EDMOND—The lobby of the Dwight Armstrong Performing Arts Conservatory on the Herbert W. Armstrong College campus was a disorganized display of 3B and 5B campers milling about and chatting when I arrived a few minutes after 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 19. In the center of the commotion was my father, Philadelphia Youth Camp Director Wayne Turgeon.
While the greenies of 3B shuffled their speaking notes and nervously anticipated introducing themselves via three-minute “icebreaker” speeches to dorm 4B and speech instructor Ryan Malone, my father told me about my brother Micah’s speech in the previous class. Apparently, he had outrageously declared himself “the most interesting man in the world” and proceeded to tell a series of hilariously inaccurate one-liners about himself. Though Micah seemingly didn’t fulfill the purpose of an icebreaker speech, at least he was funny, I thought to myself.
Dorm 5B, clad in light-gray shirts, was in the building for an entirely different purpose: to serve their sister dorm by practicing mambo and swing moves with them under the diligent tutelage of pyc dance instructors Shane Granger, Sarah Evans, Jacob Bancroft and Samantha Robson. As Mr. Granger shepherded 5B into the dance room across from the dapac entrance, I told him how many workers and campers this year had raved about the increased enthusiasm at the Saturday-night dance as compared to previous years.
“When everyone participates, that makes it fun for everybody,” he agreed.
My father and I found chairs and took our places in the near corner of the dance room while dorm 5G arrived and filed in. The class started with Mr. Granger and Mrs. Evans reviewing the basics of the mambo. Mrs. Evans advised the girls to put “positive pressure” on the balls of their feet and to rotate their shoulder blades back and together to prevent slouching [Archer’s note: This is a scapula lock.].
As the campers partnered up and practiced the cross-body lean, my father echoed the sentiments of Mr. Granger. “We didn’t have to chase people out of the dining hall [where snacks and drinks are served],” he recalled. “Most everybody, even the guys, said it was one of their most enjoyable activities. They’re so wound up afterwards, it takes an hour or two or three for them to go to sleep.”
A few minutes later, Mrs. Evans walked over to the dance pair closest to us. “Don’t worry about going around him,” she told Jordan’s partner, alluding to the anticipation and commitment required to execute the mambo steps. “You go through him, and he’ll make up for it.”
Mr. Granger paused the exquisite Michael Bublé tunes to remind the campers that every mambo move starts with both partners taking a rock-step backward to create momentum, “… like pulling a rubber band.”
Approximately half an hour into class, my father left to check out some of the other pyc activities, so I invited 5B counselor Harvey Powell to fill his seat. Once we had lamented our beloved England’s heartbreaking loss to Croatia in the semi-finals of the World Cup (Harvey is British; the U.S. is my favorite team, but I lived in England for two years in the 1990s), he praised his dorm for being consistently hard-working, positive, collaborative, enthusiastic, disciplined, obedient, and not overly dramatic.
Mr. Powell called his first experience as a pyc counselor “… so fun. I’ve learned a lot because I can see little bits of me in each of them. It’s easy enough, as long as you show respect to each individual for their good qualities.” Assistant counselor Michael Davis, he said, is helpful because he remembers the little things.
In the background of our riveting conversation, the dance class continued. It was the most attentive group of campers I had ever seen at a pyc dance class in my 13 years of participating and spectating, clearly validating Mr. Powell’s praise. He told me of 5B’s positivity despite not winning any sporting contests up to that point in camp and how eight of his 10 campers danced to every song at the dance five days earlier.
Mr. Granger ended the class with a stirring admonition for the dance that would take place in two days: “Challenge yourself. Dancing is a sport.”
Before I left, Mr. Bancroft gave his thoughts on dorm 5B, saying they “excelled in their enthusiasm for dance” and set a “shining example.”