Edwin’s Latin Dance Schedule for Central Virginia

In This Issue
C’ville Salsa Club
The Center
Alexandra’s Studio
Salsa Blog
Rigby’s Jig
USA Dance
The Hipjoint
C’ville Tango
Swing C’ville
Cha-Cha workshop
Bachata workshop
Dance lecture at BRCC
Tango workshop
Salsa at UREC

Edwin O. Roa
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C’ville Salsa Club
Every Sunday Night,C’ville Salsa Club hosts a Salsa night at Club R2in downtown Charlottesville. Everyone is welcome.

A free introductory class starts at 8pm, the party begins at 9pm.

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Every Thursday Night,Salsaburg hosts a Latin Night at 
Artful Dodger

in downtown Harrisonburg.
Everyone is welcome (+21).  A free introductory class starts at 9pm.

The first two Thursdays of the month will be beginner level classes, the third Thursday will be an intermediate level class, and the fourth Thursday of the month will be an advanced class.

The party begins at 10pm.

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Dance Lessons
in H’burg


(540) 432-0644

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Dance Lessons
in C’ville

(434) 249-4611

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Find out where are the best parties in Virginia!

If you like to add your events to the blog , please e-mail

Carol Stiffler


Dance classes
in Richmond
(804) 864-2300

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Dance Classes
If you are interested in taking your dance experience to a higher level, the JMU Dance Department will be offering  partner dance Classes in the spring semester 2013.

Register throughecampus for
Ballroom Dance 144.

The class will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:00-6:15.

This class is not exclusively for dance majors, and is open to all students.   

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 The Hipjoint
Accessories for the movement arts(Shoes, Clothing and much more…)

(434) 971-6888

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Charlottesville Tango
Friday night

(9 to midnight.) 
The Glass Building


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Swing C’ville
Wednesday night“party

7 PM- 10:30 PM
The Warehouse
The Glass Building

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“Exploring the art of partner dance”
January 2013 Newsletter

Zabor Santa
Dear Mary,


I trust that you are having a very merry Christmas and I hope that the New Year brings you happiness and prosperity.


I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your interest in dance, and for choosing me as a teacher. I really appreciate your support and I hope that with your help, we are able to create a friendlier, stronger and happier dance community for all of as to enjoy.


As expected, this coming year, new classes will be open.

Please take the time to read the articles.
If you have any ideas or advice for new classes, please do not hesitate to e-mail me.

Please accept my apologies about my website. It is still under construction. Hopefully it will be up and running soon, but if you need to get information about classes or events, just give me a call or e-mail me. Sorry for the inconvenience.


Thank you for your support.
PS: I would appreciate it very much if you could help me advertise my new classes, by simply forwarding this information to your friends.

Edwin’s Classes & Events

As a performing artist, I collaborate with multiple groups and organizations, therefore I travel a lot and regularly visit multiple cities (DC, Richmond, Charlottesville, Roanoke, etc). However I now consider Harrisonburg as my home base, and for that reason most of my current activities are conducted there. Nonetheless, due to the nature of my job, my schedule tends to fluctuate often, and that is why I like to send out these newsletters to my students, so everyone is aware of my monthly activities.

During the month of January, I will be Offering a few workshops in both Richmond and Charlottesville. There are also a few changes, so please read the articles about classes.  

Harrisonburg    =   Tuesdays – Fridays.
Charlottesville  =   Sundays – Mondays.


If you are interested in organizing beginner, intermediate or advanced classes in your area and are looking for a professional dance instructor to teach your classes, let me know. If my schedule permits, I would be happy to help.


Regular Group Classes


Friday’s Tango/Milonga event

Starting this spring, I have been invited to teach one of the open Argentine Tango classes prior to the Friday’s Milonga hosted byCharlottesville Tango, Located on 313 Second St, SE, Suite 108Charlottesville, VA 22902.


These Milongas are offer every Friday at the Glass Building in Downtown Charlottesville, and they are great way to learn. Due to the fact that various instructors are able to teach their expertise prior to their parties, you have the rare chance to learn and practice multiple styles all in the same place.


Starting this month, I will be offering an open Tango group class every third Friday of each month.  My classes will normally fluctuate between Salon and Nuevo Tango, however the material that I will be giving, can be easily adaptable to Milonguero style.


You are all welcome to attend. It will be fun!



         Title:         3rd Friday Milonga with Edwin Roa
What:        Exploring the games of Tango.
 Date:         Friday, January 18.
 Time:        From 8 to 9pm.
 Location:   the Glass Building

(313 Second St, SE, Suite 108 Charlottesville, VA 22902.)

         Cost:         $10 per person at the door.


For more info, please contact Charlotesville Tango atwww.charlottesvilletango.org



Private Lessons with Edwin

Due to my schedule, my availability to offer private instruction in C’ville is very limited. During the spring 2013, I will only be able to offer lessons on Mondays between 10am and 4pm, and everythird Friday of the month before 8pm.


If you are interested in an opportunity to put into practice what you have learned and participate in an exciting party in Charlottesville, here are two great opportunities:


Every Sunday the Charlottesville Salsa Club offers an open salsa party from 9 pm-1 am at R2 on the Downtown Mall. There is an introductory class offered from 8:15-9 pm. I co-teach the classes every other Sunday.


If you like to Tango, you should try the Friday night milongas, from 9 till midnight. Held at the Charlottesville Tango Studio, located at the Glass Building (313 Second St, SE, Suite 108Charlottesville VA 22902).


“Classes at the Center”


If you are interested in private instruction in Harrisonburg. I will be available for classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays at “The Center” (70 N. Mason St., Suite 10, Harrisonburg, VA 22802).
Schedules and packages are offered in a first come first serve bases. If you like more info, please contact me at (804) 852-4123


Everyone is welcome.


Subject:    Private instruction.

Where:     The Center

(70 N. Mason St., Suite 10, Harrisonburg, VA 22802)

When:       Wednesdays & Thursdays


Special January Workshops

Cha-Cha workshop at MAC

 Saturday January 12, from 7 to 8pm

In Charlottesville VA


On Saturday January 12, I will be offering an special Cha-Cha workshop at The Municipal Arts Center  (in Charlottesville)
This class will focus on Club Cha-Cha. The class will be divided into two sections of half hour each. The first one is beginner level, follow by an intermediate level Cha-Cha. We will cover musicality and footwork.

Partners are encouraged but NOT required.


Everyone is welcome!


          Title:          Cha-Cha 

          Date:         Saturday January 12, 2012

          Time:         Class from 7 to 8pm

          Location:    Municipal Arts Center  

Charlottesville VA


For more info contact Stacy Suter at (540) 246-1950


Bachata @ Sunday Salsa
Sunday January 13,  from 7pm to 8pm

In Charlottesville VA

During this spring, the Charlottesville Salsa Club in collaboration with Edwin Roa will be offering special once a month workshops, showcasing various popular dance styles such asBachata, Samba, Vallenato, Cha-Cha, Kizomba, and more…

This month, we will be exploring the world of Bachata. This class will be offer at a beginner/intermediate level so it is a perfect opportunity for dancers to improve their skills and learn new patterns.
Class will be open to everyone!!!

         Title:         Bachata 201

         Date:        Sunday January 13, 2012

         Time:        From 7 to 8pm,
  Location:   Club R2 in downtown
(303 e main street charlottesville va 22902)
 Cost:         $15 for the full Event

          (Includes the Cha-cha workshop + Salsa class + Party)

For more info please contact Edwin Roa (804) 852-4123

The world of Partner dancing
Wednesday, January 23, at 2pm.

Blue Ridge Community College

This spring semester I will be offering special dance programs based on popular club dances title: “BRCC’s Social Partner Dance Series”. As an introduction to this program, a special lecture about the world of partner dance will be given at Blue Ridge Community College on January, 23.


If you are curious about these classes or you would like to obtain more information about partner dance and their various interpretations, you should consider coming to this lecture event.

The programs that will be offer at BRCC this semester will showcase three very popular social dances: Swing, Salsa and Argentine Tango.

Each topic is compose of 8 sessions, (each session is one hour and fifteen minutes long).

These classes will focus on developing body control, musicality and a solid understanding of the skills of lead and follow in order to guarantee the ability to interact with others at social events.

All classes will cover movement techniques/patterns, music appreciation, and brief history. Students will have the opportunity to learn both perspectives of social dance (Lead & Follow), therefore having a partner will not be a necessity: nonetheless participants must be aware that during each class, couples will be frequently exchange.

Due to the nature of the music and its physical interpretation, classes will be highly active, therefore comfortable wear is strongly recommended.

The topics will be offer as follow:

Club Swing = (February 5 – March 26)
Nightclub Salsa = (April 2 – May 21)
Argentine Tango = (June 4 – July 23)


         Title:         The world of Partner dancing (Lecture)

         Date:         Wednesday, January 23

         Time:        at 2pm,
 Location:   BRCC’s (V135 theatre)
(Box 80, One College LaneWeyers Cave, Virginia 24486)


More information will be given in our next news letter. Nonetheless, you are welcome to contact me or Jennifer Whitmore atWhitmoreJ@brcc.edu to obtain more details.

Playing with Ganchos

Friday January 25,  from 6:30pm to 8:00pm

In Richmond VA

This workshop will take place at “TANGUEROS” in Richmond, VA.

This is an interactive workshop about Argentine tango and its various artistic interpretations. Students will explore various movements that are sure to help you enhance your repertoire.

The class is an Int./Advance workshop and it will be based on games and footwork.

Title:         Playing with Ganchos

       What:        A look on Tango and its games.

       Date:         Friday January 25, 2012
Time:        From 6:30 to 8:00pm,
Location:   TANGUEROS  

                      (10049 Midlothian Turnpike, Suite A Richmond, VA 23235)

       Cost:         $12 per person at the door.

For more info contact Gary Wooten at: (804) 347-4579 


Salsa Series at UREC

Thursdays: January 31, to February 21, from 6:45 to 7:45pm

at James Madison University

Have you ever wonder how to dance salsa? If you are a complete beginner, you like to learn how to dance and you live in Harrisonburg, this is the opportunity for you.

This progressive workshop is sponsored by UREC and will be host at the Godwin building in JMU. The entire 4 week workshop is only $20What a deal!!!

This workshop will be open to everyone and it will meet onThursdays from 6:45 to 7:45pm

To register please contact Holly Wade at (540) 568-8715 or e mail her at: wadeha@jmu.edu

Title:         Salsa Series
What:        Exploring nightclub Salsa.
Date:         January 31, to February 2.
Time:        From 6:45 to 7:45pm.
Location:   Godwin Building  

(James Madison University)


If you would like to remain up to date with the dance activities I’m offering or sponsoring in your area, please become my friend atwww.facebook.com/E.Roa.ZaborDance

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Edwin O. Roa
Zabor Dance, LLC
If you or your group are interested in workshops, lecture demonstrations or private instruction,

please contact me directly at:



Carol Piersol forced Retirement from Firehouse Theatre Project




The Theatre Community in Richmond was rocked last week at the news that the Board of Directors of the Firehouse Theatre Project presented Artistic Director and Founding Member, Carol Piersol with a letter informing her of her “non negotiable” retirement on June 30th of 2013.  Piersol responded with a figurative “F*&%$ You” and resigned immediately from the company she has grown over the last 19 years. Since then the theatre community and the Richmond community at large have circled their wagons around Piersol.  Virginia Repertory Theatre hosted a rally at the November Theatre yesterday in support of Piersol where about 250 people came to show their support, many others sending good wishes via social media.

Here is a copy of Carol’s words from yesterday:

Most of you are aware that, without prior warning I was given written notice of a forced retirement that would happen no later than June 30th. This was to be non-negotiable and confidential. I did not feel that my accepting this would be honest or ethical so I chose to resign as Artistic Director effective immediately.
Richmond is a wonderful community – we have a great abundance of houses of worship, libraries, schools, cultural organizations, art galleries and of course theatres. Each is as important as the next. Each helps us find meaning in our lives and helps us understand why we were put here on earth. One of the great questions of life is why are we here? Art exists to wrestle with this question. Theaters exist to bring comfort to people, not often by giving answers, but rather by asking the right and important questions.
For me, theaters are holy places – places where any subject that affects human life is appropriate material for a play – where freedom of speech should exist without censorship – where imagination leads life.
I have always seen the Firehouse Theatre as a holy place – a place where we might bring comfort to people by presenting plays that provoke, inspire serious thought, and serious conversation. Plays that may give people a deeper understanding of life and perhaps make them see the world through different eyes.
I have learned in my 20 years leading the Firehouse that what interests the public isn’t always in the best interest of the public. Sometimes we bring our audience subjects and characters they would normally cross the street to avoid. I love to see our audiences fall in love with people that they thought they could never love. Because in the end we are all just people trying to have the most fulfilling lives we possibly can before we die.

I would like nothing more than to return to my position of Founding Artistic Director of the Firehouse Theatre Project. My work is far from done. However, in order for me to do so the current Board of Directors would have to be dissolved and a new board formed around the vision, culture, core values, and ethics of this holy theater that Bill, Anna, Janet, Harry, and I founded in 1993.
Thank you all for your love and support.

Today Harry Kollatz, Jr. posted his resignation letter demanding that Piersol be reinstated, the board all resign and write a public apology.

Here is a copy of his letter:

Dec. 23, 2012
To the Board of Directors and
Administration of the Firehouse Theatre Project, Inc.
This is the last document I will write pertaining to the Firehouse in its current configuration. Indulge me.
First, we are grateful to the small staff of workers and volunteers caught in this maelstrom. The FTP couldn’t have gotten this far without you.
It is sad and ironic that our own peculiar drama started unraveling about the time as Death of A Salesman closed. Most of you likely experienced this monument of U.S. theater yet you don’t appear to have absorbed its lessons. What was done to Carol Piersol is similar to the fate of Willy Loman: your decision to summarily toss her out with the same disregard is shocking and sad, yet the metaphor isn’t completely right. Carol isn’t delusional and her future plans for the theater are robust and exciting. And she’s a better driver. Further, she delivers the artistic goods. She has for 18 years. People respect her and more than that, they love her.
What’s been done here is a travesty.
The cheap machinations working to undo years of committment and artistic success are unworthy of those committing them and appear more like cardboard villains in a serial melodrama rather than the actions of real people who understand consequences.
This sacrifice of Carol is, at best, unnecessary, and at worst, cruel.
I’m not naïve, nor a total cynic. I also realize that an organism, or an organization, must adapt or die. Change is the universe’s first order of business. Change may come all the sudden, like an Icelandic volcano, or gradual, like the erosion of rock by water. The decision to dismiss Carol was ill-considered and unwarranted in its impatience.

Change at a small, non-profit theater in Richmond, Va., ought not come through these strange methods. Most of the present board, its president and the managing director have acted in some almost comic, dire haste, as if pressed by ominous circumstances.The supposed end of the world? (If so, what does any of it matter?)
You have yet the opportunity to make this right:
• Resign.

• Carol Piersol should be reinstated to her full capacities as Founding Artistic Director of the Firehouse Theatre Project.

• Publish a full public apology to the Carol and the Firehouse Community. Everyone understands someone willing to confess the error of his or her ways.
The damage may, in time, be repaired, and the legacy of the institution restored.
If these measures are not taken, the current board’s mishandling of our mission and founding artistic director will not be forgiven and you will not have a theater – much less the support or artistic foundation to continue the work we have committed the past 18 years to.
You may redecorate the firehouse building from the lobby to the attic, change its name to hide the infamy of your dark deeds, but the Firehouse Theatre Project, as known to this community for 18 years, will have ceased. In your clumsy effort to wreak sudden and traumatic alterations to the company, you’ve become the bloody surgeon who rushes out, announcing to worried relatives: “Great news! The operation succeeded! Oh, but the patient died.”
As long as the current configuration exists I see no further need for my services to the current organization of the board of directors for The Firehouse Theatre Project. Consider this my resignation as an emeritus board member and Chair of the Firehouse Theatre Project’s 20th Anniversary Committee.
Harry Kollatz Jr.
Co-founder, Past President, Firehouse Theatre Project


It will be interesting to see how this drama all plays out.  At worst, the Firehouse will cease to exist as patrons and artists abandon it in droves (I personally know of one annual donor who is sending their money elsewhere this year due specifically to this debacle). At best, this incident will have a similar effect on local theatre as the Nancy Kerrigan attack had on figure skating …people started paying attention and buying tickets in droves.

To follow the saga up close and personal with regular updates click here


12 Dates of Rowdy Good Fun!


One of my new “grown-up” Holiday traditions is to venture over to Staunton and catch a Christmas show at American Shakespeare Center‘s Blackfriars theatre. There are three shows running in repertory during the season: the traditional and family friendly, “A Christmas Carol” (Bah Humbug! I am more in the anti-Christmas Camp this year.), the wickedly funny,modern classic, “Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris and an original play by one the ASC’s alums, Ginna Hoben called, “The 12 Dates of Christmas“. The latter two plays are “adult only” shows and though, I adore “The Santaland Diaries” , this year, under my personal circumstances of being single and dating, I chose to invite a few female friends to laugh with me at Hoben’s saga of  a woman (ironically) named Mary’s year long dating recovery following a break-up of what she thought was a committed relationship.

The play begins with Mary (played by ASC regular,Allison Glenzer) happily engaged and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade from the comfy environs of her family’s suburban Ohio home. After witnessing her fiancee sucking face with an office mate on national television, she embarks on a journey of  healing self discovery as reflected through dating encounters with 12 men.  Accompanied by the Doo Wop Girls, Bridget Rue and Molly Gilman, who accent various scenes with A Capella seasonally appropriate songs, Genzer bowls through the material like a bull in a china closet giving the audience a full range of emotional experience with her signature un-subtle style.

The ASC stage is Glenzer’s home. She is adept at engaging the audience and rolling with whatever comes her way and masterfully manipulates responses both planned and unplanned as is dictated by Hoben’s script.  At one point (as per the script) she invites patrons to help her (Mary) decide whether or not she should kiss her longtime- male -friend- turned- surprise-date on New Year’s Eve eliciting raucous opinions from the crowd causing a rousing reaction to her decision and the disastrous results thereof.  But one of the best moments of the evening was an unsolicited response when Mary was “slapped” by one of the Doo Wop Girls and a white haired, upper-middle-aged woman seated in a stage seat shouted rather gleefully, “Bitch Slap!”. The audience erupted leaving the Doo Wops and Glenzer frozen onstage trying hard not to burst out in gut bursting laughter as well. Glenzer, in the proper timing was able to recover and continue with aplomb, using the energy generated by the women’s surprising response to drive the scene.

I like this show because we watch as Mary goes from shell shocked to centered while covering a myriad of dating scenarios which are sadly, all too fresh in my mind.  There is the great guy too soon post break-up for whom she is not ready, the overly attentive planner, the non-planner, the  cougar moment, the stalker, the musician, the long suffering friend date, etc.  With each experience she becomes a little wiser, more self-aware.  Watching this parade of potential partners from a viewers perspective reminds me that when things don’t work out in a dating situation that it is often no one’s fault it just is the result of bad timing, incompatibility or some other innocuous factor. This message is helpful to the dater in search of a long-term committed relationship in terms of keeping a positive attitude in the face of what sometimes feels like daunting odds. In short, it gives hope.

And isn’t hope what Christmas is really all about?

So if you prefer to have your Christmas message wrapped in a show with a punch more like a vodka tonic than a sugary sweet candy cane, “12 Dates” is for you  – whether you are dating or not.

“8” Staged Reading Tomorrow Night


This weekend was packed with revelry and rehearsals for me and my daughter.  Both of us had rehearsals on Saturday, me for a staged reading of “8”, ” an unprecedented account of the Federal District Court trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown), the case filed by AFER to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay and lesbian Californians of the fundamental freedom to marry,” as described by director John Nnapp, and for my daughter, her role as the Ox in the Charlottesville Friends Meeting’s Holiday Play, “The Ox and the Donkey”.

My daughter’s show went off without a hitch on Sunday and she stunned the crowd with her acting ability and quirky sense of humor. (At one point the Ox is supposed to be standing guard over the baby Jesus and Sam assumed a Jackie Chan worthy martial arts pose eliciting rowdy laughter from the crowd.)

“8” will be performed tomorrow night at 7:30 on the MainStage Theater in the V. Earl Dickinson Building at PVCC (501 College Drive, Charlottesville, VA). Admission is free. There will be a “talkback” session following the show.

This performance is personally significant to me in many ways.  On a superficial level, it is the first time I am appearing in a play open to the public in practically 30 years so I want lots of people to come and celebrate that with me.I play a Broadcast Journalist (Look out Conde, I may have your job soon). On a deeper more patriotic level, “8” is about gaining a fundamental right for a significant, vital population of the United States.  Regardless of one’s feelings about homosexuality, our country is founded on the principle that all “people” are created equally and therefore should have equal rights.  Someone’s sexual orientation is as much a part of them as their skin color.  Therefore, people, regardless of their sexual orientation, have the right to be married just as people of all skin colors have that right.  It is common sense. The excuses that forces opposed to same-sex marriage use are remarkably similar to those used by racists of a previous era and are absurd. It is my hope that those in support of gay marriage will come to the show and those who are unsure of their feelings on the subject will also come to learn about this particular trial and hear the story that opponent to gay marriage attempted to squelch. As a journalist, squelching of people’s stories irritates me and I want this story to be heard.  I want the emotion and voice of this cause to be uncovered.

As a friend of and a sibling to committed same-sex couples, I want them to have the same right that I do to be married and enjoy all of the benefits and limitations that being “married” in our society offers. (After all, I like marriage so much I have done it twice and one day, given the right person, may do it again.)

My final reason for encouraging everyone on the planet to see “8” is the mix of actors.  Some are from Richmond and some are from the Charlottesville area.  That means regional talent collaborating on this worthy project.  Since I am a regional arts and culture blogger/journalist, I am thrilled to see this sort of mix happening and hope that Richmond and C-ville will continue to draw on each other pool of gifted actors.

Here is a full cast list:

Character Actor
Elliott Perry Taylor “Clams” Thomas
Spencer Perry Gavin Deane
Clerk Ryan Harris
Broadcast Journalist Mary Burruss
Ted Olson Glenn Harris
David Boies Jeff Dreyfus
Judge Vaughan Walker Allen Robinson
Charles Cooper Doug Schneider
Jeff Zarrillo Jim Morgan 
Paul Katami Dan Stackhouse 
Kris Perry Julie Fulcher-Davis
Sandy Stier Linda Zuby
Dr. Nancy Cott Leslie Baskfield
Dr. Ilan Meyer Tim Gillham
Maggie Gallagher Boomie Petersen
Evan Wolfson Trace Kingham
Ryan Kendall Brad Fraizer
Dr. Gregory Herek Edward Warwick
Dr. Gary Segura Gary White
Hak-Shing William Tam Dan Stern
David Blankenhorn Andrew Hamm

Tickets are available from the PVCC Box office up to two hours before curtain time on the day of the show or by calling 434.961.5376.

Click here fore a previous post featuring director, John Knapp’s press release.  Click here to read a recent article in the Daily Progress.

See you at the theatre!

A chance to direct a play at Play On…

Time is running out to submit your show idea for next season!


The deadline for show submissions is fast approaching!


Directors, please enter your submission online before December 31st! We have received a number of stellar submissions but are looking for more great shows which fit in with our season 8 mission. We are especially looking for mainstream, well-known (non-musical) comedies and family friendly dramas.


Please follow this link: http://www.playontheatre.org/Submission.html to fill in a submission form then email an electronic copy of the script to Devynn@playontheatre.org


Your submission will be reviewed by a play reading committee and then by the staff. Final descisions will be made in the spring.


Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns by replying to this message. Thank you for your support of Play On!


Speak! Language Center embraces culture

Christina Ball, owner of Speak! Language Center in Charlottesville can help you learn a language and explore cultures you have always dreamed of.  I met Christina during a photo shoot for a story about an organic herb farm near Staunton when we were both freelancing for VIRGINIA LIVING.  When I moved to Charlottesville she was the first person I called and we quickly became friends.  She is a vibrant, fun loving person who enjoys performing in local theatre. She also practices yoga and loves good food- like I do (no wonder we enjoy each other’s company). Here is her December newsletter:

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Company Logo

Is learning a new language still on your bucket list?

Get a jump on the New Year!

Get started right now

taking one-on-one lessons

in 10 different languages

including Italian, SpanishMandarin, Arabic, Japanese and English/ESL!


Register now for a group class

in ItalianSpanish or French starting in January!

We also have several programs for kids including:December-Jan Holiday Camps and after-school Spanish immersion classes. See our Kids Page for info. 



UVa Employees


Use your 2012

education benefits

(up to $2,000)

to sign up

for individual or group lessons! (new benefits become available Jan 1st). 



Interesting Image
Interesting Image

Give the Gift of Language

Speak! Gift Certificates can be made for any amount and used for any adult or kids’ program! 

Contact Christina to order one for the language lover in your world. 

Interesting Image
 Check out our new art gallery –Galleria Due Voci (Two Voices)-  in collaboration with Chroma Projects. Stop by ouropening/open house Sunday Dec 9 from 3:30-5:30pm foran Italy-themed show of photographs by Jennifer Byrne and watercolors by Rick Weaver. Refreshments will be served! 

Hamaganza 2012: chapter 1: Hardywood Brewery


Last night was the first night of Hamaganza, a sick twist on the Holidays starring local politicians, drag queens and media people in a variety show that raises money (or hams) for Feed More.

This years first of two performances happened at Hardywood Brewery in Richmond and featured our annual hostess, Dirt Woman, Magnolia Picket Burnside and Gene Cox as MC’s and a host of the biggest Hams Richmond has to offer (see poster for a list of names).  I had an absolute blast arm wrestling with RAWFL member, Patty Cakes, who kicked my ass in the first round of arm wresting for the evening.  Rivals onstage, pals backstage, we are pictured below.


Then I got to perform that wonderful holiday ditty, “Ring of Fire”  with VCU chum and recent runner up for City Counsel, Charlie Dirador – it was hot and the crowd burned for more.

My final performance of the evening was another Holiday classic, “These Boots”  made famous by Nancy Sinatra.  I have to say it brought down the house, or maybe it was the Rent the Runway Dolce and Gabana dress- whatever.  Sadly, the dress has to go back today so I will be gracing the stage at Lulu’s tonight in a little black fringed number. (Jewelry provided by Firefish Gallery)


This is the 17th year for Hamaganza and my sixth performing in it.  I can safely say it is a unique event and if you have never seen it, you should get down to Lulu’s tonight when TV 8 news anchor, Juane Conde will be taking Cox’s place at the mic.


pictured above: me and former Art Cheerleader compadre, Rebecca Behrman, who kicked off the evening with “We Will Hock You”!

Yumminess abound at Paradox



A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a Foodie Thursday.  One of the places I visited was Paradox Pastry and I liked it so much I have been back several times and am motivated to wax poetic a smidgeon more. Forgive the repetition but…

I had the good fortune to interview Jenny Peterson, for a story about her fantastic wedding cakes for a special wedding issue of VIRGINIA LIVING (Thank you Erin for asking me to do the story.) She is a total riot. I instantly adored her because she shares two of my passions:

1. fitness and health

2. a love of baked goods, particularly sweet things

Jenny is the owner of Paradox Pastry, a European style urban-esqu bakery located in the Glass Building on 2nd Street South East in Charlottesville, Virginia.  OK, that’s cool, but here is the kicker:  Not only is she a graduate of the prestigious Cordon Blue Pastry School in Paris (That is the BIG one if you are into cooking schools) – get this- she is also a personal trainer!  Hahahahahaha! A personal trainer who would reward her clients with decadent baked goods!  I LOVE that story!!!!

Thus the Paradox.


Jenny has given up personal training to pursue her love of baking full time.  She has been baking special occasion cakes here in Charlottesville for the past eight years, carefully building up her baking business to the point of opening a brick a mortar shop where she encourages people to live like Europeans and hang out, have a coffee and a yummy and actually talk to each other.  Yes! talk to each other rather than texting, tweeting or emailing.  Like in the olden days before social media.

I totally support this kind of socializing as there is a danger of loosing the art of face-to-face conversation.  PLUS there is delicious coffee provided by Shenandoah Joe’s (Decaf French Press is my particular favorite) that you can dress up with real heavy cream (Oh Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about, baby!) and enjoy food like soup, salads, sandwiches or croissants AND of course…


Jenny bakes in the European style with real sugar and tons of butter but with a lighter hand with the sweetness than American or German style confections.  I prefer this type of treat.  In fact, as a student in France, many summers ago, I developed a four -pastry -a -day habit and still lost eight pounds (my theory on the weight loss is because the ingredients were pure – like at Paradox- and I was walking or riding a bike EVERYWHERE). That translates to pastry addiction in some circles, I think.

Special favs are the Almond Pave (described in an upcoming VL article coming out in Jan.)  and the Chocolate Decadence Cookie but the Virginia Peanut Butter Mousse is pretty darned good too only you should probably share it because it is VERY rich.  All of the aforementioned delights are Gluten Free and there are several more GF selections on the menu that should please those of us who live that lifestyle.  The other baked goods look scrumptious too.  As I write this, I am becoming delirious with the apply cinnamony aroma of the Jewish Apple Cake that is baking in the open kitchen at Paradox – I bet heaven smells like this sometimes. Mmmmmm.

There is also Gingerbread for the season and although it is glutenous, Jenny has agreed to experiment with a GF version which I am more than happy to taste test.  Which brings up another thing I like about Jenny- she has an immutable “can-do” attitude which, I know will help to make her venture a success.

So even though, I know you would like to hear more about Paradox, Jenny and the goodies offered here, I am inspired and  must sign off so I can do some “other” work and be a successful mom, writer, charity event planner, etc.  …..while eating my slice of Almond Pave.  I suggest you visit Paradox Pastry to discover your own latest pastry obsession.






Dancing helps reduce the risk of….Oh, I forgot. (a posting of an article by Richard Powers)


I found this article on the Mambo Ritmo FB page.  If you would like to lessen the likelihood of dementia in your later years, you can join Mambo Ritmo every Tuesday night at Escafe in Charlottesville for a Latin Dance Party.  Click here for a link to their FB page. For a calendar of salsa events (also provided by Mambo Ritmo) in the area click here.

Use It or Lose It:  Dancing Makes You Smarter
Richard Powers

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Then most recently we’ve heard of another benefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.  A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming – 0%

Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%

Playing golf – 0%

Dancing frequently – 76%. 
That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
“The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”

And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.

            Aging and memory

When brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there’s only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information.  If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it.  So as we age, we learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks.  (Or maybe we don’t learn to do this, and just become a dimmer bulb.)

The key here is Dr. Katzman’s emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses.  More is better.  Do whatever you can to create new neural paths.  The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living our lives.

When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:

The more stepping stones there are across the creek,
the easier it is to cross in your own style.

The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution.  But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical.  Now it’s no longer a matter of style, it’s a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all.  Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one.  Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed.  But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine study shows that we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses.

            Why dancing?

We immediately ask two questions:

  • Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?
  • Does this mean all kinds of dancing, or is one kind of dancing better than another?That’s where this particular study falls short.  It doesn’t answer these questions as a stand-alone study.  Fortunately, it isn’t a stand-alone study.  It’s one of many studies, over decades, which have shown that we increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes.  Intelligence: Use it or lose it.  And it’s the other studies which fill in the gaps in this one.  Looking at all of these studies together lets us understand the bigger picture.Some of this is discussed here (the page you may have just came from) which looks at intelligence in dancing.  The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  And the concluding advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.One way to do that is to learn something new.  Not just dancing, but anything new.  Don’t worry about the probability that you’ll never use it in the future.  Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.Then take a dance class, which can be even better.  Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing your connectivity.  Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes.            What kind of dancing?Let’s go back to the study:
    Bicycling, swimming or playing golf – 0% reduced risk of dementia

    But doesn’t golf require rapid-fire decision-making?  No, not if you’re a long-time player.  You made most of the decisions when you first started playing, years ago.  Now the game is mostly refining your technique.  It can be good physical exercise, but the study showed it led to no improvement in mental acuity.

    Therefore do the kinds of dance where you must make as many split-second decisions as possible.  That’s key to maintaining true intelligence.

    Does any kind of dancing lead to increased mental acuity?  No, not all forms of dancing will produce this benefit.  Not dancing which, like golf or swimming, mostly works on style or retracing the same memorized paths.  The key is the decision-making.  Remember (from this page), Jean Piaget suggested that intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do.

    We wish that 25 years ago the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thought of doing side-by-side comparisons of different kinds of dancing, to find out which was better.  But we can figure it out by looking at who they studied: senior citizens 75 and older, beginning in 1980.  Those who danced in that particular population were former Roaring Twenties dancers (back in 1980) and then former Swing Era dancers (today), so the kind of dancing most of them continued to do in retirement was what they began when they were young: freestyle social dancing — basic foxtrot, swing, waltz and maybe some Latin.

    I’ve been watching senior citizens dance all of my life, from my parents (who met at a Tommy Dorsey dance), to retirement communities, to the Roseland Ballroom in New York.  I almost never see memorized sequences or patterns on the dance floor.  I mostly see easygoing, fairly simple social dancing — freestyle lead and follow.   But freestyle social dancing isn’t that simple!  It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the lead and follow roles.

    I need to digress here:
    I want to point out that I’m not demonizing memorized sequence dancing or style-focused pattern-based ballroom dancing.  I sometimes enjoy sequence dances myself, and there are stress-reduction benefits of any kind of dancing, cardiovascular benefits of physical exercise, and even further benefits of feeling connected to a community of dancers.  So all dancing is good.

    But when it comes to preserving mental acuity, then some forms are significantly better than others.  When we talk of intelligence (use it or lose it) then the more decision-making we can bring into our dancing, the better.

                Who benefits more, women or men?

    In social dancing, the follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next.  As I mentioned on this page, women don’t “follow”, they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.  This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow.  With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables.  This is great for staying smarter longer.

    But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.  (1) Really notice your partner and what works best for her.  Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which moves are successful with her and what aren’t, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations.  That’s rapid-fire split-second decision making.   (2) Don’t lead the same old patterns the same way each time.  Challenge yourself to try new things.  Make more decisions more often.  Intelligence: use it or lose it.

    And men, the huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion.

                Dance often

    Finally, remember that this study made another suggestion: do it often.  Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week.  If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can.  More is better.

    And do it now, the sooner the better.  It’s essential to start building your cognitive reserve now.  Some day you’ll need as many of those stepping stones across the creek as possible.  Don’t wait — start building them now.

    More thoughts and musings


Thoughts on Death of a Salesman

Last Friday night I traveled that straight, flat stretch of I-64 between Charlottesville (heaven) and Richmond (my personal hell) to see Firehouse Theatre’s production of Death of a Salesman.  Earlier in the week, I interviewed director Rusty Wilson and based on my knowledge of Rusty’s talent and the reviews, I was prepared to be blown away.

The play was good, but I was not blown away but as you may recall, I was hands down the snarkiest critic in town during my 4.5 year tenure as a theatre reviewer for STYLE WEEKLY (and if you are unfamiliar with my critical work click here).

I will tell you what I did like about the play, however because these people were very good and deserve to be mentioned, and made the show worth the trip:

1. Dean Knight as Bernard the egghead next door neighbor boy who helps Biff cheat on his Math tests.  Knight, traditionally is not  one of my favorite actors (apologies, Dean, you are a great guy and very enthusiastic) but he has matured over the years and did a bang up job converting from the young, kind of spazzy Bernard  in the first act to the older, collected version who is depicted in the second act as going off to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. He convinced me his character was a real, multi-dimensional person even though the role is small.  Kudos. After this performance, I confess, I look forward to Knight’s next role.  (Hope he invites me.)

2. Gordon Bass as Charley, Willy’s neighbor (Bernard’s father) and only friend.  Bass is just a fantastic actor.  I often forget who I am watching on stage because he has a way of letting the character just radiate out of  him like Anthony Hopkins who can be in a movie and I don’t realize its him until about half-way through because he is so much the character. Charley is a normal guy who functions like a normal person and Bass embodies that in a way to contrast Willy’s delusions to a “T” without getting lost or overpowered.  I felt Charley’s frustration with Willy towards the end when he offers the newly fired Willy a job and he refuses. That was simply good acting delivered by an actor who understands how to serve the play.

3. Adrian Rieder as Biff, Willy’s confused, late bloomer son.  Rieder said to me after the play that the role was not a stretch for him.  Hah! Perhaps not in the sense that he and the character are the same age and maybe but I don’t really know are struggling with the same issues (Thanks to some rude person who butted into our conversation, Rieder failed to finish telling me why he felt the role was not a stretch.) But the level of emotion and inner dialog that Rieder conveyed would suggest that the role was at least challenging in achieving the quality of performance Rieder gave.  I really got the sense of Biff’s crucial transformation from living in Willy’s dream world to stepping into reality and acceptance of himself in the world. When I stood during the standing ovation, I stood for Rieder. Well done!

To be fair to everyone else in the show- everyone I talked to after the play (as in audience members) thoroughly enjoyed the show, including my mother who saw it the next night.

It is a classic American piece and should be seen performed so I suggest, if you haven’t seen it and have yet to buy a ticket, hustle over to the Firehouse website and take care of that oversight right now. (click here for Firehouse website).

See you at the theatre!

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