Up in the ‘Great White North” we know Spring is around the corner when the beginning of March comes along and it is time for the Ft. Wayne Showdown! However, this year winter decided to put a few road blocks in the way and our nine hour drive south was fraught with pitfalls! Three hours of the drive was through a snow storm, gingerly passing a tractor trailer jackknifed across the road, bypassing a battered car face to face with an enormous truck resting in the middle of the outside lane and numerous cars and tractor trailers that had skidded into ditches each side of the highway! But we line dancers are made of hardy stock and we gamely carried on until, with relief, we finally arrived at the welcome sight of the Ft. Wayne Holiday Inn! Everyone seemed to have a travel story this year – the Mirandas missed their flight after being caught in a lengthy traffic jam following a crash on the highway; Olivia Ray’s flight was delayed when, along with their plane, the pilots were de-iced in their cockpit and had to change their uniforms! So a very pleasant time was spent as we all swapped stories!!
But we were here to dance and as people arrived they jumped on the Hotel shuttle and headed over to the Scottish Rite to join the party going on there. For those of you who have never been to this building I should let you know what a wonderful facility it is. Built in the 1920’s it subsequently went through a number of metamorphisms and then in the 1990s the Leaders of the Scottish Rite decided that the then rather shabby, forlorn looking Building needed a make-over and after a multi million dollar renovation it is now looking pretty smart. There is a large auditorium and numerous other rooms that were all used for the dancing. Even the smallest room was a decent size. In addition there was a practice room, dining room with full bar service, and also a snack bar and little areas and corners where people could put their feet up and, in some cases, have a snooze when the action got too much for them!
Friday morning the registration started bright and early at 8 a.m. The volunteers at this event are always welcoming and friendly and it’s a pleasure to see the smiling faces as you enter. Either Jamie or Barney was also usually there to say “hello” as well. The classes started at ten with five classes – a mix of line or couples classes - to choose from. It gave the line dancers the opportunity to try out some couples dancing and vice versa. It was the same again on the Saturday with classes starting at 9 and going through to 5. The classes on Sunday morning from 9-12 included the opportunity to learn from the winners of the different categories in the Choreography competition which is an interesting concept and gives us a chance to learn from up and coming talented choreographers.
In their classes, line dancers had the choice of instructors from all over the US, from Canada and as far as the UK. John Robinson as always drew a large crowd and taught a mix of dances of all levels and types of music – the easy and fun ‘Kowboy Krazy’ packed the dance floor. From Southern California, Doug & Jackie Miranda, Event Directors of the very successful Vegas Dance Explosion, are crowd pleasers and dancers were delighted to join them on the floor for the very popular ‘You Can Dance’. Jackie always looks wonderful so the clothes at their booth drew a lot of customers as we females all want to look just like Jackie! Michele Burton and Michael Barr from Northern California are also very popular with the dancers here. Michael and Michele’s ‘Soul to Soul’ written to Barry & Dari Anne’s beautiful rendition of ‘It’s Your Love’ was a crowd pleaser.
Jo and Jon Kinser flew in from the UK for the event and drew an appreciative group of dancers who longed to join the crowds on the dance floor for the very popular and funky ‘Drivin’ Me Crazy’! Meanwhile honorary Canadian, mischievous Bryan McWherter, put the more advanced dancers through their paces for his and Barry's dance ‘Toy Soldier’. Smooth dancer Dean Gambino pleased the dancers with his ‘Pins & Needles’ while talented, young, Joey Warren taught his ‘Just Walk Away’. Karen Hedges, who is the Event Director of successful dance events in Kansas, was joined by Jamie to teach their dance ‘Bomshel Stomp’. This happens to be one of my favourites at the moment – it is just pure fun! Larry & Tracey Harmon taught their popular “Just For Tonight’ - which is starting to catch on in the UK. Bev Carpenter (who you never saw without a smile on her face!) taught her dance ‘Tribute … to Jo’, while Deb Bodvin took the dancers back to the 70s with ‘Hot Doggin’’. If you wanted to learn some technique, Donna Caudill’s class was a good one to attend or you could learn her dance ‘Jezebel’. You could even learn some clogging from two young sisters, Cherylann & Colleen Ward, who are absolutely phenomenal cloggers. Probably one of the most popular dances of the weekend was ‘Bad Things’ which Barry took some time out of his busy ‘show-time’ schedule to teach to a full crowd. It was a thrill for me to instruct at the Showdown for the third year and I had a great crowd of fun loving dancers in my classes – thanks to all of you who came and made my classes such a pleasure to teach.
If you wanted a little breather there were lots of vendors to check out selling clothes, boots, dance shoes, music, jewelry and more, plus there was a wide range of items to bid on in the ‘Celebrity Silent Auction’, the proceeds of which were to go to ‘The Oprah Winfrey Angel Network Katrina Fund’ -- approximately $2800 was ultimately raised. Many dancers took a break from classes to participate in the blood drive organized in support of the much loved Jo Thompson. If you would like to find out how Jo and her family are doing, check out her husband Tim’s blog at www.jothompson.com
The evening brought dancers ready to hit the floor. The event program assured everyone that dances taught during the day would be played during the evening dance and that DJ Louie St. George would try to play as many requests as he possibly could! Every time I say it, but I continue to wonder if Louie ever sleeps!! His energy seems boundless and it’s a major job to keep on top of all the music that we dance to, let alone know the names of the dances, let alone deal with often temperamental sound systems and technology. Let alone try to please us all!! On top of which Louie was in charge of the sound system for the show. Much appreciation to Louie for his efforts over the weekend. Lively DJ Jill Babinec kept the swing couples happy in the Honeymooners Ballroom, while the Ozzie & Harriett Ballroom had DJs Tim Hand & Alice Daugherty in charge for "All Request" and "Pattern Partner" favourites.
We had a very special treat on the Saturday evening when talented Sony/Nashville recording artist Jace Everett of ‘Bad Things’ made a special appearance and sang a couple of great songs off of his upcoming self-titled album release which the crowd obviously loved judging by the response at the end of his performance and the line-up of people waiting to get his autograph afterwards. Barry announced that Jace had co-written the song ‘Your Man’ which was recorded by Josh Turner and is now #1 on the charts. I was thrilled to have Jace sign the step sheet to the dance ‘Soft & Slow’ which Fred Buckley and I wrote to the song. Many thanks for the kind words I’ve received from many dancers and instructors about this dance.
Saturday also brought with it the choreography competition which has proven to be very popular. It is a great way for up and coming choreographers to show their creations and also for instructors to find new dances that will appeal to their classes. There is usually a very nice camaraderie among competitors and this competition was no exception as competitors cheered on whoever was on the stage. There are some very talented choreographers in our line dance community whose dances often don’t get the exposure they deserve so do check out competitions as they’re an excellent way to discover the new dance hits of tomorrow. The Awards were announced later that evening and prizes given out by Jamie. In addition, the winners’ dances were added to the event videos and, as I mentioned earlier, they had the opportunity to teach them on the Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes there was a frenzy of action in the lead-up to the much anticipated ‘The Bob Soap Radio Hour’ to take place on Sunday. For those of you who have never been to the Ft. Wayne Showdown, it is the worth the trip alone for the Sunday show. It is included in your all inclusive weekend pass which is incredible value at $50. For the past two years my role has been out front taking photos but this year, a little apprehensively, I became a member of the cast! It was an eye opening experience to see how much work was involved in putting on this show. Barry & Dari Anne had started work on the show weeks before, writing the script, doing the choreography, gathering the costumes and tackling the many other tasks involved. At 5 p.m. on the Thursday, the cast (your instructors) gathered together for the first rehearsal. They had one hour to sort out positions, entries and learn three routines plus sort out their costumes. A number of the instructors had other roles they had to learn as well. Another hour was set aside on Saturday and then one hour before the show was to start on the Sunday. If you saw small groups of instructors huddled together in corners with fierce looks of concentration on their faces, you can bet your life they were trying to remember the dance steps for the routines which somehow seemed to jumble up all together! The reason for the short rehearsal period was that Barry, Dari Anne, Jamie, Barney and the instructors wanted to take as little time as possible away from the time spent hanging out and dancing with all of you dancers. After all, you folks are the people who make the event such a lot of fun.
But, I have to say, I just couldn’t believe that it would be possible to bring everything together. As the members of the cast stepped on each other’s toes, did pivot turns completely the wrong way, started the second routine right in the middle of the first --- yes your instructors do all those things! – it seemed impossible that the show could go on. To my amazement, Barry & Dari Anne seemed totally unfazed and just kept us all on track with a bit of discipline here (it’s your guess who needed it the most!) and some encouragement there!!! Sunday morning came and back stage was abuzz with activity as the cast pulled on their costumes and tackled their make-up. Whoops of laughter peeled out at some of the characters that appeared! Before our eyes, the stage was magically and efficiently transformed by volunteer stage hands from a large bare space into a radio station. We heard the murmur of voices and laughter as the audience took its place and the cast took a collective deep breath as the curtain was raised. I’ll let you be the judge of what subsequently took place, but for me the talent displayed on that stage from our line dance community was something to be very proud of. The melodic harmony of Barry & Dari Anne and their friends Jason Fitz & Sunny Garrison was a pleasure for our ears. The couples put on a splendid display of dancing and amazingly the group routines came together perfectly. Wally Wallenkowski (aka Doug Miranda!) paid us another visit, this time with his energetic orchestra and had us in fits of laughter, our hosts Bob Soap (Barry) and Elizabeth Bettlemeyer (Jennifer Jeffries) made us smile and Emily Toast (Jamie!) reminded us of our patriotic duty! I did think some of the ‘Rosies’ and the men in uniform seemed familiar but I was not that sure!! It seemed all too soon that the show was over and it was with some reluctance that both the members of the audience and the cast began to leave the auditorium.
What wonderful memories this event has left its participants with. I’d like to express appreciation to Barry, Dari Anne, Jamie, and Barney for their enormous efforts and the hard work that was involved in organizing this event. Although there was so much to do behind the scenes, they were always visible, chatting and enjoying themselves with the dancers, attending promptly to any problems that arose and having fun with us all. Many thanks also to the volunteers who helped make this an excellent event. Don’t forget to make sure that you’ve got the first week in March marked down in your diary for the Ft. Wayne Showdown 2007.
Many thanks to Gary Cooksey for taking photos of the show for me -- do check them out, he did a good job.
If the choreographer is not noted, the dance was written by the Instructor. If I’ve missed any dances do let me know – thanks!
Jamie Marshal and Karen Hedges:
No Quitter, by Audrey Watson
Sinful, by Sandi Leroux
Peepin’, by Shelli Blake
Get It While It’s Hot
Talk About It, by Joy Huggins
Doug & Jackie Miranda:
Daughters of Erin
Reaching For You
You Can Dance
Double XL, by Rick & Deborah Bates
Show Me More, by Gaye Teather
Soul to Soul, by Michael Barr & Michele Burton
Just A Matter of Time
No Bad News
Go Greased Lightin’
I’m Missing You, by Maggie Marquard
Meltdown, by Scott Blevins
Friction Addiction, by Scott Blevins
Just Walk Away
Rock It, by Leslie Moore
Pins & Needles
Clownin’ Around, by Shelli Blake & McWherter
We Be Burnin’
Toy Soldier, by Bryan & Barry Amato
Jo & Jon Kinser:
Make Me Stay
Drivin’ Me Crazy, the Amatos & Kinsers
Larry & Tracey Harmon:
Heaven In Your Eyes, by Ron Kline
Quand ’05, by MIL
Just For Tonight
Tribute …to Jo
Baby Come On
Clap Your Hands
Soft & Slow, Vivienne Scott & Fred Buckley
Be Strong, by Audrey Watson
Hung Up (On You), by Gary Lafferty