June 4 and 5, 2011 was a busy, fun-filled weekend at the Brandon branch of TTCS. Guests began arriving as early as Thursday, particularly Virginia Amos, our Lok Hup workshop leader, who graciously consented also to instruct the Thursday evening continuing class. Friday’s arrivals were greeted by welcoming smiles and the wafting scents of eight varieties of soup after their trips from various distant locales, from Miami to Alaska.
The real work (which in Tai Chi is spelled F-U-N) began Saturday at 9:30 a.m. “on the dot” as Virginia said with welcomes and a Tai Chi set, followed by the intense activity of learning the moves of Lok Hup. In a brand-new spacious community center, instructor and attendees started over again as beginners, employing those well-developed powers of observation that serve us in learning the Tai Chi set to absorb everything possible about this other lovely form. Some attended because they have heard Lok Hup would improve their Tai Chi, and others just because they have seen it being practiced by those lucky enough to have been to Orangeville who brought it back, and still others for the sheer delight of doing more with their practice. But everyone was ready for the lunch break back at the Brandon center where Cuban food, a Tampa specialty, awaited.
The excitement of the crowd was evident in the quick dispatch of lunch and the return to the afternoon’s cram session. While Lok Hup was being learned, Chang San Fang banquet committees kicked into high gear preparing for the evening festivities. The entire interior practice space at the Brandon center was cleared of virtually everything that could be moved out of the way, and 15 tables were arranged in carefully calculated spots to fit just right for the expected 137 guests. The center was magically (that is, with great creativity and ingenuity) transformed into a lovely banquet hall, replete with red tablecloths, purple and yellow lotus flower centerpieces, red and yellow window decorations, and simple but elegant place settings. The delicious meal consisted of six courses that received rave reviews, such as “This is the best I have had since eating in Chinatown!” expressed by Mary Lou Gabbert to Guesna Dohrman, the team leader for the servers. The guests were also treated to a variety of entertainments, including poetry, music (pei pa virtuoso Jianghua Zou performed), dance (belly dancers Nuria (Sandy Gompf) and Aylah (Jennifer Williams) of the Tin Can Gypsys in full regalia created a feast of color and movement for the eye), and storytelling. One of the lovely dancers said, “Everyone here is just so nice!” after receiving many, many compliments before their departure.
It was back to work Sunday morning, with Lok Hup students resuming their pursuit of Virginia’s knowledge and skill, as volunteers back at the center cleared away evidence of the banquet’s delights and set up to serve the hungry crew lunch, once again. Many students excitedly talked about how to be able to preserve and continue to develop their Lok Hup after the weekend ended and everyone returned to their home branches. The evident thing is how glad they have been to have the opportunity to learn it here in the U.S. and how grateful we all are to the International Taoist Tai Chi Society and Fung Loy Kok Institute for permitting and supporting this workshop here in the Tampa Bay area. Thank you to everyone who made it possible and contributed to the stunning success of both the workshop and banquet.