NVSC History - 1996
Valerie Swiger took over Membership from Patricia Parrott and continues the responsible role into the year 2003.
In January 1996, with Rick Hendrix's help, Sy Creed and Dana Brown, 1993 National Shag Champions, came to teach basic fundamentals, style and technique. That evening Sy and Dana performed a beautiful shag exhibition at a dance at Cherry Hill in Maryland, and then were joined on the floor by attending NVSC members. The swing dance crowd vigorously applauded them all. Promoting and expanding shag was continuously happening.
The Club needed a dance floor for the First Annual Capital Shag Classic. Floor rentals cost about $2,300. With an investment of about $1,500 and thanks to donations from anonymous members and the strong arms and concerted mental efforts of a small crew of club members, the Club's very own dance floor came into being. (See write-up below.)
Club Dance Floor
In 1996, John Belt took the initiative to start working on developing a plan for our club to have a weekend party... a daunting task considering how young and under-funded our club was. He contacted numerous hotels and consistently was rejected. Most hotels want monetary guarantees and want to see the track record from your previous experiences. We had neither the money nor the experience. He was finally able to convince HoJo's in Alexandria to take a shot on us. Step one accomplished, we had a place.
John went on to the next problem. Renting a dance floor. The club had rented a small floor for a party at Cardinal Forest. No problem, he would just rent a large floor. That's when he found out that no vendor had 1,200 sq. ft. of dance floor to rent. This presented a problem. Maybe we could use multiple vendors! Then came the problem of the cost. In order to get enough rental floor space from several vendors, the cost would be an outrageous $2,200 for rental alone, not including transportation or installation. That was impossible. Built into the cost, that would make the ticket price prohibitive. Something else would have to happen.
About that time, the company that Gary Salpini was working for was removing a hardwood basketball court from a church in Oakton. What if that could be salvaged and recycled? Sounds interesting. A refinished maple dance floor! What a coup!
Gary had the carpenters saw the floor into panels that were slightly larger than 4 x 8 panels, and had 50 of them delivered to his house. That Saturday, John Belt, Dave Rapson, and Gary Salpini went to work on re-sizing the panels to true 4 x 8 sheets to panelize the floor for portability. After 9 hours of extremely hard work, only about 6 panels were reasonably finished and the overall outcome looked really poor - the panels were just too heavy to deal with. Seems that the basketball floor idea was a bust. John, Dave, and Gary spent the next two days hauling all the floor panels back to the jobsite for disposal. Something else would have to happen.
John spoke with someone at the Richmond club about their dance floor and they agreed to share their drawing plans with us. A review of the plans showed a plywood floor system that appeared to be easy to build and economical to afford. It was estimated that the floor could be built for an initial cost of about $1,300. This would save a lot of money, even if it was only used once and then disposed of. The plan was made. We would build a dance floor.
John and Gary rounded up all the material and stored it at Gary's house. They set a date for the following Saturday to assemble and begin work. The floor construction crew consisted of John Belt, Charlie Price, Gary Salpini, Dave Rapson, Valerie Swiger, Denise Bass, Les Lanier, and Jerry Crews. A floor panel template was made, furring stringers were cut, and an assembly line set up. By the end of the day, we had 44 dance floor panels ready for the inaugural Classic! Some additional design and work continued to come up with a suitable edge piece to transition from the dance floor to the regular floor.
On the Thursday before the Classic, John arranged for a truck, and the floor was loaded, transported to the hotel, and set in place for the first time. Five hours later the dance floor was complete and went on to become a focal point of the party.
Capital Shag Classic - Fred Fritz Named It – The Board considered several entries and chose the name suggested by Fred Fritz for the club’s first annual weekend party: CAPITAL SHAG CLASSIC.
The First Annual Capital Shag Classic, June 28-30, 1996, at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Alexandria was a great big, huge success... thanks in large part to the beautiful, shiny new dance floor. Norman Mills and Jerry Canada were guest deejays, along with Eddy Farmer, and Craig Jennings. Brent Key and Shea Carver taught a free shag workshop. They taught “The Chelsea.” They also performed inspiring exhibition dances. Larry and Shirley Jones taught a free beginner workshop, and Keith Abernathy and Donna Harrington taught “The KD.” Weekend tickets sold for $40. Rooms were available at the special rate of $50 per night. Dancers came from up and down the coast and from the West.
Everyone has their own personal opinion as to why NVSC’s first weekend event was so successful, but the writer believes it was because (1) club enthusiasm, (2) the attendance was just the right size, not too many, not too few, which made the atmosphere personable and friendly, informal and carefree, (3) the usual great music, great dancing, great food, great people and (4) NVSC had, by now, generated the interest of many old-time shaggers of the Southeast. They looked, it seemed, to NVSC to expand shag, and so they willingly came and gave their support, knowledge, and experience.
Hendrix, Belt, Price Put NVSC on the Party Map
(Or, The First Time’s a Charm)
Craig Jennings had replaced Burt Nelbach as the club deejay. Craig played energizing Beach Music three times a month and arranged a guest deejay the fourth Wednesday of the month. Craig served on the 1997, 1998 and 1999 NVSC Board of Directors and continues to support the club and serve as NVSC Deejay into the year 2003. He has enormous enthusiasm for Beach Music, the dance and club success. Larry Jones joined forces with Craig and brought his special mix of Beach Music to further inspire the Wednesday night dancers at Blackie’s.
Around this same time, July 1996, the Club began to look at improving the format for shag instruction. They decided on a fixed lesson plan based on rotating four-week cycles. Chris Pax and Janis Grimes prepared a standardized lesson plan and manual. Lessons would continue to be free, but in order for a student to advance above the beginner or introductory level, they would be required to join the club. Chris Pax and Janis Grimes deserve immense credit for their work in planning and structuring lesson plans and drafting, typing and publishing the instruction manual. They met regularly to discuss with other Dance Committee members ways to streamline the format into easy, well-executable lessons. These lesson instructions are still in place in 2003 and have evolved to be one of the most significant assets for the club’s growth and popularity and a needed boost to the treasury. Other dance committee members at that time were: Rick Hendrix, Bill Hopkins, Phyllis Schulte, Larry Boyer, Mark Rollings, Donna Harrington, Joan McKinney and Charlie Price.
Passions ran high in 1996. Throughout the year, NVSC members got together for more Road Trips and to dance their beloved shag. They went to: SOS Spring Fling and Fall Migration, North Myrtle Beach, to Virginia Beach Shag Club’s annual Beach Bash, to Richmond’s annual Shag Splash and other social events, to Portsmouth’s Boogie on the Bay Shag Club’s Magic Maydays, to Jackie and Charlie’s SOS Grand National Dance Championships in Atlanta, and to other places south. NVSC members continued to support and participate in local dance groups: Craig Hutchinson’s VA State Open, Barry Durand’s Swing Fling, and shared gatherings with the D.C. Hand Dancers. Seems they didn’t want to miss any opportunity to be sociable and dance. As Donna Harrington wrote, “Shag music goes through your skin, even your bones and reaches your soul. You truly can feel it before you even realize you’re hearing it. The jolt of energy is real, electric, and you feel alive. Even in the doldrums of winter, you experience the rebirth of spring surge through your blood at the first sound of the beat.”
Shaggers again wowed the crowd and the judges at the 1996 VA State Open Dance Competitions and brought further recognition to the Northern Virginia Shag Club. Chris Pax and Bill Hopkins won the coveted Rising Star Award. Dan Shames and Janis Grimes won first place in the Amateur Shag Division. Karen Garmon and Billy White of VA Beach took first place in the Open Classic Shag Division closely followed by smoothies Sid and Linda Strawderman of Richmond.
It was at the Virginia State Open that we first noticed the Smooth & EZ DC Hand Dancers perform couples dance competitions and team competitions. We were mesmerized by the beauty, grace, skill, and intricacy of their dancing. As it turned out, they were also mesmerized by shaggers and by the Carolina Shag. Friendships and camaraderie ensued that included many exchanges, visits to Blackie’s and sharing of dances. Hand Dancers Lawrence Bradford, BJ Jones, Steve Mitchell, Gaye Proctor, Cynthia Trueheart and Greg Owens came to Blackie’s, and through mutual admiration for dance styles, enduring friendships began. Greg Owens, in particular, had a strong desire to learn to shag and by persistence, practice and determination, he learned the Carolina Shag and became a favored dance partner to many ladies.
The December 7, 1996, Christmas Party was again held at the McLean VFW. Bill Hopkins chaired. Deejays were Craig Jennings and Larry Jones. There was a free shag workshop with National competitors, Larry and Shirley Jones. Cost: $10 per person, $15 at the door. Thanks to the NVSC members who brought wrapped toys for the annual charity, the club presented four large gift bags to Ho, Ho, Ho, the group responsible for delivering toys to needy children in Alexandria.