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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!

     

     

     

     

    Are You Ready for TDS’ Monster Halloween Outing?

    Halloween is an awesome night for Salseros as so many events are going on. If you’re looking for the craziest Halloween bash then check out TDS’ party at Acrobat on the 29th!

    Did you know that it’s our biggest outing every year? For the past two years there’ve been line-ups out the door (so get your costume on early and check out the lessons!)

    Want more chills? We’ve got an awesome costume contest with serious prizes and there have been rumours of a very scary surprise event!

    Need a few costume tips?
    -wear masks with large eye holes: if you don’t have peripheral vision, you won’t be able to dance.
    -avoid bulky costumes that impair body movement.
    -avoid lots of dangling things, wings, hats, etc. If it can get caught or fall off, it probably will.

    For the salseras, if you’re worried about your costume being a little skimpy, just tell them that you’re being practicle as it’s much safer to salsa in!

    For guys, be careful about your costume choice as you don’t want to creep out the ladies anymore than you normally do… I kid, I kid… The crazier and scarier the better!

    So keep the 29th (around 845) open as we continue the tradition of the best outing, crazy costume contest and an all-out Spooky Salsa Party!

    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!
    http://addicted2salsa.com
    http://www.ilivesalsa.com

    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!

    Sexy Salsa Ladies Needed for a Threesome!

    I know what you’re thinking, but no, not that kind of threesome… but it does involve two girls for every boy ;) While the spaces are filling up fast, we do have a few spots left for ladies on our upcoming Salsa Threesome Performance Team! Wait!?! Before you get scared away, it really is going to be an awesome experience and if you want to take your dancing to the next level; you’re going to love being on the performance team!

    I remember how I felt about my first time, but seriously, once you try it, you’ll love it and never want to go back! Performing can seem so scary, but there are so many pros that you should really just sign up…

    Performing will make you a better dancer
    I will guarantee that being on a team will help so many aspects to your dancing. Unlock your inner salsa diva by working on your styling, body movement and having some sexy salsa spicy attitude. I remember my first performance team partner, who could barely do a coca-cola when we began, went on to win the TDS competition only a few months later.

    Performing is really, really fun
    While being in front of a crowd dancing can seem really, really scary… it’s actually not that bad when you have a solid team dancing with you. Not only that, your dance partners are just awesome as they’re going through the same thing that you are. I can only say great things about my two performance teams as both groups just made it all super fun.

    Nothing beats having a salsa wing-girl
    Quick, name three other girls from your salsa classes… what? you can’t? Oh yeah, it’s because ladies usually don’t meet the other girls from their classes. What’s so great about dancing with another girl is that a) you will make a really awesome new salsa lady-friend as well as b) become a way better follower because you need to dance with your lead and sync up with another girl!

    One of the most common comments I hear from lady-helpers is that they really enjoy getting to know the other girls. Not only will you be a sassy lady social butterfly, but you’ll have the best lady entourage group in all of Acrobat!

    Hair Done, Nails Done, Everything Big!
    Another great aspect to performing is justifying getting all dolled up to perform! You can totally justify getting that new dress, getting your hair did and put on some body glitter guilt-free! Trust me, the Salsa guys will be lining up to dance with you once they see you all done up.

    Threesomes are just awesome
    No, seriously… it’s going to be pure shenanigans and a performance that people will be talking about for a long time! From taking your dancing to the next level, to bonding with great people and getting all dressed up; the salsa performance team is just for you! There are only a handful of spots for the ladies left, so take a deep breathe, you know you can do it… and you won’t feel guilty for doing it!!!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseras!

    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!

    Congress Report: Night 2

    Excited for what the weekend of events would bring from this years’ Salsa Congress, I made it down with plenty enough time to browse the vendors and pick up a new pair of shoes (and some DVDs and a few t-shirts…) It wasn’t long before a few friends arrived and we took our seats for what was a great night of some memorable performances. I always enjoy watching the congress performances as you see how people celebrate salsa from all over the world!

    From beautiful costumes to amazing performances, I was really proud to say that some of the more memorable showcases were home-grown! From United Salseros’ amazing Studio 54 routine to an excellent shines routine from ifreestyle; it was really inspiring to know that Toronto has amazing talent who can shine with the internationals!

    With the performances complete, it was time to fulfill my ‘salsa ambassador’ duties! Sporting glow sticks, a group of volunteers from various schools went out and danced with anyone who asked or looked like they were a bit shy to ask. The dance floor filled up quickly, and with it came many amazing dances and an all-in-all great time!

    An eye-opening night, filled with great music and the chance to dance with many fun dancers; Friday night kicked the weekend into high gear!

    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!

    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

    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!