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."]