18-year-old Paul McAdam is going places?.all the time. His life on the hetic line dance circuit is far cry from County Durham where he spent his childhood, writes Tim Matthews, editor of Linedancer Magazine.
"I went home recently and my mum said 'who are you?' She was only joking but actually I'm hardly ever there. I spend more time on trains, in cars and planes these days", offers line dance livewire Paul McAdam. After a busy weekend in Blackpool at "yet another Rob Fowler event", Paul is shooting the breeze with us ageing hacks, here at Linedancer Central in Southport.
"Rob wants me back at his place. We've got to finish choreographing a dance for tonight." So are dances always choreographed on the fly? "No, but we do the detailed work on the them in the strangest places!" These include services stations and in the car, apparently. "You see, Rob does the driving and can't move his feet [a major contribution to road safety] so I do the moves." Feet on the dashboard and hands in the air?... "Something like that", says Rob's protégé.
"Never thought I'd be a dancer of any sort, especially not a line dancer." Paul wanted to be a boxer, (he loves all five 'Rocky' films) to join the Army, the SAS, something like that. He was a District Cross-Country champion and big sports fan. Then, one day, his Auntie Maureen encouraged him to go to a line dance class with his younger brother, Ben, and it's all been uphill ever since.
Maureen Lewis has a lot to answer for. As well as passing the line dance bug to Paul, she also makes his costumes, the latest of which is a black and fluorescent green number, "that looks great under the lights" and is "perfect for the body isolation."
Body what? I may have learned a lot since I arrived on the doorstep of Drummond Towers last September but body isolation does not compute. "Like this", demonstrates Paul. Various bits of the body move, in isolation. "Very Michael Jackson", I offer. "Yeah, in a way" he replies. "There's a joke back home that they swapped Michael Jackson for me at birth", he adds and you can see why; we are treated to a new demonstration number, Take It To Da House, a dance by Scott Blevins to Take It To Da House by Trick Daddy from the Thugs Are Us album (!).
It's a line dance Paul, but not as we now it? it would be improper to give too many details if this particular number except to say that it would not, perhaps, go down well with the traditionalists!
It is pretty obvious that Paul McAdam is expanding the possibilities for line dance, mixing various styles together for his spotlight (demonstration) performances. He has learned so much in the last few years, mainly from Rob Fowler. Fowler discovered him dancing at a competition event in 1997 and saw the raw talent. "He asked me to train with his team in Liverpool. It was an opportunity too good to miss. God knows how much I have spent on train fares from Durham to Merseyside!"
All the travelling paid off - McAdam has become perhaps Rob's closest confidant and a natural foil for demonstrations and specialised routines. "At the start, I had very little idea what I was doing. Two things come to mind. Rob would say, 'Trust me' and 'Listen'. I did both and in six months I'd gone from the basics to fairly advanced stuff."
Paul joined Rob's dance team and moved up the ranks but it wasn't all plain sailing; strong personalities always come to blows. "I'll admit we used to argue a lot. I'd say to Rob, 'what do you mean?' and he'd demonstrate a move for the umpteenth time? 'Like THIS' he'd say! I owe him everything."
Feelings ran high, words were exchanged but one day, it all clicked: Paul remembers that, "I'd been practising these hip bumps and not quite getting them right. All of a sudden, I made a tiny alteration and Rob was running around the studio punching the air in celebration. 'That's it' he shouted. 'Always do it like that in future!'"
Perhaps the highlight of Paul's competition career so far was his double win at Worlds this year. He topped the Junior Teen Advanced and Junior Teen Showcase divisions. Nevertheless, Paul sees himself as an all rounder and is determined to master all aspects of line dance. "I'm starting to take my judging certificates - I want to work at all the big events. I'm also really interested in Swing dancing. Rachael McEnaney and I are working on that together and we both think that West Coast Swing is going take off in the UK." Rob Fowler has already introduced swing workshop as a novelty item at his events.
Interestingly, many line dancers have, according to Paul, been travelling to the USA to learn more about couples dancing, where the Americans have real expertise. Paul and Rachael are both working in the USA this summer. The Female Superstar is working with Jo Thompson for two months and Paul is criss-crossing the States to compete and work.
"I love the USA. I was thrilled to get standing ovations after giving demonstrations in Florida and they have asked me back. I'll be appearing at various festivals and there's even the possibility of a video shoot on body isolation."
The strangest things happen when you're abroad and for Paul, the USA in no exception: "I had just completed this routine - it had gone really well- and this black guy came up to me and said, 'you're the exception'. I said, 'the exception for what' and he replied, 'you're the exception to the rule that white men can't dance!'"
As well as working on advanced routines, developing his exciting, jazzy dance style, Paul is developing his choreography skills. "Rob and I have worked on many dances but I think the best of them is Hit Da Floor." Paul is very clear about the problem in choreography: "it's the beginning. If you don't make the beginning interesting you've lost people straightaway so I concentrate on the few first counts."
He has never been busier with regular booking for Select Events weekends, request to demonstrate for local clubs and at festivals both at home and abroad. All the travelling will give Paul a chance to catch up on his reading; he is a bit of a bookworm and is just starting on the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy - just in time for the release of the film next year!
Paul's is a remarkable story and one that will continue to develop, as he became one of the most important personalities on line dance scene. You could not hope to meet a more engaging, humourous young man. Who knows what will happen next when the Fowler-McAdam machine moves into top gear!