Novice Invitational 2014 – Trendlyon Veal and Marcus Smith

This year’s featured instructors at Novice Invitational was Trendlyon Veal and Marcus Smith from the DC area. They are truly 2 of the nicest, most creative dancers on the pro WCS circuit right now. Love these folks! And they are amazing dancers to boot! This was the exhibition they performed for us at the event. This is not choreographed – just 2 people really connected with each other!

Meet Me in St. Louis Dance Championships 2013


I’ve had a few days to recover from lost luggage and broken cars to finally reflect on the weekend in St. Louis.  It was our first time there and we had a great time!

I believe this was Katie Hicks and Crystal Auclair’s first time as event directors at this event, and they did a great job.  I think it really helps to have long time competitors as event directors – there are just certain little nuances that you are probably more aware of because you’ve been there so many time before.  Like having plenty of space for private lessons and for dance practice.  I thought the event was run well, and took advantage of the idancemobile app to keep dancers on top of any scheduling changes.  

I enjoyed the pro staff that was there – I even got to dance with a couple that I had never danced with before this time! I really liked that there was plenty of down time for lunch and dinner.  Granted this is a smaller event with fewer comps, but I thought it was scheduled well.  The hotel was very nice and the hotel restaurant had good food that wasn’t too crazy expensive.  I do wish that there were more food options outside of the hotel within walking distance, but that is a minor complaint.  Being close the airport with a free shuttle is a big plus as well!

This is definitely an event that we will plan to return to in the future.  Great job, Katie and Crystal! 

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!  

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 (  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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Back to class!

Trent and I had taken a couple of months off from our Advanced techniques class at SSQQ Dance because of travel and to take a little breather.  We missed the first week of the December classes because we were traveling back from Ohio, but we were back last night!

Even though we felt a little rusty (for some reason, I just could NOT count correctly last night), we had a great time and we hope the students did too.  It was wonderful to be welcomed back into class last night by our continuing students as well as a couple of new ones. 

Shoutout to Trent for working so hard to make improvements and we want to thank all our instructors for working just as hard in supporting us and believing in our WCS program.  You guys are what makes this work! 

See you on the dance floor!

Novice Invitational 2012 – Playlist

Since I did get to sit in for a bit, I thought I’d share my playlist…

Artist Title Length Album
Anthony Hamilton Woo 3:15 Back To Love (Deluxe Version)
Jamie Cullum Don’t Stop The Music 4:48 The Pursuit
Charlie Wilson Never Got Enough 4:12 Just Charlie
mark morisson Return of the Mack 3:33 R’n’b Story 3
Al Green Love And Happiness 5:03 Greatest Hits [Expanded Version]
Marc Cohn Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (Bonus Track) 3:08 Listening Booth: 1970
The Kidd Rizz Who’s Your Daddy? 3:38 Who’s Your Daddy? – EP
Will.I.Am Swing By My Way feat. John Legend 3:49 Must B 21
Hil St. Soul Until You Come Back to Me 3:54 Soul Organic
Big Head Todd & the Monsters Beast Of Burden (feat. Macy Gray) 3:42 Rocksteady
Chrisette Michele Be Ok 3:43 I Am
Ernie Halter Black Coffee In Bed 3:26 Franklin & Vermont
Marc Cohn After Midnight 2:50 Listening Booth: 1970
Beth Scalet California Dreamin’ 2:43 Roadwork

Dancing in the Caribbean

So we decided to go on vacation – and took a 7 day western caribbean cruise with Michelle’s parents.  I have to say, I had a very good time.  Lots of food (waaaaaaaaaaaay to much food)! Lots of drinks!  And probably the biggest surprise – we danced every night!

We knew that there would be live bands and we could probably find a place to dance while on the ship.  We just had no idea how much dancing we would be able to do and all the people we would meet because of it!

During the first full night at sea, there was a welcoming party on the main promenade.  It was formal night so we were all dressed up and there was a pop/R&B cover band playing.  When we realized that they were playing some excellent dance  music, we found an empty spot of floor and started dancing!  I think we danced a couple of songs and then headed off to dinner.

That night after dinner, we decided to find that same band so that we could get in some more dancing to work off all the food we had eaten so far.  While we were there, we saw another couple dancing to west coast swing.  We were so surprised to find another couple that knew our dance, we had to go chat with them.  I think they were from Colorado and they were there with a big group of dancers, who we kept running into all week.  Many of the dancers were older, but we loved that they were all out there, doing waltz, foxtrot, two step, swing, just out there getting their groove on!

Throughout the week, people kept stopping us on the boat to tell us how much they enjoy watching us dance and if we knew where they could take lessons from their part of the country.  We met couples from all over and by the end of the week, we were joking that we had groupies!  They would start asking us when and where we would be dancing each night so that they could come join us to dance and to watch.

I can definitely see the appeal of cruises and especially of going on a dance cruise!  I think we’ll definitely be looking into a dance cruise in the future.  Any recommendations?

Novice Invitational 2012

Decompressing from the weekend.  Always a fun event where we get to see so many of our wonderful new friends and tons of social dancing!  We had a great time catching with new friends from Dallas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.  The best thing about these events is getting to meet so many incredible people and having those zen moments, both on and off the floor.

This event is completely geared towards the novice and intermediate level competitive dancers, which makes it a great venue for those starting out in competition.  This year’s featured workshop instructors were Shawn and Kristen Moody and Matt and Crystal Auclair.  They are some of the best dancers in the nation and fantastic instructors.

This is the last year that the event will be held at the Hilton Clear Lake.  The hotel has made some nice upgrades to their facilities and in general, we like the hotel.  But it does deter some folks from heading down because it does add quite a bit of drive for those coming in from out of town.   It’s a far drive for most of us who live in Houston as well.  Next year, the event will be held at a new venue, the new Westin at Memorial City Mall, which we think will be an amazing location.  Easy access, in town and lots of places nearby for shopping and eating.  Can’t wait!

I had the privilege of getting to compete with my two Ams, Matthew and Louie, again.  They are really great dance partners and always a pleasure to dance with, socially or in competition.  Trent and I also got to compete in the Advanced JJ this year.  He drew Enola from Oklahoma, one of the nicest and funniest people we’ve met!  Since we had more guys than ladies, I ended up having to dance twice, with Henry from Louisiana and CJ from Dallas, both incredibly smooth dancers.  I’ve drawn Henry before and it is always a pleasure.  I haven’t danced with CJ in awhile – our paths just hadn’t crossed lately, but we also had an amazing dance and to our surprise, a 3rd place finish, amongst some of our toughest peers!  It was definitely a nice surprise to end the weekend with.