Monthly Archives: July 2007

Jazz Fest on Friday

So as promised I check out the Beaches Jazz Festival on Friday evening with Evan, Velina and Galin. As in the past years, we were amazed to see how far the festival stretched on Queen Street East. Every time you thought you were coming to the end of the festival it continued to extend to the next block.

We were mildly disappointed that we missed the salsa bands. We were able to hear two or three different flamenco bands and one even mixed salsa with flamenco for an interesting sound. However, with the craziness and mass audience, we were not inspired to dance.

As in the last two festivals we visited this summer, the highlight was a very interesting band with a lead musician who played an electric violin. They were amazing as usual and built the biggest audience of the evening. They played right at the opening of the festival and 2 hours later as we returned from finishing the walk they were still playing strong. The lead exerts so much energy jumping and playing frantically, it is so fun to watch.

I would love to hear if anyone got to see Son Ache or Cache playing during the weekend. Hopefully there are still a few more opportunities to this summer to catch the bands playing. Looking forward to the Latin festival at Mel Lastman Square in September!

Men and Salsa

I recently read a blog by Lance Breger who writes about health and fitness. In the blog I read he spoke of going salsa dancing for the first time and loving it because he learned something new, he met new people, he burned calories and he had so much fun. Click here to read his blog.

I can’t tell you how many complaints I get from women who attend classes without their significant other, stating that their partners did not want to take them out dancing or want to learn to dance with them. They look around the room at all the men in the class and can’t understand why their partners won’t join them.

The interesting thing about salsa and men that I have found over the years is many men (not all of them but many) get into the hobby either because their partner wanted them to or because they wanted to expand their social network. However, just like women, men learn to really love the actual feeling of dancing and end up signing up for future classes purely from the excitement of wanting to learn more and become a better dancer.

I think there is a mis perception about dancing that some men buy into and that is that salsa dancing is similar to going freestyle dancing at a regular club. Going dancing at a local club can be extremely uncomfortable because there are no rules or structure and it is not a taught art.

The difference with salsa is that it is structured and once you learn the simple rules of the dance it is actually quite easy to execute. You decide how simple or complex your moves and turn patterns are and how much time you want to spend learning more. You know that your left leg steps on 1, right on 2, etc, which gives you the security of structure. Plus there is so much to be creative about that when you are finally ready to experiment you can with musicality, body movement, patterns and more.

So men, make your ladies happy and take them dancing salsa – with a few lessons you too will learn to love it!

Salsa on a Date

Since starting my blog I am always interested to see what others around the world are writing about when it comes to salsa. I found a funny blog post from someone named Kristy Gustafson from New York who accepted a date to go salsa dancing without actually knowing how to salsa. Click here to read her funny and entertaining blog.

What was interesting is the length she went to prior to her date to learn how to dance and incorporate herself into the culture (high heeled shoes, new cute dress, new salsa music, lessons, practicing at home, etc.). This is likely an issue many people face as salsa has become so popular and is a great idea for a date.

So here is my advice on this subject. be honest with your date about your abilities (or lack thereof) on the dance floor. Most clubs have a beginner lesson prior to the social dancing at about 8pm or 9pm. Make plans to go early to this lesson so you can practice your basic steps. This way even if you have both learned different styles of salsa prior to the date you have some common steps to work with during the date.

Try not to wear new shoes or uncomfortable shoes. If you can’t walk comfortably for an hour in your shoes there is no way you will be able to dance in them. Low heels with a slippery sole is the best bet (leather soles are great, 2 inch maximum heel for your first salsa adventure). Wear appropriate clothing. Although you want to look great, is your shirt too low or your skirt to hight? I went salsa dancing once when I first started dancing with a skimpy top which popped open during a spin – I learned my lesson quickly :) Make you sure you do the salsa test on every outfit: spin and bend backwards in a dip-like stance and see if anything pops out!

One thing many beginners don’t know is there are different styles of salsa. Kristy who wrote the blog spoke of learning to dance on 2 and then her surprise at learning that everyone danced on 1. In addition to the different beats you can dance on there are also different styles. Click here for a breakdown of each style. Make sure you know what style is common in your area and which you prefer visually (youtube has great videos). In Toronto most people are still dancing on 1 with the New York/LA Style dance style being more prevalent nowadays. That doesn’t mean this is the style you need to learn but just research your options.

Hopefully this helps for all you daters out there :)

Kimberly’s Guest Post

I love getting different people’s thoughts and perspectives so I have asked Kimberly, an Assistant Instructor at Toronto Dance Salsa, to guest blog for me today about her thoughts of being a new student. Here is her post – enjoy! Sharon

“There’s something very vulnerable and humbling about learning how to dance. When you start out, you’re body feels like it’s moving rather awkwardly as it learns to find the clave, trying to coordinate hands with feet, while incorporating smooth body movements and proper leading and following. And on top of it all….trying to remember all the moves learned in class!

It can be especially intimidating going to a nightclub, where everyone around you seems to be mastering all of the moves with ease. It might be hard to imagine this, but every single amazing dancer started as an awkward beginner at some point. The only factors separating the advanced dancers from the beginners are time and practice. When I began dancing, I was intimidated by the salsa clubs as I marveled at the amazing dancers multiple spinning and flicking their hair around the dance floor.

All I wanted was a place to dance at my own pace with people I knew, at least until I built enough confidence and courage to get out to the clubs. This is why I’m excited that Toronto Dance Salsa is piloting the new salsa practice session. It’s a place where dancers of all levels can get a feel for social dancing, brush up on their leading and following and also ask for tips from the instructors and helpers.

The first practice session was great as I was able to dance with many beginner dancers and help out where ever I could. Emely and I encouraged people to rotate often so that the students could get used to asking people to dance! My hope for the Toronto Dance Salsa Practice is to help bridge a transition from classroom dancing to nightclub dancing, because that’s where the fun, passionate love affair with salsa will truly develop!

Come out to the Tuesday night practices and make new dance friends, practice your skills and build your salsa confidence! Hope to see you on the dancefloor soon.


El Cantante

Many salsa lovers are very excited about the release of the movie “El Cantante” starring Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez about the true life story of legendary salsa singer Hector Lavoe. El Cantante is opening up on Friday August 3rd in Toronto theatres and salseros are buzzing about the movie!

Hector, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York in the 1960s, grew to become one of the most famous salsa singers in history. His popularity still lives strong with clubs continually playing his popular hits and new salsa bands reliving his music.

Hector Lavoe is played by Marc Anthony who is also an extremely popular Latin artist. Alongside his real-life wife, Jennifer Lopez, who plays his on-screen wife, the movie is said to pack some powerful performances. Both Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez are Puerto Rican and this was a labour of love project. The movie is said to be heart-warming, funny and a sad story of the death of one of salsa’s greatest performers.

Looking forward to letting you all know how the movie turns out. For more info on the movie and to see a sneak preview video, click here.

Montana’s Outing

Wow, how much fun was Montana’s last night! With almost 250 people in attendance and still so much room to dance, rest, chat and relax it is such a great location.

We are definitely lucky to have found Montana’s. Unfortunately they will only allow us to host a salsa night on Sundays as opposed to Fridays or Saturdays. However, if we start early enough (7pm seems to work quite well) then people will dance until 10pm and still get their salsa fix.

That is exactly what happened last night. We have about 120ppl in attendance for our classes from 7-8pm and by 8:30pm we had almost 200ppl there. We were busiest at about 9pm and by 10pm people started to go home. The party was still going at 11:30pm when I left after a long day of classes at Northridge and the outing which was great to see but it was nice to start early and go to bed early for Monday morning.

Kimberly and Ildi taught the absolute beginner class, Rob and Sara taught the level 1s and Evan and I taught the intermediate class. It is always so nice to see students executing the moves during the night and everyone looked great dancing!

We are trying to get our next outing there too so fingers crossed!

Salsa – Beaches Jazz Fest

I always love to attend the Beaches Jazz Festival because of the strong presence of live Latin music and this year it is no different.

There are several venues for the festival. The Parti Gras part (kind of like the pre-party) is taking place this weekend at the Distillery July 20th – July 22nd. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of salsa but is still worth checking out.

The main event is in the beaches area next weekend. The main stage at Kew Garden has Son Ache playing on July 28th at 12:30pm. They are an excellent Toronto band with up to 11 artists. I saw them at the beaches festival last year and they were wonderful as usual. It is great fun as people are dancing on the grass and in the park. There are plenty of other bands too playing from 11:30pm-5:00pm on both Saturday and Sunday July 28th/29th.

The most fun part of the festival is the evening portion – also known as the Streetfest which takes place from July 26-28th. Every evening from 7pm-11pm the entire strip is closed off and there is an abundance of artists, music, food and goods on display. Cache will be playing during one of these evenings (not sure of the time – let me know if you do) as well as Samba Squad and Gypsy which is a Rumba/Flamenco band. Lots of great options to choose from during this weekend.

For more info click here. Hopefully you will all take advantage of this wonderful event – one of the best festivals in Toronto. Happy listening!

Performance Class

I try to answer as many questions on my blog as possible and I have been getting many questions about the Performance Choreography Class that I just posted yesterday so I thought I would clarify some things.

First of all, the Performance Choreography Class is for helpers only. Many students ask why this is so and the main answer is that the helpers deserve their own class that caters to their own development. They are always volunteering their time and helping others so Caryl and I want to do something special for the helpers. That is why we offer a discounted rate to them and why Caryl spends so much time and effort to create a wonderful choreography and teach our helpers to become performers.

Here are the details for the helpers. There will approximately 12 couples and 1 or 2 couples as the understudies if needed. Caryl will choreography a full routine that will be approximately 2.5 minutes. Classes begin Wed Oct 10th from 9:15-10:45pm for 1.5 hours for each session. This will last for 9 weeks and there will be one or two additional rehearsals before the group performs their routine at our pre-New Year’s outing which will be a large event. If necessary, we may do a second performance.

Performance classes can really transform your dancing. You become aware of your styling and movement, your facial expressions and non-verbal body cues. For those who learn better by repeating each move until there is muscle memory, a performance class is excellent as you tend to remember everything you learn way after the performance is finished.

For the helpers, this class will sell out so if you really want to do it reserve the spot now because I have a feeling there will be a few disappointed people.

Let me know if you have any questions – can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Yeah – Fall Schedule!

It is such a relief to confirm and post upcoming schedules. I always feel very guilty when our semesters sell out and there is no space for new salsa students. I have had to turn down students for the last few weeks who were interested in salsa lessons for the summer so I am happy to say the fall schedule is now posted and there are lots of options to choose from with over 20 salsa classes.

For those asking about August classes (I get tons of inquiries a day just about whether there are August classes) we do not have any classes beginning in August. This is because our current semester is still in progress and classes will end in August. Second of all, most people go on vacation in August so that is not a great month for good attendance and we prefer to have classes begin in September when things settle down and people return to their normal schedules.

I do have to say that attendance has been better this summer than any other summer that I remember. It definitely shows the dedication of our students that they chose to come in to our classes instead of spending the time outside in the gorgeous weather. Hopefully this will last until the end of the semester!

Happy registration!

Salsa student romance

I think if I ever decide on a new career it will be match-making because I love it when my students and helpers meet someone in my classes or outings. I feel just a little bit responsible for the new romance and I love it!

I was reading someone’s blog about how she met her boyfriend and it was during salsa classes in her area. Click here to read the story. It reminds me of so many of my students’ stories and I am definitely a sucker for romance. It made me really think about how great salsa classes are to meet someone.

The main reason is that you don’t need a partner and everyone rotates. You can come with your friends or on your own but most people without a significant other will rotate and that is where the fun and socializing takes place. You can laugh together at your mistakes, discuss where you went to practice and set up times to meet up at outings. You already have something in common and that alone is a great beginning.

I also think outings are amazing because instead of meeting 30 others in your class you now have an opportunity to meet 300 others and again you have a common thread and a great conversation starter in your dance background.

Since starting to teach I have had countless students and helpers find a significant other through the classes and outings. I would love to hear your stories especially if you met someone in our classes. Drop us a comment!