Thursday, July 10, 2014

Breakfast in Bed : The Mutual Charade!

At 9:50 my older son comes in the bedroom and dispassionately tosses the Times Union to me on the bed.  I pretend to be waking up and say thanks.  Five minutes later, I run to the bathroom to wash my face.  I am always aware of the surrounding sounds and I fear that I hear footsteps on the stairs.  I run out of the bathroom and enter my bedroom by the north entrance and leap into bed under the covers. False alarm, no one enters but I do hear a solid thud against the door.  Ah - it must be Hunter, the dog, who I then hear whimpering to be let in.  

 Ten minutes later my younger son enters wearing a Jack Sparrow wig, an eye patch and a puffy white shirt as a cape. ( apparently he has raided the dress up box.) He is accompanied by the dog, who is only too happy to jump on the bed.  He addresses me, “Hello dearie” with a crone like accent. Thrown off by his entire appearance, I feign sleepiness and then he is gone but leaves behind the wig, the puffy white cape, the eye patch and the dog.

I’m sure you have guessed by now, that it is mother’s day and am awaiting my annual mother’s day “breakfast in bed.”  Usually, the breakfast in bed recipient rarely sees anyone else before the appointed moment of the rest of the family kicking the door open and singing “Happy Mother’s Day “ or “Father’s Day “ or Happy Birthday.”  Today has been a little different, it is later than usual, I’ve had a number of encounters with my children and I even snuck out of the house earlier to walk the dog, buy the Times and decaf.  Normally the recipient is sequestered in their bedroom and left to wonder what is going on and when.

Shortly, I  hear the familiar multiple steps on the stairs, the clatter of dishes and the requisite whispering and shhhing that precedes the acclaimed entrance. Quickly, I make use of the props that my son left, by trying to put the wig on the dog and donning the eyepatch myself.  I lay down just in time and I am rewarded by the kicking in of the door and my two sons and husband singing “Happy Mother’s Day.”  I never really convinced the dog to wear the wig, but when they see the eye patch I am wearing they are delighted. I was not asleep and they know I was not asleep but I pretend to just wake-up anyway.  It is a mutual charade that we indulge in.

My family has prepared homemade gluten-free blueberry muffins, gluten-free pancakes, bacon, juice and vanilla chai tea.  The tray they have presented is adorned with flowers.  As soon as I view the tray, my younger son starts presenting the gifts.  He is not one to wait.  The next twenty minutes is a delightful chaos of good food, excellent presents, my older son being annoyed by my younger son and all three of us trying to keep my younger son from spilling my breakfast as he scampers around the room.

With a few variations, this is somewhat typical of our family breakfast in bed tradition.  The appearance of my son with the dog and my eye patch was unusual but the false alarms, the lack of stealth on the final approach and pretend slumber are all part of the routine.

Now that the kids are older, they definitely can participate in the preparation of the breakfast.  In earlier days, one parent had all they could do to get up the steps with the kids and tray.  One breakfast in bed for Father’s Day particularly stands out in my head when my youngest son was 19 months and my oldest son was 7.  We lived in our Brooklyn brownstone and their were 20 steps between the ground floor and the bedroom floor where Johnny lay in waiting for his alleged surprise.  I don’t remember two trips, but I do remember a baby on the hip, a tray in one hand and a barely 7 year old carrying all the gifts up the 20 stairs.  The kids understood what was going on but it was more of a challenge to pull it off.  

An updated version, is a 11 year old who loves to cook and a teenager who is woken up at the last minute to join the parade.  Almost everything is left to the morning of including  wrapping the gifts and running out for bacon or gluten free pancake mix if need be at the last minute.  Usually the parent does most of the cooking, younger son wraps packages and does some cooking.  Older teenage son is unpredictable, maybe helping with wrapping or cooking at best and at the very least grumpily arising at the last moment to join the parade that starts five feet down the hall from his door.

 Our dog, Hunter, is happy to participate and joins the fun. He wants to be wherever we are and doing whatever we are doing.  We have tried to attach presents to his collar but with little success.  He usually shakes them off before the entourage enters the room.

 Breakfast in bed is a tradition we carry out for all members of the house including any overnight guests who are spending their birthday with us.  One time Johnny’s dad was in town for his birthday and as we served him breakfast in bed,  he turned the tables on us.  As we presented the breakfast tray, Grandpa Dave pulled down the covers to reveal the sheets tied around his neck like a bib.  He informed us that he already had a napkin. As anything can happen to either the servers or the receivers of breakfast in bed,  it is understandably one of the high lights of my year and a much loved tradition.

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


On Saturday (Jan. 4th), Tango Fusion Dance Company had their first rehearsal for a new Salsa piece for the upcoming event Salsa Sunday on January 19th.  Before we get to the rehearsal point, much preparation goes into the piece first.

The time factor.  Sometimes I have a vision for a new piece and then choose the music and on other occasions I hear a dynamic piece of music and think, “I need to choreograph to that.”  In this case, I had a plan for how I wanted the piece to start and I thought that some complicated switching of partners would be fun, would suit the dancers that we were working with and would satisfy another element that was looming over our heads - parenting which translates into - Limited Time.    My husband Johnny and I have two active boys and the other couple that we were performing with had 6 year old twin girls and had just had a baby boy in June, so the precious commodity of time had become a factor as well. 

With fun and limited time driving our decision making process, we choreographed accordingly. Sometimes poetry and love inspire choreography sometimes necessity and time.  The changing of partners within Salsa is called Rueda, or in our situation Mambo Doble (because we had two couples), which can sometimes be easier to memorize because you the patterns have charming names and you can call it out beforehand to the other dancers to let them know what is coming up.  The other couple, Juan and Amy Soler, were accomplished Salsa dancers so intricate Salsa patterns that could be called out, suited their style.

Music Selection.  Choosing the music occurred in the car on the way back from NYC on Friday January 3rd.  Johnny was driving and I was listening to music.  Luckily, the song “Ya Boy” was one of the first songs that I listened to and loved the opening right away. Generally, I am drawn to music that has “hits” or “breaks” that give shape to the music and encourage dramatic choreography. “Ya Boys” opening included some great “hits.”  So there, the music was chosen. 

 Next I listen to the song and start to plan it out asking myself questions like - “How long should the opening be?”  “When would changing partners work well?  “Is there a section that would support lifts and drops? “ Is the music too long and do we need to edit it?”  As it turns out, “Ya Boy” is too long and needed to be edited.

I regard a song as a story, the individual sections as chapters, a section of 8 -8’s as a paragraph, one 8 of music as a sentence and individual notes as words.  With this in mind, choreographing is somewhat like writing a term paper, planning the sections in advance and making sure that some of your previous ideas are included in the piece.

Another method that my husband, Johnny Martinez, and I employ is dividing the piece up.  I was slated to put together the opening 12 -8’s and he was going to choreograph the first partnering section and our plan was to ask Juan to put the shine section together.  Shines are Salsa steps that you do by yourself without touching your partner, hence you are “shining.”

We are prepared with an opening for the first rehearsal and Johnny has choreographed 16 - 8’s of partnership.  Sometimes, I have an idea for a move that needs fleshing out when we try it.  At the end of the opening (which is dramatic) we needed a way to transition into partnership.  Between my idea and Juan’s suggestion, we came up with a fun step.  The first rehearsal ended with a solid beginning and about halfway through the piece.

The second rehearsal, (Jan. 12th) Juan gave us our shines and they were very fast and brand new steps for Johnny and I as well as Amy.  I was dancing in jazz shoes and was trying to imagine doing these fast shines in heels.  Hmmn??  It was decided that we would slow down the music a bit for our debut.  An added difficulty factor was that I needed to change positions during the shine section.  So - in addition to executing new, fast shines in heels, I had to slightly alter them to change positions.  I vow to practice a bit on my own before the next rehearsal.

After the shines, Johnny and I put together a section of partnership including changing partners.  I would say that I dance at least a third of the time with Juan which is fun and adds interest for the audience from both a visual and personality perspective. I have known Juan for about 7 years and we have always enjoyed dancing together.  This is the first time that Johnny and Amy have danced together, so it is fun all around.

To memorize or follow!!  Honestly, I used to really memorize the entire routine and be neurotic regarding the order of steps, but after dancing with my husband/dance partner for over 15 years, I don’t feel the need.  I believe that our routine actually looks and feels better if it is truly lead and follow. My body movement is more committed and full out when I follow as opposed to anticipating a step. Because it is just the four of us, Johnny and Juan are constantly communicating regarding the next step in the Rueda section, so I relax and follow. However,  It certainly does help to know when a lift, drop or multiple spin comes up as that could look hectic if I am caught too off guard.  For the most part, I am able to mix up anxiously being aware of the shine section with relaxing and settling into the partner dance sections.

For the ending, I  decided to go backwards and finish where we started. We had to cut out about three minutes of the song but found a good point to take us to the end which sounds like the beginning, so our choreographic decision works to end it similarly to our beginning.  There is a part in the beginning where we lift the men’s chins up and for the ending, we plant a kiss on our husbands.  It’s fun. 

We do short rehearsals on Thursday the 16th and Saturday the 18th to polish and build stamina.  When a piece has a lot of turns, you have to tune yourself up for that each time and we also need to work out the transitions and we are always working out the shine section.  By Thursday afternoon, we are running the piece quite smoothly.

So this piece had no angst, no suffering, no storyline - just pure fun and complicated patterns and a little spicy ending.  We have decided to name it “Salsa Complicado.”
We manage to pull it off swimmingly on Salsa Sunday and people enjoy the playfulness of the piece. 

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

Thursday, January 9, 2014


(Martha Graham performing a classic)

In November, my husband mentions that the modern dance company that he dances with, Nacre in Saratoga Springs, is looking for a few extra performers to dance with them in the March concert.  Not necessarily professional modern dancers, but people who move well and dance.  My younger son is asked to participate and my seventeen year old will be doing tech for the show so I decide that a family project would be nice and plan on auditioning.  

The e-mail that I receive from Nacre describes the audition as “ for community members who move well.”  Thinking that this casual description requires little preparation, I am still cooking dinner for my family at 6:40 and giving last minute instructions to my husband about the cornbread and walk out of the house at 6:45 for a 7pm audition that is a six minute walk away.  I arrive at 6:51, to a roomful of company members and about a dozen auditionees.  By 7:05, I am seated cross legged on the floor in a full Graham contraction realizing that I will be taking a modern class.  What?  Twenty minutes ago I was slinging hash in my kitchen and in another twenty minutes, I’l be doing triplets across the marley floor.  Not what I anticipated but I am loving it.  

The class continues on with center work, triplets, etc across the floor and a piece of choreography that includes improvisation.  Modern dancer or not, I am relaxed with improvisation and enjoy it.  I struggle a little bit with the order of the center part as some of it is exercises that I am not familiar with.  I feel that I copy the movement well, but need to improve on the transitions.  I enjoy the choreography and am comfortable with the style which I believe is influenced by Limon, Humphrey and Graham.  I will ask to be clear. 

My hips are sore but I leave the audition at 8:30 on a high and hope that they decide to use me.   Outside the dance studio building, another dancer and I joke about  the ad for “community dancers that move well” and gently tease the Nacre director Beth Fecteau, as she passes by, about the understatement of her ad.  She laughs and says she was  happy with the level of dancers that showed up 

 Several weeks later, I hear from Nacre that I will be used in the piece.  The dancing is more challenging than I anticipated, but I would rather be challenged than bored and am up for the experience.   I took some modern classes 25 years ago, the style of jazz that I have studied leans toward modern and I have used modern dance in my own choreography but have never been in a modern dance concert.  And so..... I commence my modern dance career at 50...ish.

More to come..........

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez