2 Million Dancers…and Counting

Tremaine Dance Conventions celebrates 35 years.

Faculty member Marty Dew leading Tremaine Performance Company Dancers

Whatever Joe Tremaine does, he does it big. And the 35th anniversary of his Tremaine Dance Conventions (TDC) follows suit—a documentary, a book and a gala are all set to fete one of dance’s favorite figures.

Laissez les bons temps rouler—let the good times roll!” exclaims Tremaine from his office in Los Angeles. “I’m from the cotton fields of New Orleans, where we love a good party. It’s time to celebrate…and dance.”

The 2015–16 convention tour culminates in a massive gala dinner during the Orlando stop this month. Many of Tremaine’s former faculty members, protégés and “scholarship kids” from the last 35 years will gather to pay tribute, and for the first time, all former award honorees will also be invited (from Debbie Allen to Kenny Ortega to Paula Abdul).

Summer marks the release of the book Tremaine is co-authoring with tap dancer Laurie Johnson. It’s a primer on seizing the various opportunities in the dance world—both onstage and off. “The message is that regardless of how you dance, how you look or who you are, there is a place in the dance industry for you,” says Johnson, who has been teaching for TDC since 1998.

Also in the works is Behind the Curtain, a feature-length documentary that includes footage of Tremaine in 2015 and 2016—from the conventions’ national finals to his acceptance of the Gene Kelly Legacy Award from the Dizzy Feet Foundation.

Joe Tremaine (left) with faculty member Colby Shinn

A noted dancer, choreographer and educator, Tremaine founded the convention in 1981 with Julie Adler. At the time, he had taught for Dance Masters of America and Dance Educators of America, so he knew exactly how to differentiate his event. He was the first to employ a faculty of professionals actively working in the industry. Says Tremaine: “I wanted to bring real working dancers to the hinterlands across Middle America.”

To date, close to 2 million dancers have come through TDC, and the faculty roster has included notables like creative director Barry Lather, “So You Think You Can Dance” runner-up Tiffany Maher, Tony Award nominee Lisa Mordente and dancewear designer Marcea Lane.

Johnson says Tremaine’s longevity is due to a mixture of old-school values and modern finesse. Adds Tremaine, “We don’t teach kids to dance all in one weekend, but we inspire them to go work harder in their studios. People ask me what these weekends are like, and I say, ‘You just have to come and feel the energy.’” DT

For more: tremainedance.com

L.A.-based Jen Jones Donatelli is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Photos by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging, courtesy of Green Galactic

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