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    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!

    A Leader’s Take on Following

    A little while ago, Andrea had asked for tips from a leader’s perspective on how to become a better follower. While attending this week’s Sunday social, I spent my focus on coming up with some thoughts on this subject. While I haven’t truly learned to follow, I’m hoping that these ideas will help and am looking forward to hearing your imput (whether you lead, follow or both!)
    Aim to become a ‘lighter’ dancer : I believe it was Sarah who brought this up in class, but essentially there are two types of leads and followers: those who use little and those who use great resistance to lead/follow. It is natural for beginners to need strong signals as guidance but the problem with those who use/need great resistance (aka, heavy dancers) is that you tire out quickly and are slower when executing moves. The real trick is to try to step and move as lightly as possible and to focus in on the resistance that your leader if giving you during the dance.
    Don’t be afraid to politely ask your leader to be more or less firm during a dance. It takes time to develop your dancing skills so that you’re a light dancer but when you get there, you will spin and glide like a champ!
    What Would Sadie Hawkins Do? : While at the Sunday Social, I saw a lot of women sitting on the sidelines waiting for guys to ask them to dance… actually, I see this a lot at many social salsa outings. Trust me, you spend a lot of time learning how to dance, bought those great pair of heels and even have your double turns down; so why just spend the event sitting down? Trust me, us leaders’ love to be asked to dance and not only will we be flattered, but chances are will try out a few cool new moves with someone as bold as yourself ;)
    Whether you’re 2 lessons in or salsera supreme, don’t be afraid to ask us as it’s rare we’ll ever say ‘no’. The Salsa scene is so amazing for that reason alone. We’re all here to learn, get better and have a blast doing so, so next outing, please ask any and all of us to dance. You’ll not only increase your social circle ten-fold, but you’ll become an amazing dancer in no time!
    Add a little more Diva-Style to your dancing : This may sound like a no-brainer, but if us guys have to spend countless hours learning combos, timing and being a great lead than it’s only fair that you spend some time learning how to properly style.  I’ve always found it funny that while you learn how to style within the first 2-3 classes and yet I see people in levels 4-5 and 6 who don’t have it down. Now I’m not saying that you have to do the pops and waves and such all the time, but styling helps round out a follower and also serves the great purpose of connecting and transitioning moves.
    Time Travel : This tip is involves two ideas: learn how to dance on time and keep your steps/turns small. Why did I include both of these ideas in one tip? Well if you take smaller steps and travel less during turns you will increase the amount of time you have to complete your steps. From a leader’s point of view, we always appreciate someone who stays on time and doesn’t require us to lunge in order to give you a scoop.
    Dance in the Slot : While I could do an entire blog about this concept ( blog coming soon! ) dancing in the slot is a way for a couple and a group of dancers to stay in line with one another. Wikipedia puts dancing in the slot perfectly by saying:
    “As a rule, the leader mostly stays in the slot as well, leaving it only to give way for the follower to pass him. The leader almost never makes the follower to circle around when passing by. They may go into a common rotational figure when the follower happens to come close, but such figures are usually in a tight position and do not change the overall “slotted” appearance.” 
    So, what does this mean? Essentially when dancing you are at one of the ends of an imaginary slot/line. When you do any cross body move, you basically trade places and end up on the other side of said slot. This keeps the dancers in line with one another and allows for proper execution of moves.
    My tip for followers is to learn to execute traveling moves so that they move from one end of the imaginary dance line to the other, not diagonal from it or a few feet away from it. How to practice this? Purposely practice or dance keeping the lines of the tiles/wood on the dance floor in mind and use them as rules to dance on.  It is so hard as a leader to dance with someone who strays from the slot/line as you’re bound to bump into other dancers.
    Break Back (but not ALL the way back) : When doing break-back moves, please don’t allow for your arm to fully extend. First of all, it breaks the tension between two partners, Secondly, it takes longer to retract and could cause you to go off-time and Thirdly, you take up way more space on the dance floor. How far do you allow your arms to break back? Comfort is always key but I would only go as far back as to when you feel enough resistance  to complete the move. Trust me, bigger is not better in this situation.
    Well, I hope these tips have helped and would love to hear your comments/advice/concerns so feel free to comment away!
    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!

    thank you!

    While I’m not one for self-promotion, I just wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who took the time to send positive helper comments my way and to those who have made a big difference in the past year. Seeing how there are so many great helpers, I was amazing to have won the award and am quite honoured. Thank you once again and am looking forward to seeing you all on the dance floor.

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    The Republic of Bachata : Up close with the music & people of the Dominican Republic

    Bachata isn’t about the footwork, nor is it about styling or getting dangerously close to your dance partner…it’s about something greater that’s very apparent when witnessing life in the Dominican Republic. Facing the harsh realities of a developing nation, the people that I met during a recent trip seemed to cope through music and dance. Bachata and Merengue aren’t just catchy songs to dance to, but are moving statements of life, love and loss.

    Almost as soon as the plane landed you could hear the music in the airport, then on the bus and practically everywhere on the resort. A TDS/Latin dancers’ paradise, you basically end up dancing Bachata, Merengue and Salsa every day/night. While it was cool to impress the touristas, my favourite part of the whole trip was during an excursion where a local guide took notice of our impromptu Bachata at a small canteen. It was amazing to see how proud and amazed he was to find out that people outside of his country knew the dance and even it’s artists. 

    This pride was apparent throughout the trip, from wait-staff at the resort to the children at the local public school to the wondrous dance team. While it may not make sense, but being surrounded by all of the textures of the D.R. you seem to feel the music much more. Each dance step taken drew that much more sadness, strife and passion.

    While some are lucky to get this feeling through the music alone, it took witnessing the real Dominican life for me to truly feel and express Bachata in my movements and mind. With that being said, I would like to express positive thoughts and much love to the Haitians, their families and friends that we met on the trip. I hope that they are safe, healthy and together throughout this difficult time. 

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros

    New Years Salsa Resolutions…

    With the last few days of the ‘aughts in our midsts, it’s time to state for the record my salsa resolutions for 2010. While not all of these may apply to you, I encourage anyone else to join me in fulfilling these during the new year…

    1-Dance with more people
    2-Work on body styling (finally get that cool weight-shifting mambo hip action)
    3-Working on strengthening my lead
    4-Work on taking smaller steps and executing moves with less space
    5-Learn 20-30 new moves and improve my coca colas
    6-Practice the moves learned in the workshops (dips, casino and most importantly, on2)
    7-Put my all into the performance team (and dance enough weight off to look good in those crazy-tight performance outfits)
    8-Writing more blogs that hopefully will inspire and inform
    9-Attend at least 3 days at the salsa congress and show love to all salsa schools by attending their parties and events
    10-Attending way more Sunday Socials at Empress
    I’m sure there are a ton of more resolutions to make, but I think ultimately the key is to get out there, try new things and dance, dance, dance!
    Till then, 
    Stay Shining in 2010 Salseros! (see you at Acrobat NYE)

    This New Year’s, It Doesn’t Matter If You Wear Black or White!

    Do you have New Years’ Plans? I know some of you already have your Hotel and Salsa Glam tickets purchased but if you’d rather save the cash to hit up an all-inclusive trip later in the Winter – Check out the most recession-friendly Salsa Party in the City! Not only are the $45 advanced tickets a great value but you’re also dancing on one of my favourite floors at Acrobat lounge.

    So, not only do you get an amazing night of salsa but check out the many other great things that are in the works:

    • A not-to-be-missed performance from the lovely ladies of the TDS Pro-Team! Come see Emely, Sarah and crew perform for the first time!
    • An Argentine Tango and a Salsa performance with Tracie and Daniel (if you haven’t seen these two dance, and especially to the Tango then be prepared for some serious dance-candy!)
    • A Checkerboard Helper game – win great prizes for dancing with the most amount of Helpers/ Teachers (and Sharon is notorious for giving away amazing prizes)
    • Champagne toast at midnight and hors d’oeuevres 
    • Dress is semi-formal and the colours are Black and White (hence the MJ props in this blogs’ title)
    • Beginner and Intermediate lessons (always good for learning new moves)
    • Lots of parking and close to the Subway
    I’ve already got my tickets, do you have yours? If not, feel free to stop by at Acrobat this Saturday night for our bi-weekly outing and pick some up for you and your crew! Space is limited to 250 and I hear that they are going quickly. If you can’t make it out to Acrobat, feel free to call them at: 416-489-1105

    I hope you can make it out for NYE and if you see me or any of the TDS helping/teaching crew, ask us to dance (and win awesome prizes!)

    Till then, 
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    An Empire State of Dance: My On 2 Workshop Experience

    While Jay Z may be singing the praises of New York on the radio, the growing community of On 2 dancers are most definitely stepping theirs. I recently had the pleasure to attend the Beginner to On 2 Workshop held at Empress and I must that while at first I was a bit skeptical, I now can confidently say that I absolutely love On 2 Salsa. While it’s a bit tricky to get the basic, once you do, I bet you’ll find that it’s pretty easy to convert over all of your moves too!

    Here are a few observations that I learned from the workshop taught by Gen and Young from Korkoa:

    • On 2 is the dominant style of dance in New York (On 1 is mostly West Coast/LA).
    • While On 1 focuses stepping on the 1, On 2 focuses on the second and sixth beat and is stepped, slow | quick | quick, instead of quick | quick | slow
    • Because of the pausing at the beginning of the step, partnering becomes easier as there’s more time for turns and styling…this makes dancing to fast songs much easier.
    • Emphasizing the second beat changes your basic, it feels almost jazzier/funkier when you’re doing your basic.
    • On 2 dancers assume more of a ‘walking’ basic and seem to float back and forth whereas On 1 dancers are a bit more bold in their basic.
    • Ladies turn on the 2-3 and men on the 6-7.

    While On 2 may not be for everyone (many people like to become an advanced dancer before learning this style) I highly recommend that you learn it earlier on as it increases your dance card, will improve your styling and you won’t be afraid to check out the New York Congress next year!

    I’m including a pretty solid video of the On 2 Basic that I found on YouTube. I hope that this gives you a sense of how the basic differs from On 1

    Do you dance On 2? In your opinion, how does it differ from dancing On 1? Would love to hear your thoughts,

    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!

    Tricked Out: The Dips & Tricks Workshop

    If you were one of the lucky ones who attended the ‘Dips & Tricks’ Workshop then you already know about how amazing it was to learn moves with such pizazz that you’re guaranteed to get some serious dance floor attention! Tracie and Daniel’s excellent instruction shone as we learned how to incorporate these socially-acceptable, show-stopping moves and more importantly, how to execute them safely and fluidly. It was amazing to see a class of seasoned dancers getting more and more giddy as the class went on!
    If you missed the workshop I would highly suggest emailing TDS and requested a repeat as I felt that this class would benefit every dancer who wants to add some seriously sexy moves to their dancing. Thank you Daniel and Tracie for such an excellent workshop, we’re looking forward to many more!
    Till then,
    Stay Shining Salseros!