The Essentials

Every two to three weeks, my life transforms into a TLC reality show episode – if I had to pick, probably most like DC Cupcakes. There is usually a seemingly easy enough challenge that I tackle head on with enthusiasm, the moment of anticipated shock when that challenge is… well a challenge, the crisis that usually involves some sort of comedic mishap and eventually a resolution with a bow of a life lesson learned to top it off.

In this episode, my partner in crime, Kevin Sue, went to some random event called “Boston Tea Party” (heh) leaving me to run the blues dance solo. Sounds easy enough right, I’ve run this event a bunch of times now that it’s pretty self sufficient… bzzzzt wrong. No cashbox, no cooler, no water, no car, and no emergency engineer to fix things that break. I found out that I had an alarming lack of knowledge of how audio equipment actually works (I’m good at plugging in my iphone to DJ, that’s about it) and I’m pretty sure that the Hobos outside of Habeebas Dance Studio were multiplying in real time as they smelled my stress level increasing.

Unfortunately, that’s just my personality – I sweat the big stuff, the small stuff, and even the non-stuff stuff (don’t ask). Fortunately, my girl Genevieve (who also taught the lesson last night with me) kept me sane behind the scenes by basically running around town with me doing errands hours before the event and reminding me to chill the eff out. This definitely rings true to me one day after the event as I reckon that even if all the big/small/non-stuff stuff didn’t work out, most likely people would still had had a kick-ass time dancing and partying.

I didn’t need an awesome check-in system form (google docs does rock though) that time stamps when dancers arrive, a piece of scrap paper and pen was more than adequate. Ditto for the cashbox (replacement: plastic tupperware), drinks to sell (replacement: “here’s a cup and a pen to write your name on it”), basic knowledge of audio tech (replacement: “plug in everything until it works”) or even drop-in teachers (replacement: me). Those are just nice to have features at a dance but sometimes you gotta just head back to the essentials. And sometimes, you just need a good old TLC episode to bring it back to what’s important.

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The One Ring

This past Saturday I was lucky enough to have been asked to teach a blues dance lesson at the QSC 10 Year Anniversary party. I always have a healthy bit of skepticism when events ask me to teach because there are so many great instructors in the eastern Canadian cities of Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa but any chance to influence how university dancers perceive a dance is always a worthwhile endeavor. I’m a bit of a square when it comes to dancing so I prefer a non-molesting dance approach (heh) and if organizers want to fund my Gam Ja Tang addiction, who am I to argue.

I was messing around with my new ring flash for this event (just a cheapo plastic one). The ring flash softens the light around the subject creating this neat little halo-cutout effect that’s a bajiliion times better than shooting with the flash straight on. Unfortunately, if a subject wears glasses, you can very clearly see the ring of flash reflecting off their lenses and completely blocking their eyes! D’oh! Now I know for next time.

Thanks to Alice for inviting myself and Genevieve for teaching with me last minute and Kevin “Fats” Temple for hosting us Toronto-folk and just being his lovable Fats self. I wish I had gotten a video of him and Kathleen blues dancing so hard that no-one else even got up to dance and instead just watched the entire time. The best part was when the dance floor was made of ice… don’t know what I’m talking about? Attend next year…

That was a hot night


At our dance venue on Yonge & Bloor, people mess around with the temperature of the studio all the time. To combat this, Kevin Sue installed a case-lock around the studio thermostat so that you would need a key to open the case to be able to have access to the studio heating system. Great idea in practicality, except when the key is no where to be found. So if you went to the drop-in lesson and live blues dance last night (and why wouldn’t you have gone?) and were sweating buckets, there was a greater force at work :-)

But yah what a night eh? Brian Cober and Aslan Gotov, for their first time playing for us blues dancers in Toronto, were great great great. Everybody was walking up to me throughout the night and asking where I found them. Well, actually, my israeli friend Kim found them but they have been playing in venues all around Toronto for a while now (ie. Grossmans Tavern). If you know more great blues musicians, remember to refer them to me!

Had me with Starbucks

Quick story time. The Yonge & Bloor dance studio where I run my blues dances at doubles as a private high school during the day. The school mostly consists of korean high school students (on a tangent note… gam ja tang… you need to try it) here in Canada to study english and Nayoung (who owns the building) has been very accommodating in letting us dancers call the studio a home away from home. One day while geeking out on Facebook at the studio, in comes a meek korean girl asking if I can take photos of her art work. Of course being asked personally to take a photo of something is like asking me if you want to dance – the answer is always “YES” followed up by, “right now right?”. The korean girl was super thankful for the work I was doing and multiple times tried to offer me money. But this was one of Nayoung’s students, I didn’t want to take money from a sixteen year old girl for something that took literally only ten minutes to do. I politely declined.

Yesterday I stopped by the studio on my flier dropping off spree and Nayoung gave me a bag with a small gift from that korean girl. Included in it was this very funny note (at least to me) addressed to “photographer”. I had a flash back to the first time someone asked me what I do and I answered without embarrassment, “oh, I’m a dancer”. Am I a “real” photographer? I’m not quite sure yet but this is a step in the right direction. What is a “real” photographer anyway? Is it just getting paid for your work? A nice ending of this quick story, Nayoung also told me that the young korean girl got a scholarship to an art school based on her portfolio. Good on her. :)

Did I mention that the dance studio is above a Starbucks? I know right!