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    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!

    October: Time for Congress and Time for Turkey!

    Now if you’re somewhat new to the Salsa scene you may be hearing about this thing called ‘the Congress’. What is it? you may ask; well, let me do my best to give you a quick overview.

    The Congress in a nutshell:
    A Salsa Congress is kind of like the Superbowl and the Oscars (but way more fun and sexy!). Salsero/as from around the world go to the hosting city and showcase their dancing skills through competitions, demonstrations, workshops and (my personal favorite) social dancing. Usually spanning over a weekend, Congresses are 1-stop shops for everything salsa-related.

    Some Highlights of This Year’s Congress:
    Opening Night Gala:
    Featuring the Canadian Salsa Championships & amazing social dancing afterwards

    Need new shoes? shirts? DVDs? They’re all here

    Dance Performances:
    Last year I saw some of the most amazing dancing performed by teams from around the world

    From Lady’s Styling, Lifts and Tricks to Cha Cha and Sexy Salsa moves…you can learn from the best

    Beginner Boot Camp:
    Still new to salsa? take this day-long workshop to get your salsa steps up to par

    Social Dancing:
    Here you’ll find hundreds of dancers ranging in all skill levels for some of the most fun dance sessions that you’ll ever have!

    Cost Factor:
    There are a ton of price options from those who want to do it all to those who just want to dance the night away. Check out the Congress website for more options, one thing that’s for sure, is that the congress is THE event for all salsa dancers!

    See you on the floor!
    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    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!

    Show us your moves: how to make turnpatterns, combos and freestyle

    One of the most difficult things for leader is to master the whole idea of turn-patterns and combos. While it only gets more complex as you advance, it’s advised to understand how to approach your move arsenal and execute them with as few errors as possible. While one could write a whole book on the subject, here are a few tips for turn-pattern mastery.

    Rock, Paper, Scissors :
    One of the most potent bits of advise given to me by my teacher was to approach executing moves by understanding which handhold you’ll be in when you’re at your transition points ( the end points of your previously executed move). Once you recognize the hand-hold you can randomly choose any move from your arsenal that begins with that hand-hold. Like ‘Rock, Paper Scissors’, if you see the hand-hold will be a ‘left-to-left’ hold, you can then play any move that lands in that position.

    An example would be you could either do a ‘Rainbow/Titanic’, a funky ‘In & Out’ or possibly a ‘Double Comb/Sombrero’

    Here are the common holds:
    Open, Closed, Left-to-Left, Right-to-Right,  Right Chain Hold, Left Chain Hold

    How do you get started?
    Make a list of all of the moves that you know (I do this in Excel, but any text editor is fine). Make a column for each type of hand-hold, so all Right-to-Right moves will be in column A, all left-to-left moves will be in column B, etc.

    With the list complete, start dancing a move and randomly pick moves from one column. When you come to a move that ends in another hand-hold, randomly pick a move from the appropriate column. Keep doing this over and over again and keep in mind all of the random patterns you can make from your list. You’ll be surprised at how many combinations you can make with even only a few moves!

    Increase Your Arsenal
    Here’s one thing that all good dancers do: scour the interweb for interesting new moves. While the ‘Palm Drop’ was boss in level 2, everyone does it so why not check out cool variations that will set you apart from everyone else? There are literally hundreds of sources online which give free lessons for new moves. Trust me, it’s awesome to hear a lady ‘ooh’ when you pull off a simple, yet unique move.

    Outing / Club Lessons
    Another great way to learn new moves is by checking out the TDS (and other) club outings. There’s always a lesson at the beginning and they always try to throw in moves that aren’t taught in your regular classes. A lot of my cool moves have come from hitting up the outing lessons and from teachers who have their own style.

    Free Style…Your Style
    Whether you’re a rocker, r&b or even have ballet you can throw in moves from other dance styles to mix it up. You wouldn’t believe how cool it is to see someone who throw in some pop’n'lock moves or even some rockNroll kicks in their shines. While your school teaches you certain fundamental rules, by all means throw in your personal style as a regular right turn can seem like an entirely new move when you put a different vibe on it. Don’t have any previous dance moves? Check out your favourite music videos on YouTube, I’m sure you’ll see something that you can transpose.

    Make-Over Your Combos
    Every time you learn a new combo from class, outings or online; revert back to your ‘Salsa Matrix’ document with the moves in different columns. Take some time to see how you can mix up your current combos by randomly throwing in new moves.

    When In Doubt, Steal Moves!
    Sometimes when I’m feeling like my moves are stale, I’ll head down to a salsa club and watch all different kinds of leaders to see what they’re doing right and wrong. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a move that you can use (don’t forget it in between those bottles of Coronas). Don’t rip other leaders’ styles completely, but a move here and there is quite cool.

    While difficult, being a combo/turn-pattern master should be a fun and adventurous process!

    Feel the Music
    On a final note, one thing for sure is to realize that you don’t have to do a million moves for every song!!! I can’t stress enough that your dancing should reflect the song. There’s no need for 5 whirlwind Coca Colas in a romantic-style song. Keep your moves subtle during the soft parts and amp it up a bit during the choruses. If you need any sort of validation if you’re doing it right all you have to do is look at your dance partner. If she’s smiling, you’re doing it right!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Helper Only Performance Choreography : week 3

    There is no question that being on a performance team makes you a better dancer. Not only do you have to remember an entire song’s choreography, but you have to take in account that 2-5 other couples are doing the same moves and you must all be in synch. Mix the moves with being on time and being aware of the couples that you’re dancing with and you’ve got one thing: a really fun experience that pushes you to your limits as a dancer.

    While being apprehensive about joining the team at the beginning, I’m really starting to get into it all. From the intensity of our shines routine to the creative use of the TDS syllabus moves. This week I was really impressed with the new helpers who have just completed level 3 and are doing level 5 moves!

    Trust me, doing lasso’s aren’t easy and having to learn them within a few minutes is very impressive! It’s amazing to see the team’s skills grow and to learn from Tracie and the more experienced dancers.

    Must keep this one short, but week 3 was a great practice and I’m looking forward to nailing my coca cola’s down for the next one!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Helper Only Performance Choreography : week 2

    I have something awful to admit. Maybe it’s not a good thing to blog about, but I’m going to put it out there and see what you guys think but I take dance performances for granted. Sure they’re fun to watch, but for the most part, I find myself taking for granted how much incredible work, talent and tears that go into putting together a performance.

    Maybe it’s due to the internet and/or television, where auditions, practices and dance numbers are neatly edited into commercial-friendly packages? Maybe it’s due to our multi-tasking world where you can only dedicate enough focus to the bottom line? Whether I blame society, a short attention span or the inter web, it’s too easy to take many things for granted.

    Not anymore.

    Just after one class of Tracie’s Helper Only Performance Choreography, I have realized how much effort it’s going to take to get the task done. While it may seem like a very daunting task scheduling personal practices, sharing videos and performing well during classes, I truly the end result will be fantastic. I also feel grateful that we have a few seasoned dancers who have performed before so that we can procure their advise and support.

    Trust me, its a lot of fun too! Not only are we having a pretty good time working on the routine but we’re also getting to see how Tracie has taken the core TDS moves/shines and combined them into turn patterns that are fresh and bold! It’s really exciting as we move forward and pushing ourselves to become better dancers.

    While I know there’s still much work to be done, I think it’s exactly what I need at this time to take my dancing to the next level. The best part? Getting better with a great group of people. Looking forward to next week!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Practice Makes Perfect

    I always feel so good when I finish a level and while 9 weeks can just fly by, you learn so much that it would be a crime to lose that knowledge over the weeks from one level to the next. Here are a few practice tips that I use so that when I show up to the first class of my next level that I haven’t completely rusty.

    Practice Tips:
    Get a Wingman/lady : I was very fortunate to meet my good friend Mike in level 1. The great thing about having a salsa wingman is that you motivate each other to go out dancing, make sure you go to every class and you can bounce ideas off each other. Some of my best salsa memories were hitting up Alleycats or 6 Degrees after Mike had somehow convinced me that I wasn’t too tired for dancing on a weeknight.

    Get a Practice Partner : I find that having a practice partner speeds up your learning by a million. By going over your moves together, you quickly improve your leading/following skills, you can break down the moves/combos and will always have someone to learn the outing turn patterns with. You don’t much space to practice and there’s always a salsa night going on every night of the week.

    Get out there : Someone once said to me that shooting baskets through a hoop isn’t basketball and if you really want to be a good dancer, you need to do it with others. Not only will you become a greater dancer, you will also see how people from other schools dance, style and interact. If you’re a leader, you need to get out as much as possible to perfect the skill. The best part of getting out there is that you will meet a million new people who all want to dance with you!

    Salsa in the city : There are a ton of places that have practice socials (TDS has a great one Sunday evenings), but there are a ton of salsa practices throughout the week where it’s a no-pressure learning environment.

    Write it down : One thing that helped me was to write down the moves I learned in class. Once I got home I’d boot up word or grab a piece of paper and write something like this:

    Ladies Right Turn:
    1-2-3: Prep the Right Turn using a J-stroke (left arm makes a J type movement and ends up in a high-five position), do normal salsa basic steps.
    4-5-6: Apply a little pressure and give the girl a right turn by drawing a little halo over her head, complete the basic by stepping back on 5.
    Writing everything down will help you remember the moves as well as serve as a cool database when you’re working on putting combos together.

    Mirror, Mirror : Practicing at home should be a standard for all dancers. What I did was instead of doing 20-60 mins of cardio on the treadmill, I replaced that with salsa practice and then hit the weight room.

    The best way I found practicing at home was to replicate the warm-ups that you do at the beginning of every class, starting with your basics and working in all of your shines. I find the best way to improve your movement is to practice in front of a mirror and watch yourself dance. Seeing yourself in a mirror while you practice will give you a sense of how you’re moving and where to improve. You will improve your spotting, shoulder, hip and arm movements and topping it off by smiling while you dance.

    Ask questions : While you’re practicing you’re going to go from knowing the moves to understanding why we do the moves. Cross Bodies aren’t there just to look pretty, they serve both transitional and protective purposes. The point here is that as you practice things are going to come up in which you may need the advise of the experienced dancer.

    Who ya gonna call? Start with your instructors and helpers in class. They are there to answer your questions and will do their best to get you up to speed. Another option are the forums on this site. These forums are filled with a massive library of questions and advise that have amassed over the years. Yet another option is to ask your questions on this blog and I will do my best to answer (even if that means I go to the top and get Sharon and Evan’s advise). The more you ask, the better your understanding so fire away!

    Youtube & Online resources : Need music, new moves or ideas? Check out youtube by typing ‘salsa’ into the search bar and you’ll get a million videos. Some will be great, some not so great. I find that I catch the SYTYCD and DWTS routines on Youtube as I have little time to catch tv shows.

    These are just a few ideas to start with but if you have any practice tips, feel free to comment them!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    The Weeping Salsa

    Musically-speaking, salsa is bold, sexy and romantic but if you don’t understand Spanish, it’s very easy to miss that lyrically, the songs are written about heartbreak, pain and suffering. The Weeping Salsa, a play currently playing at the Zocalo Theatre (Queen & Dovercourt), exudes heartbreak, pain and suffering through a masterful combination of drama and dance. While at times I found the themes were on the dark and disturbing side, the acting, dancing and production were phenomenal, making the Weeping Salsa a great event for the salsa lover.

    Great dance is founded in smooth transitions and the Weeping Salsa has some of the most impressive transitions that I’ve seen. From the way the story effortlessly flashes back and forwards through time, uses minimal props for maximum effectiveness and intertwines drama and dance (without that surreal ‘musical’ vibe); this show is quite powerful.

    The dancing was fantastic, featuring one of the sexiest cha-cha routines as well as some of the darkest salsa. Choreographed by my level 4 teacher, Carol Cuizon and Angus Dirnbeck; the dancing was top-drawer and was a big part of transitioning the time shifts, violence and romance. I thought it was pretty amazing as when I watched the actors dance, I could see Carol and Angus’ styles reflected in them.

    I highly recommend the Weeping Salsa but must warn that the show has some very dark themes that could disturb some people. It’s currently playing till November 29th and if you see the show, feel free to post your thoughts.

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    And you thought H1N1 was a Raggaeton band!

    With Dancing With The Stars’ Melissa Rycroft catching H1N1 (as well as the endless media coverage about Swine Flu), I thought it may be wise to talk about how it could affect the salsa scene. While I’m no doctor, H1N1 seems to be a highly communicable disease that could be ‘bad news bears’ for the dance floor (especially with all of you bachata-lovers out there ;) After checking out many websites, pamphlets and reports, I thought that it would be good to list some of the precautions that the government recommends when it comes to protecting yourself and the community from the Swine Flu…

    -If you are sick please stay home (rest up for those shines for when you’re feeling better).
    -Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds or use an alchohol-based hand sanitizer.
    -Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    -Cough an sneeze into your arm, not your hand.
    -Keep common surfaces clean and disinfected.
    -Don’t over-exert yourself (take a break when Ran Kan Kan plays)

    You may have noticed that I didn’t include ‘getting the H1N1 flu shot’ with my list, but I feel that’s a very personal choice that one must make for themselves. I would love to hear your opinions about the shot as well as giving suggestions as to how we can keep the dance floors spicy AND hygienic.

    Till next time, keep shining salseros!