Thursday, May 28, 2009

Let's Get Physical

We all saw it happen on this season's "Dancing With the Stars".

The injuries, the muscle strains, the broken bones ... the incredible physicality it takes to dance well. Many kinesiologists have declared dance as one of the very best types of physical fitness a person can do ... because of the muscle tone it builds, the often intense cardio, the flexibility that develops, and those joyful endorphins that release as soon as the music starts. Plus, it's damn fun!

I should tell you that I've never been a very "sporty" person. Sure, I like to go for a nice bike ride, rollerblade down a boardwalk, do pleasant hikes, yoga, etc. But as for intense, heart-pumping, massive sweating activities ...? Um, yeah, not my thing. Until I re-discovered dance.

In a matter of days, I started to notice a change in posture, more muscle strength, invigoration, and flexibility (check out the Shakira-esque moves in our routine). Salsa requires excellent timing, proper framing, and body awareness and confidence that makes you shake your bits. Kinda fun.

In the 12 weeks since I started salsa dancing I have rolled my ankle, stepped on my own feet, stepped on my dance partner's feet, gotten bruised arms from lifts, kicked my partner in the leg, gotten shinned in the head, elbowed my partner in the teeth, gotten so dizzy from spins that I had to sit down, gotten twisted into a pretzel when I was supposed to look graceful, and gotten overall muscle aches when the rehearsals were really intense.

Overall, I'm pretty damn proud of those "war wounds"! :)

As hard as it's been to wake up so early to go to those morning rehearsals, I'll admit I'm going to miss them. That quiet studio that we had all to ourselves ... and the sweaty invigorated self who walked out of there every time with a big smile. Will I stop salsa dancing after the June 6th performance? Not a chance!!

2 Minutes


The average daily TV news story runs about 2 minutes long.

This is what it takes to put that very quick vignette on a news program: Every morning -- after reading the newspapers and listening to radio reports -- I speak with my assignment desk out of Vancouver. I will either be assigned a story or pitch something that is happening on the Island.

At that point, I have to quickly get up to speed on that specific topic (which could be anything from provincial budget details to criminal investigations to how whales mate). It includes internet research and "cold calls" to anyone connected to the topic.

These cold calls are instrumental ... while chatting for the research, I am also trying to ascertain if they will make a good interview for my story. If so, then I have to convince them to put their nerves aside, and do a televison interview. All of this takes friendliness, charm, and trust-building with the person ... remember it is all on the phone and I'm working in a very tight time frame.

Then, we have to actually shoot the interviews and cover shots (b-roll). It means coordinating with their schedule, travelling to location, doing the interview (convincing people they ARE doing a great job, encouraging them to relax and trust me), getting cover shots, and then trying to see where it all fits together.

Amidst all of this, my Blackberry is in constant use. About every minute, I receive an email or phone call that must be taken care of. Emails from political parties ... from colleagues who are hoping I can ALSO do an interview for them in Victoria ... or from the newsroom as we fine-tune the story's focus as the day unfolds. The mind is constantly engaged as you try to drill down through the excess words and information to find the core of the story. I only have two minutes to tell it, after all.

After interviews and other visuals are shot, we head back to the building (in my case, the press gallery in the legislature), where I shotlist the interviews (full transcripts), write a script, get it vetted by a producer in Vancouver and then head downstairs to our edit suite. This is all happening as the clock ticks towards that 6pm deadline.

I voice my script. My cameraman/editor Marc edits the story. I send the times of interviews (to super the person's name live into the show). And THEN ... if it's a hot story of the day ... we go outside and do a live hit. The live hit means setting up cameras, lights, checking audio, ... heavy makeup to hide the stress of the day. Through my earpiece I can hear the show's director in Vancouver giving me a time count, and then I hear our hosts Gloria or Ian throwing to me in Victoria and then I go live. Often with people stopping to gawk, yahoos honking their horns, sometimes so tired that I hope I don't forget my lines.

I often feel invigorated yet mentally exhausted after I get the story to air.

And when you see the final item on TV ... all you see ... is 2 minutes.


The average choreographed salsa routine is about
2 minutes

Our choreographer, Christina Morrison, spent hours at home working on the moves - for two people - before even meeting up for rehearsals. Finessing a routine that she could teach to both me and Charles and have us performance-ready in 12 weeks. Keeping in mind that I was an absolute beginner ... having never couple-danced in my life.
BIG learning curve.

For the past twelve weeks, I've gotten up around 6:30am and driven to Cafe Casablanca ... on the dance floor by 8am. For an hour and a half before work, we learned, sweated, got frustrated, felt excited, bonded, learned to trust each other, and share conversations through dance.

From Day 1, they had to teach me basic salsa steps before even imagining doing spins, lifts, flips ... not to mention the sassy attitude that salsa dancers must have when performing.

After that, came the task of learning to dance with another person for the first time (aside from dancing on Dad's feet as a little girl, or the Grade 9 cafeteria dances to Def Leppard's "Love Bites"). I had a mental block about letting a man lead (see previous blog posts) ... but eventually learned how the body (with some practice) will know when to turn, how to step, and when to show off ... simply by acknowledging the subtle pressure on the shoulder, the hand hold, the way your body shimmies when the music feels right. That didn't come overnight for me, as my dance partner Charles can attest! :)

And then ... the choreography. Wow, do I love this routine! But like any builder knows, you have to have a good foundation, which is what my salsa posse taught me. From there, I have learned a funky, hot, and ultra cool routine that I'm proud to perform. But it has not come overnight. From learning - and remembering - the choreography to this fast-paced routine ... to trusting my partner's lead ... to cleaning up the parts that just weren't flashy enough ... to actually letting go and allowing the muscle memory and the fun of the dance to take over ... we are ONE WEEK away from performing in that ballroom in front of 250 people.

The more confident we've become, the stronger our moves are, and the more intense the rehearsals. SO intense that I fiercely elbowed Charles in the teeth a few weeks ago (no blood) while trying to maintain proper form in a fast triple spin. He returned the favour by shinning me in the side of the head when I didn't duck quickly enough and giving me just a slight concussion. I've gotten bruised arms from the lifts. I've stepped on my own feet. I've stepped on Charles' feet.

By the time I go to work after these rehearsals, I am a little sore, but truly invigorated with joy in my soul.

But all of this is inconsequential.

Because on June 6th when we strut into that ballroom in full costume, with attitude and flirt, doing a fun fast-paced salsa performance ... all YOU will see ... is 2 minutes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vote For Us!

After more than a month on the road covering the BC election -- which is tomorrow night -- I'm SO ready to get back to Victoria and my beloved salsa rehearsals. Charles and I were rockin' the dance just before I left and when I popped home for a quick practice, I remembered most of our choreography (but was admittedly out of breath after a month of intense travelling and virtually no exercise. Yuck.)

And so, when I head back to Victoria at the end of the week, Charles, Christina and I will be back at it ... HARD. We have three weeks to be performance-ready. Everyone had 12 weeks to practice ... we had 8. But we are not daunted. Oh no. If you've ever seen a TV journalist creating magic at the last hour as a deadline approaches and the pressure is on, they you are about to see it again.

Come and support us on Saturday, June 6th and vote for our sexy, magical, fun and flirty salsa routine. You won't be disappointed! :)