Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sleep Deprived but Still Dancing

I thought it worthwhile to mark the events from the past weekend, after all, its a milestone of sorts and despite being sleep deprived, its been such fun.

This past weekend, on Fri 5/14 and Sat 5/15, my salsa dance team BDS Extreme, performed for the 1st time! I danced all weekend long from Friday to Sunday, with different groups of people, different dance styles,  across 2 states on about 11 hours of sleep total (counting 2 naps that I took). Needless to say, I had a BLAST!

Here's the link to the video of our performance on Friday at the Belltown Dance Studio
Here's the link to the video of our performance on Saturday at the Mambo Lounge in Portland, OR for Gemini's 6th Anniversary party.

A picture of my dance team in our costumes after the 1st performance:

My stream-of-consciousness recollections of the weekend:

rueda dance practice at the Wallingford Steps - so nice out... BDS Dance Social, wearing swishy red skirt and heels... with make-up!... oh the wonderful comments I got (thanks!)... it was so much fun to dance... Jill and Jill contest... leading a lead... 1st performance and no casualties (woot!)... some amazing dances with new and favorite leads... blues at the bistro, swanky, chill, oh so smooth...mmm-hmmm!...road trip to Portland... getting to know my team mates... "Squirrel!"...the Jupiter hotel - gotta love a hotel that has their own brand of condoms :p ... practicing out on the driveway... dancing before the big performance... waiting for the performances to impromptu bachata backstage while waiting (oh! that was fun)... 2nd performance, better than the 1st ... more fantastic salsa dancing, on1, on2.... hotcakes and hash browns with bacon, sausage and ham (uh-huh... 1/2 a pig I think)... 3 hours of sleep...chill ride back (thanks!) AND in good time... kizomba dancing mmm-hmmm! ...salsa church with "MWAH!" more great dances...rueda practice... ice cream!!!... ran out of steam took  a little nap... rooftop party with a lovely sunset as the backdrop, beautiful evening, lots of great food and company... salsa, casino... hugs.... finally, sleep

AND because I believe that expressing gratitude begets even more to be grateful for here goes:

  • Thank you to Javier , Holly and Jim who choreographed and coached our team.
  • Thank you to my team mates for pushing through and getting the dance down, even to the point of improving it from Friday to Saturday.
  • Thank you to my friends who came to see the performance, who gave me their support even though they couldn't make it, who wished me well and said many wonderful things.
  • Thank you to a total stranger who stopped me to tell me that I did a great job and that it was wonderful to see how much I really enjoyed dancing during the performance.
  • Thanks to my rides there and back: for driving and some great conversation.
  • Thanks for some rockin' food at the hotcakes and steak house (i'm still full thinking about it)
  • Thank you to all the leads I danced with, I had some "mwah!" dances all weekend
  • Thank you for salsa, blues, bachata, rueda, casino
  • Thank you for rooftop parties with lots of food, great weather, great company to talk and dance with
  • Thank you for all the joy, despite lack of sleep, that I was able to be a part of

Monday, May 10, 2010

What Now?

I hit a point in my dancing progression where I've asked myself  "what now?"

There are many stages to learning and some academics may even have their own models for the different stages.What I'm writing here are the stages that I went through and where I currently am almost 3 years into salsa dancing.

This progression may sound familiar - I  think that everyone goes through some form of these stages though its possible that the order may be different. Anyway, I'm writing to share and maybe help other folks who might find themselves in the "What Now?" predicament - something that can happen several times in one's dance progressions.

Beginner: Unsure but interested; having fun with the dance but not sure enough to go out dancing beyond the classroom. You're just starting and are enrolled in some sort of beginner class. You've decided to try salsa dancing for one, some or all of these reasons: your friend dragged you out, the newness is fun, the social part is fun, there maybe some attractive people in class you'd like to get to know more (instructor not excluded), its something active to do, you've always wanted to try it because it looks fun/cool.

Advanced Beginner: Its been anywhere from 2-6 months since you've started and you've gone through a few of the beginner series and have a little bit of an arsenal to play with for dancing. You may have even started to take lessons from other instructors (oh yes, there are many out there!) You're getting to know your classmates and are maybe starting to go out social dancing at least once a week.

JUNCTURE: At this point some people fall off for one reason or another: it was fun but you're not willing to spend more time to get better; you met someone and their into something else; its not floating your boat any more; you've had some bad dance experiences and have been turned off; other stuff in your life just is more important.

Intermediate: You've "graduated"! You're about  year into dancing and someone said that you're good enough to make the leap to intermediate! You're more confident, know more moves, you're actually out social dancing 2, maybe 3 times a week and are starting to notice what the more advanced dancers are doing. you pick out your favorites as you watch them and think to yourself - "I want to dance like that!"

JUNCTURE: At this point you either become a total addict, or you decide that perhaps its time to back off a little bit and focus on something else. Basically, if you've caught the bug, you're hooked and booked! You'll find yourself dancing almost everyday, taking lessons from 1 or more teachers, attending salsa congresses, talking about dancing and hanging out with dancers all the time.

Advanced Intermediate: About a year and a half close to the 2 year mark you find yourself at another weird spot. You know enough to know that there's a LOT you still have to learn. You're all of a sudden finding that all you ever do in your free time is dance - yes, you are now officially a salsaholic. If you're still stuck in the taking classes mode and haven't gone out dancing then you're not really addicted yet and should really consider social dancing more. You're probably contemplating the next congress or 2 and even starting to branch out and try venues outside your established comfort zones.

JUNCTURE: For me, this was a key juncture. I was starting to wonder how long it would take me to "get better" to the point where I would be happy with my dancing. I was a bit frustrated because I didn't think I could ever look like these professionals who were so polished and precise. I took myself away from the dancing scene I did know and vacationed in Oaxaca and learned from someone new. I met some great people and the instructor I learned from had a style I could relate to (and some advice from an ex) I was re-energized! I hit a new stride and my dance confidence went WAAAAAAY up. [This is KEY by the was, the confidence going up... it really changes your dance, and for the better!]  I decided that I didn't have to look like anyone else, I should just be me! I wanted to be the best follow I could be while social dancing and all of a sudden, all my doubts disappeared, I found my own style and got great feedback and started to really enjoy the dance. I'm able to turn off my own self-critic, still be open to learning and incorporate all the other dances that I knew about into salsa.

Advanced: All that dancing got you here :) Its likely to be going on year 3 to 5. You've established a routine of your favorite places to go and are getting more play time with the folks you've been watching and looking up to. You're still taking some lessons and likely going to congresses. You're friends list in facebook has grown because of all your new dancer friends. Its weird (but nice) when this happens but you're likely to now be the one that people want to dance like. You're dance card is always full and when you go to your familiar haunts, there's always someone you know and can say hi to, get a hug, get a dance and off you go.

Its another JUNCTURE: Where do you go from here? You've maxed out on lessons, may have even taken privates with one or more instructors and still get a high from all the dancing. Your non-dance time is quite limited and people outside of dance only ever know you to be dancing. The euphoria is still there but something might be missing or you're starting to wonder what to do next. So what now?

These are the options I compiled for myself and from talking to others in a similar stage:
  • Life is good: You are happy with your dancing, the people you're meeting, its a great place to be and nothing more needs to be said.
  • If you haven't already, dance with other teachers; attend congresses where you get exposed to teachers/dancers outside of Seattle
  • Explore other latin dances: chacha, merengue, bachata, cumbia
  • Explore other dances: blues, swing, tango
  • Back to the basics or "Everything old is new again" there are nuances that you may discover by going back the basics or taking basics from some other dance.
  • Learn the opposite role (if you're a lead, follow and vice versa)
  • Explore other forms of Salsa: casino, rueda de casino, on2 mambo, sohn, etc.
  • Understand the music more
  • Join a performance team
  • Find a dance Partner to dance with and practice for social dancing
  • Find a dance Partner to dance with and practice for performance
  • Help out with or start to contemplate teaching

What did I decide to do? pretty much almost all of the above except for performing with a partner

1) Join a Performance Dance Team and experience choreographed Salsa
2) Took  lessons to improve other related dances: mambo (salsa on 2) and understand the structure of the music more.

3) Continue to go out social dancing making sure to vary the dancing when I can: salsa, bachata, casino, rueda, cha-cha, swing/blues
4) Learn new dances: Dabble in a little bit of West Coast Swing, Belly Dancing (its fun and I have a long, long way to go; Kizomba,  which is a fusion of some of my favorite dancing AND the music is just lovely: I dabbled in West Coast Swing but am not quite ready to give up more for it.
5)  Learn to lead (salsa and bachata)
6) Started to discuss dancing with my fellow dancer friends and in some cases, we coach each other on moves that we do and the styling that we have - its great fun to collaborate and even be able to help someone else find their own stride!

To say that I still enjoy dancing is an understatement, unlike some of the folks who dance as much as I do (or did) who have hit the "burn out" period where they need to step away from the dancing, I haven't gotten there yet and I think I won't because of the variety of dances I'm learning all at once.

Is there ever an end to learning? I don't think so. I maintain that as long as you are willing, there is always something to learn. Take dancing: it is framed by music and movement and created/performed by people. There are so many different kinds of people in the world who provide an unending supply of creative juices on top of a rich history! There will always be someone new to dance with or some new song that is made. The only reason you would stop learning is if you don't want to anymore.

In the end, at every juncture, its really more about answering the question "Is dancing something I still love doing?"

For me, the answer is still unequivocably is YES!

Share your thoughts, let me know what you think and if you have other ideas to share - please do!
Happy Dancing

Monday, May 3, 2010


Whoosh! There went April and its now May! Almost halfway through the year and I'm almost a year older.

The passage of time and busy lives have a way of just flying by and I used to ask myself  "Just what have I done so far?" Well folks, I have an answer for that - in case you find yourself in the very same predicament: take a little bit of time (whatever you can spare) every day and make a list of things to be thankful for. [or, if you're like me you can use facebook and review all your past statuses :p]

Taking the time everyday to just think about the things you have to be grateful for has a way of helping you to remember exactly what you've done so far AND relive some wonderful moments. This contemplation also focuses you on positive thoughts: a much better alternative to those few minutes that you might have spent venting about what some poopy head did at work. I understand that a good vent can be a cleansing experience so I'm not saying to stop venting! Just remember to take a moment to be thankful too.

Sometimes its a long list, sometimes its a short list - whatever it is, its still something to give thanks for!

Just to share - here are the things that I am grateful for (there's more but this is what I came up for now):

  • my family because despite all our conflicts, I know they will always love me no matter what I do.
  • my niece True and nephew Max who are sources of unlimited joy in my life - I am really blessed to have them so close and be a part of their lives - they're a BLAST!
  • re-discovering dance through salsa... who knew that walking into a random studio in Belltown would lead me here? I've still got miles to go and so many branches to explore, its like a never-ending playground and the people I've met so far have also been amazing.
  • my health - despite 2 knee surgeries, I am still able to play volleyball and dance and enjoy the active life that I have
  • having the courage to follow-through with a change which brought me here to Seattle and gave me a chance to start some new and fun things.
  • for whoever invented social dancing and the music that goes with it - what a wonderful way to express something that can be shared through movement that also encapsulates how good the interaction between leading and following can be.
  • that the things I do can touch people in a positive way and perhaps even inspire them to generate more positive energy in their own lives.
  • for ice cream - mmmm! Dessert in general :)
  • that there's always something new to learn: I love being engaged in learning and the feeling of accomplishment it give me when I'm getting better at it. I love it when I can share it with other people that enjoy it as much as I do and even better, introduce it to others who have never thought to try
  • for friends who know me so well that it doesn't take much for me to talk to them whenever or wherever they are
  • that I have all sorts of things to be excited about
  • that there are still lots of places left to explore
  • for the the wonderful dancing I've had the pleasure to experience and more to come
  • that while I do the things I love, there are people who take the time to say some of the sweetest things to make my day (THANK YOU!)

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward quotes