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    Watershed Dance Moments: Musicality

    If you were out at last Friday’s outing, you may have noticed that there was just ‘something in the air’. While it’s difficult to pinpoint just what the perfect dance recipe is, that outing had it in spades. The best part? A really good friend of mine hit a major watershed dance moment: feeling the music.

    While he’s always been a great dancer, I feel like he’s always been searching for something in his dance. I feel like there are these certain plateau’s that we hit as we transition from one level to the next and it was amazing to witness him wade into the magnificent movement of musicality. You could just see it in his eyes, and despite all of classes, workshops and advice that you get, there’s no better moment that when you truly experience that moment.

    If you haven’t experienced it yet, don’t worry. Musicality is much like falling in love, you can’t hurry, buy or even fake it… but you’ll experience it if you keep dancing. One day your body will hit a beat by accident, and then a few weeks later, you’ll finally get that body wave that matches that great bachata vocal and your shines will match that awesome solo in ‘Lady’.

    Sometimes it takes a ton of workshops, months of classes or even private lessons but sometimes, just sometimes all it takes is ‘something in air’.

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!





    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:

    Till Then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Dance Like Barbie

    While working on my multiple-turn lead, I’ve noticed that I’ve picked up a nasty habitby putting my lead hand way too high when turning my partner. A weird lead no doubt, but one that is very common. While I can really focus on keeping that lead hand closer to proper halo height, I feel that the real culprit is that most followers aren’t using ‘Barbie’ technique.

    You’re probably thinking, wait, that Barbie? Yes, I do mean the one and only Plastic Princess of Pink. Now, before you pronounce me crazy, I want you to think about how Barbie’s arms are slightly bent. When her arms are down, they are in the perfect position for being lead with perfect tension. When you move her arms upward, they are in the perfect position for being guided through her turns. If you start to dance thinking ‘must dance like Barbie’, you’ll be benefitting everyone.

    First, let’s look at the proper form… when you get ready for a turn, try to always keep your arm bent somewhere close 90 degrees and keep your elbow parallel to shoulder (it should be in front of your face, closer to your forehead). If you keep your arm in that position, it’ll help you keep your balance.

    Next, you should try to turn ‘as a unit’. Imagine that you’re a more flexible Barbie. What I mean by this is that when you’re being turned, that your torso and your arms will be pretty solid and both turn at the same time. When your arm moves before your torso, you’re dancing with what we call ‘spaghetti arms’ because the turning connection becomes very weak/limp. It makes it almost impossible to turn and you really lose the one thing that Salsa is all about, manipulating momentum.

    By keeping your arm slightly bent and moving as a unit, the guys’ lead will be better as his hand will be at proper halo level. You’ll be teaching your leads to guide more effectively and everyone will benefit. Take a look around and see how many people are leading turns improperly… you’ll see tons of people in the correct position at the beginning of the turn and suddenly they’re raising their arms straight up in the air mid-turn!

    So ladies, be like Barbie and gents be sure to summon their ‘inner Ken’ in order to keep your partner looking great with proper technique!

    Till then,

    Stay 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.

    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!

    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!