This year, Parker and Earl started a brand new swing dance event in Las Vegas called Sin City Swing. I was a bit cautious of a first time event. They usually aren’t sanctioned yet so the contests winners don’t get you any World Swing Dance Counsel points. That means you’re going to spend a lot of money to attend an event with no possibility of getting any points. However, some of the other first time events that I’ve been to turn out to be a lot of fun because the event directors go overboard in their attempts to reward dancers by giving them more than their money’s worth in freebies, cool prizes and trophies and by attracting and hiring good people. Earl and Parker already have what I consider the best event on the circuit (SwingDiego), so I figured they were going to put on a great event in Vegas, and they did.
The event was held at one of the outlying casinos named Green Valley Ranch. It is a perfect location, away from the super expensive Strip. It has lots of shops, restaurants, casino and clubs along with a fabulous pool, deck and spa. Loved the hotel!
Whenever you change anything, it’s going to take people time to adjust and get comfortable with the new format. Earl and Parker tried several new ideas here – some worked, some didn’t. What they are best at is correcting what isn’t working. They did that after the first night.
What didn’t work so well: They had tried to have the first night’s competition in the ‘round’ with the judges and audience seated all around the ballroom floor. That didn’t really work. With Jordan Emcee-ing for the first time, he faced towards the rear entrance to the ballroom most of the time and didn’t address those sitting behind him. Most of the dancers lined up in that same general direction. Those that tried to turn the slot sideways during the preliminaries were encouraged to turn the slot to match the other dancers. It was confusing to say the least. Even the pro’s had a tough time deciding on which side to perform to. It’s funny how us dancers consider ourselves to be creative and open for pushing the edge of the envelope, yet often find ourselves not wanting to depart the familiar or the customary. We could have danced to any side of the floor, but we had to know which direction was front.
By Saturday night, that problem was fixed. The video camera was placed in the middle of the right side of the room which finally established a ‘front’. Once that was set, dancers felt free to dance around to the judges who were still placed around the room on various sides of the floor. Sunday, once people understood their new freedom, dancers took advantage of the circular arena and changed the slot more often. Benji and Deborah, of course, took advantage of that the most by doing West Coast Swing in a 2-Step racetrack circle, eventually performing for each side of the room. It was awesome to watch.
What did work well: Sometime’s, theme parties don’t go over big but Earl and Parker had themes for Friday night and Saturday night that are sure to catch on and grow each year. Friday night was ‘White’ night. White pants, white shirts or blouses….whatever – just wear white. It worked. Saturday night was The Rat Pack…just think Agent 007, or Frank Sinatra….and it worked too! Tuxedo’s, black coat and tie…and the ladies….Oh my goodness! Short, tight fitting dresses. Bare shoulders and Legs, legs and more LEGS! And that’s how we all danced those nights! The Pro’s too! In dresses and skirts! HOT indeed! Melissa Rutz needs to have those legs cast in gold! Goodness she’s got some LEGS!
The next thing that made Sin City special and different, was that there were no competitions planned for the afternoons. Both Friday and Saturday mornings, there were workshops if you wanted to go, but a lot of folks preferred to hang out poolside, soaking up the rays and strolling over to the pool party with most of the dancers. At 3:00 PM, two cabanas rented for all of us to hang out at. That made for a wonderful time to visit, as well as some great photo ops. Dancers have great bodies and those bodies certainly got some good camera time. Check out pictures posted by Brad and Liza. ( what an amazing job those two have done, capturing so many wonderful people in both image and written word).
Thankfully, there were no dancers meetings either. At this point in dance history, any event that still requires dancers meetings has them for only one reason – it’s a chance for the event directors or head judges to get their ego’s stroked. There is no other reason to force dancers attend these horrible meetings. For those that may want to attend and learn what is expected, fine – go. For everyone else, it’s a pain in the ass and a waste of time. Even after going to all the required dancers meetings, people still miss their call during the prelims, semi’s and finals. So what do the directors and judges do? They scratch the dancer and call another if required. Big deal. The dancer’s meeting is pointless. Thankfully, this event didn’t have them either and everything worked perfectly. Vivian has really done a fine job establishing how important it is to have a person who can organize the dancers waiting to dance. She is the Master.
Saturday, the super-sexy, hot as the Las Vegas sunshine – Jessica Cox -put on a Stripper Workshop for ladies only. They were told to bring a man’s dress shirt and some panties….or whatever. From what I hear, it was very well attended. Patty took the hour long workshop and came back with some very tired legs from doing dips and swivels. Those that wanted to, could perform their stripper routine later that night. It was as sexy as you can imagine! Earl kind of crashed the show by getting up in front of the ladies, next to Jessica and mimicked his own strip show, but I thought it took away from the ladies who were brave enough to get out there and to sexify the dance floor. It was all good fun and Earl deserves much of the credit for creating the atmosphere of…..Hey!…this is a party, lets goof around!
The best workshop for me was an ad hoc forum on Men’s Styling that turned out to be one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended. Instead of teaching men’s dance lines, posture and style, a group of today’s best male dancers (Benji, Parker, Kyle, Arjay, Ben, Michael, Brent, Damon) gave an informal panel discussion. Benji led the discussion and each dancer, in turn, gave a reply. Some of the questions were about how you dance with various dancers, how you adjust or adapt, how you lead, how you prepare and practice and many other tips that all of us wondered what the pro’s do versus what we do. Questions were taken from the audience too. One of the best discussions was on the topic of doing a choreographed routine. Every dancer on the panel does routines and our discussion focused on what you gain from that as well as the instruction you receive during the training process. This was a wonderful chance to get to pick the brains of the very best of the WCS dances today and as Benji said, perhaps the best WCS dancers in the history of the dance. True.
Now for the bonus of the weekend. Just about all of my favorite pro dancers were there but due to the light attendance of this first time event, there weren’t a lot of regular rank-and-file dancers like me there. That meant that you didn’t have to wait in line to dance with your favorite pro, or fight to get to them. Instead, they were very available and willing to dance with everyone there in order to help make it a special time for everyone there. And it was very special. Some gals I hadn’t danced with in a long time were hanging out just waiting! Get this….Tatiana even asked ME to dance!! She is usually swarmed by all the guys trying to get a dance with her. But she caught me during a rare moment sitting down, trying to cool off. We had a fabulous dance and man, oh man, what an incredible feeling it is to dance with top level dancers. The feel, the timing, the quickness, the ease and the smiles. Let me tell you, that might be the highlight of the year for me!
But then, right after that, I danced with Tessa, who I’ve had a hard time getting to, and had another one of those ‘LIFETIME’ dances with her. We had a great connection right off the bat, and she threw me all I could handle in that dance – leaning, dipping, syncopating, bopping to the music – everything. We were laughing and challenging each other with all that we had. She even said to me as we walked off the floor, ‘ THAT was a FUN dance’! And it was! We had a blast, laughing and cutting up…just plain fun! Tatiana and Tessa…bang, bang….just like that. Okay, I think I can die a pretty happy man now.
On top of that, I got to dance with lots of dancers I hadn’t danced with before and some that I hadn’t danced with in a long time. And because the floor wasn’t crowded and we had time to really work on our dances instead of scope out your next target, it made for some fabulous dances. I often walked off the floor thanking my partner for such a memorable dance – and they were GREAT dances!
Patty and I had lots of time to do what a person should do in Vegas – hit the casinos. We did contribute our share of cash to the casinos, but we also had great dinners, fun time at ‘LOVE’ , the Cirquede Soliel Beatles show, hitting the Vegas strip and people watching everywhere.
I loved this new event. Parker, Earl and crew do a wonderful job at being event directors as well as great party hosts. They’ve hired the right people as well the best dancers and judges and as a result, they’re introducing a whole new event that is going to be huge next year due to all the good press they will receive.
When cool people throw a party, cool things happen. Earl and Parker keep making that happen. Welcoming, happy and handsome, they know how to party!
To wrap it up, my very favorite thing about the event was the free afternoons where we weren’t trapped in the ballroom. We had a great time in the pool and at the cabanas, had time to rest, eat and shower up for the evening and then be all spooled up to dance the night away with competitions and social dancing. I went until almost 3:00 AM (that’s 5:00AM Houston time) the first night, and almost made it to 5:00 AM Vegas time on Saturday.
I’ve already made plans to attend next year. Sin City Swing is a HOT ticket!
Liza May’s Facebook Photo Album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.101510388690
Her Blog: http://lizamayliza.com/2012/07/
Brad Whelan: http://www.bradfordwhelan.com/