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    Salsa Spring Celebration: Are you signed up for Salsa, Cha Cha, Raggaeton and more?

    Are you signed up for what looks like one of the best season of class offerings of classes at Toronto Dance Salsa? If you’ve got  the Winter blues, or you just need an energetic pick-me-up, here’s a sampler of the classes that are being offered:

    Casino Rueda Workshop & Social:
    In case you haven’t read my previous post about how much I enjoyed the first Casino workshop, let me just say that everyone who took this class had a blast! Learn a ton of Cuban moves (that can easily transfer into your regular salsa routine) and dance with everyone in a large circle. It’s rapid, it’s super fun and taught by Tracie & Daniel!

    Bachata, 9 week course (already SOLD OUT!!!) :
    As soon as I saw the class being offered, I quickly signed up. Lucky I did as it sold out so quickly that there’s a waiting list!!! Only goes to show that after taking the winter off from Salsa, people are back in action and taking multiple classes!

    Cha Cha, 9 week course ( 3 Women needed until it sells out!!) :
    Another hot course, Cha Cha is going fast! If you’ve ever wanted to learn this sexy dance or are tired of sitting out each time they play a Cha Cha song, then you’ve got to check out this course!

    Student Performance Class :
    Feel nervous about performing? Don’t worry, I did too… but I’m loving the Helper Performance Team classes and can guarantee that you will too! It’s made me a better dance in all regards and it’s been amazing learning from Tracie and hanging with tons of great Toronto Dance Salsa dancers! Trust me, once you hear the crowd cheering you on you will be as hooked as Miro and Julia!

    Raggaeton Funk Class :
    In case you missed the episode of eTalk, Tracie was teaching Raggaeton to Leah Miller of SYTYCD!!! I love, love, love Raggaeton and am looking forward to this course! Learn how to tear up the dance floor to the music of Daddy Yankee, Pitbull, Winsin Y Yandel! Focusing on body isolations, styling and co-ordination, you’ll be owning on the dance floor in no time! 

    Salsa Levels 1-6 :
    Have you signed up for your next level yet? Trust me, sign up soon as they tend to go just as quickly as our specialty courses!

    Ok, I’ve got to go and sign up for Raggaeton…
    till then,

    Stay Shining Salseros!

    A little dose of salsa…

    Need a quick fix of salsa songs? The Salsa addiction centre will be posting a few tracks each week to keep your playlists fresh and spicy!

    Here are a few songs that I’ve heard in class, at clubs and outings…
    Moliendo Cafe – Africando
    Lagrimas Negras (guitara) - Cachao y Maria Dolores Pradera
    Bemba Colora - Celia Cruz 

    And to celebrate the Bachata Festival here are some great Bachata tracks…

    Que Me Des Tu Cariño - Juan Luis Guerra
    Shorty Shorty - Xtreme
    Por Un Segundo - Aventura

    Speaking of Salsa/Bachata music, have you checked out Dj Duck’s Salsa mixes? Each month he posts great tracks from current hits to Salsa classics!

    Hope you like these as much as we do!
    Till next time,
    Stay Shining, Salseros!

    Helper Only Performance Choreography : week 6

    With the entire team working hard, we’re slowly getting closer and closer to the official first performance! While an official date hasn’t been set, we’re aiming for the end of March or early April. While there’s still much to be done, I’m getting so excited (especially after seeing such amazing performances at the Salsatine Outing last weekend at Acrobat). The Pro Team has set the bar extremely high, and I can only hope that can come close when we finally hit the stage!

    Did you see that Toronto Dance Salsa is offering a ‘Student Performance Class’? Trust me, if you’d like to amp up your dancing as well as have a pretty fun time doing so, then sign up. While I was nervous at first, I’m really enjoying the whole process of learning great choreography and am pretty pumped for our first show. If you’re level 3 or higher, then sign up as I’m sure that you won’t want to miss such a fun and great learning experience!

    Looking forward to this Saturday’s practice.

    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!

    Dips N Tricks II – Dips, Drops and Daniel’s Trick!

    Last weekend TDS put on a second Dips & Tricks Workshop as the first was so popular! In true Tracie and Daniel fashion, this second workshop featured moves that were both impressive and exciting to execute! From the Tower to Repetitive Dips, everyone left feeling like a pro and had a pretty intense core workout.

    Once again the main focus of the class was how to safely preform show-stopping tricks in social settings. Learning how to utilize our core muscles and proper technique, we learned a series of slick moves that not only round out the ones learned in the first session, but stand on their own. It was great to see people trying out their moves at the Sunday Social.

    One of my favourite moves was to learn Daniel’s signature move. While I can’t give away the secret, I can say that it’s a very cool move that involves the leader getting down on one knee!

    If you weren’t able to attend these workshops you may want to attend any future ones as eventually you’ll find yourself wanting to know how to safely dip yourself and/or your dance partner. If you want to check out the workshop again, be sure to email T.D.S. and request another one… you won’t be disappointed.

    Did you take the workshop? Let me know in the comments about how you liked it.

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Helper Only Performance Choreography : week 5

    Well the moment that I’ve been told would happen has finally come… I’m absolutely loving this whole performance experience. I must admit that throughout this whole process that I’ve been quite anxious… what if I’m not good enough… what if I can’t lead my partner… what if I forget the routine? It’s taken a while, but I’m finally over the hump and now am really enjoying the whole process.

    Today was also a cool day because there was a level 1 condensed class waiting outside the door and it kind of felt like we had an audience. Being that much closer to the reality of being in front of people makes it that much sweeter. Speaking of sweet, we went over the costume situation and I’m so relieved to know that we’re not wearing any skin-tight, glittery outfits… I always think classy trump glitz.

    If you are thinking about joining a performance team I highly recommend it. Maybe you’ll love it from the get-go or maybe it’ll take a little longer? Once thing is for sure, give it about 4-5 weeks and I’m sure the performance bug will hit you just like it has with me!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    When Your Shines No Longer Shine : The Dreaded Salsa Slump

    When asked, almost 99.9% of you would say that you love to dance Salsa because it’s so much fun…but what do you do when it no longer feels as fun? You, my friend are in a Salsa Slump.

    What hurts about a slump the most is that it feels like when you get your heart broken by something you truly love. I’ve just been getting out from my first real salsa slump and I did a lot of soul searching and reading. I discovered an excellent blog based in Toronto detailing a Salsa Gigolo’s life, most importantly, his beliefs on why he was in a slump. [ Read it here ] It’s a very interesting blog that combines a Sex and the City vibe with philosophy, personal reflection as well as great humor!

    It inspired me to go out and try different methods to get over this slump…
    Here are some of the things that I did to get out of the slump:

    Get Your Grind On:
    Showing my true geeky colors, ‘Grinding’ is a term used in gaming to engage in repetitive and/or non-entertaining gameplay in order to advance your character. I started forcing myself to go out to salsa clubs and socials and dance. While I felt very disconnected and couldn’t produce very many good combos, at least I was getting exercise and at least ‘faking it till I make it’. I find that sometimes when you force yourself through it, you re-discover what you love about salsa.

    Get Away:
    I know that I just recommended to ‘grind’ your way through it, but perhaps you’re suffering from too much salsa… some would cry blasphemy but I say that burnout can happen so quickly with something as addictive as salsa. I was speaking to a renown salsa leader last night at a social and he said that to get over his slump he goes out and does anything but salsa, whether its see a few movies, go bowling or maybe a good road trip!

    Get Inspired:
    I think this may have been the most effective tip for me as I spent a lot of time trying to get inspired. I think I must have watched ‘This Is It’ about ten times as my main inspiration for dancing has always been Michael Jackson. His effortless movements, precision and showmanship are all it took for me to get my practicing my shines again. Other sources of inspiration? Check out Youtube for ‘Dancing With the Stars’,  ’So You Think You Can Dance’ and other great dance films!

    Want to see my favourite inspirational speech of all time?
    If you haven’t seen ‘Any Given Sunday’, go rent it, even if you dislike sports films.
    The speech Pacino gives is unreal and easily transferred to salsa (talks about steps and inches)
    [ watch it here ]

    Here’s another great speech which I watch when I feel like blaming others for my woes…
    [ watch it here ]

    Go Early to Plaza Flamingo or Babalúu’s on a Saturday Night:
    I picked these two clubs because this is where people who are new to salsa go to learn and attempt to dance. Why go? Because you get to see how much fun they are having trying to figure out their basics, right turns and just dancing. Fun is contagious and you may see in these people what you once felt. Not based in Toronto? Every major city has at least one salsa club that touristas and neewbs go. 

    Have Fun:
    This goes along with the previous tip. Salsa is all about having fun. It’s just dancing after all. The moment you start thinking of it as a job then you’re going to start losing that loving feeling. To me it’s not the ones who are doing the biggest turn patterns, drip or tricks, but the couples who smile and laugh the most. It sounds cheesy, but honestly, it’s why we’re all here.

    Retail Therapy:
    The best part of being a dancer is that we can always justify buying a new pair of shoes. Sometimes all it takes is going out and getting some new duds to inspire you back into your usual styling self. Don’t want to spend a bundle? Go out to Puma or American Apparel and get some wicked looking wristbands.

    We all plateau from time to time so maybe it’s the right time for you to finally go get a few private lessons? I used to do this when my guitar playing would stagnate and you wouldn’t believe how much I would learn doing a quick session with a teacher who’s been in your shoes! Not sure where to start? Check out TDS’s Private Lesson info.

    Happy Salsa Songs:
    Here are a few songs that I’m really into right now that keep me smiling during these cold months:
    Marc Anthony: Tu Amor Me Hace Bien 
    Celia Cruz: La Vida Es Un Carnaval 
    Junior Gonzalez: Lady in Red

    Take a Chance on Connection:
    This may sound weird but when I get in a slump, I shy from connecting with others. This type of isolation is very bad for a Salsero and definitely showed in my combos and even in my expression! The best part of dancing Salsa is to gaze into your partners eyes and feel that amazing connection.  While it can be romantic, to me usually the gaze is more like an endearing 

    Let Go / Feel the Force / Wu Wei:
    Sometimes we have to let go of all of the things that we learn and just feel the music. When you’re truly feeling the music you’re timing will be better, you’ll style when your body feels it should and you’ll be smiling. Many of my best moments have been when I was just letting go and having fun.
    Hug It Out:

    Sometimes when you’re sad, you’re sad. Sometimes a tan helps, sometimes it’s Ben & Jerry’s but whatever it is, make sure that you’ve got someone there for you for support. I’ve found the Salsa Community to be made up of caring people who will be there for you when you need help. 

    Winter can be really hard on all of us so make sure that you’re doing what it takes to get you back to good. Hugs are awesome and I’m always down for giving them ( depending on how long I’ve been dancing/sweating, lol ).

    I hope these tips help, there are probably many other great tips so feel free to comment about how you’ve dealt with your own Salsa Slumps. While I may feel like the end of the world, trust me, it will end and you’ll fall back into your salsa groove in no time. I can’t wait to see you back on the dance floor once you’re ready!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    A (few) Follower’s Take on Leading : A Response to the Leader’s Take on Following

    Receiving many compliments on the previous post ( A Leader’s Take on Following ) and with the many compliments came many tips for Leaders. With help from Nadini and Jane, the salsa addiction centre has put together a mighty list of Tips for Leaders. Without further adieu, here are:

    The Follower’s Take on Leading:

    A Great Leader Guides, Not Forces:

    Lead as if guiding your partner through the move – not pushing or propelling – there have been times where I felt exhausted by the amount of force being extended through the patterns; there is difference between being firm/tension and being rough with the follower. A follower is more likely to dance with a lead that is guiding and not roughly propelling them through a pattern.
    A Great Leader is Assertive, Not Aggressive:
    Be assertive with signalling moves – nothing worse than having a lead that does not commit to the move – in which case a partner may up and decide to back lead because they cannot tell what direction the lead is signalling etc.
    A Great Leader keeps their Followers Close and Bachata Partners Closer:
    Get close to your partner – one thing I have observed is the distance between the lead and follower varies based on comfort level. Oft, a newer dancer – still getting comfy with being close to a partner…will have some distance btw themself and the follower. This makes it difficult to follow, as the follower ends up having to take big steps or the arms are over-extended and this makes it pretty uncomfortable for a follower. Also when you are in a club, your real-estate in which to dance is much smaller – thus you really are dancing in the slot within a small area. Smaller steps helps with control of distance between yourself and your partner. 
    A Great Leader Feels the Music, Not Fights It:
    Musicality – big one for a follower. For me, I find I enjoy dancing more with a partner that is hitting the counts right. The salsa dance moves coordinate better with the music if you can figure out your counts. As a follower, its much more enjoyable for me to dance with someone whom is on time. The main reason, I relax and can listen and enjoy the music and basically respond to the signalling/cues from my partner – as we are both synced to the music.
    A Great Leader Connects, A Poor One Distracts:
    Introduce yourself and maintain eye contact – for the connection factor. I usually try to chat the person up to get em to get comfortable with me as a partner. 
    A Great Leader Steps in Sync with their Followers:
    Tall or take large steps? Think of your partner’s height and how large their stride is. Chances are you’re big steps are causing them to move uncomfortably and travel mass distances. Attempt smaller steps to conserve space (which is most ideal), but often forgotten. 
    A Great Leader Dances for his Followers, Not TO His Followers:
    A big mistake many leaders make is thinking that they have to unleash a torrent of dance moves/combos, etc. Many times you’ll see Leader’s putting their partners into a million moves with no consideration to the feeling of the song as well as  how comfortable their partner is. Trust me, start with a few easy moves ( basic, right turn, cross body lead, etc) and then add more as you get a sense of their level. Always pay attention to how your partner is responding to your moves and make sure they’re smiling and happy.
    A Great Leader Keeps Their Frame:
    It definitely takes two to Salsa not just Tango :) Leaders need to keep their form just as much as the followers. Keeping your elbows at the right angle, and not over extending is key when executing double turns, waiter turns etc. Having a good support/form allows for more flow of movement without throwing off our balance and most importantly preventing us followers from straying from our dance space. Leaders play a big part in controlling the dance slot. The leaders may take smaller steps, but it doesn’t necessarily remind followers to do the same if leaders don’t maintain their frame. 
    A Great Leader Leads by Listening:
    I also believe if you have a light spinner in your hands do not force the spins, your lead should compliment the spinner (the halo feel on spins is the best). Once your comfortable with your partner you can determine their speed and control in which leaders should adjust their energy. Sharon reminded me last night (as a follower) make sure to look at your partner as a focal point, instead of all directions while doing turns (keeps you grounded and steady for the next surprise move).
    Ultimately, great leaders listen to their dance partners and make sure they execute a smooth, on-time dance that keeps their interests. It’s all about connection. Have any tips or comments? Feel free to post them!
    Till then ,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Tracie’s Top 10 Survival Tips for Followers:

    For today’s topic I had to go all out and call in an expert as the subject is one of the most difficult for followers to grasp: How to survive following new moves. So without further delays, the salsa addiction centre 
    proudly presents :

    Tracie’s Top 10 Survival Tips for Followers:

    (instructor’s note: all of these tips are based on general rules of thumb in any kind of partner dancing.  We all know that rules are meant to be broken!)

    (1) React, but don’t overreact. 
    Internalize these lead/follow technique rules: your lead brings your arm up into turning position, it’s probably a turn.  So engage your core and have your turning arm engaged, but don’t assume which direction the turn is taking or how many turns he’s going to lead. If he opens up 90 degrees off your left side (i.e., opens the slot) it’s probably a cross body lead.  So do your half basic and be ready to travel, but don’t assume that he’s going to lead you into a turn, or even straight across (because he could also check you) – don’t go through the slot until he tells you to.  

    (2) Pay attention to the dance conversation. 
    Remember that all partner dancing is a conversation. What is his body rhythm telling you?  Definitely do not watch his feet – pay attention to his entire dance frame.  His body tells you where to go next – does he get out of the way (for a travelling pattern) or is he staying on the spot (for an on the spot pattern)?  His arms will communicate what to do next (turn or check) but his body rhythm will always give you hints as to what type of move is coming next (on the spot or travelling).

    (3) Keep your frame 
    If his body rhythm is going to communicate with yours, you have to make yourself receptive to the dance conversation.  If you are tense in the chest or the hips (or in the knees or your arms) you are blocking his ability to communicate with you.  In order to provide something for him to communicate with, you must provide a solid follow body – this requires you to have an engaged core (from your sternum to your bellybutton), but remain soft in the shoulders and hips and “elastic” in the arms and legs (don’t lock your knees or elbows).

    (4) Remember that Tension does not equal strength, and softness does not equal “floppiness”
    You’re not in a wrestling match!  The more complicated a move is, the more signals he needs to communicate, which means you need to provide adequate tension in your follow to be more elastic (i.e., to absorb the force of his lead and use it to help you move), but not strong.  The tougher his lead, the softer you need to be (tension without strength, softness without being a limp noodle).

    (5) Be a little bit stubborn (but not desperate!).
    Maintain connection as much as possible.  Don’t take your hand away unless he tosses it away.  Don’t disconnect from his hand on your back unless he pushes you hard enough to disconnect.  On that same token, don’t “give” him a hand that he doesn’t ask for (i.e., don’t assume a hand change) and only reconnect when he initiates the reconnect.

    (6) Be square with your partner at every opportunity. 
    General rule of thumb in turning is that once you start a turn you must complete it (with proper weight changes and timing) until the turn is completed. If he leads you into 1.5 turns (in any direction) and does not check you, you must continue turning until you face him (complete 2 full turns). Once he leads you into your break step on your right (i.e., your basic step  and your frame is square with his) then you know for sure that turn pattern is over.

    (7) Try to stop thinking of what you “should” be doing – just do whatever your leader tells you to do, even if it feels a bit odd and unfamiliar.
    Sometimes leaders feel like experimenting – they’re trying something new with different hand holds or they were watching a youtube video (or another dancer) and are trying a new move for a first time. Mistakes will happen in the way he leads you because he’s still learning how to lead the new move properly.  All you can do is follow the lead as per your rules of thumb – if you don’t do what he expects you to do he’ll realize quickly it’s his lead and not your follow.

    (8) When in doubt, rely on your foundation technique of body rhythm and weight changes.
    In other words, don’t stop moving!  Always do your 1-2-3, 5-6-7 steps with full weight changes.  It is always better to move through a pattern then to stop dead in your tracks when faced with something unfamiliar.  When in doubt, do your basic!  

    (9) Styling is gravy, but your dance is the meat.  Sometimes meat is ok by itself!
    For higher level dancers the desire to add as much styling as possible is pretty strong – especially if you go out dancing a lot and know pretty much all the music that the DJ plays.  You can’t help but hit those awesome trumpet lines with some wicked arm styling or those marimba hits with some fancy footwork, but sometimes styling compromises your follow body and causes you to disengage your core.  Be aware if you’re falling off balance because of the arm styling or if your styling is making him nervous and he’s not able to lead you properly.  Reign it in and enjoy the dance for what it is!

    (10) BREATHE and relax.  It’s only dancing!  
    If all else fails (but it shouldn’t) a good basic rule of thumb is just to RELAX.  Breathe, and expect the unexpected.  keep your core engaged and focus on your body rhythm and turning arm(s).

    And the most important survival tip for followers is to go out and PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.  The more people you dance with the more you will learn how to read different types of leads.

    Good luck and have fun!

    >> So there you have it, amazing tips from a Salsera Pro! Have any comments, ideas and tips of your own? Please comment!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Help Haiti through the power of dance!!!

    Want to help Haiti using the power of dance? There are two events coming up that look absolutely amazing!

    Jully Black & B2B Sweat-a-thon!
    This Sunday @ Circa Nightclub features Canadian Diva Jully Black as she hosts the B2B Sweat-a-thon!!!
    Get ready for 6 hours of hardcore aerobics, zumba and more as you can work up a sweat and raise money for Haiti Earthquake relief! This is definitely a ‘one-of-a-kind’ event that looks super fun and also a great way to keep those new years resolutions ;)

    The SalsaTO Haiti Fundrasier Salsa Party
    If you can’t make the Sweat-a-thon or want to do more than come out to Acrobat this Monday Feb 1st for the SalsaTO Haiti relief fundraiser party! Music starts at 9pm, featuring Live Bands, DJs, Shows and Prizes! If you don’t know SalsaTO yet, you should stop by as they are huge supporters of the Toronto salsa scene and TDS so we’re sure that this party will be off the hook!

    Whether you’re sweating at Circa or Acrobat, you’re sure to have an awesome time helping out a culture who have played a huge role in shape the music that we love to dance to. Let’s all do what we can to help out Haiti and what better way than by dancing? 

    See you Sunday/Monday!

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!