Thursday, 20 December 2007

I've Been Tango'd

Maybe you've been watching Strictly Come Dancing this season?
Maybe you saw it last week with the contestants tackling the Argentine Tango?
Well, that's me, that is!
Okay, not exactly me but I have for the last three months, been applying myself to learning the art that is Argentine Tango.
I'd done a couple of taster Tango classes at 12th Night Congresses etc but it had never really captured my imagination. The closest I got to feeling inspired was watching Bill Newby and Ruth Gellar dance a demonstration at last January's 12th Night and to be fair, I was gobsmacked. So dramatic. So elegant. So I would NEVER be able to do that. I kinf of thought that one day I might start learning but never really got around to fitting it into my already busy life.
Then at the Latin XCes Bradford All Dayer in September things took a turn for the unexpected. I was there for the day in my capacity as salsa teacher, and dipping into classes where they were short of leaders, before teaching Dips with Trisha later in the afternoon. Bill and Ruth were there, running Tango taster classes but frankly I had no interest at all. Having done taster classes before with another teacher (Pedro) I'd decided that yeah, maybe I'd take it up properly one day, but really didn't want to do any more tasters. However, having successfully managed to avoid Bill and Ruth's first class, I was dragged kicking and screaming into their second by one of my own salsa students (turncoat!) and to my surprise, really, REALLY enjoyed it. Bill and Ruth are so far ahead of Pedro in teaching ability and inspiration and before I knew what I was doing, I was going through some Tango motions and even feeling a little dramatic and elegant myself. Flippin' eck, I thought, if Bill can get me doing this in just an hour, imagine what he could get me doing in an hour every week....

So that was it. Bill is based in Sheffield, which coincidentally is where I'm based with my day job, so it's not too inconvenient to pop along on a Tuesday evening after Fat Club (see a previous post). So pop along I have, every week for the last two and half months, subject to other, salsa earning commitments. I'm still only just beginning my journey but it's a really interesting one, replete with paralells to the salsa journey I started five years ago. Because I've already trodden the path, so to speak, I've a head start not only in the lead/follow dynamic, but also in an awareness of where I am in terms of my level and understanding of the dance. I stumble around the dance floor during drills and partnerwork, relishing the moment and watching others who are more comfortable than me. I can still remember occasions in my early salsa life where I'd look at other people that seemed so comfortable in the dance and wonder when I'd be like that, and now it's the same with Tango, only more so because I'm more aware of the journey itself.

I can still remember the first time in salsa when I actually felt like I was dancing. In fact there were two times that really spring to mind, one in class (probably about my fourth class), three weeks in and one after class when I was just starting to find my feet with freestyle salsa, about two months later.

On Tuesday of this week, I felt the same way. After weeks of drilling and practice, I actually danced Tango this week. Really danced. Nothing fancy, you understand, mostly walking and sidesteps with a few ochos thrown in for good measure, but I was dancing nevertheless. The thing that really came through and made it for me was the connection with my partner throughout the dance. We'd just been doing some ocho work together and Bill stuck some music on and left us to it for a track. Liz snaked her arm around my neck and leaned in close. Much closer that I was used to, but suddenly, the closeness made sense of all the "Lead with the shoulders, not the arms" that Bill has been repeating over the last few weeks. I'm not saying there were no mistakes, but for that track, Liz and I danced, for the large part of it, as one. It was beautiful, and was a taste, I believe, of so much more yet to come.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Eat The Elephant

Did you ever have something you knew you should do but for one reason or another just didn't get started? And then, later, when you knew you still, really should to it, it was bigger now and scarier? And later still, it's grown into this REALLY BIG THING that's so massive you just don't know what to do with it, it's so gigantically huge?
If this doesn't strike a chord then you're probably one of those folk that just do stuff when they're supposed to. I'm not. Well, sometimes I'm not, but sometimes things get away from me.
Planning lessons, doing tax returns, filing business accounts, decorating the house, and updating my blog are all things that have seemed to grow out of all proportion.
I see it's over two months since I last updated my blog, and as I've mentioned before, it's my intention to keep it much more up to date than this. Especially as so much has happened, salsa wise and life wise since my last entry.But then because so much has happened, it's like - where do I start?
I've actually written at least three blog entries, but never got around to posting them, and then re-reading them, they seemed out of date, and not worth posting. So like I say - where to start?

There's an old adage; The longest journey starts with a single step.
there's another one; If you need to eat an elephant, then do it one bite at a time.
So this is my step. My first bite, in an attempt to eat this elephant (white elephant?) that my blog seems to have become. None of which yet really tells you, the reader, anything at all.

Well... In a nutshell, since I last wrote, Trisha and I are expecting again. currently about 15 weeks and due towards the end of May 2008. We are absolutely thrilled, though Trisha has been suffering with sickness and nausea that no amount of ginger beer seems to be able to fix. Don't know yet whether it's a boy or a girl but we'll probably find out if we can. We did with Luca and were glad to know. Because we knew he was a boy, we were able to give him a name and relate to him better whilst he was still in the womb. What can I say - it works for us. I'm sometimes quietly amused when people suggest that you shouldn't find out in advance because then it'll be a surprise. I reckon it's not going to be that much of a surprise as the options are somewhat limited. I mean, it's either going to be a boy or a girl. It's not going to be an elephant. That really would be a surprise. And not just for us either.

Not long after we found we were expecting we were off to teach at Salsa Headway at Pontins Pakefield for a weekend. Trisha and I have always been in awe of the Pontins events and even though this was a smaller, low key affair, aimed mainly at beginners and improvers, we felt honoured to be invited to teach there. My mum and dad came along too to babysit with Luca whilst we were teaching, and during the parties. This was great as my mum and dad live about 150 miles away from us in Wales so they don't get to see Luca (or us) as often as we'd like. Watching him getting to know them a little (and vice versa) was lovely. Luca seemed to pick up on the fact that my dad was struggling a bit health wise and seemed to be a little more gentle around him. Maybe we were imagining it, but I like to think not. Teaching-wise, the weekend went really well - we got excellent feedback from both dancers and organisers so we were really chuffed.

A month later saw me jetting off to Guernsey for a weekend, this time by myself, to teach at a weekender there organised by Heidi Almonte. This turned out to be completely manic, partly because I got about 9 hours sleep over the course of three days, and partly because I ended up teaching 5 hours privates into 24 hours, alongside my group class schedule, which was already stretched due to another teacher's ill health. You know what - I loved it! I was really pleased to get more brilliant feedback (it's all gone straight to my head, of course) and I've already been invited back for a weekend in March next year so I'm really looking forward to that.

And now it's nearly Christmas! I suppose I'd better do some shopping...

There. That wasn't so bad, was it. I didn't get into quite the detail I might have liked but it'll do to be going on with. I really, really will endeavour to update more frequently. Honest I will.
And remember - if you read this - drop me a line and let me know - just so I know I'm not alone...
Until next time, Deej

Friday, 28 September 2007

My Dad's Got a PC!

My mum and dad have bought a PC. They've never had a computer before but decided that the time has come when they are starting to feel left behind in this current, digital age and they want to catch up. There are so many “dot-com” adverts around, on television, on billboards, on buses etc, that they were beginning to feel at a disadvantage, particularly when for holidays or car insurance for example, there’s often the celebrated “10% discount if you buy online” to reckon with. For ages Mum and Dad fought the trend to dive into the digital pond, having heard stories of bank fraud, phone jacking, identity theft and such, but finally they succumbed and came home one day with a spanking new laptop and printer.

My dad is nothing if not thorough and he made sure he read up thoroughly on broadband connections but unfortunately being a complete novice in this particular arena, none of it made much sense to him. Even his old friend British Telecom seemed to be talking in Greek; Norton monthly wireless hub with wi-fi and home hub security and hub phone. What does it all mean? Even the payment plan made no sense. Half price for three months billed as credit on your first bill? What’s that all about?

Undeterred, with help from my brother and myself, he waded through the jargon and decided to bite the bullet and go the whole hog (I’ve always loved mixing metaphors) ordering BT’s top line connection, including a man who comes and sets it all up for you. The thought of Dad trying to set it all up himself having no prior knowledge filled all of us with dread so this seemed like the best option.

I’d just got home from shopping on the Sunday afternoon when the phone call came.
“Help!” was the cry, “I think I’ve broken it!”Following a fruitless hour and a half on the phone, trying to visualise what he was seeing without a great deal of success and no nearer to a solution, I told him to hang on whilst I popped round. Unfortunately, as I live in York and Dad lives on the other side of the Welsh border, popping round means two and a half hours each way. I don’t mind, he is my Dad after all, and as I argued when he objected to me driving all that way, I often drive further for work, so I’m kind of used to it. In the event I was really glad I did, as I never would have sorted it over the phone. By the time I left, Dad could get into his emails again so all was to the good.

Last weekend, Mum and Dad visited us in York and partway through the afternoon, Dad sheepishly admitted he was still having problems. He’d got the laptop in his boot – could I have a look? He’d bought a Bluetooth dongle in order to transfer pictures from his phone to the PC, but hadn’t been able to install it as the drivers supplied were for Windows XP. My brother had downloaded drivers from the manufacturer’s website for him, but he was still struggling to make it work.I really feel for him. I like to think I’m reasonably computer literate (my day job is in I.T.) but having now struggled with Vista myself even just to achieve basic things, I dread to think what it must be like for anyone coming to it with no prior experince of computing at all. There’s so much information on the screen at any time, it’s near impossible for a newcomer to understand which bits of it are important or indeed relevant, and which aren’t.

Following further problems with his BT email facility – it just doesn’t appear to be compatible with his PC – I’ve spent two lunchtimes on the phone to him this week (one of these spent learning that MSN Hotmail just repeatedly killed his browser!) resulting in setting up a GoogleMail account and coaching him in its use. This now appears to be working. Which is nice. I’ve always admired my dad’s persistence but more so now than ever as I know he’s been tempted to throw “that damn computer” out of the window on several occasions and is currently putting a great deal more into it than he’s getting out. But he sticks at it, just like I’ve seen him do with everything else in life (did I mention, he once made me a car) and refuses to be beaten. His tenacity is slowly paying off - in the last couple fo days I've arranged for him to receive "Vista For Dummies" (Amazon's great isn't it?) and with its help he's been able to save some attached pictures of Luca that I've sent him. He's ahead of me in a way as I've only just tonight figured out how to post pictures on this here blog thingy. Maybe one day Dad’ll find his way in here. If he does he’ll find a warm welcome waiting…

"Hi Dad! ‘Kettle’s on, you just sit down and put your feet up and I'll be right there..."

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Dance Off

I enjoyed tonight. My back's knackered but I still enjoyed it. I went out dancing, but only danced about 10 dances total in three hours! And most of those were in the first half hour.
Basically I did my back catching Luca from falling through a climbing frame just over a week ago and it's not been right since.
We taught in Newcastle last Friday and after wincing my way through the lesson (I think I just about managed it without anyone noticing) I didn't dance at all. It was still fun watching, though. I do like to see people enjoying their dancing. And Trisha reported that during the course of the evening, several leads put into practice the turn pattern we'd taught in class. Which was nice.

My back seemed to improve through the week though today it's taken a turn for the worse again. Friends have now started telling me I need to go and see a chiropractor. Sounds a bit scary to me - I'll see how it is after the weekend.

There was a class tonight at the Engine Shed, taught by Rotherham salsa teachers Ian Proctor and Margaret Chapman. I didn't take part but enjoyed doing a Len Goodman (my friend Sylvia played Arlene Philips) from the sidelines. The class was billed as an intermediate/advanced but unfortunately at one point Ian found himself having to teach the concept of "Touch & Go" turns. If you're reading this from a non-salsa point of view, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about, but if you're an intermediate level (or above) salsa dancer then you ought to know exactly what I mean. I say ought to, but of course, levels change between different teachers, different clubs, different towns, etc and one of the hardest jobs for a guest teacher is setting the level for a class filled with people they don't know from Adam. We seem to be able to get it spot on at Newcastle every time but when we taught at the Engine Shed in February we pitched it far too high and prepared a turn pattern replete with at least four "non-orthodox" moves many wouldn't have seen before, in a routine that was simply too long. to be honest, when we ran the same lesson past our own intermediate class at Wetherby the following week, we struggled to get through it, though admittedly we were adding a fair amount of detail.
Since then we've honed the way we approach guest teaching, and in fact teaching in general, trying to give the dancers something they can use, either in routine or in technique, that's concise enough for them to be able to remember (and use) more than 5 minutes after the class has finished. We don't always get it right (except for Newcastle, of course) but we're trying, and I believe we're improving.
Maybe my back will improve soon, too...?

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A Funny Thing Happened To Me

I had a salsa first tonight. Not the first time I've danced salsa, obviously, as any regular readers (are there any regular readers? Haven't heard from Gary and Jan in a while) will know. I've danced On2 (ET2) before many times as well as I mentioned a couple of months ago but until tonight, I'd never danced On2 by accident...
It happened like this...
I was over to Gillian and Martin Heaton's Salsa Fix bash again in Horwich (, with friends Phil and Kate who help out at our clubnights. From when we arrived I had a great time, first dancing with a few familiar faces (are you STILL nervous, Jackie?) then moving on through some unknown ones. After dancing with Gillian she pointed out a friend of hers and told me I must go and dance with her. So a few records later I sought out Vanessa and asked her for a dance. Walking out onto the floor I began to question my timing as the music was distinctly jazzy, plinky, plonky Mambo stuff. Turned out to be a salsa jazz version of "My Favourite Things". Anyway - it was definitely "On2" music and for a fleeting moment I wondered about asking Vanessa if she danced On2 before deciding that I wanted nothing to do with all that On2 malarky tonight as it wasn't a training exercise - I was just there to enjoy myself. So off we pop On1 and then before you can say supercallyfrajilisticexpiallydocious (oops, sorry, wrong musical) I suddenly found myself dancing On2, having swapped without realising it! Seems it was in me all along and just needed the right music to bring it out! Fortunately Vanessa could dance perfectly well On2 too and we had a lovely dance.
Thanks once again to Gillian and Martin for organising the do, and thanks to all the ladies (and Steve) that danced with me and helped make my evening a real pleasure.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Chunli Wu

I don't spend all my time thinking about salsa.
No, really it's true. I mean ok, I spend a lot of time thinking about salsa but there's other stuff too.

Stuff like our little boy Luca, now nearly 18 months old (where the heck did that go!?!).
Luca is an absolute joy - don't get me wrong, he has his tantrums and is by no means sweetness and light the whole time, but he's awakened a part of me that I never knew existed and I find myself almost bursting with it sometimes. Trisha and I make no attempt to disguise the fact that one of the reasons we teach salsa (besides the fact that we love it) is that it's an extra source of revenue which means Trisha can stay at home and be a full time mum, giving Luca all the care and attention he needs. We're not what we'd call well off - we're really stuggling to save up to buy our own place - but we're not on the breadline either and it's pretty certain that Luca is going to get everything he needs, if not necessarily everything he wants. When occasionally he's poorly it tears my heart more than I would have ever thought possible. He's had a couple of bouts of croop over the last few months and Trisha and I have struggled to hold back the tears, nursing him whilst he struggles for breath. This got me thinking...

When Luca has croop, we can use a steroid inhaler, and we can put the kettle on to increase humidity and we can give him water or diluted juice so he doesn't get dehydrated. Parents the world over feel the same love for their children as we do for Luca, so how would it be then, if we didn't have access to medicines and steroid inhalers, if we had no electricity to boil a kettle, no juice and water that had to be brought up from a well and wasn't actually safe to drink? There are families that are living in these conditions and worse, and knowing the anguish I feel when Luca's not well, I can only begin to imagine what it must be like for the parents who haven't even got the means to feed their children, let alone give them medicine when they need it.

I haven't got a lot of spare cash - in fact I'm technically more skint than I've been for years - I'm earning about half what I did four years ago, and now am providing for a family of three, not just for myself. But I'm not starving and neither is my family. I've got safe, clean water to drink and so has my family. Luca will always be well clothed appropriately for the weather, and his mum makes certain there are no shortage of toys for him to play with. In time he'll go to school, where suitably qualified teachers will give him a good education.

So I decided to make a difference. Not a big difference, but a difference just the same.
I remembered from a donating to Action Aid a few years ago that they run child sponsorship schemes and got in touch to find out more about it.
Suffice to say, that in a poverty stricken region of Western China a ten year old girl called Chunli Wu should now maybe get safe water to drink and maybe even medicine if she falls ill. The small donation I'm making each month will help her and the community around her build something of a better future for Chunli Wu and her family and friends. Whilst I get a lump in my throat and start to fill up with tears when I think of the parents who can only watch their children starve as they themselves do likewise, I feel good to know that for one little Chinese girl called Chunli Wu and those around her, I'm making a difference.

This for me is a very personal thing and I certainly didn't feel this way before Luca arrived, but if you're interested in maybe helping another child, or another community that doesn't have the same benefits as you, then you can find Action Aid at - No pressure, like I say, it's a personal thing.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

It's been a while (sorry)

So, what’s happening? It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m a bit disappointed with myself about this. When I first opened the blog it was my intention to write something every week, or every couple of weeks, at least. But it’s been nearly a month since my last entry. Shame on me.
As I teach salsa, I did wonder for a while about publishing a description of what I’ve taught this week, but;
A) Any description of a move is subject to a lot of descriptions that no one but me is likely to understand, and
B) Readers would soon realise I just teach the same stuff over and over!
So I decided against it. Come to my classes instead, if you want to see what I’m teaching currently.
You can catch me away from my own clubnights too, as we do guest quite often for other promoters, as regular readers will know. We were up in Newcastle again last month and back there again next week (Friday 29th June), which reminds me, we must think of something to teach.
David and Margaret, who run Salsa Amor at the Black Swan in Newcastle each Friday, told us when they invited us up last time that we were welcome to bring our own club members with us and I’m pleased to say that a good few of them braved the bank holiday weekend traffic on the A1 and made the journey. One couple were so enthusiastic they arranged a hotel so they could stop over. Thanks to Laura too, who came in the car with Trisha and I, and kept me awake on the drive home whilst Trisha was snoring in the back seat.
Laura joined me again the following week when we, along with Phil from the Strictly Salsa team, made a trip over the Pennines to dance at Horwich RMI at Gillian Heaton’s “Salsa Fix” event ( I’d only conversed with Gillian (or Jambo) via the internet ( previously but she’d raved about her Salsa Fix parties with such enthusiasm that we decided we had to check it out for ourselves. Passports in order, we crossed the hills and weren’t disappointed. We received a very warm welcome and had a brilliant night’s dancing to some top music, with some lovely partners. Nice dance floor too. Best fun of the night for me had to be when Phil and I took turns swapping Gillian between us for a dance. At one point I was leading her through a multiple, circular travelling turn when Phil took over the lead and seamlessly switched leaders mid turn. Nice (how did he do that?!). There were lots of other nice dancers there too – including teachers Paris, Brigitte and Franklyn.
I didn’t recognise Brigitte at first; I saw a girl across the dancefloor with lots of hair and pink flowery dress, dancing with Paris and decided to ask her for a dance. Having asked her a little while later, it wasn’t until we’d been together a few seconds that I realised I knew who she was.
Later on I got a scare for a minute when a couple approached me and the guy started shouting at me and waving his arms around frantically! Resisting the urge to turn and run away, I eventually heard him over the music (he was standing in front of a speaker, so this wasn’t easy) and learnt that the couple are in fact readers of this very blog. Not only that, but the only people who, to date at least) have left a comment for me.
Hiya Gary and Jan – how’re ya doing?
It was good to meet you again and encouraging for me that could remember the lesson Trisha and I taught at the Bradford All-Dayer. Incidentally, I learnt yesterday that the next Bradford All-Dayer is to be held on Saturday 22nd September. We’ve been asked to teach again and we’re looking forward to it already.
Trisha and I managed to get out dancing together last weekend! It doesn’t happen often as we already call on our baby sitter twice every week so we can teach together, and then once or twice a month when we do guest teaching spots we have to draft in the parents to cover for us so we have to be careful not to overuse the goodwill of those concerned. My mum and dad are joining us in Pakefield in October for the whole weekend, bless ‘em, and Trisha’s mum seems for ever to be traipsing back and forth on the A64 from Scarby.
However we managed to get out on sunday evening and had a good night at Encuentro Latino’s “Montuno Lounge” event, held at the Gallery night club in York. Taking a cue from the salsa scene in New York, these events are early evening, 6-10pm, giving dancers a chance to get a good few hours dancing and still get to bed at a reasonable hour to get up for work on Monday morning. As Encuentro Latino teach exclusively On2 (ET2) most there were On2 dancers, giving Trisha and I an opportunity to hone our own On2 skills (which in my case, need honing). We can dance On2 ok, but we’re nowhere near as familiar and as comfortable as we are On1 so it was nice to get the opportunity with some seasoned "On2-ers". I danced with a few ladies who offered me the On1 option but until the end of the night, when Trisha and I finally rebelled and went Cuban, it was pretty much On2 all the way. I even had another dance following Steve Carter – what a guy! Though we were both wearing white shirts and were described afterwards as “Two Polar bears in a wrestling match” !!! Thanks to Lossie and Gareth of and well done to Sue, Sally and Rita who all made the plunge from our own Strictly Salsa.

I did have the intention of posting some pics this time. Sorry – I’ve failed again, however if you can see some from own clubnights at or from Gillian’s Salsa Fix party, go to the site and click on the “To view all the photos from the night” link.Last time we went to Newcastle, I took my camera but was so absorbed in the dancing I forgot to use it. Maybe next time…

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Party On

Went to a great party last Saturday. One of our students turns 40 in August and her husband wanted to surprise her with a trip to Singapore. Unfortunately destination far east requires multiple innoculations, three months in advance and he figured it'd be kind of difficult to get her injected without her noticing. So instead, he arranged a party for her and time-shifted her "official" birthday (eeh, she's just like the Queen; two birthdays!) forward three months, so he could still surprise her with her trip. For weeks he's been scheming with friends and family and whilst not normally brilliant at keeping secrets he's played an absolute blinder with this and she suspected nothing. Indeed when she walked in, expecting just to pick up her friend to go to a fashion show, and 40 of us shouted "Surprise!" she was totally flummoxed."They can't mean me," she was thinking, "it's not my birthday!" The look on her her face as the reality dawned was classic.And what a lovely party too. Hosts were friends of the birthday girl who have a large house (complete with big garden) on the edge of Harrogate. It was a daytime affair so Trisha and I were both able to go, taking Luca along with us. He loved the garden, running around chasing any girl that happened to be wearing pink. He seems to have developed this fascination for pink. I'm not sure if I should be concerned...I was driving so Trisha had a couple of glasses of wine and was decidedly squiffy by the time we left. She doesn't drink a lot these days and it went straight to her head. She spent most of the journey home to York fast asleep.
Saturday evening, and I had a date with The Asterdale Club in Borrowash. Miguel Havana (Havana Nights, Leicester), one of my favourite cuban style teachers was taking class for Lee hunter, who, under the guise of Absolute Salsa, runs the bashes at the Asterdale. The turnout last Saturday was the smallest I've seen at the Asterdale and even though it busied up a little later, it still remained essentially quiet.I thouroughly enjoyed Miguel's lesson, stuff I've kind of done before with with new twists and variations that I haven't previously tried. Nice. I thoroughly enjoyed dancing with his co-teachers Georgiana and Marilyn too. I especially enjoyed dancing with a friend from Notts who I haven't seen in over a year. I probably overdid it - we must have had six or seven dances throughout the evening, but like I say it was quiet and she didn't seem to mind. I spent most of the evening on the dancefloor and wished someone else was driving home but alas I'd come by myself, unable to whip up a posse due to half my regular crowd being away in Spain at the moment. I was so tired I had to pull over and take a 30 minute nap on the way home. Thanks to Trisha for letting me enjoy a lie in on Sunday morning.
Off up to Newcastle tomorrow evening to The Black Swan, teaching for David and Margaret Blackmore's Salsa Amor ( Looking forward to it too. We didn't know what to expect the first time we went up there, in February but in the event, found as warm and friendly a buch of folk as you could wish for. They seemed to like us too - they keep inviting us back anyway. As well as tomorrow we're already booked for June 29th. Come and say "Hi" if you're there, and as always, any comments left to let me know I'm not alone in the Online World will be most welcome.Until next time, by which time I may have learnt how to post some piccies onto this blog thingy...

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

I'm not alone! Bradford All-Day

Hey! Someone read my blog! I know coz they left a comment for me! Thanks Gary & Jan - it's nice to know I'm not just writing to myself.

Had a quiet night in on Friday, then up with t'little one early Saturday morning - he likes to be up before 7am - no idea where he gets this from, certainly not me!Then hand-over to Trisha and off I went to Bradford for the Latin XCes All-Dayer. I was booked to teach at 6pm but wanted to get some of our new flyers out on the desk so they'd be there all day and also wanted to hang out generally and do a few classes with other teachers. I spend most of my salsa time teaching myself these days that it's nice when I have the opportunity to go and catch a class with someone else.

First up was Nicolai and Helena with an intro to Cuban Salsa. I always enjoy classes with N & H (they were amongst my first teachers when I started) and they don't seem to mind too much when I heckle from the sidelines. Gotta say actually, that Nicolai in particular has had a massive influence on my salsa teaching career - starting when he didn't show up to teach class one Monday and I had to step in and help Caroline out with a routine. Over the next few months he encouraged me to do more and more, and continues as a source of inspiration for me.Anyway back on subject. I did a cross-body turn pattern lesson with Ces and Kerry (which I've since forgotten, shame, coz I enjoyed it at the time - that much I can remember) and then caught a Bachata lesson with them in the afternoon, before leaving to collect Trisha for our dips class. A year ago I'd used to hate Bachata but I had a turning point on holiday last year whilst watching a couple of friends. They were so in sync, the way their bodies were snaking together, it opened up a whole new world for me, that I've since been quietly warming to. There was one particular partner in Saturday's lesson (you know who you are!) that I just seemed to click with and we really seemed to find the root of the dance between us (not that there was a great deal of rom between us - it was Bachata, after all).

And then our Dips Class...We're always a little bit wary of teaching dips etc as there is so much potential for injury when not done well, and we never know what sort of standard we're going to get in the class. As usual there was a real mixture of abilities, but most seemed to be picking up on the essence of what we tried to put across, and to my knowledge no injuries ensued. Which is nice. We had three types that we wanted to teach and they were all well received. The first was a slightly complicated kind of triple combination that we spent quite a lot of time on, but it was nice to see pretty much everyone doing it well. I've gotta say we got the LOUDEST and longest cheer at the end of it that I've ever experienced. Thank you all! Hopefully Ces will have us back later in the year to do some more?
If you see me, let me know; "Deej - I read your blog!"

Monday, 30 April 2007

Where's Luca?

For years I tended to steer clear of proud dads. You know the sort - those who've got kids and just can't stop talking about them. However, I remember once, years ago, in my first job, there was an exception to this. I can't remember the fella's name now as it was well over 20 years ago but I was working with a bloke who had young children and whilst he never pushed conversations about them on anyone, when he did talk about them his face used to light up and he became so animated, so filled with life. I can't actually remember his face but I'll never forget the expression I used to see on it. I think it's kind of the expression I have on mine these days, when I think of Luca and his latest "cute" moment.
We play a game with him after bath, where we cover his face with a towel and ask "Where's Luca?" He then pulls the towel off his face and beams at us with a big toothy grin.
Occasionally I'll carry him sat up on my shoulders (holding tight to his feet). Obviously I can't see his face whilst he's up there, but Trisha tells me he sit's up like he's king of the world, proudly sat on his dad's shoulders. I was carrying him like this during the weekly shop last weekend, when I felt his weight shift sideways. And next thing I know, there he was, leaning down to one side, craned over looking at me in the face with this huge smile. He then sat up straight and a couple of seconds later, shifted his weight again, this time to the other side. I turned my head, and there he was again,leaning down the other way now. Talk about cute! He repeated it a few times until he got bored (he is only 14 months old, after all) and his attention went elsewhere.
On Sunday afternoon we had a trip to the park and I was carrying him on my shoulders again. I had an idea and wondered if he'd understand."Where's Luca?" I asked loudly, looking around. Sure enough, I felt his weight lean and there he was, with a big grin as he leant over to look me in the eye. Makes me go all warm and mushy just thinking about it.

Friday, 27 April 2007

The Patter Of Tiny Feet (And Bigger Feet Too)

I was lying in bed, ready to get up the other morning, listening to the patter of tiny feet. I couldn't help but smile. Luca, our 14 month old son is a true joy. When he smiles he really does brighten up the room. Weird that I never wanted children at all until I met Trisha (in fact I definitely wanted NOT to have any children) but now we've got our little Luciano it's difficult to imagine life without him. Sure there are sacrifices; I don't get as much dancing in as I used to. I've not been to any weekenders or holidays this year, nor am I likely to except when teaching, and I've not ridden my bike (Yamaha TDM850) since last September. But you know what? When Luca smiles, absolutely none of this matters. He loves being swung between my legs and up over my head, and he loves it when I tickle his tummy with my nose or lie him on top of my head and ask Trisha "where's Luca gone?" His laugh is like a giggling brook that sometimes squeals just with the delight of being there. He's brilliant. His Mum's brilliant too, just for the record. Four years on I still sometimes look at her and wonder what she sees in me? Whatever it is, I'm glad of it, that's for sure.
Had a BIG smile at our Wednesday class this week too. We exercise an "invitation only" policy on our intermediate classes, not because we're elitist but because we're concerned that we want to be able to teach consistently at a high standard and allowing dancers into the class that aren't of a standard to cope is frustrating both for us as teachers and for the other dancers in the class. We do endeavour to be as objective as possible when assessing dancers for our classes and it's always a joy when someone makes the grade for the first time, more so if they've been trying hard and pushing themselves to reach the standard required. I've been working with one such lady for a couple of weeks - I've always enjoyed dancing with her but she had a lot of barely controlled energy that was getting in her way and we worked on this together. Then this week, I took some time out to do some more work with her and suddenly, bam! It's like she's a different dancer! Everything we've spoken about has been put into practice and she's now got lovely, precise control matched to a lovely understated style. Her turns (both travelling turns and double spins) have suddenly become so much easier to lead and she's round and done beautifully in time to be led into whatever's coming next. Like I said - I've always enjoyed dancing with her but now she's a real treasure. When Trisha and I started teaching together a few years ago, we set our personal goal to "teach people to dance so that we would love dancing with them" (we're pretty self-serving, really).
Sylvia (for that is the name of the lady concerned) is one lady in whom our mission is fulfilled. I hope she's there tonight...

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Dance the weekends away

After an alarming phone call on Saturday morning;
"Hello, we're afraid there's a double booking so you can't use the room on Wednesday..."
we had a frantic couple of days where we attempted to contact our dancers and let them know we'd be dancing Thursday this week instead of Wednesday. We HATE it when this sort of thing happens, especially with all the venue problems we've had over the last three months. Apart from making us look unprofessional (and we try REALLY hard to be as professional as we can) it annoys our dancers, some of whom may not return to us when it's all settled down again. Hopefully it's not going to happen again, but Tuesday saw me visiting a neighbouring club to try and warn dancers for whom we don't have contact details, and Wednesday saw me waiting outside the our venue to intercept any who'd slipped through the net. Good thing I did too as five folk showed up whilst I was there waiting. Fortunately as I was there I think we managed to retain their good will with an apology for incovenience and promise of a free night by way of compensation.
Sometimes with all the hassle of running a club we lose can lose sight of why we love salsa so much.
Other times though, I'm reminded and such a time was the regular social evening at the Engine Shed in Wetherby, last Friday. Trisha was left at home holding the baby, or more accurately, watching American Idol, whilst I togged up and set out for a night's dancing.
We all have good nights and bad but last Friday I was on a roll, and spent most of the evening on the dancefloor with a host of lovely ladies (and bloke - "Hi Ric!"). It was a lovely feeling when I realised that some of the most enjoyable dances I had were with dancers from our own clubs, that we'd taught. When Trisha and I set our stall out and started teaching together nearly three years ago, we embarked on a mission to teach people to dance the best they could so that they'd be dancers we would want to dance with. Well, we're getting there and it's a fantastic feeling to dance with someone (or watch them dance) and know that this is something we've given them.
Then Sunday evening was the first Sunday Social ("Montuno Lounge") in York, hosted by friends Lossie and Gareth at the Gallery nightclub. I went along to offer my support and found that is was buzzing, albeit buzzing mainly On2. I had a good laugh with Paula, the lady on the door. Lossie and Gareth used to run these a couple of years ago and I always used to have a joke with Paula about searching for my name on the guest list - which, much to Paula's amusement, it never was. This time however - as a local teacher/promoter L & G feel I now warrant a mention on their guest list, which is nice. Paula was gutted. There were quite a few over from Hull etc dancing On1 so it wasn't a New-Yorican monopoly but the emphasis was certainly On2. No problem there - I can use the practice. Weird thing is, I can dance at a reasonable standard On2 with a reasonable partner, but show me an On2 beginner and it all goes to pieces. I'm not comfortable enough with the rythm to cope with beginners the same as I do almost effortlessly when dancing On1. Like I say - I need the practice.
On to tonight. How many will turn up? We've already heard from a few that have said they can't make Thursdays so we're expecting numbers to be down again. I guess we'll have to just wait and see.
Looking forward, today we've sealed a deal with our local radio station and starting next week we'll be getting a regular mention on Minster FM's Party Anthems weekend show. We're desperate to fill both our York and Wetherby clubs again and hope this will help. Maybe you could join us?
All comments welcome - even the ones that just say "Hi"

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Fat Club

I go to Fat Club. No, really, I do. Ok so they don't actually call it Fat club (they call it Weightwatchers) and we don't sit around saying things like;
"Hello everyone. My name's Deej. I'm a fatty."
I first started Fat Club the week I first went salsa dancing. My weight and I had grown to silly proportions - I'd lost a great deal of self respect and decided to do something positive about it. Over the next few months, I managed to lose about 3 stone (42 lbs). Sounds good but I really could have done with losing twice that. What I did gain was a new zest for life and a great deal of self respect. I stopped going to Fat Club because after a few successful weight loss months (I'm sure the dancing helped) I figured I knew the system, I knew what I needed to do but I resented paying a fiver each week just to stand on some scales. Especially when I had a nifty set of electronic scales at home. One of my colleagues prophesied that not only would I stop losing, but I'd put it back on again. It took time, but sure enough he was right. Eventually, over the last four years, the weight, and with it my bulk, has slowly built up again, not quite getting to the mammoth proportions of yesteryear but enough to once again rob me of my self respect and scare my partner Trisha with the thought of premature death (history of heart disease in my family) and not being around for our son, Luca.
So once again, positive action was required. I've realised over the last few months, that it WAS the weightwatchers meetings were what was really helping - and the results are definitely worth a fiver. If it's constantly in my head because I'm being repeatedlybrainwashed every week, then I actually find it relatively easy to eat healthily and sensibly and as expected, the weight is now coming off again. Don't get me wrong - I'm no skinny yet and won't be probably ever, but I'm 13 lbs less of a fatty than I was 2 months ago and for me that's a big step in the right direction.
Now, if I can just find some more salsa events to go to so I can burn off more of it...

If you've read all this - please leave a comment, even just to say hi so I know I'm not alone.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Easter Funday

We love teaching in Newcastle!
Trisha and I were back up to Salsa Amor at the Black Swan ( on Good Friday. What an amazing crowd! Having taught there previously in February, we were welcomed back with open arms not only by our hosts David and Margaret but also by the dancers there gathered. We ran two lessons (Beginners, and Improver/Intermediate) and both went really well. And the feedback we got was fantastic. So many people coming up to us individually afterwards and telling us how much they'd enjoyed our lesson. We felt all warm inside on the way home. In fact I still do.
We also both had some lovely dances, probably most notably with Tony Mee (yep, both of us, though not at the same time!) - up from London for the weekend. Cheers Tony. Cheers everyone...

Last night was Easter Monday so we weren't expecting many at our York Clubnight, and as expected, numbers were well down on usual. We didn't care though and those of us there had a brilliant rueda session with some hilarious results. Our friend Ashley was taking pictures for our website and she had no problem finding happy smiling faces to photograph. Trisha generally hates Rueda as she was tortured with week after week of beginners rueda during her first months of salsa, but even she enjoyed herself last night. More to come tomorrow and next week.

The biggest news for us though, was last Wednesday's move to our new Wetherby venue. Our previous haunt, The Grantham Arms in Boroughbridge was just no longer big enough for us after it lost some dancefloor space during the refurbishment so we've had to not only move 15 miles but we've had to switch to Wednesdays too. Our first Wednesday was last week and we set off with a fantastic night. We've inherited some dancers from Ces' club that was there previously and we were pleased to find that we were able to welcome most of them into our Improvers class, with the rest not far behind. Also a milestone was that we probably had our largest improvers class yet which is lovely to see as it means that our dancers are not only sticking with us, but improving as well. (For those that don't come to our club - we control the level of dancers in each of our classes quite carefully in order to maintain our teaching standard.)

And then my Mum and Dad were up for the weekend, to spend some time with our son Luca. Mum and Dad live in Wales and don't see as much of Luca as they (or we) would like, so it's great when we all get to spend quality time together. We had a couple of days out and the weather was fantastic. Blue skies and sunshine all the way.

One last mention to Nick who dances with us. Mate - you're an inspiration! Watching you struggle at first, then eventually crack it and enjoy it, is something I will never tire of. And the way you think of everything differently to me is so funny but really keeps me on my toes. Long may you continue with us.