Final stop on the West Coast Swing Marathon – Swingapalooza 2013

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This is our third year at Swingapalooza – and even though we were pretty exhausted already from our latest dance marathon, we knew that we would have a blast no matter what.

It doesn’t disappoint! 

I don’t know what it is about Swingapalooza.  It’s not held anywhere huge – it’s in Gonzales, Louisiana, just outside of Baton Rouge.  It’s not held in a fancy hotel.  It’s not a big event.  Inspite of those things, or perhaps it’s more because of those things, it has that hometown hospitality feel, where everyone is a friend and everyone is there is have some FUN! 

I’m sure that there is some drama – I think that just comes with the territory – but it never permeates the ballroom.  There is very little negativity at this event.  Everyone really cheers for one another and even though this is a competition weekend, I always feel like people want everyone to do well.  There is a real sense of comraderie at this event like no other.

Our Louisiana dance family grows all the time and I can’t thank them enough for welcoming us every year.  I am so glad that we were able to bring a couple of Swingapalooza newbies with us this year and happy to say that we introduced them to such a wonderful event!

A special thank you to Louie (1st in proam novice!) and Matthew (3rd place proam Intermediate and 5th place in our proam routine!) for helping me get Top Female Teacher this year!  AMAZING!  Truly unexpected and SO so so appreciated.  I was thrilled to get to share the top honors with the phenomenal Matt Auclair!

Also a shout out to Alan, for his first WCS competition ever!  and then coming in 3rd in the newcomer J&J!!!  GREAT JOB!  and I love the new sense of confidence in your dance!  It’s been fantastic watching you grow in your dance and I look forward to watching it continue to progress!

Thanks again to Bryan and Catrinel for another amazing Swingapalooza! 

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Dance Marathon! Next – Swing Dance America 2013

SDA 2013 groupNext in our dance marathon trifecta was Swing Dance America at the beautiful Lake Geneva Resort in Wisconsin. It had been 4 years since we last attended, with lots of fond memories. We weren’t really sure what to expect this time, but since we were traveling with Chip and Janice, and we knew we’d get to see alot of our dance friends, we were pretty excited!

After a super early flight into Chicago, we all rent a car and drive the 90 minutes to Lake Geneva. It was just cheaper for us to do this option then to fly into Milwaukee and then take the shuttle in. Plus, we knew that this was an event that we would want a car to drive to the grocery store and for some amazing Wisconsin pizza! All that delicious Wisconsin cheese!

The resort is really nice, but difficult for dancers sometimes, since it’s laid out with multiple connected buildings. Our hotel room ended being pretty much as far away from the ballroom as one could get, with lots of stairs to negotiate. With ProAm Routines, Rising Star and Masters Routines, all in the same night, back to back to back, Chip and I were really worried about how we were going to do costume changes. His is easier of course – mine involves a change into a full corset!

So Friday, we get there, and we run into one of our favorite people, Barry Jones. He has been so encouraging and a great cheerleader for us. After chatting with him a bit, he asks me to be his assistant in his two workshops over the weekend! WOW! Naturally, I had to jump on that opportunity, even though that meant missing out on a trip to the pizza place and less sleep. I didn’t care. Working with Barry is so amazing and I was so honored that he wanted me to assist him! The two workshops were so fun – and there were several people who called me the “lady that teaches with Barry” later in the weekend. Heh. So great! Thank you, Barry!

The only competition we had going on that night was our Advanced/All Star strictly swing – which Trent and I decide to go ahead and dance together. We like to do that when we are traveling, while we tend to find different partners when we dance locally to change things up. We had sizzling prelim dances, which got us a lot of compliments. SO sweet! And then we made it into finals, which we were thrilled about. After all, we are virtually unknown in that region since we had not been in such a long time. It was GREAT to be noticed. I think we ended up in 7th or 8th, which amongst that crowd, I could not really complain too much.

Saturday was a long long long long day. Floor tryouts at 7:30am with both Matthew and Chip, followed by teaching with Barry at 9am and a judging seminar that he asked me to attend as well. The workshop was fun, although since it was an advanced level workshop at 9am, we did not have very many people. I did however, get to meet Clayton, who was kind enough to let me borrow his room for my costume change as he was actually very close to the ballroom! Thanks again, Clayton!

There were 2 judging workshops, but I only attended the first. I was desperate for food! But the one I attended was a seminar on how the relative scoring system came about and how and why it works. They had some technical difficulties with the AV equipment, but I thought the seminar was really good. I have a pretty good understanding of how it works, but it was the first time I heard how it came to be and why it is the best system for judging our type of competition. We also were given handouts with everything that was talked about, as well as examples for us to really see how things work. I thought this was a valuable workshop that any competitor should check out.

Comps started early on Saturday, since there were SO many events to get through! I think proams started at noonish – with 3 levels of Ams in both Swing and Hustle. Then all the hustle strictlies and most of the swing strictly prelims (all levels other than the Adv strictly from the night before). Then 3 levels each of hustle and swing J&J. Not to mention, all the routine divisions except for showcase, which was on Friday. So Proams, Rising Star, Masters, Classic and then Teams. And finally Champions Strictly. It was a LOT to get through in one day.

I heard that there were issues, but don’t know what they were. Things seemed disorganized and every category ran late. One of the biggest issues, we felt was also the use of “blocked time” on the schedule. For instance, on Saturday with the routines, it just says 8pm: Pro-Am Solo Routines, Rising Star Routines, Master’s Routines, Hustle Routines, Open Classic Dvision. I understand that it’s hard to know how many couples you may have in any given division, but those people in the Classic division, for instance, still had to show up early since they didn’t know when they might be starting. I felt really bad for the Classic couples – at least my 2 divisions were the first two. But there were many of them already in costume standing the ballroom, waiting through 12 proam routines, 6 rising star, and 4 masters routines. Since it said that routine divisions started at 8, many of us were down there by 7:30pm, but then routines didn’t start until closer to 9. by the time the classic division was run, many of those couples had been down there for 2 hours, just standing or sitting. I felt that it made for a few lacklaster routines. Not that they were bad by any means, but you could just feel a little less energy. Not just in the competitors but in the audience as well.

I hope that this issue is resolved in the future. This was the biggest issue – otherwise, we thought the event was pretty fun and entertaining. It made me sad that we had to miss awards. We specifically booked the latest flight we could find so that we could stay for the awards as scheduled. But since they ran so late, we had to leave. We found out on our drive to the airport, that me and Chip won 1st in the Rising Star and that Trent won first in All Star JJ. It would have been nice to be there for people to see our faces and associate us with these prizes. Oh well. Maybe next time!

As I said, this is a fun event ( I even got to try out my baby hustle skills!) with tons of really good dancers and some interesting comps and seminars. But the disorganization and the lack of communication with the competitors was a sore spot for many of us.

We’ll be back, because we enjoy the event. Hopefully the issues this year were the exception.

Catching up! Chicago Classic and Novice Invitational 2013

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks, with back to back competitions.  First, Chicago Classic!

This was our first time at this event, which always makes us a little nervous because you just don’t know what to expect. This was also a particularly challenging one for me, as I was doing both my new Pro-Am routine with Matthew Boehm, as well as my Rising Star routine with Chip, back to back Friday night.  Which means, an extra early flight to get to the hotel in time for floor tryouts and not a whole lot of time for preparation.  It was GO time!

I really liked the hotel at the event, atrium style, which means that all the rooms overlook the lobby all the way down the center.  Which is particularly fun, when you open your hotel room door from 7 floors up and can still hear Kellese’s voice below.  🙂  The restaurants in the hotel had some great food too.  So even though it was hotel priced, at least we really enjoyed it!

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New Year’s Eve (Eve) in Dallas

Back at work today, but I just keep thinking about all the special moments from the weekend at Barry Jones and Johnny Siharath’s New Year’s Eve Eve workshop and party.  We just love working with them and we are so fortunate to have gotten another opportunity to do it again!

We had the pleasure and privilege of teaching our newly revamped Intro to Slow Whip workshop this weekend.  We had a great turn out and by the end of the class, we really felt like we achieved our goal: for those in the class to get a good overview of what slow whip is and the general idea of how it works so that they can try it out when a good song comes on!  We had some wonderful feedback from attendees – thank you to everyone who attended!

The rest of the weekend was a bit of blur – there were WCS workshops taught by Patty Vo, JB Brodie, and Barry Jones, as well a a SWANK! workshop by none other than Brent and Kellese Key!  There were two theme nights – the Masquerade party and the White party, both of which were a blast!

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The Challenge 2012

WHEW!!!!  WOW, what an amazing experience this weekend at The Challenge run by Barry Jones and Johnny Siharath (http://www.thechallengeswing.com/).  It’s been the first time that Trent and I have really gotten to participate in this event all the way through from the prelim events and the final challenge!  We usually just haven’t been available for one reason or another, but we are SO glad that we made it this year!

One of the things that I have always loved about competition events was that even though we were competing against one another, there was always a sense of community and comraderie amongst all the dancers.  While I still get that feeling from time to time, it often gets lost in the stress and pressures of competing.  Somehow Barry and Johnny found a way to bring that back at The Challenge!

A little background here for those of you who are not from this area: The idea of the Challenge was to bring back some of that love of community and comraderie along with a friendly rivalry and competition. Each city involved participated in a “Rocks” Challenge weekend, i.e. Houston Rocks, or Austin Rocks.  There are Jack and Jills for Novice, Intermediate and Advanced and the top 5 from each division would go on to compete at The Challenge to see which city ROCKS the most!

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Updates and Mini tour of Ohio

It’s been a whirlwind lately around here and it’s taken some time to get my thoughts together.

First, let’s start from before Thanksgiving!  *wavy lines to transport us into the past*

So first up was Houston Rocks, which is part of The Challenge Swing – http://www.thechallengeswing.com/

This is our 3rd year taking part in Barry and Johnny’s super fun Challenge.  This year, the event director was Michael Stephens and he did a great job in having a lot of versatility in the workshops and some fun contests, like the Two-Step jack and jill and a Century Swing (where the age of all the competitors in each dance couple/group has to add up to at least 100).

Houston Rocks was also a new experience for me because I was asked to MC!  Friday night was kinda crazy because I really wasn’t expecting to have to do that and I really was winging it.  I think I was getting more into the groove of things and on Saturday, I had made myself an outline and it went better.  I even got some nice compliments and some good constructive criticism.  Who knew?

Next up was our trip to Ohio for anniversary, Thanksgiving with the inlaws and of course, C.A.S.H. Bash!

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