The Jewels and Gents hosted their inaugural event at the Crown Plaza Airport Hotel in Phoenix this weekend. This was my third time traveling to Phoenix to dance and when I drove away from the airport in my rental car, I realized why I love the city so much. Phoenix is peaceful. Coming from Chicago where there are thousands of cars, big buildings everywhere, horns blowing, police car and fire truck sirens, and music blasting, it felt incredible to ride down a long desert road with surroundings so serene that I could actually here the insects, animals, and birds in the wilderness. Phoenix feels like a vacation – an escape from the rigors of everyday city life.
The Jewels and Gents weekend was an extension of Phoenix’s beauty. The party was fun, friendly, stress free, and everything came off without a hitch. There were greeters at the door, check-in was smooth, and the hospitality was second-to-none. There were so many incredible dancers in the building from all over the nation, and for me it was a joy to see Tyk Man and Drew Alexander in the same room together dancing and exchanging ideas. Keith Hubbard did a great job MCing. Charnice Simmons, Darrell Davis, and Angie Faine joined some of these dancers on Sunday’s forum panel. Speaking of Darrell Davis, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award at the event.
The music at the event was great. I don’t know all of the DJ’s names, but I did recognize Jon Pierre, Terry Hobson, and Myron “The R” Robinson, who all did a fantastic job in my opinion. Even with a swollen knee I tried not to turn down a single dance, and shared the floor with so many cool new hungry dancers. Dancing in Phoenix allows you to see the strength of the culture that’s developed out West. Usually Chicago makes up the largest group of Steppers at any major event in the nation, but that’s not the case at most west coast sets. Arizona, Southern California, and Las Vegas came out in large numbers for this event. There was also a lot of support from cities like Portland and Seattle among others.
Angie should be commended for her vision. Pioneers like Ceola Coasten would have been proud to see a dance she championed early in Phoenix’s Steppin history represented so well over the weekend. Both the dancer floor and tables were packed wall to wall. Angie even discussed the possibility of having to go to a larger venue next year. Even the Sunday brunch was off the chain with a lavish buffet including chicken and gravy, eggs, beef tenderloin strips, fresh fruit, home-style potatoes coupled with great dancing.
I also witnessed something really cool for the first time ever, and that was the concept of “Ladies Choice.” When I first heard the DJ say it, I thought to myself “Oh my Gosh, what kind of weird shish have the Steppers come up with now.” Then I sat back and thought about how cool the concept was. Ladies Choice allows any lady sitting to pick any guy she wants to dance with and come to floor to get a dance. How clever. It’s a way of making sure that no one leaves the party without getting at least a couple dances in. For those individuals who are new and don’t know anyone and/or have seats in the back and don’t want to stand by the dancefloor, it ensures that they get a chance to hit the wood. I like the concept.
Overall Angie and Detra Harrison had an amazing vision birthed over a year ago and they put together a great weekend in Phoenix. The Jewels and Gents team members should be commended for their role in producing an incredible weekend as well. Great job and I look forward to next year.
Check out a few photos from the event …