Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Russia's most beloved Christmas export

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, eggnog and mistletoe, snowmen and decorated confections -- all wonderful traditions of the season that 'tis.  But for some of us, it doesn't yet feel a lot like Christmas until we've enjoyed the current year's live performance of The Nutcracker ballet.

ClassicalMusic.About.com sums up the Nutcracker thusly:

In 1891, world renowned choreographer, Marius Petipa commissioned Peter Tchaikovsky to compose the music for Alexandre Dumas’s adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” Its first performance in 1892, was a complete failure – both the critics and the audience disliked it. Since then, The Nutcracker has been the most widely performed ballet in the world. Almost every ballet company from Australia to Europe and Asia to America performs the The Nutcracker during the holiday season. How can a ballet that was disastrously debuted and ill-received be one of the most famous ballets today? Because in 1954, George Balanchine, another world renowned choreographer, created a new production of The Nutcracker. His choreography breathed new life into the ballet and sparked the attention and imagination of the viewing audience. If you’ve seen The Nutcracker, it was most likely a version based on Balanchine’s.

And in greater detail the Dance.About.com expounds:

The Nutcracker Ballet has been a festive holiday tradition for many years. Numerous ballet companies around the world stage the famous ballet every year during the month of December. Both children and adults look forward to attending a magical performance of The Nutcracker each holiday season..

Many local ballet communities take part in the tradition by staging their own productions of The Nutcracker. Aspiring ballerinas delight in the opportunity to dance on stage to the music of The Nutcracker Suite. Many young girls dream of one day dancing one of the leading roles.

History of The Nutcracker Ballet:
The Nutcracker Ballet was written during the classical period of ballet, a time when many famous ballets were being written and performed. The Nutcracker is based on the book "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffman. Russian composer Peter Tchaikovskywrote the music for the ballet during the early 1890's, near the end of his life. Hoffman's original story was modified quite a bit in order for it to be suitable for children. The very first performance of The Nutcracker took place in Russia in 1892. The San Francisco Ballet performed the first American productiom of The Nutcracker in 1944.

Setting and Characters:
The setting of The Nutcracker is in Western Europe in the 1800's. The story opens on Christmas Eve at the home of Hans Stahlbaum, the town mayor. The wealthy Stahlbaum family is hosting a festive holiday party for family and friends. The Stahlbaum children, Clara and Fritz, are anxiously awaiting the arrival of several invited guests. The home is immaculately decorated for the holidays, complete with a beautifully trimmed Christmas tree. Snow begins to fall as the guests arrive, most bearing gifts.

Party Scene:
Arriving late to the party is the Stahlbaum children's mysterious godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer. He delights the party guests with his life-size dancing dolls. He then presents gifts to all the children. Fritz receives a toy train and Clara is presented with a beautiful toy nutcracker. Clara is delighted with the unusual present until Fritz breaks it. Drosselmeyer wipes Clara's tears and repairs the nutcracker, but she remains disappointed. The guests eventually depart, and Clara and Fritz are sent to bed. Clara gets back up to search for her nutcracker, then falls asleep clutching it. Her dream then begins.

Mouse Scene:
Clara awakens suddenly, stunned by the events she sees happening in her living room. The christmas tree has grown to an enormous size and life-size mice are scampering around the room. Fritz's toy soldiers have come to life and are marching toward Clara's nutcracker, which has also grown to life-size. A battle is soon underway between the mice and the soldiers, led by the giant Mouse King. The nutcracker and the Mouse King enter an intense battle. When Clara sees that her nutcracker is about to be defeated, she throws her shoe at him, stunning him long enough for the nutcracker to stab him with his sword.

Snow Scene:
After the Mouse King falls, the nutcracker lifts the crown from his head and places it on Clara. She is magically transformed into a beautiful princess, and the nutcracker turns into a handsome prince before her eyes. The prince bows before Clara, taking her hand in his. He leads her to the Land of Snow. The two dance together, surrounded by a flurry of snowflakes.

Land of the Sweets:
Clara and her prince arrive by boat at the Land of the Sweets, greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The prince tells Clara that he lives in the Land of the Sweets and rules from the Marzipan Castle. Clara and the prince are entertained by several dance performances including the Spanish Dance, the Arabian Dance, the Chinese Dance, and the Waltz of the Flowers. Clara and her Nutcracker Prince then dance together, in honor of their new friends.

Clara Awakens:
On Christmas morning, Clara awakens under the Christmas tree, still holding her beloved nutcracker. She thinks about the mysterious events that happened during the night and wonders if it was all just a dream. She clutches her nutcracker doll and delights in the magic of Christmas.

Interesting Facts:
  • The 1892 premiere of The Nutcracker failed with both the public and critics. Unfortunately, Tchaikovsky never knew what a huge success the ballet became, as he died less than a year later.
  • Tschaikovsky was asked to use the celesta, a new instrument, to make the music for the Sugar Plum Fairy sound like the "sprays of a fountain."
  • Tschaikovsky based the music for the Arabian Dance on a Georgian lullaby.
  • The Sugar Plum Fairy's dance with the Prince is probably the most famous pas de deux (dance for two) in ballet.
  • The Nutcracker Ballet has many interpretations, resulting in several different plots and character names.
I usually save this holiday treat for myself, attending alone so that I can weep at all the beauty with total unapologetic abandon -- usually preceded by a fabulous meal down the street from the performing arts center.  But this time 'round I think I will extend this delightful tradition and drag someone along who could use a little holiday cheer. I would love to hear of your own experiences with this most classic of ballets. So feel free to grab a gingerbread latte and reminisce to your heart's content.

Friday, November 25, 2011

We shan't be lost

"Dance, dance -- otherwise we are lost" ~Pina Bausch

Well, why not?
Last weekend I had the good pleasure of attending a performance of Momix - Botanica.  I had no idea what I was in for.  All I knew was that the single show photo I saw looked 'weird'.  That was good enough for me!  What I experienced awed me to the point that when I approached the performing art center's executive director to rave following the show, I was so choked up I could not speak at first.  At length I managed to tearfully mutter, "Thank you."  She simply replied, "I know."

Such is the power of dance.  Moses Pendleton's 'dance-illusionists' took me to another place, more universal and primal than geographic. I was transported in every sense.  Despite that my entire new business venture is born of the desire to share the life-affirming, soul-igniting force of dance, I was still surprised at how knocked off my feet the Momixperience rendered me.  I would have expected to be delighted and my views on dance validated.  I was not prepared to be catapulted so far from my mental home base.  Here is a promo clip hinting at the sublime reality Momix shares with the hoi polloi.

Along the same lines of transcendent dance expression, earlier this year, a film was released in tribute to Pina Bausch, quoted at top.  Here is the trailer:

What these two trailblazing enterprises do via stage performance and cinema, I hope to do one-on-one through intimate infusion experiences.  I delight in inspired transplendence at these sorts of artist expressions.  I pray that will never change.

For information on our own in-person experiences that touch on the divinity of dance, please visit our Siren School.

Friday, November 4, 2011

South Carolina, home to one of the most scandalous dances of all time ... who woulda thunk it?

"Caroline, Caroline, at last they've got you on the map.  With a new tune, a funny blue tune, with a peculiar snap!"

In an era when rap artists often pride themselves on their outrageous lyrics, people still look back in curious wonder back nearly a century to a time much more raucous, shocking and cutting edge in historic perspective.  That time is the 1920's and oh, how they roared.

Perhaps no single aspect of the jazz age represents the wild abandon of the times better than the exuberant dance craze made popular in the 1923 Broadway show, Runnin Wild.  The Charleston, composed by James P. Johnson caught on immediately, leaping over the Atlantic to catch the attention of Parisians like Josephine Baker.  The beauty of the dance was it could be performed both solo or as a couple. As hot jazz gave way to jazz swing music over the course of the next two decades, The Charleston, too, evolved into the popular Lindy Hop.

It's a cardio workout like no other, and great for the gams.  Here's how it should be done:

Caroline, Caroline, at last they’ve got you on the map.
With a new tune, a funny blue tune, with a peculiar snap!
You many not be able to buck and wing, fox-trot, two-step, or even swing,
If you ain’t got religion in your feet, you can do this prance and do it neat.
Charleston! Charleston! Made in Carolina.
Some dance, some prance, I’ll say, there’s nothing finer
Than the Charleston, Charleston. Lord, how you can shuffle.
Ev’ry step you do leads to something new, man, I’m telling you it’s a lapazoo.
Buck dance, wing dance, will be a back number,
But the Charleston, the new Charleston, that dance is surely a comer.
Sometime you’ll dance it one time, the dance called the Charleston,
Made in South Caroline.
Charleston! Charleston! Made in Carolina.
Some dance, some prance, I’ll say, there’s nothing finer
Than the Charleston, Charleston. Lord, how you can shuffle.
Ev’ry step you do leads to something new, man, I’m telling you it’s a lapazoo.
Buck dance, wing dance, will be a back number,
But the Charleston, the new Charleston, that dance is surely a comer.
Sometime you’ll dance it one time, the dance called the Charleston,
Made in South Caroline!

Below is a smidgeon of what the omniscient Wikipedians have to say on the topic:


Developed in African-American communities in the United States, the Charleston became a popular dance craze in the wider international community during the 1920s. Despite its origins, the Charleston is most frequently associated with white flappers and the speakeasy. Here, these young women would dance alone or together as a way of mocking the "drys," or citizens who supported the Prohibition amendment, as the Charleston was then considered quite immoral and provocative.
While the Charleston as a dance probably came from the "star" or challenge dances that were all part of the Black American dance called Juba, the particular sequence of steps which appeared in Runnin' Wild were probably newly devised for popular appeal. "At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. [This could well be the Jay-Bird.] When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap." Further changes were undoubtedly made before the dance was put on stage. In the words of Harold Courlander, while the Charleston had some characteristics of traditional Negro dance, it "was a synthetic creation, a newly-devised conglomerate tailored for wide spread popular appeal. Although the step known as "Jay-Bird", and other specific movement sequences are of Afro-American origin, no record of the Charleston being performed on the plantation has been discovered.
Although it achieved popularity when the song "Charleston", sung by Elisabeth Welch, was added in the production Runnin' Wild, the dance itself was first introduced in Irving C. Miller's Liza in the spring of 1923.
The characteristic Charleston beat, which Johnson said he first heard from Charleston dockworkers, incorporates theclave rhythm and was considered by composer and critic Gunther Schuller to be synonymous with the Habanera, and the Spanish Tinge.
The effervescent and charismatic
Josephine Baker
The Charleston was one of the dances from which Lindy Hop and Jazz Roots developed in the 1930s. A slightly different form of Charleston became popular in the 1930s and '40s, and is associated with Lindy Hop. In this later Charleston form, the hot jazz timing of the 1920s Charleston was adapted to suit the swing jazz music of the '30s and '40s. This style of Charleston has many common names, though the most common are Lindy Charleston, Savoy Charleston, '30s or '40s Charleston and Swing(ing) Charleston. In both '20s Charleston and Swinging Charleston, the basic step takes eight counts and is danced either alone or with a partner.
Frankie Manning and other Savoy dancers saw themselves as doing Charleston steps within the Lindy rather than to be dancing Charleston.

Solo 20s Charleston

Solo 20s Charleston has recently gained popularity in many local Lindy Hop scenes around the world, prompted by competitions such as the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown (in 2005 and 2006 particularly) and workshops in the dance taught by high profile dancers such as the Harlem Hot Shots (formerly known as The Rhythm Hot Shots) and a range of independent dancers. Usually danced to hot jazz music recorded or composed in the 1920s, 20s solo Charleston is styled quite differently to the Charleston associated with the 1930s, 1940s and Lindy Hop, though they are structurally similar.
Solo 20s Charleston is usually danced to music at comparatively high tempos (usually above 200 or 350 beats per minute, with tempos above 300 BPM considered 'fast'), and is characterised by high-energy dancing. Faster movements are often contrasted with slower, dragging steps and improvisations.
As it is danced today, solo 20s Charleston often combines not only steps from dances associated with the 1920s (such as the Black Bottom and the Cakewalk), but also jazz dance. The most valued form of solo 20s Charleston combines choreography with improvisation and creative variations on familiar dance steps. Above all, the most popular and most "successful" solo 20s Charleston dancers respond to the music in creative ways to express themselves.
Solo 20s Charleston is often danced in groups on the social dance floor or in formal choreography.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Water Dance Workouts Making Waves

We came from water.... looks like we're headed back
by Joie de Vivre

It's common knowledge that swimming is a marvelous, whole body, no impact workout.  But what if racking up laps is not your idea of fun?  Easy. Just take your favorite form of exercise and toss it in the pool.

Marc Bloom, an award-winning NY Times writer, Sr. Contributor to Runner's World magazine and acknowledged authority on fitness, heartily advocates water workouts. "While you can't walk on water, you can walk in it. I'm a frequent water-trainer and when I've found myself in a small, shallow hotel pool, I've gotten a good workout from simply walking laps with the water up to my waist." 

According to BestAerobicWorkout.com, the benefits of water workouts are manifold: [edited]

Since water provides buoyancy and support for the body, there is significantly less risk of bone and joint injury, which makes it ideal for 'golden-agers' who suffer from arthritis or back pain. Doing exercises in water helps an individual feel less achy and sore following the workout.  
Some individuals claim they experienced faster shaping and toning of muscles when doing water exercises in contrast to performing them at home or in the gym. Since water has higher density compared to air it offers increased resistance which can contribute to better muscular improvement and stamina. 
This is great for burning calories and therefore losing weight. It is not uncommon for an exerciser to double the number of calories burned by doing the same exercise in water that she is accustomed to doing on land.

Fortunately for dance enthusiasts like me, aqua dance is starting to float into the mainstream.  

IdeaFit asks, "Are you looking for a new way to add spice to your water fitness program? Try adding dance elements. Aqua Dance captivates the joy of movement and the expression of life through integrating world rhythms and music. The fusion of aquatic fitness with dance-based choreography will give you, as an instructor, a movement base free from the boundaries of geography and gravity, limited only by the possibilities of the human form."

Even Zumba is getting into the act with new AquaZumba class which are just like they sound -- participants engage in the genres traditional moves such as the Zumba shuffle, but with the benefit of added resistance.  

On the more lyrical end of the spectrum, in addition to Mermaid Camp in 2012, Siren School will be offering Water Nymph getaways for those who would like to make a splash with the free use of both legs.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Let's Go... Calypso

The seductive nymph Calypso made her mark on Western mythology by ensnaring Homer's fabled hero Odysseys and holding him hostage on her island for seven years with plans of making him her immortal husband. 

Her musical namesake has ensnared millions over the course of the last 800 years.  Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music known to have originated in Trinidad and Tobago, just seven sea miles from VenezuelaThe genre stems from African and European (especially French) roots, and is closely associated with the black reconstruction period in post-emancipation Trinidad. African slaves, not allowed to speak with one other, communicated through song.  But it was the French who were actually responsible for bringing Carnival to Trinidad where the genre flourished.

The music is notable and most recognizable for its infectious use of stell drums. which were 'invented' in Trinidad around the time of W.W.II.  The evolution of the instruments traces back to the African slaves kept by Spanish and French plantation owners as early as the 16th century. Known as 'steel pans' to Trinidadians, the instruments are made from 55 gallon drums used to store oil, hence most often referred to as drums

The first steel music-makers developed in the evolution of these instruments were Tamboo-Bamboos, tunable sticks made of bamboo wood. The 'bass' sticks struck the ground to produce sound and were accompanied by the percussion of a gin bottle tapped by a spoon. By the mid-1930s, metal percussion was added to the sound of tamboo bamboo bands -- most likely, using something along the lines of either an automobile brake hub 'iron' or a biscuit drum 'boom'. Soon the iron replaced the gin bottle-and-spoon, and the boom took over for the the bass bamboo. By the late 1930's, all-steel bands began popping up at Carnival and by 1940 the steeldrum had become a Carnival mainstay.   

The dance style most closely associated with Calypso is Black Diaspora, an artform that expresses satire, protest, praise and conflict along with affirmation and celebration. The term 'diaspora' means 'the scattering of people, culture or language that was formerly concentrated in one place' and perfectly exemplified the slave experience.

Today the trials and tribulations that bred Calypso are mostly forgotten, owing to its perceived carefree and colorful character.  Born and bred of hardship, it is a musical genre that sets the soul free and sends it soaring.  So in celebration of its jubilant and indomitable spirit, here is the much loved King of Calypso himself, Harry Belafonte, singing the Boat Song.... Muppet style!

Want to join in on the fun?  Calypso Joy Theme Dance Parties may include use of shac-shacs (maracas), layered calico headdress, layered calico skirt, fringed hat, knee & elbow fringe, chunky bead bracelets.  This free-form barefoot format is fun and healthy for celebrants of all ages, sizes and shapes.  So take off your shoes and go Caribbean crazy with us!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Origins of one of the world's most celebrated forms of Dance... that No one CanCan seem to Agree on

The claims as to the origin of the ever-popular CanCan are as high falootin as the show girls' kicks.  My research on this is so incomprehensibly jumbled I am going to dispense with all quoting, paraphrasing proper referencing and credits due, and simply cut and paste what I found and list the sources at the end.  

Suffice it to say, their is a dance called the CanCan... and here are the claims to its evolution.  I herein include official CanCan music (the Galop form Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld) to help ease the confusion.... perhaps I should have included a glass of absinthe!

From Wikipedia: The [CanCan] ... is a high-energy and physically demanding music hall dance, traditionally performed by a chorus line of female dancers who wear costumes with long skirts, petticoats, and black stockings. The main features of the dance are the lifting up and manipulation of the skirts, with high kicking and suggestive, provocative body movements."
Origins (fasten your seatbelts, it's sure to be a bumpy post)

"The earliest evidence of Cancanish dancing was found on a wall frieze in a tomb in Egypt in 2500 to 2350 BC, depicting a line of dancers kicking their legs over their heads. The Triori of 1549 from South Brittany was very similar to today's cancan; the women danced alone, lifting their dresses up in front and kicking their legs to the ceiling. 

The CanCan [as we know it] is a hybrid of the Polka and the Quadrille and was said to be first danced in 1822, and by 1830 was being outlawed for a number of years as immoral and indecent and prohibited by the police. The cancan first appeared in the working-class ballrooms of Montparnasse in Paris around 1830. It was a more lively version of the galop, a dance which often featured as the final figure in the quadrille. The cancan was, therefore, originally a dance for couples, who indulged in high kicks and other gestures with arms and legs. It is thought that they were influenced by the antics of a popular entertainer of the 1820s, Charles Mazurier, who was well known for his acrobatic performances as Jocko the Monkey, which included the grand écart or jump splits—later a popular feature of the cancan. 

At this time, and throughout most of the 19th century in France, the dance was also known as the chahut. Both words are French, cancan meaning "tittle-tattle" or "scandal", hence a scandalous dance, while chahut meant "noise" or "uproar". The dance did cause something of a scandal, and for a while, there were attempts to repress it. Occasionally people dancing the cancan were arrested but it was never officially banned, as is sometimes claimed. Throughout the 1830s, it was often groups of men, particularly students, who caused the most outrage by dancing the cancan at public dance-halls. In 1845, La Princesse Celeste de Mogador (Morocco?), Introduced the Can-Can Eccentrique at the Bal Mabille, Bal Montesquieu, Bal de la Citb dAntin and the Bal Valentino. It was performed by all walks of life. By 1848, it was frowned upon by the police as being too risqué.  It was considered little more than a scandalous activity that young people indulged in, similar to how rock and roll would be perceived later in the 1960s. 

It was later introduced to England at the Oxford Music Hall sometime in the 1860's by the proprietor Charles Morton along with a troupe headed by Imre Kiralfy and his brother Bolossy along with their sister Aniola. The British were shocked by the indecency of the dance, but in Paris the popularity of the Cancan was still growing.  The Can-Can's first American public stage performance (not a saloon) was in the "Black Crook " at Niblo's Gardens in New York, September 12th., 1866, this production was a milestone in dance and theatre and helped to start Burlesque theatre.

As performers of the cancan became more skilled and adventurous, it gradually developed a parallel existence as entertainment, alongside the participatory form, although it was still very much a dance for individuals and not yet performed on stage by a chorus line. A few men became cancan stars in the 1840s to 1860s, and an all-male group known as the Quadrille des Clodoches performed the dance in London in 1870. But women performers were much more widely known in this period. They were mostly middle-ranking courtesans, and only semiprofessional entertainers—unlike the dancers of the 1890s, such as La Goulue and Jane Avril, who were highly paid for their appearances at the Moulin Rouge and elsewhere. 

Dance Form

In France in the 19th century the cancan remained a dance for individual entertainers, who performed on a dance floor. In the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere, the cancan achieved popularity in music halls, where it was danced by groups of women in choreographed routines, chorus-line style. The female dancers of the Second Empire and the fin-de-siècle developed the various cancan moves that were later incorporated by the choreographer Pierre Sandrini in the spectacular "French Cancan", which he devised at the Moulin Rouge in the 1920s and presented at his own Bal Tabarin from 1928. This was a highly choreographed routine lasting ten minutes or more which combined the chorus-line style of British and American music halls and the individual style of the Parisian dance-halls which provided the opportunity for individual dancers to display their specialities.

Featured moves include: 

  • high kick or battement
  • rond de jambe (quick rotary movement of lower leg with knee raised and skirt held up)
  • the port d'armes (turning on one leg, while grasping the other leg by the ankle and holding it almost vertical)
  • the cartwheel
  • the grand écart (the flying or jump splits). 
  • dancers were also adept at removing men's hats with a single high kick.
It has become common practice for dancers to scream and yelp while performing the cancan, but this is by no means essential. The men's cancan uses the battement, along with backflips, cartwheels, and splits; it is intended to show off the dancer's energy and athletic ability.


In the mid-19th century, when the dance was emerging from the working-class dance-halls into the mainstream, it was thought to be extremely inappropriate by "respectable" society. This was due, in great part, to the dancers' revealing of their undergarments  and contrasting black stockings. They lifted and manipulated their skirts a great deal, and incorporated a move considered cheeky and provocative—bending over and throwing their skirts over their backs, presenting their posteriors to the audience. Legendary Moulin Rouge dancer La Goulue was well known for this gesture, which showcased a heart embroidered on the seat of her bloomers.  It is urban legend that the cancan was commonly performed sans undergarments... although La Goulue was reported to have done so on occasion. Bloomers were adopted in the 1850s with the advent of the crinoline hoop skirt.

Whatever its exact origin, the CanCan is currently embraced as a part of world dance culture, characterized by it's fast pace, energetic athleticism and bawdy presentation, which by today's standards would not even cause a flutter on the risque-o-meter.  The moves are acrobatic, grand flowing skirts dazzling, and the music infectious.  Just like rock 'n' roll, the CanCan is here to stay!

C'est ca.

....a few more tidbits to be digested as the credits roll...

CanCan In the arts (wikipedia stuff I think)

Many composers have written music for the cancan. Early editions of the Oxford Companion to Music defined the cancan as "A boisterous and latterly indecorous dance of the quadrille order, exploited in Paris for the benefit of such British and American tourists as will pay well to be well shocked. Its exact nature is unknown to anyone connected with this Companion."

The most famous music is French composer Jacques Offenbach's galop infernal in Orpheus in the Underworld (1858). In the 1890's the Can-Can was done to March and later Ragtime music. The ballet by Massine (b.1894) was an excellent example of the Can-Can, titled "Gaite' Parisienne " (1938), which later was made into a movie, "The Gay Parisian." Other examples occur in Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow (1905) and Cole Porter's musical play Can-Can (1954) which in turn formed the basis for the 1960 musical film Can-Can starring Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. Some other songs that have become associated with the cancan include Khachaturian's Sabre Dance and the music hall standard Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay.

The cancan has often appeared in ballet, most notably Léonide Massine's La Boutique fantasque (1919) and Gaîté Parisienne, as well as The Merry Widow. A particularly fine example can be seen at the climax of Jean Renoir's 1954 filmFrench Cancan.

[The Moulin Rouge and CanCan were single-brushedly immortalized by french artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who] produced several paintings and a large number of posters of cancan dancers, as can be seen throughout this post. Other painters to have treated the cancan as a subject include Georges Seurat, Georges Rouault, and Pablo Picasso.

Supermarket chain ShopRite, headquartered in New Jersey and found in the mid-Atlantic region, uses the cancan in animated commercials twice a year to advertise their large sale on canned goods. In January 2011, that store is running a special commercial to note that they are celebrating their 40th anniversary of their Can-Can Sale.

Totally Plagiarized Sources:

great source! (and used as basis for the Wikipedia CanCan page)   

Sunday, May 8, 2011


What could be more fun than a colorful fiesta with friends and family? How about a guilt-free fiesta with some sassy salsa dancing where you can burn off the calories and maybe even indulge in some extra guacamole.

Joie de Vivre Lifestyle's themed salsa dance parties create a healthy happy atmosphere perfect for celebrating everything from a birthday or bachelorette bash to a social group gathering or worthy cause fundraiser.  All Theme Dance Parties last approximately 2 hours and come with a Party Presenter and/or Dance Director, a trunk-full of props and costume bits for guest use during the event, plus take-home bonne bouche bags (goodies for each guest) and a little something special for the hostess or honoree.

Buenos Benies

  • Salsa dancing is a vibrant, energetic, and passionate dance form. Many people enjoy salsa dancing as a hobby or even career. Because of its intensity, this dance style has many proven health benefits---like the potential to lower cholesterol and burn calories---that might encourage you to find a partner and learn a few steps.

Social Salsa

  • Salsa is a huge part of social life in Latin America. Dancing is a form of communication that uses body language and physical connection, not words, to form emotional bonds with other people

Fun Fitness

  • Salsa dance takes strength and stamina, making it a viable form of exercise. However, unlike traditional workouts---like running on a treadmill or lifting weights---salsa has a social aspect. Salsa has been proven to increase endurance and stamina, boost weight loss, help the body release toxins, and even help to lower heart rate. In September 2005, BBC Sport asserted that salsa is good exercise because of its fast tempo, with dancers burning 200 to 400 calories in a half-hour session. The article also mentioned that this form of exercise can improve cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

Decompress, Destress

  • Salsa dancing is also a method of releasing tension and negativity, which can lead to a lower stress level. Salsa Beat, website of dance instructor Ivan Rodrigo Garcia, emphasizes that dancing can be helpful in stimulating the brain---a benefit studied and proven by the New England Journal of Medicine, which concluded that dancing may help to reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

So......... what is salsa ?

What is this thing called Salsa? Have you ever wondered what the word "Salsa" means or its history? It is not something easily defined, as it did not stem from one specific place or person. Instead, it is a combination of multiple roots and cultures as well as the creativity many different persons. In general, Salsa evolved as a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances.While it is definitely more than just Cuban, a large part of the dance originated on the island. The French who fled from Haiti brought the Danzón or the country-dance of England/France to Cuba. This dance began to mix with the African rhumbas such as Guaguanco, Colombia and Yambú. Added to this is the Són of the Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero) and the African drumbeats. This type of syncretism occurred in other places like the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Puerto Rico, albeit not at the same grand level and manner as in Cuba.

Before and around the time of World War II, the music traveled to Mexico City and New York. It was in New York where the term "Salsa" was created. In fact, the use of the word salsa for danceable Latin Music was coined in 1933 when Cuban song composer Ignacio Piñerio wrote the song Échale Salsita. According to the late Alfredo Valdés Sr. the idea occurred to Piñerio after eating food that lacked Cuban spices. According to Valdés, the word served as a type of protest against bland food. It then flourished as a popular nickname for a variety of Hispanic influenced music including the rhumba, Són, Montuno, Guaracha, Mambo, Cha, cha, cha, Merengue, Guajira, Cumbia and others. Increased syncretism in New York occurred of the different sounds. In addition, there was greater investment and promotion of salsa, which generated more commercial music. However, the term did not really take off until the 1960s. 

One of the early salsa albums was the Cal Tjader Quintet plus 5’s Cal Tjader Soul Sauce in which the cover donned a fork on a plate of red beans and chili alongside an opened bottle of Tabasco sauce. Many Mexicans in San Francisco began using the term salsa to describe Tjader’s brand of music. Tjader’s music spread to other cities including Los Angeles and the East Coast. This was the start of Latin music being aired in different formats on radio stations across the country. It was in 1974 that Fania Records released Larry Harlow’s Salsa. Harlow became very popular and his album enjoyed tremendous sales. This really unleashed the term salsa and popularized it. After this, almost all Afro-Cuban rhythms and much of what was deemed exciting in Latin music acquired the term salsa. It also gained notoriety in the anglo-market. In June of 1976, Billboard magazine’s issue dedicated to Latin music contained a 24-page supplement called "Salsa explosion."

The metamorphosis of salsa to what is heard and danced in clubs today has been a long, slow, and varied process. Not one person or place can be attributed as the founder of salsa. Instead, the dance and music has evolved over time through an elaborate syncretism of different sounds, cultures, and meanings. For example, in much of today’s salsa you will hear the base of són and the melodies of Cumbia and Guaracha. You will also hear some old Merengue as well as some old styles mixed with modern beats. Salsa varies from place to place and from one song to the next. The diversity and complexity of the music is what keeps its listeners enticed, as well as delightfully surprised, and its dancers on their toes. This is the beauty of the salsa.

The History of Salsa portion of this post comes via Salsa Dancing Addict and was originally prepared by Cathy Bartch