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.