As I get more experienced, it’s becoming much easier to detect how good someone is based on their salsa basic. For those who are new to the dance, the Salsa basic is term used to describe your standard 6-step back-and-forth stepping pattern. By learning how to step as well as adding a bit of flair; you too can take your basic from beginner to salsero.
How To Step:
Stepping as a walker is simple, we do it all the time. Stepping as a dancer, is much trickier. What’s the difference? Stepping to walk, is usually a flat-footed affair. While it makes walking quite easy, it looks ‘clunky’ when you dance this way. What you want to learn is how to step like a dancer… or what I call, the ‘tiger step’.
What I mean by this is that you should aim to land the ball of your foot first, and then roll out to the rest of the foot to complete the step. I call this the ‘tiger step’ because it makes you look like you’re perfectly balanced and ready to pounce; much like a stealthy, wild Tiger.
When I first tried to learn the ‘Tiger Step’, I had a lot of trouble because I didn’t have the proper ankle/arch/calf strength. What I did to correct this (and still do to this day), is to do ‘calf raises whenever I can. Here’s a good video to get you started:
Stepping More Naturally:
Once you have the Tiger Step down, do your basic in front of a mirror. Do you see how you’re stepping? Usually you step forward and then return your foot to the center, parallel to your other foot. While this technique is good for learning, you really want to always keep your feet slightly not-parallel. When I mean is that when you return your foot on count 3, try to keep that slightly behind your other foot. What this does is help smooth out your basic movement. It also makes moving through more difficult moves later on.
A natural tendency for most new dancers is also to bounce while they step. While it’s very natural to bounce while you walk, it’s not a slick to bob while you’re dancing Salsa. I remember seeing an old movie where they teach young ladies to walk ‘with grace’ by balancing a book on their heads. While I didn’t try this, I always picture that a book is balancing while I dance.
TightRope Tiger Step:
Now that you have your steps staggered and that you’re stepping like a jungle cat, it’s time to add the tightrope. What I mean by this is that when you step, think that each step you take is on a tight rope. Picture the ball of your foot stepping forward, so that both your feet are on a slender tightrope. When you step back, bring your foot back slightly behind the other, still on the same tight rope.
This will give your basic a really sauve feel, making you look more balanced as well as feeling like a tiger.
Here’s a great video from Addicted2salsa about how to take your basic to the next level:
Here’s to Stepping like a tiger.
Stay Shining Salsero!
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’.
Stay Shining Salseros!
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…
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!
Stay Shining Salseros!
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
Stay Shining Salseros!
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!
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!
Stay Shining Salseros!
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!
Stay Shining Salseros!
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…
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!
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!
Staying Shining Salseros!
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.
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!
Stay Shining Salseros!
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?
Stay Shining Salseros!
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.
Stay Shining Salseros