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!

It’s Wednesday ~ uh, what happened over the weekend?

I jammed all of my music excitement in to one night over the weekend. On Friday, Heavy G and I headed down to Puyallup Fair to see Pitbull. The parking gods were with us and we scored street parking near the fair. We arrived at the stadium at 7:30, right when the music started bumping – this show did not start on Latino time. Pitbull was super smiley and a G.R.E.A.T. dancer. I would love to spend one night of salsa with him. Whew! He had a band (no horns), but most of the tunes seemed to be voice and music over tracks. It was all very flashy, with videos rolling in the background featuring all of his famous collaborators. The odd thing is that most of the songs were only about 1 1/2 minutes as he would do his rap thing and then let the track play through the chorus. I think only ‘I know you want me’, ‘Let it rain over me’ and ‘Tonight’ were played in their entirety. I sort of loved it when he sang ‘Culo’. I also appreciated that the south end crowd stood through the entire show (I hate sitting). The folks standing next to me were cracking me up as they were keeping watch of the time (“he can only play 15 more minutes”) and then had a discussion about how Pitbull says ‘loco’ a lot, which they thought meant crazy. Clearly, they scored complimentary tickets from somewhere.

Oh my, watching that video makes my heart race because I love me some Marc Anthony. Rawr!

After the show, Geri and I grabbed a scone (so delicious) and then headed back to Seattle. I dropped her off and drove down to Belltown to catch up with Brenda, Cata, Ester, Eloise and Alex at the Picoso show. It has been a minute since I’ve seen them play and it was great to sing along to some familiar tunes. Unfortunately, I chose to wore some practical shoes (flats – ick!) that were killing my pinky toe by 12:30ish or so and I decided to go home – boo! I should have just worn some sandals or something, but I thought it might be cold at the fair. 

Overall, it was a great night, but I wished that I could have danced a little bit more. Next time… 

Hip hop hilarity

I took my first (and possibly my last) hip hop class tonight. I would like to think that I could pick this up after a couple of weeks of classes, but I am just not sure.

The instructor is the spitting image of the wolfboy from Twilight. He is a great dancer and kept the class engaged for an hour. I was just looking for something different – I have been trying to find classes that focus on body movements, but we spent an hour learning a 24-count hip hop choreography. I enjoy learning how my body connects to the music, but I felt like I was (awkwardly) just going through the motions. I was not feeling my inner Nicki Minaj (perhaps because it doesn’t exist). There were at least four dancers in the class that looked great performing the routine.

You never know what you will like until you try it. I will file this away as ‘great for someone that enjoys that style of music.’ I might have enjoyed it a teensy bit more if we were gigging to 90’s hip hop.

Next up – Rio-style samba!!

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.

Sometimes I think I am strange

I have the uncanny ability to fall in love with concepts, activities and places. Lately, I’ve been drawn in to bachata, but it has to split time with salsa and kizomba. I want to learn how to dance bachata Dominican-style, but I don’t know how or where to squeeze it in to my schedule. For now, I just get all goose bump-y when I hear Romeo Santos or Juan Luis Guerra. I am giddy!

I’m sort of sweet on trombone players

On Wednesday, I went to see Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at the zoo. After missing their show in February 2011 due to illness (two-month virus – yuck!), I was lucky enough to catch them at Bumbershoot last year. I love their sound!

For some reason horns turn me on. Over the years, I’ve started listening to more and more jazz, mostly infused with latin beats or funk. Trombone Shorty has mastered the trombone and trumpet. He has a great voice, too, but I do favor the instrumental pieces because he engages in such great dialogue when he blows.

Here’s a taste…

La vida te da sorpresas, sorpresas te da la vida, ay Dios

I created the moniker Mswandergirl because I wander a lot and love to explore new places.

Last week, I took some time off from work so that I could go to the Hollywood Bowl for a Latin Music festival. Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the LA Philharmonic and my curly-headed Venezuelan brother, organized America & Americans in order to recognize and celebrate American music that was born in Latin America.

Geri, Javi and I made the trek down to LA. We rented a cute little VRBO cottage in Hollywood that was within walking distance (although uphill, so I was sweating somethin’ fierce) of the Hollywood Bowl.

On Tuesday night, we saw Dudamel, the LA Philharmonic and Juan Luis Guerra. It was definitely bucket list material for me. At some point a couple of years ago, I downloaded almost all of Juan Luis Guerra’s CDs on to my computer. He sings beautiful bachatas and lively merengues that are simply feel good tunes. Geri couldn’t get over her adoration for Dudamel that evening – she kept screaming, “I love you,” hoping that he would catch a glimpse of her in box 1688. She is moved by classical music and also taunted by his charisma.

Tuesday night was great, but it could only be topped by the main event (for me) on Wednesday. Eddie Palmieri and his orchestra opened the show. I had seen them a couple of years ago at Jazz Alley and it was one of those ‘more fun than usual’ nights for me. Karen and I sat in the front row making goo-goo eyes at the band during the first set. I love the sound of Latin jazz and did not want to leave when the set was over. We decided to stay for a second round. The band manager apparently recognized our enthusiasm and comped us for both shows. I love it when that happens! At the Hollywood Bowl, I wasn’t quite close enough for eye contact, but I loved to see them again just the same. They had a kick-ass Puerto Rican vocalist that was really fun to watch.

After the break, I realized one of my lifelong (at least since I was 22ish) dreams. I finally got to see Ruben Blades live. I am in love with this man. He is the epitome of a renaissance man – poet, singer, actor, Harvard law graduate, presidential candidate in Panama, etc. – and the most mature man that I would be willing to marry. Jajaja. When I was in Panama in May, I tried to find my way to his home, but all I that could gather were rumors rather than directions. He was elegant and his voice was rich. He let us know that he likes to banter, but time was short so he wanted to play a full set with no talking. He left me wanting for more.

The weather was beautiful, the music was grand and the time spent together was priceless. I can’t wait to see who is in the lineup next year!

Some things never change

My adult salsa student self is oddly reminiscent of my 14-year-old soccer player self. In class, I am slightly obnoxious, giggly and showboating (trying to maneuver fancy shines) when the instructor isn’t looking. Tonight, she told me to stop laughing. I remember having to run laps around Yauger Park for laughing. Serious training is serious business, so I guess I have to grow up just a little bit. 

I had the most wonderful weekend

My goodness, I danced and danced and danced all weekend long. I didn’t even go to all of the dance events because I needed a little rest (and because I had to work this morning).

On Thursday night, I went to Century Ballroom for salsa. I was super excited because it was the first time that I would see Sara and Albir dancing kizomba live (they performed a demo). They did not disappoint. I had a great night as I met and danced with a few new leads.

On Friday night, Inca T and I went to the kizomba social. I’ve been talking a lot about kizomba and I was glad that someone finally decided to accompany me to an event. Yay! It was another great night of dancing – there were a lot of people there and I got to catch up with some of the leads that were in my summer classes.

We got down to business on Saturday and Sunday. Sara and Albir hosted a workshop and I learned a lot about moving my bunda. For some reason, I thought that Sara and Albir were these larger than life kizomba warriors, but in reality they were a very fun and down-to-earth duo. We ignored the blazing heat and worked our way through tarraxa, kizomba patterns and semba.

The music is fun. The dancing is fun. The community is fun. I had the best time!

I eased my way out of the weekend with dinner with Brenda on Alki. The evening was postcard-worthy as the sky bled pink as the sun went down. It was the perfect way to unwind before heading back to work today.

For the first time in the while, I thought, ‘right place.’