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.
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! Felipe 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 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 Jenell 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.
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).
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!