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    The 5th Annual TDS Salsa Competition!

    You may have noticed that some of the dancers at the socials have been burning the floor with eyes of the tiger lately and that can only mean one thing: The Annual TDS Salsa Competition! Now in it’s 5th year, the annual competition heats up 6 Degrees nightclub for two rounds of serious salsa. Featuring some of your favourite dance partners, helpers and assistants; the competition is one of those ‘cant-miss’ events!

    How does it all work?
    The first round involves many dance couples, usually dancing 2 minutes to a song showing off their ability to dance without a routine. This is a great round to determine a teams’ timing, smoothness and moves while trying to make it work to a song they won’t know until they hit the stage. Don’t forget the great performances as well as tons of lessons and social dancing.

    The final round involves the top 5 winning couples from round 1 doing a 2.5 min routine to a song that they’ve chosen. Featuring costumes, lifts and tricks, you’re bound to see some amazing performances by TDS dancers who’ve been training hard to win the coveted first place!

    While it can be scary to compete, you never know as you may just get inspired by this years’ teams to get ready for next year!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    The Fine Art of the DJ

    It was a great honor to be asked to make a playlist for the weekly Sunday Social. At first I was quite nervous as a) Evan does a great job every week making great sets of music and b) I’ve never made a set in my life (other than for my impromptu living room dance parties). Where does one start?

    In typical Tony fashion, I aimed for doing things a little different. While I was given a basic structure, my goal was to play some songs that aren’t typically heard. The problems I found with this is that I didn’t want a ‘weird’ sounding set so I decided to have 3-4 non- typical songs; mixing a few on1 and on2s.

    Another thing I had to keep in mind is that you’re playing for your crowd, so I added some of my favourite songs from when I was a beginner. I also added a few English songs, so that people could sing along while they dance.

    Rounding out the set I finally placed a few of my personal favs that would please the more intermediate/advanced dancers. Featuring higher-tempos and jazzy syncopated songs make it really fun to dance to and get the styling going.

    All in all, the set seemed to go over well and it was amazing to see people really dancing! I couldn’t be happier and have even more appreciation for what Evan, Duck, Jorge and all of the great Salsa DJ’s do.

    So next time you’re out having a blast, be sure to thank your dj for making great sets each and every week!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    This One Is For the Followers…The S.T.Y.L.E. Technique (Part One)

    Over the past few weeks I’ve been noticing in increase in Followers asking for more information on how to improve their dancing. Whether it was in class, at a social or just through random conversation; it seems that this time of year that you’re seeing a variety of classes being offered to advance the Follows’ skill set. With that in mind, I’d like to present the patented: Sara’s Technique Yielding Ladies Excellence or S.T.Y.L.E.

    The S.T.Y.L.E. Technique
    This technique combines the three main areas of Following (Spinning, Following and Styling) and roots it all in the base area of Following: Balance. Whether you’ve taken a class with Sara or not, her technique is a great way to see where your strengths and weaknesses lay in your dance. I’ve composed a quick list of what each area involves and feel free to let me know if there’s anything that I’ve missed:

    Balance
    This is the most fundamental element to good Following. Having good balance will not only improve how you look as a dancer, but also how well you execute moves, isolations, spins and most of all: keeping it safe. By working on your balance you will vastly improve in all other areas of your dance.
    Here’s a great video about Balance

    Spinning
    From your first class to your last dance, chances are you will be spinning non-stop. Learning proper spin technique (from proper Prepping to Balance to Execution), will take you from awkward to awesome in no time. The essence of spinning can be broken down into a few areas as well: Prepping, Balance, Spotting, Breathing and Posture.

    Here’s a great video that demonstrated proper Prepping and Spinning Technique (note: this video is on2, but the techniques are the same)

    Following
    This may sound a little redundant, but you’d be surprised about how many Followers fail to practice their fundamental Following techniques. Following to me, can be broken into several main areas: Hand/Dance Connection, Anticipation, Weight Shifting, Momentum, Timing and Musicality.

    While I don’t have a video to cover all of these areas, what I will do is write my next blog with some finer points to each of the main areas of Following.

    Till Then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Looking to the Past and Future of Resolutions!

    So, last year I decided that a good way of keeping my resolutions was to actually set them in digital stone via my 10 Salsa New Year’s Resolutions list. Seeing how the new year is upon us, I figured it’d be good to see how well I did last year and perhaps offer a few new ones to tally up 360ish days from now…
    1-Dance with more people
    This year I made a solid effort to dance with more people from various schools. Having been an ambassador at the Congress, attended other schools’ socials as well as hitting up new clubs.

    2-Work on body styling (finally get that cool weight-shifting mambo hip action)
    From Performance classes to workshops with Emely, Tracie and Sharon; I spent a lot of time working on moving like a dancer and less like a robot.

    3-Working on strengthening my lead
    A continual struggle, but am really finding how much learning tango helps improve ones’ salsa lead. Although they are different beasts, your dance frame is crucial for both dances and will cross-mojinate you into a better lead.

    4-Work on taking smaller steps and executing moves with less space
    I’m definitely getting better at this, although still need to keep at it. Where in 2009 I found I could barely dance in a crowded club, I’m finding I can now. The real trick is leading well enough so that even if my follow takes larger steps; I can still keep the space small.

    5-Learn 20-30 new moves and improve my coca colas
    With some serious effort I’ve got my main coca colas down. Now the real trick is to hone in on the lesser-used, really cool looking ones.

    6-Practice the moves learned in the workshops (dips, casino and most importantly, on2)
    While I’ve been good to incorporate dips into my dancing, I rarely practice my on2. This must be remedied.

    7-Put my all into the performance team (and dance enough weight off to look good in those crazy-tight performance outfits)
    Having lost about 15lbs last year, I felt like this was a major accomplishment from last year. Getting to perform at Congress was amazing and I really enjoyed my time performing.

    8-Writing more blogs that hopefully will inspire and inform
    While I haven’t been as consistent with the blogs, I’m hoping to get better at keeping these up. I’ve had a few people say that my blogs have helped them here and there, so it makes it all worthwhile.

    9-Attend at least 3 days at the salsa congress and show love to all salsa schools by attending their parties and events
    I did the whole Congress this year, from workshops and performing to socials. It was almost too much… almost.

    10-Attending way more Sunday Socials at Empress.
    Photos will prove that I attended way more Sunday Socials at Empress this year than previously. I love the relaxed atmosphere and how Evan always plays requsted songs!

    Here are a few new resolutions for 2011:
    1-Nail down the forward/reverse coca cola as well as the 360 degree cola.
    2-Continue my weight loss through muchos dancing
    3-Check out a few Milongas to practice my Tango steps
    4-Work on my afro-cuban movements
    5-Work on on2 dancing
    6-Continue working on my own style, from personalized dance moves to body movement
    7-Work on more dance expression and feeling the music
    8-Learning Cumbia/Cuban style Salsa
    9-Attend a salsa congress outside of Toronto
    10-Get around to watching a ton of those salsa lessons online

    With what looks like a great year ahead, I wish you guys all the health and happiness that you can handle!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Happy Salsadays! Heat up the Winter at the TDS Holiday Party!

    I’m very sad about the holidays this year. Well, not entirely sad, but pretty down as I’ll be missing the TDS Special Christmas/Holiday Party on Saturday, Dec. 18th! Having parents in San Francisco means that sometimes you just have to spend the Holidays away from all of the amazing Salsa parties happening this year.

    So here’s the 411:
    SPECIAL TDS Christmas/Holiday Party
    Outing to Acrobat Lounge
    Saturday December 18th at 8:45pm

    Why this party shouldn’t be missed: 3 reasons…
    Pro Team:
    If you want to see some sexy shines, flawless execution and even some high-flying tricks; then you should see the Pro Team dance! Made up from TDS’ finest, you’ll see how well you can dance if you really apply yourself and hit up as many outings and socials as you can.

    Student Team:
    I’ve personally had the pleasure if seeing most of this routine and all I can say is wow! If you’d like to perform but aren’t ready for the Helper or Pro Team, then the Student Team is just right. On a more personal note; having seen most of the dancers on the Team grow from level 1 upward, I feel such pride to see how amazing they’re dancing now! Trust me, these guys rock.

    Reggaeton Team!
    It’s no secret that I love, love, love Reggaeton! Fuse Hip Hop with Sexy Latin styling, and you have a powerful and hot dance style that has to be seen to be believed! If you’re looking to heat up your holidays, this team will melt Yonge street with their pops, bumps and grinds!

    So while I’ll be blue from being far away; at least I know that I’ll get to see the videos on Facebook… So that means you HAVE to go on the 18th! Cheer on your friends, assistants and teachers as it’s going to be one amazing night!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Passing the Torch… Helper Team Jan 2011

    It’s no secret that by joining a performance team will make you a better dancer. Not only will you be pushed to the limits, you will also learn what it takes to get to that next level of dance. While I was really scared and unsure of joining the Helper Performance Team, I’m so thankful that I did… and you will too.

    Trust me, I could barely Coca-Cola when I started and now I get complimented on them… a lot! It’s really amazing to see how far you progress in a few months of practice. Not only do you learn a bunch of cool new moves to use in your arsenal, but you also improve your styling, movement and positioning.

    Don’t worry if you’re scared. I was terrified! If you feel like you need a buddy, find someone to sign up with and you’ll have one more person to stand by you during this experience. Trust me, it’s amazing and everyone out there watching will want to dance with you from then on!

    From what I hear, it sounds like the next routine is going to be really, really cool! Be sure to sign up a.s.a.p., as the Helper Team slots usually fill up pretty quickly! Can’t wait to see you on the floor!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    The Taming of the Tango

    I have always loved Tango from afar. Passionate and mysterious, Tango has captivated me all of my life and can now finally say that I know what it’s like to take those forward steps with intention. Thanks to the amazing instruction from Tracie and Daniel, my love for Tango has finally gone from afar to the forefront.

    While only about half way through the classes, I have already seen Tango interweave into my regular life… From seeing better weight-shifting in my salsa steps to even taking Tango steps around the office. It’s very infectious and sexy and I have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time before a few Tangos will creep into the playlists at the socials.

    What is it about Tango that makes it so amazing? First of all, the music is potent. Booming and explosive one moment and then subtle and soft the next; the music instantiates passion. Secondly, just being able to take a step in Tango requires complete weight-shifting control and perfect confidence. Thirdly, being so close with your partner you can’t help but feel the magic found within the music.

    While I’m no where near being able to tear up a tango at a social, I am feeling so much better from actually taking the steps to learning one of the most romantic dances.

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Salsa-we’en Special: Choosing the Best Costume to Dance In

    Last year I learned a very valuable lesson about choosing a salsa-friendly costume. While my ‘Zorro’ costume worked for the most-part there were two fundamental flaws that made dancing almost impossible: I could barely see through my mask and my hat made most of my moves impossible. Luckily I made some quick fixes and the costume was a hit; hopefully with a few tips you’ll have much more success from the get-go!

    Can you move in it?
    Thinking about being a robot or some kind of spiked-out monster? Think again. If your costume impedes your movement or the movement of your partner, you’re going to be sitting out quite a few songs.

    Can you see?
    Last year my Zorro mask killed all of my peripheral-vision to the point where I bumped into someone within a minute of wearing it. If you’re planning on wearing a mask, do the ‘basic-test’ in it; all you need in to try a simple basic in the store and see if you can see what’s around you.

    Does it breathe?
    I was checking out a fantastic panda costume online, but eventually gave up on it as I knew that I’d overheat within a few minutes and have to sit out an hour at a time. Find costumes that are relatively thin, breathable and won’t cause you to de-hydrate.

    Does it restrict your dance moves?
    Anything with large wings, brims, spikes, extra body parts or antennae may cause you to get tangled up!

    Make-up!
    Make sure your make-up and effects won’t run while you sweat it out! The last thing you want is your mascara to change your J-Wow costume to being a Snooki.

    Suggested Outfits – Lady Gaga, Jersey Shore, Alice in Wonderland, Glee(ks), Lindsay Lohan, Justin Beiber, Katy Perry (a personal fav), Mad Men, Vampire (watch out for the cape though), Harry Potter, Avatar, Rihanna, Pirates, Ninjas…

    Suggest Masks – Masquerade masks that have wide eye slots, Large-eyed Character Masks, Masks that only cover the top-half of your head (Frankenstein, Homer Simpson, etc.)

    Well, with only a handful of days left, the TDS Halloween party will be at Acrobat at 8:45pm this Saturday!!! Come out and dance with all of us ghouls for a pretty spooky night! Don’t forget that the TDS Helper and Pro teams will be doing their thing as well as a massive birthday dance for Sara!!!!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Congress Report: Day 4

    Waking up only hours after going to bed, the helper performance team assembled in the ballroom. Surrounded by the many other student teams, we forged through our early-morning haze and put the final touches on our routine. Satisfied that we were ready, we all went our ways and gathered only a few hours later to prep for the final part of our weekend, the student showcase!

    Extra nervous and quite excited it was time for the TDS team to take flight and we had a great time doing our salsa routine! Everything seemed to go in slow motion yet was over before you knew it! With big sighs and all screamed-out from cheering for the other student teams; we bid our farewells and thus concluded my Congress weekend of madness!

    While I wish I could’ve attended the Sunday night showcase; my body was completely exhausted and I spent the rest of the weekend on the couch!

    A fantastic weekend and a wonderful time, I highly recommend checking it out next year, if you haven’t yet been!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Congress Report: Night 3

    While tired from dancing till about 2:30am the previous night, I managed to drag myself out of bed and down to make the workshops. Started simple, I went to a beginner’s lesson with Ana Masacote. Later on I did a sexy workshop with Como Mango and also partook in a great Dominican-style bachata session!

    Learning quite a bit, and regretting not getting up earlier to catch some of the morning workshops, we all went out to dinner and prepared for the Saturday night performances and dancing! All I can say is that if you’re just going to pick a night to check out the Congress; this is the night. Everyone was on their A-game and each performance just seemed to get better and better!

    Needless to say, that by the time the dance floor was ready, everyone was taking the floor burning to try out the new moves and styling that they learned during the day. Resuming my ambassador-duties, I took to the floor and danced till about 4am! It was an amazing opportunity to dance with such varied and great dancers. The best part, was Orquesta de Menor a Mayor, a fantastic salsa band from Puerto Rico!

    With an early morning practice only hours away, I knew it was time to get some sleep and rest up for yet another crazy day of salsa!