Desert City 2012 Update #10

Been home for a week – suitcases still fully packed. Argh! Gotta unpack so I can re-pack for Boogie in a week and a half. Argh! All this suitcase stuff making me talk like a pirate, no idea why.

Haven’t finished telling about Sunday, the final big show of the weekend: Allstar and Champion JJ finals. Spotlight of course, like all Sunday finals.

Twelve Allstar couples, dancing to fast blues, Victor DJing:

1. Chris Dumond and Janelle, “Fine Brown Frame” – hilarious, creative, playful choreography – great way to start the division. On “I want to scream!” they simultaneously faced the audience and screamed; on “broken down chair” Chris made like he was sitting on a chair then fell on the floor; on “get it on and on and on” they kind of got it on and on … hilarious. They fly across the floor with such energy, these two. Their footwork and technique are spectacular. Great dancing rewarded with a well deserved first place win.

2. Cameron and Bella, “Sadie”

3. Alfred and Malia, “Sweet Home Chicago”

4. Patrick and Jessica Pancheca, “Spankin’ Leroy”

5. Nick and Dawne, “Spankin’ Leroy”

6. Carlus and Ellyn, “All Around The World”

7. Ben McHenry and Chelsea to “Move Across The River.” Chelsea makes funny faces while she dances (like this: which I, of course, love but she, of course, doesn’t love as much and in an effort to stop has made a public request that if anyone catches her making funny faces while dancing we should … actually I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. Short of yelling “CHELSEEEA!” and pointing wildly at her face which might scare her partner. All I know is my camera was glued on her face hoping for something especially goofy and I if I’m lucky I may have caught one or two good ones. She made a point of lunging at me towards the end throwing everything out of focus so I might have come home with only a blurry picture of an eye or nostril which I will post on Facebook and tag her in. (just kidding)

8. Rome and Shannon dancing to that blues standard – you know the one – with the “brrrrrrrrrrzzzp” up the piano keys? What’s that called? Spankin’ Leroy?

9. Warren Pino and Lisa Brink, “Baby Work Out”

10. Brad Whelan and Wendy Miller, “Danny’s All Star Joint”

11. Edwin Li and Kara, “Bad Case of Love”

12. Diego and Taylor, “Let The Good Times Roll”

and the All-Skate to Whistle (the “DJ eMPea” remix)

Judges for this division were Phil, Carrie, Nathan, Martin, Jeannie, Jackie, Michael, Buddy, Laurie, and Chief Judge Cathy.

I was lucky to be sitting next to Jeannie Tucker and between divisions we had a quick conversation about our shared frustration with the lack of manners in today’s laid-back, wonderfully egalitarian and possibly overly casual United States.  No one seems to know or care about rules of etiquette – barreling through doors, charging down the wrong side of the sidewalk, yelling in public places and the halls of the hotel, allowing kids to run around tables in the restaurant — a general lack of respect for the feelings and comfort of acquaintances and strangers. It was great to find in Jeannie a kindred spirit. We talked a little afterwards, too, and I learned that Jeannie Tucker has had a marvelous and unusual life so far. What a treat to get to know her a little bit!

Jeannie’s been dancing and performing since she was three – she actually had a SAG card at that age and was in the first national Gatorade TV commercial ever made. If you watch So You Think You Can Dance you may know of Mia Michaels, the Emmy-winning choreographer. Mia’s dad, Joe Michaels, had a studio and took Jeannie on as his student, Jeannie grew near Mia and her sister spending holidays together on their houseboat, travelling around the country and the world performing on cruise ships, and in Miami Beach as the opening act for artists who are today household names.

Jeannie’s parents were open-minded adventurers, explorers of the world and lovers of the world’s cultures. Jeannie’s dad had been an engineer and officer in the military for 27 years before Jeannie was born; her mom was (still is, at 89!) an artist. When Jeannie came along they were older than most parents, having raised two sons years before and after losing one tragically in a fire, having Jeannie as a second “go-round” almost, to enjoy the pleasure of parenting another time and to take their new daughter around the world, revisiting their favorite places they’d lived in in the years before she came along, this time with the freedom that being retired gave them.

They set off travelling around the globe with their little girl, living in the most remote and rural countrysides of Spain, Morocco, Greece, India, Pakistan, the Sahara Desert, camping across Europe in a refurbished VW Van. Jeannie learned Flamenco and Belly Dancing, Greek folk dancing and the traditional dances of Europe and Asia. She loved any percussion instrument and learned to play the drums and cymbals of cultures around the world.

It was years later as a young adult back in the States, years after a competitive ballroom career and a severe car accident which left her with major spinal damage, only partial use of her left arm, and a prognosis that she would “never dance again,” that Jeannie discovered west coast and it’s epicenter in West Hollywood; and Kenny Wetzel, Mary Ann, Carlito, Sonny Watson, and her US Open partners. Like all of us she was instantly hooked, enthralled by our “street dance” circuit which had grown not out of a need to support studios but simply because people loved the dance.

She’s been dancing, coaching, teaching, and judging ever since. Enough years to have experienced the growth and evolution of our dance around the country and now the world, enough years to have a long view of our community and its history, characters, and challenges.

What a beautiful, wise, and elegant woman! One more uniquely marvelous person in the dance community, one whom I can now call a friend. There seems to be no end to marvelous people here. Something about this dance that attracts specialness.

And so to the last contest of the weekend: the Champions Jack and Jill finals.   More women than men so Ronnie explained that five men would dance twice, with a final “Jam” instead of an “All-Skate.”  Jordan: “So why don’t we just do two heats for the All-Skate?”  Ronnie: “Cause then it wouldn’t be an All-Skate.  It would be a ‘Half-Skate.’  [beat]  You cheap skate. Sorry I couldn’t help it.”

Judges for Champions: Phil, Carrie, Nathan, Martin, Jeannie, Jackie, Michael, Buddy, Laurie, and Chief Judge Cathy.

Victor DJ’d, playing Contemporary.

1. Ben Morris and Yenni (“Benni?”)

Wait! Wait! Wasn’t there a song in the last Update? Yes, there was!

“Ben and Jen,
Ben and Jen,
La la la la,
Ben and Jen.”

Now there is a second verse:

“Ben and YEN,
Ben and Yen,
La la la la
Ben and Yen!”

And a chorus:

“Yen and Jen,
Jen and Yen,
Who’s the lucky guy?
It’s Ben!”

And they danced to “I’m Stuttering.”

(Don’t even go there)

2. John Lindo (Ronnie announced him as “the Troublemaker himself”) and Torri dancing to “Damaged”

3. Michael Kielbasa and Tessa dancing to “Give Me Everything”

4. Brent and Jessica dancing to “After The Love Is Gone” (Brent rag-dolled Jessica so Jessica rag-dolled Brent – hilarious)

5. Parker and Kellese dancing to “Beggin’ ”

6. Mark and Laureen (who, as she was drawing her partner out of the basket, whispered quietly to Ronnie (which he repeated loudly on the mic) “I want to dance with Deborah Szekely.”) They danced to “Come Closer.”

7. Jordan and Rooooootz danced to “Get Involved” (west coast with several bars of Samba)

8. Myles and Sharlot (Ronnie: “You wanna dance with Deborah Szekely too?” Sharlot: “No. I wanna dance with myself.”) dancing to “Forever.”


10. Maxence and Sarah dancing to “Just Dance”

11. Kyle and Brandi dancing to “Telephone”

12. Jordan and Deborah dancing to “Please Don’t Stop The Music”

13. Ben and Jen dancing to “apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur, whole club was looking at her, she hit the floor, next thing you know, Shawty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low, baggy sweat pants and the Reebok’s with the straps, she turned around and gave that big booty a smack (HEY!) she hit the floor, next thing you know, Shawty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low”

14. Kyle and Tatiana dancing to “Heartbreaker”

15. Mark and Jill Demarco dancing to “I Like The Way You Move” (What is it suddenly with this song? I guess Victor likes it too, just like DJ Dave. I do too! Which is why, a full week later, my brain keeps hittin’ repeat-peat-peat-peat-peat.)

16. Maxence and Tara to “Dip Out of The Club”

and the final Jam to “Give Me Something Fried.”

Final Awards followed very soon after. Mike Gadberry, who isn’t a show-off and loathes speaking on the mic, gave the all-time shortest Thank-You in history (if I’m remembering right it was “Thank you everybody.”)  An announcement was made that the resort’s water park would remain open late especially for us and that the late nite dance would go on into Monday for as long as we wanted to remain dancing. And we emerged from the ballroom out into the wide, lovely Phoenix air, the red clay, the pools and fountains, the pointed mountains in the distance, all bathed in long, low, golden shafts of late afternoon autumn sun, so beautiful you could cry.

And thus ended Desert City 2012. What a great comp!

Next year we will be at our spectacular new venue: The amazing Arizona Grand!

And now, I am sorry to say, I must close on a sad note. Many of you have by now heard that our dear friend and yours, Cody Melin, was found unconscious and not breathing by his wife Tracey,  4:00 am  Saturday morning Sept. 15th. He has been in the hospital ever since, at this writing still unconscious, breathing with the aid of a ventilator, surrounded, at the behest of his doctors, by his closest friends and family who for three days now have embraced him in their love and prayers, beseeching and encouraging him to find the strength to fight for his life. Cody and Tracey are Showcase dancers – long-time members of the community, just last week at Desert City as happy and vibrant as ever.  Our hope, love and friendship – and yours – from our hearts to Cody Melin.


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