5-Minute Dance Party :: Daily Itineraries Featuring Melissa Villaseñor (as Owen Wilson!)


Nine a.m.: Drink Ayahuasca and say ‘hi’ to the birdie outside my window. His name is Tyrone. (Pause.) He knows how to rap!

Saturday Night Live should consider itself quite lucky to have snagged new cast member Melissa Villaseñor. This multifaceted comedian can sing in the style of any of the great paint-peeling pop stars, do uncanny imitations of a strange and wide variety of famous people, and can write comedy in a variety of styles and moods.

What is also notable about the addition of Villaseñor to the cast is that she is the first Latina in 42 seasons to ever work on the famed sketch comedy show, which is ridiculous, considering the wealth of Latinx comedic talent in America (and the world).

Back to native Californian Villaseñor: You can get a taste of her immense talent on her (website) and her ( YouTube).

Enjoy!

5-Minute Dance Party :: Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)



The snow’s coming down

I’m watching it fall

Lots of people around

Baby please come home


I love The Limiñanas. I mean, I loooo-oooove them. This French garage rock duo manages to keep their sound fresh yet rooted in classic psychedelic sound, with a nod toward groups like The Beach Boys, Velvet Underground, and a host of crunchy psychedelic songsters from the early 1960s. (Think: 13th Floor Elevators, Them, and The Bad Seeds.)

There’s an amazing live performance of The Limiñanas on the oldest and most awesome continuous free-form radio station in the U.S., WFMU, who has graciously posted for listening (or download) the whole thing on the award-winning Free Music Archive (FMA). The entire Evan Funk Davies Show set is here: The Limiñanas on WFMU in 2011. WFMU is my favorite radio station of all time ever, and the Free Music Archive has been a second home for me in the last three years. (Here’s my FMA user page: Bluebird Blvd. loves the FMA.

One of the best albums I purchased last year was The LimiñanasI’ve Got Trouble in Mind / Rare Stuff 2009-2014.” The Husband loved it, and he has notoriously objected to my musical tastes with a loud, clear voice in the not-so-distant past.

This, of course, was before I started listening to 20+ hours of music a week for our original feature the 5-Minute Dance Party on Bluebird Blvd., a practice for which I am forever grateful because it got me out of a music rut. Listening to new music trains my ear to like new things, and who doesn’t want to like new things?


There’s an old ruse that in your late 20s you lose the ability to listen to new music without prejudice because you are no longer being exposed to new music constantly, the way you were in high school and college. By American standards, you’re also no longer the target listening market, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Here’s my advice for what it’s worth: Keep listening. Just keep listening to new things and old things from all over the world and in many genres and you’ll begin hearing sound again like it was the first time you ever listened to the radio as a teenager and had the feeling that the music on the air was just for you, you, you.

Merry Christmas, dearest readers. Lots of love to you on this most silent night.

5-Minute Dance Party :: Holy Roller









I am a woman of leisure.

I am looking for the end of want.



Thao Nguyen is one of those polymath artists who can pick up any instrument and make it sound like home. Her latest project, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down is a blues-rich, folk-tinged ensemble with lots of rich little touches and sweethearted songs. Visit Thao & The Get Down Stay Down to for interviews and tour dates.

You can buy Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s We The Common on Amazon or on iTunes.

5-Minute Dance Party :: That’s Not My Name



Has anyone ever gotten your name wrong? I mean, really, really wrong?

 

Listen, I once allowed a woman to call me “Whitney” for eight years. It wasn’t a big deal, really—I didn’t see her often, and she was awfully nice, and Whitney was close enough that the only bother was remembering to answer her when she called me by name. I mean, her version of my name.

The longer this farce went on, the more weird it would seem if I turned around to this woman and suddenly said, “You know what? My name is actually Courtenay.”


I needn’t have worried. Eight years later, I was sitting in an airport bus headed for an Irish stepdance and music thing with ten other people from my dance school. While we were bouncing around the back on bad shocks, that lovely woman leaned forward and put her hand on my shoulder—”Whitney, here—”

“WHITney?” Someone roared from the very back. “Her name is COURTenay.”

“Oh. OH! Is this true, Whitney?” She emitted a small embarrassed laugh. “—Courtenay.”

The lights from the street lamps crisscrossed my knees as we drove into the city. “You were just so nice.” I worked my hands in the air, trying to conjure an exact explanation. “I just didn’t know how to tell you.”


I was a month shy of 18 when I had that conversation in an airport van with a woman who accidentally called me Whitney for eight years. My life lay before me in so many strange trips to so many cities with so many people who didn’t know my name, that this moment seemed like a blip. And who can call someone to fault for misnaming you when it was your own correction to make?

And besides,Courtenay is not actually my “real” name.

Courtenay is my nickname. Almost nobody knows this. In essence, my mother gave me two first names to do with as I wished. And my wish has been to keep one of my names somewhat secret.

Why am I bringing this up now? Today’s story is all about names! Names: Some Secret, Some Not!


This song comes from The Ting Tings first album, “We Started Nothing” available on iTunes and Amazon.

5-Minute Dance Party :: Libertango







I am always amazed

at what the tango can do

when matched with the right dancer.


Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” may be the most recognizable work of nuevo tango music in the world as well as the most accessible. For how can you not feel excitement when you hear Piazzolla’s sharp, moody masterpiece?

Here’s the problem with masterpieces: People adore masterpieces so much that they feel the need to add their own messy thumbprint to them. Like most composers, Piazzolla played the music he created, and a pretty thorough display of those legitimate recordings can be found on the All Music database. I like Piazzolla’s versions of his own pieces best—they have bite and intellectual fervor without removing a single slice of their original use as music for dance.

Some versions don’t fare so well. Piazzolla’s “Libertango” bloats in the orchestral version with sobbing strings used for “The Tango Lesson,” and nearly lays down and quits in the recording of Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango” duet with Yo-Yo Ma. (What genius would drown out Piazzolla’s accordion playing—in a tango, no less—to make room for cellist Yo-Yo Ma? I did mention this was tango music, didn’t I?)

And those are the legit versions. On Amazon, I found a pirated version of “Libertango” that appeared to be an arrangement of “Libertango” cassette recording and bucket drum. (It could’ve been worse, right? It could have been an arrangement of kitchen sink and kazoo.)

This version was arranged and produced by Michal Dvořák (with Jiří Janouch) for Vivaldianno MMXII featuring cellist Jaroslav Svěcený, accompanied by Michal Dvořák on keyboards and a host of celebrated professional musicians.

The dancer in this music video—who is amazing, yes?—is Johanka Hájková

If you’re still yearning for the original Piazzolla-played “Libertango,” may I suggest The Soul of Tango, which is a legitimate, beautifully produced collection of premier Piazzolla classics played by the master himself. How novel! How gorgeous! How true!


5-Minute Dance Party | Folk You


Flick and flick

and heel stamp!


Hey everybody! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Did you think I could possibly forget about you on the one day of the year I refuse to wear the color green?

The truth is, I spend half the year thinking about what funny/strange/absurd short film I can show you on St. Pat’s!

This year, I decided to go with the dangerously funny Irish step-dancing duo Up and Over It one more time. Just like last year, Up and Over It decided to share a brand new video just before March 17th, but we decided to go with last year’s St. Pat’s Day release.

What’s lovely about this film is that it feels antithetical to all of the stereotypes of the Irish dancing experience, even for people like me who spent two decades inside the Irish stepdancing world. It’s sunny and melancholy and funny and spare. I do hope you enjoy it.


Here’s one of the inside jokes: Irish stepdancing is not folk dancing. (Hence, the “folk you.” Folk dancing choreographies and steps do not change whatsoever—what people danced in the 19th century is what they dance today. The goal in folk dance is to preserve dance forms exactly as they were.

But in Irish dancing, the steps are always being created or made more difficult, and the choreographies themselves belong to individual dancers or dance schools. Everything is new all of the time, even when certain rules about form are not changeable whatsoever, e.g. feet are still crossed, turnout has become even more strict, and you don’t ever land with bent knees.) The best comparison I can give you is solo ice skating competitors—they’re always trying to push past what’s already been done to something no one has ever seen before.

This short film goes out to all my friends who have been dancing for audiences all over every city in the world since 6 a.m. St. Patrick’s Day morning (and who will probably be dancing on some tiny stage somewhere until midnight tonight.) May all of your performance venues have large restrooms in which you can change your clothes, and may every floor on which you dance today be wood and not concrete.


5-Minute Dance Party :: Your Feet’s Too Big





Who’s that walkin’ ’round here?

Mercy!



Bluebird cracks up. Man, I— (Wipes tears away. Shakes head.) Wait a second, I— (Cracks up again.) Oh, man, I LOVE Fats Waller and I thought you— (Bluebird laughs so hard she snorts.) —you needed this one today.

(Bluebird mutters—) We have got to listen to more Fats Waller* around here. (She hits play, and starts cracking up all over again.)


NOTES

Animation by Nancy Belman. 1983.

AL CAPONE DID WHAAAAT??? You’re going to want to read Fats Wallers’ Wikipedia entry, especially the anecdote about Waller’s being kidnapped by cronies of Al Capone. It’s not to be believed (but you’d better believe it!)


5-Minute Dance Party | It’s ON


HEY! IMPORTANT. If you have a seizure or a migraine risk, there are two sets of quick strobes in this video The first is from 02:19-02:20, and the second is at 02:27-02:29.

Also, a curse word at the end there be, mateys!


Happy Saint Patrick’s Daaa—. . . Oh, I just don’t have it in me.


NO ONE is more qualified to create art with Irish stepdancing themes than the three-part crew that comprises UP AND OVER IT.

So let me get out of the way, and allow you enjoy these former World Champions and ten-year veterans of huge touring Irish Dance shows give you a new perspective on Irish Dancing.

Have a good one. Enjoy today on my behalf, okay?