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my journey

why I stopped dancing (except for a bit of modern) — 2+ months and counting! :O

tigrrface

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I wrote this just now, inspired to write about why I am writing now, instead of dancing or teaching or doing everything else I used to do a lot of that I am no longer doing.

Last night, as I was reading through a blog I used to keep, I came across this section of an entry:

May 22nd, 2004

the thing about me is, i can’t seem to stay interested in anything. i go through these max 5-6 month obsessions over certain bands, hobbies, etc, and then find that i don’t like them anymore and quit. so it has been with hip hop dancing, guitar playing, and soon to be bellydancing. how sad. i think that part of the reason is that i suck at life and have no talent for anything. i think i like choir because it’s something that i’m not terrible at, and it’s fun. i…

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dancing my truth

dancing from the heart: a whole new layer to dancing

me discussing a whole new layer to my dancing I unlocked, in my new blog on the truth

tigrrface

Dancing from the heart: I finally get it. Dancing from the heart — I finally get it.

I write this after watching the above video a second time, and again, my eyes welled up upon watching the video, and again, my fresh second wind of tears have yet to dry.

This character’s dance, this scene, hits me on so many levels now, probably because of the fact that it used to do nothing for me at all.

Yesterday, I danced modern like it was meant to be danced — not from the brain, but from somewhere deeper within, where I let my body talk, express, and connect on its own — where thinking, interpreting, letting the external world influence me ceased to matter — and I let my body speak without inhibition.

THINGS I LIKE ABOUT MYSELF #186 THINGS I LIKE ABOUT MYSELF #186

It started when we were doing a hand dance, and we each had a turn to take the hand dance…

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Blues: The Unappreciated Underdog

blues dancing

How do so few people appreciate the beauty of this?

A revelation hit me while on my way to a dance class, so I wrote this on the bus, on my way there:

Sitting in the 99 B-line, on the way to UBC, eyes closed and ready to pass out, I asked myself, “Why did I and do I continue to promote blues dancing when it is the scene where some of my most vicious haters reside?”

And the answer came to me — hit me so hard that I forced myself to open my happily shut eyes, bend forward and unzip my gold Puma purse, take out this notebook and write.

Blues is the underdog of all the dances. Blues is one of the least known and most under-appreciated. In my own city of Vancouver, I watched our only weekly trad blues dance die. I watched new dance events form to fill the hole with “fusion-slash-blues” dances. I listened to people complain when “too much blues music” was played. I heard them demand more fusion.

Why? Because learning real blues is hard and takes time and effort. Learning “fusion” or, rather, saying one knows how to “fusion dance” is 10x easier, because anything goes in fusion. Real fusion is taking a dance background you already have and combining it with a dance background someone else already has, and seeing what comes of it. Blues is a dance that requires acquiring musicality — really listening to the music — learning real connection, and real partnership. It demands that one really learn how to lead and follow, one to really feel the music, and keep the music through pulsing. It requires work to understand and dance real blues, and people are fucking lazy.

My scene is not the only one that does not want to take the time to appreciate this beautiful, underdog dance. I watched one of Seattle’s weekly traditional blues dances die (although elitism was partly to blame for that).

The fact of the matter is that, no matter how hard people try to put on real, true, blues events and workshops, people may come and attend, but when the weekend is over, so is the blues dancing, and everyone returns to dancing fusion. That is, if they decided to attend and take the workshops at all.

UBC is the only place in Vancouver where people can take legit blues dance lessons. They are not available anywhere else. As the Blues Coordinator, it is my responsibility to choose the instructors. And I make sure to get the best in the city every time. I make sure I maintain the quality.  I make sure that the people who decide to take the lesson learn real blues. I do this in spite of the fact that many, many people in the scene hate on me. I do this in spite of the fact that someone (or someones) maliciously cut my tiger bag handle — ruining my bag — and put chewed gum in my cup during a social dance while I was dancing.

I do this because I know what it’s like to be the unappreciated underdog, and because I want to help blues be recognized for the beautiful dance it is.

Thank you to the people who have helped me learn the beauty of this dance — made it possible for me to learn this dance, despite having so little money. It is because of this and you that I continue to promote and nurture a dance community that continually turns its back on me, and continually stabs me in the back when they think they can get away with it anonymously, or without my knowledge.

Even if you never believed in me, or had to grow to believe in me, I thank you for keeping me seeing the good in the dance, rather than giving in to all the hate all around me.

blues dancing revelation

My revelation about blues dancing unedited, written straight from the heart

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Dance Connection: What on Earth is It??

ballroom-dance-connection

What is this special dance connection, and does it really exist?

It’s the best part of partner dancing, that makes all other dances pale in comparison. It’s a one-of-a-kind connection you can’t hope to attain with anyone else. It’s what we dance for, and makes dancing so highly addictive. It’s those indescribably good dances that lift the dance experience to another level, make us go, “Wow” and stay with us as unforgettable experiences.

Is dance connection any one or all of those things? I don’t know anymore.

Dancers: What do you mean when you talk about “dance connection”? Can you please describe, in your own words, how you experience it, and what you think it is?

Do you believe that connections between two dancers exist that are profoundly “special” and can’t be replicated?

I discussed this with a fellow dancer on my way to Rose City Blues and back, and concluded, both before and after, that I don’t believe that dance connections like the kind I have described above exist for me.

Don’t get me wrong — I have had my share of mindblowingly good dances and leads I will always enjoy dancing with, but I cannot honestly say I have ever reached that unique connection that people dance for.

I used to believe in that connection. I used to believe I understood what it was and had experienced it, back when I first started out dancing.

Now, I think I was just naive and inexperienced. When I was new (and this applies to all my dance styles), I was a terrible dancer, but there were always one or two leads who were so good at leading that I could follow them without even knowing what I was doing and have a marvelous time, and dances I felt were special. I believed I had a dance connection with these leads. In hindsight, these connections were almost always one-sided. My lead was not having the same brilliant time I was having. Sometimes, we would both come out of a dance saying, “That was awesome,” but I don’t think they were “special” awesome, for both people, though it may have felt that way for one side.

I’ve been on both sides — where I have a dance that I felt was insanely awesome and my dance partner probably didn’t (based on them rejecting me for a later dance), and where I have thought the dance was okay while my partner wanted to keep me for multiple dances.

ballroom-dance-young-couple2

Creepy or comfortable?

During my RCB chat, my friend told me that one-sided dance connections could exist and still count as dance connections, but in my mind, a dance connection should be mutual for it to be real. If one partner is having an amazing time and the other partner isn’t, is there really a dance connection there?

I’ve had friends tell me of dances where they didn’t even speak the same language and could only communicate through the dance, and that it was all they needed, because the connection was so intense. I’ve had a friend who danced with the same partner for an hour straight because the connection was that good.

If one partner is having an amazing time and the other partner isn’t, is there really a dance connection there?

At the same time, I’ve heard from someone who had the best connection with a lead right off the bat, but the lead went and took lessons from an instructor with a very specific style. The next time they danced, they couldn’t dance together anymore because the connection was just completely gone. His dancing had changed too much, and their styles were no longer compatible.

As I improve my dance technique and expand my dance vocabulary, I find I have more and more truly (and mutually) awesome dances with many, many leads, to the point where people who I used to believe I had special connections with just feel like another nice-to-awesome dance.

dramatic-dance-pose

Can you dance like this without being attracted to your partner in the slightest?

In my experience, the concept of connection seems to have shifted to the technique I am best able to connect to, more than to some profound deeper level, involving emotion and whatnot. Of course, how comfortable I am with my partner also comes into play, as I am more likely to let loose and dance like me with a partner I dance with regularly and who I am not intimidated by. (On a side-note, how much do physical and sexual attraction play into your concept of being connected to your partner?)

This is not a “boo-hoo” post about not being able to connect with anyone, but rather, an “I want to understand” post to give me better perspective on elusive “dance connection.” I used to go out dancing hoping for just one or two of those special connections to make my dance night a truly amazing one, but now I am so spoiled with so many awesome dances every dance night, that I can’t tell anymore what makes a dance special, and if such special connections do exist.

It seems to me that the more advanced and experienced you are, the more you can adapt to different leads and follows, and the more you can connect with everyone. And if connection is something that can change and grow, and is something we can work to improve, then is there still a “higher” connection that exists that doesn’t depend on ability at all?

I don’t know, but I will never stop working to get better and better, so that I can connect with more and more people and share more and more mutually magical dances! 🙂

dancing-on-skates

What separates super-fun dances from “special” ones?

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How to Fast-Track Your Social Dancing Progress

robson square ballroom dancing

I will forever prefer to get my start learning new social dances in this way: free 1/2 hour to 1 hour lesson, followed by a night of social dancing. Thanks, UBC Dance Club and Sunday Afternoon Salsa for starting me off on the right foot. 🙂

Alright — so I have been uber-bad about updating this blog, because I’ve instead started using long Facebook posts to record of my dance progress.

Today’s post, I thought, was worth re-posting, because it’s important advice that I think anyone who is just starting out social dancing (or who is learning a new social dance style) should keep in mind,

Here is the post:

“Today reinforced my perspective that social dancing is super-important to do as soon as possible in partner dancing. Unless you can afford private lessons, you will very likely only learn how to back lead during your first set of lessons (and second, third, fourth, etc. — if you continue to retake classes without trying moves out for real). You will also potentially develop bad technique, because, as a follow, you are essentially limited by the progress of your lead (leads too, if you get a full class of back leaders).

For example: No lead in any beginner tango class I have ever taken has ever been able to make follows cross properly, and I am now always the retarded follow who refuses to cross until leads learn how to make me cross, rather than doing it myself as part of a pattern. Learning your half of the move means nothing if you don’t understand what you should be feeling in order to be expected to execute a move.

And it is next to impossible to understand the connection and posture in WCS unless you dance with people who already know what they are doing.

I say all this because I know there are so many people out there who just keep repeating lessons over and over and over again, thinking that doing so is “preparing” them more each time. During my tango class rotation, I danced with a lead who had taken the class multiple times with his girlfriend, and his leading surprisingly did not feel very different from all the other leads who were taking the class for the first time. I think the reason why leads never learn the cross properly is because EVERY follow back leads the move after they learn where they need to do it.

Long explanation short: START SOCIAL DANCING ASAP.

Get your basic step/basics down so you are not completely ignorant, and then set aside a full afternoon or night of dancing to feel what it’s like to social dance the dance. It will help you connect the dots and prevent/stop bad habits from forming.”

Yeah, I write effing long Facebook posts. 😛

 

Also want to point out that becoming a part of a dance’s social scene also makes it possible for you to start asking for feedback or tips on little things you need to work on or don’t quite get.

DON’T ask for or expect full out teaching, however — that is what your lessons are for. 😉

Robson Square Sunday Afternoon Salsa

Here’s me social dancing salsa before I even knew how to dance. Wouldn’t change a thing, if I could go back and do it again. 🙂

 

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Ballroom Bliss

The event I’ve been waiting for all year finally started up again this evening: free ballroom dancing at Robson Square.

Summer Ballroom Dancing at Robson Square

Robson Square Ballroom Dancing — where it all began.

Last summer, I went to every single of one of the dances in the series, and was able to go from having zero partner dancing experience to being able to follow virtually all of the dances — even some of the ones we had not received lessons for.

These weekly dance evenings taught me that I could dance to virtually any partner dance as long as I got the most basic sense of the steps and a very good lead to guide me through them. As I mentioned in my last post, my two favourite ballroom dances (the Viennese Waltz and the Quick Step) are dances I had no lessons in and virtually no explanations for — and yet I was able to dance them and keep up with my partner, provided that he maintained a solid connection and led the steps firmly and purposefully.

I was practically bouncing with excitement for the day to end so the ballroom dancing would begin.

It wasn’t until just before I had to leave my house to catch the Canada Line downtown that I realized I couldn’t remember a single ballroom dance step. At most, I remembered that the jive had a triple step, and that the cha cha had a cha-cha-cha in it.

The night did not start off well. I made it to the Square just as they were starting the free cha cha lesson, so I didn’t have time to change into the dress and heels I had planned to wear. (Trying to glide in new sneakers is hard!)

When the actual dancing started, I changed into my heels, so it was easier to dance. I was able to pick up the waltz relatively easily, and the rumba and cha cha came back in bits and pieces — taking full songs to smooth out.

I was so psyched when a Viennese Waltz came on and I found a guy to dance it with me. Seconds later, I felt flustered when I couldn’t follow it at all and ended up taking random, messy steps. (To be fair, the lead gave me no connection, so that I could not feel what he wanted me to do at all.)

This dance failure dashed my confidence. It was only half an hour into the general dancing, and already, I was thinking about how much I now sucked and how much work I had cut out for me.

Then, things started to look up. Another Viennese Waltz came on a few songs later, and, after racing around the rink from lead to lead, I finally found someone who could lead the dance.

Suddenly, we were whirling and twirling so fast that I couldn’t even pay attention to anything around me. I felt giddy — the way that I feel when I dance the Viennese Waltz correctly.

I experienced a mix of triumphs and failures while dancing with different leads. My best dance of the night was by far a cha cha led by a guy who takes lessons at a ballroom dancing studio. His lead was so solid that I was even able to incorporate the feel of the dance into my movement.

And to top it all off, I found someone to race around the rink doing the Quick Step with!

I can count on one hand the number of times I can remember being hit by an endorphin rush that left me feeling high, hyper-happy, and almost glowing with giddiness — and this was one of them.

It’s moments like these that I remember what got me into dancing — after almost a lifetime of failure and misery with it.

Once and a while, dancing stops being a challenge and simply becomes blissful movement to music. 🙂

Here’s a promo video that will tell you all about Robson Square. I’m in it quite a bit. :P)

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Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

Life is a Cabaret — Welcome to mine!

Welcome, everyone, to my dance class challenge blog. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.

This Wednesday, I found out that my dance instructor has discovered my blog ( :O! ) and has been reading my entries ( :O!! ) — “some of the good ones and some of the nastier ones,” as he describes them.

I found out while I was practicing a new dance move during my Salsa Level 3 class:

Diego: “You’re probably going to put this in your blog, but… (blahblahblah)”

Me: ….
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