My bay area getaway

Last weekend, I flew down to Oaktown to attend the 1st Annual Kizomba Zouk Festival. Every time I think of Oaktown, I think of this song…

Awww, an ode to my youth. As a dancer, I especially appreciate the body waves in that video.

The weekend was packed with workshops. I felt like it was a little bit of an appetizer sampler – I got a taste of some new concepts and patterns. The highlights for me were:

  • Eddie Vents and Laury – Eddie says that the music is our master and I totally subscribe to that philosophy. It is difficult to dance when the lead is a slave to patterns rather than an expression of rhythm.
  • Bryon Stroud – damn, do I love Dominican bachata?!? Why, yes, I do! Bryon was a fun instructor who challenged me with footwork but made me walk away with the feeling that I have something new to play with. I just might try to schedule a weeklong bootcamp with this guy in 2013.
  • Sophie de Silva – Rio-style zouk was fun and super sexy. I think Sophie was a little frustrated that there were few zouk dancers attending the festival, but she was a good sport. She also taught Carnaval samba, which was challenging because it is truly an endurance sport. I have to get my lungs and calves in shape this fall so that I can rock this dance!

It was great fun to dance with new leads. I am really working on letting myself follow and I see glimpses of brilliance when the lead and I harmonize our movement. My challenge for kizomba, semba, tarraxinha, zouk and samba is to tune in to the music as much as I can. I am always, always, always listening to salsa and bachata. Oddly enough, dancing opened me up to new styles of salsa that seem to be slightly more rich dance material than Marc Anthony (I still love you, bro!). Listening to music helps me to connect to the instruments and identify breaks. I’ll probably annoy my co-workers, but I am going to be pumping up the jams to acquaint my ears and body with the beats.

My weekend wasn’t all about dance. I actually took time to soak up some vitamin D and walk around Jack London Square. It was a gorgeous weekend and fresh air is just what my body needs.

The side story of the weekend was the Venezuelan election. San Francisco boasts one of a handful of Venezuelan consulates in the US that hosted voting stations for the presidential election. Many of the Venezuelans in the US are presumed to be anti-Chavez, making this an important election as the president serves unlimited 6-year terms. As someone who has visited Venezuela and has experienced just a smidgen of its decline (I was only a tourist, not a resident), I was hopeful for change. I am hopeful for change that will better the safety and security of this nation as well as provide for economic opportunity.

On Saturday night, I stumbled across a strange sight as I walked from the dance studio to the hotel. I was walking with friends and we decided to stop at a deli to grab a sandwich for dinner. As we crossed the street, I spotted a car with a red Che flag on the windshield. Weird. We approached the door of the deli and saw a small room full of people (about 15) wearing red shirts, some with berets. I swear to god that it was a círculo bolivariano meeting on the eve of the election. It was so weird. No one else in my party was up on Venezuelan politics, so they didn’t really understand my shock. We walked away hungry because the deli was closed to the public.

I decided that I would take a ride in to San Francisco on Sunday night to be with the Venezuelan people and celebrate change. I experienced a slight snafu as I got on the wrong train (asked for directions rather than looking at the map) and rode all the way out to Richmond. This might signal defeat for some travelers, but I embraced the fact that I got to see some more colorful characters (as well as a drug deal) on the train from Richmond to San Francisco. The delay did provide time for me to check my phone and see that Chavez won the election by a 10% margin. What the hell?!? I hopped off of the train in the Mission district and strolled in to Pica Pica Maíz Kitchen to find approximately nine sad Venezuelan faces. I felt a twinge of guilt as I enjoyed my arepa filled with pabellón and parchita sangria. I bought a cachapa to go to eat for breakfast on the flight home.

Despite the election results, it was a wonderful weekend for me. I am learning so much about myself through dance and enjoying everything that my body can do. It is pretty amazing!

Sunday night chill out

There are some days that I just prefer quiet and solitude. Is my choice fueled at all by hangover? Perhaps. Although I had some rum last night, I think my body is more exhausted from lack of sleep and from pushing my mid-section to the limit.

I met up with Elena and Eloise at Club Sur for the Kaysha show. Kaysha is from the Congo and I was turned on to him by the kizomba crowd. His hits seem to be slow and romantic, both in English and French. This particular show was fun because there was a large contingent of Africans in attendance as well as Seattle kizomber@s. The highlight of the evening for me was when DJ Guelas (Atlanta) pumped it up and started playing house music. I’m not up to speed on African tunes, but I do believe that he played some kizomba, semba, zouk and Top 40. He also threw in Danza Kuduro, which was a crowd-pleaser. We danced A LOT and apparently the different style of dancing did me good because my core muscles were feeling it when I woke up. 

Kaysha went on at about 1am and was so-so. We couldn’t totally tell if he was singing over the tracks or just lip-syncing. The crowd didn’t really care.

I had a great night and I think that I might have convinced Elena and Eloise to try out kizomba in September. Some folks are intimidated by the dance or feel that the embrace is too intimate, but these girls are game.

Feliz año nuevo!

Well, hello 2012!

New Year’s Eve was a quiet Saturday night for me. I turned on the tunes and threw some pollo cubano in the slow cooker (it is debatable whether or not they would actually make this style of dish in Cuba, but I digress…). I cleaned house. I chit-chatted with some of my favorite people on the planet. December was a great month for me and I just wanted to savor that last day in my own way.

I’m such a big thinker, that I often mentally catalogue potential resolutions or changes that I can make throughout the year to live a better life. If I tried to implement every single one of them, I would go insane (sorry Earth, I will likely still be a half-assed composter in 2012). I know that I am a work in progress and, as crazy as it may sound, I really work hard at loving every day. Not making love, just giving and feeling it. Love really makes life fun! I hope that it helps me to understand other peeps and myself a little bit better, too. Go love!

Beyond love, I have a big, big dream for 2012. I want to be a better dancer!! I love salsa music and want to be able to tear it up on the dance floor, especially the next time that I visit PR. I’ve always been able to do the ‘basic’ steps (in the most beginners sort of way), but my turns are a nightmare. I have to submit to being a good follow. My goal is to dance every single week this year, whether it be classes, clubs or good old house parties.

I’m really looking forward to the coming months. I will be meeting up with some of my peeps that live outside of Seattle, I’ll get to catch up with a slew of folks at my 20-year high school reunion (what?!?) and I’ll spend more time giggling and creating memories with mi familia. Love you all!!

Oh Sheila!!

I hit the town with the ladies last night. It was an honest-to-god date night with Brenda and Alice that included both dinner and a show.

We met up at the Icon Grill in downtown Seattle. I don’t hang out downtown very much, so it was a nice treat. Brenda and Alice are always great company. We determined that married and single ladies who mingle have a lot of fun (no, we are not depressed all of the time :P). We kicked off the meal with a little chicken-fried calamari which was delish. I ordered the fried chicken salad, which was also good, but I think it was a little bit too much fried food for me.

I had a couple of glasses of the Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells cabernet sauvignon. As the server was taking orders for our second round, Alice turned to me…

Alice: How is that cab? Is it dry??
Me: uh, duh, duh, duh…

I have two basic categories for wine which are good and bad (I guess I could also use drinkable and vinegar). This wine was good. I might even go as far as saying it was delightful, but I just can’t really distinguish the body/style of a glass of wine. Does that make me a lush?

After dinner, we strolled over to Jazz Alley to see the Pete Escovedo Orchestra. Now, if you’ve never heard of Pete Escovedo, I can assure you that you are not alone. I had no idea who he was prior to making my reservation for this show. Regardless, the show was packed. Why? Pete Escovedo tours with his daughter Sheila E, who used to play with the artist-formerly-known-as-Prince back in the 80s.

My reflections about this show:

* We sat close to the stage, but on stage left so we really had the best view of Sheila E, the bass player and the wind instrument guy. Sheila E totally rocked! As in, she hit those drums like she was backing up Metallica. The woman is strong! I loved that she had a wide grin on her face as she played and ‘dialoged’ with the energy of the crowd. She also looks damn fine for a 52-year-old woman.

* After the show, we were chatting about Juan Escovedo, another Pete Escovedo progeny who plays congas. What is it like to live in your sister’s shadow? The crowd would clap after his solos but it would completely erupt when Sheila E was in the mix. We all felt a little bit sorry for him.

Overall, it was a really fun show. I love to kick it with my girls. I love to wear dresses. Just another Saturday night in the life of Girl*wander.