Philly Classic in Review
27 Sep 2018
From The Director
The year 2018 marks the 5th year Philly Classic has opened its doors to West Coast Swing dancers, in the areas of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Rob and Sheila, Event Directors for Philly Classic, are proud that the event has always been West Coast Swing only. "People told us we would not have enough attendance unless it was a 'Cali-Mix' (meaning adding hustle, salsa or another kind of dance) but here we are five years later!" Sheila exclaimed happily.
Although the name of the event is Philly Classic, the hotel location is in Wilmington, Delaware or South Philadelphia. Most attendees visit from the area and can easily drive to nearby restaurants. For those without a car the hotel offers dining during normal evening hours and there is Wawa within walking distance of the hotel that serves breakfast lunch and dinner and essentially all time of the day.
This year the event was held in a different hotel than previous years, the Crowne Plaza. In a lot of ways, it was great. The hotel staff accommodating, each room has a fridge, ballrooms were all in one place, breakfast was offered each morning, the ballrooms were cool (possibly cooler than any ballroom I've danced in) but only one of the elevators was in operation and well, it took its time.
It is worth taking an extra moment here to expand on the topic of breakfast. This was offered buffet style with fruit, pancakes, muffins, sausage, bacon, cereal, yogurt, eggs and juice. Of the 12 events I have attended in 1.5 years of competitions, it has been the only event hotel I have been to that serves breakfast as part of the stay.
Freedom Swing is another convention that is held at this hotel during the second week of January.
Upon arrival the check-in staff were very friendly and fast. This, I realized later, this would reflected throughout the entire event. Every contest, workshop and dance ran like clockwork. In my opinion this was the best part of the event because I had never seen anything like it happen before.
All four divisions of Strictly competition (Novice, Intermediate, Masters and All-American) were done in 45 minutes!
I was mistaken to think that because both prelims and finals for Newcomer, Novice and Intermediate Jack and Jill were packed into a 2-hour time frame that the competition pool was very small. In fact, each division was rated at a Tier 3 holding up to 39 competitors each. The staff was able to make incredible timing yet again with the Advanced, Sophisticated and Masters Jack and Jill divisions.
There weren't any results posted as there have been at some events, but it went so fast that it didn’t leave me with any anxious feelings.
Workshops were held throughout the weekend by Steve Wilder and Lara Deni, Christopher Dummond and Tara Trafzer, Brad and Sarah Wheeler, Glen Ball and Kellese Key, Paul and Marta Canfield, Kieth Stremmel, Erica Smith, Ariel Weiss and John Festa.
First, I attended an intermediate workshop by Steve and Lara who gave away fancy shoe bags at the end of their first class. Then I attended Kellese Key and Glen Ball's Intermediate/Advanced workshop which was hilarious between their cookie and sausage comments (you'll have to ask me about this in person). I closed my first day out with Chris and Tara's advanced workshop which unfortunately I had to leave early because I did not pack properly for the thoroughly chilled ballroom.
On the second day I joined the Beginner/Intermediate class with Paul and Marta Canfield. As a teacher I appreciated this class because although it started basic, it developed very fluidly into a practical class on hand changes and how to feel comfortable with them. Although choosing between all of the amazing instructors was challenging, I felt good about my decision to take my next workshop with John Festa. He was hilarious especially his quick diagnosis of individual issues that would come up during the class and his method of resolving them.
As a dancer who has tried both Carmen's and Very Fine brand sandals before completely wearing out the right toe of the shoe within six months, I was in the market for shoes. It was a must once I discovered that there isn't any sales tax in Delaware.
The salesman was knowledgeable and directed me to some Comfort brand sandals that I learned can be customized in any color. TBD if the shoes can hold up longer than six months for a dancer who dances seven days a week.
Attendees of Philly Classic traveled from all over the US including New York, Vermont, Washington DC, South Carolina, Ohio Texas and California.
What I appreciate about the East Coast are the increased numbers of girl-girl and guy-guy dancers. In the novice division the award to 1st place Novice Jack and Jill went to a girl-girl pair of dancers. After dancing with Tegan (the 1stPlace leader) three times the night before, I had to say it was much deserved.
The DJ's Beth Bellamy, Ruby Lair, Kelli Kilgore and John Festa were absolute stars the entire weekend. Most of us agreed that not one bad song was played. Sheila also explained how John Festa used to run a Blues and Soul Room in New York that West Coast Swing and Blues dancers from all over the country would make their vacations around to attend. John's room in New York no longer exists but the completely full ballroom that lasted all night long proved his legacy lives on through Philly Classic. "It is a fantastic treat for attendees," Sheila explained.
Glen Ball was the MC for the event and was a personal favorite for me. His comments were appropriate, witty and well timed.
I was partnered with my friend Torrey Breeden for the Jack and Jill prelims. This is extra special to me because Torrey and I met last year in Boston when we decided to dance a Strictly competition together before we had met. A San Diego friend of mine, Bill, and I made it to Novice finals.
Social dancing was fantastic for everyone in my room, all San Diego based dancers.
They gave out Philly pretzels in between competition heats on the second day. They were hot, delicious and perfect for my first time trying a Philly Pretzel.
My dad got to watch me dance for both prelims and finals with a Spectator pass. This isn’t available at all events, so I found this particularly special.
On the last day there was a Tea Party in which dancers have the opportunity to say their farewells, get one more dance in and if they like, stay while the ballroom gets taken down. I said bye to many new friends as I stayed until the end.