10 Reasons to come and teach in Israel

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10. The pastries are delicious.
9. The food is fresh AND healthy here…more so than anywhere else I’ve been.
8. The country has a lil’ scenic sump’n for everyone: mountains, ocean, dessert, big cities, OLD cities, modern architecture, and frankly, it’s down right biblical!
7. To float in the Dead Sea
6. To enjoy the gorgeous 21C weather during the November evenings
5. The people are warm and ebullient like the Italians.
4. The dancers are fluent in English the way the Swedes are
3. The students are fantastic at focusing and they relentlessly practice the material
2. There is free, open wifi just about everywhere!!!!!
1. The organizers put a lot of thought, effort and heart into every last detail of how the instructors are treated.

Dance Tel Aviv, thank you for having Kevin and me, for putting us up in a gorgeous apartment, and taking such wonderful care of us. The pictures I’ve posted on FB (and soon to be here) are dedicated to you.

xx

Dead Sea

Gaaah, what a fun day Kevin and I had!!

We planned to be out the door by 9am, which of course meant around 9:30. Yoni, one of our fabulous babysitters for the weekend, picked us up in his cute little car and road tripped it with us down to the Dead Sea. Two hours and a lot of desert later, we finally arrived at our destination. Needless to say, it was biblical. 😀

Here’s a quick blurb about the Dead Sea from Wikipedia:

The Dead Sea (Arabic: البحر الميت‎ al-Bahr al-Mayyit, Hebrew: יָם הַ‏‏מֶּ‏‏לַ‏ח‎‎, Yām Ha-Melaḥ, “Sea of Salt”), also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 423 metres (1,388 ft) below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth’s surface. The Dead Sea is 377 m (1,237 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 33.7% salinity, it is also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water […] It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 67 kilometres (42 mi) long and 18 kilometres (11 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.

Now that you know some stats, here’s an ever quicker run down of our day. We went to a spa/resort sort of place, covered ourselves in mud, washed off in a sulfur bath followed by a fresh water shower, had a massage (I snagged a facial), and then went down to float in the Dead Sea. Freaking fantastic day!!! I have a bunch of photos from my trip that I need to post, but until then, I’ll leave you with this. Hopefully you recognize this our signature pose.

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And, as legend has it, you really do “just float”. It was surprising and magical. And bizarre. Hahah, Kevin pretended to be sky diving….wish I had snapped a picture of that.

Until later!!

Tuesday in Budapest

Life is really, really good right now.

Two nights ago, Kevin and I arrived in Budapest and it’s been an exciting and delightful experience. After getting our luggage, we exited baggage claim to be picked up by a little, charming, old man who drove us to the Novotel. Kevin and I proceeded to check in, and found out that we were at the wrong Novotel. In fact, there are three of them in this glorious city.

We eventually ended up at the Novotel Danube which is situated across from one of the most stunning Parliament building in the world. Not only that, but there was free wifi in the hotel. Oh, Novotel, you know how to treat a gal right! After heading up to our room, I think I fell asleep around 10:30pm.

Yesterday was one of those days that just kinda happens to you. Little to no planning was involved, but everything I wanted to happen did. Kevin and I woke up around 9 and shuffled down to breakfast before it closed at 10am. I was (and am) thrilled that the food was really good. There were scrambled eggs, bacon, cheeses, breads, tea, coffee, oatmeal, granola, fresh juices, and quite the variety of fresh fruit. Yum!

After a delightful breakfast, Kevin and I came back upstairs, did some email, and then went to the gym to workout. After a good run and a stretch, we sweated in the sauna for a bit. Gaaah, it was fabulous. Why don’t I have a sauna everywhere I go? Freaking awesome! Then we came back upstairs and I decided I had time to primp. An hour and I half later, I emerged from the bathroom feeling like a new human being.

It was lunchtime, which meant we would wander the streets of Buda until we found nourishment fit for kings (shaking fist in the air)! Where did we end up? At a pizza joint. 😀 After replenishing our energy supply, we forged on with our battle to see the city (haha, yes, it felt that epic to us at the time). We climbed a good number of stairs, briefly considered taking the running-car-with-it’s-door-open for a spin, watched a bum, imaged what it would be like to scale a castle wall, and then climbed more stairs.

I’m still not sure where we ended up, but there were castles! Kevin and I played with some of our photography apps on our phones and took a few photos and then jimmied with the setting. Speaking of which, Instagram, I dig you. :p All of a sudden, we started hearing more English. Eeek, that must mean we’re near tourists. About half a block up, there was a Hilton from the 1970s (oh, that architecture really is…..errr….timeless?) and tourist traps. I figured now would be a great time to grab a pastry and Kevin reminded me that Hungary knows how to do dessert. Literally within two blocks of putting that into the universe, a confectionary magically appeared on our right. Sweet (pun intended)!!

We gingerly walk in and quietly take a seat up on stage. Haha, yes, there was seating on the floor AND on the random stage. Naturally, Kevin and I were drawn to the stage and…..ok, really, it provided the best view of the square outside. As we savored our cherry-chocolate cake and marzipan-chocolate cake, we sat back and appreciated the view. Well, that was until the bus load of tourists arrived and then we booked it out of there.

The stone work in this city is exquisite. After visiting Poland last week, where most of Warsaw had been destroyed in WWII, this city stood in stark contrast; so much of the city, in it’s historical glory, still stands in excellent condition. Kevin and I wandered around so we could better see what we had been looking at through the window, and played one of our favorite games: History in the Making!

Here’s how you play:

1) Find something fun/interesting that clearly has a great story behind it
2) Say what year it was created
3) Explain what people thought this thing was
4) Explain what it really is
5) Add someone or a group of people who were clearly involved in the story

Often times this game starts out pretty tame, but it slowly becomes slightly off color and potentially offensive. Oh my goodness, it’s so much fun! Best story wins!

Before we headed home, I told Kev that I thought we should try and see a show tonight. If it was at 7pm, we would be home by 10ish. He seemed happy to consider it. Near the end of our History in the Making session, we stumbled upon a “dance house” and found a 7pm musical with Hungarian dancing in it called “Tanckronika Dozsa Gyorgy tetteirol: Honved Tancszinhaz”. Done and done.

Around 6 we rallied and got a cab to take us to the Muveszetek Palotaja. Holy wow, was that a stunning building. Again, Kevin and I stopped to take pictures and then hustled inside. We had killer seats; fourth row, center, aaaaaaand we were sitting behind a kid. Awesome.

The dancing was thrilling to watch. There was so much energy and camaraderie on stage. I’m a little sad that it was mostly the men creating it, but the lady dancers did their fair share of dancing, they were just in the back. Uh, but the leg work….and rhythms…..and clapping….and the belts….and the handsome men….wow, it was just what I wanted to see.

Ok, the I’m not entirely sure what the premise of the show was, but here’s my best summary. There was our main guy, we’ll call him Dozsa, who had most of the singing solos and got to wield a weapon the most often. Subsequently, he started most of the dance battles. He also had the longest hair which proceeded to get wetter throughout the show. He through it around like he was a pained rockstar. He was kind of a “Lord of the Dance” sort of guy. Dozsa opened the show by battling a guy with a fu-man-chu who I think was supposed to be Arabic of some sort (to be honest, not sure). Dozsa ended up killing him and put his head on the top of his weapon. Yes….that was kinda shocking. Then the music changed from “traditional” folk music to a slow rock ballad when the hot, medieval ladies came out.

Mind you, this show is entirely in Hungarian so Kevin and I had NO idea what was going on. The only thing we could surmise was who the “good guy” was, who the priest was, and that the knights and men in funny hats were bad. Other good life-lessons to glean from the show are as follows: rock ballads are a sign of love, dance battles are done with friend and foe alike, and being drunk or having fantastical dreams reads as the same on stage without translation (ehem, Dozsa).

The music was a mix of old (live musicians) and new (recordings), presumably to help the younger generation better connect with the dancing of generations past. Some of it, I thought, was nicely done, and some of it was just silly. The storyline was good: hero protects city, has wild whimsical dreams, priest forbids something, knights come in and want something, hero feels torn about this “something”, and in the end, fights to the death. The stage was lovely, the props were good, the sound was fantastic, and the dancers and live musicians were awesome.

Once the show was over, we played transportation by ear and somehow managed to get home two trams and a good walk later. What a spectacular day.

Tuesday Travel Day

Note: sarcasm ahead.

Just so you all know, being a lindy hopper is super glamorous and is the easiest job in the world ever!

We travel the world, play dress up, listen to great music, hang out with our friends, and get to give back to the community. We rub elbows with the other micro-celebrities, exchange hot new video clips from the 1930s, and spend time being fabulous. Oh the glamour!

On the other hand, we spend a lot of our life in or on our way to airports, or flying from city to city (or doing any version of transportation to get the job done), live out of a suitcase, dance to the same music that we’ve been listening to for years (darn you Barbara Morrison & Diana Krall and your music that is soooooo often played!), and have a limited sense of personal privacy.

Ok, sarcasm and reality aside, I LOVE being a lindy hop instructor and wouldn’t trade my job for another. I am exceptionally grateful that my teenage hobby has provided me with a living and that there are so many lindy hop scenes around the world that are thriving. In all honestly, I have a great life and I know it. That being said, it’s nice to gripe every now and again, so here’s a little glimpse into what it means to being an international lindy hop instructor:

My travel schedule in May/June:

Tuesday, May 24 – Pittsburgh to Seattle (Camp Jitterbug)
Tuesday, May 31 – Seattle – Frankfurt – Thessoloniki (Swing n’ Swim)
Tuesday, June 7 – Thessoloniki – Rome – Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne (Melbourne Swing Festival)
Monday, June 13 – Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur – Rome – Barcelona (ESDC)
Tuesday, June 21 – Barcelona – JFK – Pittsburgh (Home)

Glamorous right?! Not really.

Fun? Yes.

Exhausting? Absolutely.

So that was the overview of my month. Let’s take a quick look at one of my biggest travel days in 2011, shall we?

TUESDAY
4:45 wake up
5:10 leave apartment in Thessoloniki, Greece
5:30 arrive at airport
6:55 flight to Rome, Italy
– 2 hour flight, 1 hour time change –
7:55 arrive in Rome
– 6 hour layover –
13:50 flight to Kuala Lumpur
– 12 hours later –

WEDNESDAY
8:30 arrive in Kuala Lumpur
– 4 hour layover –
flight to Melbourne, Australia
22:05 arrive in Melbourne
+ 1.5 hours through Customs and to get bags
+ 45 minute drive to host’s house

Just another travel day!

 

No Cheap Flights

I feel pretty strongly that when I travel for work, I will not use budget airlines. When it comes down to it, they aren’t the less expensive than the larger airlines. I think these three ladies sum up how I feel about cheap airlines and why.

Thanks Fascinating Aida for saying everything I wanted to say. Feck!

Being in Greece

Right now Kevin and I are in the middle of a four week tour across the globe: Seattle, WA; Thessaloniki, Greece; Melbourne, Australia; and Barcelona, Spain. On one hand, I’ll be the first to tell you I know how lucky Kevin and I are to get to travel to all these fabulous places. On the other hand, think about how much time I must spend in the air to get from place to place. Pull out a map quickly and just take a look at the distance……..I’ll wait……..yeah, silly, right? I thought so too, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to go to a new country and hang out on the beach!!

Ok, so to the point of this post. I knew when I left Pittsburgh two weekends ago I’d need to pack for winter (Seattle and Melbourne) and summer (Greece and Spain) so I brought some skirts and some rompers and then things to layer under them. So far it’s worked out just fine. That being said, it completely escaped me that I would need sunblock, a hat or bug spray, or anything else beach related. I was in H&M while in Seattle and I remember seeing the wide-brimmed sun hats and I thought to myself “Goodness, how silly! Who on earth would buy such a hat? I mean, really. Look at the weather, it’s all cold and rainy.” So unfortunately, I missed my opportunity to buy a US$10 hat and instead got to buy one here for 20 euros (about U$30). Great. To top it off, sunblock was another 15 euros. *feigned smile

Arrr!! I think people should pay for their stupidity and clearly that is what’s happening here. That being said, my skin is totally work 35 euros. Now, bug spray on the other….well, I decided to skip on that much to my skins’ dismay. The mosquitos come out at dusk and of course, that’s the best time to rehearse; it’s not too hot, not too cold, nice breeze, and the dance floors are available. Hehe, sound like Herrang anyone?

So enough griping; life is freaking amazing here. I’ve been waking up most mornings between 8-8:30 to the sun shimmering on the water. And it’s quiet. Oh, so lovely. I’ll post pictures once I’m not paying for internet by the Mb. Classes have been going well and surprisingly, the music has been outstanding. The DJs on Thursday night played one of the best set lists I’ve heard all year (more on who that was later). Otherwise, this is one of the first place I’ve taught at that is supposed to be a holiday + work that actually feels like a holiday!!

Be fabulous and enjoy your week!!!

xoxo

Jo

Oh, and btw, there have been lots of “It’s all Greek to me” jokes being thrown around. 😀

Luggage

I want this luggage!! It’s not going to happen, but a girl can dream!

Luxury Luggage Sets like this J-Crew Globe-Trotter Centenary Collection is a stand-out luxury luggage line that will stand out at any airport. Handcrafted by Globe-Trotter, the British company whose expertly crafted luggage has been carried by royalty and other discerning customers since 1897, J-Crew Luxury Luggage Sets are guaranteed to withstand the rigors of travel–or the weight of a one-ton elephant, whichever is worse–thanks to the strength of exceptionally lightweight Vulcan Fibre. Each and every case is handmade by an experienced craftsman in our own custom color combination. The collection is available only in very limited quantities and features a Vulcan Fibre shell, cotton lining, leather trim and straps. The collection includes a vanity case ($1,000), trolley case ($1,800), suitcase with wheels ($2,200), extra-deep suitcase with wheels ($2,300), and extra-deep suitcase with wheels ($2,400).

Travel Days

What an impressive set of Travel Days I have had in the last two and a half weeks!

Here’s the run down on what it takes to be me (*tooting my horn):

May 17, Monday: 9:25am flight from Berlin to JFK. Arrive into Pittsburgh at 6:30pm.
Finally coming home from Europe! Can’t freaking wait! I’m basically coming home so I can rehearse for Camp Jitterbug and do some laundry.

May 20, Thursday: 7:00pm flight from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis. Arrive into Seattle at 11:30pm.
The idea was that I’d have time to spend with my family. Instead, I run errands for the next few days all over town.

May 24, Monday: 2:30pm flight to Orange County. Arrive 5:30pm.
Man, I love direct flights! They rarely seem to happen. It’s also fun to run into people I know, like Ben Morris. I want to rehearse with The Atomic Cherry Bombs before our performance on Friday night. Nikki was kind enough to let me work with the girls for about 2.5 hrs. We do a full dress rehearsal. I try to scare and motivate the girls 😀

May 25, Tuesday: 12:00pm flight to Seattle. Arrive 2:45pm.
Direct flights are fabulous! I rehearsed again before I left for Seattle. I continue to run errands until the day of the show.

May 28, Friday: JUMP SESSION SHOW 7:30pm
ROCKED IT. I was so very, very pleased with my ladies and myself. Sharon’s Bell Boy Routine went well and so did Stratosphere.

June 1, Tuesday: 5:00pm flight to Los Angeles. 10:30pm flight to Sydney, Australia.

June 3, Thursday: 6:30am arrival into Sydney. 9:15am flight to Perth. Arrive at 11:25am.
It’s glorious in Perth at the moment. Oh how I’ve missed the sun shining. I have class to teach from 8-10pm that night.

And there you have it. A rather crazy 2 weeks, wouldn’t you say?

What have I gleaned from my last two weeks?

  • It’s important to get your frequent flyer miles.
  • With those miles you don’t have to worry as much about over-weight luggage.
  • It’s important to pack layers.
  • Just because it’s “Spring” on the calendar doesn’t mean Mother Nature is going to play along.
  • Having gloves on you is never a bad thing.
  • “Days Off” are really just days to do all the chores I wasn’t able to do previously (translations: not really days off)
  • I must remember to schedule “Lazy Days” where I am just sitting around doing nothing. My scheduled “Days Off” aren’t working out the way I had hoped.
  • If you’re planning on performing something with a group of people, it’s worth the money, time, and effort for YOU to travel and go see them. It would have been a terrible idea to have not seen the Cherry Bombs before the show.
  • Never underestimate the power of a cupcake, especially when your best friend brings you one “just because.”
  • It’s important to run things full out. This means costume and body movement. Doing that the hour before the show does not mean you are well prepared. Remember, your building muscle memory when you’re rehearsing, so make it count AND you’d want to know if your who-ha was going to be showing before you got on stage.
  • (Ladies) Every performer should own false eyelashes and glue, bobby pins that match their hair color, hand mirror and fabulously bright lipstick.
  • Be gracious and understanding. It goes a long way.
  • Keep pushing. You’ll get to rest eventually.
  • Claire Pedroza might be a Vintage Hair Genius. She did my hair for CJ and it was in great shape until I left for Oz. Tons of compliments. She rocks.
  • Empty flights are a godsend.
  • Getting to sleep horizontally is awesome.
  • Too many bobby pins set off security alarms.
  • Nick Williams travels more than I do.

And there you have it! Two more things I think it’s important for you to know: how to pack for 10 Days in a Carry-On and What Happens to you crap after you’ve left if on a plane. Great reads, so check them out 😀

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Swing, Brother Swing 2010

I must applaud Silvia for putting on such a wonderful event this year. Swing, Brother Swing was originally a boogie woogie event, yet billed as a lindy event, and has finally turned the corner and has become a proper lindy event (thank goodness). I’d say the biggest change has come from the clientele; three years ago there were very few, if any, Italian lindy hoppers, and now they number in the low hundreds. The ex-boogie dancers can’t escape their roots, but the new slue of beginning and intermediate dancers are truly lindy hoppers (in the sense they have no other dance background).

Silvia and Bruno are the organizers of Swing, Brother Swing and put countless hours into turning their boogie event into a proper lindy hop extravaganza. This year had a lindy-only line-up of instructors: Steven & Virginie, Dax & Alice, Mike & Nina, Joseph & Trisha, Joel & Valerie, and all the Killer Dillers: Kevin & Jo, Sharon & Juan, and Nathan & Evita. What a great group! From my perspective, it was fantastic to have my entire team there as well as some great friends. One of the highlights of the weekend was on Sunday night after our late dinner. Mike, Nathan, and Kevin had their instruments out and Nathan and Evita sang along (yup, Nathan does both). Sharon kept rhythm with some brushes; Dax and Sarah social danced; Mindaugas, Alice, and I worked on moves; Juan went back and forth between dancing and watching videos; and some Italians watched the spectacle in awe. The group just clicked and we had a blast! Definitely one of the best late nights I’ve had this year.

So the teaching line-up was solid, and so were the DJs. Silvia brought in Swingin’ Swannee (from Berlin) and Mindaugas (from Lithuania) to DJ when we didn’t have live music. They played some great stuff….stuff I think most of the Italian scene hadn’t heard before. To top that off, we had The Nine Pennies and The Nine Pennies Big Band, with whom the Killer Dillers performed live. They’ve come a long way since Kevin and I first danced to them in 2008. Roberto, the director and composer for the NPBB, did an outstanding job of writing out 9 songs for the show we did on Saturday. Given, he’d written out the score for The Big Apple the year prior, but still….that’s a ton of work!

So here’s the run down of the show. On Saturday, each Killer Diller taught 2 classes, did a double rehearsal, and put on a live 30 minute show to the Nine Pennies Big Band. For us as performers, this was a huge opportunity. This was our first show to a live band in Italy! EEEEKKK!

Some challenges that made the show all the more exciting:
1) We all live in various places and subsequently have very different travel schedules
2) Because of that, our rehearsal time as a group of 6 is extremely limited (6 hours total this weekend. Last group rehearsal was in December for Lindy Focus)
3) To top it off, we have to do choreo via video (eek….what if we weren’t perfect on video? What if we weren’t specific enough? etc.)
4) We were not able to get the music before the show, so we had to assume what we’d be performing to was going to be similar to our recordings
5) When we did our run throughs with the band, not all the members were there, so we weren’t quite sure what the final sound would be like
6) Due to an Icelandic volcano erupting, I couldn’t get back home and get our costumes together. Evita and Nathan had to scramble around NY and find something suitable. Needless to say, they found better costumes that I originally did.
7) During a live show, anything can happen: the band might play at a different tempo than in rehearsal, the solos sound different, costume pieces don’t do what they’re supposed to, lighting might be in the wrong spot, etc.

Knowing that, here’s the show:

Killer Diller Show at Swing Brother Swing, Bologna Italy, May 2010 from Killer Dillers

Yeah yeah yeah!!!

In regards to the rest of the weekend, the food was great, the company was fantastic, the rooms were nice, we had water, the sounds systems worked, the students were great and our translators were awesome. As an organizer, Silvia and Bruno took great care of us, threw a great event, and were all around awesome. Oh yeah, and the Showcase and Team competition were tons of fun! This year we saw significantly more lindy hop!!

xoxo

Stuck in Europe

Here is the cloud of smoke I am trying to plan my travel-life around:

Kevin, Juan & Sharon, and I are in Gotenborg, Sweden and our travel plans continue to change. Kevin and I were supposed to go back to the US on Monday, but that flight got pushed back to Wednesday (today). Unfortunately, the Gotenborg airport is still closed, meaning we’ve been rescheduled for April 24. Juan & Sharon were supposed to leave today but have also been rescheduled.

Boo. I was planning on heading to San Francisco for a birthday party this weekend and it’s soooooooo not going to happen. On the other hand, Europe is a pretty awesome place to get stuck. Currently the four of us are still in the B&B we were staying in this past weekend, we have internet access, and a beautiful dance studio to train in. Life is pretty good, all things considered.

Currently Kevin and I are trying to find a way to Kiev, Ukraine so we can make it to Swinglandia next weekend. I think we’ll head down to Stockholm, ferry to somewhere else, have the Lithuanians pick us up, we’ll hang with them for a bit, and then road trip to Kiev. Not sure if that’s all going to happen, but I think that is the (tentative) current plan.

The latest updates in regards to flights information that I’ve seen:

EUROPEAN AIRSPACE
BELGIUM – Airspace open. Limited service
BRITAIN – Airspace open over Scotland and Northern Ireland. Limited airspace over north of England. London airports closed
DENMARK – Airspace above 16,600ft open. No landings
FRANCE – Limited flights from Paris to international destinations. Most airports open
GERMANY – Airspace staying shut to 0001 GMT Wednesday, apart from 800 low-altitude flights
IRELAND – Airspace closed
ITALY – Airspace open. Handful of flights resumed in and out of Milan
NETHERLANDS – Airspace open. Passenger flights arriving and departing in Amsterdam
NORWAY – Airspace reopened
POLAND – Airspace closed
SPAIN – Airspace open; all airports operating
SWEDEN – Airspace open over central-northern Sweden
SWITZERLAND – Airspace reopened

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) volcano erupts for the first time in 190 years on 29 March, 2010, opening a 500m (2,000ft) fissure. The eruption produces lava, a volcanic plume, and steam from vaporized snow.

Click here for awesome satellite views of the Iceland volcano.

For more details with what’s happening, you can read this Huffington post and this article about the Eyjafjallajokull glacier.