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dancing Dancing DANCING!!! 10 Glorious Days of Dance @ the NYC Dance Week Festival

Dance finds you where you are.  And here I am, again, ready to dance.  NYC Dance Week 2013 backdropThis week I will be embarking on something special.  Tomorrow is the first of 10 glorious days of absolutely free dance classes in New York as part of NYC Dance Week 2013.  Anyone who’s ever tried taking dance classes in New York City knows that the average dance class, around $17 per class, is cost prohibitive for many, especially dancers trying to keep their craft up and body moving while keeping a roof over their head.    Founded by Tasha Norman of FitEngine, NYC Dance Week takes down this seemingly insurmountable barrier for 10 wonderful days in which some of the City’s top dance studios open their doors for free. There will be classes at the Joffrey, Alvin Ailey, Mark Morris, DNA, STREB, and more… It is a veritable smorgasbord for those who love movement.  And since, that is my favorite form of self-expression, I will be at the table for the feast.

ZumbaSOBs_055 And don’t you worry, I will be be bringing you along with me.  Stay tuned for daily descriptions, photos and possibly even video of my experience in some of NYC’s most hallowed halls of dance!  Below is a list of what’s on my agenda for the 10 days so far.  Of course, this list is subject to change and can also expand if I receive good suggestions.  And who knows, maybe I’ll see you there!  If you see me, definitely say hi. I will also be blogging this experience at The Dance Enthusiast so be sure to go there and check it out as well.  PS – I went to the opening gala for this event.  It was a rockin’ time, check out the pics here.

6/20: Core Synergy Conditioning @ Joffrey

6/21: Capoeira for Beginners @Arte Capoeira

6/22: Contemporary – Simonson Technique + Samba & Brazilian Fusion @ Mark Morris

6/24: Modern Dance with Danté Brown @ DNA

6/25: Beginner Ballet @ Joffrey

6/26: Bollywood Funk @ Ripley Grier

6/28: Community Class @ Hip Hop Conservatory

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in new york, Uncategorized

 

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Keeping the rhythm

Something pretty miraculous happens when I get in front of a Zumba class and the music comes on.  My body becomes a drum and I am the rhythm keeper. The class gyrates, rocks, thrusts and pulses, using my body’s timing as it’s heartbeat.

Of course, it all starts with the music. The music gives us the tempo and the timing.  But not everyone in the class is familiar with all the different rhythms – salsa, merengue, reggaeton, cumbia, bachata, samba, salsaton, hip hop, coupé décalé, kuduro, champeta, and on and on – and how they are danced. I take my tempo cues from the music and the class responds to this by taking their cues from my body.

This is one of the things that most amazes me about Zumba.  The way you can let go inside of the rhythm.  Especially when you trust your rhythm keeper i.e. your instructor.

How did I become a trusted rhythm keeper for my fellow beat seekers?  It’s a wonder because I’m usually that girl in dance class that has to watch others do the moves the first couple times before I catch on.  And I’m still that girl in church that occasionally claps offbeat and has to glance sideways to pick up the rhythm again.  Embarrassing.  But I’ve learned to embrace my inner gringa. And have accepted that she’s not so much offbeat as on her own beat.

I’m also the girl who grew up in a family that would throw spontaneous music parties in our basement, my dad and I dj’ing for hours from the crates of his album collection.  Dancing with my dad, sometimes on his feet, was how I learned to salsa, old school Puerto Rican style, which means bursting into funky improv to the rhythm from time to time.  My brother and I spent hours downloading early hip hop songs from the radio on cassette tapes and playing them back to memorize all the lyrics and the beats.  We would also choreograph little routines to rock at school dances, but that’s a story for another post, lol. Family get togethers for us meant salsa, soca and everything in between.

Being a Zumba teacher has taught me to channel my inner gringa to help make the movements relatable and easier to learn. It’s also taught me to trust my inner time keeper, the one that has been honed by years of family celebrations and the rhythms that are part of my heritage.

The even more amazing thing is that once I learn a new flavor or choreography, my muscle memory kicks in and I can pretty much do the song any where any time.  My over processing mind politely takes a back seat and let’s my body do it’s thing.  I’ve gained a new found respect for and faith in myself – the body knows.  So when you see that girl on the subway with big curly hair and head phones on single single double’ing and doing the Beto shuffle, just wink at me cause you know the rhythm’s taken over.

 

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Fighting my way back to fabulous…and beyond


I would like to introduce a term I call “crispy”.  This is what I term the experience of getting older and neglecting the body or really just letting life come in and make us forget the magical connection we have to our bodies and thereby losing limberness and flexibility.  It’s the experience of hearing things go snap-crackle-pop when we reach over to touch our toes or, for those of us who do, raise our leg to put it up on the ballet barre.  These are just a couple of the ways I recognized I was becoming “crispy”.  And folks let me tell you, if at any point in your life you were used to going down into full splits or kicking your leg high in the air or even bending all the way over and easily touching your toes , it is a very jarring experience to wake up and realize you can’t do these things with the same ease or at all.

But the good news is now you are awake.  And you have decided whatever it was in your life that made you neglect your star player – that brilliant person staring back at you in the mirror – you are not going to let it come between you and your fabulousness ever again.  I am here to tell you that “crispiness” can be reversed and you can fight your way back to fabulous.  I am in the process of doing this, working on it little by little everyday, and I am absolutely flabbergasted and amazed at how the body can be retrained to stretch and bend even after years of neglect.  It is truly an awe-inspiring thing to witness and experience.

As much as it feels like it, we did not get this way overnight.  This is good news because it means that the way we slowly ate, drank, stressed, cried, screamed, bored ourselves into rigidness, we can actually gradually breathe, love, yoga, zumba, pilates (you get the idea…) our way out.  With each day that I feel myself getting stronger, my stamina increasing, my balance improving, my knees whining less, my cellulite disappearing (keeping it all the way real y’all), I realize not only will I become fabulous again, but I just might get into the best shape of my life.


 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Fighting Back to Fab

 

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Landscaping your path

In this world, it seems we are often buried under so many expectations imposed by others and by ourselves that it’s easy to lose sight of who we really are and what really makes us tick in the effort to be responsible bill-paying law-abiding adults.  I breathed a deep sigh of relief recently – a sigh I had been holding in for many years – when I finally openly accepted my reality, which is that I am passionate about international development and dance, that I am both an aid worker and an artist, and that these realities do not have to compete inside of me, but can actually exist in harmony and reinforce each other.  One big hurdle crossed, phew!

Well…as it turns out, finding your path is a very good start, but it doesn’t end there.  Apparently, that’s when the real work begins.  For starters, the twin demons of fear and doubt must be slayed.  And the path must be groomed in order to maintain it’s luster and shine.  I’d like to share with you a wonderful how-to guide for landscaping your path, from Paulo Coelho, that has been extremely useful to me:

1] The path begins with a crossroads. There you can stop and think what direction to follow. But don’t spend too much time thinking or you’ll never leave the spot. Reflect a lot on the choices that lie ahead, but once you have taken the first step, forget the crossroads for ever or else you will always torture yourself with the useless question: “did I take the right path?”

2] The path doesn’t last for ever. It is a blessing to travel the path for some time, but one day it will come to an end, so always be prepared to take leave of it at any moment. However enraptured you may be at certain landscapes, or scared whenever you have to make a great effort to go ahead, don’t get too used to anything. Neither to the hours of euphoria, nor to the endless days when everything seems so difficult and progress is so slow. Don’t forget that sooner or later an angel will appear and your journey will reach an end.

3] Honor your path. It was your choice, your decision, and just as you respect the ground you step on, that ground will respect your feet. Always do what is best to conserve and keep your path and it will do the same for you.

4] Be well equipped. Carry a small rake, a spade, a penknife. Understand that penknives are no use for dry leaves, and rakes are useless for herbs that are deep-rooted. Know also what tool to use at each moment. And take care of them, because they are your best allies.

5] The path goes forward and backward. At times you have to go back because something was lost, or else a message to be delivered was forgotten in your pocket. A well tended path enables you to go back without any great problems.

6] Take care of the path before you take care of what is around you. Attention and concentration are fundamental. Don’t be distracted by the dry leaves at the edges or by the way that others are looking after their paths. Use your energy to tend and conserve the ground that accepts your steps.

7] Be patient. Sometimes the same tasks have to be repeated, like tearing up weeds or closing holes that appear after unexpected rain. Don’t let that annoy you – that is part of the journey. Even though you are tired, even though certain tasks are repeated so often, be patient.

8] Paths cross. People can tell what the weather is like. Listen to advice, and make your own decisions. You alone are responsible for the path that was entrusted to you.

9] Nature follows its own rules. In this way, you have to be prepared for sudden changes in the fall, slippery ice in winter, the temptations of flowers in spring, thirst and showers in the summer. Make the most of each of these seasons, and don’t complain about their characteristics.

10] Make your path a mirror of yourself. By no means let yourself be influenced by the way that others care for their paths. You have your soul to listen to, and the birds to tell what your soul is saying. Let your stories be beautiful and pleasant to everything around you. Above all, let the stories that your soul tells during the journey be echoed at each and every second of the path.

11] Love your path. Without this, nothing makes any sense.

 
 

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