Rise and Glitter

Does sober dancing with strangers on a Saturday morning sound like your worst nightmare? It used to sound like mine, too. At least, it did until I bit the bullet and listened to the voice in my head that told me to step outside my comfort zone — nay, sashay outside my comfort zone.

I had seen ads for morning dance raves for a while, but never investigated until I saw London-specific events. Two of my oldest childhood girlfriends happened to be in London when the first event I attended was to take place, so I sent the link around to them via email, asking if anyone else was interested. They, and their friends who were visiting, responded enthusiastically, and suddenly we had a girl squad prepared to take on “Morning Gloryville”.

 

We decked ourselves out in typical workout gear and roused ourselves before 6AM for the 6:30AM – 10:30AM weekday dance party. It felt wholly backward and unnatural to be on the bus going towards East London at 7AM (because obviously we all hit “snooze” a few times). I held my coffee cup in a sustenance-seeking death grip as the sun winked cheerfully at me, as if to say, “See what you’re missing by not rising with me every day?” I did not deign to answer. Upon arriving, a manically happy woman set upon me and gave me a hug. I laughed out of shock and then out of friendliness, breaking my fatigued stalemate with the morning. She asked if she could put some glitter on my face, and of course I said yes. If you’re going to do it, do it right.

Eventually my friends trickled in and we swept in en masse to head right to the front and board the stage with the DJ, emcee/motivational speaker, and professional dancers dressed as unicorns. Being there with two of my oldest (and loudest, and fiercest, and life-loving) friends made the transition from being self-conscious to not a care in the world that much easier. We looked ridiculous, and happy, and free. Glitter got everywhere. I was reminded of the middle-school dance parties we used to go to where people were so concerned about how others would view them that they’d only dance in a tight circle of their closest friends. Here, I sometimes lost track of my friends or the other girls, and would up dancing next to some strangers. I didn’t skedaddle away or look around wildly for my friends; this place really exuded a welcoming and fun atmosphere so I didn’t feel the need to constantly stay in a tiny circle of the people I came with. Throughout the morning, some of us went to the yoga circle outside, the guitar circle on an upstairs deck, the free massage section, the coffee and cacao bar, or just sat outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

Thankfully, Morning Gloryville has perfected its Saturday morning offerings in West London more to my taste: the dancing starts at 9:30AM and goes until 1:30PM, after which I’m exhausted from dancing and being glittery for four hours and I have a lovely and quiet night in. This perfectly sets me up for a productive but lazy Sunday full of all the Sunday things — reading, cleaning, laundry, tea, walking or jogging, and seeing friends.

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The Latest for Refinery29: How One Group Is Using Music & Art To Empower Street Children In Uganda

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My latest piece for Refinery29 Global News delves into the work of Ugandan charity M-Lisada, which helps rehabilitate street children through the arts, and especially music. I interview Rochelle Zabarkes, the President of the New York-based M-Lisada Africa Foundation, about the work of the organization and her role.

Through my research on this piece, I have become aware of the many threats faced by street children in Uganda and beyond. Though these children must contend with police brutality, beatings and violence from other street children and adults, sexual assault, drugs and addiction, and other abuses, many still give M-Lisada a chance to help them. The organization focuses on music, but also includes dance, crafts, life skills, and sports. That there is a focus on the power of the arts (to heal, to inspire, to encourage, to propel one forward) in this sphere is what drew me to the story of M-Lisada in the first place, and I hope that by sharing this story and raising awareness, I can do my own tiny part to help Kampala’s street children who have suffered so much.

Please feel free to share the article with your friends, family, and social media networks.

Lovely, Lazy London Weekends

There is nothing like a London weekend when the weather behaves (and even when it’s a bit temperamental)! In this case, it was a bit of an extended weekend as my friend Mandy was visiting London, and staying with me, for several days.

It’s true that no matter where you live, it is incredibly easy to stay in your own neighborhood all weekend — especially in the winter — but this time, joining the throngs of tourists at the Tate Modern, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the South Bank was a welcome change. To Mandy’s credit, she also wholeheartedly approved our rainy Saturday “plans” of sleeping in, sitting around in pajamas, ordering pizza, and watching First Dates, a so-bad-but-so-good TV show. Though supremely lazy, our Saturday made us feel like we didn’t live 3,500 miles away — that we could be back in Brooklyn having a relaxed day. There was no pressure of having to always be “doing” something because she was on vacation in London.

The Tate, Mate

There is an incredible amount to do and see in London, which is why it’s taken me a shameful amount of time to visit the Tate Modern. I’m not the biggest fan of modern art as a general rule, but I am open to being pleasantly surprised, which I was, by specific pieces at the Tate. Unfortunately for the diehards who continue to tell me that perhaps I, or anyone, could’ve painted what Mark Rothko did, but because we didn’t and he did that makes him “great” and “genius”, I do not yield so easily to fallacious arguments. Modern art, of all things, gets people really up in arms to defend or dismiss it, and I’m more of the camp that believes if you think something is art, it’s art. I shall live and let live on this one.

K-Town, You Mega Babe

…reads the marquee above Ladies and Gents, an eclectic cocktail bar housed in a former public toilet, hence the name. Ladies and Gents is right, ladies and gents! Kentish Town is, in my wholly biased opinion, a great little slice of North London. It’s classed as “Zone 2” on the transportation zone system and therefore close enough to Central London to be convenient for work and meeting up with people before they truck back to their respective Zones for the night, but far enough away that most of the sounds I hear are birds, cats fighting, and foxes. When there is a siren, it stands out, a welcome difference from the din of living at Bedford Ave and North 7th Street in Williamsburg.

Sunday Roasts

The Sunday Roast is a time-honored tradition in England, much like the American tradition of weekend brunch and mimosas. Roasts typically consist of a meat-and-gravy element (beef, lamb, chicken), some veggies (carrots, brussels sprouts, etc.), roast potatoes, and a Yorkshire Pudding, which is essentially a popover and whose popularity I cannot fathom. The best Sunday Roasts are the homemade ones (I think that’s true of almost any food), and my friends Chris and Ian made a wonderful chicken roast with vegetables in honor of Mandy’s visit. Poor Ian was outnumbered by Americans, 3 to 1!