Happy Dominican Independence Day!

Happy Dominican Independence Day! I would like to throw back to this photo from my trip to DR in 2011. I already loved Bachata at this point, but I hadn’t yet gone down the path of being head over heels for “traditional” style yet. This trip is what did it. I don’t have any pictures of my Bachata experiences (because when you’re white and some Dominicans take you to their favorite colmado for Bachata, you either embrace it and go full gringa or you pretend like you’re a cool white person – I attempt the latter. Perhaps this photo is not great evidence for that, though haha!), but I do have vivid memories of riding a moto up a hill out of the town in Samaná, having the skies pour rain down upon us for half the ride, and arriving at the colmado, soaking wet, to many funny looks, a cement dance floor, plastic lawn chairs encircling the dance floor, cups of Presidente abounding, and bachata dancing like I had never seen it. The footwork was so creative, so heartfelt, and so different from what the congress scene told me was “Dominican/traditional Bachata.” I was mystified. I noticed the guys were definitely the show offs (and in a modest way compared to the studio dance scene) and the women actually danced more plainly, but that didn’t mean they weren’t feeling the music. The joy you feel from Bachata as it was intended is felt more than it is seen by onlookers, and it is magical. I returned home from that trip totally changed in my love for Bachata and with a deep love for the country and culture that the dance emerged from. Even though I’m not even remotely Dominican (or Latina or Hispanic for those who are unconvinced), I still want to celebrate this day for what the DR and it’s rich culture have added to my life. Feliz día de la independencia!

 

 

Event Planning Services

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Would you like to have professional help plan and organize your event? Jessica of FTLOB can help! Jessica currently offers these services:

  • Event consulting; Jessica will review your plan and give you advice on how to streamline and/or improve your current event framework.
  • Event planning, including setting realistic targets and a budget, searching for a venue, handling contracts with hired professionals, prepping for the day of the event, and more depending on the type of event.
  • Event planning + promotional tools

More information coming soon. Until then, email fortheloveofbachata@gmail.com to request a quote for your event!

Stepping Up

I do not enjoy being in the spotlight for too long, and when I began For the Love of Bachata, I did so out of a passion for the music and dance, not because I wanted to be a promoter. Had bachata not needed an advocate in Pittsburgh, I actually never EVER would have stepped into the position I am today. Because of that apprehension I felt, I hid behind the word “we” in all my posts as a way to accomplish my goals without having to expose myself. However, along the way, I guess it became confusing to the public who was the mystery person behind the FTLOB curtain. I know in the past 2 years people have thought my company was a subdivision of another dance group, have wondered who was my team accomplishing everything, and in some cases, had no idea who was running the events. I didn’t intend to make it so confusing, but I also wasn’t promoting myself in a way that answered those questions.

Upon the persistent suggestions of a few of my peers in the bachata world, today I am bravely and proudly stepping up as the face of my own company. As one of these peers said to me — “Better late than never!” Though I have been fortunate enough to have the support of many friends and allies in Pittsburgh and beyond, I have ALWAYS been the sole organizer behind For the Love of Bachata. The ideas, the leg work, the money invested, and the losses, financial and otherwise, have been all my own since the inception of FTLOB on February 4th, 2012. It’s been an incredible amount of work, especially with a full-time career and earning my master’s degree along the way. I am unspeakably grateful for those who have supported me in smaller ways, such as lugging equipment to and from my car or cleaning up after an event, giving me pep talks when my spirits were low, promoting FTLOB at their events, and so much more. I hope you all know who you are. Your support has kept me going during times when I thought, “I have a career, I don’t need this stress” and I’m sure it will get me through more of those times in the future!

The page that I’ve added to this website, “About the Founder,”  marks this big change in my attitude about my role in my company. Though it doesn’t say much about myself (we have to accept my baby steps here as progress, haha!), it represents a change in direction — an evolution of myself.

With that, I just want to thank you all again for your role in growing bachata from the dance you could do 3-4 times a night (if you were lucky) to what we see today in Pittsburgh. I’ll see you on the dance floor soon — save me one!

All my love,
Jessica Taylor
Owner, Love of Bachata LLC
(A.K.A. For the Love of Bachata)

Dance Skill Progression: The Cruel Reality

I was having a conversation recently about this trend of new dancers who catch on to dance really quickly — has anyone experienced the same? The person is learning really fast and suddenly – BAM – they say something arrogant and position them as a better dancer than you when they are still working on their basics. Some I’ve heard over the years include “Are you ready for ME to show YOU how it’s done?” and “I don’t really want to dance bachata. I just feel like I have no where else to go with it.”

Personally, I NEVER want to discourage someone from learning — EVER — but I also want to find a way to show them that, though they have learned a lot in a relatively short period of time, that there is a wide world of dance skills out there that they don’t even know exist yet. I, too, was guilty at one point in time of thinking I was hot stuff because I could handle the lead of most people in my scene after just 8 months of dancing. Thankfully I had a teacher (shoutout to Sonny Moyer) who encouraged me to travel to see that yep, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. There’s much more to social dancing than I ever realized at that time.

While discussing this situation with a friend, my brain borrowed something I know about language proficiency learning (I’m a state-certified Spanish language teacher) and I created this upside-down pyramid representing the stages of dance skill progression in the (albeit, rough) likeness of language proficiency development. While most people probably think learning to dance is like a normal pyramid with the most learning taking place in the largest, beginner layer and the advanced portion representing a relatively small set of skills, it is actually quite the reverse. If you are working really hard when you begin dancing, of course you’re going to move into the 2nd layer (notice, the first layer is actually the “newbie” AKA “I’m just learning what the essential elements of this dance are” layer) relatively quickly. Should you still be proud? DEFINITELY! Any progress should be celebrated! You SHOULD feel like a million bucks for accomplishing this feat! However, at the same time, it’s important to create new goals for growth at this point and identify the skills that will help you progress through the next layer instead of becoming complacent at your accomplishment. Sometimes this is hard, and I can’t even claim to know all layers of this pyramid. On my best day, maybe I’m half-way through the pyramid. Maybe.

So what can you do now that you know about the pyramid? (1) Find a progressive dance series from a (2) qualified instructor. You want a progressive series instead of a bunch of random, disconnected lessons because you want someone to bear witness to your growth and guide you in the direction of the skills that you need to work on most at this point in your education. (There’s a place for taking lots of different, disconnected lessons — I’m just saying be aware that you will need a progressive series if you want to advance your skills systematically and efficiently.) Also, you want to make sure you get a qualified instructor that knows a lot more than you do. As a certified public school teacher, I feel truly that a teacher cannot bestow 100% of their skill to their students. There is always a percentage of our own skills that we just do — we don’t know why we do it. That portion of our own skill cannot be transferred until we, the teachers, learn even more and begin to understand those more recent layers of skill acquisition. (By the way, make sure you are also investing in a teacher who invests in themselves. A complacent teacher that has not taken lessons themselves in awhile is probably not the best investment of your time and money.) (3) After awhile with the same teacher, it’s okay to switch and find someone new to take you through another progression of skills. In fact, a good teacher will TELL YOU to take lessons with other people to ensure that you become a well-rounded dancer. (4) Finally, I recommend that you begin traveling to other cities for dancing and especially to big dance events so that you can see all that’s out there in the big, wide world of dance. In my personal dance growth, I feel that these experiences are what have made me the dancer I am today. Not only did I become aware of new skills, new genres, and new passions, I also had the opportunity to dance with people way more skilled and/or different in style than what I was exposed to in my home scene. Through that social dance practice, I learned to follow a variety of leads and become a more versatile dancer.

 

Do you agree or disagree with the chart I’ve created? Leave your comments below.