Some little bits that help me remember the stages of development. Not surprisingly, this comes from The Little Dragon's Three Stages of Cultivation.
Stage One: "I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm having fun. I think."
I remember my first three months of Rueda classes; I was in ignorance is bliss mode, just following calls, but not really knowing how to lead anything.
Slightly off-topic, the above quote also sums up how my honors Algebra class in high school went; only difference was I knew I was NOT having fun.
The end-of-year assessment on my report card?
"Needs to review and reinforce classwork."
No image of my report card, but trust me - you don't want to see the chaos that was my freshman year in high school.
Stage Two: "I know all this different stuff, but now I'm confused in more ways than one. This isn't very fun."
After learning a few things, what usually happens next is paralysis by analysis. One of my favorite clips showing this comes courtesy of Vezzini from The Princess Bride (I've used this clip before, but whatever):
Stage Three: "I don't think I'm having fun. I KNOW I'm having fun."
My first love was sports; after realizing I couldn't go any further with it, I ended up focusing on Casino. The sport mindset still permeates through my Casino; I'll never separate the two, as my most advanced students will attest to.
That's why I'm using this article to explain a higher level of mastery.
"Practice, experience -- what athletes commonly call 'reps' -- help develop strong instincts. [Tim] Duncan has them, as does [Roger] Federer, [Novak] Djokovic, and most other top-flight talents."
"Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation.
"Unthinking is not the same as ignorance; you can’t unthink if you haven’t already thought."
And to come full circle, here's a clip from The Little Dragon himself (I've also used this clip before, as well; but again, whatever).
Since I know how something is done, I no longer have to think about how to do it.
Is there more for me to learn and master? Of course there is. That's why I'll be traveling more in the near future. Saying you're training with top instructors is one thing; actually doing it is quite another.
I'd like to talk briefly about my dance partner in San Francisco, Aisha Gorson.
A second-generation dancer, she has extensive knowledge in Brazilian Samba, Salsa, African, Afro-Haitian, Hip-Hop, Flamenco, and Belly Dance. She currently teaches children dance back home in the Bay Area.
Looking back at the four years I spent rehearsing and performing with her, I was too caught up in other BS to truly appreciate her talent and level-headedness. After leaving San Francisco and being able to look at things from a better perspective, I realized she regularly put up with a lot of my bullshit when she didn't really have to.
About a year or two ago, I emailed her with the following message:
[I] Just wanted to let you know that while I've been teaching up here [in Portland], I've shown the clip of us dancing at The Beat (2009) to show how fluid and subtle a follower's arms and posture can really be. That clip has become a really good teaching tool for me.
I never got a response.
I saw her in San Francisco this past February; it was the first time I'd seen her since I moved to Portland. We hugged hello and danced a song. I then brought up the email I sent her, and she said she never got it. I reiterated what I told her in the email, then added that I never should have let other people change my general disposition.
In the end, I'm glad she never saw the email, because I felt better telling her face-to-face. As she always does, she responded with the grace that only she can display, and let me know that it was water under the bridge.
See you next February, Aisha!
This month marks the 10-year Milestone since I took my first Casino Class.
Holy ***t, has it been that long?
I find myself looking back a lot; mainly since I'll be celebrating another milestone for my birthday in February.
I could bore you with a bunch of paragraphs about how I started Casino, learned from so-and-so, how some of the things I've posted seem random and don't make sense (I blame my willingness to do things differently and try to draw from all aspects of my life), etc., but instead, I'll go with this anecdote:
A friend of mine, Marlena*, told me about her experience at the Salsa Rueda Festival in 2014 (I did not attend that year). She was excited to dance with one of the more popular dancers, Darren*, who also has a number of popular YouTube videos, as well.
I was so excited to meet him in person. I asked him to dance, but he reluctantly said, "Yes," and I can tell he wasn't really excited to dance with me at all. The dance itself was horrible. He was totally disinterested in dancing with me. It was nothing like I thought it would be.
I think you know what I'm getting at here.
I'll end this blog with a quote from His Airness, Michael Jordan:
To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don't isolate.
(And yes - I do see the irony here, since Jordan could be a prick, as well.)
*Names changed to preserve anonymity.
Polly : You can dance in flip flops?
Yes, I do dance in flip-flops (mainly in the summer), but, all kidding aside, I feel taking care of your feet is overlooked not only for dancers, but everyone in general.
I took biomechanics in college, and I got to use a bit of it while working here for about two years after finishing school. At the time, I was recently recovered from tendonitis in both of my achilles, and was starting to get tendonitis in my patella (kneecap) tendon, as well.
The most important things I learned from this job (and still use today):
A couple things you can do prevent future issues:
Let's have some fun.
Can you Title This Timba?
HINT: With its very distinct clave, this song will be near the top of many Casineros' lists to play for their wedding.
(Yes, the clip is only one second long; I'm not gonna make it that easy for you.)
The philosophy behind good social dancing, leading, following, and topics that discuss more than just Salsa Cubana.