I love to dance and I have wonderful experiences with my friends in my dance world. I don’t like it when controversy enters into something I do for recreation. Some people live to be the first to get the scoop or find out about the intrigue of some mishap. We all like a little juicy inside information but last weekend at the Tampa Bay Classic, there were several instances where things got a little dicey. It’s a shame too, because these weekend dance events are so much fun and cost a bunch of money to attend. With that in mind, I’d like to report on my weekend at the Tampa Bay swing dance competition.
I’m not exactly sure what happened with the posted schedule, but I booked my flight and hotel to arrive on Thursday which I normally do if I am scheduled to dance on Friday. When I checked in at registration, the schedule didn’t show that I danced until Saturday. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who was surprised by the schedule, but it would have saved me a day at the hotel had I known.
Additionally, I had not made final plans to transfer from the airport to the resort hotel. When I tried to book the shuttle, the website for the event informed me that registration was closed. I called Phil Dorroll, the event director, who immediately got me in touch with the right people and presto! I’ve got my shuttle reservations done. Phil went the extra mile for me, and that meant a lot. Thanks Phil!
I made the best of the day by hanging out on the beach, practicing with my partner, visiting with friends and preparing for Friday’s events.
One of the best things about the weekend was ‘The Willis Clan”. This is one amazing family! They’ve got 12 kids, all home schooled, all of them sing, dance, compose and record music and play instruments as well as play sports. Two of the boys are state wrestling champions too. They are the subject of a reality show and the producers were shooting lots of video at this event for television. The family is incredibly talented. They are such good looking kids, respectful and they actually love each other. You can see it as they talk and visit with each other between competitions. They performed for us several times, and 4 or more of them were competing in swing dance here too.
Friday night was the Showcase competitions. Showcase has lifts and ariels that are not allowed in the other competitions of the weekend. Showcase can be pretty thrilling with spectacular overhead flight and lifts. Nine couples danced and put on quite a show.
The DJ’s played great music all weekend long. April Prince, Victor Loveira, John Lindo, Ray Coker, and others. I don’t get to many events in the East and South, so it was fun to dance with different people. Loved it.
There was a Hospitality Room set up and we all filed over there for some finger food to hold us through the night. I think I danced until 1:30AM, then headed to bed early to stay rested up for Saturday night’s performances.
Saturday, my partner and I prepared for our big performance that evening. We practiced, had a light lunch, and rested.
This event is famous for it’s Beach Party and Saturday afternoon was the perfect day for it. Cool breezes from the Gulf waters, warm sunshine, seagulls, food catered on the beach, a dance floor set up on the patio and more music all afternoon. Robert Royston headed up several games that were pretty memorable. Popping the balloon on your partner was probably the most entertaining and might have needed to be Rated R for adult audiences only. What a blast!
Saturday night, my performance jitters were doing pretty good but once I’m dressed and down in the prep area, that’s when the nerves really start to get to me. I have to concentrate pretty hard to keep from worrying about all the crazy things my imagination can dream up. I watched a few of the competitors dance before Karen and I danced, but quickly turned away to keep my mental focus.
Karen and I performed the best we’d ever done our routine. I’d say it was close to flawless, which usually doesn’t happen. We’ve had minor goofs that only we know about just about every time we’ve performed. This time, we did it perfectly. We were VERY happy indeed. We were congratulated by lots of friends, but the best was when Tori Smith and later Brennar Goree gave us “High 5’s”. Very cool! The Awards weren’t until Sunday, so we had to wait over a day to find out our results and see how we placed. No matter, we were very proud of ourselves. Plus, having completed the most demanding of our dances, we could now relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend, which we did!
We enjoyed the rest of the competitions Saturday evening and at one point, heard the MC announce that all Showcase dancers should come to a meeting at 11:30 PM in a small conference room which I figured would be another hospitality gathering for the performers. In the meantime, we got together with friends and had drinks and snacks, and then danced until past 3:00 AM. GREAT night!
By Sunday morning though, all hell had broken loose regarding the scoring and possible violations of the Showcase competitions. The amount of swing dance content was being disputed with it being rumored that all but one couple ought to be disqualified! Holy Dance Shoes, Batman! That’s a huge accusation, especially because these routines had been performed at other events and had not received any such notices. Apparently, Facebook and text messages were flying around all night, and EVERYONE was talking about it. It sure made Karen and I reconsider our routine and what to expect if we are called in to a meeting on the same topic.
No matter what the derision was, it didn’t seem to filter into the ballroom because all of the folks I was dancing with were just happy to be there and dancing. Everyone was mindful of swing content as we competed, but no other incident interfered with our great social dances.
By Sunday however, all that began to change. Competitors were waiting for scoring violations or talks from the judges. There was upset with the panel of judges. Phones and text messages were flying again about ‘what is an anchor’ or ‘where is the slot in the pattern’ or ‘ what is Lead/Follow’. But….we made it through all that and danced some more.
I competed in Intermediate Jack and Jill, Masters Int/Adv Jack and Jill and Intermediate Strictly Swing. I finished 12th in the Strictly Swing and 4th in Masters Int/Adv Jack and Jill. I was pretty happy.
Next came the Willis Clan again. Every single one of us LOVE that Willis Clan, but to allow a reality TV show to ‘stage’ the kids when receiving awards, or have us all fake our applause over and over again for the camera – that just wasn’t cool. We all got pretty disgusted with the producers and camera operators. It should not have interfered with the event like it did. Even the kids were embarrassed by the number of re-takes just to make a ‘reality’ show. Give me a break!
Then perhaps the worst of the weekend was the Awards. No firm time was scheduled for the awards, but typically, they occur as soon as possible after the last competition which ended around 4:45 or 5:00PM. Those of us who remained at the event waited patiently because you don’t want to miss your name being called since you planned to be there to get your trophy. But after more than 2 hours, it was clear there was a problem. I took a break from the ballroom and there, in the registration area, a roller cart scattered with trophies and plaques, was being prepared and stacked even at this late date. That should have all been set up WAY before this! And the cart wasn’t even ready to be rolled into the ballroom. Phil and Robert Royston tried to stall which ended up pissing every body off in the ballroom because we were starving, still holding off for dinner. By 7:00, awards were still not going. There were some upset people indeed! And the producers of the reality show wanted more takes, which added to the delay. It was horrible and it was totally disorganized. We would have wished that Phil would have admitted to the screw up and excused us from the ballroom so that we could eat, then come back in 2 hours. Very poor planning.
Karen and I finished in 5th place in the Master’s Routine Division. Disappointed with the placement, but still very proud of our performance.
Sunday night, once we had all eaten finally, we returned to dance the night away and have a few drinks too. We were back in the secondary ballroom at 11:00PM and danced until well past 3:00AM. I got to dance with so many great dancers who I’d love to mention, but I’m sure I’d leave one out, and end up hurting someone’s feelings, so I won’t. All I can say is, that it was some of the best social dancing of the weekend.
Finally, Monday morning, way too early, we packed and waited for that shuttle that I had booked. It turns out that I could have booked the very same shuttle through the hotel instead of the event registration desk, for $20 instead of $26 per person per trip! That would have saved me a LOT of money since I paid for one more person too. I was not happy about that either.
Oh, and the ballroom floor was the slowest I’ve ever danced on. Humidity may have contributed, but it was slow and my shoes didn’t slide very well.
So, my score for Tampa Bay is a big letter ‘C’. Not the worst, but in this day of tight spending and getting the most for your money, Tampa didn’t do a great job. It was fun, but will not go down as one of my favorites. Sorry.