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Marilynn Larkin
West Coast Swing
Crowne Plaza Valley Forge
United States
King of Prussia, PA

Disco America: Low Key, High Energy, and Lots of Fun

by Marilynn Larkin
June 28, 2009
Crowne Plaza Valley Forge
260 Mall Boulevard
King of Prussia, PA 19406
For more about the author, go to www.facebook.com/mlarkin1?ref=profile
For more about the photographer, go to www.SamsSnapshots.com
I've been to half a dozen or so hustle/West Coast swing events since taking up partner dancing two years ago, and Disco America (www.discoamerica.com), held June 26-28 at the Crown Plaza Valley Forge in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was among the best.

The event ran like clockwork, which gave it a low-key feel — i.e., no frenzied scrambling over lost competition numbers, or rushing to get to the ballroom only to discover things were running hours behind. The schedules were clear and prominently posted; front desk staff answered questions courteously. These are things I've learned to take for granted at other types of events but, sadly, they've been lacking in much of the hustle/WCS world.

As far as I could see, rooms opened on time, workshops started on time or within five minutes of the start time, and comps ran on time, too. There was plenty of social dancing between and after comps, making for a great balance. A number of attendees commented on the novel inclusion of "dance hosts" — pros and others who wore gold ribbons signifying their willingness to dance with anyone who asked.

All in all, my informal chats with other attendees and pros confirmed that most felt as I did — well done, Donna and Joyce!

A good mix
In a pre-event interview, Donna told me she wanted Disco America to feel "cozy and friendly," and appeal to novices, as well as more experienced dancers. She and Joyce definitely succeeded. Though the workshops I took were geared mainly to intermediate/advanced dancers (WSC with Tybaldt/Hazel, hustle with Billy Marti), several were geared to all levels, but focused mainly on basics (Diane Nardone's salsa on 1, Tony and Shawn's mambo on 2). Overall, the workshops were well attended, and had a nice energy. The floor of the main ballroom, where most of the dancing and comps took place, was excellent — just enough traction, not too slippery.

The hotel was comfortable, and staff generally accommodating. Having a huge mall right across the street didn't hurt, either — I was able to get that manicure I missed before I left New York City!

Tribute to Arte
Unquestionably, the highlight of the weekend was the Saturday night tribute to Arte. Jay Neil prepared an amazing and very moving video highlighting key moments in Arte's life, and members of Arte's family spoke. I'm still moved to tears as I think about it, as was just about everyone that night. The show also featured solo performances by Lori Ann Greenhouse and Kelvin Roche, Billy Fajardo and Katie Marlow, and Dale and Anita Strawser — and a team performance by pros who donated their time in the name of Arte Phillips Dance, Inc. The latter included Carolina Altmont, Christine Bendul, Ginny Carey, Joe Commentucci, Sheryl Feas, Jose Gomzales, Andy Malone, Angela McCabe, Patricia McConnell, Steve Neeren, Jason Richman, Angela Risser, Judy Secoda and Tybaldt Ulrich.

Also in honor of Arte, Donna and Joyce renamed their annual award to The Arte Phillips Lifetime Achievement Award. Elizabeth Darchi was the recipient.

Looking ahead
I'm looking forward to next year's event — and I have plenty of company! See the tributes posted on the site from pros and attendees ("What Are They Saying?), further evidence of a job well done that will be well remembered in 2010.
Beth Darchi receiving the 2009 Arte Phillips Lifetime Acheivement award

Beth Darchi receiving the 2009 Arte Phillips Lifetime Acheivement award

Photo © & courtesy of Sam Habet

Tybalt Ulrich and Marilynn Larkin compete in ProAm Theater Arts at Disco America

Tybalt Ulrich and Marilynn Larkin compete in ProAm Theater Arts at Disco America

Photo © & courtesy of Sam Habet

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