I  t's always an adventure to head out to a different workshop so it was with eagerness that my line dancing friends and I headed off to Newmarket on May 14.   Although I’d heard about this event, it had always been pretty low key and virtually word-of-mouth with very little publicity so I was honoured when I was asked to teach and curious to find out exactly what it was all about!

Checking our destination, I found out that Newmarket is 45 minutes north of downtown Toronto, an hour away from Pearson International Airport, 20 minutes north of Canada’s Wonderland and 15 minutes south of Cookstown Outlet Mall.    When we arrived  we found a small town surrounded by farm land with a quaint lively high street, some beautiful older homes and very attractive sub-divisions.  There seemed to be something for everyone!

But, of course, what we wanted most of all was some good line dancing!  And that we found in spades!!!  We entered the Seniors’ Meeting Place to find over 160 dancers ready for action.  What a terrific turnout!  We learnt that the event was initiated by the staff and volunteers of the Meeting Place who wanted to do some fund-raising.  The resident Line Dance Instructors – Jill Baker, Dianne Bishop, Terry Gaston and Debby Wilcox  - then took on the task of organizing a workshop to do just that.  Five years ago 60 dancers turned out and the numbers have risen ever since. 

The dance was held in a huge space that is usually divided into smaller rooms but every inch of the hall was needed for the numbers attending.  There was an excellent wooden floor and the sound system, ably managed by DJ Lynn Warden, was very good.   Lots of parking was also available.

It was interesting to read the bios of the instructors.   We learnt that Jill and Debby have been line dancing for over 15 years.    It seems that something peculiar happened in the middle of a street which resulted in the two forming a line dance instructor/choreography partnership ... I guess stranger things have happened at sea, or at least that’s what they tell me!!!   It was indeed a lucky happening for line dancers!  As well as teaching regular classes at both the Seniors’ Meeting Place and the Ballantrae Golf & Country Club, this talented duo also organize an annual trip down to Myrtle Beach for the dancers.

Dedicated Dianne Bishop also teaches at the Meeting Place and the Golf club and helps to organize the Myrtle Beach trip.  A busy Lady, in addition, Dianne teaches classes at the Danube Seniors’ Leisure Centre in Bradford and for the Town of Innisfil and writes dances with Gloria Kirchner. Who has four children, twelve grandchildren and one spoilt cat?  Terry Gaston!  She is also a resident instructor at the Meeting Place and also teaches at the Lions Hall in Pottageville.  A warm and friendly personality, Terry has taught all levels of dancers for many years with enthusiasm and dedication.   

A new face to me was Lois Bradshaw.  Lois became interested in Traditional Line Dancing with Seniors when she retired from her work as an elementary school teacher.  She has taught at the L’Amoreaux Community Centre for 13 years, teaching five classes a week with 60-80 dancers in each class.  There was a large contingent of her dancers, the ‘Fun Liners’, at the event looking very smart in their red, white and black outfits.  What an enthusiastic and energetic instructor she is and  we non-traditionalists soon expanded our dance terminology with basketball turns and satin sheets!  You’ll just have to ask Lois about those!

Instructor Fred Buckley came up from Toronto for the workshop.  Fred and I organize the ‘Let The Good Times Roll ...’, a workshop held in Toronto in October.   It is an honour to work with Fred as well as so much fun!  Fred’s classes in the city are always well attended and he has a loyal following.  Besides the fact that he is a terrific DJ, a talented choreographer and an excellent teacher, his enthusiasm for line dancing communicates itself to the dancers.  In addition, his sense of fun ensures that his students always leave his classes with a smile on their faces!  This pattern repeated itself here, with lots of laughter as Fred taught!

So what did the instructors  do before the internet to find out what was happening in the line dance world?     They were grateful that Bunny and Bruce Burton were involved in setting up the Line Dance Teachers of Ontario Association as a vehicle for communication and it is still going strong with over 125 members.  Bunny and Bruce have been teaching for 17 years and organized the first Line Dance Workshop in Ontario with Line Dance teacher Dianne Horner.  You might remember Dianne from the first line dance videos in which she taught many of the very early dances.  So we’re talking line dance history here!!   Also choreographers, Bunny and Bruce’s dance ‘Jitterbuggin” was used as a dance for world’s competition.    The Newmarket dancers were delighted to learn more of their creations.

Many of your reading this will have attended ‘Dancing for Miracles’, the very successful fund raiser for The Canadian Cancer Society.  Valarie Keller is the hard working and dedicated Event Director of the Wasaga Beach Workshop.   She is a tireless supporter of our line dancing community and drives many miles to attend and teach at dances and workshops all over the Province.  At the same time she teaches three classes a week at her home town of Niagara Falls.   Val reckons she will take as long as is needed to ensure that every dancer can get the steps and that attitude was much appreciated by the Newmarket dancers.      

A former student of Jill and Deb’s, Gloria spread her wings to start teaching in Newmarket and to branch out into writing dances with Dianne.  She wrote about the thrill she feels when she sees her dances on the floor.   It was a treat for the workshop dancers to learn some of Gloria’s new choreography.   Multi talented Wayne Kralik has been teaching line tap and clogging as well as line dancing, on a full-time basis for the City of Toronto for five years.  Before this, he taught on a part-time basis for 8 years so he is a very experienced instructor.  The dancers quickly took a liking to this tall, lanky instructor with a quiet charm about him.  Wayne also choreographs and taught three of his original creations including an hilarious circle dance!

Of course, there can be no music without a DJ, and Lynn Warden is one of most well-liked. Aside from her competence with the equipment and vast knowledge of music, Lynn always has a smile on her face and nothing seems to ruffle her feathers!  Yet, I learnt that she became a DJ by default when the DJ didn’t come to the class she was attending and she was the only who could work out which buttons to push and at the same time she could count in the dances!!  That was a lucky day for us all!

So these were the cast of characters I was honoured to be a member of, who were the event instructors.   They kept the floor full and the dancers smiling and happy.  What more could you want?!  The dancers were lively and fun as well and were very patient with me when I taught 'Clap Your Hands' and 'One Bad Day (then I'll be OK)'.

I should add that the staff and volunteers of the Meeting Place prepared a lunch that was included in the workshop price of $15 and we enjoyed it sitting on the patio in the sun giving our feet a little bit of a rest! 

Most definitely an excellent workshop.  It was low key with a non-intimidating, encouraging atmosphere; well organized and friendly.  Many thanks to the Organizers for the hard work that went into the event.  It was clear to see that their efforts were much appreciated by all the dancers in attendance.  Don’t forget to make sure you leave a space in your calendar for next year’s workshop!

Dances taught:

All I Ask Of You, by Lois Bradshaw
All Messed Up, by Fred Buckley
Bossa Nova, by Bunny & Bruce Burton
By The Time I Get To Phoenix, by Bunny & Bruce Burton
Clap Your Hands, by Vivienne Scott
Complicated Love, by Wayne Kralik
Feel Like A Fool by Sue Wilkinson
Fugitive by Bunny Burton
Garden Party by Carole Daugherty
I Wanna Dance, June Shuman
J.T. Jacks, by Jill Baker
Jubilation by Connie Smith
Listen, by Dianne Bishop & Gloria Kirchner
Love Me Love, by Jill Baker & Debby Wilcox
One Bad Day (then I’ll be OK!), by Vivienne Scott
Pretty Woman, by Sybil & Don Carmichael
Someday, by Gloria Kirchner & Dianne Bishop
Something Easy by Bill Bader
Trust Me a Little, by Gitte Kristoffersen
Turkey in the Straw, by Wayne Kralik
Why Me?, by Wayne Kralik
At the Annual Newmarket Seniors’ Meeting Place Line Dance Workshop
In aid of the York Region Alzheimer’s Association -- May 05
It's always a good sign when the Organizers are smiling as well as the dancers!