Reno International Dance Expo 2019

Tim Weinzirl, June 2019


The Reno International Dance Expo made its inaugural debut at 
the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, USA over May 10-12.  
The event was hosted by the world-famous Rodney "Rodchata" 
Acquino (http://www.rodchata.com/).  
This was primarily a bachata festival, though salsa, kizomba, 
and zouk were also featured.

rdxposter

The weekend opened with a preparty on May 9.  
Early arrivals were able to mingle with each other and 
the instructors.

From Friday to Sunday, there were daily workshops taught 
by 40+ instructors from four continents. 
Attendees of the preparty met the instructors early and 
could better navigate the multiple parallel workshop tracks.

My favorite instructor was Marcela Cardenas of Sweden.  
Her Saturday class was about how to be a better leader in bachata.  
She likened the hand-hold connection between the leader and 
follower to a joystick in a video game; the position of 
the arm tells the follower what to do.  
This is useful for steering the follower forward or backward, 
as shown in the figure below.

marcela-forward-backmarcela-forward-back

Marcela also emphasized the importance of the leader's 
firm connection with the follower's shoulder blade, 
such as in circular movements.

marcela-around

One of the most popular classes was the Saturday bachata session 
by Alex and Desiree. Below is a photo from the class.

classes-alex-des

The pool party happened on Saturday afternoon at the Grand Sierra's 
large outdoor pool. Below are some pool party photos.

pool-montage

On Friday and Saturday night were performances by amateur 
and world-renowned professionals. 
Below are snapshots from my favorite performances.

perf-montage

Photo above: In clockwise order, the performers are Anthony & Carla of Spain(dancing bachata), Alex & Desiree of New York (dancing bachata), Alejandro & Erica of Los Angeles (dancing bachata), Marcela Cardenas of Sweden (dancing bachata), Alex & Kim of San Francisco (dancing salsa).

Finally, and most importantly, social dancing took place in
four separate rooms (salsa, bachata, kizomba, zouk) until 6am.
The guest instructors did a great job dancing and interacting
the social dancers throughout the night. social-montage

Photo above: A sample of the social dancing.
Bottom left: Alex and Desiree leading a late night line dance.
Bottom middle: Alejandro and Erica dancing.
Bottom right: Marcela Cardenas is dancing with a lucky guy.

 

Based on crowd reaction, this event was a huge success.
The party resumes next year, May 15-18, 2020.
Passes are already on sale at http://www.RenoDanceExpo.com.
Within 48 hours of passes for next year going on sale,
over 20% of the attendees rebooked for next year.

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Seattle, chief Seattle

So I will not start from the beginning, why should I, after all, I will start from the point writing this blog post, became urgent. And that wasn’t until I got inspired.
So you know how much I love Camden Town, right? I suppose in many ways it’s the alternativeness I have come to love for decades, even if it is being polished gradually, the edginess is still here.
So what’s up Seattle?
Up University Way and I got blown away. Now this is a quiet Camden, clothes’ exchanges galore, vintage shops with vintage clothes you can actually wear i.e. check out Red Light Vintage http://www.redlightvintage.com/, Korean food that smells beyond tasting good, unintrusive cafes like Cafe Solstice https://www.cafesolsticeseattle.com/ and a second-hand multi-lingo book shop check out Magus Books https://www.magusbooksseattle.com/, all packed on and off a high street where people don’t need to prove they are cool – they kind of are and don’t know it. I loved the dress down punk 90s understated fashion on the street.
Elaborative discussions on how the homeless are better looked after in Seattle than in Portland are complimentary. 90’s vibes. A time before all that uber-conservative shit in politics took off. Where Blur and Bjork are cool to mix with all sorts and cafes don’t mind shitloads of unpretentious laptops.
Now rewind a few days.
The airport; you land in Seattle, you be sure to listen to grunge and rock on the airport speakers. Telling what the city is made off. Even the light rail is called ‘sound’.
Then off to Highline, you could call it a disgruntled neighborhood on the margins, one that will certainly change, because the people may be poorer than average, but have tolerance and are friendly. For Londoners, think of Hackney before the money moved in. In Highline, money is not here yet but I think it won’t show in the same ugly British ways, because the money in the US goes to more affluent areas, whereas money into poorer areas in Seattle means it came from poorer people yet. So you get the picture.
Next off; Gasworks Park, or rewind a few blocks up the hill behind down Sunnyside Avenue North. Probably one of the most beautiful areas in Seattle. Streets manicured pretty green and friendly unpretentious, just the houses are bigger on well thought designed picturesque bliss, but no grandeur here either please, just simply gorgeous. So back down the hill to the Gasworks park and by the Lake Union waterfront – oh my days. My waterways days chucked into the bin, deep deep into the trash bin. The chaos of sup paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, commercial traffic, houseboats, sailing boats, and water airplanes all using the same water was like watching carnival for the first time. All it felt like, was kind of Greek chaos, only with the confidence. It was fun to watch – put a big smile on my face and gave me another good reason to add to the reasons why I am in this part of the world: it doesn’t make much sense, but it works fine.
A little later, into Fremont, oh my days you have to go, it is so cool and pretty, like an understated really green lightly academic bohemian neighborhood that reminds me of somewhere I would have loved to go before.
So yeah, go Pike Street Market, Alki Beach, the Space Needle (if you must), Westlake Shopping, check out the Fremont Troll and the gum wall (I didn’t – couldn’t bear the thought), look out the wheel from the seafront and maybe jump on the ferry to Bremerton for more really cool views. Pop in at the University of Washington grounds – huge trees bigger spaces to feel academically inspired ;-p and if you are a Harry Potter fan the Library Suzzalo and Allen Libraries is the kind of grandeur that Oxbridge would love to have (I thought my School of Oriental and African Studies university library was big haha). Out of the library look out to the incredible view of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. Whatever you do though, if you are my sort of gang, go up University Way, go down Sunnyside Avenue.

 

Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of north Morocco.

Chefchaouen is the perfect day or weekend trip on your travels in Morocco.

Famous for the blue painted buildings, more recently featured on French Montana’s ‘Famous’ videoclip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHkxOU7zz8 that was filmed in the souks and circular main road around the town sitting on the mountain side. The 33 year old  moroccan-american artist is from the Casablanca and often pays tribute to his love for Morocco.

Back to Chefchaouen, the town is easily navigable by foot, but not wheelchair users, or for those with mobility difficulties. Built on the mountain side, souk and town streets climb up and down through the mountain curves, offering exquisite views over the town and the landscape beyond.

Chefchaouen is one of the easier villages to travel through Morocco. It is small enough to walk through in a day, and big enough that you can find another photogenic corner to help you on your dream-scape of what life may be like in the town, or in-fact to those that grow up in the alleys and buildings, protected by the elements and near everything else.

Here are some of the photos from our visit, we arrived on a cloudy and rainy day, yet it was also wonderful to see the town in non-postcard conditions, a different, and what felt more genuine side of life there. Rain gently encouraged us to go into the local cafe, not the tourist ones, and to get lost around the back streets to a school, trying to find a way through to the main square.

Chefchaouen’s location is equally impressive nesting on the mountain feet, reminds you of the perspectives on life which is so easy to forget when bouncing about between places in a city.

You could say Chefchaouen becomes the little blue light, twilight, dream-scape of adventure.

Ode to the London Overground

So imagine you are in your city but it suddenly feels a different place altogether.

It wasn’t in a place I had not been before either. I think my state of mind was in an altered state being there like that for the first time. It involved using the public transport but the difference was in the vibe, the society, the moment.

I have been on the london overground a number of times, going to meetings, hopping out east to the wick or north to highbury. I know the trendies, the mummies, the original hackneys carriaged away up and through neighbourhoods previously out of reach. I been in situations where the rodent were getting trodden on by the passing cars, in full view of affluent dining audiences. Seen it all.

But that was new. Before midnight jumping on the overground at Hoxton station, me and others after or on the way to boozing. Gracefully space etiquette adhered to, spaces between seats, no roughing, no shuffling. Air con, smooth ride. Hovering just about leveled with top floors of Victorian terraces, bridges, warehouses. Light reflections on the inside, obstructing sensible assessment of the view on the outside. Spaced out in a spacious vehicle, with all the room for a poetry based on shuttle messages, all so effortless and out worldly smooth.

What I learnt from not running the marathon

On Sunday, London hosted the annual marathon event, with thousands of participants running the 26 something miles.

The weather was a sizzling 24C with clear skies posing a number of health risks even for the most experienced athletes.

I stood by in Canary Wharf, planning initially to stay only for a few minutes, which turned into hours, after seeing, and being mesmerised by the Kenyan athletes. Their energy is unfathomable, unaffected by the elements, running solidly on their feet, unstoppable towards their own personal target to a medal. Following closely a number of vehicles with cameras indicated the presence of someone important and there you had it, Sir Mo Farah powering through. I was saddened to hear nearing the end of his run that he was seeking a bottle of water, only to be ignored by bystanders wanting to take the best shots as up close as possible. The inhumane treatment of fame, in full display.

Kenya’s Elliud Kipchoge followed by camera crews during the Virgin London Marathon 2018

Wheelchairs, the visually impaired, following through continued the display of incredible strength of spirit.

Not too long after, people aiming for the 3 hour finish mark, powered through. Pouring sweat and having sustained a considerable amount of sun exposure, gradually more and more were slowing down, even stopping to a walking pace. That was the point, the energy of the crowds and their value, really shined through. At the point where really experienced runners were stopping crowds gathered to encourage on, shouting names of people they didn’t know, edging them to continue on. Strangers, flooding their energy to strangers. The effect was magic happening before our eyes. The runners’ faces lightening up, pace quickening, invaluable seconds saved.

The human endurance has layers unexplored by the majority of us. It doesn’t entertain fear or weakness as concepts. It merely facilitates strength. The psychological status is about completing the task with ease, and resourcing a little more energy for overachieving, unravelling that extra bit of energy as it replenishes itself from the invisible source of confidence.

The fear, and doubt gradually appeared in the lesser trained athletes. You didn’t need to have a discussion. Their feelings stood in front of their faces, attached like a bubble of energy, with rights restricted to the owner exclusively.The take over of these feelings, may as well had been rolled out in a banner. External conditions had made their internal challenge furthermore complex.

This in itself is a very intense experience. It places the human spirit and our conditioning, in the heart of the matter. Challenging mental energy and channelling as well.

Every year I forget… Until I stand by again to watch. And every year I read another layer, of someone running past, a different story, equally important as the very first one, let it be that of the Kenyans or Mo Farah for that matter.

The invaluable value of encouragement. One step at a time, through the stages of being and feeling.

Everything has to do with the mind, and with the limits we have put in and the fact we can overcome them to break them. And what I have done is doping of the mind.

Until the next marathon, exploring the well of our course.

Tromso, a guide to Arctic Norway’s far north.

This enchanting Arctic city is exceptionally easy to get to since Norwegian and SAS fly there. Tromso airport is a mere twelve minutes on the commuter bus from the city centre.

The airport is much smaller than you may have imagined. Think of a greek island kind of set up. Just a few more doors between the outside and entrance lobby to keep the heat in and cold out.

I booked a waterside air bnb on the northern outskirts, in gorgeous Kroken, and the connecting bus took just over fifteen minutes from Tromsø sentrum.

Night view of Tromsø from Kroken in winter

Voila, I was, in what felt like the countryside, on the frozen seaside, with the sound of crisp lapping waves surrounded by the warm neighbourhood feel.

Making navigation easy, ie avoiding waiting for a bus for more than five minutes in the Arctic cold, I recommend downloading the following two apps from Google store. Tromsmobilett will store your ticket or travel card which you can purchase through the app. Troms Reise is the local bus departure/arrival and bus planner app.

Northern lights safaris are very popular but on clear sky nights, you really just want to be keeping an eye out to the sky, and walking away from the street lights. The cable car is open until 11pm in the winter, so you could add an edge to your experience, for a fraction of the cost of a safari.

Northern Lights from the coast

Whale seeking is also popular, however as much as I would love to see them, I am not sure of this relationship dynamic so maybe I will be lucky to pass them coincidentally at some point in my life.

The snow here is different. Given you take a trip outside Tromso, you will notice the difference. It is different to the snow in Oslo or anywhere else for that matter. I can only describe it like white glistening gold.

Winter dusk in Tromso

When the northern lights, or aurora borealis, start their wild and unpredictable dance, my first thought was that of water colour paint soaking the paper, or a gymnast’s cord following a complimentary flow.

Going up to the mountain on the cable car is really worth the 190nok. I am not one for a tourist’s gimmick, and almost skipped that. Having done it, I couldn’t have asked for a more splendidly arctic experience with the option of being back in the cradle of the Tromso town within half hour. One tip, to avoid any confusion, although cars run every half hour. If you get there at a busy time, try queing up as they only sell tickets ten minutes before boarding. The views from the top towards the mountains are lunar.

The view towards the north from the mountain behind the cable car in Tromso

Tromso island and the fjords between the mountains are a feast. Try getting there in the morning and by lunchtime for the most dramatic light effects as the sun is just about caressing the tops of the mountains, at midday in the winter. It is the experience of a lifetime.

Tromso is super safe and cute. Don’t be afraid to walk endlessly to the outskirts.

My super cozy self contained air bnb by the water in Kroken meant I didn’t need to spend hours on an aurora safari and could pop out every hour or so after 10pm to look out for the lights, going back for a cup of hot drink and a snack, before returning back to the outside, even really late into the night.

At 10pm, on the dot, the northern lights or aurora borealis would come out and put on their mesmerising dance. It only required walking to the end of my street past the glare of the street lights to absorb it at its the best. Plus being near the water and walking alongside a snowed over beach is something out of this world in itself and something I had not experienced before.

Aurora Borealis in Arctic Norway

Back in Tromso, a warming coffee and bagel, are to be had in my favourite cafe, Lugar 34. I just hoped the coffee was served in a bigger cup. Tip, head for the upstairs and let the surroundings warm you up from times past. I could have spent all afternoon there but things to see and do.

If you are on a budget or only there for a couple of days and have limited time, take the commuter ferry from Tromso to the fjords and islands. In the winter it is worth waking up for the really early morning ones, so you can see the most of the fjords for 240nok. You will be back in Tromso in a couple of hours which means you still have time for the cable car, the art museum and a cafe or pub or two.

Ferry port, Tromsø

For budget nordic household design pieces head to Kremmerhuset where you will find ceramics and home furnishings in affordable prices. Plus it is in a mall in the centre which means you can use the bathroom and warm up. There is even a restaurant with bay views at the top but didn’t have the time to see for myself.

Out of the two Kaffebonas you will get the best views looking out to the Arctic Cathedral, the sea and the mountains beyond, at the one on Stortorget.

For more views, and dramatic architecture, do visit the Arctic Cathedral. I also recommend walking the length of the bridge for an amazing perspective through the fjord. Warning, although you are caged in the bridge does rattle and creak which may not be for the fainthearted. I am particularly bad with heights however got used to it after a few minutes, and a lot of internal reasoning.

When I went to the Art Museum there was an exhibition on surrealism. I loved the curated text and really chimed with contemporary politics. It basically said something along the lines of… ‘in our times of fake news and misrepresentation, surrealism is more true than it has ever been before. Does that mean that our reality has never been this surreal?’

The story of the northern lights is that they are particles which have been charged through a solar storm, and lit up because the north and south poles are the least protected areas on the globe.

Maybe that explains why in a small place like Tromsø there is a lot of enlightenment, let it be in the tiny yet well represented religious communities, the honest portraying of the Sami people and their portrayals of the intruding scadi people, in art old and contemporary, to the apparent open mindness and chilled out attitude of the modern Tromsøeans.

Here is a short video from the airplane taking off

I really hate goodbyes especially from places that unlock iconic moments on the way my brain works and heart ticks.

Tromso in one of the coldest places on earth, makes it for one hell of a warm welcome.