Posts Tagged ‘Bachata’

Review: San Francisco International Bachata Festival


It’s been a few years since I started Latin dancing, my favourite of which is bachata. When there’s a bachata-themed event, I’m usually there, even if it’s a few thousand miles away in San Francisco.

So last month I waited for some airfare deals and flew down to California with one of my “salsa girlfriends”, and we attended the annual San Francisco International Bachata Festival at the Hyatt Regency from July 19-21. The brainchild of Rodney “Rodchata” Aquino, SFIBF was one of the (if not the) best Latin dance festival/congress I’ve ever been to.

Check in process was pretty straight-forward, and the staff and volunteers were pretty helpful. I purchased a nice pair of super-cute dance flats from one of the vendor booths (just when I thought I had enough shoes), and the festival sponsor Yerba Mate kept everyone hydrated with their energy-filled drinks.

Most of the workshops were great, with my favourites being those led by Troy and Jorjet (kizomba), Bryon and Sammantha (Dominican bachata footwork), and Jo and Kathy (bachata ladies styling) . I learned some really cool movements that I can add to my bachata shines. I also found a new passion for kizomba by taking Troy and Jorjet’s workshop. I just hate dancing closed position dances with sweaty guys, so learning the “community hold” made me appreciate the dance more.

Speaking of Troy and Jorjet, if anyone has seen them on YouTube or taken any of their workshops before, you know how their mannerisms are. Vince and Jo did a hilarious impersonation of them. Best of all, Troy and Jorjet were good sports about it, which just show how great professionals they are.

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Troy also recognized me from the “Bachata Basement” dance video I did with my friend, Renelle last year. Super-nice guy with such a positive personality. The dance DVD’s that he and his wife produce are so easy-to-follow that I had to pick up a couple more so that I can build on my bachata and learn some kizomba.

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The variety of amazing instructors and dancers who were in attendence had me in awe. My favourites (and mainly the sole reason why I wanted to attend) Troy Anthony and Jorjet Alcocer were there,  DJ Vince Torres & Jo Quiñonez had the crowd in stitches with their entertaining MC-ing during the performances, the ever-faboulous Zeke Fabulosa from Chicago, the beautiful Kathy Reyes, the world-renound brother-sister team of Junior and Emily Alabi, and so many more.

My favourite team though by far was the dancers from MG Dance Studio. If you want to see what hard work and dedication look like, while at the same time having fun, being positive and friendly, the young people in this group is the embodiment of it. Their routines are phenominal. I still can’t believe a few of them are only high school seniors.

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The performances and shows were excellent. Not too short and not to long. The dancers all seemed like they rehearsed well, with clean movements and great energy.

Social dancing Friday, Saturday and Sunday night were breaths of fresh air compared to social dancing here in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I love my city, but the “salsa scene” here seems to be a bit… cliquey (a post about this coming up soon). It was nice actually getting asked to dance by guys for once. All the dancers in attendance were super friendly, introduced themselves, and always up for a dance.

One guy came up and asked me to dance salsa, but admitted that he dances a little of a “different style”. Honestly, this was music to my ears, because ever since I stopped taking Latin dance classes, I seemed to dance in my own style (which happens to be more Cuban-based) which is not the norm here in the Toronto salsa scene. So when he smiled as he saw how I was following to match his own similar style, it was one of my best salsa dances ever (he also was a great bachata dancer as well)!

I also signed up for the competition that SFIBF was hosting at this year’s event. Although a tad disorganized (call-times were changed and they even forgot to mention my name), it was a great experience for me. Personally, I thought there would be a lot more competitors, but for the two categories I entered–the solo and the Jack & Jill–I was up against some seasoned veterans.

Although I didn’t come home with the big trophy, I was honoured to get the chance to compete with some talented dancers and experienced professionals. I surprised myself by getting up on that stage (probably because it was in a city where no one knew my name), I managed to throw together a routine that garnered a lot of praise from other dancers and even one of the coaches from another team (thank you so much for the kind words Wayne Melton!). I felt so blessed that I got the chance to do this, and I’m going to keep on dancing to improve my skill while having fun doing it.

Will I be back in San Fran for next year’s festival? Based on what I experienced this year, then for sure. Well, unless airfare prices skyrocket… it’s a looooong way to San Francisco from the T Dot!


What a busy weekend!


This past weekend was one of the most challenging for me, because I decided to squeeze in so many events in one day. But I attended all of them and fared pretty well in each.

First Stop: Enbridge CN Tower Stair Climb for United Way
I’m not a morning person, so waking up at 5am was a challenge enough as it is. I didn’t have a lot of time to make myself a decent breakfast before I was supposed to meet my friends downtown for 7am to register for the climb, so I decided to grab some McDonald’s. That was my first mistake. But I would rather have a sausage and egg McMuffin in my belly, then climb up 1,776 steps on an empty stomach. I made it up the the tower in 25:02 minutes… Exactly 3 minutes off from my very first climb back in April.
Now I can blame the McDonald’s I ate, the lack of training, or even my old age, but I’m still proud of myself for getting up those steps without taking a single break for a breather! By the time I got my t-shirt and stuff from coat check it was just after 8:30am.

Second Stop: National Women’s Show
I’m a devout fan of this annual exhibit for women. This is truly the ultimate girls day out. The show started at 10am. since it was in the same vicinity as the stair climb I was able to get there early enough to secure my free goodie bag. I had wrangled up 10 of my girl friends to accompany me and we had a blast. Got some great deals and freebies on food, fashion and wellness. Even got to see Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott from The Young and the Restless). My shoulders were aching by the end of our visit because off all the bags-o-stuff, but it was worth it. Left there at about 3:30pm, because I needed to get home, clean up and change for the Bachata Social later that evening.

Last stop: Kings of Bachata “Love & Hate” Dance Social
Hosted by The Bachata and Toronto Latin I was super excited for this social dance event. Bachata is definitely my favourite dance since I’ve started Latin dancing. To have a wide array of instructors under one roof helped display social comradery among the salsa scene in Toronto. I got there around 7pm and several DJs played a nice selection of bachata and salsa. I even got a good kizomba lesson during one of the workshops.
What I was looking forward to was the Jack and Jill Freeze Competition. The object of the competition/game is to dance to randomly selected bachata songs, with randomly selected dance partners. The “freeze” addition to the game has the music stop, and the last person to freeze their bachata pose gets booted from the competition until one couple remains. As the competition went on, the remaining couple’s dance technique became just as important as their “freezability”, and I’m happy to say that my partner and I won the competition! It was great getting cheered on by my salsa friends. I am now the lucky owner of a Sony Reader (now I can start reading books again).

What an eventful Saturday!

The Annual Toronto Bachata Festival is here!


Toronto Bachata FestivalThis is going to be one bachata-filled weekend as the 3rd Annual Toronto Bachata Festival officially begins tonight. Bachata has been a passion of mine ever since I took up Latin dancing several years ago, and I’m glad to have a chance to attend this festival once again.

Organized by Go Dance Mambo‘s Stephanie Gurnon, this weekend will be filled with workshops, shows, dance competitions and parties in bachata, zouk and salsa dance. International instructors and performers will be in town, none that I’m more looking forward to seeing than Jorjet Alcocer and Troy Anthony. I’ve been watching Jorjet’s amazing footwork in Dominican-style bachata on YouTube, and she’s definitely something to watch! She and Troy will be instructing several workshops over the weekend. I can’t wait to learn some pachanga (there’s only so much you can pick up from repeating YouTube videos), and try to improve my bachata technique. I’m also kind of interested in finally learning some zouk this year as well.

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If you’re new to the Latin dancing scene, there will be some beginner workshops in both bachata and zouk taking place at the Estonian House (near Broadview station). Passes are available at the door.

Yours Truly will also be performing a bachata routine with Steps Dance Studio at the kick-off party tonight at Acrobat Lounge. Thank goodness Monday’s a holiday, because I’m going to definitely need some R&R after all the dancing I’m going to be doing this weekend!

I was robbed by a couple of Smurfs tonight…


Halloween Sunday Salsa Social at Dovercourt House
I just got back from the Sunday Salsa Social at Dovercourt House (run by Go Dance Mambo). Had an great time dancing to salsa and bachata sets. Lots of friendly people and best of all, great costumes.

So, I literally wasn’t robbed by Smurfs, but they had a costume contest tonight, and the blue critters nabbed first place (as well as a couple of passes to the Montreal Bachata Zouk Fest). As soon as I saw them walk into the social that evening, I knew my chances of winning that costume contest were slim. But kudos to them, anyone who can paint themselves blue on a Sunday night gets a gold star from me. They were so cute… such a great job. I wish more people would put that kind of an effort into their Halloween costumes.

Speaking of costumes, onto mine. If you can gather from the photo, you can see that I’m dressed as the Black Swan. Not very original you’re thinking? I know, dressing up as the title character from a popular movie in the current year isn’t very creative. But wait… I’m not just Black Swan–I’m The BLACK Black Swan (clever, eh?). I didn’t come up with the idea for the costume until a couple days ago, and though the pun on the name would be a good twist (though I probably should’ve worn a sign). I was going to go as “The Black actress turned down for the roll Natalie Portman made famous in the Acadamy-Award winning film Black Swan”, but figured “The Black Black Swan” had a better ring to it.

I did actually see a few other Black Swans out there this weekend. The social I was at yesterday had one there. I’m still kind of pissed that she got ‘selected’ to be one of the finalists in that Halloween competition and I didn’t… she didn’t even have a freakin’ tiara and her tutu looked like a regular skirt! Anyways… there was a nice Black Swan at tonight’s social as well. Adorable outfit, and she even had a nice, little tiara and detailed eye-makeup (but she was no where to be found when tonight’s competition rolled up, thank goodness, but I did take a photo with her. :-D).

For my costume, I actually made my tutu myself. Got some ribbed elastic ($1.29), thick ribbon (2 metres for $1.49) to mimic ballet slippers, and black netting/tulle ($3.00/metre x 4 metres) which I cut and tied together (I’ll probably post the tutorial in a later post). Found a nice corset-style top at Urban Behaviour for $25. Tiara from Dollarama which I painted black. Topped my outfit off with a black, feather boa which was multi-purpose, because I used it as part of my dress and cut some to accent my tiara as well. Black eyeliner and eyeshadow for my self-done make up, and that was it.

After working up the nerve to volunteer to enter the contest, I got a lot of cheers from the audience after clarifying my costume name as “The Black Black Swan”, but the prize went to the adorable Smurfette and Papa Smurf who went all out for their costume from head to toe. Great job!

Til next year… still not sure what to do with this tutu now…