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Living the High Life

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A note of apology and thanks to my cabana boy at the DanceLife Teacher Conference

By Diane Gudat

Last August I attended the DanceLife Teacher Conference at the five-star Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, AZ. For myself, and I am guessing for most of the hundreds of dance teachers there, this was my first experience with a life of complete luxury and bliss.

The culture shock began immediately. As I opened the door to my fabulous room, I broke into uncontrollable laughter. I have friends who live in apartments that are smaller than my enormous marble and glass powder room. I was at a total loss at how to behave and so I probably owe most of the staff, and especially my cabana boy, a few explanations.

First, I would like to sincerely thank you for selecting my deluxe, padded lounge chair, complete with umbrella, and for placing an oversized striped towel atop it to make the perfect private island on which I could perch and relax. The fresh pitcher of ice water was also very sweet. I saw you repeat this ritual over and over as dance teacher after dance teacher arrived at poolside.

I am saddened to admit that dance teachers really do not know how to relax; we have completely lost the ability. I noticed that the non-dance partners in attendance seemed to take to it like ducks to water, but we teachers simply gathered in small groups in the pool, bobbed up and down, and discussed our fall schedules. As our congregations grew in number and the late afternoon sun caused us to squint, you moved the umbrellas closer to the pool edge to shade our floating workshops. Thanks to your gentle encouragement, our attitudes did improve and we started to ease up as the weekend progressed.

By the way, I must apologize for the number of times you had to relate where you purchased your “darling” tropical shirt. You see, some of us are planning a “Trip to the Tropics” recital and need to get a jump on costuming.

Also, if we seemed a little desperate for cocktails, it’s because we do have a flair for drama. You did your level best to keep up and we are forever grateful. Your complete willingness to set my lunch next to my cocktail on the edge of the pool really touched me—I have many times dreamed of such a luxury, but it completely surpassed my imagination. I am now trying to train my husband to bring my bagel to the bathtub.

You must also realize that most of us have body-image problems. Eating french fries in our swimsuits with our torsos safely hidden below four feet of water was a dream come true.

Thank you for your kind and constant warnings about dancing on the wet pool deck. You see, for four full days we had to choose between three simultaneous classes, and most of us wanted to share what had gone on in the classes we had not been able to attend.

Please do me the favor of extending our apologies to the rest of the hotel staff.

The bell captains politely tried to assist with our luggage, but we are so used to hitting the door with our fannies to walk right through while carrying dance bags, purses, and oversized costumes boxes that we did not flinch at pulling our own rolling suitcases.

However, we were painfully aware that our luggage was infinitely heavier on departure than at arrival due to the enormous book of conference notes and the free catalogs and giveaways from the dozens of vendors.

If we looked confused or it took us too long to get off the elevators, it is simply because we are not used to arriving so quickly at our selected destination. You see, we usually have to ride elevators packed with young dancers who think it is hilarious to hit every button on the panel. Our stop is rarely the first!

Please explain to the wait staff that when we signed our bills to our room, we probably all wrote 5-6-7-8. We are hoping that the family staying in room 5678 found the humor in this situation. We have a really hard time stringing any other four numbers together. In addition, when someone suggested we tip the staff, we grabbed them at the waist and pitched them sideways. Blame it on the ballroom class!

I know only 8 or 10 of us were supposed to be seated at each table at the complimentary buffet breakfast, but as the week went on we needed to include our new friends. So we appreciate your staff’s help with moving the extra chairs. Plus, they never questioned my fifth cup of coffee or my extra yogurt parfait! They even looked the other way at the extra butter I used on my freshly toasted bagel. The lovely man who played the chimes to remind us to move along to class was probably shocked by the interpretive dance his tones inspired.

The room service staff was no doubt confused by the large amount of ice we required. Most of us had not danced since recital time, and our minds imagined that we were capable of more than our bodies were able to do. Hopefully your spa staff has recovered from the number of emergency massages booked that weekend. By the way, our insatiable need for chocolate as both energy source and comfort food explains the constant need to restock the $8.95 Snickers bars in the mini-bars.

I am sure that housekeeping needed to restock tissues quite often due to some of our more soul-searching seminars and the touching story of our honoree, Carol Crawford Smith, at the gala luncheon. There was not a dry eye in the ballroom for at least 20 minutes.

I should also explain that although we really did not need to wear either of the robes hanging in our rooms, as dance teachers we cannot resist a good costume. And yes, I did take my full-size shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion home. I am hoping that the eucalyptus fragrance will bring my soul back to that amazing room after a long, trying day at the studio.

We also greatly appreciated the quiet way your staff went about their duties on Sunday morning. You see, we had a huge cocktail party on Saturday night and a few of us had not been out in quite a while. Picture 600 dance teachers and guests all in one room with a live band—really, The Phoenician is lucky to still have a ballroom at all. Have you ever seen a documentary on the feeding habits of piranhas? Ask your unfortunate friends who had to restock the hors d’ouevres at that event. I am sure your pool staff fished a few of us out of the hot tub that evening too!

I noticed the number of times you politely took our cameras from our hands to allow all of us to be in a picture. At the beginning of the conference, there were groupings of old friends and at the end groups of brand-new ones. Lending us paper and pen to write down email addresses and phone numbers was a nice touch.

Memories of what I learned about dance and myself at the conference will stay with me forever, and your smile was the icing on the cake. I know we were not your only conference this summer, but I am hoping that we have a special place in your heart as the best. On the wall next to my stereo I have placed a picture of you, my dear cabana boy, standing by your lovely yellow poolside haven, and I will remember you fondly as I begin my new dance season. Thanks again—and please warn your friends at next year’s resort!

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