Review: Ravercise ‘the original underground fitness mashup’

Described on their website as ‘the original underground fitness mashup’ I was intrigued to know what ‘Ravercise’ was all about.  What could this class offer which was different or unique to that of Zumba, Bokwa or even a work-out at the gym.

Rave music emerged in the late 1980s, as an off-shoot to House music.  Taking this concept as its starting point, this new innovative work-out dance craze seems to be on the verge of something explosive and it is exciting to see it in its initial stages.  By mixing repetitive, edgy ‘cool’ movements with the synthesised sounds of ‘drum n bass’ it evokes high-intensity, sweat and well more sweat.

When I went to a class it was originally located in the Firefly Bar in St Paul’s, however, since then the class has moved locations and is now in Shoreditch at the Mother Bar.  Choosing to locate the sessions in a club, offers an alternative to the usual dance studios and gyms, encouraging ‘ravers’ to think less about it as being a class, but a ‘healthy midweek rave’.   What is refreshing about the venue is the absence of mirrors, unlike a gym, where every turn presents an opportunity to see how ghastly you look with sweat dripping down your face or earnestly trying to match the intensity of the woman or man beside you.  This environment allowed me to work out at my own rate and the music revived my determination to pull through when I thought I was beginning to lag.

The session starts with a warm up and the format includes several ‘routines’ with an opportunity to stop briefly in between to take a necessary water break.  Before each routine the instructor briefly takes the participants through the movements and then the DJ begins.

The website is insightful offering their potential audience a chance to hear the music which is played throughout the session, as well as, an exclusive video demonstrating excerpts of movement included in the class.  Check out their video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLW4Fx35zks

Currently, the class uses drum and bass music which works well, as the fast, hypnotic music conduces focused high-energy movements to match the mood.

The highlight of the class for me was the presence of the live DJ and the ‘famous endorphin fuelled skank-out’ which draws the session to an end.  Those attending are given the opportunity to literally skank-out, let loose, ‘freak out’, and dance whilst the DJ brings a new mix to the table.   What could potentially be an embarrassing moment for some was concealed by the low lights and club environment and everyone was dancing full out, even if they were just copying the instructor.

The class happens twice a week Mondays and Thursdays in Shoreditch, costing £11.50 for one session lasting one hour.  If you book more sessions together there is a price reduction and it is encouraged to book in advance to secure your spot.  If you want something which will burn the calories, revive your energy after a long day at work, this is the work-out for you.

For more details about classes visit their website at http://www.ravercise.me/

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Dance in Budapest

Arrivals 

DSCN6013

The aeroplane touches down in Budapest.  I walk with anticipation to ‘arrivals’ to be met by a small cluster of taxi drivers all holding up the names of those passengers they have come to collect.  Resting my eyes on each name I suddenly see my name peering at me in highlighted pen, written in a boyish manner, unlike the perfectly printed out letters of an impersonal computer from the signs of other taxi drivers.  I acknowledge the driver signalling that I am the girl he has come to collect and we walk to the taxi.   

Foreign Eyes On Foreign Lands

It’s a fifteen minute drive to the hotel and I don’t know where to look.  I begin to soak up the dark consuming streets of Budapest, reading the alien words on the billboards and chuckling to myself that there is a Tesco’s supermarket here.  It is hard to describe the feeling of being in a new place – knowing that you are exactly 1136.17 miles away from home.   Exhilaration.  Anticipation.  Excitement.  Fear. 

Searching For Salsa

At the hotel, it’s a quick shower and change before heading out clutching in my hands my Google map hoping that it will lead me to my destination of Szilvuple, located on Ó u. 33, Budapest VI.  Before coming to Budapest I knew that I would have one evening in the big city and thought that I may go to a club or bar or crossing my mind that even walking the streets towards the glow of the Chain Bridge by the river, however, I reasoned that as a lone traveller I should be more cautious and stick to what I know.  During my dissertation period at University, turning up to a new salsa club alone across London for the sake of research was a normal occurrence and therefore, taking it that one step further in a foreign city seemed far from daunting.  The likelihood of finding a salsa dance venue on a Monday night I felt was too ambitious, especially one which would be located near enough to my hotel so that I could walk there, however, I came across Szilvuple on http://www.salsacrazy.com/salsa-europe/budapest-salsa-clubs-and-classes/ and was even more surprised to find that they hold social salsa every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening.   Stepping out into the night, feeling the rain on my back I walk towards Király u. hoping that I am taking the right turn.  It is not before long, that I already begin to think that I am lost, showing little faith in my ability to read maps.  Luckily, an older Hungarian lady feels sympathy for this lost, wet tourist whose map has turned into mush from the rain and points to the church ahead which will lead me to Nagymező u.   As I strut down the road I walk past the Moulin Rouge Dance Club half expecting  Christian and Satine, also known as Ewan McGregor and Nicola Kidman, to come out and belt a rendition of ‘Come What May’ down the street. 

Destination Unknown

Finally I reach my destination: a small bar located down a side street and pay a few forints to enter.   It is apparent that some people are wondering who I am but at the end of the room I can see some people dancing Rueda in a circle and aim straight for them eventually finding a seat.  As I sit there, it becomes apparent that here in Budapest they dance Cuban salsa, as couples circle one another.  It seems bizarre that I am miles away from England and yet dancing salsa and how people interact with each other on the dance floor seems exactly the same.  Most people there were middle-aged with a balance of men and women attending and there was the usual small handful of younger people which sums up the usual demographic in England too.   I feel like I am at home as I wait to be asked to dance and  yet beyond the dance floor people are conversing in Hungarian and listening to the Spanish lyrics of familiar salsa tunes.  A few men unknowingly start talking to me in Hungarian but my Hungarian is practically limited to ‘köszönöm’ which is only useful when you have finished dancing with them and the usual ‘thank-yous’ are exchanged to show your appreciation for the dance.   Luckily, however, after the initial embarrassment of saying ‘I am English’ all of the dance partners were able to speak English allowing for some conversation. 

The Dancing

Getting down to the dancing, in my first dance, I feel a bit rusty in my Cuban style salsa and I find it difficult to understand his lead even wondering if we are dancing on the same beat.   But eventually after some persistence and not giving into my temptation to lead the dance, which usually occurs if things become awkward, it turns out to be a good introduction to salsa in Hungary. Usually, when I go dancing in England there are a handful of very good technical male leads, and although through observation I didn’t feel that there was the same number of dancers up to that standard, the dancers certainly made up for it in enthusiasm which I believe in the end is the key to an enjoyable dance in the social scene.  The dancers showed their ability to dance and improvise on their own, echoing my foot patterns in our brief moments apart, and turning me multiple times.  Of course, this is only an observation from one place, on one evening, for a couple of hours and therefore, this may not reflect the whole salsa scene in Budapest.  As the hour draws to 10:00pm the small, intimate club starts to fill up with dancers making their moves in all areas of the bar.  After a few more dances, I decide that I should head back to my hotel, as even though the place seems welcoming and friendly, there is only so much fun you can have when you are on your own, knowing no one in a place where everyone speaks another language. 

National Dance In Budapest

DSCN6011On my travels on the Tuesday, I finished my walking tour by Fisherman’s Bastion and try to make my way to Váci Street with my trusty Google Map again and I realise for a second time I am not sure where I am going.  I make my way back to Buda Castle and am drawn to the attention of a yellow building which says ‘Nemzeti Tancszinhaz’ and have a strong notion that this a dance centre.  I wander in, picking up leaflets all in Hungarian with no hope of understanding them, but getting the sense that contemporary, national, and ballet dance is performed here.  From my array of leaflets I was keen to find out about an up and coming dance festival which will be held at the ‘Nemzeti Tancszinhaz’ from April 20th-29th and found this website below very helpful in giving me an insight into the dance work which is accessible to Budapest citizens.

http://budapesttancfesztival.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=131&Itemid=220

The program of the festival includes a mix of international companies, such as, ‘Group Corpo’ from Brazil, ‘Company Fabrik Potsdam’ from Germany and the Czech South Bohemian Ballet, as well as, Hungarian national dance groups. 

If my travels had allowed for it I would have loved to have visited this place again and watched some live dance, because that is what is so beautiful and powerful about dance. It transcends language.   As quoted on the website referred to above : ‘The universal language of dance, which brings the body’s knowledge alive.’

 

 

‘Havana Rumba!’ Review

Every summer since 2009, the Udderbelly Festival returns to the Southbank centre supplying the capital with a range of circus, comedy, cabaret and theatre acts.  Originating from Cowgate, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the unusual inflatable upside down purple cow theatre brings in 2012 over 60 different acts and events to whet the appetite of Londoners.  Headlining acts include ‘Havana Rumba!’ and ‘The Vocal Orchestra’ ideal for the perfect family outing in the city and with early bird tickets as cheap as £10, this festival offers affordable entertainment for all.

Having seen ‘Brazil! Brazil!’ back in 2010 as part of the Udderbelly Festival, I was keen to see how Toby Gough the producer of the hit West End show ‘Salsa Lady’, ‘Brazil! Brazil!’ and now ‘Havana Rumba!’ would create this intimate Cuban salsa show. 

Though there doesn’t seem to be a concrete story or narrative, the show aims to educate the audience about Cuba, reflecting on the golden age of the 1950s music and dance in Havana and on occasion referring to the communist regime’s effect on the people and their lifestyle. 

Stand out performances come from the sensational, electric Cuban salsa band Sonara La Calle who provide the rhythms and party atmosphere for the show and of course the living legend ‘Eric Turro “El Maestro”, the King of traditional Cuban Dance and star of Buena Vista Social Club’ (Udderbelly Festival) who oozes buckets of charisma, charm and class showing the younger generation how it’s done.

Eric Turro Martinez is partly responsible for introducing traditional Cuban dance to the stage with the global success of The Bar at Buena Vista’ and through his performance in ‘Havana Rumba!’ the audience are given an fresh insight into the creativity that was apparent during the 1940s-1950s when the Buena Vista Social Club was in full swing.  Despite the Buena Vista Social Club being no longer in existence, through Turro the audience is transformed back to that era of Havana’s history as he dazzles the audience with his creative partner work, lunging and falling unexpectedly into the arms of another dancer, dancing with three women at once and spinning rapidly like a torpedo.

Alongside him each male dancer brings his own flair and current movement quality to the dance floor captivating the audience with their individual tricks, shimmies, and quick footwork.  The ‘typical’ characterisation of female stereotypes does lack creativity at times with the female dancers portrayed as the usual sexy and irresistible type there to flirt, dally and appease their fellow male cast members; however their performances are solid and slick.  Despite this minor point, the cast are welcoming and the show offers a light hearted, crowd pleasing night and their involvement with the crowd and non-stop energy certainly brought a smile to my face. 

Written by J.E. Bridge

‘The quality and exuberance of the dancing is staggering. Havana Rumba! offers an exhilarating and infectious slice of today’s Cuba.’ ***** (The Scotsman)

‘Like a two-week, sun drenched holiday in Havana….blatantly sexy, sweaty, bootyshaking glory’ **** (Metro)

Havanarumbatheshow.com

Follow on Twitter @HavanaRumbaShow Find on Facebook: HavanaRumbaShow

To book tickets check out the Udderbelly Website at http://www.udderbelly.co.uk/ or contact the box office on 0844 545 8282

Dancing with a Stranger

Walking with a stranger, as we enter the floor.

Unsure of what might happen,

as we listen to the rhythm of the music.

 

Waiting for his lead, yet unable to read,

his gestures, his movements, his way

Does he want me to stay?

Whilst he moves, spins and sways.

 

Yet time is on our side.

 

With the music minutes to go,

and the beginning of moving as one starts the show

as he pulls my hand towards him I know.

What direction he is saying,

What game he is playing,

with my mind and my being,

close my eyes, to feel the movement without seeing.

 

Dancing with a stranger, as we move across the floor.

Unsure of what might happen,

as I listen to the rhythm of his soul.

 

Written by J.E Bridge

Salsa and the City

In the 1990s salsa dancing exploded onto the London dance scene following the earlier success of Lambada, a Brazilian dance form made famous by Kaoma’s number one chart song ‘Lambada’ (Goethals, 1990,3) which was recently sampled in Jennifer Lopez’s chart hit ‘On The Floor’.

Due to its popularity many salsa dance classes, Latin bars and venues opened, offering people the chance to learn this new coupled dance form.  Latin themed bars, such as, Bar Salsa (March, 1993), Bar Cuba (January, 1992) and Bar Rumba (September, 1993) (Román -Velázquez, 1999, 86) opened in the capital and currently in London today, Salsa still remains popular and dominant, with many bars and classes still accessible and present in the city.

One can find salsa classes every night of the week at a variety of different venues and in all parts of London.  www.londonsalsa.co.uk is a great salsa dance online resource, which gives salsa enthusiasts information about the latest salsa classes, congresses, workshops and teachers in London.

Though I have danced salsa at a number of different venues across London, recently I decided to visit Tito’s Latin Bar in London Bridge to experience and observe Cubaneando’s salsa classes.  Cubaneando focuses on Cuban style salsa and when I arrived at the bar for the social dancing there were two circles formed on the dance floor.  Rueda de Casino is a type of Salsa originating from Havana, Cuba in the 1950s. It is distinct from any other form of salsa with the couples forming a circle and during the dance a caller says a command which is then echoed through the dancers’ bodies, dictating their direction, movement and partner.

Whist attending salsa classes at Tracie’s Latin Club in Southampton, I was able to participate in a Rueda de Casino and was blown away at how fun and exciting they are, anticipating what the caller might say, responding quickly to their direction, changing partners and laughing at the comical movements which are sometimes performed.

Rueda de Casino and Cuban style salsa is taught at Cubanendos’s on a Friday night at Tito’s Latin Bar, which is in walking distance from London Bridge station.  Classes cater for beginners to advanced level costing £8 for one class, £12 for two classes.  When I arrived at the bar, the classes were well attended and once the social dancing had  begun the dance floor was full to the maximum.  Despite at times lack of space to dance, this demonstrates how  popular their classes are and there was a genuine sense of community between the teachers and dancers as two female dancers who were celebrating their birthday were treated to a tradition of several male dancers taking in turns to dance with them.

Another company, Salsa Caribe Productions which describes itself as ‘London’s leading promoters of authentic Cuban salsa’ also offer Cuban salsa two days of the week.  Sunday includes Cuban Salsa and Rueda de Casino classes for elementary to advanced level dancers at The Place in Euston and on a Monday night located ideally next to Highbury and Islington tube station Cuban salsa is taught at the Buffalo Bar.

If you would like to know more information about Cuban Salsa and Rueda de Casino please follow any of the links below.

Written by  J.E  Bridge

http://www.cubaneando.com/

http://www.salsacaribe.co.uk/

http://www.jumpanddance.com/newpage9.htm

Goethals, Henry and Douglas Mercado (1990) ‘Flash dance of the 1990s’ Americas, 42, no.3, May, 3

Román -Velázquez, Patria (1999) The Making of Latin London: Salsa Music, place and identity, Aldeshot: Ashgate

Extracts from a Beginner……

The two Capoeiristas crouch at one end of the roda, they shake hands and begin by performing what appears to be a grounded cartwheel into the middle of the space which is dictated by those observing their game.
They begin to play.  Eyes fixed on the other.
Ginga takes form, yet is brief as the players find their moment to outsmart the other,
Imprinting their hands and feet into the atmosphere whilst dodging and ducking to take cover.
Brief moments of contact occur, yet beauty and artistry is achieved when two Capoeiristas are able to move fluidly around one another so closely that contact seems inevitable and yet is not discovered.
Transitions are seamless, moving effortlessly from standing to inverted figures of strength and discipline,
Passing through movements I have seen and tried and yet I cannot simulate the same water-like flow they achieve.
Practice, Practice, they say, memorising those foreign words into my mind, into my body.
Negativa, ‘Ess-kee-vah’, Negativa, Esquiva, Negativa, Esquiva, Negativa, Esquiva………………..
Until it feels right.
Until it sits right.
And now it’s my turn.
And I feel sorry for my opponent, as my mind kicks in and those nerves sit within.
Ginga takes form, yet is brief as my mind blanks and all I can see is this foot coming towards my face and in my disgrace I dash to the floor, hoping it will swallow me up from this place.
And yet we continue?
Finding my flow.  Finding comfort from the sound of the bow.
That mesmerising pulse, which resonates to the core, taking me on a journey where I haven’t been before.
And despite my embarrassment,
I want to go back, to play Capoeira and master my attack,
To lose all inhibitions, to take a risk, to react to the rhythm, to learn what it is to live.

Capoeira

This week I have chosen to write about my experience of playing Capoeira.  Over the past month, I have been attending classes and I wanted to explore my writing skills by choosing to write this next post a little differently.