California Adventures

Another dream come true for me in less than a year. It all started with DC, last August.

Then, out of the blue, I ended up getting this fantastic gift from my daughter (with a little help from her boyfriend): A trip to San Francisco!

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It all started with a family wedding invitation to B & N. The wedding was happening in Sacramento but B & N were encouraged to fly into San Francisco. N knew San Fran was in my Bucket List and invited me to tag along but I couldn’t manage to make it fit in my budget. Continue reading

Some people, really!

Grrrrrrr

This afternoon, someone posted on the Ottawa Swing Dance Society FB group something about a “fun swing dancing event for single professionals”. He prefaced it with “fellow swing dancers”

As an ex-executive member of the society and a teacher & DJ for so many years, I pretty much know everybody in the scene so I thought it was weird I didn’t recognize the name. Besides, the whole thing smelled fishy so I clicked the meetup link.

Oh surprise. The event description had complete paragraphs taken from the Swing Dynamite website!

Even after contacting the person and letting him know he was reproducing our content without our permission, some of the content remains.

He rearranged some things but he is still paraphrasing. And our most recognizable bit which is basically our catch phrase (For complete beginners–no partner required! yes, double dash and exclamation mark included) is still there.

GAAAAAAAAAAAH

He also has a picture there that I am sure I’ve seen before. Not one of ours but I know I’ve seen it before. I am sure he’s also using it without permission.

 

I like Cake

The Elgin Street Diner is the preferred joint for swing dancers in Ottawa. We like it so much, that we called our very first team the Elgin Street Stompers. I used to live on the same street as the diner and we used to have all the studio meetings there too. There was a time when we used to eat there four or five times a week. I hate cooking, in case you didn’t know.

These days, we end up there at the end of Jam Crew practice, at the end of the Saturday dances and every time we have visitors from out of town. Gotta take out of towners to try their delicious poutine!

ESD Menu - Page 4

Yum

Last time we were there, my daughter and I were in a playful mood (possible because we were stupid tired and very hungry) so we decided to grab the kids menus along with a couple of boxes of crayons.

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It started like this

As soon as I saw the cake, I knew it had to be Red Velvet cake. And the obvious conclusion was that it had to be for Sandee.

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Voilà, a Red Velvet Cake for Sandee! Sorta. Only had red, blue and green crayons.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite versions of “I like pie, I like cake*” by Ottawa native Gordon Webster. Now, I have to leave you cause it’s time to fly! And then go to the ESD afterwards.

*Which by the way is not about cake at all. Or the culinary abilities of the woman in question.

One of those moments

I had one of those “I feel sorry for myself” moments last night. Kinda.

At Jam Crew practice last night, we were given 10 minutes to practice aerials with our partners. I heart aerials. It’s probably what I like the most about Lindy Hop. I find it exhilarating being thrown up in the air while turning and doing all kinds of cool stuff.

Anyway, my partner and I practised for a while but we were good so he wanted to take a break. I grabbed my water bottle and while taking a sip I let my eyes wander across the room. I watched all of the other couples work on their aerials. All the TNTeam Couples are learning really cool ones and I felt a little surge of anger. Which is the reason why I have always wanted to be part of that team.

It’s so hard for me to look at all those dancers who have been dancing for just a year or two. All of them, I watched take their first dance steps, some of them I even taught their first steps. And now they are either way on their way to be better dancers than me or are already better.

That stung.

Not too mention that it is my own fault I’m not part of TNTeam this year because I chickened out. Continue reading

ILHC Recap

I was so smitten by my Smithsonian experience that I never said anything about ILHC.

It was a great weekend. I didn’t get to dance a lot. Other than the three songs at the Lindy J&J and the other three at the Balboa J&J, I only had about four social dances.

Which is pretty pathetic for an event of this kind. The live music was amazing and the best dancers of the world were there. Problem is, there is always a line up of women for every good dancer and I just wasn’t in the mood for staying in line. Besides, since I don’t travel that much for dancing, I’m not very well internationally known.

What I did do, though, was catching up with old friends. And of course, making new ones!

On Friday night, first thing we did, my daughter and I, was to get a vintage hairdo done by Alicia Vance of Bella Braids

Continue reading

30 Day Challenge & Bootcamp auditions

I know I said I wouldn’t reblog here all the posts for the 30 Day Lindy Hop Challenge and yet it seems like I’m doing it every day.  But so far, it seems like every day is about something that my non-dance readers would enjoy as well.  So there.

Day 6: Your favorite group dance (Mob Dance)

As it turned out, I was gonna blog about the Summer Bootcamp audition anyway, and it ties nicely with today’s subject -as you’ll find out if you read my post over at the Swing Dynamite blog.

I may seem silly that I got so excited about the audition.  I was part of the teams before.  But for some reason, I thought ALL team members needed to audition again.  You see, Swing Dynamite is going through a process of major changes in its teams.  Some teams will be no more and some new teams will be created.  So I got a little confused.

Continue reading

Swing Dancing saves lives (or at least mine, anyway)

You may or may not know that I have an MD degree.  You may or may not know that I also suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  I am not gonna lie to you, going through med school was painful – literally and figuratively. And it took me 8 years instead of the usual 6 because some semesters I’d have to take less courses.  I also fought a few good fights against the system but that’s material for another post.  All I am saying for now is that I’ve been called a shit disturber.  I am proud of it :)

In the end, against all odds, I graduated.  Then I came to Canada only to discover my degree was not valid here.  Since I wasn’t that interested in practicing medicine I didn’t care that much.

Let me give you some background here. Even before I applied to med school, I knew that what I really wanted to do was research so since my first year I started volunteering at the immunology lab.  Some “summers” (There are no seasons in Colombia, so I am talking about the vacations between school years) I would go and do some sort of internship at some of the best institutes in the country. I did my internship in Molecular Biology, Genetics and Biotechnology.

So, naturally, when I came here I figured the best way to get into the system was to do a PhD.  I applied and was accepted into the Cellular and Molecular Medicine program at the University of Ottawa.  I got a super awesome project and a really cool lab.  I won’t go into details here but it was on Cancer research and it was pretty cool.  My life was perfect!  I was truly happy.  My dreams were finally coming through.

And then I got sick

I started having these weird neurological symptoms like breaking things and stuff.  I’ve always been rather clumsy but this was more serious.  And lab equipment, in case you didn’t know is fracking expensive.  Screwing up micropipettes that cost a grand to re-calibrate is generally frown upon.  Or breaking electrophoresis chambers, for that matter.  You get the drill.

At some point, MS was even being considered.  Thank god the MRI came back normal. In the mean time I had a nervous breakdown and became very depressed.  Eventually, I had to take a medical leave.  Since I was an A+ student, my academic advisor told me I could come back whenever I wanted, even if it took me 5 years. But my world was shattered.  My dream of becoming a professor, having my own lab and grad students became just that again, nothing more than a dream.  And I LOVE teaching.

But! Fortunately for me, I had already had that magical adventure that was my Trip to the Bookstore. Swing Dancing gave me a reason to keep going.  I was given another chance to grow, to learn, to meet wonderful people and to teach.  Sure it’s not the high thrill of the academia (I pretty much said good-bye to my aspirations to win a Nobel prize *wink* ) but it is very rewarding nonetheless.

Yeah, it’s been quite the trip. In 2007 I went on to win Silver medal with the Dynamite Girls at the Canadian Swing Championships.  And I have a few other titles under my belt.

I can’t imagine my life without dancing.  And I am sure the best is yet to come! :)

Trips to the bookstore are dangerous!

Fall 2004. On my way to the University of Ottawa bookstore to buy my Molecular Biology textbook.

I get to the University Centre and the centrecourt is packed with booths, tables, stands and people. As it turns out it is Club’s weeks which happens at the beginning of every semester. Cool, I think. But! I am on a mission. I’ve been told by my Molecular Biology professor that there was a screw up on the requisition and very few textbooks were ordered so I need to hurry up and get mine before they are sold out…. then I see some people dressed in Vintage (around the WW2 period) seemingly dancing in one of the corners. Naturally, my scientific mind wants to know what is that all about. I get closer and then I hear the music (hearing impaired here). And what do I hear? Wonderful Swing music!

I’ve been fascinated all my life with classic movies and particularly with Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly movies. If I didn’t like my iPhone so much I would say that I was definitely born in the wrong decade. But I disgress. My heart is racing, who are those people dressed exactly like in my beloved movies, doing what I had seen so many times in those old Turner and MGM films from the first half of the 20th century?

Now of course I absolutely HAVE to talk to those people and find out how I can get involved. It is the U of O Social Dance Club, they say (now known as SwingUO) and would you like to sign in for the term? how much is it? I ask – you know, broke graduate student and all. $15 they say. Per class? I ask. No, no, for the whole semester, they say. Sweet! where do I sign up?

That’s how I met Michelle, Bruce, Magali and Olivier, the founders of the club. I was hooked from day one. As a side note, I found out years later that I was the very first student to sign up and that they didn’t want to let me see the sign up sheet cause they were afraid I wouldn’t join if I saw there wasn’t anyone else there.

Magali and Olivier were my first Swing teachers. They thought me my first swing steps (step, step, rock step). It was Olivier who encouraged me to go to the Ottawa Swing Dance Society weekly dances.

And the rest is history, as they say. Within three months I was an executive member of the OSDS, six months later I was the house DJ. In 2005 I hired Byron Alley – then co-owner of the Swinging Air Force in Montreal, to come and teach a workshop in Ottawa. In 2006 I finally managed to convinced him (with the help of Bryn Morin and Natalia Rueda) to move to Ottawa and start a swing dance school here… but that’s another story.

The moral of this story? beware of trips to the bookstore. You never know where they are gonna take you!

UPDATE (06-06-12): You might end up in a book and/or on the walls of a very well know Blues Bar in Ottawa

100 Strangers Project Opening night