Still on the Road
I still take classes. Lots of them. I like learning. I’m probably a beginner for life, but that’s okay. I’m trying to be more comfortable with social dancing and stop thinking of it like junior-high-school dances where only the few popular kids danced and the rest of us watched in fear of being asked to dance AND not being asked to dance. It might take me awhile, but I’m working on it. When I do dance, I have fun on the dance floor. And that’s the idea. Come dance with us and find out! And find out more about my Road to Dance. It’s unpredictable, infuriating, but interesting & never boring…
The Road is Long
It’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s a lot of work. It’s discouraging, sometimes. But sometimes, it’s fun. I’m still on my Road to Dance. Figuring it out along the way. Learning, changing, growing. Dancing for my life. Sometimes dancing badly, but that doesn’t matter. Nobody is watching. Or, if they are, who cares?
Don’t Take No for an Answer
The idea was the fun part. Then came the frustrating part. Whatever we wanted to do, whomever we asked said NO. Over and over. It was always no, from everybody about everything. It didn’t matter if we wanted something small and insignificant or something big and important. The answer was no. We kept going: around and over and under and through all the NOs. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
A Different Concept
We started our school. We had a different concept. We wanted our school to be a social gathering place first and a place to learn to dance second. We also wanted our students to learn to dance well and have more fun than anyone else on the dance floor. To bring their friends to dance. To make new friends at Sam’s. To make the most of their lives. Like we want to make of ours.
Oh, I lost a business partner along the way, but that didn’t change much. The “we” changed to “I” but everything else moved forward as planned. I still stumble a lot. I expect to for awhile. But I get up, brush myself off, and dance! When you believe in your idea, you have to.
Never Give Up
We talked and talked. Then we talked some more. Was it doable? Could we do it together and combine our ideas? The big idea is only the first step. The rest is harder. We thought we could. So we did. But not easily. Licenses, insurance, paperwork, plans, research. Repeat. Several times. Learning, discovering, adjusting, adapting. Repeat. Finally, there was SAM’S DANCE. To do something new and different, you gotta have grit!
ROAD TO SAM’S: STEP #14
An Idea is Born
My ZOUK teacher was a Brazilian. We talked about what we both wanted to be doing in a few years, what we saw for the future. He wanted to open his own dance school with a different teaching method than other Vancouver schools. I wanted to create a place like something I saw in Cuba, where people could engage in art and music and dance and conversation—a real arts community. I wanted a place that was so much more than people arriving, changing shoes, having a dance lesson, changing shoes, and leaving. I wanted to build a place people couldn’t wait to get to–to dance, to learn, to talk, to hang out, to spend time with friends, to meet new people. We thought we could combine our concepts. An idea was born.
We All Start with Salsa
I first took a session of SALSA group classes with Scarlet & Patrick Moriarty. They are lovely; it was confusing at first, but fun. My Mom quit after this session. She was discouraged because she didn’t find “one single man who could dance and I don’t have enough time left in my life to dance with hopeless cases.” I was a hopeless case myself so I hung in. Next, group lessons with Nina Perez, also a great dancer and teacher. Nina told me that salsa would change my life. I thought it was just one of those things people say so I just nodded. There were lots of nice people, earnestly trying to learn to dance salsa. I stayed for two years and added a few private lessons and some ZOUK in workshops and privates. I had fun.
Cuba gets into your Blood
Then came CUBA. We went 21/2 years ago for two weeks. We had a guide and driver, Ibrahim, who took us everywhere. That included going to places to hear live music and watch dancing. It’s everywhere in Cuba. The places we went were outside and full of people. It was magical. I knew they were dancing salsa, but they were so smooth, I couldn’t figure out how they were doing it. When some kind men asked me to dance (the men there ask EVERYONE to dance—it’s lovely—take note men!!), I told them I couldn’t because I didn’t have a clue. There were other people dancing who also had no clue but I didn’t want to be one of them (if I had that to do over again, I would want to be one of them)! (I’m talking about you, tourist wearing flip-flops!!) When we got home, I signed up for salsa classes.
NOTE: in Cuba, they dance everywhere–they don’t spend a second worrying about if the dance surface is smooth enough or if they have on the right shoes. They hear music, they dance! It’s amazing…
Keep on Trying
So, where was I? Oh, my Road to Sam’s Dance. I took lots of classes in lots of things over the years. Mom & I took yoga. The only part we liked was nap-time at the end of class. Okay, maybe it wasn’t meant to be nap-time, but it was for us! We took furniture upholstery. The arms fell off our project, a rocking chair, and we had to take it to a friend of my parents who was an actual upholsterer. I took macramé. Why? I wonder that myself. Who needs a wall hanging made out of string? We took some cooking classes. Mostly, we went for the food, which the chef prepared for us to eat at the end of class. I took pilates on the ball with a friend. We couldn’t figure out how to stay on the ball and those other people lied about being beginners!! There was more, but you get the idea.
Hoofing with the Oldies
Next up was TAP dancing. My Mom had taken some classes in Arizona and wanted to carry on in Vancouver. I went with. What’s our first rule of dance? We gotta have the right shoes! I now have three pairs of tap shoes and still can’t tap. It was fun though and a lovely lady named Beryl taught the class of seniors–and me. We did have one man in the class, but it was only briefly. We must have terrified him. The sound of a class full of people tapping in no particular rhythm can be horrendous! Even if you can’t tap well, it’s tons of fun wearing those shoes and clomping around on a wood floor. I never get tired of it.
Cowgirls and Grapevines
Then came LINE DANCING. It was good exercise, but some of us (mostly my Mom and me) couldn’t remember the routines. We stepped to the right, stepped to the left, we faced left and then right, and there was some hand-clapping going on. I discovered that I could either move my hands or my feet—but not both! Not at the same time, at least. There was a lot of grape-vining and cowboy music and we already had the recommended cowboy boots, and after all, isn’t it all about the shoes?
World-Famous Chicken Dance!
On a trip to Portugal with my parents, my sisters, and my cousin Cathy, we went on a boat trip for the day. We stopped for lunch on some island and had barbecued sardines, which only my Dad and I tried. When they’re not in a can, those suckers have a lot of bones! Who knew? Our after-lunch activity (for about 100 of us) was a dance around the pool, lead by a local guy who smiled all the time, but had no teeth. The dance was the world famous CHICKEN DANCE! Local guy was an awesome chicken dancer. No special footwear required.
Two Little Brown Girls
More in Vancouver, we thought we would try some HAWAIIAN dance classes. It was taught by a 98-year-old lady. Her sound guy was another old lady named Freddy who used a walker and a cassette player, which she couldn’t really operate properly. There was a lot of swaying, some vague hand movements, and something about “a little brown girl in a little grass shack in a little something something called Hawaii.” Sometimes, we wore plastic leis. We waited for the day the little teacher would collapse and we would have to call 9-1-1. Never happened. We did not buy the recommended grass skirts and leis.
We Swung on One Coast or the Other
In Vancouver, we tried a few dance styles. With my Mom as my partner, we tried some EAST COAST SWING—at least we think it was East—neither of us can remember which coast it was! Our teacher wanted us to rotate, which is normal practice for group lessons. But it was in the summer, it was hot, and my choices for leaders were the guy whose jeans were way too tight in all the wrong places, the guy who wore hiking sandals and socks to dance, the anti-bathers (there were several of those), and the guy who could not, would not look at me. We asked to be left out of the rotation! (But we bought the right shoes.) It’s all about the shoes!!
Keep Dancing (Avoid the Throw-up)
When we moved to Arizona, Mom and I enrolled in another ballroom class. The teacher was a hundred-year-old little lady. It was ALL old people–and me. The highlight was the day one of the men threw up while dancing and the teacher told us just to KEEP DANCING, but go around rather than through the throw-up. (The old guy was okay.)
Moms Make the Best Dance Partners
My Mom and I took BALLROOM dancing, which was offered occasionally at the school gym. My friends thought dancing was too sissy, so my Mom was my dance partner. It was awful AND hilarious. Mostly, it was a lot of stumbling around to music. My Mom has natural rhythm and was a teenager during WWII so she learned to both lead and follow. I didn’t learn much but we spent time together and we laughed. A lot.
(Still not us in the photo!)
Our Bellies were a No-Go Zone
My friend Lennie and I took a BELLY DANCING class. It was ridiculous, and we were ridiculous, but the best parts were finding scarves with jingly things on them to wrap around our waists and watching our other friend, who was very overweight, do the exercises. I didn’t say we were kind! But we laughed a lot. At her AND with her. She laughed at us, too. Because, well, we ALL looked really, really stupid. I wish I had pictures, which I would cut myself out of and post to embarrass them.
We Had Jazz Hands
There were many highlights in my early dance days, all of them with my Mom. At one time, we took JAZZ. Our main entertainment was to jockey into a position behind one of my Mom’s friends because her tights were WAY too small and the crotch was WAY too low and she could hardly move her legs in them. The teacher had us prancing around the room in long strides. It was awesome to watch Mom’s friend try to move in her tights. I can still replay that in my head anytime I need a mental-health break!
The Long, Long Winters
PATRICIA: To start, a confession: I have NO natural ability for dancing. None. Zero. I inherited my Dad’s rhythm. He had NONE. He used to take my Mom dancing before they were married. Afterwards, he said, “Thank god I don’t have to do that anymore!” Turns out, he always hated it, but it was part of his “courting” ritual.
BUT… I first got interested in dance about a zillion years ago, while living in a Northern Alberta town. (Fort McMurray, as it happens. I hope they come back from this horrible fire! There is even a street named after my Dad there. We lived there for 22 years, starting back when they had no TV, no radio, only a winter road out of town, no paved roads or sidewalks, and only the Edmonton Journal, which we received one day late. Yes, we had electricity, but the tap water was brown and smelled like rust and/or sulphur. We learned good coping skills.)
The winters were long and cold—not Vancouver cold—freeze-your-lungs-in-under-5-seconds cold. We had to breathe through scarves. We were always looking for things to do to help get us through the winters. DANCE was one of the things we found. Sometimes, class was canceled because nobody in town could start their cars, despite having them plugged in to prevent the batteries from freezing. At -60F with windchill (IT FELT LIKE -100!), nothing works!
When we could, we danced! (Okay, maybe this is not a photo of me and my Mom, but we thought we looked like this!)