Novice Invitational 2014 and more…

Novice Invitational was one of the first events that I ever competed at when I first started WCS.  This event holds a lot of fond memories for me, and this year was no exception.  In the last year, we’ve had the honor of working with a lot of new dancers and competitors in WCS.  It has been an absolute pleasure getting to see them grow in the dance and in their self confidence, and see them make so many improvements, in both social and competitive dancing.  Congrats to Robert, Karina, Sherri, Troy, Leah, Emma, Amy, Shane, Lani, Alan, Karen, and Mary on all your progress and successes!  A special thanks and congrats to Kevin, Louie and Roger for dancing with me in the pro-ams this year – it is an absolute privilege to get to dance with each of you and I hope you had as much fun as I did!  

It was also a time for some personal achievements, being on staff for the first time at this event and getting to work with the incomparable Debbie Figueroa.  She has been a wonderful mentor and coach in my dance journey and I cannot thank her enough for her faith in me.  Plus between her and her husband, Angel, I have achieved my next step in this journey of mine – All Stars, here I come!

And since apparently, we weren’t danced out yet, last Saturday was the ever popular WCS party hosted by David Appel.  David has been doing these parties for almost 10 years – and I am happy to report that he is doing these on the regular these days!  David always has a great mix of popular and current music, and he always works with great venues to give us a great floor and a nice comfortable setting.  Trent and I both danced hard for almost 2 hours straight and we both had some fantastic dances all evening.  I apologize to anyone that I missed over the weekend – it was time to go home and ice so I can dance some more next time!

Next up is Austin Swing Dance Championships!  We’re busy putting the finishing touches on our SSQQ Swing Team to get ready to compete our new routine for the first time!  So excited and nervous! 


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.

Dance Marathon! First – ASDC 2013

ASDC 2013 awards

Dang, I had not realized that it had been so long since I did an update.  Holy moly.  Three dance convention weekends in a row – I have no idea how long this is going to take to recover!

First up – Austin Swing Dance Championships!

This is a 2nd year event and I think this is already on the lists of “MUST” dance events! The event is well run by event directors, Rick Domalski and Angel and Debbie Figueroa, and by the Chief Judge, Mike Topel.  That was definitely one comment that I heard over and over  again throughout the weekend – how on-time everything was and well organized.  And even when there were issues, they were upfront about it and let everyone know so that we were prepared.

Again, we really like the hotel and that there is some good eats within walking distance.  The ballroom is a pretty good size (although it does get crowded from time to time – just means we got a lot of dancers!) and we really enjoyed the Texas style breakfast taco buffet at midnight!  We also like that the event directors align themselves with a charity cause every year.  This year it was with, a charity that supports victims of domestic violence.  They included a dollar dance to dance with your favorite pros ( I got Arjay this year!) and some of our Houston ladies got together and we donated 2 big boxes of clothing, shoes and accessories to the cause.  Very happy to get to support the event!

This event also includes a special Invitational Strictly Swing, where the Champions must choose an all-star partner.  We thought this really added something special to the comp – I can’t wait to be a part of it (maybe next year?!), while Trent got the opportunity to dance with the amazing Susan Kirklin.  Victor chose the music – each couple got 2 songs, including a former routine song from the Champion dancer!  Those who know their WCS history really had the advantage here – kudos to Brad Whelan and Deborah Szekely and Matt Auclair and Stevie Blakely for some of the most entertaining dancing I have seen!

I also got to do both my routines during this weekend – first pro-am with Matthew and then Rising Star with Chip.  At least they were two different days this time!  Rising Star was Friday night and included some tough competition!  I was a little nervous again, as I always am in front of my friends, but it felt great!  We won 3rd place in that division.  Saturday night was Matthew’s routine – this one is feeling better and better all the time as he continues to learn and progress in his dance.  We didn’t place this time, but we got some excellent feedback from a few of our judges.  Always appreciated!

I also want to thank Matthew, Louie and Shane for being awesome Ams and for choosing me to be your pro.  A special congrats to Shane for 2nd place with me in the proam and 1st in your SS with Emma (the supreme super star of the weekend!!!!)

The final event of the weekend was the Swing Slam (previously the Golden Ticket).  This really is a great way to keep the energy going late into Sunday afternoon.  I absolutely love this tournament style format as it keeps the audience completely engaged and involved and keeps the competitors on their toes!  The creativity that pours out of the competitors in this format is amazing.  Something about the energy from the audience being right in your face and cheering their heads off!!!  

So congrats to Rick, Angel and Debbie for another successful event!  


Some people know this – Trent and I do have day jobs.  He is a programmer and I am a research administrator at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  We teach west coast swing because we love it and we love to perform to make people smile, and maybe even inspire others to dance.  In the last few days, we’ve had the opportunity to dance to give back!

This past Saturday was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Cancer Stomp (  This is a 4th year event run by Emily Stonebrook and this is our 2nd year to be involved.  We taught an intermediate level WCS workshop and Krista Johnson taught a beginning ECS workshop, with all proceeds going to the LLS.  There was also a live band, The Gulf Coast Organ Trio (, who played a variety of different blues for us to swing dance to!  They also had a silent auction and Te’ House of Tea provided delicious snack foods.  SSQQ Dance Studio ( donated the use of the studio for this great cause!  The event appeared to be a success and we were glad to be able to contribute!

Then last night was a rare treat.  Trent and I were hired to perform at a fundraiser for the Brookwood Community in Brookshire, Texas (  The Brookwood Community is a beautiful Christian facility dedicated to the spiritual, emotional and vocational education for disabled adults. For the fundraiser, the event directors had brought in the premier boogie-woogie blues pianist, Axel Zwingenberger ( and soulful blues vocalist, Lila Ammons.  Their music just makes you want to move your feet and clap yours hands!  The directors had hired us as a surprise to the guests that were there.  Once the music got going, when the mood struck us, we just got out there and danced!  At first, I think some of the guests were confused, but soon they were just sitting back and enjoying the whole show.  It was wonderful to be a part of that and to get a chance to talk with the guests about dance and about west coast swing.  Who knows?  We might have converted a few!  

Trent was especially happy last night and he got a chance to talk blues history with Dr. Jon Tennison (, who was in attendance last night.  He is a blues and boogie woogie historian, as well as a musician and recently played in the Boogie Woogie Heritage Festival in Marshall, Texas.  Apparently, Trent’s family history has some roots in traditional Cherokee dance and Dr. John was VERY excited at the prospect of getting to find out more.  Who knew?

We also had a chance to get to check out the green house and nursery at the facility as well as the gift shop.  Many of the items in the shop are either made or packaged by the Brookwood residents and the green house and nursery are tended by the residents as well.   It just so happens that Trent and I are looking to redo some landscaping at our house and they had some beautiful plants and a birdhouse and bird bath that I really liked!  Plus, the nursery has outdoor seating for the attached cafe, which had catered the event.  The food was absolutely wonderful! Juicy beef tenderloin topped with roasted peppers on potato crisp, beef and mushroom puff pastries, bite size salad mini cups, potato and corn poppers topped with sour cream and cavier… the list goes on. So we’ll definitely be making a outing to Brookshire soon, for some good food, beautiful plants and a good cause!

We feel really lucky that we’ve been able to participate in events like these.  All because of dance!