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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:

    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

    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)

    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!

    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!

    The weight shift game

    One of the most basic yet crucial aspects to dancing is weight-shifting. What is weight-shifting? Simply put, it’s how you displace your weight each time you step. It’s also how to make your dancing look sexy and natural. Sounds easy, right? Well you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t do it correctly as well as how tough it can be to master.

    Learning Latin Hip Movement
    A dancer with great weight-shifting easily set themselves apart from
    the rest. Female dancers exude sexiness and Male dancers show
    confidence and skill with their excellent weight-shift.

    What you can do
    Start by standing against a wall and place both of your hands slightly
    behind your glutes/booty. Now shift your weight so it’s onto your
    right leg and slightly bend your left so there’s no weight on it. You
    should’ve noticed that your right glute has moved back and is now
    touching your right hand.

    Next, slowly shift your weight to the left leg. Your right glute will have moved forward and the left one has gone
    back and is now touching your left hand. If you don’t want to use your
    hands, you can be close to a wall so that when you shift weight, your
    glutes will touch the wall.

    Once you’ve got the basic weight-shift movement, start walking away from the wall, each time focusing on your weight moving from one leg to another.

    The real trick here is to really focus on how it feels when all of your weight goes from one leg to another. If you don’t feel a shift, you’re not transferring all of your weight.

    Once you get your walking away from the wall down, you can start weight-shift walking using you salsa basic. Go nice and slow at first, focus on the shift and do this for a few minutes every day. Soon enough, you’ll feel yourself weight shifting when you dance and how properly weight-shifting will make your execution of moves much easier and more effective.

    The Pendulum Technique
    Another solid technique for great weight-shifting is what I call, the Pendulum Technique. Think that theres an upside-down triangle full of energy that rests behind your belly-button and points downward through your hips.

    When you shift your weight to the left, this triangle will move over and will now be pointing downward to your left foot. When you shift right, it targets the right foot.

    Now stand straight and shift your weight back and forth, thinking this triangle of energy is moving left to right, much like a pendulum. Keep rocking back and forth now taking side steps and then work on stepping forward and backward. Always think of the pendulum and how it should be swinging when you step. Tighten your abs and it will be easier to move.

    Soon enough your weight will shift well, and you’ll really start to nail down that sexy, Latin look…

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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!