WHAT: Tom and Roberta perform in a student showcase of Estilo Dance Studio. This is an amazing, twice-a-year show that always sells out the Stardust Ballroom.
We'll be dancing bachata. Bachata is salsa's sexier sister. The show includes salsa, bachata and other styles at levels ranging from beginner to pro-am and semi-pro.
4 PM Performance (Doors Open 3:30 PM)
Admission: $15 Adults ($7 Kids Under 12)
10 PM Performance (Doors Open 8:00 PM)
Includes Lesson & Dancing Until 3 AM
Admission: $20 Adults ($10 Kids Under 12)
363 W Browning Rd
The social dancing after the evening show is always completely off. the. hook.
We strongly recommend the 4pm show for people who don't own dance shoes, and the 10pm show for people who do!
Enchufle double con something-double con abooya-double. Enchufle double. Then rock into the circle on one-two-three, setting her up for an outside turn that carries her in and out of the circle on five-six-seven, yelling "heeeey-ya" on the one-two-three. She echoes on five-six-seven. Do that twice. Dile que no.
Dedo. Break back on one-two-three, as for an enchufle. On three take her right wrist with your right hand and let go with your left. Outside turn her as she comes across and you turn right. Keeping that one hand, do an enchufle con muerte (enchufle with a hook turn for you), then a regular enchufle. Ends like the previous move with the rock into the circle, but no abooya and you only do it once.
Sombrero. Break back on one-two-three. Change hands and outside turn her as she comes across. Sombrero (arms over your respective heads) by seven. Dile que no.
Sombrero con bachanga step. Begin with a somebrero; stay that way. Tap forward on one, return your left foot to its usual place right away on two; same for the right foot on three-four. Keep that going through five-six-seven-eight. She does the same on the opposite foot (but still forward, not back). Dile que no.
Sombrero double. I'm surprisingly good at this, I think I've been messing with it on the social dance floor or something. Begin with a sombrero. Now, lift up the arms again and inside turn her as she comes across, settling into somebrero again by seven. Now lead her back across in a simple reverse cross body lead.
Chico derecho. Not really a move that requires any explanation, I'm just amused because for the first time in maybe eighteen years I heard a command in Spanish and immediately understood and carried it out without explanation or repetition. If only all calls were as simple... okay, that'd be pretty boring. Oh yeah, the move: guys step into the circle on one, step around their partner to the right, claim their next partner on five-six-seven.
Begin the setente as usual: Break back and come forward, making a wing with her; break back again and turn to the right, bringing her into a hammerlock.
Enchufle on one-two-three. On five-six-seven, DO NOT turn right, resist temptation! She's behind you now, that's a GOOD thing. On five-six-seven do a hand shuffle: your right to your left shoulder on five, your left joins it by seven.
On one-two-three bring the hands out in front of you, bringing her around you. On five-six-seven right turn her.
Enchufle (yes, you do turn this time); let go of the arms to undo the knot on five-six-seven.
Dile que no.
There is an additional rueda instructor at Estilo now: Sebastien. Sebastien has taught rueda in France. He's awesome. French-accented Spanish rueda calls are your best entertainment value.
He threw in some silly variations on the enchufle. Principe bueno is an enchufle ending with a kiss on the hand as you sweep by to the next girl. Principe malo ends with a turn away and a stomp. Principe... heckiforget ends with mussing the girl's hair wildly. DO NOT TRY THIS WITH STRANGERS IN CLUBS IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO TASTE SPIKE HEEL. In a way you won't like.
I worked on the candela, a not-too-fancy move that I've nevertheless had persistent trouble with, and seem to have it down:
Break back and cuddle her in, then push her out again.
On the third repetition, cuddle her in as usual on 1-2-3. On 5-6-7, keep both hands high, and turn left away from her. On 5, bring your right hand to your left shoulder (which is what kept biting me in the ass before). Now on 6-7 you'll settle the left hand to the right shoulder.
Now march in place in the direction you're now facing. When "paribe" (I think) is called, turn left to face your partner again, but keep marching in place.
When "dorito" is called, raise your left arm and walk under it to the next girl.
When "daiquiri" is called, reach over your partner's arm to the arm of the next girl, but don't go anywhere yet! When "zefir" is called, complete the move by raising your arm and passing your current partner under it and behind you, welcoming your new partner in front of you.
When "dile que no" is called, cross-body lead your partner and you're back to normal.
Baillala dos: dile que no, tap your left on eight. Give her a free spin inside turn. Turn left yourself.
Adios medio: like a regular adios, then step into the middle of the circle, then step out five-six seven. Repeat that bit.
Siete coca-cola: dile que no, tap your left on eight. Roll her in, push her out again, continue into a 360. Don't let her get away from you, keep her close, keep it tight and continuous, don't let her step back and away.
We spent a lot of time on the setenta complicado again, which is good because, we'll, it's complicado but it's nice to have it falling into place and not completely beyond me anymore. Rock.
We need more people in the rueda! Philly has a zillion salsa dancers, we need more rueda visibility. Any salsa dancer can pick it up quickly...
I rueda really a lot. But I've been trying to learn the setenta call for months. The dam finally broke tonight.
I have goofy explanations for my triumph: my brain is full of gourmet theobromine thanks to solestria! Rapid progress is only possible with $20 chocolate bars!
But it's really because I took the parts of the move I did have down and incorporated them on the social dance floor... a lot... building my vocabulary of basic moves so that I can better understand complete sentences. This is almost always the real reason why you "just can't" learn a pattern: you don't know the pieces yet. Break 'em down.
Setenta. Break back on one, then bounce back, coming side to side with her on three; the two of you are like a wing at this point, with you on the left. On five-six-seven, as she comes across, right turn her into a hammerlock; turn right to face her.
Enchufle on one-two-three. On five-six-seven, chaqueta: tuck your right elbow outside her arm.
Dile que no (cross-body lead), bringing your elbow in again on one-two-three.
Setenta complicado. The first set of eight is the same.
Enchufle on one-two-three. On five-six-seven, make a window with your right arm; as you step back on five and return on six, pull her through it; on seven turn left to face her, letting go with the right hand. Reclaim her left in your right; you have a normal hold again.
Enchufle on one-two-three, stopping her with your right hand on her hip so she winds up facing the same direction as you. On five-six-seven, glide her back.
Dile que no.
Siete. Easy-peasy one. Dile que no, tapping on eight. On one-two-three, break back and roll her in; on five-six-seven roll her out again.
Dame por... something: cross-body lead opening on one-two-three. On five-six-seven, inside turn her into a hammerlock with your left hand, letting go on seven; she comes across but you remain facing your new partner, and go straight into guapea (basic). This means your next partner is clockwise rather than counterclockwise. That also happens in other calls when pariba is added to them.
Darlin and Mike said something to the effect that they need to add more calls soon, so I expect to be back in kindergarten very shortly. But it was a very nice feeling to be Right There With It.
I like the feel of rueda moves and I'm noticing that they are very leadable on the social floor in Philly, since we dance on one here anyway.
This is huge because it's quite difficult to learn names on a loud, crowded dance floor! Suddenly I know who everybody is and have at least a little insight into where they're coming from. Suddenly I hear about parties. Etc.
Facebook's official line is that they are not a "social networking site." They are a "social utility." They make this distinction because the phrase "social networking site" is associated with sites like Myspace, where people tend to have lots of fakity-fake Internet friends (*) to whom they feel no real connection. Facebook takes a different approach, strongly encouraging you to connect with real people you know from high school, college, work and other social circles. They want to be seen as a tool that enriches and strengthens real-world connections.
Almost everything on Facebook bends toward this end. The photo and note-tagging systems are great for connecting things you share with the real people that are in them.
I did say "almost everything." Third party Facebook applications (like Superpoke) are not especially impressive in this department. Though I've written half a dozen, I don't use any third party Facebook apps at all myself. But this is partly because the built-in capabilities of Facebook are very complete and well-designed already. There just isn't much room for non-frivolous third-party apps.
Facebook's "suggest a friend" feature has been particularly awesome in the salsa scene, rapidly filling in the gaps and putting people in touch. My biggest problem now is pacing myself so that I don't "friend" people faster than I can truly connect names with faces. I'd like to get this right.
If Facebook needed a case study to prove that Facebook is a useful social utility and not an emptyheaded "social network," the Philly salsa scene would definitely fit the bill. But Facebook doesn't need case studies at this point, I suspect. The big bang has already happened, in scenes all over the country. And we're definitely richer for it.
At this point, speculation about What Could Go Wrong With Facebook is like speculation about What Could Go Wrong With Google. We love them, we really effing love them, but what if they someday woke up and decided to be evil (**)? So far, neither company is particularly motivated to be evil. But Facebook, unlike Google, hasn't felt strong pressure to be profitable yet. Time will tell.
(*) As opposed to real Internet friends! Yes of course meaningful connections can begin on the Interwebs. Stand down photon torpedoes.
(**) Facebook had a brief, dumb, ill-advised flirtation with evil when they offered "targeted advertising" in a way that revealed far too much to advertising clients. I much prefer the "thumbs up, thumbs down" system they have now which allows you to self-categorize by voting on ads... if you want to, that is. I do think that Facebook, like Google, should be able to use your profile data to serve you appropriate ads— there's nothing inherently evil about that— but only if they can do so without revealing your Facebook user ID to the advertiser.
Half past midnight: hit the hay. I can sleep until eight-thirty. I've planned this carefully.
Seven am: don't feel sleepy. Get up. Big mistake.
Thursday, 7:30pm: intermediate salsa class. Making dumb sleepy mistakes.
8:30pm: bachata class. At some point, become too tired to analyze how tired I am; all remaining brain cells decide to focus on actual dancing.
9:30pm: rueda class. Far from perfect, but able to remember long moves that usually defeat me... some percentage of the time, anyway. A strange focus permeates my brain.
11pm: arrive at Miami Cafe, running on nothing but adrenaline.
11:30pm: dance with B. I knew B. was really, really good. I did not know quite how good, or quite how well-timed my second wind was gonna be. Have front-row seat for numerous quadruple free spins.
11:32pm: the universe explodes into shiny little fragments, every single one of which is totally my bitch. Dance with each of the fragments until it unfolds into a new universe made up entirely of chocolate pudding and bottles of Chimay Cinq Cents. Rueda moves and lots of other stuff are suddenly fair game on the social dance floor.
12:30am: Arrive home, still flying. I CAN SEE THROUGH TIME!
12:31am: whoa. Very sleepy now. Good night peoples.
I picked up Eleanor from her after school activities a little early and brought her to the Rosin Box to purchase her first pair of jazz shoes. Eleanor already has ballet flats for her ballet class, but they are soft-soled, therefore not appropriate for her salsa class. According to the proprietor, the jazz shoes we purchased are Mike Andino's recommended practice shoe for salsa. and they are only $30. I could've purchased heels she'll outgrow in five minutes for $75, but I did not. I could have purchased an extremely handsome pair of English shoes for myself for $120, but I did not.
On the way east from there, we naturally passed Capogiro, and succumbed to the inevitable. O the pain. Half pumpkin, half dark chocolate for me. Eleanor had half chocolate, half vanilla. Total: $10.
We resumed our trek and soon passed Genji Sushi Express at 1720 Sansom Street. I'd already made dinner plans of my own with nohx, but it was dinnertime for Eleanor, who promptly inhaled california and avocado rolls. I nibbled on edamame. $15.
We stumbled across an Obama volunteer office and picked up new buttons. Little 50-cent ones for both of us, and a $1 "Woman for Obama" pin for Eleanor.
There was no getting home without passing Borders! Restraint was shown: paperbacks only. Eleanor bought Flyte, the second book in the Septimus Heap series. I picked up Ilium, the first in a newer series by Dan Simmons, author of Hyperion. I recently reread part of the Hyperion series and was sad to finish Rise of Endymion. I... may have had something in my eye at the end. $12, all told. Eleanor also spent $6 of her own money on an Eleanor Roosevelt bookmark.
After dropping off Eleanor at her mother's I met nohx for dinner at the Royal Tavern. It is good to have palz in one's own 'hood. I spent $10 (with tip) on the tempeh club sandwich, which is tasty. I avoided the temptation of more expensive fare... but mostly because the advertised pumpkin ale did not exist. Also, I am still a rueda newbie and I'm okay with that, but I don't like to screw up for reasons that are within my control. So drinking before class is not a great plan.
Around nine-thirty I hit rueda class at Estilo, which was even better than usual. The rueda actually flowed as it so rarely does when moves are being taught. $10 (which I forgot to pay... oops... I'll pay Saturday Mike!) I also met, or re-met, Julie of Salsa in the Suburbs, a great latin dance studio in Media, PA (suburban friends take note). This morning I sent her a login for the Salsadelphia back end; she's my guinea pig for Project Let Everybody List Their Own Stuff. I'm excited to see how it plays out.
Afterwards I felt pretty done in, but there's a new salsa night at Glam on 2nd street in Old City and I had to give it a shot, seeing as Joe Figueroa is involved. Also, I had the impression it was free.
So I went. And it was not free, it was $7. There were maybe twelve people in there, a good mix of men and women... all sitting down. That was a little odd, but I recognized some people so I made the decision to shell out a few bucks and head on in and scoop up a girl.
And boom: in this tiny little place, there were exactly enough men and women to go 'round; everyone could dance at least a little, some people could dance a whole lot better than me; everyone was incredibly nice. And we all rocked out until a little after midnight and decided to go home at pretty much the same time. Yes, separately.
A wonderful day. Also: a $96 day. This is why cash is never petty and it is why I don't indulge in "little, affordable" things every time I get the urge. It's also where all my damn money went in the nineties (well, the portion of it that isn't in my house). You gotta make choices. I don't regret indulging yesterday at all— I was overdue— but you can bet this is not how I roll on a daily basis.
Normal hold, left hand only. Walk-walk-turn her, bringing your right hand to her left shoulder on three, turning her right on seven. Don't telegraph your intentions ahead of time, just walk her across.
Man's half right turn on one-two-three. On one, you step forward— not to the right. Step to the left a little, even. By three you're both facing in the same direction and you're out of her way (at her left); change her right hand into your right. On five-six-seven, inside turn her as she comes across (that is, she turns left). Now you're in a handshake hold.
Give her a plain ol' right turn, but claim her left hand underneath with your left on one. After her turn your left hands are on top.
On one, bring your left hand behind her head and let go. On two, bring your right hand behind her head and let go. On three, open up for a cross-body lead and claim her left hand in your left. On five-six-seven, inside turn her as she comes across.
Taught in Mike's intermediate 1:30pm class:
Double handshake hold, rights over lefts. Outside turn her.
By one, bring your left arm behind her head so her elbow is locked, letting go with your right hand. Open up to the right by three (not to the left as you normally would for a cross-body lead). On five-six-seven, half left turn her. On seven, stop her with a "hug" around the shoulders with the right arm, turning half left yourself on seven so you are both facing back the way she came.
On one-two-three, break back, letting her pose (you still have her left in your left to point out with). On five-six-seven, roll her into your left arm (this is a left turn for her, but you keep your left hand low so she wraps into it and must stop turning as she faces you again).
Change hands on one, opening up for a cross-body lead by three. On five-six-seven, check her again: again it's a left turn for her, but while your right arm stays high, it stops at her right shoulder so she must remain facing away.
On one-two-three, use that right arm at her right shoulder to "run her around" (turn her half left to face you again). I had trouble with this bit, don't take me too seriously here. On five-six-seven, she naturally walks forward (because you're well out of her way), and you signal her for a right turn with your right hand so that she rolls into your arm again.
After that it's just a chase scene (that's as far as we got).
Last night at Brasils:
Enchufle on one-two-three (break back and come over; the arms pass by on her left as she comes over). On five-six-seven, turn yourself left (not the usual hook turn to the right); don't let go with either hand.
Now the tricky part; thanks to Joe of La Luna for spotting my moment... extended moment... of doubt and helping me nail this one:
On one-two-three, lower your left hand and turn right, under your right arm. Keep your left elbow below your right so that things don't disentangle— that's what I kept having trouble with. On five-six-seven, flick her right arm up and away (breaking the connection to your left) with your right.
Just a reminder: if I don't mention letting go of a hand... you don't! Until that final flick there is no disconnection or change of hands involved in any of the above.
As taught... more or less... by Sonya Elmore last night at Brasils. Intermediate salsa lessons every Wednesday. Sonya also teaches at her studio, La Luna.
Jimmy George Express
Sonya Elmore Jay Rockwell
Oh look one A.M.
Leaves lipstick print on my skull
I can live with that
Tiptoe past houseguests
Normal people are in bed
I write dance haiku
Latin and ballroom:
Together at the Stardust!
Thank you, Christy Kam
Cherry blossoms fall
Alfie's seems so far away!
I go anyway.
But never mind that, you want to hear about rueda calls.
A few that I remember well enough to try to write them down, which is a good sign. When I know darn well I didn't hear the name of the call clearly, I've italicized it.
Evelyn (Eva-LEEN). This starts with an apache whip: break back but not too far, bring your left arm around behind her back by three and transfer her right hand to your left arm, getting out of her way so that she can unroll and pass by you on five-six-seven as you execute a hook turn of your own. You'll need to release her hand on seven. You have exchanged places. Now lead her in a simple right turn, making sure she steps into the circle on one. End with a cross-body lead.
Asilico (Obviously, I didn't hear this one right). Begin with a cross-body lead, opening up on three as usual; after that, you STAY in that open-to-the-center position, and she rolls out to face into the circle as well. On eight, tap in the circle with your left foot. On one-two, execute a J-hook across your body so that she can execute a double... right turn; I think. You're snapping and letting go on two, not three (I was constantly late with this).
Coca-cola. Not that different from its usual meaning... open up for a cross-body, but bring your left hand to her right shoulder, and free spin inside turn her toward you on five. Then a cross-body lead.
Quarto con a rolla. Enchufle. Then, on the next set of eight, walk in a circle around the your next partner. Then cross-body lead her.
There's more... I'm getting the hang of it a little at a time.
Well... there is another way.
Society Hill Dance Academy has opened a second location at Beat Street Station, right on the Manayunk train station platform. And they are hosting a salsa club night on Wednesdays.
You're thinking "BYOB, lots of ballroom steps I don't know and they close early," but you're mistaken. It's an all-latin-music event. There's a full bar, a gorgeous dance floor bigger than anything else in the city limits, and they have two more dance floors in the upstairs rooms. And the space just looks and feels fantastic.
Wednesday they had everything but a crowd! And that was good for those of us who like to actually move across the floor once in a while. But I reckon I can afford to share this space with a few friends... so get your ass out there. Huge dance party waiting to happen, just add people.
Brasils on Wednesdays has been a part of my life for two and a half years now and that ain't gonna change. But will I be sneaking out on the sly for a little Manayunk goodness now and again? Oh yeah, definitely.
Beat Street Station is on the Manayunk R6 Norristown platform. $10 every Wednesday. Beginner and intermediate lessons at nine, dancing till whenever. The last train pulls out for Center City at midnight.
It's me, Mike, and five women.
Mike looks at them, looks at me, and says "I've got two, you take two, the fifth will rotate."
Suddenly it's an advanced class as far as I'm concerned. Outside turn both, inside and cross body left girl, inside and cross body right girl, outside turn both again, right turn under for me and reclaim hand, cross body inside pass right girl under left girl's arm, cross body inside left girl, cross body inside again turning myself part way... okay smart boy, now outside turn the girl in front of you and the girl behind you at the same time while chewing gum.
Whee! My brain was completely fried by the end but it was so, so worth it.
Nevertheless, I've been in quite a few bachata classes at this point. Which might seem odd. It's a simple dance; four steps left (not putting your weight down on the fourth), four steps right (again, just tapping your foot on the fourth), repeat. Everything else builds on that... but usually, not terribly far up from that.
Even so, the styles of every instructor are different. And they reflect different approaches I see on the dance floor.
The bachata is rather physically intimate, or meant to appear so— out of the corner of your eye, it's easy to think a couple are kissing passionately, or doing a whole lot more than that.
Over the last couple years I've noticed three basic approaches to leading the bachata:
1. Showing off with your big sister. Start out in open position, and pretty much stay that way. Lead lots of fancy turns, do lots of fancy turns yourself. Lots of opportunities to show off your salsa skillz, totally not hot. But: it's good to know how, as you'll often find yourself dancing with women who don't want anything closer. This is not a bad place to start with the bachata. It's where most experienced salseros find themselves pretty quickly after picking up the basic bachata step.
2. I'm going to pee on your leg! Position your right leg between her legs... and forward. Take her for a latin-themed horsey-ride for two and a half minutes. Hot? Well, honestly yes, sometimes. But as often as not it puts her off the whole idea. This is the variation that prompts most of the "oh my god, what was that guy doing? Should I have slapped him? Can we go now?" conversations I've had with female friends on the dance floor.
3. Well hello thar, aka Dominican style. Start out in dance pose, aka closed position... and for the most part, stay there... with your right hip right up against her left. Although your right foot will be pretty much in line with hers, which does require that you be quite careful to avoid stepping on her, you don't push forward with your leg. You do lead with your hips as you move back and forth.
As you can probably guess, I like #3. It's very close, but it's not... well... a simulated sex act. Not quite. It's a small difference that makes a world of difference.
Part of the reason #1 is so common is that instructors need an hour of stuff to teach you. And teaching you a complicated pattern fills the time while avoiding any embarrassment. But getting the hang of #3 is really worth the effort.
Darlin Garcia (who should not be blamed for any errors in the above) introduced us to Dominican style last night at Estilo. And we spent most of the hour on the basic connection, the basic technique of moving side to side, forward and back...
And then, of course, he threw us a loop by adding a box step to the mix. But that step still involves the same close connection, with the same fundamental "one, two, three, tap" footwork:
Travel right with your right foot on one, bring your left foot over to join it on two, bring your right foot back on three, bring your left foot back to join it and tap on four.
The same principle of leading with the hip and, when moving backwards, the hand on the back still applies.
Now, here's the thing about hips, and I need to hear it more often myself:
It's not just a question of swaying from side to side.
They swivel. And swiveling is a curving, two-dimensional thing. The hips— independently of the rest of the body— move forward on one step and back on the next as you move to the right, and so on.
Depending on your background this is either laughably obvious or utterly revelatory. Or maybe just revelatory in the context of dance, hmm?