Freedom Swing!

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

America is founded on the principles of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of WEST COAST SWING!

Our founding Fathers would be soooooo proud.

Freedom Swing Dance Challenge in Philadelphia last weekend was a
Spectacular success!!! 


Picture Couresty of Keith Chow

Sheila Purkey & Rob Baen, much loved local teachers and leaders fostering a lovely dance community, dreamed of creating an event in their area.

John Lindo, MasterMind of the STUPENDOUS Liberty Swing, helped make their dreams come true.

This 1st year event was done RIGHT in every way.

We Had it All!

Outstanding location near all sorts of transportation.

Perfect timing since we have nothing better to do between New Years’ Dance Extravaganza and MADjam.

Spectacular A+ list talent:

THE Roystons, Jessica Cox, John Lindo, Robert Cordoba & Deborah Szekely, John Festa, Jennifer Lyons, Arjay Centeno & Jennifer DeLuca.  


 More importantly – there was EXTREME Dancing!!! 


Picture Courtesy of Jim Chow

The WSDC made a BIG BOO-BOO and granted points to ALL the new events. And the weather – 60 degrees in January! It was no surprise that 400+ dancers came from upstate New York, NYC, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Canada and even Texas! 

Nakedra Higgins (on the right) placed 1st with Alan Lee in Advanced/Allstar J&J and is one of the STARS of S-Factor Dance Troupe based in Dallas.

They stunned us at Swingin’ New England last November. More importantly, they are nice people and very welcome on the east coast. 


Torontoes Giselle Jagai & Nick Valoroso

There was an almost perfect balance of workshops, social dancing, competition and performance.

 If there is any complaint to be made – it’s that we didn’t get enough!

People were still dancing while the floor was being pulled up on Sunday!  

More Next YearPLEASE!!! 

Steve Wilder with Nanette Sulik

The Friday Night Strictlies were the best kind of show we could possibly want.

There is no greater joy than watching ordinary people reach extraordinary goals.

 Not everyone gets to dance all their lives. Some people have to go to WAR AND/OR get MARRIED first!

Many who struggle in the Jack n’ Jills get to show what they can do here.

My favorite part of the whole weekend was Friday Night FESTA DELIGHTat Midnight!

For a whole blissful hour, we got to dance to the tunes spun by this “Living Legend of Dance” and “West Coast Swing Hall of Fame(r).”

Every song was better than the next and we could have done this all night long.

Robert Cordoba transitioned over beautifully. What a great night of dancing!

Anthony DeRosa was head DJ and it seemed like he was glued to the booth all weekend – Thanx!!! We appreciated intermittent periods of Arjay, Brian Kidd and Dave Muzii. As a matter of fact – its Dave’s fault we had to be thrown out on Sunday afternoon!

The Saturday and Sunday workshops started at the relatively sane hour of 10 am.

Lessons were packed because WCS is newer in the Philly area.

John Festa & Jennifer Lyons understood what this community is craaaaaving! They straightened out the whip and taught the spiral turn.

Elisha Cohen Monzella said: “The team of Jennifer Lyons and John Festa taught a faster paced lesson – and not just for the beginning dancer – which was greatly appreciated. Several others said they felt this was worth getting out of bed and can’t wait to apply this to their own dance. I must agree and will definitely consider other workshops taught by them at this level.”


Robert Cordoba & Deborah Szekely were sincerely appreciated for their amazing musicality lessons.

Music can be a mystery! Sure, we hear the beat – but there is more – like accents and breaks and different types of music. Nobody knows what the heck to do with all those loooooong notes. And the verbal meaning of the song – how the heck do we get our hands in the air at the right time?

Several people mentioned to me how much Deborah has changed. She used to be so angry and we were all afraid of her!

She’s more mellow and funnier  – but we still wouldn’t dare talk in HER class!


  Robert and Nicola, likewise taught relevant material. We love their humor and realism. 

Robert Royston with Rob & Sheila

Robert walked many miles in our shoes – he paid for all those private lessons too – and is able to target what we actually need.

Dr. Randolph Peters said: “Pedagogy, engaging wit, and emphasizing fundamentals over patterns are the Roystons’ hallmarks, and this workshop was wonderful for all three. They make learning technique even more fun than learning new patterns!

We were led through eye-opening drills that demonstrated how well a leader and follower can communicate, even when they can’t touch, or look directly at each other.

And if you can lead/follow effectively with those restrictions in place, then dancing without them becomes a much more powerful and nuanced experience.” 

1st Pl Novice Louis Sheridan & Jacqueline Joyner

The competitions were handled extremely well.

This is the very best thing that John Lindo does at Liberty, too.

Short and sweet – No delays – No problems – AND NO STUPID COMPETITOR MEETINGS!

At Liberty there is feedback.

Hopefully, this will be added next year.   




Winners of Newcomer and Novice deserve a special pat on the back. Most people agree that this process is unnecessarily difficult and confusing. What the judges are thinking (if anything) is more closely guarded than KGB secrets! 



1. Lucas Nguyen & Nicole Cox

2. Cory Flowers & Christina Leuci

3. Peter Khoo & Dawn Puchalski (on right)

4. Bruce Haslam & Kristina Chadwick

5. James Kong & Marisa Maglaty  



1. Louis Sheridan & Jacqueline Joyner

2. Curt Kothera & Nadezhda Serova

3. Marlon Mills & Lauren Silvestri

4. Randolph Peters & Barbara Jackson
(on left)

5. Brian King & Amber Hicks



Since competitions and performances were kept to a minimum, the pros had time to step out on the floor with us!

What a thrill it is to dance with Robert Cordoba!

Or watch the exciting spectacle of
Jennifer DeLuca and Robert Royston.

We might stink in the competitions – but this way we can show them what we know in the wild!  



Sunday, all the pros came together for a class called: “Swing Your Heart Out.” Each taught a small piece and rotated in with the class.

It was a great time with lots of laughs – but TRUTHFULLY?

We don’t need any more patterns or jokes. If we can get all these pros together like this – wouldn’t it be better to have a panel discussion about judging criteria? 

Really, aren’t these judges sick and tired of seeing the same ole’ mistakes and problems? Don’t they see the PAIN on peoples’ faces when they are let down during the competitions? We need CPR for dancing 

Johnny L. knows there is nothing more boring than a show that goes on too long.

He put on a great performance without torturing us.  

Local favorites Jason (an Iraq veteran) & Mary Beth Lane performed their Rising Star routine to “Bad Things” by Jace Everett.

It was an excellent country style west coast swing routine.

We wish them luck at MADjam!

This is the couple to watch as they become a major influence in the region.

We love to watch Robert & Nicola dance – but this was so much more!

A juggling act with Nicola flying around during their performance to “The Edge of Glory.” (The woman has 2 children!)

Nicola can be sarcastic and straightforward in an interestingly humerous and lighthearted way. She has a style all her own. 

So many of these BIG personalities absorb the atmosphere with their humor, revelations and volume.

Nicola is a study in less is more.

Arjay & Jennifer performed their NEW classic routine to “Moves like Jagger.”

     WOW!!! The way they dance (and those costumes) is beyond us.

They are in another class. Most of us can never hope to achieve their skill. They should really be developing Advanced Track workshops that bring the whole east coast to a higher level.

The A+ list of tomorrow NEEDS THEM!

Seriously – they cannot do more in this genre – its time for the world stageBroadway.  – 

The only thing better than watching John Festa and Jessica Cox dancing (“Oh What a Beautiful Morning”) is seeing that AMAZING jacket on John!

The guy never disappoints! What a charming duo!

For a real treat, check out this John’s day job: 

Wouldn’t Jess be a wonderful movie star? Can’t you just see her on the Red Carpet? Hollywood doesn’t have anyone like her – yet! 

There was also a very successful hustle party in another ballroom with some excellent hustle dancers – and was DJ’d by Brian Gallagher.

Really hope to see more hustle next year – lessons and competition! 


There will be changes next year but I couldn’t wheedle any advance info out of Sheila!

People who greet their guests dressed as Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross think outside of box. Rob & Sheila were on hand all weekend, too.

They wanted to know what we thought. 


Sheila did table assignments and made sure all visiting from afar had a place to call home!

It’s the way to welcome guests!

Check out some of Rob & Sheila’s other big doings: 

Next year I really think there should be an All American Jack n Jill in true patriotic spirit.

We can all dress up quasi-Revolutionary War outfits.

Hey – let’s get someone to put a BEAT on the Star Spangled Banner! 



Also, I think it would be very useful to have ProAms.

There are soooooo many newer dancers in the Philly area! They could really benefit with the experience of getting out on the competition floor with their teachers. 

Special thanx to sharp dressed man -
Muzii as maître d’ extraordinaire!

Dave had his priorities straight.

No screw-ups, No delays, No confusion, and No running out of water! 

Thanx to Allison Chase who did such a great job with registration and all that pesky administrative stuff that makes things run smoothly.

Also on staff and VERY deserving of special thanx is Michael Frank (hospitality coordinator), Susan Smetona (volunteer coordinator) and all the wonderful people who took care of us.

The event was held at the Philadelphia Airport Ramada with free shuttle.

The hotel is okaaaaayyy – but the bar and restaurant needs retraining to handle us! There was a diner and a Denny’s within walking distance – as well as a Comfort Inn.

Very easy to get there on mass transit. Bolt and Megabus go to the 30th Street train station in Philadelphia.

Both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit (cheaper) go there from both New York Penn and Newark Penn Station – taking about the same amount of time.

The SEPTA train to the airport is $7.00 and you pay on board.

This is the kind of event I like best.

Not too small – not too big. Warm & Fuzzy & Cozy & Friendly!

Everyone loved that they could dance with absolutely everyone else. We were all friends when we were forced to leave on Sunday (seriously, they had to pull the plug on the music).  


These people will be at MADjam, Boston Tea Party and Swingin’ Into Spring.

When we see each other again, it won’t be “haven’t I met you somewhere before?

It will be “Yaaayyyy – so great to see youSave me a dance!

We’re gonna have an amazing time!

  1. Great memories and an event to look forward to next year! Thank you!

  2. anonymous says:

    TwirlTheGirl said “Very cool! Thanks for sharing!”

  3. anonymous says:

    John Festa said “Thank you for your many kind words. I had a having a fantastic time.”

  4. anonymous says:

    Johanne Wilkins said “That looked like a lot of fun!”

  5. anonymous says:

    Mary Beth Lane said “Thank you so much for the awesome photos and your kind words :)!!”

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