WORKSHOP/DANCE with TEAM A&S and LIZZIE CLARKE
Toronto, April 09
Excitement started growing at the beginning of the year and by the end of February the workshop/dance was sold. Everyone was eager to meet Andrew Palmer and Sheila Cox, the famous choreographers from the UK, and, of course, the one and only Lizzie Clark from Scotland of whom they had heard so much. Even the bitterly cold and snowy Canadian winter didn’t subdue their anticipation.
This was the third year that Fred & Eddie Buckley and I had mounted a Spring Workshop/Dance to introduce dancers in Ontario to famous line dance names from across the pond. I first met Andrew and Sheila ten years ago when I returned to the UK for a year to spend time with my ailing father and Andrew, perfectionist that he is, tracked me down to double check the step sheet for my dance ‘Jungle Rhythm’. There was some disagreement in his area and he was determined to make sure everyone danced it the correct way. We became firm friends and subsequently got together on my annual visits to the UK. It was Andrew & Sheila’s first visit to Canada and I very much wanted it to be a good experience.
Our other guest had visited Toronto once before many years ago and it was the memory of that visit that had inspired me to ask her to fly over the pond to teach at our workshop. Lizzie’s contagious enthusiasm, her humourous and fun approach to teaching had stayed with me. We were fortunate indeed that she agreed to come and her husband, Roger, reckoned he would keep her company and check out the great white north as well!!
So the stage was set. Lizzie and Roger flew in on the Wednesday and the very next day were lunching at the top of the CN Tower in warmth and sunshine and walking on the glass floor 553 metres above ground! It was fortunate they did as the Friday brought a record rainfall and it poured all day! So it felt like home when Andrew & Sheila flew in!!
An early night for everyone and Saturday morning we headed to the venue. We had already decorated the two halls the day before. Of course, something always has to go wrong. This time a fuse blew and the sound system in one of the rooms ground to a halt. Someone was for sure looking over us as it turned out that Roger had been an electrician in the navy and before you could say ‘maple leaf’, to our immense relieve he had everything back in working order.
A&S and Lizzie moved smoothly from room to room, teaching the identical dances in each so everyone would have same experience. The dancers were honoured that A&S had written two new dances for our event and they both went over exceedingly well, ‘Rock n Roll’ and ‘Time To Swing’. At the same time, a few of the dancers had already heard of ‘In Control’ and were pleased to learn it from the choreographers. Andrew taught with precision, patience and a gentle sense of humour which all enjoyed.
Lizzie always chooses good dances to teach; when she was over before she brought ‘Shakatak’ to Toronto and it is one of my all-time favourites. This year she taught ‘Mojo Rhythm’ by Rob Fowler, ‘No More Cloudy Days’ Alan Birchall and ‘Love Me Tomorrow’ Peter & Alison. Gales of laughter would waft from the room she was teaching in as she would interrupt her instruction to recount a hilarious story or joke. “She should be a comedienne’, reckoned one of the dancers as she wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes.
A&S, Lizzie, Fred and I had written a dance ‘Do That Again?’ especially for the Workshop to a new track by Trace Adkins called ‘Let’s Do That Again’. I gathered that Fred and Andrew had a swell time teaching together in the Tulip room and Sheila and I had fun together with Lizzie on the side lines in the Daffodil room. At least everyone seemed to get the steps!!!
A break for dinner and then back for the evening dance. Firstly the presentation …. We had to make sure our guests were certified for the occasion and had enough Canadian souvenirs to ensure they wouldn’t forget us! Then the dancing started in earnest and Fred did a great job of keeping the floor full. We virtually had to chase everyone out at the end of the evening; they didn’t seem to want to go, even those who had a long drive ahead of them. What a terrific job our guests had done. Excellent instruction combined with laughter, warmth and friendliness made the ideal combination to win Canadians fans for life!!! I should add here that we very much appreciate all you dancers who came from near and far for this event. We couldn't do the event without your support and encouragement, thank you all so very much. Many thanks also to our dear friends and volunteers who helped do the set-up and take-down for the event, you were terrific. We were left short-handed on the Friday so it was a very big under-taking. Thankfully the new venue we are moving to for future events won't need quite as much lifing and carrying!
The next day brought a trip to visit with the Chinese line dance community north of the city. The very popular Emily Woo, an instructor of infectious enthusiasm and inexhaustible energy, was hosting a party for us and 300 eager dancers were waiting in a Chinese restaurant with a large dancing floor. In between courses of a delicious meal, we taught and/or reviewed ‘Forever Dancefloor’, ‘Do That Again?’, ‘Far Away’ (written by Emily and myself), ‘Cry Baby’, ‘For Love’, ‘Mojo Rhythm’ and ‘La Fiesta'. Lizzie had a surprise when instructor/DJ Lewis Lee came up with a Chinese song for ‘Scotia Samba’; it went very well! What an evening, Emily and her charming helpers know how to throw a lively party for sure.
Rather tired but in good spirits, the next day we headed down to Niagara Falls despite the sleet and snow (it is Spring but the weather man had obviously forgotten!). With Lizzie in her poncho with little red maple leaves on the back, and Andrew with his Toronto baseball cap, they looked the part as we snapped our photos by this spectacular sight. And. of course, we had to stop off at Timmy's on the way home! They reckoned the coffee and donuts were excellent and Sheila licked her lips with the hot chocolate!
Then it was time to say our fond goodbyes to Lizzie and Roger. However, Andrew & Sheila had a couple of days left and came out to Fred’s class on the Tuesday evening to the delight of the dancers. Wednesday saw us at West 7. Tammy was on vacation so I taught and included ‘Do That Again?’ with A& S up on stage with me. A large crowd packed the floor and seemed to be most impressed with these international choreographers!
So, what a week! Our guests had charmed the Canadian dancers, taught excellent dances that have already started hitting our dance floors and have left memories that will bring smiles to dancers’ faces and warmth to their hearts.
PS The dancers were very generous with the 50/50 and one dancer went home with $165 while $165 (plus $30 donated by a dancer who couldn't get to the event) was sent to The Hospital for Sick Children, receipt received today with appreciation.