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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!





    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!

    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!

    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!

    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!

    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!