Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Romance is Alive and Well

I hope that the person that shared this with me doesn’t mind me writing about it – I just wanted to celebrate the fact that romance Is not buried in this high tech, on-the-go world that we live in.

I am currently just past the point of the “frenzied enthusiast” as a dancer. I'm slowly moving past the mentality of dance, dance, dance with very little time spent on talking and socializing. Just past the point where it’s no longer all about getting better and maximizing dance time. I am now at the point where it’s also about getting to know the people that share in the fun.

One of the reasons I have embraced dancing is the community that comes with it. In the course of the last 6 months, as my dancing has grown, I have also had the pleasure of meeting with and getting to know a group of wonderfully diverse people who are just as enthusiastic about the dance as I am.

This story comes from a one of my favorite leads. He's a favorite because of the way he mixes steps from other dances into his salsa dancing. I am always a big fan of fusion because when it’s done well, it brings together the best of so many different worlds.

One evening, we were chilling and chatting just before dancing started; getting to know a little bit about what we each do when we’re not out dancing. I found out that he and his wife are retired and while they both dance, she no longer comes out social dancing as often as he does. The cool thing is that they still share the joy of the dance.

When he goes home near or just past midnight after a night of social dancing his wife will ask if he wants to dance. Of course he does! So they dance together till the wee am hours and wake up to the morning light in each others embrace.

What a life!

When I heard this, it warmed my heart (yes, I know - that's such a cheezy expression). But it gave me hope for a future that I certainly want: to everyday have the opportunity to dance some idle time away with my leading man, sweet music playing in the background.

That's the cherry on the icing.

In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying the dance I'm in, looking forward to more nights of being swept of my feet, connecting with someone else to music that I enjoy and getting to know all sorts of interesting people along the way.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Casualties of Salsa

I've never really had a bad night of dancing except for one very HOT, very CROWDED night at one of my favorite venues in Seattle. The Bikram Salsa wouldn't have been bad by itself  but it was aggravated by the fact that in the first 5 (or maybe it was 6) songs that I danced, I got kicked, stepped on, butt bumped or elbowed once in each song. In the next dance, I hadn't even gotten halfway through it and I got stepped on twice in same cross body lead. [For those of you who do not dance salsa, this is equivalent to 8 beats of music which would be like getting stepped on twice in less than 8 seconds.]

Something SNAPPED...

I did something that I never thought I would do: I stopped dancing. I apologized to my dance partner and told him that I had to stop. I was just too mad to continue and I needed a breath of fresh (cool) air. I explained that it wasn't him and that I needed to just step out and off the dance floor. He was nice enough to walk out with me, I think I freaked him out a little bit (I mean I was freaked out by myself!) and kind enough to keep me company while I literally and figuratively cooled off.

The more experienced dancers will say, its the lead's responsibility to protect his partner - to keep her from being stepped on or from stepping on (or bumping, nudging, hair whipping, slapping) someone else.

I agree with that for the most part but EVERYONE should take some responsibility on a crowded dance floor.

Last night my left ankle fell victim to a few more heel kicks and stomps when it was already bruised from a man's heel the night before that. A casualty of the crowded salsa dance floor.

SO - here are some tips on not being the cause of casualties on a crowded dance floor and how to watch yourself so you don't become a casualty.

Oh yes, make no mistake:  it CAN be done, you can dance unscathed on a crowded dance floor!

There are many types of dancers but I highlight these specifically because on a crowded dance floor, these are the ones to really watch out for:

Dancing with the arm swinging, broad stepping, not-quite-sure-what-I'm-doing beginner
Leads - you know who I'm talking about here. This is the girl that hasn't really danced salsa before. Odds are she's here with some girl friends and may have had a drink or 2 (or more!). She's wearing heels that are quite lovely to look at but impossible to dance in and seems to think that taking large steps with her weight planted firmly on her heels is the best way to keep up with you. Oh, and she also thinks that having her hands out will help her dance better (not!).

If you find yourself dancing near this couple, try to position yourself on the lead side of the couple and move away from the follow, keep her in front of you and in your sights. Alternatively, if you're the "knight" kind of lead, you would step with your back facing this follow, so that you take the brunt of arms or legs flaying and earn the eternal gratitude of your own follow.

The Arms-are-all-over-the-place Casinero

Ah, yes! I love casino dancing and my experiences so far have been that they are actually one of the best dancers to be with on the packed dance floor. I think its because they're already moving around so they have a 360 view of the room and are better armed to keep you safe. BUT, there are some leads that just get so crazy into the dance that they forget there are other people around. Not only that, their enthusiasm is so infectious that their partner starts to follow suit. This couple is tough because they'll travel on the dance floor and not stay in one slot so you'll have to keep a constant watch on their movements. I would just steer clear of this couple and let others be your shield. If you find yourself dancing with one as a follow - then you're all set because other couples will be avoiding you.

Another tactic is to observe before you make your way out to the sea of dance. These are some things to watch for:

 The BIG Back Step - need I say more? This one is likely to trip you up so if you're dancing anywhere near, just make sure you're not too far away from your partner in case they get tripped up by that BIG back step. 

The BIG Cross Body - less is more but some people just want to "swing out" their partner on the cross-body. You can see it coming, make sure to stay out of the "line of fire" !

The Traveling Spinner - anytime a spin is initiated by a neighboring couple, pay attention!

The Clueless Bystander - these are the folks that are there mainly to watch but they also don't know that stepping out on the dance floor, drink in hand, just wandering around is just NOT a good idea. 

Finally, when in doubt, here's WHAT YOU CAN DO
1) STICK TO THE BASICS, there's something to be said for having a nice clean dance without all the fancy moves. Just chill to the music and enjoy the connection with your partner.
2) Closed position is your friend. Don't mistake this for the closed "I want you next to my body" embrace. I'm not encouraging that you invade your partner's space unless that's really what both of you want. In closed position, its easier to maneuver and abort a lead that's about to cause a casualty or be the victim of one.
3) Small steps: less is definitely more when its a crowded dance floor. Remember to keep your feet under your body.
4) Keep your arms and legs close to you whether you're turning, doing shines, etc.
5) Look before you extend: if you like to style your arms or sweep your legs, take a quick look before you go for it.
6) Weight forward! If you're wearing heels - there's very little reason that all your body weight should be on your heel - see 3 above.

And above all, be gracious. Apologize if you need to and don't forget that there are other people out there with you trying to have a great time dancing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I've started and stopped writing a post everyday for the last week now. I think its time to publish something. I've held back mainly because its been all about dancing. In the last 3-4 weeks I've been attending workshops and out social dancing. I thought that it would be boring to just post about dance all the time.

Then I realized that its not just about the dancing. My head is bursting from all sorts of things that I've been so lucky to be a part of. So, here it is, the recap.

I've hit a new level of understanding about myself.

I used to worry so much about missing out on something or about offending people by saying "no thanks". I even worried about no longer being included if I said "no" too many times! It took up too much energy and it detracted from the enjoyment of the things that I do.

Now, I've realized that its good to be faced with so much opportunity - one simply can't go wrong with making a choice. I'm just so grateful for everything that I'm a part of.

I've been working on letting go of remnants from the past that prevent me from moving forward. I've incorporated a little meditation in my practice and in part of that process, I give thanks to the universe at large for these things that bring me joy. Its only been a few weeks and already I can see that spending the time to think about and articulate what brings joy and harmony into my life has only allowed more of that to come through. By acknowledging that part of my life so explicitly, it can overshadow the negativity that can so easily bring me down.

What's more important to me? Worrying about the past or about things that I cannot control or reveling in the present opportunities I have to continue to grow and be joyful?

I choose joy.

I use this word to describe those times when I get a rush, a thrill, that puts me on such a high that when I remember the moment, always brings a smile on my face.

I have been lucky enough to experience such moments on the dance floor.

On one of my nights out, in that "one more dance" moment, I accepted an invitation to dance.

It began very politely with the "introduction" - I could already tell he was experienced enough to "test the waters" before diving into the dance. As the song began its rise, he began to expand his lead, to play with the music and add in more moves. We were well matched: we hit all the right beats and matched the increasing tempo of the music. There were turns and shines and little accents that were just "mwah!" so right with the song.

When the music ended with our final embrace, we both said "wow!" simultaneously.


"You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend."

I was watching The Holiday (Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Jack Black) and this line struck such a chord with me - it was almost as if someone was talking to me directly and it made me realize that I have been acting like the best friend.

Time to step up and be the leading lady :)

I've always thought of myself as the wing person or the best friend. I know I'm intelligent and capable and extremely trustworthy but I have never truly seen myself as "that girl". Its never fails to surprise me when I am complimented and acknowledged. A 29-year old flirtation asked me why it was so surprising to believe and I realized that the reason I'm so surprised is because I never thought of myself as the leading lady.

Everyone is the leading lady (or man) in their own life and when that point truly hits home, that's when all the magic starts to happen. Though there will be drama: ups and downs, the key to this thought is the power around being the lead.

I never thought I'd be saying this but I've hit a saturation point.

There is such a thing as too much dancing! 3 weeks of dancing involving 6-7 consecutive days with workshops spaced in between will do it. My record for number of days dancing in a row is now up to 8.

My head is filled with new dance patterns, music rhythms, instruments to listen for and a whole new world of dance instruction and performance. Its been exciting and fun and it has stretched me both mentally and physically in a way that I have not yet experienced before.

I would say its refreshing except that I was exhausted from lack of sleep :)

When the dust finally settled, I was able to just dance for the fun of it last night and it centered me again.

AH! That just felt good.

I got to the venue late and from the 1st dance onward, didn't get a break. I got to dance with almost all my favs (alas, some had to leave early) and with some new faces and got paid the nicest compliments - all while doing something that I love! What more can I ask for?


Reset. Ready for more!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rhythms, Passion and Celebrations

Its one of those weekends again when I wish I could be 6 places at once. In the last week, the weekend events just started to pile up! Good problem but still, hard to pick which ones to "give up". Someone really needs to invent that transporter. "Beam me up!"

Ah, but so far, I cannot complain. Its a win win win no matter what event I pick.

Let's see if I can sum it up:
brunch in bed
romantic comedy
dramatic flare
"mwah!" on the dance floor

All that in one day! Not bad, not bad at all :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On a Nice Sunny Day

Its been an interesting week. I've had anger issues that I'm trying to purge from my system and at the same time, some pretty darn good moments to revel in.

Over the long weekend, the cold of fall made its presence known to mark the coming of the next season. Today - its an Indian summer! The sky is clear and I can see Mt. Rainier from the window I sit next to on the 18th floor of The Columbia Center. I'm lucky enough to have next door, a concrete plaza with benches and a water sculpture where I can sit and soak in the warmth and vitamin D. The sounds of running water splashing on concrete almost mask the hustle and bustle of the vehicles and pedestrians on the downtown street just a few meters away. Its my urban get-away during the work week.

I've been able to appreciate, that for all the trouble I'm having trying to rid myself of the negativity I feel about a small part of my life, I am having way more fun that ever.

Last night I went out dancing and just as I was ready to leave, fell into the "ok, one more dance" cycle and got to share some wicked awesome dances!!! WHOOSH! Oh, what a feeling indeed. Despite my tired feet, I was energized and the high still echoes through today.

I also ran into a former colleague who needed to vent. As we sat outside, basking in the warmth of the sun, I like to think that I gave her that channel to disperse her negative energy; look forward to all the other positive things she has going for her and take steps to improve the not-so-happy situation that she finds herself in.

Good vibes all around!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing

is a good thing!

How many people can say that they danced the weekend away?

Well ok, I guess people who are just as crazy about dancing as I am :)

BUT - seriously - I can't say enough about an activity that is:
1) Good for your spirit
2) Good for your health
3) Allows you to interact with people
4) Helps you grow in confidence and style
5) Provides a natural high (you know, endorphins, in the moment flirtations)

I just finished a class called Role Reversal: I, as a follow learned to lead and other leads learned to follow. The class was a small and intimate gathering of 10 people. It was a BLAST! Not only do I have a better appreciation for what it means to lead in a dance, but I actually started having fun with it.

Watch out people!

Not really :P

I still prefer being a follow. Its much more enjoyable to let go, enhance and react than to actually instigate in a dance. I get more time to listen to the music and every so often, suggest, through my movement something that ends up initiating things anyway :)

Ain't that a metaphor for what happens in life?

Its taken a year but I'm finally starting to get to know people too so going to dances isn't just about dancing anymore. Its also about catching up with familiar faces. Its easy to forget about getting to know someone when you're having so much fun on the dance floor and so, when I have those moments to talk, its something to appreciate as well.

I'm taking a break to nap and veg on this rainy Labor Day and am looking forward to ending the day with some more dancing.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Starting the Week Right

Monday's are usually days to dread.

I love Mondays! I get to end the day dancing :D

Today was a bonus Monday. I woke up to a mystical, magical morning of fog rolling in from the bay. The blanket of mist made its way up the hill and covered the roads in front of my building. It was like waking up to clouds.

When I made it to work, I got to see the same blanket over the cityscape instead. It was fascinating to watch the fog make its way across the tops of building to the highway.

I had a productive day, checked off my list at work and managed to squeeze in time to socialize as well. Good times!

Dancing on Monday nights, practica at Halo. I am now at the point in my dancing where I know more people and am not just dancing anymore. Getting to know my fellow follows and the leads I dance with is just as fun as the dancing that I love so much.

I have taken to heart what I learned about the joy in dancing and letting the music tell me what to do. I can now dance with my lead and as I follow, allow the music to guide me and make the dance a fun and flirty interaction. Bonus points when the energy between us matches the energy of the music and its contagious. Ah! Those dances are the best - doesn't matter if there were missed leads or moves - that energy is euphoric for me.

I am always humbled by the compliments I get. It is enough for me to know that the people I dance with have enjoyed dancing with me. When I get comments from fellow dancers that see me dance, it always takes me by surprise and I am thankful. I feel like I still have a lot to learn but at least the joy that I experience is manifested in my movement - one can never go wrong when you love what you do and it brings you joy.

This is what I get to do every Monday night - lucky me!