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I had such high hopes for NBC’s new show, Superstars of Dance, but in the end it was a disappointment. There were a few nice moments, but ultimately, I turned the TV off before the show ended.

Superstars of Dance is billed as an international dance competition, with categories for solos, couples, and groups. It is hosted by Michael Flatley (aka The Lord of the Dance) and Miss USA Susie Castillo. The executive producer is Nigel Lythgoe, which explained why the whole thing felt like a sort of second-rate So You Think You Can Dance reunion.

Countries represented in the show are the USA, Russia, Argentina, China, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and India. There is a judge from each of those countries, who must sit out on the voting when their own country performs. I was frustrated that not all the judges were introduced. I would have liked to know what their dance background was. A friend mentioned this morning that it felt like they were trying to make the show into a faux Olympics, complete with the conversation with the dancer and the “coach” afterwards.

A lot of the dancing was sort of ho-hum. Some of it was spectacular but more for a “wow” factor than for artistic quality. For example, a modern/hip hop group from Australia had fantastic tricks and rhythm but it wasn’t anything close to a revelation– more like pandering to people whose ideals of dance are formed by MTV and SYTYCD. Robert Mourain, the one-trick pony we saw doing contortionistic popping and locking on SYTYCD was back representing the US in the solo category; why? Also, talk about perpetuating sterotypes…why are Riverdance-type dances the only ones representing Ireland. Could it be because of Michael Flatley’s role in the show? It was so cheezy.

The two high points for me were the couple representing the US (Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian) whose partnering skills I really admired, and the Argentine tango. Despite the horrible camera work and mediocre production format, they managed to keep it together and show viewers a peek into their art.

The low points were pretty much all in the solos. In particular, China. The woman danced with such long scarves it was hard to see any body movement. It was supposed to be a traditional folk dance, but it was set to a euro dance beat. The “Zulu” dancer representing South Africa looked more like a Rockette with all the high kicks than any African dance I’ve ever seen (feel free to call out my ignorance here if I am totally off the mark).

Too bad that another dance show has come up short. I’m glad to see so much dance on TV now, but we definitely need a quality increase. Some new faces would be good too. Nigel Lythgoe changed the face of TV with American Idol and SYTYCD, but it’s time for some fresh ideas. On the upside, my Monday nights are still free so I can go to dance class.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Tango“, posted with vodpod
I like the careful juxtaposition of the dancing with the rhythm of the [non-tango] music. Too often dance montages do not pay enough attention to being synchronized with the soundtrack.
From Dance Metro/DC:

Dance/MetroDC is proud to present our second annual Dance Is The Answer event! During National Dance Week 2008, area nonprofit dance organizations have united to introduce, energize and excite the public to the benefits of dance. From April 25-May 4, 2008, over 120 free classes, performances, workshops and open rehearsals will be available from over 30 organizations to help you experience that Dance Is The Answer.

Dance Is The Answer to achieving and maintaining good health
Dance Is The Answer to reaching weight management goals
Dance Is The Answer to finding an inspiring creative outlet
Dance Is The Answer to enriching your social life
Dance Is The Answer to deepening your connection to community


For listings of Free Classes and Workshops, click here.
For listings of Free Performances and Open Rehearsals, click
here.


A special thank you to all our participating organizations:

American Dance Institute, Rockville, MD
AVAdance, Washington, DC
Bowen McCauley Dance, Arlington, VA
BlackRock Center for the Arts,
Germantown, MD
Capitol Movement Inc., Washington, DC
CityDance Ensemble,
Washington, DC and N. Bethesda, MD
ClancyWorks Dance Company, Silver Spring, MD
Capitol Region Educators of Dance Organization,
Washington, DC
Dance Place,
Washington, DC

DC Dance Collective, Washington, DC
Dhoonya Dance, Arlington, VA
Expressions Dance Theatre,
Clinton, MD
Dream in Color Dance Studio,
Alexandria, VA
Harman Center for the Arts, Washington, DC
Indian Dance Educators Association,
Washington, DC
Jane Franklin Dance,
Arlington, VA

Joe’s Movement Emporium, Mt. Rainier, MD
Joy of Motion Dance Center, Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD

Kathy Harty Gray Dance Theatre, Alexandria, VA
Knock on Wood Tap Studio,
Silver Spring, MD
Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Takoma Park, MD
Maryland Youth Ballet, Silver Spring, MD
Mason/Rhynes Productions, Washington, DC
Momentum Dance Theatre, Washington, DC
National Dance Educators Organization,
Washington, DC
Publick Playhouse,
Cheverly, MD

Sitar Arts Center, Washington, DC
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
The Washington Ballet, Washington, DC

We have a question from a reader, Maria (great name, btw!) who points out that the tango shoes she’s seeing are a lot sexier than salsa shoes. She wants to know if she could use tango shoes for salsa.

I have a tanguera friend who does wear her tango shoes to the salsa club sometime, so I know it’s possible.

Can we hear from anyone with experience in this? What are the characteristics of tango shoes? When I think of good salsa shoes, I think flexible suede sole, reinforced heel, and an ankle strap that holds the shoe securely to the foot. Does your average pair of comme il fauts come close to this?

hey all…I’ve been totally off the radar for the last few days between the email account for the blog not working properly and simply not having time to write anything for the blog between work, class, rehearsals and personal obligations. I promise I’ll get around to responding to your comments and emails over the next few days.

Anyhow, there’s a lot going on this month: Echo Park Contemporary Ballet, Merce Cunningham, Sharna Fabiano Tango, and Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane, to name a few. Check out this and more at Dance Metro/DC’s calendar and support your local dance community!

Miss Tango, who had a beautiful baby girl one month ago, tells this very sweet story about her last tango. It’s one of the most touching things you’ll ever read.

Body language is a powerful thing, and in the social dances we all want to know the right thing to do to get asked to dance as much as possible. I generally don’t have too many problems asking men to dance and most salseros are enlightened enough that they don’t get offended that a woman violated some sort of antiquated “rule.” Still, I have to admit that we all want to feel wanted, and it’s a much nicer feeling to be asked than to ask, particularly by a dancer that you enjoy dancing with or that you admire.

Thanks to a recent post on Alex.Tango.Fuego, I discovered an older post on Siguiendo mi corazon called How to sit at a milonga. It is well worth a look-see particularly for the lovely explanatory pictures, and is probably going to be useful info if you’re a lady going to a milonga any time soon (and, as a side note, an inordinate number of people find their way to my blog by searching on all variants of “legs” and “dancers legs,” so for all you weird leg search people out there…).

I have to admit that at first I felt a little upset when I read Tina’s post– something along the lines of how women have to do all these superficial things to get noticed by men. But having mulled on it all evening, I think that in a way, when we get onto the dance floor, be it the milonga, the salsa club, or the swing joint, we are complicitly entering a world of our own collective creation, a world and a culture that has its own culture, behaviors, and expectations– and this includes certain behaviors, postures, and positioning that will increase our likelihood of getting asked to dance, which is what we came there for anyway.

Let’s admit it– it sucks pretty hard when your favorite song comes on, and all the good leaders are out on the floor and you were not among the invited. So how does a salsera get asked to dance?
I’d like to thing that as a general rule, we salseros are pretty overt about signaling our readiness and eagerness to dance (no sexy sitting here). If someone is grooving on their own at the edge of the dancefloor, chances are they’ll get asked. They’re already dancing… it’s obvious they want to get out there! That can be a little tough if you are new to the scene and can feel pretty silly if you’re not actually feeling it at the moment. Alternatively, you could stand at the edge of the floor and look friendly and open, or if you’re talking to someone, don’t look too deep in conversation.

A lot of salseros will just wait at the edge of the dance floor and grab their chosen partner as they’re coming off it from the last song. I have no problems doing the same– grabbing the person I want to dance with. It often plays out more subtly than that– some eye contact, a smile, a nod, and then an outstretched hand. And there’s no better feeling than never making it off the floor all night except for when you want to rest.

Of course, there are the people that everyone wants to dance with because they are so fun/easy/amazing to lead/follow. I know that most leaders do enjoy dancing with me, but I go out so sporadically these days and there are so many new faces on the scene now that it’s not as if my reputation precedes me.  What I discovered recently is that if I get to the club early when there are fewer people, chances are I will not sit out many songs at all the whole night, because I get a lot of visibility and people can “vet” me (yes, we do check each other out to see if we’re worth dancing with). And, bonus, I can get my tired old self to bed at a decent hour and still have had a nice long night out!

Ok, so my conclusion is that I was a bit premature to get my hackles up at such suggestions (and as Tina pointed out, the post was written with humorous intent)– we all want to be asked to dance and will do what we know we need to to in our own particular dance subculture to get what we came for.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By the way, Tina must be on to something (check out the pictures on her post, or if you can’t be bothered, see Tina’s pic below– con tuo permesso Tina), because after reading her blog, I saw this in Express coming home from work:

tango buenos aires ad

how Tina recommends one sit:

Dear readers, enjoy….

Il tango della banana!!

Thank you to my alert sister for calling this awesome awesomeness to my attention. Un bacione!!

 Tango della banana (original Italian lyrics, transcription help from my hubby)

Tango, tango gentil della banana

D’Importazione assai lontana

Che madre natura in gran misura ti fa sbocciar

Frutto, frutto squisito e prelibato dal gusto fine e delicato

Di cui ne van pazze donne e ragazze del mondo inter

Dolce banana sudafricana che rendi cara la vita meno amara

Al tuo apparire fai scomparire quel malumore che t’avvelena il core

Con strana vision, con consolazion, il benedetto frutto diletto

di cui son bramoso, goloso di te

 

Tango of the Banana (English translation, by me)

Tango, sweet banana tango

Imported from so far away

Where Mother Nature makes you bloom in large measure

Fruit, exquisite and delicious fruit, with such a refined and delicate taste

For which the women and girls of the entire world go crazy

Sweet South African fruit, you make life less bitter

When you appear, the frustration that poisons your heart disappears

Such a strange vision, such consolation, the blessed and prized fruit

Of which I am desirous, greedy for you

 In recent years, it seems that dance has become a lot more prevalent in TV advertising. In a world of obnoxious ads that make me turn the channel, it’s a pretty savvy move from corporate America (at least for holding this consumer’s attention). The best of them are quite entertaining.

This GAP commercial may have been one of the first to embrace this trend with their famous khaki swing dance ad:

My favorite of the moment is from supermarket chain Bloom. They have several versions of a commercial in which happy employees dance around a customer with cart amongst the produce and cash registers:

I have to credit Selly from Dance Outlook for this find— Jaime from SYTYCD appears in a McDonald’s salad commercial in which the dancers represent different ingredients. I really don’t like McD’s (I’m vegetarian and after seeing Super Size Me I won’t eat anything from there), but I have to admit it is a really cool commercial with some beautiful dancing in it:

In general, Target has some really engaging, stylish ads. This one doesn’t have dance in the traditional sense, but a lot of interesting choreography:

Then there is the Hanes commercial featuring Momix, which I think did a really smart job of getting the message across about comfort and flexibility through the dancers’ movements:

I leave you with one of my favorites of all time, a DSW ad with some major shoe porn for my salseras and tangueras. A friend told me that it really got her believing that if she bought her shoes from DSW that she could dance like that:

This is the Birthday Edition of Dance on the Web for no other reason other than tomorrow is my birthday (remember, it’s my blog, and it’s all about MEEEEE!). Here are some interesting dance-related links you should check out from around the web:

  • Eva from The Tango Addiction has a great post about going through a funk in her tango development that is both amusing and interesting. Part 1- thoughts that go through your mind when you’re dancing with someone you have issues with; Part 2- redemption.
  • Amanda from DC Dance Blog provides a wrap-up of the DC Improv Festival, including links to various blog reactions on the festival. It’s a nice moment of unity for the DC dance blogging community.

And now, my pretty new salsa shoes…

These black and gold ones are a new brand for me, Stephanie. Aren’t they purty? They are very lightweight and I can hardly feel them on me. The sole is incredibly flexible, more than I’ve had before, and I’m interested to see if it will be easier to dance on. The fastening is of the quick-release variety; you set the buckle to the tightness you want and then you slip it through a hook to fasten it. I haven’t tried these on the dancefloor yet, but hopefully this new brand will work out for me.

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These are Elegance dance shoes, the empress model. It is a very snug fit and I’m looking forward to the added protection afforded by the smaller toe hole in the front. I actually got these to match a dress I got for a performance. They are a nice neutral color, but I think I’m going to have to scotchgard the suede so it doesn’t stain. Although I really like Elegance shoes (very sturdy construction, lots of cushioning and a good fit for me), I’m not such a fan of the fastening. You have to squeeze the strap through a tiny little slot that holds it in place through a tensioning mechanism. It takes forever to do, and for that reason I will never buy Elegance shoes that have more than one fastening, such as a double or triple strap.

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I got these a while ago, but I’ve hardly worn them out as the fit is a little too loose. I also had to get the buckle fixed (they are Elegance shoes and the tensioning mechanism I mentioned on the buckle is kind of flimsy and fell out on these). They are gorgeous, though, aren’t they? When I start tango lessons these are the ones I’m going to wear.

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Inspired by Miss Tango, I am going to name my salsa shoes. Comments are open for suggestions.

I have already named one pair (not shown here). I’m calling them “Old Faithful” because they are old, reliable, and they kind of smell, but not really of sulphur.

I took a totally impromptu trip to the New York Salsa Congress on Saturday night (more on that later).

I had a really great time, but the night got off to a bad start. One of the very first people I danced with got hit in the face with my ponytail while putting me through a fast spin. Clutching his face as if his eyes had just been gauged out, he yelled at me at how much I had hurt him and stormed away. I apologized, but honestly, these things happen all the time. If you do the math, you can see I have a ponytail, you can see its length, and if you put me through a fast spin and the distance between your face and my head is smaller than the length of my ponytail, it’s probably going to hit you in the face.

I have many bruises all over my body from heels crunching down on my feet, elbows and shoulders crashing into me during spins, and inattentive floorcraft. I call them my “battle wounds” and don’t think anyone is to blame. It’s par for the course of salsa dancing on a crowded floor. It wasn’t very polite of this guy to storm off in the middle of a song as if I had intentionally injured him. The experience made me feel so bad, it took several good dances to get me back on track.

Would you believe it, about an hour later, the same guy came over and asked me to dance again? I rarely say no, but ungentlemanly behavior tends to get you on my blacklist. I responded, “No, I wouldn’t want to hit you in the face with my ponytail again.”

Here’s a sidebar on some other choice anecdotes on ungentlemanly ways to treat a potential partner:

Saturday’s incident reminds me of an unpleasant experience I had a few months ago at CG, where a woman whose arm had made contact with my elbow at some point during the song (quick apology was made at the time) tried to start an argument with me afterwards because she felt that she had been gravely injured and didn’t feel my apology had been sincere enough. All I can think is that she must have been new to dancing in a club environment and didn’t realize that what happened was pretty common.

At some point Saturday night, among other minor injuries, an unknown woman managed to unsnap my shoe from my foot while gauging her heel into my ankle, removing some skin in the process. It did hurt, but I wasn’t about to hunt her down and go off on her for doing something that was an accident and could have happened to anyone.

How can you assign blame when there are so many factors at play? In salsa, people dance on different beats according to their preferences, so if you have three couples in the same vicinity, one dancing on 1, another dancing on 2, and another dancing on 3, plus another couple that are inexperienced and dancing off beat, you have a lot of opportunities for collision. Add to that all the fast movements, the speed of multiple spins, the fancy footwork, and high heels flying every which way. Finally, let’s pretend that not every follower is a perfect follower, and even if they are, that each leader is not well-versed in floorcraft and is not paying attending to every single thing that is going on within a 360 degree radius at all times. At some point, a collision, stepping on someone’s foot, or, god forbid, a flying ponytail, is going to happen.

In fact, it’s a miracle that with all that kinetic energy flying around in every possible direction, that more accidents don’t happen.

We go to the dancefloor to escape the negativity of our lives, to make pure connections with others that are solely based on the music and the dance. It’s a shame when others bring negativity, lack of respect, or hostility into that sacred space.

I’m not saying that all dancefloor injuries are no-fault incidents. When injury occurs due to rough leading, drunken stumbling, or intentional violence, the perpetrator should take full responsibility. Whether the injury is accidental or not, all involved should ensure to the extent possible that the injury has not adversely affected the victim’s ability to dance. However, minor bumps, scrapes and bruises should be expected from time to time and dealt with in a mature and respectful way.

There are a lot of salsa dancers out there who live, breath, eat, drink and sleep salsa. All their vacations involve congresses or at the very least visiting all the local socials and clubs, or getting a private lesson with the local “salsalebrity.” They spend every single night at the club and many evenings in lessons or practice with their company. Salsaholics go shopping meaning to buy serious work clothes and end up in Forever 21 getting a cute new outfit for dancing (not that I would know anything about this). They spend hours procrastinating at work, trolling the salsa events websites, commenting on the discussion boards, and watching grainy video footage of socials and congresses on YouTube.

Salsaholics know they don’t need to call their friends in advance to see who’s going out that night because they know their friends will be there. Heck, they don’t even need to consult about which club they’re going to, because they all know which one is best for which night. Even I, the “old married lady,” who just goes out once in a blue moon these days, hardly bother to call or text anyone when I am able to go out because I know when I go that, just like at Cheers, everyone knows my name. Salsaholics unknowingly tap the clave out on their steering wheel at red lights and subtly move their feet in the rhythm of basics and shines while standing in line. In short, it consumes their very being.

But wait! There is a group out there giving salsaholics a run for their money… and that group is tango dancers. In my short career as a blogger in the dance world, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are more blogs about tango than any other style of dance. These people are obsessed! To say that some are more interesting to me (as a non-tango dancer) than others would be an understatement. There’s a lot of self-reflection and minutiae being written about that I’m sure you just have to be one of them to understand. Not that we salseros don’t have these sorts of discussions… take ye olde on1 vs on2 debate. Does anybody else know or care what this is about?

I’ve posted before about the lack of salsa-oriented blogs out there. Since then, despite the low response I got to that post, I have learned about a few more.

Specifically, there are six active salsa blogs that I know of:

Addicted 2 Salsa (la creme de la creme— an excellent, high-caliber combination of instructional videos, intelligent discussion of various issues, and a new, multi-user format that allows anyone to post to the blog and decide which posts stay up due to their relevance and quality)

Toronto Dance Salsa (from the perspective of a salsa teacher in Toronto)

Salsa Gigolo (a brand new one by a passionate salsa and bachata dancer, and quickly becomeing one of my favorites)

Salsa in DC blog (an entertaining mix of local DC salsa news/commentary, videos, creative writing, advice, and opinion)

Salsa Dude (pretty straightforward accounts of events attended by a salsero in the UK)

and of course, yours truly (though this blog could not be considered 100% salsa, more like 50%)

Still, we can’t hold a candle to the tango blogging community.  What do you think the reason is? Are salseros too busy dancing and experiencing life to trifle with recording their lives and interests on a blog? Are salseros less tech savvy? (There are a lot of websites out there, albeit largely promotion-related, but most have not caught up with the RSS feed trend). Does the development of a tango dancer involve more navel-gazing? What is going on?

I’d love to know what you think, and encourage comments from salseros and tango dancers alike (along with interested interlopers).

On a related note, the NY Times today has an article about a spontaneous weekly gathering of tango dancers in Central Park. Now granted, this is the kind of thing that only happens in New York City (and most likely Buenos Aires for all I know), but I wish the salsa community in DC would have some sort of free weekly outdoor thing, like at Dupont Circle. Something like this presents the beauty of the dance and the unique aspects of the subculture to the community at large. No doubt more than a few people walking by would be inspired enough to start learning on their own. It also shows what a fun and healthy activity social dancing is, and that while it can be seen as “sexy” it is also a way to connect in a fun and respectful way with others, be they acquaintances or strangers.

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