Friday, July 22, 2011

New Blog Address:

Suede-Soled Traveling Shoes has relocated to a new site. Please come visit and let me know what you think!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Moved! We're Now Residents of Virginia

So we moved to DC last weekend, after several weeks of insanity.  

First, there was packing.

At this point our dining room was full of boxes and the furniture moved to the living room:

Then, off we went to Austin, Texas for a week (because that's what normal people do when they're about to move). We went for Austin Blues Party (ABP).  


There we danced, hung out with friends, ate fabulous food, and generally had a wonderful time.

We came back from Austin with 36 hours until the movers arrived.

So we left Cleveland at 3:30 am on Friday and arrived in Alexandria at our new apartment at 10:00am.  Thanks to our wonderful movers, the transition happened fairly smoothly:

Now all that was left was a MASSIVE amount of unpacking.  Beginning with the 15 kitchen boxes:


The Post-Its, naturally, are to identify where what goes during and after unpacking.

We are about 95% unpacked now, but we have a big week.  This weekend is our first DC exchange as locals.  Red Hot Blues and BBQ starts tonight and we are hosting six guests for the weekend.  We intended to host no more than three, but we signed up with the hosting program to house two and then agreed to host a couple of friends.  And then there was a misunderstanding with housing and we ended up being assigned four guests.  So we have a full house.  Ordinarily we like hosting as many as we can - it's our way of paying back the hospitality we've received in other cities.  With the move, though, we figured we'd still be living among boxes.  As it turns out, we have room for everyone we're currently committed to, and we're looking forward to a fabulous weekend.

Monday, June 13, 2011

CUBE 2011; Chicago Underground Blues Experience

Apparently we lost May as well.  We're in a flurry of preparing for a move to DC and everything else seems to fall by the wayside.

I am, however, at this moment in Chicago, as we spent the weekend here for the Blues Festival and the late night dances organized by the local scene, which altogether comprises the event we call CUBE.

As a group, united by Twitter, we attended and moved around the festival, dancing on the lawn or asphalt, whichever suited the stage. (I'm sure photos will crop up on Facebook, which is fantastic, as I took none of the event.)  Per the usual, we ate amazing food, most particularly at Orange and Nohea.

Digging into a dish at Orange called Caprese benedict.

Rosco Street - where Anna (our host) lives

Last night (Sunday), we had an out-of-the-ordinary jaunt.  We had a BBQ dinner with a group of ten friends, and then walked down to the evening dance venue, which was in a restaurant.  But neither David nor I had our dance shoes with us, so after a few dances each, we decided to mass-transit it back to our hosts place.  Usually I do the navigating, but we use David's iPhone. (My palm is amazing for calls, texts, and email, but the maps and browser are not on par with the Apple's genius.) Last night David got us directions back to Anna's house, but he didn't ask me for her address; he just put in the street she lives on.  When we got three-quarters of the way to where the directions were taking us, I asked to take a look at the map, because we appeared to be no where near where we wanted to be.  As is happens, appearances were completely correct -- we were an hour (by foot) from Anna's apartment. 

So we took stock.  Looking around was not particularly reassuring: lots of graffiti, no one out on the sidewalks, seedy-looking bars on two of the street corners, and bars over all the windows.  Most of the signage was in Spanish.  David called a cab company: they could have a cab there in 20 minutes or so.  I checked the bus schedule: the next bus was due in 26 minutes.  Having no other options, we hung out on the abandoned street corner until the bus arrived, at which point we gratefully boarded.  We didn't make it back to the dance - by the time we got to Anna's place, we had lost an extra hour and we were exhausted.

Miraculously, because we got to bed so "early," we were up this morning at 6:30am, and trekked on down to Starbucks (which was the only place open) for some caffeine to tide us over until a breakfast place opened. 

I will leave you with this: on my way to take a very large cup of coffee (read: fuel) to our host who had to work this morning despite getting in very late from the dances, I encountered this sign on a bookbinder's studio:

"Studio hours 11ish to 7ish frequently"

These are the business hours I want for my life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What Happened to April?

So we had a busy month, with only a tiny bit of dancing, and no exchanges, which is a first in a long time.

We were hoping to go to the lindy-hop exchange in DC (DCLX), but neither of us registered early enough, and although we were on the waiting list, we never made it.  So we had several weekends at home. It was a nice change of pace, but we're looking forward to attending Cbus6 in May and Show Me Blues in June. 

There was a quick trip up to Ann Arbor Easter weekend, to attend a workshop taught by two good friends, Renata and Paul. It was Renata's first formal teaching experience, and she did a fabulous job.  Both of them, actually, taught really well together.  

We also made it down to the Columbus area this weekend to visit friends and family, and to see a "rock ballet" titled The Seven Deadly Sins.  The ballet was magnificent.  There were separate pieces for each sin, and the Shadowbox Live band played for the pieces and between them.  Some were better than others -  of the seven pieces, I have to say that Sloth, Envy, and Greed were probably the best done, but they were all very impressive.  (Note: Evil Dead, the Musical is also coming to Columbus, Ohio in June, July, and August. Not only that, but on our way into the ballet, we ran in to a friend of mine from high school, Whitney Thomas-Eads, who is in the production!)


We joined Megan and Aaron for the ballet and breakfast the next morning. They made blueberry and currant scones fresh for breakfast (Megan makes the best scones). For lunch we met up with my parents and visited my family for a bit.  We saw some of Rick's soccer game (he's an excellent defense-man).  And we had coffee for a bit with Elizabeth.  It was really lovely to see all my folks back in Granville. We finished up the trip by having dinner here in Cleveland with Emm, so it was a fully-scheduled weekend.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mile High Blues 2011, Denver

Something Mike Falsek said when we were in Seattle for Roots: "If you're not making strange noises in your head while you do it, you're doin' it wrong." 

We went to Denver for Mile High Blues, and once again I found that missing the parts of the exchange that I wanted to miss made the parts I attended much more worthwhile. I missed the Friday night dance (due to getting up a 4:30am EST to fly to MST), one of the Saturday afternoon lessons (to read The Neverending Story and eat a red velvet cookie), and Sunday's classes (to soak in the Denver sunshine - of which there was much).  And in return, I didn't find myself wishing I wasn't in class, everytime I was around people I enjoyed being with people, I had two fabulous nights of dancing, and I learned a new game, courtesy of David, Clyde, and Ruth, all of whom were convinced I could be converted.

The lesson learned: be who you are.  If you are an extrovert who recharges by constantly being with others, or a type-A who wants to "do the whole program," or the sort of dancer who gains energy from dancing (even at 4:00 in the morning) -- then do so.  I am none of those things.  I need to take time for myself, break the schedule, and rest when I need to rest. And I have a richer experience when I do so.

Moving on from what I didn't do to what I did do, I'll go over the highlights.

We stayed in Golden, CO, a small, pedestrian-friendly town in the foothills, about 20 minutes west of Denver.  To the west was Lookout Mountain, and to the northeast and southeast, respectively, were North Table Mountain and South Table Mountain.  Saturday afternoon our hostess, Steph, drove us up Lookout Mt. so that we could see the surrounding area.

The event was entirely blues (YES!  It had been since BamBLOOZled in December and I was a little lindy hopped-out.)  To start with they did level testing for the two top levels - masters and advanced.  For the very first time, I placed into the advanced.  The green wristband indicates my superiority over all creatures and superb wonderfulness. 

The classes (that I attended) were well taught.  I was particularly pleased to have a good experience with Joe and Nelle's class.  They are very widely liked in the dance community, but through a series of unfortunate events, until MHB I had not had a good experience with them.  I took classes from them when I attended an event that was very poorly organized and another at which I severely lacked sleep and generally had a not good experience, and while I thought the problem wasn't them, it was very good this weekend to have evidence in their favor.  I also attended classes by Dexter & Michelle and Chris & Campbell.

The dances were excellent. I had a surprisingly high number of dances with other women. It's a fun way for same-sex friends to spend some time together at a dance, since most of the night is spent with the opposite sex in the traditionally-gendered lead-follow roles. I am finding that the more time I spend in this community, the more I realize that these are fabulous people with whom I want to be friends. And while dancing is great by way of introduction, talking and doing something that is non-dancing (a meal, a game, coffee) helps to grow the friendship.

Which brings me to the final note of the trip - an excellent lunch spent at Jelly - with David, Clyde, and Ruth.  The four of us ate really wonderful food, talked, and played a game called Dixit, which I will forevermore love. Many, many thanks to the three of you!

These are some of the cards - aren't you just dying to play?

Photo Credit:  I actually took some pictures for this trip, but as I wrote this, Doug Sutton posted the pictures he took of the weekend, and they are so much better than mine (very nice Nikon SLR vs. camera phone), that I have to use his.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I've been busy.  Since I last wrote, I found employment as an administrative staff member at a local marketing company.  On top of that, I went to visit my family down near Columbus one weekend, we had a group of friends in town another weekend, and David and I took a joint private dance lesson from Mike "the Girl" Legett and Dan Rosenthal.  Also, this coming weekend we are attending Mile High Blues in Denver.

The job is going well.  The people I work with are really fun and the office is very open and surrounded by windows, so there's lots of sunlight.  I feel pretty comfortable with my work; it's similar to my last job in a lot of ways, and I'm getting a fair hand on the parts that are new and different.

Visiting my family was really nice.  I went down to volunteer for Rick and Rose's Destination Imagination competition. DI is a creative problem-solving competition that helps kids develop skills in creativity, problem-solving, teamwork, time management, and project management.  Rick's team placed first in their division, and will be going on to the state tournament next month.

Elizabeth also volunteered for the tournament (every team had to bring a volunteer).  She and I got to spend that evening back at her place where we curled up with some cups of tea and pretended for a couple of hours like we still get to live near each other.  It was so wonderful to see her; it makes me sad that we don't see each other as often now that I'm in Cleveland.

And we celebrated Rose's ninth birthday at Coco Key - the local indoor water park.  Elizabeth joined us for the party as well. The party was on Sunday night, so the girls were able to have the place mostly to themselves.  (It is so incredibly weird to realize that Rose is nine.  And Rick is nearly eleven!  When did they get to be so old?!) 

The weekend David and I hosted a group of friends who are also local-ish dancers was bucket-loads of fun. We hung out at our apartment and talked, drank, and watched movies (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and Despicable Me), which is something we don't often get to do since we are typically too busy dancing. We also went to Wooster's new monthly dance, which was particularly neat for me because I went to school there (when there was no swing club and definitely no blues dancing).  Fenna also attended the dance and took some incredible pictures.

And she took photos at a dance that David and I attended in February.  

 Which brings us to David and I taking a lesson together.  It may have been the best thing that's ever happened to our dancing as a couple.  Something about the way we danced was fighting each other, and Mike and Dan worked with us both separately and together. We started out with David and I working with both Mike and Dan, and then I went with Mike and David worked with Dan.  Then we switched instructor/student pairs so that I was working with Dan and David with Mike. At the end, we came back together and worked as four again. The result is a clearer connection that is more comfortable for both of us.

I have a theory, of which I am rapidly growing more and more fond, that the key to improving your dancing is direct feedback and an open mind.  Because I am about to slam large group workshops, I want to be very clear that I am NOT saying that private lessons are necessary.  All you need is someone or someones to work with, with an open, stated understanding that constructive criticism will be given and received.  There are a lot of ways to achieve this, but I am very certain that workshop classes don't cut it.  Instructors cannot (or will not) say to a specific person that they are or are not doing something, and group criticism generally won't do the trick.  More often than not the result of a mass correction is that people who needed the criticism think they're doing it right and don't correct it and people who were doing fine start to over-correct.

BUT - if you take what you learned in said workshop and bring it to your friends with a "let's see if we're doing this right" approach, you can work through it and make sure that the move/ connection exercise/ stylization/ alignment/ whatever is turning out correctly (or at least in a way that is not uncomfortable for anyone involved).

This, then, is why David and I had such an incredible lesson.  We gave each other feedback, Mike and Dan gave us feedback (both from watching us dance and from dancing with us), and between the four of us we worked through several major issues in our dance. 

On that fabulous note, David and I are going to head out this weekend to Denver for the Mile High Blues exchange.  More words when I return.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Roots 2011, Seattle

Roots: A Solo Movement Workshop was, in fact, a workshop for solo movement, particularly swing and blues solo movement.  The idea behind the workshop title is that swing and blues came from the African American community, with roots in African dance.  So we took classes from African dance instructors in the morning, had a class designed to bridge African and swing/Charleston/blues together after lunch, and then swing solo or blues solo classes in the afternoon. Social dances in the evenings were not scheduled by the workshop organizers because the focus of the weekend was on the classes, and we needed to get a reasonable amount of sleep.  However, there were plenty of events going on in the city over the weekend, and we attended dance events both Saturday and Sunday evenings.

The classes were really interesting and well taught.  Of the African classes, I think my favorite was the second (and slower) class taught by Sarah Lee.  At the end of each class during the weekend, the instructor did a demonstration that we could video.  Here's the video from the end of Sarah Lee's class.  No, no one but her looked this good.  But we tried.

She brought drummers with her. They were awesome.  Actually, that may have been the most interesting part of the lesson -- Sarah Lee talked about how the drummers signal when she moves on to a different part of the dance; it's an interaction between dancers and drummers. And she never just started dancing; she always waited until the music indicated she should begin.  It was really hard for us to pick out the break indicated by the drumming, even though they played it for us several times.

The African instructor on Saturday, Etienne, is from Benin, and taught by showing, rather than telling. While it was definitely a different way for most of us to learn, it was interesting because it's how blues and swing used to be taught/learned (according to Mike Falsek, our Saturday afternoon swing solo movement instructor.)

Mike's classes were well taught and interesting.  The first class broke down different movements: boogie back, boogie forward, Charleston, Susie Qs, falling off the log, etc.  The second class was a vintage solo routine that incorporated some of those moves and some additional moves (and transitions).  

There was also a raffle for charity that had some serious prizes (tickets to upcoming events) and some fun prizes (a shimmy from Joy, a "sexy dance" from John).  David was the winner of several of these, including tickets to an event in December and Miles juggling five balls.  Another girl won a shoulder ride from Miles.

I seriously regret to say that I cannot post the video of John doing his sexy dance as I promised him that I would not.  Once I figure out how to send it to him, I will try to obtain his permission to post it.

I also am unable to post Joy's shimmy (David won this, too, and was beet red throughout), because I mis-filmed it and only captured the applause at the end.
We did also manage to see a number of the sights in Seattle while we were there.  David and I visited the Seattle Space Needle on Friday evening, where, in addition to taking some neat photos (see the opening photo of the Needle), I bought Ted for David - a posable, break-dancing fusion robot.

And John, David, and I visited Pike Place Market and the first Starbucks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sparx 2011, Cleveland

Sparx is hosted by Case Western Reserve University's swing club.  This year's event included some excellent instructors for classes during the day, two evening dances, a late night, and a Sunday afternoon farewell dance.  

This was my first time getting to host people for a dance event.  And, boy, did we host -- we had fourteen people, including our two selves, in our two bedroom, one bathroom apartment.  Seven folks crashed on air mattresses and the couch in the living room, five people slept on air mattresses in the den, and David and I, of course, were in our room.  Fortunately we are all regular dance event attendees, so everyone did just fine with the crowded quarters.  We had a sign-up sheet for shower-time, and we car-pooled to minimize parking problems. 

The best part of the weekend was breakfast. David and I arranged breakfast for everyone both days.  Saturday was a light breakfast: monkey bread fresh from the local bakery (picked up by the amazing, morning-tastic David), toast, assorted juices, and a tropical dried-fruit salad.  Sunday was the big breakfast: sausage, bacon, rosemary-potato quiche, English muffins, sweet potato homefries with a light dusting of cinnamon, and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Flapjacks.  The pancakes - in 8 flavors - were David's brainchild.  We had cinnamon, vanilla, peppermint, lemon, cranberry, chipotle chile, double chocolate, and bacon. The bacon pancakes were made with homemade bacon extract and didn't come out precisely the way we hoped, but they were fun to make and try.  

Also, we did a lot of dancing that weekend.  The floor in Adelbert gym was full all weekend long. Saturday night the Sparx committee brought in Baby Soda from New York to play for us. The energy on the floor started out a little slow, but soon enough it picked up and everyone had a swingin' night.  

I also made a point of enjoying my time off the dance floor chatting with follows.  Any dancer will tell you that follows have trouble meeting follows and leads have trouble meeting leads, because follows dance with leads and vice versa.  But while guys are nice and all, it's definitely good to have girl friends, too.  So I decided at the beginning of the weekend that any time I wasn't dancing could be put to good use socializing.  It was a fabulous decision, because I had just as wonderful a time chatting with other follows as I had dancing.  I spent some time with good friends, but I also got to know some acquaintances better.  A side effect which I hadn't anticipated (but which made perfect sense) was that chatting during dance breaks kept my energy and engagement up while I wasn't dancing.

Photo credits go to Nathaniel Allen and Sara Franklin

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I love my hair.  It's wavy and full, fabulous, and totally not under my control. I've been growing it out for seven or eight years now, and I loved the length -- right up until about three weeks ago when I just got so tired of pulling it out of my way.  It was heavy when up and everywhere when down, and I got to be so annoyed with it that I threatened to shave my head (which would have looked REALLY awful).  

Finally, I said to David, "I'm going to cut my hair short." And he said, "Ok."

"Really?  You're ok with that?  I thought you really liked my hair?"

"Yeah, I like your hair.  I'll like it short, too.  In fact, I think it'll be really cute."


Obviously in the "after" picture my hair is straight, which my fabulous stylist did just to help with the cutting.  It remains full and wavy -- I just don't have a photo of it yet. 

EDIT: Here it is curly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Boston Adventures, January 2011 - Part 3

Boston Fusion Exchange, January 7-9, 2011

I was sick for a large portion of BFX, so I missed some of this.  But this is what BFX was.

Iconic Movement: Class demo

Mario Robau and Debra Szekely: Performance at Saturday Late Night

Barry Douglas: On the dance floor

Orville Zharoff and Kelly Howard: End of class demonstration

BFX Attendees: In the airport

Monday, January 17, 2011

Boston Adventures, January 2011 - Part 2

Brenda and Barry's Intensive Dance Workshop, January 3-6, 2011

With brilliance and creativity that knows no bounds, I call this: The Orange Room. The Orange Room is also known as the medium studio at Springstep, a dance studio in Medford (Boston), MA, with an unusual design and excellent facilities.  David and I joined nine other students and two instructors - Brenda Russell and Barry Douglas - in The Orange Room for four days of workshops that looked beyond the "what" of dance into the "how" and "why".

Brenda's website describes the workshop: 
We cover many subjects, such as: body awareness, posture and alignment, strength and flexibility training, base movements for blues, African dance, African-American Jazz, isolations, turns, rhythms, advanced movement drills, choreography, dips and tricks, competition, performance, teaching, community building, integrity and leadership.
For me, the focus of the classes was on using body awareness, posture and alignment, and movement from the core to achieve all the other things she lists. I liked that the class was so focused on such basic things; to me you have to have your your basics right before anything else will improve, and when you fix your basics, the rest follows.  (I am also convinced that this is generally true for most things in life.)

Lessons were scheduled at the dance studio during the day, 9:30am to 6:00pm, but often we covered additional optional material in the evenings back at the hotel.  We also tried to get in some social time at the hotel where we were all staying.  

In the hotel lobby Wednesday night, we were hanging out by the bar and Barry showed the group a trick for remembering a particular move.  (I am off to the left of the picture, still at the bar, deep in conversation with a tango instructor.) That was a particularly fun night. We danced in the lobby of the hotel to the music on a nearby laptop, we talked and all had a couple of drinks, and as the evening continued instructors began arriving for the weekend, so our group grew in size. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Boston Adventures, January 2011 - Part 1

New Year's Eve, December 31, 2010

We flew into Boston a few days early so we could attend their New Year's Eve Gala. It was a lovely night of dancing to the sounds of Shawn Hershey and the Fried Bananas and guest vocalist Jan Marie, hosted by Boston Swing Central. Jan Marie, in addition to being fabulous company and a very talented dancer, has an unbelievable voice.  (I told her at dinner a few nights later that she may look like a small white girl, but it is evident from her voice that she is in fact a large black woman.) David and I got all dressed up for the occasion in black and green, but we unfortunately completely failed to get a photo of ourselves.

The evening also had a short break for some entertainment: The Harlem Hobos

The Boston Museum of Science, January 2, 2011

Saturday - New Year's Day - we spent with Grayden and Koren, who were hosting us for the night.  We hung out in their kitchen, partaking of an excellent breakfast, courtesy of Koren's housemate, Phil, and Phil's friend, Tasha.  After breakfast there was a long period of iPad fascination and chit-chat that culminated in evening plans that never happened.  Instead of exploring downtown Boston, David and I explored a hotel swimming pool and some really terrible pizza.  I highly recommend a heated swimming pool and pizza as a post-New-Year's-Eve-in-Boston activity. 

On Sunday we had brunch at Jacob Wirth, well known for their beer selection and their chowder, both of which turned out to be excellent.  

After lunch we were torn between visiting the Robotics exhibit at MIT, the Natural History Museum at Harvard, the New England Aquarium, and/or the Boston Museum of Science. It was a really tough call (yes, I know; we're geeks), and we had originally hoped to get to two of them, but a late start meant we had to pick only one.  In the end, we decided on the science museum.

We saw neat exhibits on M.C. Escher, optical illusions, the senses, light, and math.

In the first one, the reds are both the same color and the blues are both the same color.  In the second one you have to pick out the one + or O that is not like the others. If you click on the image, you should be able to view the larger image.

When you click the button on any side of this box, the shape(s) hanging on that side dip into the soap solution below and come up with bubbles in the shape. I actually didn't read what mathematical hoopla this proved or demonstrated, because I was so fascinated with the shapes the bubbles made. 

There was a lot of cool stuff in the math exhibit; even though I don't particularly care for math, the machines and demonstrations were very impressive.  David particularly enjoyed the probability illustration: balls were dropped from the center top of the box, and they fell randomly through the pegs to create a bell curve. [Quote on the probability box: "The theory of probability is nothing more than good sense confirmed by calculation."]