Wednesday, May 24, 2017

La Rumba

Rumba is a hodge podge hatched in the Caribbean. It did not come from Africa. The basics came from the ancient Mexican Civilizations in Mexico. The distance by water? 90 miles from Florida to Cuba. 90 miles from Yucatan to Cuba and 90 miles from Venezuela to the Antilles. The Cubans went south to other islands and the ones in the southern islands migrated northward. They became the Caribbean People.

"The truth is not for all people, it is only for those who seek it."

The differences evolved according to the language spoken. English, Calipso. A 4 count measure with a rock step and a slow step. How about the French in Haiti? Beguine. Very different, a 4 count measure with a rock step and a slow step. The Spanish had more islands and many more names. It was danced differently everywhere too. A 4 count measure with rock step and a slow step.

"Reloj" por Luis Miguel

Sailors traveling by boat up and down the Caribbean, named the Rumba and did more than anyone else to unify the Caribbean music and dance. We  can suppose that the Pirates did too. In discussing the dance from one to another, they would use, "por ese rumbo" in that direction, li dat, da kine. Several decades passed and danza is a feminine word - La Danza. Rumbo is masculine, and somewhere along the line, the name of the dance became La Rumba, feminine. Of course this was only a distinction for the Spanish. but they covered more islands.

"Contigo A La Distancia"
Por Christina Aguilera

"Rumba Dance is the most delightful way to move to Rumba music
which is about the best music the world will ever witness."
 ~Mikhail Baryshnikov (he knows a little about dancing.)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Latin Music

The origins of Latin American music can be traced back to the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the Americas in the 16th century, when the European settlers brought their music from overseas. However with approximately ten million Indians in the area, the effect was little on the huge amounts of music and dance that already existed there. The Mexican Civilizations had over 2000 different dances but it made enough difference to rename it "Latin" throughout the Americas.

"Social Dancers already know that whoever is trying to
bring them down is already below them."

The slaves arrived about century later and contrary to popular opinion they were not picked for their musical or dance abilities. They learned by what they saw which was the Indian music and dance. When they were freed, about the same time as in the US, then they began to make changes. But these were third, fourth and fifth generation inhabitants and actually had no knowledge of African music or dance. In fact you can see what they dance even today in Africa, just up and down even step.

"Adoro" por Armando Manzanero

During the 20th century many styles were influenced by the music of the United States giving rise to genres such as Latin pop, rock, jazz, Latin Hip Hop, and reggaeton. Due to its highly varied nature, Latin American music encompasses a wide variety of styles, including influential genres such as Bachata, Bossa Nova, Cha, Cha, Cha,  Merengue, Rumba, Salsa, Samba, and Tango. This is some of the best music that exists in the world today. It also encompasses Latin American styles that have originated in the United States such as Salsa and Tejano.

"Contigo A La Distancia" por Lucho Gatica

Latin American music is well known and performed in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy and to a lesser extent in all of Europe. In the last 30 years it has gone heavily into the Orient, mainly Japan and South Korea. And Oriental performers are making appearances in Latin America to large audiences.

"Social Dancers know that movement to your favorite tunes
is one of the great pleasures in life."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Social Anyone?

On Oahu, Social Dance may have no winners or losers, just different ways of playing the game. Most street dancers know very little in the short time they have been doing it. But if they can be convinced to take lessons, they will learn prescribed steps and learn more or less the prescribed syllabus. The men can learn to lead and the women can learn to do the fancy stuff.  An intermediate dancer knows some prescribed steps and just wants to sharpen their techniques. At this point they are really enjoying moving to the music.

"Social Dancers know that they don't have to get moody.
They can dance a nice Rumba and move their booty."

It is definitely not easy being a leader especially when you don't know what to do on the dance floor. It isn't much fun however when you are not part of the activity. But if want to just dance for fun keep away from LAGS. (latest and greatest syndrome.) All fancy stuff. Concentrate on what your Bronze teachers on Oahu teach, the basic movements most used in all dancing. The even step, the rock step and the chasse. Social Latin dancing requires the enjoyment of Latin music first, then you move to that music using the KISS method. (keep it simple, stupid)

"Sabor A Mi" por Luis Miguel

But like many men that dance on Oahu today, they too have to put in the time to learn partner dancing. No one likes being rejected, and we can be sure that many men have quit dancing before they even had a chance to smell the roses (and this would probably also explain why there are always more women then men dancers). Many of our male friends who took lessons and started dancing a while back quit out of the frustration of not being able to lead and have never been back.  Many that could have learned to move to the music seem to have vanished from the dance scene.

"Abrazame" por Alejandro Fernandez

The men that dance today persevered and got through it all because of their love for the music of the dances that we dance today. It has helped them to overcome these bumps in the road, but for all of the others that quit, one wonders - if they had a better experience would they be dancing today? Probably, and that is the sad part of it all. For some reason, in West Oahu there is a more balance of men and women. Perhaps they have been more determined or had been helped in a nice way, they have stayed. Perhaps if in the rest of Oahu they had had more positive encounters they would have stayed.

"Rumba dancers say there is no better feeling in the world than moving to
your favorite Rumba and letting the rest of the world go by."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mariaichis For Hawaii

For one hundred years Mariachis have help celebrate the great moments in the lives of the Mexican people. With the serenata (serenade), the Mariachi participates in the rite of courtship. In a society where the young members of opposite sexes were kept apart, the serenata was a means of communication by which a young man could send a message of love to the woman of his heart. He could go with his Mariaichis and serenade his love one. She could approve by appearing in the window.

"Social Dancers want to change the changeable and they accept the unchangeable,
however they want to remove themselves from the unacceptable."

In many areas of Mexico, it is not unusual to be awakened by the sound of Las MaƱanitas, the traditional song for saints days, or birthdays. The Mariachi is usually positioned strategically on the street beneath the window of the festejada, but the sound of its music echoes through the whole neighborhood. Of course it is appreciated by everyone. Mariachis are also commonly hired for baptisms, weddings, patriotic holidays, and even funerals. It is not unusual for the deceased to leave a list of favorite songs to be sung beside the grave at burial.

"Adoro" por Armando Manzanero

The size evolved into large bands, four violins, four guitars, four trumpets and even more. These played on concert on Sunday afternoon at the park for free or for big bucks at the local theater. Many made a name for themselves as large groups and made grand tours throughout Latin America. But there were others coming up and smaller, 3 violins, 3 guitars and 3 trumpets for a total of nine. Most current travel and night club groups have 2 violins, 2 guitars and 2 trumpets for a total of six and of course more affordable and the people are dancing up a storm in Night Clubs to Mariachis.

"Social Dancers know that there is a place where they can get away to,
and it is called a dance floor."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Juan Two Three

San Diego is home to many of the nations’ top talent when it comes to salsa dancing.  Some of the best dancers developed their dance skills and became professionals in San Diego through years of hard work and determination.  And it is right across the border from Mexico with heavy Mexican influence. Juan and Erica Hernandez from Juan Two Three best exemplify this in their unique approach as not only dance partners but also as life partners who share in their love of salsa dancing in their married life as well.

"Social Dancers know that every time they dance,
they become a better version of themselves."

The duo recently opened a new salsa venue here in San Diego, The Mambo Rooftop, and they are busy starting new dance related projects as well as dancing up a storm.  There have been many opportunities to sit down and interview both of them about their salsa life, their experiences and how their marriage plays a role in their dancing.  Many fans of Salsa have enjoyed the interviews throughout California.

"Moliendo Cafe" por Azucar Moreno

Special thanks to Roman Castro Photography for providing the fine photo.



For many years, Argentine and Uruguayan people throughout the world saw that the tango demonstrated as a ballroom dance was totally foreign from what they knew. Many have gone on record that they "just couldn’t bear to watch" those competitions. But somehow their authentic South American style has prevailed. Instead of lamenting, they made their own performance dances and the dance world has been moved to tears. They played their own music, danced their own dance and even the heart of the "cantador" and the soul of the "bandoneon."

"El Dia Que Me Quieras" por Julio Iglesias

The tango of Argentina has made its place in the world. There are many groups that do not wish to be part of "Ballroom." They have all over the world made their own Tango groups based on the Argentine Tango. Even ballroom competitors will attempt a little Argentine flavored footwork in their show pieces. American exhibitions contain many Argentine movements which we must say, look very nice.

"The Tango can be considered the most authentic cultural product
of the Argentine people."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Yoichi and Graciela 2

Only three months after the visit of the Japanese (it was still 1970) Graciela Susana was offered a contract to appear in Japan to sing tangos in the Sugawara’s recitals. She wanted to see the country that she had been interested for so long and this was the big opportunity to practice her Japanese. I have a song video of her first presentation of "Adoro" which she sings the first half in Japanese and the second half in Spanish. Yoichi and Graciela helped each other to make the translation and it was a smash hit in Japan. Went over into South Korea and even Taiwan.

"Social Dancers love music because it stays with them when everything else is gone"

In 1970 Sugawara is awarded the Japan Record Title Grand prize for his single “Kyode Owakare” And I have a couple song videos of their first show in Japan where he sings El Reloj in Japanese. With Yoichi's help in Japan, Graciela would also begin to include Japanese songs in her songbook. The wide popular acclaim that immediately followed favored the release in Japan of Tango and Argentine folk music records that Graciela had published in Argentina and the daring venture of recording one in Japanese in 1971 was very successful.

"Adoro" por Graciela Susana y Yochi Sugawara

His home and family was in Japan, her home and family was in Argentina. Every few years he would go to Latin America, and in Argentina he would sing in several shows and the final show would be Yoichi and Graciela, and sold out weeks in advance. The same thing in reverse would happen when Graciela would visit Japan. I have a song video of the both of them in a Japanese TV program. Yoichi in his late fifties, and Graciela in her late thirties and they could still sing beautifully together. He sings Besame Mucho and then they sing El Reloj in Japanese and the ending in Spanish, just beautiful.

"La Reine de Saba" by Gabriela Susana

I have another song video, Yoichi in his early eighties and Graciela in early sixties. It was their last show. Graciela and Yoichi in concert and TV, He is skinnier, she is fatter but they still sing good together.  But they had five decade friendship and I find nothing to indicate any hankie pankie. They did develop a love for each other but is was strictly platonic. He was her older brother and she has his kid sister. They admired each others musical qualities.  They could cover each other mistakes to make the duet sound good. Then they could talk to each other in Spanish or Japanese depending on the occasion And together they could translate the Spanish songs into Japanese lyrics, that became so popular in Japan. A beautiful miracle.

"We can be the reason someone smiles today."

Saturday, May 6, 2017

In Hawaii

Most "ballroom dancers" are still not aware of "Latin." They dance it but only as part of the overall ballroom scene. The actual Caucasian dancing that is done is the Waltz, Foxtrot and the Swing.  The Latin consists of the Rumba, Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Merengue, Bossa Nova, Tango, Bachata and Salsa. The rest are fad dances such as the Lambada that came and went. The young spent more than twenty million dollars in lessons and extras. And of course there are new ones coming in every day.

"Dancing with the feet is one thing - dancing with the heart is quite another."

For experienced Latin Dancers in Latin America the music comes first. There is the Waltz, Rumba, Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Bossa Nova and Tango. No better music in this entire world for perhaps a couple more centuries. Has anyone ever danced to "From Here To Eternity" by Englebert Humperdinck, in Rumba rhythm? Now that is a personal dance. I hadn't heard it for a long time. Last week I came across it and copied it to my computer.

"Besame Mucho" by Placido Domingo

Someone estimated that there are over ten million classics from the last century. You gotta hear the latest rap bang bong? You have the perfect right to that and we should respect your right. Just leave me out of  it, I have my hands full with the most beautiful music ever composed on this planet. I think I also have my rights. And one of these days we will have the "Latin Night Club."

"Vaya Con Dios" by Les Paul and Mary Ford.

We have gotten most of our music from the Caribbean, Brazil and Argentina. The culture of Mexico has been making huge inroads into Latin music and dance in the US. It reflects the country's complex history and is the result of the gradual blending of native culture with Spanish culture. First inhabited more than 10,000 years ago, the cultures that developed in Mexico became one of the cradles of civilization. However it remains much too diverse for this decade.

"Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should
both be changed regularly, and for the same reason."