Monday, January 26, 2009

February 2009 Activity -- Didgeridoo

Saturday, February 7, 2009
11:00am - 1:00pm
Cost: $20 per person
The Soundry
316 Dominion Rd
Vienna, VA 22180

Color us surprised to see 14 people at this didgeridoo (accepted academic spelling: didjeridu) workshop. After all, The Soundry has only been open for a couple of months and let's face it...didgeridoo?

The class description noted that we would "explore this ancient Aboriginal musical instrument with basics of playing, learning about variations of tone and touching on the history and artwork of the didge."

We began the class by selecting a "didge" that "spoke to us" and then learning how to breathe into it to achieve the proper "droning" sound. The instructor told us that we needed to move our lips like a "horse" or like a "motorboat." Dilettante Amanda certainly had the best frame of reference for the motorboat (if you know what I'm saying...)

Our instructor was fantastic at playing and building didges, but not so good at teaching. Fortunately, he had an assistant with him who played equally well and was much better at teaching us the techniques. (Plus, he gets bonus points for being from Scotland and having that killer Scottish accent.) ("Killer"? Jeez. My junior high clique just called and wants their adjective back.) (Okay, fine...I didn't really have a clique in junior high...unless you count the other French club officers as a "clique.") (I'm suddenly sad for my junior high self. A moment, please.)

Playing this instrument is deceptively hard. It took a solid hour in class to achieve even a few seconds of the desired droning tone. (Well, for everyone except Dilettante Nicole, who was a total didge ringer. Seriously...she was all laid back and droning on her didge like she had been doing it forever.)

Most of the time, the didgeridoo is taught with a method called "circular breathing." The instructors touched on this, but told us that it was not necessary to play it for the first time. We played together as a group; played individually and got critiqued; and then practiced our circular breathing by blowing up a balloon and then breathing through our noses.

The two hours went by very quickly -- it was a fun class.

We had lunch after at the Vienna Inn, because really, how else would one follow up didgeridoo?

Monday, January 05, 2009

January 2009 Activity -- Hip Hop Dance

Sunday, January 25th, 2009
Bethesda, MD
Cost: $20

Hip Hop dance class was off-the-chain. I mean it was dope -- fo-shizzle. (Alright, enough of that. I am pleased to report that the dilettantes were much better at the dancing than at the hip hop lingo. More on that in a moment...)

This class was held at the DC Dance Collective on Wisconsin Avenue (near Tenley Circle). There were 24 people in the class, and it was a great mix of ages, ethnicities and about an equal number of men and women. Our instructor, Gwo, was one of those effortlessly cool guys who had some mad dance skillz (I can't help myself).

Gwo began the class with a bit of a history on the different types of street dance, including breakdancing (breakdancers are called b-boys and b-girls -- now you can drop that into conversation at your next cocktail party) and pop-and-lock (which Dilettante Amanda already knew about being as how she's so "street" from listening to Anne Hathaway talk about this on the Ellen show.) (Interesting aside: Rerun from "What's Happenin'?" was one of the original "lockers".) (Bonus interesting aside: Dilettante Kathleen once served Mr. Run during the summer she waitressed at Red Lobster in Virginia Beach. She remembers him as being gracious and a good tipper, though obviously a horrible judge of restaurants.)

Our instructor referenced "What's Happenin'" and "Flashdance" as pop culture media that showcased some great examples of street dance (though he did this in a way that made them seem like they were ancient history -- like the first 'talkies' or something). He also taught us that the four elements of the hip-hop culture are: a DJ, an MC, graffiti and breakdancing (again, perfect for your next cocktail party).

As I mentioned earlier, the dilettantes actually did pretty well at bringing on da noise, bringing on da funk. We were particularly adept at doing "chest pops" in an intimidating fashion (hip hop is all about the attitude, you know).

By the end of the class, we had learned a routine, which we then did in groups facing each other as a sort of "dance off" where some of us pretended to be robots and some of us pretended to be Sesame Street characters. Or maybe that was the dream I had last night after all the spicy food...

(P.S. The photos below are a mere sampling of the million that we took during our post-class dinner and drinks at the Salvadoran restaurant next door to the dance studio. Too bad the one where Dilettante Amy slurping beer through her grill from a crunk chalice didn't turn out.)

(P.P.S. Dilettante Nicole missed the activity because she was not feeling well BUT SHE IS NOT PREGNANT SO DON'T EVEN THINK THAT FOR A MINUTE, so we'll be presenting her with her grill next month -- and forcing her to wear it while playing the didgeridoo...)