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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!

    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!

    Congress Report: Night 1

    Waiting for my friends in the beautiful lobby of the Weston is a pretty nice way to start off this years’ Salsa Congress. As I sipped my Cuba Libre, one can’t help but reminisce about the past few years that I’ve been doing salsa. It seems only yesterday that I started in Ems’ level 1.

    Rushing into the ballroom we take our seats as Jennifer starts the night’s festivities. Wouldn’t you know it, but Sumeet (whom I performed with in the TDS Helper Team) is in the Pro-Am competition, and wow, he rocked it! Taking Silver, Sumeet represented Toronto Salsa in fine form! If you’ve never danced with him, ask him; or if you’re a leader, watch his style as one can learn a lot from him.

    The competition was fierce this year, ranging from Amatuer to Pro and ranging a few different dance styles including Hustle. There were so many competitors this year that we didn’t even get to dance until about midnight! I can’t complain though, as it was amazing to see dancers of such calibre. It was also great cheering for Oscar’s & Caryl’s dancers.

    One thing I found very interesting is how a crowd reacts to some performers and not to others. Many of the couples were on their ‘A Game’, but it took something special for the crowd to really show their love. A couple from Pureto Rico really blew my mind as their musicality were unmatched… mental note, ask that girl to dance.

    Speaking of dancing, it wasn’t long before the dance floor was cleared so a friend of mine and I decided that we should test it out. Spoiled from Acrobat’s floor, the first thing I noticed was that this floor was a bit ‘sticky’. Seeing how beautifully the competitors danced on it, my respect for all of them went up about 30%.

    The dancing was pretty fun although maybe it was something in the air as I was super rusty and off my game. It was fun to try out a few things from my past lesson and work on my connection as I ended up dancing quite a bit. If you’re new to the scene or a seasoned vet, come out for the workshops or dancing, trust me, it’s fun and you learn a lot!

    It was really great to see the winners of the night as you could tell how elated they were from winning…I’d love to experience that. Maybe next year?

    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…

    Cascade
    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.

    Respect
    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’.

    Timing
    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.

    Expression
    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.

    Current Latin Hits of 2010

    One of the best things about getting into Salsa and other Latin musical styles is that you discover literally decades of great music. While it’s easy to get lost in the Salsa of yester-year, I’d like to do a quick post of some hot tracks that are currently flooding the airwaves in 2010…

    Jose Alberto (El Canario) – Que me lo cuente

    While ‘The Canary’ has been around for a long time and made many of the tracks you hear while out dancing, it’s amazing to see that he’s still got it! The guitars really hooked me and love how dynamic the song is!

    India – Estupida

    While I wasn’t able to catch the Luminato show a few weeks ago, apparently India rocked Toronto! I just love the desparation and frustration in her voice for this track.

    Enrique Iglesias feat. Juan Luis Guerra – Cuando Me Enamoro

    A modern take on bachata, Enrique teams up with one of my favourite Bachata singers to make a nice contribution to the Dominican Music.

    While I personally love the Latin music of the 70s, 2010 has been a great year for new music and hopefully you get to explore more of the people who are making great tracks this year!

    Till then,

    Stay Shining Salseros!

    A (few) Follower’s Take on Leading : A Response to the Leader’s Take on Following


    Receiving many compliments on the previous post ( A Leader’s Take on Following ) and with the many compliments came many tips for Leaders. With help from Nadini and Jane, the salsa addiction centre has put together a mighty list of Tips for Leaders. Without further adieu, here are:

    The Follower’s Take on Leading:

    A Great Leader Guides, Not Forces:

    Lead as if guiding your partner through the move – not pushing or propelling – there have been times where I felt exhausted by the amount of force being extended through the patterns; there is difference between being firm/tension and being rough with the follower. A follower is more likely to dance with a lead that is guiding and not roughly propelling them through a pattern.
    A Great Leader is Assertive, Not Aggressive:
    Be assertive with signalling moves – nothing worse than having a lead that does not commit to the move – in which case a partner may up and decide to back lead because they cannot tell what direction the lead is signalling etc.
    A Great Leader keeps their Followers Close and Bachata Partners Closer:
    Get close to your partner – one thing I have observed is the distance between the lead and follower varies based on comfort level. Oft, a newer dancer – still getting comfy with being close to a partner…will have some distance btw themself and the follower. This makes it difficult to follow, as the follower ends up having to take big steps or the arms are over-extended and this makes it pretty uncomfortable for a follower. Also when you are in a club, your real-estate in which to dance is much smaller – thus you really are dancing in the slot within a small area. Smaller steps helps with control of distance between yourself and your partner. 
    A Great Leader Feels the Music, Not Fights It:
    Musicality – big one for a follower. For me, I find I enjoy dancing more with a partner that is hitting the counts right. The salsa dance moves coordinate better with the music if you can figure out your counts. As a follower, its much more enjoyable for me to dance with someone whom is on time. The main reason, I relax and can listen and enjoy the music and basically respond to the signalling/cues from my partner – as we are both synced to the music.
    A Great Leader Connects, A Poor One Distracts:
    Introduce yourself and maintain eye contact – for the connection factor. I usually try to chat the person up to get em to get comfortable with me as a partner. 
    A Great Leader Steps in Sync with their Followers:
    Tall or take large steps? Think of your partner’s height and how large their stride is. Chances are you’re big steps are causing them to move uncomfortably and travel mass distances. Attempt smaller steps to conserve space (which is most ideal), but often forgotten. 
    A Great Leader Dances for his Followers, Not TO His Followers:
    A big mistake many leaders make is thinking that they have to unleash a torrent of dance moves/combos, etc. Many times you’ll see Leader’s putting their partners into a million moves with no consideration to the feeling of the song as well as  how comfortable their partner is. Trust me, start with a few easy moves ( basic, right turn, cross body lead, etc) and then add more as you get a sense of their level. Always pay attention to how your partner is responding to your moves and make sure they’re smiling and happy.
    A Great Leader Keeps Their Frame:
    It definitely takes two to Salsa not just Tango :) Leaders need to keep their form just as much as the followers. Keeping your elbows at the right angle, and not over extending is key when executing double turns, waiter turns etc. Having a good support/form allows for more flow of movement without throwing off our balance and most importantly preventing us followers from straying from our dance space. Leaders play a big part in controlling the dance slot. The leaders may take smaller steps, but it doesn’t necessarily remind followers to do the same if leaders don’t maintain their frame. 
    A Great Leader Leads by Listening:
    I also believe if you have a light spinner in your hands do not force the spins, your lead should compliment the spinner (the halo feel on spins is the best). Once your comfortable with your partner you can determine their speed and control in which leaders should adjust their energy. Sharon reminded me last night (as a follower) make sure to look at your partner as a focal point, instead of all directions while doing turns (keeps you grounded and steady for the next surprise move).
    Ultimately, great leaders listen to their dance partners and make sure they execute a smooth, on-time dance that keeps their interests. It’s all about connection. Have any tips or comments? Feel free to post them!
    Till then ,
    Stay Shining Salseros!