Film Review: Cuban Fury

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I finally got round to watching the film Cuban Fury (Studio Canal) this week and I’m so glad that I did! British-made, starring Nick Frost and about salsa I really hoped that this film would live up to my expectations of it, after all this has to be the only film ever made about the UK salsa scene. We follow the story of Bruce Garrett, former junior salsa champion as he attempts to regain his passion for dance and life in order to win the heart of his fiery, salsa-dancing boss. With the help of his sister and former trainer he is put through his paces and new friend Bejan helps him to re-discover his latin style to help him become himself again and dance with el corazon.

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OOTD: Summer Cocktails

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So it was my birthday this week which gave me the chance to pull out this little number for some cocktails in Manchester with the girls…

I’d been shopping for a dress for the occasion for a long time. I wanted a pencil dress, preferably white, with my signature nod to 1960’s Cuba and this Carmel dress from Celeb Boutique fit the bill to perfection! Made of a beautiful soft crepe it hugs your figure perfectly and cups are moulded so you don’t need to worry about what to wear underneath. The bright pink and green tropical print make it perfect for summer nights out or for a special occasion and the shape is so classic that it would suit all shapes and won’t go out of fashion. My new fav ;)

Dance rating: 4/10

Whilst I cannot praise this dress enough, it gets a 4 for the dance rating as the pencil style is rather restrictive for movement, but let’s face it, this dress deserves cocktails and soirees, not a sweaty salsa club!

http://www.celebboutique.com/carmel-tropical-print-pencil-dress-us.html

OOTD: Palm tree print for a Sunday afternoon

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Fashion doesn’t really have a place in my profession (Student and Scientist) so on the weekend I love to get dressed up if I’m going out! This isn’t a fashion blog but every now and again I’ll share with you some of my favourite pieces, as I love fashion inspired by Cuba and South America and I find it’s a great way to brighten your day in this grey and rainy city!

I went for afternoon tea yesterday with some friends (yes, I’m British, I love tea, we all do!), in this fantastic Alice in Wonderland-themed tea rooms (Richmond Tea Rooms, Manchester – would highly recommend). This gave me the opportunity to wear my new palm tree print shirt which I got from Le Boutique in Manchester. I enjoyed dressing it up yesterday with black trousers and jacket with white heels and is something that I would even wear for more formal days at work, however rare! It would just as easily work untucked with jeans and flip flops for a more casual look though.

When I used to teach salsa, ladies often used to ask me what they should wear or if I could recommend dresses etc for salsa nights, so I’ll start giving my outfits a dance rating, that is, how easy and comfortable they would be to dance in…

Dance rating: 7/10

I often dance in a shirt and these trousers, so this combo would work, however even on a sunny day in Manchester yesterday I was so warm and I think you would melt unless it was a really well air-conditioned venue!

Let me know what you think or if you have any recommendations of anything similar that you think I should check out! :)

 

3 Important Songs In My Life

I’m writing this as part of the Writing 101 course so I can improve my blog as much as possible, any feedback would be great! So, today’s challenge is HARD. I have to pick 3 songs, just 3, that are important to me  and my life and write about them without editing what I’m saying too much. But where to start? There are hundreds of important songs in my life, and I need a different ones for different moods I’m in. I wrote a post about this the other day actually, about different songs to combat different problems in my life, so for this one I’ll go from the heart and pick the songs that mean the most to me, regardless of how they are to dance to. Here goes…

 

Song #1: Bamboleo – The Gipsy Kings

I have loved Latin American music for as long as I can remember, before I even knew what it really was. As a child I can remember dancing to this song with toy castanettes in Majorca, I didn’t know what it was, who it was by, or even that it was in Spanish, I found all that out years later. But something about it, and indeed this whole genre of music that I called ‘holiday music’, because I only ever heard it abroad, made me want to dance. As I grew older it turned into my passion and look where I am now! Salsa addict! And I reckon it’s all down to this song, so thanks Gipsy Kings!

 

Song #2: Epoca – Gotan Project

The Gotan Project were introduced to me years ago by an older cousin who went travelling in Argentina and came back with their Revancha del Tango album, having taken an Argentine tango class. I have been in love with it ever since! It’s my go-to album for any situation, if I’m cooking, getting ready, working or having people round and want some music on in the background. It’s such a classy and sexy sound and I think anyone would find it hard not to be seduced by it. When teaching an Argentine tango class last year my partner had put on some of the old-style Argentine music, with accordians and such, and the class was slow and disinterested. A quick change to the pure sex that is the Gotan Project soon made the class sit up and pay attention, and indeed wanting more…

 

Song #3: Let’s Never Stop Falling In Love – Pink Martini

I wrote about Pink Martini in my last post about my favourite music, and I’m sure I’ll write about them again! Words cannot describe my love for this band and this is my favourite song of theirs, I have saved the best ’til last. If you haven’t heard of them I implore you to look them up! They were introduced to me in my teenage years by a dance teacher and they have provided the soundtrack to my life ever since! They are a cuban dancehall-style band full of latin rhythms but with flavours of jazz and other cultures thrown into the mix, all topped off by the beautiful vocals of China Forbes. Their music is sophisticated and sexy but also exciting and each song is vastly different to the last. Let’s never stop falling in love for me is the ultimate love song (I’d like it as my wedding song when the time comes!) and when I heard them perform it live last year in Liverpool it made me really emotional that they were there in front of me playing it live when it means so much to me. Just beautiful!

 

I can’t wait to hear all your interpretations of today’s challenge and maybe discover some new music!

A View – Riviera Maya, Mexico

Mexican Heaven!

Mexican Heaven!

Today I’m am at home writing my report for uni again. This is ten times harder than usual today because I know that on this day last year I had just arrived in Mexico for a blissful two-week holiday. I had finished with my undergraduate degree, exams over, dissertation handed in and had moved out of that awful student house in Liverpool. Weeks and weeks of hard work and stress were finally over and it was time to party the Mexican way!

The first thing that hit me was the heat and humidity in the air, how great it was to not be cold any more! The taxi driver was blaring some Prince Royce bachata all the way to the hotel and I just knew that all that work was worth what was going to be an amazing two weeks. Stepping out onto the veranda at the hotel I was greeted with the most amazing view: the sea was such a clear turquoise and washed up onto the perfect white sand of the beach, merengue blared out from the pool bar where people were drinking colourful cocktails and laughing and the sun was shining! I hadn’t seen sunshine for weeks having been trapped in perpetual revision hibernation! There was only one thing left to do, bikini on and straight in the pool! The following two weeks were the most blissful of my entire life; sunshine, sand, cocktails, new friends and dancing the night away, every night. Heaven!

I would give anything to be back there right now, but this report won’t write itself. Oh well, at least there’s always salsa tonight! See you there ;)

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AlgoRHYTHMS for motivation

Report writing essentials

Report writing essentials

It’s been a busy few weeks for me in Manchester; an upcoming deadline at uni has meant a stressful few weeks in the lab followed by long, lonely days at home this week and last writing up the report. Stress, stress and more stress. If there’s one thing that can take the stress away in an instant though, its music. I’m sure you’d all agree! As a scientist I work a lot with computational algorithms but aside from my usual research, over the past few weeks I’ve developed a few algoRhythms of my own to use music to get me in the right frame of mind for what I’m doing. Stress just disappears! Here are a few problems that we face in the modern world and an irresistable latin song that will make the problem just drift away…

 

1. Your alarm has just gone off and you reeeeally don’t want to get up and face the day…

This is probably the hardest part of the day for most people! At 6 am Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 are my best friends, a bossa nova or mild samba beat is perfect to perk you up  without being too aggressive and loud to make you want to crawl back into bed. I like Batucada (the beat) but if you’re not awake enough to find a specific song, just press play, make some coffee you’ll be away!

 

2. You’re at the gym, you want to get fit but right now you can’t be bothered…

This is me all the time! In this situation I challenge you to blare Kalemba by Buraka Som Sistema through your headphones and not want to move around. In fact any of their songs on any of their albums make great gym tracks, urban kuduro with an addictive bassline. Your ass will thank me later.

 

3. You’re about to have a meeting at work that you’ve been dreading…

Before a meeting I like to listen to Orishas, their urban salsa beats are surprisingly relaxing and help me to focus on what I need to do at times when I’m feeling nervous. Everyone has heard Represent, it helps me to remember that my supervisor doesn’t rule my life, and that no matter what, I’ll always have salsa in my life. Just don’t forget where you are and shout ‘CUBA!’ in the office…

 

4. You’re at work, trying to work, but all you’re actually doing is staring blankly at your screen…

I do this without even realising; sometimes I go into the lab and just stand at my bench staring at the chemicals on my shelves because I can’t remember/can’t be bothered to do what I’m supposed to be doing! My lab likes to listen to the radio station Absolute 80’s (it’s got some great tunes) but at times like this, almost like magic, they play La Bamba by Los Lobos and suddenly I’m dancing around and motivated to do my work. It’s cheesy and old but sometimes you need a party track at work to remember that there’s more to life than the 9 to 5!

 

5. You’ve just got home from a looong day, you want to eat something but collapse on the sofa and can’t quite manage to reach the kitchen…

Tito Puente is you man here for some proper cuban salsa. I love to dance around my apartment and the kitchen has the biggest floor space. When Tito is doing his thing you’ll want to get up and dance so you might as well cook while you’re at it! Ran Kan Kan would be a good place to start. Just watch your fingers with knives when you’re dancing around…

 

6. You want to go out to salsa, but your bed looks so inviting…

For this I usually need some proper reggaeton to get me excited enough to actually leave my apartment. I love classic salsa tracks but if I’m honest I prefer dancing salsa to songs with more of a reggaeton beat. I have roots in hip hop dancing and I find I can express myself more to songs with a heavier beat. My favourite reggaeton song to dance salsa to is Ella Me Levante by Daddy Yankee, so next time you’re struggling to motivate yourself to go out, put this on and dance around for a bit, you’ll be in the mood by the first chorus I promise!

 

7. You’re trying to get to sleep, but all the things you couldn’t focus on at work are now whizzing round in your head and sleep is impossible…

Always the way isn’t it? For this situation I’ve chosen a song by Pink Martini. Pink Martini have been my favourite band since I was a teenager, if you have never heard of them look them up! They are similar to a cuban dancehall band of the 50’s and play a lot of latin rhythms but with elements of jazz and other cultures thrown in to create a really unique sound and almost every song is different to the last one. Before I go to sleep I like to listen to Aspettami to get my brain to chill out, but any number of their slower numbers would do the trick!

 

Hope this has given you some ideas! If you have any suggestions of any songs that you find motivating and inspiring, please let me know, I’d love to check them out!

Date a girl who dances salsa

For those who are going out with a Salsera. My other half doesn’t dance and I wish I could explain properly to him that that doesn’t matter to me, this pretty much nails it! Great post!

Rhapsodies of the Barefooted Gypsy

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Date a girl who dances salsa. She is feisty, driven, confident. She dances her way through life in a way that she can dodge a bullet in the most graceful fashion. She is strong–physically, mentally, emotionally. She has arms and legs made solid from hardcore dancing. She’s been stepped on countless times with a 4-inch stiletto, she has fallen face flat on the floor, but that doesn’t stop her from dancing. She knows that like dancing, life continues on with or without music.

A girl who dances salsa is not afraid to make mistakes because she takes every wrong turn as a learning curve. She is a girl with a curious soul and an open mind. She will try bachata or kizomba, hiphop, even rumba. She will say yes to a new form of dance even when she has zero knowledge about it because a girl who dances salsa is…

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Ready for Rio!

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If there’s one thing my other half and I disagree about, it’s football. He loves the English Premier League and all that when, let’s just say, I’m not a big fan. At all. I could go on about reasons why but I’m not going to, it’s boring enough as it is! He doesn’t however like the World Cup, whereas I do and I can’t wait for Brazil 2014!

You might ask why, when I dislike ‘normal’ football so much, is the World Cup so different? I don’t really have anything against the game itself; it’s only 90 minutes and is usually spent in the pub with friends, but thing that makes the World Cup different is that it brings people together. Instead of the pubs of Manchester being split into rival teams of supporters, the World Cup unites people with a common cause, instead of driving them apart. Which is always nice!

As a lover of all things Latin American though, I’m especially excited this time around because it’s in Brazil. I wish the England squad all the luck in the world and they have my support, but I have always been a fan of watching the Brazilian team. They don’t just play football, they dance football! Dribbles and tackles become samba and when they score, the fans samba with them! So colourful and full of life and music, I’d love to be there to party with them!

So I shall be following the World Cup avidly this year. Perhaps more for the Brazilian party atmosphere than anything else though ;)

Check out the Official World Cup song if you haven’t already, great to get you in the mood and will bring Samba beats to the masses!

 

So, what are you waiting for?

When was the last time you tried something new? Something that you were afraid of, that took you out of your comfort zone? For me there’s nothing more exciting on taking a gamble on trying  a new experience and discovering that you really enjoy it! And by this I mean anything from trying a new restaurant to a new shade of lipstick. It may turn out to be a disaster, sure (bright pink lips reaaally weren’t my thing, no matter how fashionable!) but you may just uncover a new passion.

I guess my aim here is to convince anyone who is curious about giving salsa dancing a try to just be brave and go for it! What have you got to lose? Chances are if you’ve been thinking about it then once you get over any fears and actually turn up to a class, you’ll really enjoy yourself! There’s a reason so many of us are so keen on it ;) I know what you’re thinking though, it’s easy for me to say right? When I try a new salsa class or even a completely new dance style, I turn up with 8 years of experience behind me and I can’t deny that that puts me in a far less nerve-wracking experience than someone trying dance for the first time! Perhaps you are worried about people watching you, about turning up alone or simply that you won’t be able to do it? My question to you is how do you know that these fears are justified until you try it? And isn’t that half the fun? Allow me to share with you my experiences with my latest new challenge…snowboarding.

 

I always wanted to try it. Don’t snowboarders just like they have so much fun? And so cool! I’m definitely not cool enough to be a snowboarder and I’m afraid of being out of control, falling over and breaking myself. These were the thoughts going through my head when I signed up for a set of lessons on Manchester’s indoor skislope. Across 16 hours of lessons I fell over, lost control, landed on my bum/face more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes (all of which are all still intact luckily)! Slowly and steadily though I was improving and falling over less. It was such an amazing feeling once I could get from the top to the bottom of the slope in one go and with increasing speed, I was ecstatic! I then accidentally bought a snowboard (I like shopping) and today was my first time on the slope without an instructor present. It was terrifying! Suddenly I was out there on my own with no-one to help me and it felt like everyone was watching me as I fell over time and time again. Kids half my size raced past my with ease and grace as I lay flat out in the snow. But every time I got back up, brushed the snow off my hair/bum/face/just about everywhere, and carried on to the bottom. By the end of the session I had forgotten about my fears and just concentrated on improving and most of all enjoying the ride! It was so much fun! And actually when I did take the time to watch others, I realised that I wasn’t the only one falling over and that everyone was so busy concentrating on their own ride that no-one was bothered if I was falling over or not.

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My new board! Trying something new uncovered a new passion for me :)

I promise you that this will be the case if you were to try salsa! You probably won’t pick it up straight away, there will be some people there who seem to pick it up straight away and you will stand on some toes. Probably your own. But it’s a pretty safe bet that you won’t fall over, and if you do at least you won’t get ice down your back. So be brave and go for it! Ask yourself, what have you got to lose? You might just uncover a hidden talent and a new passion and I’m sure you’ll have have lots of fun along the way! See you on the dancefloor ;)

All About Me

This is me!

I am writing this post as Day One of The Daily Post Blogging 101 course. I know I’m a little late but I’m completely new to blogging and this seems like a great place to start! So here goes…

My name is Sophie, I am 22 years old and I live in the city of Manchester in the UK. By day I am studying for a PhD in Biochemistry but by night, and just about any spare second of my day, I am a Latin American  dancer. My passion is Latin American music and culture and I dance constantly, which can be embarrassing at times as I often get caught busting some shapes to the radio in the lab when I think no-one is watching!

I loved salsa music from an early age and went to my first salsa dance class at the age of 14. Despite the fact that this was with my Dad, who has the unfortunate medical condition of two left feet, I took to salsa straight away. 8 years later, I’m still going; there’s just something about the rhythm that I find iresistable! At university in Liverpool I started up the University of Liverpool Salsa Society which was loads of fun. Through teaching 3 classes a week mostly in Cuban salsa but also including  merengue, bachata, zouk and kuduro amongst others, I had found a way to share my experience and passion for dance with others and to this day the improvement and enjoyment of my pupils  is one of my proudest achievements.

Having moved to Manchester last summer I now just dance socially for the pure enjoyment of it, and what a fantastic city Manchester is to be a salsa dancer! Through this blog I hope to share with you my experiences of dancing in the North West along with dance tips, music and other interesting aspects of life in this vibrant city. I hope that this blog will be useful to fellow dancers and also to any  of you who are interested in trying salsa or letting some Cuban flavour into your lives. It would be great to hear from other dancers about your experiences of dancing where you live and any tips and tricks you may be able to share with me, as one of the joys of dancing is that you never stop learning!

Besos!

Sophie