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    Congress 2011 is Almost in Session!

    If you’re a little newer to dancing Salsa, you may have heard people talking (or tweeting) about the upcoming Salsa Congress. While it may sound like we’re all getting together to go voting, a Salsa Congress is a massive, Thanksgiving weekend affair featuring dance workshops, performances and swag from some of the best dancers/ musicians worldwide!

    While you may think that you’re too new to dancing to experience this amazing, once-a-year event; think again as there are a ton of experiences for you! So to make it easy for you, I’ve decided to list a few events for you to go check out (if you see me, say hello or ask for a dance!)

    Thursday Oct 6th: The Annual Canadian Salsa Dance Championships
    If you love to see amazing dancers compete (ala SYTYCD or Dancing with the Stars) you gotta check out this show! You’ll see the best of the best Canadian dancers burn the floor in some of the most compelling dancing you’ve ever seen. Trust me, it’s really fun. Oh, and there’s dancing after!

    Friday Oct 7th
    Check out Friday night for a great night of performances and great social dancing that goes really, really late!

    Sat Oct 8th Beginner Bootcamp, Workshops, Performances and Dancing!
    Feel like you need a few more lessons before going dancing? Take the extremely popular Beginner Bootcamp! From 10:30am – 5pm you can go from not knowing how to dance to impressing that cute salsera from your level 1 class!

    Know a little bit of salsa and want to expand your knowledge? There are a ton of great workshops for the beginner/intermediate from Rhythm and Body Movement, The Anti-Styling, Styling Workshop and even beginner Bachata, Zouk and Latin Hustle classes.

    Now if you don’t want to hit up any workshops, you HAVE TO, HAVE TO go to the Saturday night performances. Why? You are guaranteed to see some of the best dancing that you’ve ever seen. I’ve been each year since I’ve started and this is the night of all nights to go! Afterwards, stick around for some serious dancing to Ray de la Paz from New York City with guests Luisito Orbegoso & Moda Eterna! An amazing band that you just have to check out live.

    Sunday Oct 9th
    Sunday features more great workshops and then more performances, from seeing many local student teams, more competition and then dancing till dawn! 

    Trust me, if you can slip away from Thanksgiving celebrations, you’ll want to spend your weekend checking out the Congress! It’s an amazing experience and a great way to amp up your dancing (and maybe even get a new pair of shoes!)

    For more information, check out the official site: http://www.canadasalsacongress.com

    Till Then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Getting Ready for Spring Salsa Cleaning…

    So February is over and we’re soon enough it’ll be time to pack up the mittens and do some Spring Cleaning. Winter has always been tough for me, but I find that Salsa helps make it easier. Here are the few things that have put a smile on my face over the past few months…

    Smooth Cola’s
    I’m so proud of the students in our Level 5 Class! I remember at the beginning of this semester, that I had made a personal pact to help as many guys get their cola’s down as possible. Thanks to an amazing helping team as well as Sara’s awesome instruction, I feel like we really got the guys doing smooth Colas. It takes a lot of dedication to learn this move and these students really put their all into taking their dance to the next level.

    Valentines is the New Hallowe’en
    If you didn’t make it out to the TDS Valentines Event, then you really missed out on a night that was truly amazing! From really sexy combo from Sharon & Evan, amazing performances (esp Tracie & Daniels’ Tango) to the fact that there was a line-up to get in by 9:30; our V-day party has become the biggest night of the year for Acrobat and one not to be missed!

    Bachata Fest Represent!
    While I’ve taken a personal break from performing, it was great to be able to watch the Bachata Helpers rock the stage at the Bachata Fest! Looking sexy in blue and dapper in black; the Helpers brought out the romance and much love was in the air. While I missed being on stage, I was so proud to see the team show the Salsa world, how we do!

    Salsa Friends
    Winter is really tough, but the friends I’ve made from TDS have really been there for me. I have some really great memories from Acrobat, laughing at Empress and rocking out at Venice. Sometimes I feel that what’s truly great about Salsa isn’t the dance; but the people you meet while dancing.

    Get Ready For Spring!
    So get ready to smile as you can now sign-up for Spring classes!!! I’d recommend doing it soon as I hear some classes are going fast. There’s nothing better than that feeling of not wearing a Winter Coat while heading to a Salsa Class/Social… so enjoy your March break and get ready for another season of serious Salsa Classes!

    Till Then,
    Staying Shining Salseros!

    A Beginner Salseros’ Guide to Social Dancing

    Having recently helped a level 1 class with Tracie and Daniel, it was interesting to see how many of the leads had questions in regards to becoming better dancers and if they’re ready for social dancing. I remember a few years ago when I had started level 1 and how impossible it seemed to go out and dance the night away. Hopefully, with a few of these helpful tips, you’ll be out practicing your moves in no time!

    Get Out There:
    The best way to learn is by doing and while class time is great, you really need to social dance to get better. For level 1-2′s, I’d suggest going to the TDS Sunday Socials as they are so casual and that the majority of people on Sundays are beginners. You can also get to see some of the more advanced dancers, which is always great as if you only do a couple of dances, you’ll get really inspired.

    Outing Classes:
    Whether it’s a TDS social or Plaza, I highly recommend doing the beginner class. One reason for this is that you can always ask someone who’s even less experienced than you are to do the lesson. You’ll look like a pro in their eyes and you’ll have a blast learning the basics and a few moves to add to your arsenal.

    Dont’ Expect, Suggest:
    I always tell both men and women to ask people to dance. When I first started, I always mentioned to my partners that I was new to salsa, but would love to dance with them. I found my Follows were very polite when dealing with my bad dance skills. I think most of us realize that within 3-6 months, those dancers who aren’t so great will become the next top stars, so being polite is key because you never know.

    Dance Floor Etiquette:
    As a lead, always take small steps and protect your partners. This means don’t guide them into other dancers and try to space yourselves out from other dancers. I’ve literally had people start dancing right in front of my partner and I, thus making it difficult to dance for everyone involved.

    Another tip is to be polite at all times. Apologize if you bump into someone and be respectful if someone refuses a dance… you never know if they’re tired, dizzy or just not feeling well. I’ve seen some people take dance refusals really poorly and you’d be surprised about how that kind of thing will stick with you for ages.

    Start Small, Aim for Smooth Transitions:
    When I first started, my buddy Mike and I would say ‘Tonight, I’m aiming for 5 dances’. This helped give us a goal and be courageous enough to ask a few girls to dance. After you have X number of dances you can relax and soak up the ambiance.

    The key to salsa isn’t about many moves, it’s all about transitions. So make sure that when you go from one move to the next, to be smooth in your body movements and confident in your hand/body guidance. I remember practicing on my own for 20-30 minutes a night just to smooth out my transitions.

    Wingmen/Wingwomen:
    One of the reasons I really stuck with dancing was due to my friend Mike. We met in level 1 and have been encouraging each other to go out to the clubs for years. Not only do you go out more often, but you learn quicker from friendly competition.

    Know someone from class that you gel with? Ask them to start going to the clubs with you. You will see how quickly you’ll get better together because you’re used to dancing with each other. Before you know it, you’ll be tearing up the dance floors.

    While there are countless other tips to follow, you’ll soon find that this strange and somewhat scary world of Salsa will become your happy place. Be polite and get out there as much as you can! Speaking of which, be sure to check TDS this Saturday for our annual Holiday Party! With 3 performances, beginner and intermediate lessons, you’ll have an amazing time!

    Be warned though, our Holiday themed parties are usually packed so be sure to get there early! Last year’s Valentines’ Party had people lined up down the street! Get there early and be prepared for an amazing night!

    I wish I could be there, but am in San Francisco, visiting my parents for the Holidays! Be sure to post video on Facebook and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the dance floor!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    October: Time for Congress and Time for Turkey!

    Now if you’re somewhat new to the Salsa scene you may be hearing about this thing called ‘the Congress’. What is it? you may ask; well, let me do my best to give you a quick overview.

    The Congress in a nutshell:
    A Salsa Congress is kind of like the Superbowl and the Oscars (but way more fun and sexy!). Salsero/as from around the world go to the hosting city and showcase their dancing skills through competitions, demonstrations, workshops and (my personal favorite) social dancing. Usually spanning over a weekend, Congresses are 1-stop shops for everything salsa-related.

    Some Highlights of This Year’s Congress:
    Opening Night Gala:
    Featuring the Canadian Salsa Championships & amazing social dancing afterwards

    Vendors:
    Need new shoes? shirts? DVDs? They’re all here

    Dance Performances:
    Last year I saw some of the most amazing dancing performed by teams from around the world

    Workshops:
    From Lady’s Styling, Lifts and Tricks to Cha Cha and Sexy Salsa moves…you can learn from the best

    Beginner Boot Camp:
    Still new to salsa? take this day-long workshop to get your salsa steps up to par

    Social Dancing:
    Here you’ll find hundreds of dancers ranging in all skill levels for some of the most fun dance sessions that you’ll ever have!

    Cost Factor:
    There are a ton of price options from those who want to do it all to those who just want to dance the night away. Check out the Congress website for more options, one thing that’s for sure, is that the congress is THE event for all salsa dancers!

    See you on the floor!
    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    A New Look After A Short Pause…

    Sorry it’s been a little while since my last blog, but seeing the new TDS site and now you know why. With much effort, patience and love Sharon, Evan and I have launched the new TDS site! I’m really happy with the final result, and hope that you like it both aesthetically and functionally.

    Onto the subject at hand… Last week at our outing, I found that while the energy/vibe was really great; many etiquette rules were being broken. In order for all of us to have great outings and more importantly safe outings, we need to follow these simple, common sense guides to keep our salsa from going sour.

    A small list of things I noticed that made me a sad panda:

    People walking through the dance floor, not around it
    Seriously, this is not only super dangerous for the people dancing, but if you’re walking through dancers, you’re going to get hurt.

    Massive moves on crowded floors
    Unless you’re quite experienced and can pull off big moves in tiny space, then keep them to a minimum when the dance floor gets packed. If you find that you and your partner are taking up a lot of space, here are a few suggestions:
    -take smaller steps (seems simple, but many people don’t do this!)
    -when you break-back, dont fully extend your arms. I always try to keep my arms around the 90 degree mark to keep the moves tight and small
    -if you’re dancing with someone who takes massive steps, do moves that don’t require much travelling OR, leaders keep your frames a bit stronger, so she gets the hint that she has to stay within the boundries you set

    Polite People Dance Most
    Always be polite about asking someone to dance. There’s nothing worse than someone who’s pushy or a little on the creepy side. All it takes is a simple, ‘Would you like to dance?’ If the person refuses, don’t be upset as chances are they need to rest or a little tired. On that note, please try to only refuse a dance when you’re tired, need to use the washroom or feel that the person asking is being rude.

    Don’t Just Stand There
    One of my biggest pet peeves are people who stand on the dance floor. I find that this is worse than people who walk through the floor as they are becoming a permanent fixture getting into everyone’s line of dance. Speaking of which…

    Stay On Line
    On a few occasions I had different Salseros do moves that led their women onto my line of dance, forcing a dangerous course-correction. Not only can serious injuries occur, but you throw all of the hard work of becoming a precise and great lead out the window. Did I mention that it drives me insane? There’s nothing worse than having to end a dance early because the guy beside you launched his partner into your line and onto your partner’s foot!

    Always Give Your Partner One Song
    So let’s say that the lovely person you’ve asked to dance is way below your level and not really staying on time. The best and coolest thing you can do is to try to follow/lead them as well as possible for one whole song. We were all there at one time and you’d be surprised at how quickly someone can go from novice to advanced!

    Sadie Had it Right
    Some nights I’ll see ladies sit at the side of the dance floor and wait to be asked. I say, wait no longer ladies as us Gents love love love to be asked to dance! Not only will you get to dance more but you’ll make a guy’s night!

    So while I saw a fair amount of Salsa No-No’s, I did have a wonderful time last outing and was so happy to see many new Salsero/as out on the floor! Hopefully, with these thoughts as a bit of guidance, your next salsa outing will be a bit more civil and much more fun!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    When Your Shines No Longer Shine : The Dreaded Salsa Slump

    When asked, almost 99.9% of you would say that you love to dance Salsa because it’s so much fun…but what do you do when it no longer feels as fun? You, my friend are in a Salsa Slump.


    What hurts about a slump the most is that it feels like when you get your heart broken by something you truly love. I’ve just been getting out from my first real salsa slump and I did a lot of soul searching and reading. I discovered an excellent blog based in Toronto detailing a Salsa Gigolo’s life, most importantly, his beliefs on why he was in a slump. [ Read it here ] It’s a very interesting blog that combines a Sex and the City vibe with philosophy, personal reflection as well as great humor!


    It inspired me to go out and try different methods to get over this slump…
    Here are some of the things that I did to get out of the slump:


    Get Your Grind On:
    Showing my true geeky colors, ‘Grinding’ is a term used in gaming to engage in repetitive and/or non-entertaining gameplay in order to advance your character. I started forcing myself to go out to salsa clubs and socials and dance. While I felt very disconnected and couldn’t produce very many good combos, at least I was getting exercise and at least ‘faking it till I make it’. I find that sometimes when you force yourself through it, you re-discover what you love about salsa.


    Get Away:
    I know that I just recommended to ‘grind’ your way through it, but perhaps you’re suffering from too much salsa… some would cry blasphemy but I say that burnout can happen so quickly with something as addictive as salsa. I was speaking to a renown salsa leader last night at a social and he said that to get over his slump he goes out and does anything but salsa, whether its see a few movies, go bowling or maybe a good road trip!


    Get Inspired:
    I think this may have been the most effective tip for me as I spent a lot of time trying to get inspired. I think I must have watched ‘This Is It’ about ten times as my main inspiration for dancing has always been Michael Jackson. His effortless movements, precision and showmanship are all it took for me to get my practicing my shines again. Other sources of inspiration? Check out Youtube for ‘Dancing With the Stars’,  ’So You Think You Can Dance’ and other great dance films!


    Want to see my favourite inspirational speech of all time?
    If you haven’t seen ‘Any Given Sunday’, go rent it, even if you dislike sports films.
    The speech Pacino gives is unreal and easily transferred to salsa (talks about steps and inches)
    [ watch it here ]


    Here’s another great speech which I watch when I feel like blaming others for my woes…
    [ watch it here ]


    Go Early to Plaza Flamingo or Babalúu’s on a Saturday Night:
    I picked these two clubs because this is where people who are new to salsa go to learn and attempt to dance. Why go? Because you get to see how much fun they are having trying to figure out their basics, right turns and just dancing. Fun is contagious and you may see in these people what you once felt. Not based in Toronto? Every major city has at least one salsa club that touristas and neewbs go. 


    Have Fun:
    This goes along with the previous tip. Salsa is all about having fun. It’s just dancing after all. The moment you start thinking of it as a job then you’re going to start losing that loving feeling. To me it’s not the ones who are doing the biggest turn patterns, drip or tricks, but the couples who smile and laugh the most. It sounds cheesy, but honestly, it’s why we’re all here.


    Retail Therapy:
    The best part of being a dancer is that we can always justify buying a new pair of shoes. Sometimes all it takes is going out and getting some new duds to inspire you back into your usual styling self. Don’t want to spend a bundle? Go out to Puma or American Apparel and get some wicked looking wristbands.


    Privates:
    We all plateau from time to time so maybe it’s the right time for you to finally go get a few private lessons? I used to do this when my guitar playing would stagnate and you wouldn’t believe how much I would learn doing a quick session with a teacher who’s been in your shoes! Not sure where to start? Check out TDS’s Private Lesson info.


    Happy Salsa Songs:
    Here are a few songs that I’m really into right now that keep me smiling during these cold months:
    Marc Anthony: Tu Amor Me Hace Bien 
    Celia Cruz: La Vida Es Un Carnaval 
    Junior Gonzalez: Lady in Red


    Take a Chance on Connection:
    This may sound weird but when I get in a slump, I shy from connecting with others. This type of isolation is very bad for a Salsero and definitely showed in my combos and even in my expression! The best part of dancing Salsa is to gaze into your partners eyes and feel that amazing connection.  While it can be romantic, to me usually the gaze is more like an endearing 


    Let Go / Feel the Force / Wu Wei:
    Sometimes we have to let go of all of the things that we learn and just feel the music. When you’re truly feeling the music you’re timing will be better, you’ll style when your body feels it should and you’ll be smiling. Many of my best moments have been when I was just letting go and having fun.
    Hug It Out:

    Sometimes when you’re sad, you’re sad. Sometimes a tan helps, sometimes it’s Ben & Jerry’s but whatever it is, make sure that you’ve got someone there for you for support. I’ve found the Salsa Community to be made up of caring people who will be there for you when you need help. 


    Winter can be really hard on all of us so make sure that you’re doing what it takes to get you back to good. Hugs are awesome and I’m always down for giving them ( depending on how long I’ve been dancing/sweating, lol ).


    I hope these tips help, there are probably many other great tips so feel free to comment about how you’ve dealt with your own Salsa Slumps. While I may feel like the end of the world, trust me, it will end and you’ll fall back into your salsa groove in no time. I can’t wait to see you back on the dance floor once you’re ready!


    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!