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    Ringing into 2012!

    With each calendar year switch, I look back to the previous years’ dance resolutions and see how my dance path stayed on course or veered off path. I’m always amazed to see how much life can change in a year, and this past one was no exception. From competing to assisting to even being ‘salsa claus’; here’s how I measured up to last year…

    2011 Resolutions:
    1-Nail down the forward/reverse coca cola as well as the 360 degree cola.

    HOW I DID:
    While I smoothed out my colas, I’ve digressed from conquering the 360 cola. While I’ve done it a handful of times, I decided to perfect the lead of the regular ones before tackling the 360. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll have perfected this one and will be working on the 720!

    2-Continue my weight loss through muchos dancing

    HOW I DID:
    Here’s one I can check off (although a few weeks at my parents haven’t helped). I have to admit that most of the loss was due to fitness apps and portion control; I really have to get out dancing more to help burn off the calories! I will definitely get out dancing more often this year as I really miss the social scene.

    3-Check out a few Milongas to practice my Tango steps
    I really wish I had kept up with my Tango, but alas I did not. Perhaps I get a few bonus points for incorporating some Tango into the comp routine?

    4-Work on my afro-cuban movements
    I can check this one off. From working with the student team to Olivier and Emely’s great advice, I look less awkward while doing Afro movement.

    5-Work on on2 dancing
    I had hoped to do this, but decided to work on my On1 Performance. Perhaps 2012 will be the year that I switch?

    6-Continue working on my own style, from personalized dance moves to body movement
    I can check this one off as I spent much of my time (assisting up at the front of class) working on body movement. I feel like I’ve reached a point where the movements look much more fluid and dancer-like.

    7-Work on more dance expression and feeling the music
    This has been a really touchy point for me. While there were certain points of the year where I felt like I had made a lot of gains, there were definitely many other times where I have lost my dance expression. I have a feeling that this year I will focus on fitness, dance expression and lift technique.

    8-Learning Cumbia/Cuban style Salsa
    I really can’t check this one off. While I’ve got a good grasp of Cuban style Bachata, my Salsa Cubana is pretty weak.

    9-Attend a salsa congress outside of Toronto
    I can’t check this one off either. Perhaps I’ll go to Vancouver (which I hear is amazing) or San Francisco (as my parents live there). Maybe the trick is to go closer, like the Niagara Falls or Gateneau ones? Road Trip anyone?

    10-Get around to watching a ton of those salsa lessons online
    It’s funny as I was just thinking these past few days to get around to watching the online videos and sadly; I have yet to do so. I feel like I have to make this a weekly routine as I’ve sunk into doing pretty standard moves without much variation.

    As you can see, I can’t check off many dance resolutions for 2011. The funny thing though is that I’m not disappointed with 2011 as I learned so much! From body movements, experiencing a competition to taking a few classes outside of Toronto; I’ve grown as a dancer in many ways.

    It’s easy to get a little down from not accomplishing everything (or anything) that you originally wanted to. I feel that the beauty of dance and life is the journey of it all. True I may have not learned on2, but I definitely improved my on1, body movements and so much more. I’m completely off-track from my previous resolutions, but happily resolved in how off-track I am!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Stock up your Salsa Arsenal!

    It’s around this time of year where I find a lot of newer salseros asking me for advice on adding moves to their salsa arsenal. Now I could go on and on but I’m going to try to keep things a little simple…

    The Web has a Million Move Tutorials
    Search youtube and google videos and you’ll find a million videos! Some are great, others… well… Here are a few of my favourite websites for moves, check them out as they may have just what you’re looking for!

    Get Creative!
    Sick of giving your girls right turns? Try leading some of them with your left hand. Do you turn yourself much? I didn’t think so… most guys don’t. Try throwing in your own turns to catch her attention! How about giving cross body leads only using one hand? There are a million variations of all the level 1 and 2 moves, you just have to try thinking outside the box.

    Another option is to take the moves you know, and add a little ‘musicality’ to them. Lead a simple ladies’ right turn, but take twice as long to lead it. Take the whole 8 counts to turn yourself and do some fun body movements while you turn. Try leading a cross body where you don’t actually cross the lady until the next coming 5-6-7. Try leading a reverse turn, but throw in a cool body movement you learned in that hip hop class. The beauty of dancing is expressing yourself, take advantage of it and people will notice!

    Watch Creative  Dancers
    Want to learn new moves? Go to the social and spend some time watching all of the dancers that have all the right moves. While you may not be ready for some of those crazy combos yet, there will always be something quick and easy that you can put into your own set of moves. You’ll see that most of the crazy dancers always have great moves that are really easy to pull off!

    Save Your Best For Last
    One of the most common mistakes leaders make is to just start dancing a song really strong… they’ll pull off all of their really cool moves right at the beginning and a few minutes later; they have nothing left. If you really want to show the ladies how you are a great and creative leader, start small. Do basics, turns and cross body leads and slowly reveal your better moves as you go along!

    From getting inspired online, to watching other dancers and switching up how you lead your current moves; you’ll be the next well-stocked Batman on the dancefloor!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    It’s Bachata Time at TDS!

    If you’re tired of sitting on the sidelines during Bachata songs and want to learn how to dance one of the sexiest Latin dances, then now is the time to learn! Having taken the course myself, I was really amazed to see my mild skills become ‘caliente’, even after a few classes! It was so fun that I actually love Bachata more than any other dance!

    What will you learn?
    Take your basic from a ‘level-one shuffle’ to be on the level of a true Domincan. You’ll learn how to spice up your body movement and add romance to your leading/following technique. You’ll also learn some pretty hot turn-patterns that will be sure to turn heads as you burn the floor!

    Two Speed Class Options
    If you’re dying to get your bachata down as fast as possible, we have a condensed course with Olivier. If you’ve seen him dance, then you know that he’s got the Bachata skills to pay the bills!  Spend 2 hours a week, over 4 weeks for some high-speed bachata action.

    If you’d rather take your time, take the 9 week course with Tracie. Known for her spicy body-movement and style, she’s going to use each of the 9 week classes to slow-roast your dancing to the next level!

    Time for Bachata
    Having been around the dance scene for a few years now, I know that Bachata classes are only offered once or maybe twice a year! Now is the time to sign up and really up the ante. There’s nothing better than spending the second-half of Summer amping up your dance and prepping for a potentially sexy Dominican Vacation this Winter!

    Till Then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    We’re not broken, merely syncopated

    A good friend once told me that most of the people who get into salsa, do so because they are in some way, broken. Whether it’s from a failed relationship, workplace stress or simply lacking confidence; we all come to our level 1 classes searching for something. After spending many hours thinking about being broken, I suggest a revision to this concept and say that we’re not broken, but beautifully syncopated.

    For those of you who aren’t as big of a music-theory geek as I am, the definition of syncopation is as follows:
    Syncopation is a general term for a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm; a placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur.

    More simply put, anything syncopated in a song doesn’t conform to the regular beats. Yknow when you hear the horns play at really odd times? that’s a syncopated rhythm.

    Let’s get back to the subject at hand as having been feeling out of my element lately. Was I broken when I started? yes. Having gone through a life-altering break up, I was at a pretty low point. Overweight and about an ounce of self-esteem, I stumbled around learning my basics and that crazy ‘back-across-together’ move. I would go to socials and dance 1 or two times before feeling frustrated and heading home.

    Something happened along the way, I think it was closer to the end of level 3, where I started meeting some pretty exceptional people who started charming their way into my crazy world. Next thing I know, I’m starting to say hi to more and more people and dancing perhaps, 10-20 times a night. It’s from these people that I realized that all of the stress from work, all of the hurt that haunted me from my past and everything that ails me; it just disappears.

    While we may see ourselves as broken shells of who we used to/want to be; Salsa sees us as syncopated. We are
    not cast-aways but simply people with rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur. What hasn’t killed us has only made us stronger dancers.

    You see, it’s because of our stresses, our pain and remorse that makes us better dancers. Our inner demons arise and cause us to move and express ourselves in ways that we wouldn’t be able to anywhere else. I see people who you’d never suspect be great dancers start moving and just become beautiful.

    Ask anyone and they’ll tell you of one day where they could barely go on and when the music hits them; they light up and feel amazing.

    That happened to me today at Sunday Social. I had a weekend that pushed some old wounds to the surface, told me I was broken and made me believe it. Forcing myself to go to social, I saw some of my most favorite dancers, and they reminded me, through their dancing, that I am not broken; but beautifully syncopated.

    So if you’re having a rough time lately, or feel isolated or frustrated that your life hasn’t turned out like you had planned… Join me on the dance floor for some serious group therapy. This is the salsa addiction centre, after all.

    The dance floor is my rehab, break-backs are my 12-steps and coca-cola’s are my breakthroughs.

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros

    Readers’ Suggestion: What Makes Someone a Good Bachatera/o?

    It’s funny how many ways a question can be answered.
    Recently, a friend of mine asked me, ‘what makes someone a good bachata dancer?’
    While I’m not an expert, I have spent much time trying to improve my bachata skills and here are a few things that I’ve noticed along the way…

    I never truly understood bachata until I went to the Dominican and saw how it was properly done. I was amazed to see that it wasn’t about turn patterns but rather how the bodies speak to one another through subtle movements on the dance floor. When Shakira sang about ‘hips don’t lie’, she was definitely speaking about bachata, as all of the dancers were very close and their bodies were telling stories on the dance floor.

    The best bachata dancers always seem to have a cascading effect to their movements. From a subtle shoulder roll leads the dancer’s body’s to arc one way and then crescendo into a full around-the-world movement. To me, it’s not about doing a one cool move into another; but rather how you move when you do a cool move into another.

    Which leads me to something similar yet slightly different…
    Call and Respond
    Another trait that I love about good bachatera’s is how they respond to the movements that I’m making. If I go from a side basic into a ‘on-the-spot’ movement will she acknowledge that quickly, or will it take a few steps? If she catches that I want to do an ‘on-the-spot’ movement will she respond by accenting her body movement? This is all call and respond.

    A term used most-often in music, Call and Respond refers to when one instrument will play and then another will play in a way that it’s almost talking back to the first instrument. In Hip Hop, you’ll see M.C.’s often ask a question and the audiences will respond with an answer, which in turn the M.C. will either repeat his question louder or perhaps add a new question making the Call and Respond more of a game.

    In Bachata, great dancers feed off one another in their movement. Sometimes they are so good you swear that they have choreographed this at home, but great partners watch each other for subtle movements from the shoulders, hips and body; and move accordingly. It makes your dance sexy and shows your partner that you’re paying attention.

    Dominican dancers love to get close, but that doesn’t mean that the same thing goes here in Canada. While many people do get close, we are for the most part, an intrinsic people and getting close means that you trust your partner to show you a certain level of courtesy. I’ve heard many tales from lady dancers who complain about guys who politely ask them to dance only to press up against them in an ungentlemanly way!

    Those who know me well, know that I only have a small group of people whom I feel comfortable dancing such a close and sensual dance with. I can also name off about a dozen other dancers who feel the same way. The best dancers are the ones who will keep their space with their partners until it feels more natural to get close.

    Being Playful
    With the respect issue out of the way, I love watching the dancers who are flirty/playful with one another. In her classes, Sara, is always saying how you can flirt your dance up a little with the smallest of things. From spotting your partner just a little bit longer before you turn, or even Sharon’s motto of ‘there’s never a bad time for a hip roll’; one can really make it great with small, subtle-movements. Personally, I like to exaggerate my arm movements, as if I was underwater. It sounds weird, but makes all of my combs look like romantic gestures instead of ‘insert-arm-over-partners-shoulder’.

    One of my favourite dance partners says that her favourite bachatero’s play with timing. One thing that Emely really made apparent is that the basic is just that, a base for all of the fun movement. There have been a few classes where we would spend swaying in different rhythms and times to demonstrate how beautiful it can be when two people are just moving to how their bodies feel they should move to the music. I remember looking in the mirror in one of those classes only to marvel at how together, the class looked like a swaying bamboo forest.

    Have fun with timing. Take the full 8 counts to do a hip roll, accent the guitars by popping back and forth a few times…take a chance.

    This is to me, the most important factor in what makes someone a good dancer… no matter the style of music, it’s how the dancer reacts to the music that matters. Think of the last song (or movie, or book or photo) that made you want to cry. Someone about it just effects you and you react to how you truly felt when experiencing it. You should always dance this way.

    Dance is expression and the best dancers truly listen to how the music makes them feel. I see so many people out on the dance floor whipping through moves that don’t match the music that it makes me want to cry. This isn’t ‘Step it Up’ and we’re not out there to ‘serve’ our partners… we’re out there to express how the music makes us feel and hope that in turn, it lets our partners know how the song moves us.

    My favourite dancers speak to me on the dance floor, and if you truly listen, you’ll speak back. Bachata is a beautiful conversation that’s sensual, romantic and best of all, a conversation that only you and your partner will truly understand.

    The Helper Workshop: Helpers Make Sweet Music Together!

    While some would say that ‘love’ is the ‘international language’ but I would disagree. When you have an amazing beat and great melody, our bodies naturally match it with movement. Timing are our words and Musicality is our punctuation. Last week the Helpers were treated by Emely to an amazing workshop to enhance our dance vocabulary.

    Teaching Timing in music is tough. While one can’t learn to be perfectly on time in an hour, last weekend’s workshop helped us all get that much closer to metronome-like precision. Using time-tested methods and some pretty creative techniques, the Helpers were not only improving their timing but expressing salsa better than they had ever before!

    Having been formally educated in music theory and timing, it was impressive to see Emely’s understand of musicality, from physical expression right down to time signatures. This was shown by a fun ‘jam session’ where everyone played instruments to mimic the salsa rhythm. While you can get away with being a bit off when dancing, instruments are not forgiving.

    From the jam session we all played with timing, dancing on1, on2 and even on3! I have to admit, that even with pretty solid timing, it took me some time to adjust. I have to say that it felt really cool to be able to dance on3… it’s a completely different feeling.

    Speaking of feeling, our next session was all about how to feel the music better. By learning how to make our dancing match the music better (dancing softly or hard), one felt the music channelling through them. To be honest, this is my biggest beef with most dancers is that they just do the moves with the same feeling they do for every song. I’ve seen certain dancers look truly sad when they dance to songs about lost love and others who drip with sex appeal as they dance to the more racy songs.

    I mean, if we are not truly expressing how music makes us feel, why are we dancing?

    Thankfully for Emely’s workshop, we all learned how to better express ourselves on the dance floor with better timing, rhythm and musicality. Enjoy the workshop? Feel free to comment on your experience or if you’d like to see more of these kinds of workshops!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!