Monthly Archives: July 2007

Clave Kings

On Saturday Evan and I celebrated our engagement with a big bash at Evan’s parents amazing home. With about 125 people it was closer to a wedding reception than an engagement party and it was a huge success thanks to all the planning and preparation of Evan’s wonderful parents.

What I wanted to mention was how outstanding the salsa band was that was hired – the Clave Kings. They play regularly at Marlow’s in Richmond Hill on Wednesdays and I have heard also at 6 Degrees on Tuesdays and Lula Lounge on the weekends.

If anyone is looking for an amazing salsa band to hire for their event, this is the band for you. First of all they are extremely versatile. From merengue to bachata to cha cha to salsa and more, they can do it all. They are so energetic yet not in your face asking for attention. They talk to the guests and gage what everyone wants to hear and cater to the crowd.

Their sound is so crisp and what is amazing is that we only used 4 of them for our party. They can go all the way up to a 10 piece band but even with just four people they sound so great you can’t tell some instruments are missing.

Yani Borrell is the lead singer of Clave Kings. He is very professional to deal with and they arrived early. Because we were dealing with rain and were late in our lunch they didn’t even take a break so that we could get more dancing time in. If anyone wants to reach the clave kings they can do so at yanimusic@yahoo.es.

Thanks Clave Kings – awesome job!

Children and dancing

Some of you may have seen the documentary called Mad About Ballroom which came out about 4 years ago. The move documented the journey of several young kids who learned the art of ballroom dancing in their elementary schools in New York City. As part of the mandatory curriculum, ballroom dancing took these kids and transformed them into Ladies and Gentlemen and the journey was really great to see.

I would love to see dancing become a regular part of the curriculum in our elementary schools. There is so much life lessons that can be learned on the dance floor that I feel kids could benefit from nowadays.

Dancing teaches men and women to communicate verbally and non verbally. It teaches chivalry and manners, things that are somehow missing in today’s world. It sharpens concentration, flexibility, coordination and it keeps kids and adults healthy and in shape.

I highly recommend renting this DVD and seeing all the benefits of dancing for kids and adults alike. Hopefully Canada will someday incorporate dancing into the school system!

Salsa – an affordable addiction

I recently read a blog by a woman who is a modern dancer. She added up her dance spending for the week and it totaled about $116. She wrote in her blog that she was considering replacing some of this spending with evenings out salsa dancing because it was a more affordable option. Click here to read her blog.

This blog reminded me of my very budget conscious days way back when I purchased my first home 5 years ago. Needless to say my budget was very tight and “entertainment funds” were almost non-existent. Given this, I still went dancing about 5 nights a week and spent almost no money on this.

If you have ever been to a salsa club during the week you will note there is little to no cover charge. Try Babaluus on Tuesdays or Wednesdays – no cover! I made sure I went dancing during the week. Now on weekends some salsa clubs have free cover before a certain time. El Rancho used to offer (and may still do so) free cover for ladies before 10:30pm. You can very easily find free parking in downtown Toronto after 9pm if you are patient. Also I never drank alcohol. Those that do will find clubs charge a great deal. Try to stay away from this if you are budget conscious.

Other cheap alternatives include the Toronto Salsa Practice. For $3 or $4 you can dance the afternoon away and get your salsa fix. Festivals also allow for free salsa dancing so take advantage of these.

Hopefully this blog has convinced you that you don’t need a lot of money to go salsa dancing – it is a great affordable sport!

Why is salsa so hard to learn?

I often have potential students call me for more info on our salsa classes and many have an unrealistic expectation of how long it takes to learn to dance and how easy it is to learn.

It is deceiving to watch a great couple dance together. Everything looks smooth and simple and easy to execute. The reality is that becoming that smooth takes a lot of hard work and practice.

So there is no short answer on how long it takes to learn how to dance. It depends on whether you are leading or following or if you have prior dance experience. Even certain sports experience can assist in your learning capacity. I have found over the years that those with martial arts experience and gymnastic experience will learn faster generally. It also depends on whether you are naturally musical and how strong your memory is to master moves and choreography.

There are many factors that determine how fast one learns to dance. The key point is that everyone can do this. I started my salsa dancing with zero dance experience, no athletic background and no musical talent to speak of and with determination and drive I was dancing well in 6 months. I went out dancing every night of the week though and practiced at home, but the results were obvious after 3 months.

Anyone who takes a full level 1 class and practices the moves regularly will find they can already feel quite good on the dance floor after 9 weeks. Just a little practice and a regular class can make a big difference and improve your dancing.

Keep at it and you can reap the benefits of dancing!

Vida Lounge!

Well the outing on Saturday night at Vida Lounge was a great success. Almost 200 students and friends came out to dance the night away. What was particularly fun was the fact that the Corso Italia Street Festival was happening at the same time. I expected a great deal of Italian music but was surprised to hear that many of the bands were salsa bands so our group at Vida Lounge had the best of both worlds! We had a great selection of salsa music in the club and then to cool off we could walk outside and sample some great live music.

Emely and Diliana taught the level 1 class. I definitely enjoyed seeing the level 1s practice their combination throughout the evening – they caught on very well. Evan and I taught the level 2 and up lesson and we really chose a challenging combination (as usual :) . We had a really good group students learning the combo and I was pleasantly surprised to see them master the class so well despite many of them being only in level 2 (it was about a level 4 combo).

I was glad to see that Vida Lounge did get a better air conditioning system. Also thank you to them for feeding us – that is always a great bonus!

Hope everyone had a great time. If you couldn’t join us, our next outing in Sunday July 22nd at Montana so keep that date open!

Private Lessons vs Group Lessons – Pt 2

Part 2

So yesterday I discussed the pros and cons of private lessons. Here is the same for group salsa classes:

Group classes – The main benefits to group classes is that they are a more realistic environment. You are dancing with those at approximately the same skill level so that there are no surprises when you get to the clubs. Also the pace is usually slow enough that there is a lot of time for practice and muscle memory. Repeating each new move or exercise throughly really is the key to progression. The class environment allows you to meet other students which is especially useful if you don’t have a dance partner. You can meet a potential future dance partners or even new friends to go salsa dancing with together. Group classes are also really fun. The energy of the group can really inspire you to improve and continue and it is really a fun, relaxing environment.

Now there are cons to group classes when compared to privates. You can develop bad habits with regards to leading/following. The pace is not catered to you personally so you have to go to the group pace. Lastly the schedule is not flexible as private lessons – you will usually have to attend classes at the same time weekly.

So which is better? Well it depends on your budget, schedule and personality. My best suggestion in general is to do the group classes and after every semester take a private lesson to clean up your bad habits, firm up your skills and be prepared fully for the next semester. It is a great strategy that several of my students use and it really assists them in their progression.

Private Lessons vs Group Lessons – Pt 1

Part 1 of 2

To complement yesterdays blog entry on group salsa classes vs. club classes, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss private lessons vs group lessons. I receive many questions regarding this topic – which is better?

I believe both have an importance on a student’s development. It doesn’t actually have to be a choice of one or the other unless there are budget constraints. Here are the pros and cons:

Private Lessons – Obviously privates are a lot more expensive than group classes. Group classes range from $12-$16 an hour in most studios in Toronto. Private lessons range from $50-$100 an hour. Quite a leap. The benefit is the one on one attention you receive. When you dance with the instructor they can give you tips, advice and exercises that you would not get in class that are suited to your strengths and areas of improvement. It is a great environment for those who are hesitant about learning with or in front of others. The learning pace is also much faster. I estimate you will learn 3 times as much as in a group class. Also you don’t develop those terrible bad habits that you can in a group class that are so difficult to get rid of – privates tend to nip bad habits before they become a set part of your dancing.

However, it is an unrealistic environment. You are dancing with a professional who will lead/follow properly and you will have difficulty once you dance with someone of your own level, especially if you are a beginner. The space is also unrealistic. You get a studio all to yourself – it is spacious and quite and you will have no problems bumping into someone or listening. That is not the case once you get to a salsa club.

Tomorrow I will discuss the pros and cons of group classes and give you my opinion on how to work both into your learning schedule!

Group vs Club Classes

There is an interesting debate in the salsa community regarding the pros and cons of club classes. Obviously it is safe to say that the quality of club classes does not compare to a progressive group class. There is little emphasis on musicality, timing, and leading and following techniques in comparison to a good quality progressive group class environment. However there are pros as well which I would like to discuss.

Every time I teach a club class I worry about the quality of the lesson. It is hard for the students to hear and see, there are sometimes up to 80 people in the class and there is little in the way of assistance. In addition, everyone is at a different level. While we ask that only a certain level attend the class, we find that absolute beginners will take the class side by side to an advanced dancer. This makes it very difficult to teach properly. Because of this wide variance in skill level and the time constraints of trying to teach an interesting turn pattern in a short time, the quality suffers.

A group class allows for a weekly progression and there is time to focus on important exercises such as leading and following, musicality and timing, body movement and more. There is time for repeat practice and the very important aspect of creating muscle memory. While the focus is less on a “cool turnpattern” and more of how to dance, it is more beneficial for a serious student.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in club classes. I think they are an excellent way to come out a practice, meet new dance partners, experience different instructors and learn new moves. As long as you pair this up with the group classes or private lessons so that when you are quickly taught a turnpattern you already know how to lead it properly and musically.

Tuesday Night Practice Sessions

Great news! We have opened up an hour practice session Tuesday evenings from 9-10pm at the Adelaide Club that is open to all Toronto Dance Salsa students. This is a time to come and practice your moves. Come with a partner or without – there are plenty of helpers to dance with and Emely and Kimberly will be around to answer any questions you have. The sessions begin on Tuesday July 17th until Aug 28th. Drop in fee is $4 per session or $20 for all 7 weeks.

The reason why I have always wanted to introduce a practice session is mainly because some students are self conscious about going to practice in a salsa club or even at our outings and will benefit from going to a practice session that is limited to TDS students and has helpers and instructors around to assist them. If someone misses a class and can’t get a make up this is a good time to find out what move you missed and ask a helper to work with you to get you caught up.

I still think the outings are the true way to practice because it is a more realistic environment with dim lights, loud music that changes beats and speeds and a variety of students from all levels. However to get you started please do take advantage of this practice session for the July/August summer period.

Here are the details:

What: Toronto Dance Salsa Tuesday Evening Practice Session
Where: Adelaide Club (concourse level of the First Canadian Place at Bay & Adelaide)
When: 9-10pm from Tuesday July 17th to Tuesday August 28th
Cost: $4 per session or $20 for all 7 sessions

Let me know your thoughts!