AMAZING – THE BEST YET…that’s been the message…and we cannot be more proud.
The 2017 Ft. Wayne Dance for All hosted about 750 guests at the beautiful Grand Wayne Center in historic, downtown Fort Wayne, IN. Welcome signs and large, color coded workshop schedules greeted guests as they entered the convention center from our two host hotels, The Courtyard by Marriott and the Hilton at the Grand Wayne. The huge lobby areas offered lots of sitting areas, tables and chairs with funny photo props, games, puzzles, and photo albums from the past 10 years. Vendors were ready to fill shopping needs. Registration began promptly at 6:00. Our fantastic registration staff, Julie Ellis and Tina Veliotis, started handing out packets containing the program/schedule, wristbands and name badges for pre-registered guests. Walk-in guests were very happy with the registration process and were quickly on their way. Two ballrooms were open for the Thursday night Welcoming Party: Main (line) and Harrison (couples). Let the fun begin!
The doors opened to the Main ballroom at 7:00 with demos, hosted by John Robinson. Guests were encouraged to utilize the eventMINDER website to personalize their own schedule by time, ballroom or instructor. Everyone with a smart phone should use this program. The color coded schedule allows you to quickly glance to identify line, couples or pattern partner workshops! Select which workshop you want to attend and it’s added to your own personal schedule at your fingertips. No need to carry around the paper schedule. Guests also signed up for NextLineDance.com, which was available for Friday and Saturday night dance parties. This new program allows you to access what dance is schedule from multiple (line) ballrooms, so you don’t miss your favorite dance. Guests could also make requests directly to the DJs or quickly be linked to Copperknob for a step description. The more a dance is requested, the faster it is moved up the line to be played! We highly recommend this program (very affordable and a great addition to the workshop) be added to other events! Contact Pete Zappulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Immediately after Friday’s demos, Barney and I were called to the dance floor. At that time, TerryAnn Clinton from TN presented us with the most beautiful quilt made from my dance tees and other shirts from workshops everywhere! It is simply amazing. On the back were pieces of material that had traveled across the USA and friends had written me a note. Additionally, TerryAnn quilted the shirts and notes on The Wizard of Oz material. And get this…she also embroidered the names of my choreography around the edges! It will be cherished forever! I cannot express how blessed I am with so many loving friends.
Friday morning kicked off with quick seminars of eventMINDER and NextLineDance.com. At 8:00, Jamie had a packed class for ZUMBA and NTA had started with a huge crowd. Workshops ran in 6 huge ballrooms from 9-5:00. Larry Harmon also offered a computer class in the “Boardroom” on Friday & Saturday. The 2017 Ft. Wayne Dance for All Choreography Exhibition began at noon. We were thrilled to have 76 entries in four divisions! It took just over 4 hours to complete…what an afternoon! 1st place winner received $50, a very cool, heavy, glass with light trophy, dance tote, dance fan and dance lanyard. Top 3 placements received a prize and all entries received a special Certificate of Appreciation for their support! Special recognition to Bracken Ellis for learning over 20 dances to be on the floor with so many friends. She is a beast! Congratulations to our top three dancers in each division:
1st: Candee Seger – Muddy, Muddy
2nd: Bev Carpenter – Dirty Laundry (not the Carrie Underwood song)
3rd: Jesse Roth – Get Back Together
1st: Jonno Liberman – Grab Your Skates
2nd: Backwood Kickers – Blingy Butt Jeans (You had to be there)
3rd: Jonno Liberman – Pure Gold
1st: Daniel Tobias – Shatter Like Glass
2nd: Jesse Roth – Olly’s Swing
3rd: Jonno Liberman/Patrick Fleming – Crave
1st: Indy Friends (Heather, Pete, Kristin) – Hop On, Hop Off
2nd: Patrick Fleming: Boom Boom Wham
3rd: Jesse Roth: Posin’
Patrick Fleming!! Winning $250 and Glass Trophy. (Total of top 3 scores in 4 divisions)
Saturday’s demos were scheduled for 4:00 and again, John Robinson moved things right along in getting the ballroom cleared out for The Wiz of Ft. Wayne’s show practice. Dinner break is from 5-7:30. Dancers enjoyed 4 ballrooms for nightly open dancing: Main (line music by JP Potter), ABC (couples music by April Prince), Harrison (all requests hosted by Alice Daugherty & Tim Hand) and Anthony Wayne B (pattern partner hosted by Eddie Bowles & Karen Mudge with music provided by Dan & Sheia Burk).
Saturday morning arrived too early. Again, Jamie’s Zumba class was packed while NTA was underway in the Calhoun Ballroom. John Robinson offered a special workshop on “How to Choreograph a Line Dance and Write a Step Sheet” at 9:00 to go along with the other 5 workshops that same hour. Jo Thompson-Szymanski had everyone’s attention at 2:00 with her talents on the T-Shirt Cutting & Design Workshop. We had 4 teams for guests’ entertainment at 3:00. Special thanks to K&C Kickers from Muncie, IN, Backroad Kickers from Rogers, MN, Team Mich-Behavin’ from Hartland, MI and Indy Friends (Heather, Kristin & Tracy) from Indianapolis. Upcoming artist, Brian Smoot and The Summit Band entertained guests with their high-energy, southern, funk-rock music until 4:00 demos with John again.
Staff had their final walk-in for the show. We say every year…we should probably have practices recorded and sell as bloopers! So much fun! We cannot tell you how much we laugh! As we exited the ballroom at 6:15…guests were already lined around the convention center. So refreshing seeing so many friends dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz. Doors opened shortly after 7:00 and the 16,000 square foot ballroom filled quickly. While waiting for the show to begin, JP played several favorite sing-alongs. Many dancers took the floor to do the twist…before two flying monkeys started chasing Dorothy around with several munchkins trying to help…this was NOT the show…these were guests having a great time! Junior Willis and Susan Puruleski had the Ft. Wayne cloggers ready to take the floor to entertain the crowd to a flawless routine of “Ease On Down The Road”. It’s amazing how these dancers, some who have never clogged before, can get their feet moving to hit every beat! WELL DONE CLOGGERS! The National Anthem was played and the house lights went down…SHOWTIME.
Cast members were: Dorothy – Jo Thompson-Szymansky; Scrawcrow – Aijaye Crowder (This guy is amazing!); Tin Man – John Robinson; Cowardly Lion – Nelson Clarke; Glinda – Jessica Bryant-Fields; Mayor of Munchkinland – David Royer; Wicked Witch – Sophy Miklic; The Wiz – Jason Miklic; Lollipop Guild – Derek Steele, Frank Trace, Larry Harmon; Lullaby League – Junior Willis, Brandon Zahorsky (yes in pink striped tights and a tutu) and Jill Babinec (you can imagine). Coroner – Mark Harris; Munchkins: Judy McDonald, Debi Pancoast, Lynn Card, Tina Foster, Mary Harris, Bracken Ellis, Melissa Culbertson, Bev Carpenter, Pam & Eagle Lindsey, Sue Ann Ehmann, Donna Caudill, Mary Pensel, and Machelle Cook-Holloway. Thank you to Deb & Jim Cleckler for being our “prop pros”. JP Potter was exceptional on getting the voiceovers exactly right with all the sound effects. Jo’s solo to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” brought tears to our eyes. Jason & Jo appear to really be able to see into the crystal ball. Jessica was the elegant Glinda. David, the Mayor and the Munchkins were right on cure with their “helium” sounding voices. Line dancers performed “He’s a Wizard” from The Wiz with Bracken starting the number with a fabulous solo and then the other joining in. Aijaye’s solo showcased how he can move his body as if he was a scarecrow with no bones. John’s soft voice and choreography were perfect for the part. Sophy…well who know that much “mean” could be in such a little body…we knew she would be perfect for that role! And now we have Nelson…OMG…his wig, makeup and costume was beyond our hopes and dreams. His solo of “I’m A Mean Ole Lion (The Wiz) was completed as the other couple instructors joined in…oh yes…John & Derek also partners with the couples’ instructors – GREAT JOB GUYS!… Jason as the Wiz in his 7’ green velvet cape filled each one’s needs by giving the scarecrow brains, the tinman a heart and the cowardly lion some courage. But the true message was we all feel right at home with family with we are with our dance community and the benefits of dancing. Guests expressed how they thought this was the BEST SHOW YET! We agree! Thank you again to our amazing staff. We write the show, but it is the instructors who bring it to life!
I hear that Derek’s annual Saturday night after-party was packed as he and friends cross the street to the local bar called the “Thristy Camel”. I saw a few pictures and all I can say is that we’re glad we went to bed. We’re too old for this stuff. But we are very happy that there’s so much love and friends at the Ft. Wayne Dance for All. It’s also a good thing we sell the hotel out because of the after-the-after-party gathering in the lobby!
Sunday is filled with mixed emotions. Exhausted, but so happy. Jo Thompson-Szymanski is always so willing to help out others. This year’s charity was the Equestrian Therapy Program (www.etpfram.org). All proceeds from the Sunday morning Charity Workshop and the event’s Chinese Auction (thank you to friends who donated event passes, Eryn Miller for the Spa Basket, Derek Steele for AdvoCare basket, Jo Thompson-Szymanski for the “Art by Anna” cards and other items.) Jo taught “Boom Pow!”, new choreography by her and Scott Blevins. Thank you to everyone who purchased raffle tickets, workshop ticket and made donations. This is an amazing charity and we are so happy to help!
As guests started to leave, we are always there to wish them safe travels, thank them for coming and of course those wonderful, loving hugs. Smiles and tears as guests express how much fun they had and how they will be sure to come back next year and brings some friends. A special thank you to all our volunteers for helping in every way you are asked. To our staff…what can we say except THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
DVDs are available to order for all workshops and “The Wiz of Ft. Wayne”. Please email Jamie at email@example.com if interested.
Registration forms and the hotel blocks are in place for the 2018 Ft. Wayne Dance for All! “That’s Entertainment” is scheduled for March 1-4th, 2018. Mark your calendars now and tell all your friends. Always looking forward to seeing everyone soon!
Jamie & Barney Marshall