Why, yes, I did!

I don’t often make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I can only think of two years prior to 2012 that I vowed to accomplish a specific feat. One goal was realized (in 2002, I carried a notebook with me to capture thoughts and improve my writing) while the other was a total flop (I did not dress up for Halloween in 2010).

 In December 2011, I rediscovered my love for dance. I’m talking real dance, not break-it-down-rub-my-bootie reggaeton (which certainly has its place in my life). I started taking salsa classes thinking that I needed to work on my turns and discovered a whole new way to see and communicate. It is truly magical. 

 In light of my re-ignited fervor, I made a New Year’s resolution to dance every single week of 2012. Just between you and me, this goal was somewhat fueled by Juan, who doubted my commitment to salsa and told me that I would quit by the spring. 

I, of course, did not quit. As a matter of fact, although I am recovering from a cold, I got myself together tonight to dance so that I could claim my title as a dancing queen. I only danced two salsas before pooping out, but I made it. If I’m feeling up to it tomorrow, I may just do a kizomba victory lap.

This was a crazy, unique, blessed year for me. I indulged in weekly salsa classes as well as regular private lessons. I was introduced to kizomba. I organized a weekly outing for my friends to dance at Century Ballroom. I literally danced all over the western hemisphere. Samba in Rio de Janeiro. Cuban son in Ciudad Panama. Bachata in Bavaro. I saw some great live shows. Oscar D’leon in Boston. Ruben Blades, Juan Luis Guerra, Eddie Palmieri and Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl. I went to dance workshops and conferences and fell in love with the professionals. Portland. Seattle. San Francisco. I went to a workshop that changed my life – you must experience kaizen by Kwenda Lima if he ever comes to your city.

I danced and danced and danced. I met new people. I made new connections with my old friends. I set my sights on concrete dance goals for the coming year. I got lost in watching dance videos on youtube. I discovered that this new way of living could help me to articulate who I am, what I want and the beauty that I see in the world (I always feel silly when I share this kind of stuff, but I feel like I can see so much more clearly).

I came across a great quote earlier this week:

We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too.
~ Kristin Martz, Freelance Photographer

I can’t wait to find out where this dance journey will take me in 2013.

How to hail a taxi pirate

This week I went to the Caribbean in search of some vitamin D. I landed in Punta Cana, Republica Dominicana, where Elaine had scored a time share at the Ocean Beach & Sands Resort for a low, low price.

Kirsten, one of my long-time hermanas, lives in Santo Domingo and was able to sneak away for some R&R with us at the playa.

Ocean Blue is an all-inclusive resort that sits right on the beach at Playa Bavaro. It was a ridiculously beautiful beach with blue, blue water. We sat mostly undisturbed (except for the day we set up camp near the sound system), soaking up the morning rays. The resort has two pools, but I felt that it would be sacrilegious to take a dip in chlorine when God’s pool was just a few feet away.

The resort staff provided us with endless hours of entertainment. I can’t count how many times that they asked me, “how many Dominican boyfriends have you had?” I can imagine that resort work is lucrative in regards to both financial stability as well as physical pleasure. Even if they aren’t getting any, the resort workers can entertain themselves by checking out the topless Europeans.

A couple of the resort workers turned us on to the Shop & Drink, which was a great place to hang out on my last night on the island. After a week of living in a bubble, we skirted off to a liquor store in Bavaro that doubles as a local meet-up and dance joint. We purchased a bottle of Barcelo rum and found seats near the dance floor. We got a taste of salsa, bachata and nine-minute merengue. As I expected, Dominican salsa is a little different than the mambo that I dance at home. Although we were there as ‘guests’ of a Dominican, we stood out like sore thumbs because of our resort wristbands and curly hair (anybody ever heard of a Dominican blowout?). Regardless, it was a very special night for me as 6 December is my one-year anniversary of re-discovering the magic of dance.

We stopped drinking and dancing just short of finishing our bottle of Barcelo. We asked one of the liquor store cashiers to call us a cab and bid our new friends adieu. We were surprised when the waiter escorted us to a black SUV and were even more surprised when we saw our taxista and friend, who were both barely on our side of legal. I was chatting with them, but the conversation was fast and not nearly enough tourist-style Spanish. I’m not going to lie – they were fucking funny. I asked if they were really taxistas, and they explained, “we are casual taxis, some might call us pirates.” Jajaja. We talked some baseball, barely got past the security shack at the resort and exchanged numbers just in case we needed any further assistance on our trip.

I love adventure, especially when it involves friendship, sun and the slight amount of tension created by cross-cultural exchange. I wouldn’t trade in this life for anything!

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!

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!