YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Lining Up for Country Festival

The second annaul dance extravaganza will be held at CSUN, offering workshops and competitions for all ages and skill levels.


Maybe you are a country and western dance veteran, then again, maybe you don't know a line dance from a lineup. Either way, the second annual All Valley Country Dance Festival slated for this weekend at Cal State Northridge offers a Whitman's sampler of workshops, competitions and demos designed for all ages and skills.

These country incarnations of "American Bandstand" are extremely popular with dance fans who often plan vacations around the big annual events held in Pismo Beach, Bakersfield and Las Vegas.

Mike Bendavid, a dance instructor at the Cowboy Palace Saloon in Chatsworth, said he saw the need to bring such an event closer to home. So last year he kicked off his brainchild in Simi Valley.

Apparently it was successful enough to be offered again.

"I took all the line-dance classes and watched the competitions," said Chatsworth's Billie Cobb, 71, who is a Cowboy Palace regular and attended last year's event. "I bet I know 40 or 50 line dances by now. It probably sounds like I'm dancing my little feet off."

For Cobb, the classes are great, the competitions are great and the whole trade-show atmosphere is great. But the major draw is Bendavid, who calls himself the Jewish Cowboy.

Bendavid, who is a full-time country dance instructor and deejay, also teaches at the Chatsworth Dance Centre, the YMCA in Woodland Hills and at senior and recreation centers across the Valley. And 18 months spent living on Kibbutz Alonim in northern Israel during the early 1980s resulted in his fluency in Hebrew.

"I've taught a dance class in Hebrew. I wore the cowboy hat, worked out in the fields and I was known as the cowboy, or as they used to say 'Ma'nish, ha Cowboy.' It's like 'Que pasa' or 'how's it going?' " he said.

"I was born at Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles, grew up in the Valley and got a B.A. in history of the Old West--cowboys and Indians--from Cal State Northridge in 1985."

But Bendavid wasn't born wearing cowboy boots 35 years ago. In fact, in 1977 he was Mr. Disco in a polyester suit. That was when a buddy took the then 17-year-old Bendavid country dancing.

"This girl asked me to dance and showed me some two-step," he said. "I enjoyed the fact that you could hang on to a girl. This is something that you don't normally get a chance to do unless you're dancing slow.

"So I came back the next week decked out completely country. And I stayed with it."

These dance festivals can seem overwhelming to a novice, but attending one is an efficient way of trying your hand--and feet--at line and partner dancing without the usual commitment of a six-week class or going to the bars for lessons.

Highlights of the social dances on Friday and Saturday nights will include fun-to-watch spotlight dance demonstrations and Jack & Jill contests, in which participants draw a partner's name out of a hat and are judged on how well they can lead and follow.

In addition, there will be an opportunity to buy everything from unique country fashions to battery-operated hand-held fans for personal post-dance climate control.

This three-day event, accredited by Country-Western Dance International (CWDI), will be smoke- and alcohol-free and open to children who are supervised.

Among the instructors will be many popular dance teachers from Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties including: Ed & Sally; Vince and Madeline Fiske, Sandi Patterson, Kathy Bailey, Tom Hyatt and Lisa Fay, Michelle Fisher, Linda Goldstein, Kenny Meek and Marie Bendavid.

Patrick Riley will be returning to emcee the event and teach West Coast Swing. Riley's performing style is like ballroom dancing in denim. Former Santa Barbara resident, Tyoni Bush, will bring her West Coast Swing expertise from Bakersfield.

"Vern Black, the CWDI president, is coming down from Pismo Beach to teach a judge's training clinic," said Bendavid. "There will also be brand new introductory dance competitions for individuals or couples who have never competed before--no fancy costumes or choreography required."

Things get rolling at 4:30 p.m. Friday with registration followed by simultaneous dance workshops in four rooms from 5 to 7 p.m. Bendavid, who is also a deejay and sometime country singer, will provide music for the welcome dance on Friday night.

Coolwater, a five-piece band from the Los Angeles area, plays at Saturday night's dance after more workshops, and Sunday's events wrap up with dance competitions and an awards ceremony.


* WHAT: All Valley Country Dance Festival.

* WHEN: 5-11:45 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11:45 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

* WHERE: Student Union Building at CSUN, 18111 Nordoff St. (use parking lot C).

* HOW MUCH: $45 for a three-day pass includes all events, no meals; $15 for juniors, ages 5-15; one-day pass for workshops only, $25; dance admission only after 8 p.m. is $5 on Friday, $8 on Saturday; dinner and dance Saturday, $18; $15 fee for judges training clinic; $5 discount off admission with proof of CWDI membership.

* CALL: Mike's Country Dancing, (818) 349-8788.

Los Angeles Times Articles