6-5-2015 Steppers Beat

The West Coast Report
By Samuel Parker The West Coast Report

Stepaganza: The After- Math

Written by Samuel Parker on June 5, 2015.

Most of us have returned to our home cities, unpacked our bags, uploaded our photos and comments, shared our excitement (show and tell), calculated our Visa damage, rested our feet, and settled back into our daily lives - after a great weekend in Saint Louis, celebrating our dance and culture at Stepaganza.

I've waited to write this, so that I would have the opportunity to speak with several of the West Coast Steppers who made that eastbound trek in search of a Steppin' frenzy - and some of us would have had an opportunity to attend a local event or two in our local communities, after dancing in St Louis.

There is at least one clearly demonstrable thing about each and every one of us West Coast Steppers who went to Stepaganza: we have a deep passion and commitment to this dance. The evidence is in the fact that we spent considerable time and money traveling over a thousand miles - to dance. The question is: was it worth it?

Several of us had "issues" before we even got to STL. (Missed flights, reroutes, missed connections, delays, etc.) My wife and I were scheduled to arrive on Thursday during the early afternoon. We didn't even reach Lamburgh Airport until after 11pm.

Nevertheless! We still drug ourselves over to the Set at the Ameristar Casino Lounge to get registered. Lo’ and behold! We kept running into some of the outstanding people that we have met at Stepaganza over the years. Even in the parking lot, we were greeted by Willie Bell and family (much love there). As we were strolling thru the hallway leading to the Set, we were greeting and hugging folks we haven’t seen since last year’s Stepaganza.

It was starting to feel better. People were telling us that the Set was rocking and that that only reason that they were leaving was because they felt like they needed to pace themselves for all that was still coming up. That was encouraging. But it was when we entered the lounge area of the Set that the music started getting to my ears. When we rounded the corner, there were people totally immersed in the dance and DJ Stepping George peering out from the DJ Booth and serving up smooth grooves – that’s when the music started getting to my feet. The tiredness and frustration of the day started melting away.

As we made our way thru the Steppers in the lounge area and further into the main area, that’s the music just kept taking over. People were everywhere! On Thursday night - at midnight! As we made our way thru the crowd, greeting people, being greeted, and sharing the woeful adventures of the day, we began to be overcome with that feeling that hits you when you are sitting in a unfamiliar theater but your favorite movie comes on – while you’re grubbing on your favorite munchie food. Yep! DJ Raven was on the box and pumping out serious foot-stirring sounds. We stopped complaining and got down to the business of gittin’ it in. Two hours later, we didn’t have a problem in the world. Not a bad way to shake off the road dust.

During the course of the weekend, I kept asking several of our fellow-travelers whether they were having a good time. Even after all the travel mishaps that several people had encountered, the answer was always, “yes!”

You have to know you’re in a special place when you come out your hotel room to got to breakfast and you can hear Steppable music all the way to the elevator. But you know you’re in paradise when the elevator door opens and you step out into the middle of a Steppers’ Set! The Steppin’ DJs had the Embassy Suites Lobby filled with music… and, of course, where there is music - you will find us Steppin. (You can do that when you fill up "the whole hotel" with Steppers) As the golfers were returning from the Golf Course, as the Board Game Competitions were warming up, the Boot Camps, and the Daytime Dusties Set – the music rolled on – and Steppers were Steppin’. We left the hotel, did a little sight-seeing, got a bite to eat and headed back to the hotel, and … they were still Steppin’.

Even with all of that going on, I’ve got special love for a group of conspirers that I call “Phamily” (including Keith Hubbard, Angie Faine, Walter Lane, Patrick Moore, DJ Stretch, etc.), who totally shocked (i.e. “surprised the #$%* out of me”) with a very memorable Birthday gathering. I thank you all, immensely..

Then, there was the "Meet and Greet" at the St. Charles Convention Center with Teddy Austin stirring up the house and a moving presentation regarding Damita Collins. If you know then inside story, you understand. For those who didn’t/don’t know the story – stay tuned. Friday night was also the night that we encountered a very interesting innovation. There were two large dance floors in the cavernous room with the huge sound system and DJ podium to the north. On the South-side of the dance floors were a row of table and chairs that were reserved for the Legends of the Dance and Lifetime Achievement Awardees (did I mention Angie Faine?). Now, here is the innovation. On the East and on the West sides of the dance floors were a row of chairs that were designed to overcome a rather persistent problem.

If you’re one of those guys that hits that floor and finishes a dance, and before you get off the floor or back to your seat, and someone asks you for another dance – you know how hard it can be to reach out to some of the ladies that aren’t seated at a table that is immediately adjacent to the floor. If you’re one of the ladies who is seated in the third or fourth row of tables away from the dance floor, you know that by the time "that guy" comes off the dance floor and all the way back to your table – he’s probably gonna be too exhausted to dance or looking for a place to go sit and rest. So…..(drum roll please), those chairs were there for those "ladies who wanted to dance" to sit (temporarily) while waiting for the song to end and the next dance to begin. It was a great idea!

I went to those chairs several times and got a lot of great dances. Thank you Ladies! It gave me the chance "to ask" many ladies for a dance that I would have never been able to reach in a room that size. My wife led many of the ladies (especially beginners) in our group to those chairs. They got dance, after dance, after dance. After people got used to seeing them on the floor and knew that they could Step (Yep, we do Step in California!), they were on the floor most of the time. Some of them even had to come back to the table to rest their feet. That was a great experience for us "out-of-towners". That was a great idea – ‘til 3am.

Saturday morning while the golfers were still out on the course and shortly after the Pajama Fashion Show had ended, we encountered an elderly (80ish) couple who were totally enamored with what they were witnessing (in the lobby). All they could talk about was whether there was going to be more dancing and how much they loved watching the dance. It really was/is an amazing experience that sooooo many of us can get together in a peaceful, cooperative, and classy way. Other people saw it too. It needs to happen more often.

The Cookout and Games Competition at Blanchette Park was off-the-chizz-ain! The weather was great and the Steppers were even greater. Three dance floors were installed….but you know how we are when the music just won’t let you sit. There was dancing going on everywhere. Sanford Sanford on Sax (live performance), DJ Little Turntable, and DJ Steppin’ George kept serving up the music – while Keith Hubbard kept many "rising and flying" from the Dominoes table and engaged in activities of the day. Again, a great experience.

The "Main Event" was grand. We got in some dancing before the Awards presentations and were pleased to celebrate Ms. Angie Faine as she received a Lifetime Achievement Award. She is active in organizing and promoting Steppin’ in Phoenix, Arizona – and brought a fun crew of folks with her. Class Act! Angie Faine was joined by other awardees, including another familiar face on the West Coast, Mr. (LA) Chase Day. Congratulations Sir, and to all the Lifetime Achievement Awardees. Also, Congrats to another West Coast crew , the Universal Steppers of Las Vegas, for showin’ up and showin’ out as Co-hosts of Stepaganza 2015. During the main event, several people were thrilled to attend the performance of "Blue Magic’s" Lead Singer – Mr. Stuart Orlando Morgan, and were also able to catch the performance of Alex Lattimore in the Exhibit Hall, along with the Legends of the Dance Showcase. There was a lot of entertainment for the evening – including the always entertaining MC Keith "the Navigator" Hubbard and (Mr. Make You Dance) Shorty Smooth keeping you on the floor (again) ‘til 3am. It’s at this point that you start to understand the value of a great foot-tub, warm water, Epsom salts, and green alcohol. (Ya know?!)

Several of us West Coasters spread out across the City on Sunday morning and several others remained in the hotel for the Bible Class instructed by (Promoter Extraordinaire!) Iary Israel (aka Kat-In-the-Hat) – where BYOB = Bring your own Bible. Many spent the day sightseeing from the Arch, the Mississippi River, Katheryn Dunham Museum, Ferguson, Mo., Michael Brown Memorial, Sweetie Pies, and other Foodie attractions. More Bootcamps and more dancing in the Embassy Suites Lobby….before heading over to the Ameristar Casino Lounge for another night of intense Steppin’. Keith Hubbard was back as MC and teamed with another DJ who got her start "Straight out of Compton". DJ Cynsitivity demonstrated her skilled-capacity to "keep ‘em on the floor". In fact, she did it so well that one couple that was supposed to be headed for the airport for their flight back to Los Angeles…..came back into the set about an hour later. Yep! They missed the plane. (I ain’t gon’ say no names), but you have a clear indication of how much (they, and) many of us enjoyed Stepaganza 2015.

With much more to report, and less time and space to do it in, I will end with a question that kept coming up as I talked to West Coast Steppers about their experiences. Is it too early to get tickets to Stepaganza 2016?

SteppersUSA is  looking for people who can tell the story to the nation...
I'm looking for staff from Chicago, the East coast (Atlanta, Central Florida, North Carolina), the mid west beyond & including Chicago (Detroit), the west and  on the west coast (San Francisco/Oakland and Seattle). If you take photos -- that's great but it's not necessary (perhaps you know someone who takes photos at the set -- even with a camera phone) we are looking to keep the country informed about the world of steppin in your area.  Shoot me an email!

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