Samba! The finale


It happened! Last weekend was the weekend of the dance performance. We were a stage full of glittering women, crackling with smiles and sending samba energy through our fingertips!

The show was a success. I missed a few steps when my family’s astonished faces became clear  in front of me in the audience (astonished because I hadn’t warned them of the many samba butts that would be on display). I don’t have the chance to perform often, and it’s funny what happens to my brain: part becomes incredibly focused, with a vice grip on possibly unhelpful details (for instance: “Damn I messed that up!”), and part is remembering the big picture, the smile and the next exit and the entrance that will follow. It all happens so fast! Afterwards, my father, mother, and boyfriend all agreed: its about time they try out a dance class themselves. I can’t imagine a better impact. The more dancers, the merrier.

Dancing on stage was wonderful fun and it was a chance to meet new friends who share my passion for…samba!IMG_5481.GIF

Nick Cave, Let Go, Part II


The Sing Harlem choir walked out in street clothes, and each member held their hands  above their heads. They walked in a line, two by two, and the word they sang broke the rhythm of their step. That word punched the silence of the great darkened room, but small trickles of slower singers had the word echoing softly as the choir split and walked around the room. They reassembled in the middle, a half moon shape, one crescent facing in and one crescent facing out.

A baritone moan, a hum, and more words, as one single operatic voice silenced the rest. Dancers in dark colors walked out, hands up. Only one was singing, amazing grace, how sweet the sound. The dancers wandered the floor. They found a place, they sat, in shorts and undershirt, and faced the distance.

When the choir joined in to the operatic moaning, the song changed. A change was coming over them, we could all feel it. All of the sitting dancers were assessed by a new set of characters, those wearing lab coats and gloves. They carefully began the change – a raffia skirt, a colorful sleeve, a stalk of colorful hair. Before my eyes, the dancers became gods, huge and colorful. The singing swelled, young singers, glittering against the glittering curtain, gracefully changing these men with their voices. The baritone cried, until his tears were covered by the embellishments of his new form. The lab coats finished their job and left. The dancers stood. They towered silently. Are we scared?

In the end, it turns out, we are scared. When you see what the god is made of, though, its rushing roar is no longer so impossible to understand. Nick Cave’s Soundsuits move and shake. They showed their anger and their joy. I had seen the dancer beneath, but now he was something different, something changed, and we were all invited to dance as the choir took over.



Let Go!


In the past month I’ve seen limpid lakes whose horizons stretched beyond the sky.

I’ve seen the lighters of 50,000 country music fans drifting in the darkness of Tennessee’s stadium.

I’ve eaten brisket, hot chicken, fried trout and fresh picked morels. I drank the cold  turquoise water of Lake Huron with my own two hands.

I’m back in New York, and last night was the best night of all.

At the Park Avenue Armory, Nick Cave’s “The Let Go” is an installation of strips of glittering mylar curtain gliding 100 feet long across an open dance floor. Cave envisions his art to be “a dance-based town hall—part installation, part performance—to which the community of New York is invited to ‘let go’ and speak their minds through movement, work out frustrations, and celebrate independence as well as community.”

Last night Cave and the Park Avenue Armory hosted the Let Go Freedom Ball where we could do just that, and it resulted in a remarkable night of glitter, dance and unbelievable costumes. Participants were invited to enter their costume creations in one of three categories: State of the World, Unlike Anything Else and Dare-Flair. Hundreds of ball-goers arrived in lovingly constructed creations: ball gowns fashioned out of plastic bags; Black Panther-style carnival costumes; sailor-with-a-disco-ball concepts; and really anything you could possibly imagine. As I danced in the revitalizing caress of Cave’s wandering curtain, I was “licked” by the giant tongue of a bouncing ball of gummy worms, and I bumped into a flock of women in futuristic silver outfits who were dancing on the other side of the shimmering strands of moving color.


The night culminated with a ball-style competition where the costumes were walked, runway style, along an aisle cleared through the cheering crowd. Stylish neon monsters, glass mirror cyborgs, hyper vaginas and political witches each strutted their stuff to win the $5,000 grand prize in each category. Though the competition was fierce, I was struck by the positivity crackling in the air- though the New Yorkers pushed to see the show, they did so kindly, and they didn’t shove, which is the most I can hope for!

It was a gorgeous night of creative letting go. I’m so glad to be back.

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Samba Journal 2: Practice makes perfect


The drummers haven’t been showing up. We dancers are ready. In small groups, we flock onto the improvised stage like proud birds, chassé! In position, we face our audience, our reflected images in the mirror- 5, 6, 7, 8: we advance on ourselves, knees higher, arms wider! Spine straight, chest full and proud, I am a vision!

Kick, ball, change, turn- oops! Not yet. I need to go over that part. Stay, knees bent, hand on hip, left hand winding up to the ceiling and down up down up down up reach reach reach reach tuuuuuuurn. Finally!

When the part is over, we twist off the stage, disappearing into the eves and into our ordinary selves.


Samba Journal: Intro


When I was living in Barranquilla, I was hungry for exercise. I was unfamiliar enough with the culture that I wasn’t sure what classes I would like, so I just lazily didn’t take any. Of course, nightly dancing helped me stay limber, but I probably consumed as many calories in beer and aguardiente as I worked off.

When a friend came to visit, she brought me four workout DVDs: Quenia Ribero’s samba workouts. My roommate and I tried one (Afro Reggae!) some steamy afternoon and we were immediately hooked. Quenia’s charisma, along with the new dance moves that we could employ that very night at the corner dance party at La Troja, was a winning combination. I worked out with Quenia’s DVDs for the rest of my time in Barranquilla.

Years later, I moved to New York. Part of my settling into a new home is looking for my workout community, and I wanted to continue learning samba, a dance, music and culture that enchants me. Imagine the thrill I felt when I saw Quenia’s name next to a Samba class just a few miles downtown, at the Alvin Ailey Extension.

I’ve been Sambaing with Quenia pretty steadily fir the last 6 years. She is a wonderful dance Mentor and I never regret going to a class. Samba, with its quick steps, open arms and kicks and turns, is an expression of happiness. I love the low thump of the surdu beneath the constant chattering of repinique. I love dancing Samba!

And that is why I have signed up for the samba performance class. We will be practicing every week to put on a show this summer, and I’ll be writing about the experience here.

I’ve already made the point that I enjoy Samba. In my Samba Journal I want to really delve into that love and explore it. I would also like to interview Quenia and hear more about her story as a Brazilian dancer who’s succeeded on her own here in New York City. Hopefully I’ll be able to dip into some of my own experiences living in Rio de Janeiro. I want to bring it all to you!

If you’re too excited and can’t wait for more samba, check out my playlist La Giraffa’s First Day of Spring. Also, I highly recommend Alma Guillermopreito’s book, Samba!. It’s a little old but that was definitely the beginning of my samba journey and maybe it will be yours, too. IMG_5050.jpg