Welcome to my life on the ballroom D - list

Sunday, October 30, 2011

An OZ Halloween

This weekend the Studio celebrated Halloween with it's annual costume ball. We certainly made improvements over last year, with a record number of people attending in costume. Here we can be seen in our Halloween best, as The Scarecrow and the lion.
Chimi made such a great Lion!

 I think the success of this weekend's party was the shot in the arm that the studio desperately needed.

Life is worth celebrating!
"let's do it with dancing!"

I think our goal for this Halloween weekend, was to restore some excitement to the studio. We've been planning it for weeks, to create something for people to be excited about. My dear friend, and former professional dance partner, Shaelyn Jae, was coming into town this weekend. Together we planned with  Chimi to make this Halloween Weekend incredible. We decided to do a Wizard of Oz theme this year
Shea came into town on Thursday evening, and we started decorating the studio at 6pm, and the effort continued until 7am the next morning. I don't think the studio has ever looked this spooky and elegant in recent memory.

 We really tried to pull out all the stops

Togther we held a terrific party this weekend with over 11 professional dancers attending, and over 85 dancers participating in the event. The studio felt like is had awoken from a dreary slumber and was once more filled with life again!

Probably my biggest highlight of the weekend was our surprise visit by Terry Chasteen, who dropped by at the party for a demo of Michael Jackson's Thriller routine
:Dance Factory Halloween Ball Thriller demo

Talk about role model's with postive energy. Nearly everyone involved with this weekend's party put in volunteer hours to make it possible. In total, we accumulated 60 hours of volunteer work between 11 professional dance instructors to pull this weekend's party off.

 Here are a few more photos of our fantasic Halloween weekend:)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Pennsylvania Ballroom Scrimmage 2011

The Dance Factory just returned from the 5th Annual Pennsylvania Ballroom Scrimmage, held in the Lancaster Marriott and Convention Center. The studio took a record number of participants this year, with over 30 people making the journey from the Washington area to Lancaster.

For Roxi and I, this was our third year in attending this event, which has proven to evolve each year into a new experience. It's never been the same event twice. Traditionally this event has been small, and newcomer friendly. We've always enjoyed the hospitality of the event staff. Each year this event continues to out perform the competitions held in the local DC area in terms of hospitality.  This competition offers a non-threatening environment, where dancers can focus on having fun. There's no fear here of being run over by an aggressive competitor.
The good news to report is that our students danced splendidly. Most of the events were uncontested, but the venue was a wonderful opportunity to gain experience on the competition floor. Those attending the event included:

Mike Baris
Roxi Holloway
Dmitri Dolgolpolov
Jean Fulton
Suzi Smith
Joyce Wren
Kasia DeBuc
Sally & John
Lorena Montrenec
Morgan Montrenec
Danielle Roeber
Lauree Dockery
Alice Williams
Carol Caruso
Azhar Manipady
Julie Manipady
Amy Leahman
Lola Black
Sophia De'Angelo
Miguel Ramos
Simone Donee

With Special guest appearances by Anne-Marie Lund, Michael Simms, and the World Famous Terry Chasteen.

The weeks leading up to the event were definitely a frenzy of activity at the studio. This is definitely what we call a "team event" and organizing such a large group to travel this year was no easy task. For many of our dancers, this would be their first time ever on the competitive dance floor. The weeks and days leading up to the event consisted of several last minute trips to the beauty supply store and of course, several hours of emergency dress shopping.

Even though Danceposrt is in itself, a hobby to focus on one's personal progress, the really fun thing about the Dance Factory is that we assemble  in mass to get things done as a team. This year we really had everyone working together. Although the term "Scrimmage" lacks the suggestion of glamour, it does make one think about team sports, and that's exactly what we were this weekend, a "team".

The gang all arrived on Saturday evening, after a scenic drive through the country side on a beautiful autumn day. I'm always amused by Roxi's reaction to the autumn leaves and the farmland. She's such a city girl. Roxi was sad this year during our commute to PA. We left Chimmi with a sitter back in DC, after reading in reviews that the Lancaster Marriott is not exactly pet friendly.

After our arrival on  Saturday afternoon, Roxi set right to work at the hair and make-up station. Leave it to Roxi to make friends with the English bellman at the reception desk, who catered to her every need. The room looked like a scene from Monty Python's flying circus, She was tasked with over a dozen heads of hair to style this year, which required her to begin styling on the eve of the competition, followed by a 3:30 AM wake up call the next morning, to recommence with eyelash application and face painting.

While Roxi went to work with hair styling in our upstairs room, I watched with amusement as our entire studio struggled with the operation of the hotel elevator, which restricted the permissions of travel between floors. It's funny, but ease of travel within the hotel walls is something I shall no longer take for granted. Following several comical scenes in the elevator, including an encounter with a furry stow-a-away of a different hotel guest, I journeyed down to the Vine Street Lounge with what I thought was enough entertainment for one evening. I was sadly mistaken. On my way down to the event welcome party, I discovered that one of Terry's students had slipped and fallen down the Marriott's luxurious staircase. While Terry called for an ambulance I  went down to check in at the party all alone. The room was nearly empty, and I was able to quietly check in at the event's welcome desk. Checking in at the events' welcome desk went very smoothly, until I discovered that I had forgotten the music for my showcase number with Amy Leahman. I had checked and double checked to have all my essential items on my packing list, only to discover that her CD was missing from it's case when I arrived at the hotel. No music would mean no show,and Amy and I had been rehearsing the number for weeks. I asked the Registrar, Leraunt Van Loon, for assistance, and also to keep the matter private. I then sent a message to Kirill back at the studio, and asked him to wire us a back up copy.

Leraunt went out of his way to  help me with this dilemma, and offered to copy me a back up of Amy's Song. Forgetting a student's music is an unforgivable mistake. Amy and I had selected a song from the  Little Shop of Horror's Soundtrack.

It was a hard to find mambo number that wasn't available on Itunes. I was hoping that the back up music would be made available before morning. I knew that with Kirill I would be in safe hands.

Once we settled in at the welcome party, our arrival at the PA Scrimmage became a bit more sobering. There were very few men at the welcome party for this event. Most of the visiting gentleman professionals declined to participate. There were a few there, but not many working the floor. Miguel Ramos stepped in to work the floor, he's one of Dance Factory's leading Amateur competitors. The party lacked energy, and several students left unhappy. I was unaware of a few exchanges with the event staff  that offended some of our most easy going students. I was shocked to discover the welcome party as an unpleasant experience, especially as this was a ticketed event with paid admission. We appreciate the feedback from everyone who attended the welcome party this year. The event organizers will use it in a positive way, and pledge to make it more exciting for next year. Our first night in Pennsylvania was a thud, but the Dance Factory gang quickly turned things around with  cocktails to end the evening in the hotel's upstairs lounge. I turned in early for bed, or at least I tried to. Roxi was still burning the midnight oil with hairstyling and costume repairs that the girls needed done before morning. We also stayed up late making sure that Terry had returned safely from the ER with his student. It was a miracle that she returned without any broken bones. It was a frightening distance that she fell.

Shortly after 1am, Dmitri and Gabby returned to our hotel room. Dmitri had been celebrating his birthday with those who were wise enough to leave the welcome party early. I chose not to join the crowd in the upstairs lounge, but Dmitri ended the evening surrounded by students and friends who were visiting Lancaster for the event. My student, Amy Leahman, was present there with him when Leraunt joined their table. Dmitri and Gabby overheard Leraunt when he addressed publicly that I was missing my showcase music. Oh well, so much for keeping s secret...The matter I had asked to remain private was made known to everyone at the bar, which traveled to my hotel room just moments later.

Perhaps it was not a big problem, but it was a series of little problems that occurred throughout the evening, that lead Roxi and I to make an emergency visit to the hotel lobby and lounge in our night clothes and slippers, all in the name of damage control and keeping the troops happy. People always get nervous before major dance events, but in the end there's always fun to be had and memories to be made. Altogether, I think our Saturday evening in Lancaster was a memorable experience. One that left us with only two hours sleep before the start of this major ballroom event, with just a few logistical problems that will remain off the record.


Despite a rocky start. The Scrimmage really was a perfect comp this year. The event itself ran very well. Even though there weren't a great deal of competitors, the event was a huge success. There was an impressive sized dance floor, which was divided into two sides this year. For several of our students, this was their first ever event, and for others, their first time dancing in open categories and championship rounds. Our newcomer dancers included Kasia DeBuc, Lola Black, Lauree Dockery, and first time Bronze student Carol Carsuso. Everyone looked and danced their very best. Lauree Dockery made it our on the floor for her first ever competition in less than 6 lessons. Lola made her debut in the smooth division in a beautiful custom Peacock feather dress, For Carol Caruso, it was her first ever event and she danced in 8 fresstyles. It was a weekend of many "firsts" and exciting results. For Alice and Sophia, it was their first time dancing in Silver.  Roxi and I had 5 students place in the championship rounds, including Danielle Roeber, Sophia De'Angelo, Simone Donee, Alice Williams and Miguel Ramos. In the Silver division, the gang had a great time watching Dmitri dance with Jean.
Roxi also danced with Azhar Manipady, who we all agreed was most improved since last year's event. Anne-Marie Lund was on hand for some surprise photographs. We're still waiting for the dance results to be posted, and for a link to be share for official photos by the PA Scrimmage official event photographer. We'll share the news as it comes in.

Alhtough this event posed several challenges to us in terms of hotel arrangements and planning, the actual Sunday event went so smoothly that it more than made up for any bumps in the road. We had a lively crowd and cheering section,  and friends  from the studio to support us in the audience, along with very friendly deck captains. JTmade a special appearance as deck captain this weekend.

The highlight of my day on Sunday was being greeted by Julie Manipady, who with the help of Kirill, saved the day with Amy Leahman's music. Amy and I danced the last solo entry of the event, and it went wonderfully. Normally I'm not a big fan of dancing showcase, but Amy really knew how to make it fun. Joyce Wren had Amy's showcase number taped for her. It was a special gift to top off a nearly perfect day. Nearly everyone was happy that they attended this year's  event. After dancing, the gang all went to change into evening clothes for the event's dinner and awards session.

This year's Scrimmage was concluded with a dinner dance with live music and an awards presentation. On hand for this awards ceremony, was Sally Skislek, the Dance Factory Office Manager. For the last fifteen years, Sally has worked at the Dance Factory, and has never been on hand to watch a dance event. This year's Scrimmage was Sally's first (ever) event. She attended with her husband, John. It was a very special evening for her. The Pennsylvania Ballroom Scrimmage presented Sally with a special award in her honor, for all her dedication and commitment to the Dance Community. Barbra Synder, the owner of the Pennsylvania Ballroom Scrimmage, made this special award  to Sally possible. We're very thankful to Barbra.

Here we see the gang posing with the Awards Trophy for Top Studio! We know that for some Dance Factory students, this event was the first of many to come.In a bittersweet way, for others this event served as their last in a career of many successful competitions. We're very thankful to everyone who helped make this possible.

The trophy an awards ceremony were naturally the highlight of dinner conversation, but other topics included the debate on amateur vs. professional status of dancers at this event.During dinner it was debated whether the registrar for this event danced in professional status during last year's competition, only to be seen this year dancing as an amateur at Captial Dancesport. To clarify, I called the event organizer, who informed me that he danced as an amateur competitor last year.  In general, these situations become hot button issues. Those who dance as true amateurs (who do not teach) seek forums and events that focus on fairness. I don't know the specifics of this particular situation, but it in general, this is a subject of frequent debate at the Dance Factory. Both amateurs and professionals have strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Without doubt though, students notice these situations. Luckily the subject quickly changed to dancing and the band.

During dinner I had a great time hearing all the stories about the weekend. So many fun things happened both on and off the floor! We received a  flurry of ideas for adventures to come next. We ended our weekend in Pennsylvania on a high note. Sally has the Top Studio Trophy on display at the Dance Factory front desk.

The 5th Annual Pennsylvania Ballroom Scrimmage

Friday, October 14, 2011


NEW ON MONDAY NIGHTS!Beginer Ballroom Class from 8-9pm

Variety Class:
Dance and Learn Party from 9-10pm
Classes Start Monday October 24th at the Dance Factory.

4 Week course FEE: $69/per person

Call the Dance Factory for more details:
(703) 528 - 9770