Woofing It - Canine Freestyle is Taking Off!
















By Beth Long
Staff Writer

The dog and the handler perform an innovative and creative dance to music. Events are held around the country.

HATBORO —Diane Battis' dance partner has two left feet.

And two right feet.

Well, paws, actually.

You see, Battis participates in musical canine freestyle.

"It is simply dancing with dogs to music," said the 41-year-old applications developer with Penn America Group Inc.

She and her pooch partner twirl and move to songs like "Flashdance (What a Feeling)" and "Be a Clown."

Battis said the relatively new activity is gaining in popularity.

Musical canine freestyle saw its start in Canada and Europe in the late '80s and in the United States in the early '90s. Several people claim to be the inventors, including obedience trainers, dressage trainers, choreographers and show business personalities.

There is a World Canine Freestyle Organization based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a number of events and demonstrations throughout the country.

Battis said the goal of musical canine freestyle is to display the dog and handler in a creative, innovative and original dance. The music and movements should showcase teamwork, artistry, costuming and style in interpreting the theme of the music.

Battis is a dog lover from way back. She's taken part in obedience training with her two Shetland sheep dogs, or shelties, since they were puppies. She and her husband, Ron Battis, own Cassi, 5, and Abby, 3. Battis first got into the canine dancing about a year ago after a friend introduced her to it.

When she began developing routines, she taught the dogs a number of tricks that could be strung together. They include the dog weaving through Battis' legs, the dog backing up and spinning around and laterals, in which the pair sashay in unison from side to side.

"It's very upbeat. It's supposed to be a very fun thing for you and your dog," she said.

Any type of dog can make a star performer, just as any dog owner can create a unique routine.

Battis has taken her shelties to three competitions and a couple of demonstrations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She chose the song from the movie "Flashdance" because of its energy and quick pace.

"You want music that fits your dog's tempo. And you have to love the song because you hear it over and over and over again."

She said the experience of competitions is like being at an ice skating event.

"You are judged on technical merit and artistic impression. The judges hold up cards with your scores on them."

In December, Battis is off to Boston to compete in the Bill Trainor Boogie Shuffle canine freestyle event.

She also hopes eventually to do demonstrations at nursing homes and for other groups.

One thing is certain. She'll continue to enjoy this budding activity.

"I like the whole idea that you can take a song and your dog and try to interpret it to your movements. It's just a lot of fun. It's the next new thing."

Wednesday, November 24, 1999