January « 2010 « Salsa Addiction Centre
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    Tracie’s Top 10 Survival Tips for Followers:



    For today’s topic I had to go all out and call in an expert as the subject is one of the most difficult for followers to grasp: How to survive following new moves. So without further delays, the salsa addiction centre 
    proudly presents :



    Tracie’s Top 10 Survival Tips for Followers:

    (instructor’s note: all of these tips are based on general rules of thumb in any kind of partner dancing.  We all know that rules are meant to be broken!)

    (1) React, but don’t overreact. 
    Internalize these lead/follow technique rules: your lead brings your arm up into turning position, it’s probably a turn.  So engage your core and have your turning arm engaged, but don’t assume which direction the turn is taking or how many turns he’s going to lead. If he opens up 90 degrees off your left side (i.e., opens the slot) it’s probably a cross body lead.  So do your half basic and be ready to travel, but don’t assume that he’s going to lead you into a turn, or even straight across (because he could also check you) – don’t go through the slot until he tells you to.  

    (2) Pay attention to the dance conversation. 
    Remember that all partner dancing is a conversation. What is his body rhythm telling you?  Definitely do not watch his feet – pay attention to his entire dance frame.  His body tells you where to go next – does he get out of the way (for a travelling pattern) or is he staying on the spot (for an on the spot pattern)?  His arms will communicate what to do next (turn or check) but his body rhythm will always give you hints as to what type of move is coming next (on the spot or travelling).

    (3) Keep your frame 
    If his body rhythm is going to communicate with yours, you have to make yourself receptive to the dance conversation.  If you are tense in the chest or the hips (or in the knees or your arms) you are blocking his ability to communicate with you.  In order to provide something for him to communicate with, you must provide a solid follow body – this requires you to have an engaged core (from your sternum to your bellybutton), but remain soft in the shoulders and hips and “elastic” in the arms and legs (don’t lock your knees or elbows).

    (4) Remember that Tension does not equal strength, and softness does not equal “floppiness”
    You’re not in a wrestling match!  The more complicated a move is, the more signals he needs to communicate, which means you need to provide adequate tension in your follow to be more elastic (i.e., to absorb the force of his lead and use it to help you move), but not strong.  The tougher his lead, the softer you need to be (tension without strength, softness without being a limp noodle).

    (5) Be a little bit stubborn (but not desperate!).
    Maintain connection as much as possible.  Don’t take your hand away unless he tosses it away.  Don’t disconnect from his hand on your back unless he pushes you hard enough to disconnect.  On that same token, don’t “give” him a hand that he doesn’t ask for (i.e., don’t assume a hand change) and only reconnect when he initiates the reconnect.

    (6) Be square with your partner at every opportunity. 
    General rule of thumb in turning is that once you start a turn you must complete it (with proper weight changes and timing) until the turn is completed. If he leads you into 1.5 turns (in any direction) and does not check you, you must continue turning until you face him (complete 2 full turns). Once he leads you into your break step on your right (i.e., your basic step  and your frame is square with his) then you know for sure that turn pattern is over.

    (7) Try to stop thinking of what you “should” be doing – just do whatever your leader tells you to do, even if it feels a bit odd and unfamiliar.
    Sometimes leaders feel like experimenting – they’re trying something new with different hand holds or they were watching a youtube video (or another dancer) and are trying a new move for a first time. Mistakes will happen in the way he leads you because he’s still learning how to lead the new move properly.  All you can do is follow the lead as per your rules of thumb – if you don’t do what he expects you to do he’ll realize quickly it’s his lead and not your follow.

    (8) When in doubt, rely on your foundation technique of body rhythm and weight changes.
    In other words, don’t stop moving!  Always do your 1-2-3, 5-6-7 steps with full weight changes.  It is always better to move through a pattern then to stop dead in your tracks when faced with something unfamiliar.  When in doubt, do your basic!  

    (9) Styling is gravy, but your dance is the meat.  Sometimes meat is ok by itself!
    For higher level dancers the desire to add as much styling as possible is pretty strong – especially if you go out dancing a lot and know pretty much all the music that the DJ plays.  You can’t help but hit those awesome trumpet lines with some wicked arm styling or those marimba hits with some fancy footwork, but sometimes styling compromises your follow body and causes you to disengage your core.  Be aware if you’re falling off balance because of the arm styling or if your styling is making him nervous and he’s not able to lead you properly.  Reign it in and enjoy the dance for what it is!

    (10) BREATHE and relax.  It’s only dancing!  
    If all else fails (but it shouldn’t) a good basic rule of thumb is just to RELAX.  Breathe, and expect the unexpected.  keep your core engaged and focus on your body rhythm and turning arm(s).

    And the most important survival tip for followers is to go out and PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.  The more people you dance with the more you will learn how to read different types of leads.

    Good luck and have fun!


    >> So there you have it, amazing tips from a Salsera Pro! Have any comments, ideas and tips of your own? Please comment!


    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Help Haiti through the power of dance!!!

    Want to help Haiti using the power of dance? There are two events coming up that look absolutely amazing!


    Jully Black & B2B Sweat-a-thon!
    This Sunday @ Circa Nightclub features Canadian Diva Jully Black as she hosts the B2B Sweat-a-thon!!!
    Get ready for 6 hours of hardcore aerobics, zumba and more as you can work up a sweat and raise money for Haiti Earthquake relief! This is definitely a ‘one-of-a-kind’ event that looks super fun and also a great way to keep those new years resolutions ;)
    http://www.facebook.com/jullyblack
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3amitnfd4w&feature=channel


    The SalsaTO Haiti Fundrasier Salsa Party
    If you can’t make the Sweat-a-thon or want to do more than come out to Acrobat this Monday Feb 1st for the SalsaTO Haiti relief fundraiser party! Music starts at 9pm, featuring Live Bands, DJs, Shows and Prizes! If you don’t know SalsaTO yet, you should stop by as they are huge supporters of the Toronto salsa scene and TDS so we’re sure that this party will be off the hook! 
    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=261453713757&ref=nf
    http://www.salsato.ca/
    http://www.acrobatlounge.com/


    Whether you’re sweating at Circa or Acrobat, you’re sure to have an awesome time helping out a culture who have played a huge role in shape the music that we love to dance to. Let’s all do what we can to help out Haiti and what better way than by dancing? 


    See you Sunday/Monday!


    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!



    Show us your moves: how to make turnpatterns, combos and freestyle

    One of the most difficult things for leader is to master the whole idea of turn-patterns and combos. While it only gets more complex as you advance, it’s advised to understand how to approach your move arsenal and execute them with as few errors as possible. While one could write a whole book on the subject, here are a few tips for turn-pattern mastery.

    Rock, Paper, Scissors :
    One of the most potent bits of advise given to me by my teacher was to approach executing moves by understanding which handhold you’ll be in when you’re at your transition points ( the end points of your previously executed move). Once you recognize the hand-hold you can randomly choose any move from your arsenal that begins with that hand-hold. Like ‘Rock, Paper Scissors’, if you see the hand-hold will be a ‘left-to-left’ hold, you can then play any move that lands in that position.

    An example would be you could either do a ‘Rainbow/Titanic’, a funky ‘In & Out’ or possibly a ‘Double Comb/Sombrero’

    Here are the common holds:
    Open, Closed, Left-to-Left, Right-to-Right,  Right Chain Hold, Left Chain Hold

    How do you get started?
    Make a list of all of the moves that you know (I do this in Excel, but any text editor is fine). Make a column for each type of hand-hold, so all Right-to-Right moves will be in column A, all left-to-left moves will be in column B, etc.

    With the list complete, start dancing a move and randomly pick moves from one column. When you come to a move that ends in another hand-hold, randomly pick a move from the appropriate column. Keep doing this over and over again and keep in mind all of the random patterns you can make from your list. You’ll be surprised at how many combinations you can make with even only a few moves!

    Increase Your Arsenal
    Here’s one thing that all good dancers do: scour the interweb for interesting new moves. While the ‘Palm Drop’ was boss in level 2, everyone does it so why not check out cool variations that will set you apart from everyone else? There are literally hundreds of sources online which give free lessons for new moves. Trust me, it’s awesome to hear a lady ‘ooh’ when you pull off a simple, yet unique move.

    Outing / Club Lessons
    Another great way to learn new moves is by checking out the TDS (and other) club outings. There’s always a lesson at the beginning and they always try to throw in moves that aren’t taught in your regular classes. A lot of my cool moves have come from hitting up the outing lessons and from teachers who have their own style.

    Free Style…Your Style
    Whether you’re a rocker, r&b or even have ballet you can throw in moves from other dance styles to mix it up. You wouldn’t believe how cool it is to see someone who throw in some pop’n'lock moves or even some rockNroll kicks in their shines. While your school teaches you certain fundamental rules, by all means throw in your personal style as a regular right turn can seem like an entirely new move when you put a different vibe on it. Don’t have any previous dance moves? Check out your favourite music videos on YouTube, I’m sure you’ll see something that you can transpose.

    Make-Over Your Combos
    Every time you learn a new combo from class, outings or online; revert back to your ‘Salsa Matrix’ document with the moves in different columns. Take some time to see how you can mix up your current combos by randomly throwing in new moves.

    When In Doubt, Steal Moves!
    Sometimes when I’m feeling like my moves are stale, I’ll head down to a salsa club and watch all different kinds of leaders to see what they’re doing right and wrong. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a move that you can use (don’t forget it in between those bottles of Coronas). Don’t rip other leaders’ styles completely, but a move here and there is quite cool.


    While difficult, being a combo/turn-pattern master should be a fun and adventurous process!

    Feel the Music
    On a final note, one thing for sure is to realize that you don’t have to do a million moves for every song!!! I can’t stress enough that your dancing should reflect the song. There’s no need for 5 whirlwind Coca Colas in a romantic-style song. Keep your moves subtle during the soft parts and amp it up a bit during the choruses. If you need any sort of validation if you’re doing it right all you have to do is look at your dance partner. If she’s smiling, you’re doing it right!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Helper Only Performance Choreography : week 3

    There is no question that being on a performance team makes you a better dancer. Not only do you have to remember an entire song’s choreography, but you have to take in account that 2-5 other couples are doing the same moves and you must all be in synch. Mix the moves with being on time and being aware of the couples that you’re dancing with and you’ve got one thing: a really fun experience that pushes you to your limits as a dancer.

    While being apprehensive about joining the team at the beginning, I’m really starting to get into it all. From the intensity of our shines routine to the creative use of the TDS syllabus moves. This week I was really impressed with the new helpers who have just completed level 3 and are doing level 5 moves!

    Trust me, doing lasso’s aren’t easy and having to learn them within a few minutes is very impressive! It’s amazing to see the team’s skills grow and to learn from Tracie and the more experienced dancers.

    Must keep this one short, but week 3 was a great practice and I’m looking forward to nailing my coca cola’s down for the next one!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    A Leader’s Take on Following



    A little while ago, Andrea had asked for tips from a leader’s perspective on how to become a better follower. While attending this week’s Sunday social, I spent my focus on coming up with some thoughts on this subject. While I haven’t truly learned to follow, I’m hoping that these ideas will help and am looking forward to hearing your imput (whether you lead, follow or both!)
    Aim to become a ‘lighter’ dancer : I believe it was Sarah who brought this up in class, but essentially there are two types of leads and followers: those who use little and those who use great resistance to lead/follow. It is natural for beginners to need strong signals as guidance but the problem with those who use/need great resistance (aka, heavy dancers) is that you tire out quickly and are slower when executing moves. The real trick is to try to step and move as lightly as possible and to focus in on the resistance that your leader if giving you during the dance.
    Don’t be afraid to politely ask your leader to be more or less firm during a dance. It takes time to develop your dancing skills so that you’re a light dancer but when you get there, you will spin and glide like a champ!
    What Would Sadie Hawkins Do? : While at the Sunday Social, I saw a lot of women sitting on the sidelines waiting for guys to ask them to dance… actually, I see this a lot at many social salsa outings. Trust me, you spend a lot of time learning how to dance, bought those great pair of heels and even have your double turns down; so why just spend the event sitting down? Trust me, us leaders’ love to be asked to dance and not only will we be flattered, but chances are will try out a few cool new moves with someone as bold as yourself ;)
    Whether you’re 2 lessons in or salsera supreme, don’t be afraid to ask us as it’s rare we’ll ever say ‘no’. The Salsa scene is so amazing for that reason alone. We’re all here to learn, get better and have a blast doing so, so next outing, please ask any and all of us to dance. You’ll not only increase your social circle ten-fold, but you’ll become an amazing dancer in no time!
    Add a little more Diva-Style to your dancing : This may sound like a no-brainer, but if us guys have to spend countless hours learning combos, timing and being a great lead than it’s only fair that you spend some time learning how to properly style.  I’ve always found it funny that while you learn how to style within the first 2-3 classes and yet I see people in levels 4-5 and 6 who don’t have it down. Now I’m not saying that you have to do the pops and waves and such all the time, but styling helps round out a follower and also serves the great purpose of connecting and transitioning moves.
    Time Travel : This tip is involves two ideas: learn how to dance on time and keep your steps/turns small. Why did I include both of these ideas in one tip? Well if you take smaller steps and travel less during turns you will increase the amount of time you have to complete your steps. From a leader’s point of view, we always appreciate someone who stays on time and doesn’t require us to lunge in order to give you a scoop.
    Dance in the Slot : While I could do an entire blog about this concept ( blog coming soon! ) dancing in the slot is a way for a couple and a group of dancers to stay in line with one another. Wikipedia puts dancing in the slot perfectly by saying:
    “As a rule, the leader mostly stays in the slot as well, leaving it only to give way for the follower to pass him. The leader almost never makes the follower to circle around when passing by. They may go into a common rotational figure when the follower happens to come close, but such figures are usually in a tight position and do not change the overall “slotted” appearance.” 
    So, what does this mean? Essentially when dancing you are at one of the ends of an imaginary slot/line. When you do any cross body move, you basically trade places and end up on the other side of said slot. This keeps the dancers in line with one another and allows for proper execution of moves.
    My tip for followers is to learn to execute traveling moves so that they move from one end of the imaginary dance line to the other, not diagonal from it or a few feet away from it. How to practice this? Purposely practice or dance keeping the lines of the tiles/wood on the dance floor in mind and use them as rules to dance on.  It is so hard as a leader to dance with someone who strays from the slot/line as you’re bound to bump into other dancers.
    Break Back (but not ALL the way back) : When doing break-back moves, please don’t allow for your arm to fully extend. First of all, it breaks the tension between two partners, Secondly, it takes longer to retract and could cause you to go off-time and Thirdly, you take up way more space on the dance floor. How far do you allow your arms to break back? Comfort is always key but I would only go as far back as to when you feel enough resistance  to complete the move. Trust me, bigger is not better in this situation.
    Well, I hope these tips have helped and would love to hear your comments/advice/concerns so feel free to comment away!
    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Helper Only Performance Choreography : week 2




    I have something awful to admit. Maybe it’s not a good thing to blog about, but I’m going to put it out there and see what you guys think but I take dance performances for granted. Sure they’re fun to watch, but for the most part, I find myself taking for granted how much incredible work, talent and tears that go into putting together a performance.

    Maybe it’s due to the internet and/or television, where auditions, practices and dance numbers are neatly edited into commercial-friendly packages? Maybe it’s due to our multi-tasking world where you can only dedicate enough focus to the bottom line? Whether I blame society, a short attention span or the inter web, it’s too easy to take many things for granted.

    Not anymore.

    Just after one class of Tracie’s Helper Only Performance Choreography, I have realized how much effort it’s going to take to get the task done. While it may seem like a very daunting task scheduling personal practices, sharing videos and performing well during classes, I truly the end result will be fantastic. I also feel grateful that we have a few seasoned dancers who have performed before so that we can procure their advise and support.

    Trust me, its a lot of fun too! Not only are we having a pretty good time working on the routine but we’re also getting to see how Tracie has taken the core TDS moves/shines and combined them into turn patterns that are fresh and bold! It’s really exciting as we move forward and pushing ourselves to become better dancers.

    While I know there’s still much work to be done, I think it’s exactly what I need at this time to take my dancing to the next level. The best part? Getting better with a great group of people. Looking forward to next week!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!


    thank you!

    While I’m not one for self-promotion, I just wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who took the time to send positive helper comments my way and to those who have made a big difference in the past year. Seeing how there are so many great helpers, I was amazing to have won the award and am quite honoured. Thank you once again and am looking forward to seeing you all on the dance floor.


    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    The Republic of Bachata : Up close with the music & people of the Dominican Republic

    Bachata isn’t about the footwork, nor is it about styling or getting dangerously close to your dance partner…it’s about something greater that’s very apparent when witnessing life in the Dominican Republic. Facing the harsh realities of a developing nation, the people that I met during a recent trip seemed to cope through music and dance. Bachata and Merengue aren’t just catchy songs to dance to, but are moving statements of life, love and loss.


    Almost as soon as the plane landed you could hear the music in the airport, then on the bus and practically everywhere on the resort. A TDS/Latin dancers’ paradise, you basically end up dancing Bachata, Merengue and Salsa every day/night. While it was cool to impress the touristas, my favourite part of the whole trip was during an excursion where a local guide took notice of our impromptu Bachata at a small canteen. It was amazing to see how proud and amazed he was to find out that people outside of his country knew the dance and even it’s artists. 


    This pride was apparent throughout the trip, from wait-staff at the resort to the children at the local public school to the wondrous dance team. While it may not make sense, but being surrounded by all of the textures of the D.R. you seem to feel the music much more. Each dance step taken drew that much more sadness, strife and passion.


    While some are lucky to get this feeling through the music alone, it took witnessing the real Dominican life for me to truly feel and express Bachata in my movements and mind. With that being said, I would like to express positive thoughts and much love to the Haitians, their families and friends that we met on the trip. I hope that they are safe, healthy and together throughout this difficult time. 


    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros