO not into it. On Friday and Saturday I’m like I AM REALLY REALLLLLY BORED!
“And then Sunday comes around and I see Juniors. And then I think, “Oh. Hmm. Okay maybe.”
“Meanwhile my mom keeps talking about Parker Parker Parker, she keeps saying “Oh, his dancing! He’s so good.” And then she MAKES me call him, not even knowing who he is, and I had to go “Um hi you met my MOM at Boogie and Blues. So you remember Bob Brewer? He has an event in August?” (Parker: called the California State Championships) “So I’m calling Parker and I’m like “So at that event, um, do you want to dance with me? In August?” Cause my mom made me do it! And Parker’s like “Who ARE you?”
“So then we meet and I’m like “Um I’m the girl who called you?” It was like an arranged marriage!
“So my mom takes me to San Diego every weekend for four months straight. Michael Kiehm helped us. And then, a MONTH before we’re supposed to dance, Bob Brewer decides to cancel his event. (chorus ohhhhh nooooo laughter)
“So now we have this routine, what do we do with it. So Mom makes me call Parker and say “US Open US Open” and I’m all awkward “Um do you want to do the us open” and you know Parker. Parker’s like “US OPEN! SURE!” (laughter)
“And that’s how I got into west coast swing – my mom shoving me in. (laughter) And it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. And then I started going to dances in Santa Monica where we lived, Debbie Ramsey had started dances there. Sonny Watson helped a lot.
Parker: “We danced for two years and then we had to break up because I was turning eighteen and they really restricted it back then, they didn’t make exceptions, the rules were the rules.
“Melany Cochran did costumes that year. And I’m a junior at the Open – and I walk out of a bathroom and I’m wearing the EXACT same costume as Robert Royston. EXACT! Tatiana wore a space suit (laughter) and I’m like Ricky Ricardo with the puffiest sleeves, a diamond on my chest, I match Royston. So we’re out there doing this routine, and I hit this lunge pose, and Tatiana’s doing this lunge, but we’re SUPER EARLY, and she’s supposed to kick her leg but instead of once she has to kick it four times cause we’re so early. (laughter) We got fourth place! Pretty good!
Jordan: “I was twelve and Olivia was fourteen so we had to dance up. And we’re backstage and Kyle walks up, Kyle’s seventeen, he’s huge, he looks like Zach Morris.
“I have a pompadour, and then there’s Kyle, his hair all slicked back. (Parker “HE HAD A RED SATIN SHIRT, PANTS UP TO HERE! (laughing) and he had the Widow’s Point hair, and it was all legit.” Jordan: I kept asking Olivia “Are you sure we’re in the right division? I think we signed up in the wrong division.”
“Back then we used the Bedazzler. It puts this stone on your costume with this little piece that has spikes and the Bedazzler squeezed the spikes around the stone. So you have a shirt with all these little metal spikes sticking out. And when you start to turn somebody those spikes catch on EVERYTHING, they tear your arm and your face, to shreds. Don’t Bedazzle your costume.”
“I remember not too many years ago coming back from a long flight, and we’re at the Slaters’ house to do choreography for Rome and Chevy, and I’m dizzy, I think it’s jet lag, but I just feel weird, so I go in the bathroom to pee and there’s this pregnancy test thing there so I just randomly do a pregnancy test. And discover I’m pregnant. With Kyler. So I go back into the room kind of dazed and I announce “I’m pregnant.” And Rome and Chevy are kids, they don’t know what to say, they just stand there looking at me. So Kyle says, “OKAY THEN! How about we finish this CHOREOGRAPHY!” “We were choreographing Witch Doctor.” (laughter)
(voices, all at once) “The videographer!” “The videographer story” “The videographer who did “other” editing work on the side!” “So it’s junior floor trials, and this videographer had been working on editing his videos and there’s this huge projection screen as you walk into the ballroom, and we’re like juniors and we walk in and there’s this HUGE picture left on the screen that’s so zoomed in you can’t really see exactly what it is but you can sort of tell it’s NOT something you should be seeing. And then it zooms out. And Wayne Bott walks in — and he looks at me — and he’s quiet for a moment — and then he says, “Yeah – that’s not good.” (laughter) And Annie comes in and she goes RUNNING around the corner yelling “GET THAT OFF THE SCREEN TURN THAT OFF!” (chaos of laughing)
“Memories!” “Remember Memories?” “Where’s Malia? She danced at Memories, wish she was here!” “Memories was a dance we had every Sunday in Whittier.” “That place changed our dance!” “Kyle and Sarah would drive down, it was a four-hour drive for them.” “Changed my dance, my whole dance, it was so so fun.”
“Memories was after Press Box. Press Box was Kenny Wetzel, in Westminster, and you had to be 21, and Jack and Annie would go dance there, Wayne and Sharlot, Mark, Carlito worked the door, right Carlito?”
“That was where they’d all go to help each other, to work with each other to help work on things”
“Like when we dance with each other at events, in the corner, when we can, to have a chance to help each other work on things.”
“So then at Memories, you’d go there on a Sunday and literally it was like the Invitational panel.” “Yeah, the entire floor was bad asses. Maryann, Mark, Robert and Deborah, Katie Berardino, Barry when he was in town.”
“They used to send a bus after the US Open to go to Memories – everyone, everyone, would get on the bus.”
Tat: “That’s why I believe, strongly, that you need to dance with higher level dancers. You absolutely must. Even though it can get overbearing for us, I feel you do need to dance with the top level dancers to get the feel of what it’s like. Cause if I didn’t have my experience of what that feels like I wouldn’t be able to dance like I do. Mark the Marine raised most of us, all of us (chorus yes! yes, he taught me) Tat: “He taught me, he would whisper in my ear as I was turning “No, your body needs to arc a little more.” He raised us, taught us all, allowed us to experiment. He helped us all.”
(voices:) “We’re lucky cause all of the pros who didn’t owe us anything, they raised us, they gave and gave.”
Tat: “I remember Mario pulling us aside to help us, and like, “Try this move out.” And then Jordan would be like “Totally!” and then he’d try to do it and Mario would be right there, trying to help. It was really wonderful. And I hope other dancers are like that. Now there are so many. Did anyone have a dance like that in their state? Where teachers would come around and offer help? It’s hard now cause there are so many, and all the teachers are teaching. So they don’t go out dancing anymore.”
“No we don’t have any of those dancers in my area” “No nothing like that” “No never”
Chris Dumond: “I had a partner before Nicole, Leah, “Up The Lazy River” and we’re dancing, and one couple had forgotten their routine and just stopped (“That Sam West’s daughter. So sad broke my heart”) “So I look at the scores at the end — there were fifteen couples — and that couple who forgot their routine got last place and we got second to last, and I was like dammit! and Arjay comes up and says “You’re time will come.” and walks away. Just that, so simple, his belief in us, and that meant so much to me.. And the next year, with Nicole, we got fourth! Against 19 couples!”
(chorus: “Arjay’s awesome” “I love Arjay so much” “Arjay is so cool.”)
“Can you get a piece of wood, Kyle? We need more wood on the fire.”
“Anymore chocolate? I want another S’more.”
“Kyle not the plastic, just the wood!” “Oh that’s a beautiful fire!”
Tat: “Are you guys ready for tomorrow? And – come to social dancing! And dance with us. DANCE WITH US! Cause we really want to help, even though sometimes we get tired, but we really want to help. And Kyle and Jordan, dance with them. And me, come and dance with me. We’re expecting it, we’re looking forward to dancing with you every night that you’re here. This is an opportunity for us to help, that’s what this camp is about.”