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.

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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.

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.’

Salsa playlist and other fun stuff

O.M.G. Work zapped me today and I had just about zero energy when I stopped by my house this evening. Although I felt depleted, I mustered the strength to change in to my dancing clothes and hit up my salsa class.

My instructor has made it very clear to me that I have to practice more on my own in order to take my dancing to the next level. Sometimes I dance in the kitchen (because I can turn on the tile), but I need more space and a mirror to check out my frame and practice spotting. I’ve decided to use the 24 Hour Fitness aerobics room to go through my salsa drills. I put together a practice playlist for the week, which was a wee bit challenging as I have to find fun songs with a diversity of tempo and transitions. I found myself downloading a slew of Hector Lavoe tunes – how I wish that I had discovered salsa in the 80s. In any case, these are the jams that made the final cut:

Micaela ~ Sonora Carruseles
Yo no se manana ~ Luis Enrique
Lloraras ~ Oscar D’Leon (mi papa… jejeje)
Rebelion ~ Joe Arroyo
He tratado ~ Victor Manuelle
Que locura enamorarme de ti ~ Eddie Santiago
Pedro Navaja ~ Ruben Blades
Brujeria ~ El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
Se le ve ~ Andy Montanez y Daddy Yankee
Calle luna calle sol ~ Hector Lavoe
Un monton de estrellas ~ Gilberto Santa Rosa

(note: I’m too lazy to look for letters with acentos y tildes at this late hour)

In addition to salsa, I’m looking forward to a fun-filled weekend of kizomba. This beautiful couple will be hosting a workshop at Century Ballroom.

We’re lucky that we have an active kizomba community here in Seattle with some seasoned dancers that are great at networking. I fell in love with kizomba earlier this year. While salsa dancing is very structured and disciplined, kizomba is a bit more sensual and flojo (I don’t really pick my feet up off of the floor). The music draws me in because it is reminiscent of 90s R&B and is mostly sung in Portuguese. I’ve been studying Portuguese via Rosetta Stone so that I can understand what the hell that they are saying.

It is safe to say that dance has taken over my life in a positive way. When all else fails, I can count on the joy that I feel when I lose myself in music.