Sunday, 15 September 2013

Mambo con Rumbo CD launch

This weekend saw the launch of my favourite salsa band, Mambo con Rumbo's debut album.

With the creative and musical talent of the people involved, it sounds pretty awesome.

With the help of my clever crocheting, a few Mambo Delight shoe bags and a clever photographer it looks pretty awesome too.  Here are some photos to prove it (if you want confirmation of the awesome sounds then you'll have to download or order it from the Mambo con Rumbo shop).

The album cover

Crocheted Adam and the inside cover

Band leader, Adam Parnell pointing himself out on the poster

Sunday, 17 March 2013

What a difference a badge makes

Last year I got into the habit of practicing shines (solo footwork) on the side of the social dance floor with one of my friends whenever we were both out at salsa together.  Occasionally one other person might come and join us for a song - but we'd often spend up to half of our night practising the same thing over and over again.

One day my shine friend went to New York for three months (to learn more shines, obviously) and I was all on my own.  Without him to spur me on, I didn't shine as much but I kind of missed it so I started recruiting for more shine friends. By the time he got back, there were four of us who were regulars and we'd started referring to ourselves as Shine Club.

When you have four dancers in a line, doing the same shine at the side of the dance floor or showing each other the latest cool thing we spotted on YouTube, it attracts a bit of attention, so we eventually got a couple more of our friends wanting to be a part of the crowd.  With more members, we got more variety - incorporating Palladium Mambo, Cha cha cha and Pachanga into our growing collection of shines.

Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.  But as it turns out, badges are even better.

Last week I received 20 Shine Club badges, which I'd been meaning to have made for a while.  I only had six people to give them to, but I thought a few spares would be useful, because other people might want to join in one day.

It turns out that badges are even better than peer pressure for getting people to join in. Today I only have 9 left.

Of course, those who came to play because they wanted a badge have been warned: if they fail to carry out their duty as shine ambassadors, their badge will be revoked. And then they'd have nothing to attach to their Mambo Delight shoe bag!

So, why not take up the Shine Club challenge to learn something new?  

I'd also be interested to know:

Badge related questions

  • Do you customise your shoe bag with badges or other additions? What are they?
  • What dance related badge would go down well in your scene?
Shine related questions

  • Do you have a 'Shine club' on your salsa/other dance scene?
  • What are your favourite styles/shines?
  • What YouTube shine videos have inspired you?

Add your comments below to let me know.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Red and Black

I've noticed from the photos that have been popping up on Facebook this week, that red and black were all the rage for Valentines themed parties.

As we all know, it's really cool to turn up late to a party, so here is my contribution to the Valentines theme:
View on Etsy
It's reversible, so you get to choose whether you want red or black. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Review: Salsa at the Engine Shed

Ever since my most recent trip to the Engine Shed in Wetherby, I've been undecided about whether to post a review.  I know that, while my opinion isn't shared by everyone, it is shared by at least 10 people (that I know of) - and at £10 per entry that's at least £100 worth of revenue to the event.  I suspect there are are at least twice as many who weren't there for exactly the reasons I will describe below.

On the one hand I fully respect local promoters and the time and effort they put into keeping regular dance nights going... but on the other hand I'm a paying customer who doesn't really get a whole lot out of going there - and last Friday night I certainly didn't get £10 worth.

I have been going to the Engine Shed on and off for a couple of years now, and while I know a huge amount of people who can't get enough, I've never been a big fan. I go there because my friends do. If there's nothing better to do on a Friday night.

Salsa at the Shed happens on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month. As a venue, you couldn't ask for more - free parking, two lovely wooden dance floors, a bar and great lighting and sound. For £10 you get a class, a buffet, usually a show and an evening of social dancing - which sounds like a dream.

Unfortunately, if you're not interested in the class and arrive too late to take advantage of the buffet as I usually do, it still costs £10 - which makes for an expensive night compared to many other social nights that come in at £5 - £8 for the evening.

The people are lovely, welcoming and friendly.  It's slightly follower heavy - as are most events in the area, so if you're a follower, you'll probably need to ask the guys to dance - but that's totally normal.

There are a lot of fabulous dancers who would call themselves regulars - so no complaints there.

Where it loses me is the music.  If you're a serious salsa dancer (which I'm told I am) then you're probably a fan of 'serious' salsa music.  Or just salsa music. So when I'm greeted with an entire night of latin-pop crossovers, bossa novas, bachatas and funk tracks, I'm not really getting what I paid for.  As one friend said "If this wasn't advertised as a salsa night, it would be quite good."

Last time I went, my two best dances of the night were tangos, to bachata tracks. On a salsa night.

I don't mind a few of the more pop-py tracks being played now and then, (and I've been known to enjoy the odd bachata) but they don't inspire me to dance. In small doses, they don't ruin my night, but I do need 'proper' salsa music to make it a really good night.  That's what inspires me to dance. When you're coming off the floor after a dance with some of your favourite leaders and saying 'Thanks. That was... average.' you know that there's something wrong.

On last Friday night there were at least £100 worth of salsa dancers who weren't very happy. That's £100 worth of salsa dancers who only go once in a while, because they don't know that they'll enjoy it when they do go.  £100 worth of salsa dancers who would maybe part with their hard earned cash when there is a guest DJ who they know by reputation playing, and there was nothing else on. £100 worth of salsa dancers who are too worried about hurting feelings/egos to say anything.

£100 worth of salsa dancers who might go every fortnight if they just liked the music.

Just saying...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Salsa* Survival Kits

*Also available for other kinds of dances. 

I've been toying with the idea of making Salsa Survival Kits to sell for quite a long time now.

This weekend I finally got my act together and had a go at making one for a friend's birthday present (This one matches the shoe bag that another friend bought from me to give to the same person)

It's a miniature version of the shoe bags I make, equipped with all those little things that you find come in really handy on a salsa night (if you're a girl):

  • Talc, for extra spin
  • Deodorant for extra freshness
  • Hand gel for extra hygiene
  • Chocolate bar for extra energy
  • Chewing gum for minty fresh breath
  • Hair grips for hair emergencies
  • Plasters for sore feet emergencies
  • Safety pins for clothing emergencies

For the enthusiastic beginner, they help you to be prepared for your first nights out dancing in the clubs.  For the more experienced dancer, they help you keep all of your little extras in one place. (If you're anything like me, you're forever transferring bits and pieces from one shoe bag to another, and losing things in the process.)

There are still a few aspects of the idea to iron out -which is why, my dancing readers I have some questions for you:

Girls - what would be in your Salsa Survival Kit?

Boys - what would be in your Salsa Survival Kit?

If you were to buy a kit, would you prefer it to be fully stocked, or would you prefer to 'create your own' (i.e. you choose and buy the contents, I provide the bag and the label)?

As always - don't wait for me to start putting pictures up on my Facebook page or Etsy shop -  what with a full time job and two Open University modules on the go, I don't have a lot of time to be proactive in making stuff so if you want one, just ask!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

On Being Tangoed

Last Saturday I spent the day in a studio in Roecliffe learning how to be better at tango. 

Adam, from White Rose Tango has been running all-day tango workshops for over three years now. I started my tango adventure in that very same studio after he talked me into giving it a go through the power of Smilies and exclamation marks on Facebook chat. (After all, who can resist such a round yellow face? – the Smiley’s, not Adam’s).

After a few years of offering the workshops at two levels – basics and improvers, he has changed the format of the improvers course to be ‘basics plus.’

Anyone who has had the ‘pleasure’ of learning tango will be acutely aware that even tasks as ‘basic’ as walking – something that we do every single day of our lives are actually quite difficult when you have another person glued to your frame. You shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that just because you’ve been dancing tango for years, you won’t get anything out of a course with the word ‘basic’ in it. 

The day itself is split into four hour long sessions, liberally sprinkled with breaks, cakes and cups of tea.

In the basics course, the sessions get progressively more difficult throughout the day.

The basics plus course starts with a revision of the most complex fourth lesson of the basics and goes on from there.  In basics plus, you get to push your skills further with different figures and more building blocks of tango such as sandwich steps, the ocho cortado, and even a little bit of a colgada by the end of the day.  With two teachers and a maximum of 10 people for the group you certainly get a lot more personal feedback and find out exactly what you can do to make your dancing even more brillianter than it already is.

Spending a whole day breathing, dancing and talking tango certainly has its benefits –  instead of having to digest and process all of the million and one things you need to improve in an hour (the length of a normal lesson), you get to be told about them again and again until your body starts to behave itself.  Or not.

If nothing else you have a fun day out in delightful and relaxed company, and go home with a smile on your face. And a very long list of things to fix.  If that’s not worth £50, I don’t know what is!

If you fancy starting from scratch, or honing your skills, hop on over to the White Rose Tango website to find out how to book yourself a place on the next course.

Thursday, 31 January 2013


A couple of years ago, our salsa teachers used to split men and women at the start of class to warm up with shines. While us ladies learnt to be elegant and to spin fast, I couldn't help but notice that the men were learning to simultaneously bounce and glide across the floor. While I was learning to look pretty, they were learning to look cool.

I soon found out that they were doing was learning Pachanga.

The most I could manage in imitation was a comedy jerky movement which I quickly abandoned.  It turned out that Pachanga was impossible.  A class with Adolfo Indacochea at the GBSex pre-party and another with Melissa Rosado at Mambo City a few months later did nothing to convince me otherwise.  (Though I'm blatantly name dropping now, at the time I had no idea that I was attempting to learn from some of the pachanga greats!)

In spite of my promises to myself, fresh from a congress, camera fully loaded with clips from classes I’d taken, I never did study the videos from those classes in great detail, and so I never managed to crack that elusive pachanga.

At the Berlin salsa congress it all changed.  When I spotted three consecutive hours of pachanga workshops on the programme with greats such as Mouaze, Marco Ferrigno and Juan Matos I knew where I’d be spending my last tired afternoon of the congress – and by the end of the classes… I still couldn’t do it! 

My fears were confirmed when I tried to fit a bit of pachanga into a Juan Matos shine at my local salsa venue. 

“What are you doing?  Pretending to ski?”
“No.” I sulked and went back to doing something else.

I don’t remember consciously practising – and I never set aside and particular time to do so, but it was definitely in my head. And I definitely ‘pretended to ski’ around the house quite a lot when I got the chance.

Then one night, people suddenly wanted me to tell them how to do the basic pachanga step and I got accused of practising! 

That’s when I knew I could do it.

I can confirm that it's definitely not as simple as starting on your left foot and jumping to your right:

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Comme il Faut

I'd just bought two pairs of Burjus and I'd just paid for my second Open University module when the slightly tipsy sounding Gisele emailed me from Argentina to ask if I still wanted a pair of tango shoes bringing back.

They're just over £100.  Is that OK?

It wasn't really OK - my bank account was looking barer than Mother Hubbard's cupboard but Christmas was just around the corner and I did deserve a nice present...

I emailed her back with my instructions:

Size 39*. 
You can choose the style.  
Here's a link to my Dance Shoes board on Pinterest for an idea of what I like.
Nothing too ordinary.

It was about a week before I got a cryptic message back:

OMG have just bought you the most amaaahhhhhzing shoes! 
Even Adam is impressed.

And Adam is a boy!! I think she was drunk again but she was on her honeymoon, so I reckon that's allowed.

It turns out that when you buy expensive shoes, you get what you pay for.

Check out the shoe bag(s) on this!

Each shoe is packed away in its own individual pocket of satin finish shoe bag.  AND it comes with an over the shoulder bag to put them away in, making them easier to carry and easier to store all those little extras that I usually cram into my shoe bag: hand sanitiser, fan, perfume, brush etc.

The individual shoe pockets give your precious shoes just that little extra protection and might well be something that I'm converted to as my taste in shoes is obviously getting a bit more expensive of late...

Naturally I will have to replace these shoe bags with my own hand-made version, because I shouldn't really be seen carrying anything but a Mambo Delight bag around with me, but for now, they're working out just nicely.

Oh - I nearly forgot!  The shoes:

That's right - they don't match!  And they certainly get a reaction - from people who just can't stop staring, to those who aren't quite sure, but don't really know how to tell me.  Regardless of whether people like them or not - they always comment.

My first proper pair of tango shoes are pretty special. When I worked in a shoe shop, I used to tell the children who didn't like their new trainers,  that they would make them run faster.  I don't think that these shoes actually make me dance better - but with the placement of the heel being in the optimum place, I genuinely think that they make it easier for me to keep my weight forward when I'm dancing.  

So now I just need to work on the posture, balance, leg extension, embrace etc... because when I'm wearing these babies, there's always going to be someone in the room looking at my feet. Hopefully they'll be so dazzled by the shoes they won't notice my clumsy footwork!

*Just in case anyone was thinking of buying me some shoes, I'm usually a size 40, but Comme il Faut come up bigger.  Thank you!

Sunday, 6 January 2013


Well hello there!  It's been a while hasn't it?

A New Year's Day sale on Etsy reminded me of my poor neglected shop and I realised that there's barely anything in there at the moment.  I keep buying fabric, but I never get round to pulling the sewing machine out of its nest in the bottom of the wardrobe unless someone's commissioned me to make something. So if you want something, do get in touch...

I'm intending to make more things this year. I was going to start this weekend, but I got a 5 season boxset of Dexter for Christmas, which means I've spent the weekend getting to know a loveable serial killer instead.  But soon.  I promise!

The good thing about not having blogged since September is that I've got a lot of things saved up to tell you about.  But don't worry, I'm intending to break it down into a series of several shorter posts.

I'll start with my not-so-new shoes.  While I was at the Berlin Salsa Congress taking a few awesome classes with Victor and Burju (amongst others), I got a marketing email telling me where there were some Burju shoes on sale, so I bit the bullet and ordered my first pair (Black Pearl), which happen to be the ones on the business card:

Apart from being the most comfy things I've had on my dancing feet, since my jazz shoes, they also draw a fair few compliments from strangers, my favourite of which was "Cracking shoes luv."  I was so wowed by my first pair, that I got straight back online and ordered a second, this time the Anyas:

Being a more luxury range than I usually buy, they come with a higher quality, branded shoe bag:

As you can see - it's windowed! 

The obvious advantage of this is that you can see which pair of shoes you're picking up as you leave the house so there's less chance of turning up to that party with shoes that clash with your outfit.  Also,  it makes it easier for you to stare at your pretty, pretty shoes.

However, once you've finished dancing the night away in a warm venue, and you carefully put your shoes in their bag, the window does tend to steam up, which suggests it's not quite as breathable as your sweaty shoes probably need.  

The solution? Ask me to make a shoe bag to match your shoes - then you won't need a window to see what's inside!