The bright lights beckon from Vegas but dancers were also lured by Doug & Jackie’s Vegas Dance Explosion! What a winning combination. This was the 8th year for the event and it has grown each year. Over 750 dancers attended this November and Doug had to announce that registrations could not be taken at the door as he did not want to take the chance of over-crowding the dance floors.
The Explosion is held in the Convention Centre of the Riviera Hotel right on the Strip. Classes and dances were held in four large rooms. The largest ballroom has a huge dance floor with bleacher seating all around for the shows and dance previews. Louie St. George was at the helm of the controls for this ballroom. Across the corridor was a second large room with a good sized dance floor which was used for classes and the choreography competition. Further along was the more intimate ‘hang-out’ ‘all request’ room. There were vendors here and when classes weren’t being taught it was used for open dancing with Larry Bass and Michael Diven as the resident DJs. It was a great spot to meet up with your mates.
Just opposite was the ‘Beginner Dance’ room with a dance floor that rivalled the large ballroom. It was massive and the classes were invariably full; in many instances there were more dancers in this room than the others. Doug made a point of stating that this was the room in which beginner dances would be taught but it was open to all levels. I noticed in my classes in that room that there was a mix of the more experienced dancers as well as beginners who in some cases were still learning the basics. It did my heart good to meet up with a number of dancers who were beginners last year. They told me that they had not felt intimidated the first time around but had gained confidence and were excited about returning. This is indeed an event at which beginners are very much welcomed, in fact they are considered as important as the more experienced dancer and they are a real focus of attention for the Mirandas who would like to expand their participation even more in the future.
Beginners and more experienced dancers alike need to pace themselves as the event starts on Wednesday and doesn’t finish until late Sunday. It doesn’t start until 10 so you can do a late night show and sleep in a little the next morning. In addition, there are long lunch and dinner breaks which give you an opportunity to go out to sight see, for a meal or simply put your feet up!!!
A major plus of this event I think is that all the dances are taught twice. Besides limiting the number of dances taught, it gives you the chance to either get a second go at a dance or you don’t have to worry if there are two you want to learn being taught at the same time!
There was a wide choice of instructors and I’ve listed them together with the dances they taught below. Suffice to say that Rachael McEnaney’s classes were always full with ‘Domino’ in particular filling the dance floor in the evening. It is always fun to take one of Rachael’s classes and it is a pleasure to watch her dance. Roy Verdonk from Holland ‘packed them in’!! What a likeable individual he is and it brings a smile to your face when you see him dance, his body responds to every note in the song!! You need to watch Roy dance ‘Soul Food’ in particular! I loved the unusual ‘This is a Man’s World’. Congratulations to Philip Sobrielo who choreographed and taught what I reckon was the biggest floor filler of the event ‘Proud Mary Burnin’. You need your energy bunny for this one but it’s worthwhile as it is just a great, fun dance!!!
Scott Blevins pulled in the crowds as usual and his ‘Freak A Little More’ packed the dance floor at night. It’s a ‘Scott’ dance that everyone can do and feel like they have finally achieved some ‘attitude’!! ‘Drinkin’ Wine’ was the winning Pro dance from the Windy City event; it has some great moves and proved popular here with the friendly Michael Barr in charge. Meanwhile Michele Burton’s ‘Rag Top Down’ gave us the opportunity to feel like we were in a Broadway show from the 50’s, what a delightful lindy hop dance.
Guyton’s ‘Jump In Da Line’ proved a crowd pleaser although some dancers rushed in to do the conga line and then sat down to watch the somewhat organized chaos that followed!!! Jo and John Kinser’s ‘Jazzy Girl’ was another huge floor filler. It’s a bit nippy “so take small steps” but once that is established it’s a fun dance to do! Larry Bass is such a consistent choreographer with dances that flow so smoothly and ‘Get Used to It’ was no exception with a bit of ‘funk’ thrown in, I loved this one. Michael Diven used two different tracks for his intermediate dance ‘Who What When’ to totally change the feel, I think the Michael Jackson track had the edge! A.J. and Scott Herbert are a couple you can’t help but have fun around but they are also very good choreographers and ‘Love Is The Music’ looked really smooth on the dance floor.
Ruben Luna is a popular outgoing instructor and choreographer and I enjoyed watching the dancers trying to emulate him with ‘Sexy And I Know It’!! Grrowler from the UK kept the Beginner Dance room movin’ but at the same time taught his own intermediate dance ‘Beautiful Tonight’, great track. Will Craig has a good following and they enjoyed ‘Without You’ while last year’s choreography winner young Amy Glass taught her ‘I Believe’. She has just graduated as a pharmacist ... congratulations Amy! Pim Van Grootel from Holland is a wonderful dancer and his class definitely wanted to dance like him and tried it out with ‘Born To Be Country’! Jackie Miranda took some time out from her Event Director duties to teach her own dance ‘Change’ and to bring back Maggie Gallagher’s ‘Mony Mony’ which filled the floor each evening.
Bev Carpenter and Rosalee Musgrave concentrated on beginner dances. Bev taught quite a few including her own ‘The Nuki’. Rosalee included some of her own beginner dances as well; I particularly enjoyed ‘Charleston Swing’. Lorraine Kurtella was the beginner dance choreography winner last year with ‘Hello Dolly’ which still filled the floor but the room was packed for her teach of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ which might well be on its way to equal success.
Many thanks to everyone who came to my classes; you were a very patient and friendly group of dancers and made me feel very welcome. I taught beginner dances 'Beach Thang!' and 'I've Found Love', as well as 'Dr Flame', 'Hands On My Heart' and 'Still Water Runs Deep'.
But aside from learnin’ we wanted to just dance!! There were dances each evening with three rooms to choose from. Usually there are instructor previews only on the Wednesday evening and subsequently the demos are shown on the hotel televisions. However, this year the videographer CJ had a major medical emergency in his family and had to literally turn around and drive 8 hours to get home so he was unable to do the filming. So the evening dances were broken up a little with more previews but they were danced turbo style so not too much time was taken away from dancin’.
With so much choice dancers popped from room to room checking out what was playing!! Louie played a mix in the larger ballroom. Michael and Larry kept the ‘all request’ room moving; it was a very friendly and relaxed room to hang out in, while Grrowler never stopped in the Beginner Dance room. An excellent job was done by all the DJs. This has to be the hardest job going, as they say, “You can please some of the people some of the time but definitely not all the people all the time”; when you have over 300 dance requests you know that this applies, but the DJs certainly did their best to please as many dancers as possible.
There were theme evenings, Disco one night, PJs another and western for the Sunday night. Roy Verdonk brought his competition dance team with him and they were awe inspiring, just amazing dancers and routines and what a nice bunch of individuals they were as well. Tomo Iguchi from Japan impressed with his contemporary performance on the Saturday whereas on the Sunday evening the instructors put on their western gear and strutted their stuff, Pim and his partner treated us to a superb two-step turn and then Jackie took us down memory lane with some of our old country dance favourites and even got Doug up on the floor!! “Bro and sis”, Rachael and Guyton, tried out for a special prize from Willy Wonka and his Dance Factory. It was a most impressive and creative dance routine that also had us smiling. Talented singers James Francis and Maggie Griffin-Smith from Doug & Jackie’s theatre were a delight and we enjoyed dancing to their singing.
The winners of the choreography competition were announced. Jesse Garcia won the Beginner Section with his dance ‘Corazon’. There was only one point between the top two in the intermediate section with Jaci Gecelter winning with ‘Wherever Would I Be’ followed by Tajali Hall and ‘Mr President’. They all won a spot to teach at next year’s event.
There were around 500 dancers who stayed until the Sunday evening to watch the show and dance to the last minute. No-one seemed to be eager to leave for home which had to be a good sign!!!
To summarize, this event has succeeded in catering to and thereby attracting all levels of dancers from all over the world and as a result has continued to expand in numbers. At the same time it still retains a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Both Doug and Jackie were around the whole time, either at the Front Desk or in and out of the dance rooms. Jackie often joined us on the dance floor and both always had a moment for a chat. They have managed to book the ballrooms closer to the hotel for the next two years. I gather that the rooms have better acoustics but more importantly we will be able to spend more time dancin’ and less time walkin’! Doug and Jackie sounded very excited about the move and have all kinds of plans so it seems to me that the Vegas Dance Explosion will be even bigger and better next year. That will be something as this year the event was absolutely terrific. Don’t forget to mark the date in your calendar ... November 14-18, 2012.