Our Week at DVIDA Dance Camp


by Patti Smith

Camp isn’t just for kids anymore! Many of us who have a great love for ballroom dancing have the opportunity to take a week out of the year and immerse ourselves in workshops, social dancing, performing, and connecting with others from around the country and the world with the same love: dancing!

There are many dance camps offered throughout the united states.  Some of the most popular are DVIDA, BYU, and DanceWorld, among others. This year, the staff at CSP Dance Studios trekked many miles from Albuquerque to Las Vegas to take part in the very popular DVIDA Dance Camp. (Well we flew, but you get the idea.) And here’s our experience:

Upon arrival, we checked into our rooms. As a part of the dance camp, we had the choice of staying in the Paris Hotel or Bally’s. Since the camp was hosted in the convention center connecting the two, we chose Bally’s. And wow, were we pleasantly surprised! Our rooms were amazing (with a couple of staff mentioning that the room might have been bigger than their apartment!), and even though we wouldn’t be spending very much time in them, it was nice to end the long exciting days with a beautiful room to enjoy. That evening we attended the welcome banquet, where we were introduced to the master professionals who would be teaching the workshops at the camp. For us teachers, the great thing about a camp like this is that there are classes designed for professionals and classes designed for students. As pros, we have the choice to attend any of the classes that we like.

Day 1
We started that morning early at 9am in the pro classes. This is a great experience to meet so many other teachers from different parts of the globe that were there to better themselves and their teaching. The class was filled with all kinds of teachers: new ones who have taught for less than a year, and seasoned pros who had taught for over ten years. We took class until noon, at which time I decided to join the advanced rumba choreography class. These choreography classes are one of the neat opportunities offered to students and teachers. The camp will choose two dances (this year, rumba and waltz) and will teach four routines: basic, intermediate I, intermediate II, and advanced. All these routines are performed at the finale banquet, which was a real treat for me not just to go to classes, but also to perform! 1025610_549247078455513_397287413_oFelipe and Carolina Telona were in charge of the advanced rumba routine, and they choreographed it to my favorite rumba song, Cry To Me! Not to mention the choreography was stunningly beautiful! After our first hour of learning the routine, it was time for lunch! We got a whole hour and a half for lunch, but man, it went by fast! Back to class. From 2:30 to 5:30 I continued taking the pro classes, and at 5:30 I was off to discover the advanced waltz choreography. This year Toni Redpath and Michael Mead took care of the waltz class. This was my first time being taught by them. I’ve always looked up to those world smooth champions, and Toni has become my new hero in ballroom dancing! (Michael is pretty neat too.) Six-thirty pm, and the first day has come to a close. Oh no, not yet! Because now we can get together in the practice room with other dancers to go over things we’ve learned! I ended the day at 9pm exhausted and excited!

Day 2
Day 2 starts at 8am this time with an hour of Latin technique, then it’s off to the teacher classes once again for international style ballroom with Jim and Jenell Maranto, two of my favorite professionals. At 11 I was off to continue the rumba choreography, this time joined by Chris, one of my instructors, and while he missed the first day, he picked up what we had of the routine pretty quick. Then at noon we teachers had a lesson in how to breathe while dancing (which you wouldn’t think is that difficult) and become more emotional and expressive through simple movements. A big thank you to Carolina Telona for taking all of us to the next level! Lunch again, which went by faster than the day before! At 2:30 I was off to ballroom technique with Jenell971458_550397828340438_70859153_n Maranto. I’ve taken coachings with her for many years, and have great respect for teaching ability and knowledge, so it was a wonderful pleasure to work with her again at camp!  After that, it was West Coast swing and nightclub with the other pros, taught by Toby and Harmony Munroe. These are two fabulous country-western champions that live close to us in Denver, Colorado, and who also visit our studio on a regular basis for coachings. Finishing out my day of classes was the advanced waltz choreography; many more people had joined the class the second day, just like we saw in the rumba. I think word was getting around camp about how awesome and fun these routines were! What amazed me the most was how organized and productive both Felipe & Carolina and Toni & Michael were with us students. We seemed to learn an amazing amount of choreography in a very short time, and on top of that, they made it easy and fun for us! One of the best things I took away from participating in these routines was learning from the masters how to organize, how to teach, and how to make it fun. Still, the day was not yet over! Day 2, I met more people at the camp and was able to have more practice partners in the evening. Bedtime was once again about 9pm.

Day 3
A little tired but still doing great, starting my day again at 9am. I’m having so much fun, I wish every week could be like this one! First class is with the pros again, once more with (yay!) Toni and Michael. Every teacher here is so amazing, but these two are slowly becoming my favorites. At noon I hop back over to the student side and take an all-levels paso doble class taught by international Latin geniuses Izabella and Tomasz Lewandowski, and they did not disappoint! I think Tomasz has the biggest personality of anyone I’ve ever met, and Izabella was delicate, strong, and graceful all at the same time. I learned a lot about paso doble, and also a lot about how to teach it. Lunchtime! Aaaand it’s over. I spent the rest of the day in the pro classes and continuing the waltz choreography. Jerika, Chris, and I had plans to go out on the strip that night, but I was so jazzed about everything I was learning that I spent the next several hours practicing, making sure we had our routines down. I joined up with them later that night at the Stratosphere. Being immersed in dance for a week and working hard at everything is great, but it’s also important to let loose and relax a bit. My bedtime was a bit later this time (around 1am).

Day 4
Nooooo! Nine o’ clock already? I wanted to sleep in, but couldn’t help myself, because I was on my way to dancing jive with Latin champion Kasia Kozak and Marcin Tomaszewski. It’s early in the morning, but this girl has more spunk and energy than I’ve ever seen! Not only did I learn a lot in her class, but she definitely woke me up for the rest of the day! At 11, we had the final rumba routine class before our performance that evening, and wow, it really came together! Everyone was pumped and excited and confident for this evening after getting some details ironed out. I take an early break to figure out what I’m going to wear, how to do my hair, and try to get everything together for the evening’s performances. Two-thirty rolls around and I’m back in class with the wonderful Felipe and Carolina. I can’t believe this week is almost over…. we did so much but it went by so fast. Last thing before the banquet? An hour and a half of rehearsal for the waltz. Michael organized us well and made us confident for the big night! A couple of hours of rest, and it’s time for the show! We got to watch all levels of students perform and I have to say, I was amazed by everyone’s hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm. Most exciting of all was the opportunity to work with these amazing professionals, learning their choreography, and now getting to dance it for them. After the performances, we had the great honor and pleasure of Wayne Eng, founder of DanceVision, the Emerald Ball, and DVIDA Dance Camp, joining us at our table! We had great fun and conversation with him, as well as with everyone else at our table. Sadly, bedtime was coming up soon, since we had to leave for the airport at 4am.

I can’t believe that it’s over. This is my first experience at a dance camp, even though I’ve been teaching dance for over ten years. I’ve been to competitions, showcases, and many other dance events, but never taken part in an actual week-long dance camp. I think these camps are important for students because it’s fun and inspiring. They’re also important for pros because as professionals, we continue our education by coaching with the best in our industry. We usually do this by bringing coaches to our studio every three to six months, if we’re lucky. Dance camp is like a year’s worth of coachings rolled into one fantastic week, with the great opportunity to have many coaches all in one place, and each of them brings a unique perspective to the aspects of dancing and teaching. A huge thanks to Wayne Eng for making this possible!






Putting the Pieces Together

dance puzzle

by Patti Smith

To become a great dancer, you need a great dance teacher; that goes without question. But that’s not all you need! We can argue that without great instruction you will not have great results, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Forming the big picture and reaping all the benefits of being a great dancer involves many more pieces.

First of all, there’s equipment. Every sport has its own gear, and dancing is no different. Having the proper shoes, venue, and practice tools make all the difference in the world. Michael Jordan would have had a rough time had he been in dress shoes and not his Nikes.

Next is action, otherwise known as practice. Even the greatest dance teacher in the world cannot create a great dancer all by themselves. Each dancer has a responsibility to take the information that they are learning and put it into action. I can tell anybody, “Bend your knees, straighten your legs, pull your weight forward,” and I can say these things a thousand and one times. But if my student doesn’t put these concepts into practice, then they will never achieve great dancing.

Another piece is the company of others. Many great authors of self-improvement books have let us know that surrounding yourself with people who are characteristic of the person you want to be will help your own advancement to becoming that person. This little pearl of wisdom goes all the way back to the time of King Solomon, if not further. Simply put, if you want to be a great dancer, surround yourself with other dancers. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you should only surround yourself with dancers with more knowledge and skill than you. Just surrounding yourself with people who have the same drive and interests as you will help you meet your goals, and everyone can teach you something.

That drive to succeed is one of the things the most successful people in the world have in common. They are constantly learning to improve their craft; the same is true of champion dancers. They don’t go to win world titles by saying what they have is good enough; good as they are, they still continue to practice (remember that point above?) to hone their skills to the best that they can be. Your goal may not be to become a world champion, but when you’re constantly learning to improve, whatever your goal may be, you will always find success on the dance floor.

Now, success doesn’t come in one day through one giant action. Can you become a great dancer in one lesson? Nope. Can you become a great dancer in five lessons? Highly doubtful. That’s something that you achieve over a period of time, through small, everyday improvements. Let’s say I want to be a great Latin dancer. There are so many hundreds of things I need to know and do to achieve this goal, and there’s no way I can do them all at once! But I can take one aspect today and focus on that, and only that, for one week. Once I have improved that skill, I can move on to the next. Like building a block tower, eventually all those little things add up to something that people will notice and pay attention to!

The whole time you’re improving, you want to keep a positive attitude to keep up your momentum. But don’t keep it to yourself; you should bring that same positive attitude with you when you actually get to dancing with someone. In that situation, there’s really two directions you can go in, mentally. You can look for greatness in others, or you can expect them to fail. Really, you want to focus on all the good things that they’re doing rather than pointing out mistakes. The golden rule should apply to everything, even dancing: how you want to be treated is how you should be treating other people. Besides, no one wants to leave a dance with a sour taste in their mouth, and being pedantic is one of the surest ways to do that.

Fitting these pieces together to form the beautiful picture that is a great dancer isn’t hard. It just takes persistence and patience to put it all together, just like a real puzzle. But if one of the pieces is missing, the picture is incomplete. Putting the pieces of this puzzle together can be a fun and rewarding experience, and the end result is something where everyone can see the time and effort you put in!

Workin’ It Out Through Dance

by Patti Smith

It’s no secret that dancing is great exercise, and more and more people are realizing that now with the invention of dance-inspired workout programs such as Zumba, LaBlast, and salsa aerobics. TV shows and celebrities are also jumping on the bandwagon. You have the Dancing with the Stars and the So You Think You Can Dance home workout programs. Such dance celebrities as Julianne Hough with her cardio exercise, and Louis van Amstel with his LaBlast program. Let’s first examine the reason why these workout programs have become so popular.

  • FUN

Nobody likes to spend hours on a treadmill, and everybody enjoys great music. Breaking a sweat is more enticing and less noticeable when there are a combination of interesting, fun movements for you to do.

  • Social aspect

In our minds, going to dance with a group of people seems much less like a workout and more like a party. And who doesn’t want to go to a party? Not to mention that working out with a buddy provides support, accountability, and structure.

  • Ease

Most of your dance workout programs are low-impact on the joints and high-impact on the cardio. A good dance workout program is put together in a way where you start with a basic movement and build on it from there.

Now let’s talk about how these dance-inspired workouts compare to a traditional ballroom dance class.

  • No partner needed, but appreciated

In your dance workout class, you will not be dancing with a partner in dance hold. What you are going to do is strengthen the skills that are needed when you do, which will be much appreciated by any dance partners you may have.

  • Cardio

In a traditional ballroom class, you will move around plenty, but probably not enough to break a sweat or even get your heart rate up (unless you’re dancing with someone particularly attractive). In a class like LaBlast, you’ll be learning and using the same moves with the added benefit of a little sweat.

Whether you choose a traditional ballroom dance class or a dance-inspired workout, or both, you will receive the benefit of great exercise, learning to move your body well, interaction with others that share your interest, and more fun than a treadmill could ever provide!

Well, maybe.