Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On hold...

Obviously I haven't posted in a long time. The biggest reason is I'm just not involved in the "scene" anymore. I don't keep up with what is going on, who is dancing where, or what parties are happening. Motherhood has me running from sporting event to sporting event. And with my loss of friends that dance - it  just isn't that fun to go out anymore.

My last outing was to see Havana D'Primera. I was very excited to see this group. What a disappointment. Not in the group but in the sound quality where they held the concert.  I don't know how you manage to make the greatest salsa band in the world sound horrible - but they did. The Palace in Woodbridge is to blame. I stood there and watched the keyboard player look around in disgust as a sound guy tried to fix the sound. His music wasn't coming through at the time.  At one point you can barely hear Alexander sing because the levels were wrong.  I know - people will chalk this up to "Jenn is never satisfied".  Why should I be when I pay $50? I expect to hear great sound that compliments the band.  Just last weekend I went to see Bruno Mars at the Verizon center. Yes I realize that's a whole different level of sound but he was crystal clear. We were far away from the stage but nothing was muffled, crackly, or difficult to listen to.  Alexander didn't even break out his trumpet. I felt disappointed. I saw video from when they performed the next night in Atlanta and the sound was awesome. The whole energy level was different with the band too. You can be sure I won't go back to the Palace to hear one of my favorite bands.

I see now that they are doing some rueda down in Dupont Circle on Wednesdays at 7 pm. That interests me a lot. I can stay after work and go and not have to wait hours to go to a club. I'll still make it home at a reasonable time too. Now that's a winning situation that may help me to get back into things a bit.  I'll still be lonely but that's ok. I'm slowly (way slower than I thought) coming to terms with how friends weren't really friends and the relationships I've lost. I'm enterting a difficult period of my life and know that I don't have time to invest in friendships anyway.

Keep on dancing people! Agua!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What do I have to say?

Nothing. I'm really sad about the state of salsa casino in DC these days. I thought it might get worse and it did.  The Cuban parties that we have had recently at The Salsa Room are great, but, they are only once every three-four months.

I really have no comment on this. I have tried, recently, to go to a couple of other places for salsa dancing. They are ok but they don't give me that high that dancing casino to a great timba song does. I get jealous of other cities with their dancing, their communities, and great classes. I really feel that the dancers in DC are missing out on great music and learning a new style. However they are set in their ways. Experienced dancers don't want to feel like they don't 'know' something. Workshops are never successful here either.

I miss dancing. I  would gladly go to Habana Village but it seems I only go when no one else goes. I see, only afterwards, when a group of casineros has gone. It says a lot about my life and relationships these days.

So... the future of this blog site is up in the air. If there's no casino in DC what can I write about?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dancing in Fairfax: Making Waves

Well... it is amazing what can be accomplished when people come together for a common goal.

It seems the Board of Supervisors would like to go ahead on Tuesday with a vote about the "dance hall" amendment I wrote about the other day. The Planning Commission has heard the dance community. They would like to go back and re-work the amendment but the Supervisors have not yet deferred the vote.

This is what needs to happen:  We need you to email the Supervisors and ask them to defer the vote and send the amendment back to the Planning Commission. If you live in Fairfax County, it is IMPERATIVE that you send an email. You may also call the representative of your zone. All of this will show them that going ahead with the vote will make their community very unhappy.

Emails:
braddock@fairfaxcounty.gov, dranesville@fairfaxcounty.govhntrmill@fairfaxcounty.gov, leedist@fairfaxcounty.gov, mason@fairfaxcounty.gov, mtvernon@fairfaxcounty.gov,  provdist@fairfaxcounty.gov,  springfield@fairfaxcounty.gov, sully@fairfaxcounty.gov, chairman@fairfaxcounty.gov

There is also time to sign the petition. We'd like to reach 5,000 signatures by Tuesday. You do not need to live in Fairfax County. There is an area where you can leave a comment and explain how you want to keep dancing in that area.

When I was studying for my social work degree I had a whole class on grass root efforts. This makes it all worth it.




San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival 2012 Review

I love San FranciscoI guess I am all recovered now from the 2012 festival. I think each year gets a little harder as I grow older. My body doesn't bounce back as quickly and I feel as if I need more sleep. This doesn't work well when trying to dance all weekend.


Each year the festival seems to grow in size and attract more people. This is a very positive thing as it means little by little salsa casino is growing in the United States. It also seems to be attracting more people from other countries as well.  I remember the first year that there was one couple from Venezuela and one couple from Mexico. This year we had dancers from Mexico, Venezulea, Peru, France, and more. They represent how salsa casino is danced in their home country and share their moves, styles, and personalities and it only helps to enhance the event.


I was very surprised when my friend Christina texted me and said, "Hey! You're teaching!" I had no clue and when Nick (the organizer) confirm it, I was very happy. With my busy life I don't get a chance to teach as much anymore. I saw that I would be leading the "Beginners Review" class. That made me happy as I love teaching beginners and being able to review with them at the end of the weekend would mean seeing a whole new group of people excited about salsa rueda.


I went into the festival frustrated about our situation here in Washington DC. The lack of Cuban music, my lack of time to actually dance, and how little by little the community that was once forming seems to now be breaking apart. There were times when I thought I should just cancel and not go. During the weekend I took some time for myself, walked the streets of San Francisco, and really tried to just let go of all that negativity that had been building up inside of me. I had dinner with my friend, Jason, one evening and we talked about the community, the dance, and DC. His enthusiasm and excitement to see things change in DC was encouraging. Perhaps all was not lost and as bleak as I once thought.

One of the themes from this year's festival seemed to be "I didn't get a chance to even talk to you!"  With so many people at the festival, especially with how crowded the ballroom was in the evenings, it was difficult to track people down. You  might seem them across the floor but by the time you would cross it, they would be gone or have left. I realize that Nick and Serena have researched San Francisco and tried to find a location that may be bigger. I appreciate the fact that they attempt to keep costs down and that the Hotel Whitcomb gives them this option. Moving to a new location could mean double the hotel costs & perhaps a raise in the festival costs.

Performances. Wow. I think everyone felt that the performances were great this year. There have always been outstanding performances in the past but this year felt different. Groups picked great music. They included different styles and put some of their hometown flavor in their routines (I think back to the Salsa Belles of Atlanta who showed their ATL flavor). I couldn't say that I sat there bored each night. I know many people skip the performances but I've always made a point of watching them. Dancers work hard at choreography & many are nervous or performing for the first time. I like supporting them. The downside were performances that stretched 15 minutes or more. I appreciated them for the first 4-5 minutes but more than that and they lose their impact.

I think I was able to come away from the weekend with some more energy for our community here in DC. It is still a long, uphill battle to grow the Cuban dance community. We are small but dedicated dancers willing to learn, grow, and share our love with others.

Upcoming Events in the United States for Cuban Dance:
 - March 18th - Timba Tribute at the Salsa Room (Arlignton, VA)
 - June 1-3 - SALSAtlanta 3-Day Cuban Party

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Footloose in Fairfax? Save the Dancing!

Picante's in Chantilly/Centreville, Virginia is one of my go-to spots when I don't want to drive all the way to DC for some salsa dancing. I also teach there fairly often with David Norton of Washington Dance Institute. It is only about 20 mins from my house, has a good atmosphere, the floor is smooth, and I always see people I know but still meet new ones. Picante's happens to be located in Fairfax County where Board Supervisors are going to be voting on a new amendment that restricts dance space in restaurants and requires them to apply for a new permit.


The amendment states that many locations are "initially approved as eating establishments, but function primarily as entertainment venues catering to adult customers without appropriate controls."  Apparently one or two locations throughout all of Fairfax County have had issues, have had visits from the police, and problems with nudity. I don't know what goes on at those places but I have never heard of problems with groups dancing salsa, swing, or other forms of dance.  Reading further into the amendment, they say that "anything larger than a 150 square foot dance floor has resulted in the “eating establishment” functioning more similar to a recreation/dance hall use than an eating establishment."  Of course I'm basing my experience on Picante's and a couple of other small places but to my knowledge they having dancing one night a week for approximately 6 hrs. This is not a restaurant's primary use - the patrons who come to eat or drink at the bar are their primary customers.


Unfortunately I wasn't aware of this issue soon enough to attend the Planning Commission meeting on February 23rd, but, David Norton and Todd "DJ Tadeo" Robbins attended and spoke on behalf of dancers (fast forward to 1:23 as the video is quite long). The members spoke at length about space on a floor. Needless to say it seems none of those on the planning committee are dancers. Their recommendation was for 3 square feet per dancer. 3 SQUARE FEET.  Stand up. Look around you. Now measure out 3 square feet. It isn't much. Surely you can't dance salsa in that space let along swing or tango. As David spoke, one woman repeatedly asked him "How much space then? We need a number." Providing a number is a bit ridiculous. I understand that they have zoning issues and with those issues come a requirement for them to measure everything. It is my opinion that they are going about this wrong in coming up with just a number.


I really don't argue that much with Fairfax County wanting to make sure places are safe. In the video from the Feb 23rd Planning Commission you hear them speak about a location with 1,000 people inside and 1 working exit. I think we can all agree that situations like that are unsafe. They propose a 'Special Exception' permit. What happens then? You rely on one person to approve that permit. What if he sits on it for a year? What then? Salsa nights, as we all know, come and go. A restaurant gets excited to have one, finds they don't make much money with it, and shuts it down. If that promoter goes to a new restaurant, the special permit process starts all over again. It is another $16-30K for that permit. With the economy how it is, I don't think too many places or promoters will apply for a permit at that price which will then result in there being no dancing at small venues in Fairfax County.

I spoke with Jack Real of the Zoning Commission so that I could better understand the issue. I'm not a wiz with the zoning documents and there was a lot of questions and comments in the video that were somewhat conflicting. When I asked Mr. Real about the issue he commented that the main issue is the size. At what size does a dance floor change an 'eating establishment' to a 'dance hall'? The proposed 150 sq feet is what was proposed. He said at the next hearing the dance floor space can be increased if the board decides to do that and if it is then places will not need to get a permit for dancing. This is important information. As he spoke, he seemed genuinely interested in finding out if they could come up with a number that would work for restaurants. Currently Picante's is applying for an application but if the dance floor space is increased to 300 sq feet they would not need to continue.

I had sent my letter to the Planning Commission this morning and if I would have had the above information, I might have written it differently. You can email them directly at  plancom@fairfaxcounty.gov. I encourage you to include size of dance floor in your email. 150 sq feet is not big enough. I'd like to say 400 sq feet would be a great size for restaurants (obviously some would have less) to have and it not be considered 'primary use'. 

Get involved! I realize that many who are reading this may not ever dance in Fairfax County. However, just because permits like this don't exist in Arlington, Loudoun, or other counties it doesn't meant they won't in the future. Often times when supervisors hear about happenings in one county, they start to explore that for theirs. Permits like these would cause places like The Barking Dog, Clarendon Grill, Lucky Bar, and more to shut down if they existed in those areas. Dancing would then be relegated to the large clubs, have higher prices, and not be as intimate. Go and sign the petition and encourage the Board to find a different way for these restaurants to have safe, legal, and fun dancing at their establishment.

You can also attend the next hearing scheduled for March 1st. It will start at 8:15 pm and people can speak and testify. The meeting is held in the main board room at the County Government building. If you have the time, go and speak your mind.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sandunga! - New York City Cuban Party

I get asked a lot about classes, events, and parties happening in New York City for Cuban music. I don't know if the information is hard to find on Google (probably - they didn't hire me) or if the Cuban folks there aren't promoting enough or what. We all know you can find salsa/mambo everywhere in New York City but Cuban dance and music is on the rise and becoming more popular.


One of the best parties in NYC is Sandunga! Sandunga was created by my friend, DJ Asho and takes place every Sunday. Yes Sunday. If salseros/casineros would drink more, support the bar, then maybe it could be on a Friday or Saturday but those nights in NYC are hard to come by for dancers who don't drink a lot.


So this is my page dedicated to Sandunga. You can find all the necessary information here! Pass it on New Yorkers!!


Sandunga

Sundays - 9:00 pm - 2:00 am

Location:

Lina Frey, 201 E Houston, NYC
(212) 995. 5546

http://www.linafrey.com/

Price: FREE! Yes free. Hosted by Reina Goodrich & DJ Asho

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chico & Rita - Cuban Animated Film

So often the films nominated for Best Animated Film are just kids movies that adults see because they have kids. Once in awhile though you get a film that doesn't appeal to just kids. Chico & Rita is that film. It follows two artists from Havana, Cuba as they make their way in the United States. The soundtrack is by 'legendary Cuban pianist' Bebo Valdes. Without it having been nominated I may have never seen a review. I'm really looking forward to seeing it.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Aramis Pazos & Oscar Rousseaux Dance at Celebration of Chango

On December 11th we have a 'Celebration of Chango' at The Salsa Room in Arlington, Virginia. The event was hosted by Aramis Pazos & Timba Street with help from Oscar Rousseaux & Alafia, DC Casineros, SAOCO, and yours truly. With classes, live music, live drumming, and dancing the event turned out to be very successful.


As I walked around, said hello to friends, and danced I noticed that there were quite a few people there I had never met. The Cuban dance scene in DC isn't that large. I generally know most everyone or have at least said hello or danced with them at some point. For this evening though, many of the Salsa Room regulars came out and seemed to truly enjoy the evening.


It looks like we'll be doing a similar event on March 18th so mark your calendars and save the date!!


Below you can watch performances by Aramis and Oscar. They were both exceptional.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival 2012

In just about a month casineros from across the United States and other countries in the world will descend upon San Francisco to learn, dance, and socialize all in the name of Cuban music and dance. This is the 4th year that Salsa Vale Todo will be hosting the event in the beautiful Hotel Whitcomb.

While at the festival you can:
  • take classes in rueda, Son, rumba, salsa sueltas, and Afro-Cuban movement
  • enjoy performances by groups from the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, & more
  • meet new friends who share a passion for Cuban dance
  • see a beautiful city
I have attended every year of the festival and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to develop friendships with many who attend. It doesn't matter that they live in Oregon, Atlanta, California, Mexico, Venezuela... it matters that I get this one weekend a year to spend time with them, learn from them, and have a blast. Last year even included duct tape and rubber chickens - try finding that at most congresses. Last year I wrote about the event so if you'd really like a deeper look you can read my article at PlanetTimba.com.

You'll want to get your passes soon as prices go up on January 15th. If this is your first time attending I highly recommend getting the full weekend pass. It will allow you to go to any classes and all parties. If you are a veteran dancer perhaps you only need the Party Animal pass so you can socialize during the day and dance all night long.

This year the event will feature Timbalive! with Manolin (El Medico de Salsa) on Saturday night. There are after parties with DJ Asho and DJ Reyna.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cubano Son: The Story

I don't live in New York City. I don't even get there that often unfortunately even though it is only 4 hours away. When talking salsa most people associate music from Puerto Rico as the salsa of New York City. That  makes sense considering it was the base for Fania and the amazing music they produced. However, lately, with the lack of new salsa artists (except for perhaps La Excellencia), the appreciation and love of Cuban music is growing. One of the groups keeping the Cuban music alive is Cubano Son. I would love to see them live one day when visiting New York City.


Here you can see a short documentary about the group, who they are, and see some live footage. They are quite good and worth checking out while in New York City.