Monthly Archives: August 2007

Assessments

More and more I get new students who have taken classes somewhere else or learned to dance in the clubs and want to go to a higher level. Here is the process…

Pease don’t sign up fo the level you believe you are ready for – it is rarely an accurate level because every school has a different syllabus or moves in every level. Our level 1 will not be the same as another dance school’s level 1. As well there are so many different styles of salsa. I have so many students who are preficient at the circular Columbian style of salsa but have no experience with the New York/LA style salsa which is definitely a different style and needs to be taught properly.

Instead, email us to set up a free assessment. We will gladly meet with you after class for 5 minutes and dance with you and let you know which level you belong. Sometimes it will disappoint a student to know they are not as advanced as thy originally thought. Please don’t be disappointed or upset to go back a level. It will only make you stronger and if you learn the first two levels properly you will have a very solid foundation and no serious issues when developing into an advanced dancer. However, if you rush your initial learning and skip crucial steps, you will always struggle and wonder why you keep hitting plateaus and can’t advance properly.

So always remember that every instructor teaches differently and to go back to level 1 can really only make you stronger.

Keep dancing!

Tips for Learning from Evan

Here is a great post on tips for preparing for your private lessons from Evan…remember that this is also useful for group classes so keep his tips in mind for every class you have!

Private Lessons – Part 1: Getting Ready

Guest writer: Evan Carmichael

Yesterday evening I helped one of our new Toronto Dance Salsa students prepare for the new semester by doing a private lesson with her. We went over the salsa basics and part of Level 1 and I thought it would be a useful exercise to write about a great idea she had.

The first thing she did when she came in was pull out a pad of paper and a pen so she could take notes at the end of the private. Once our lesson was complete she took notes on what we had learned. She wrote down the names of the moves and the important things to remember for each one. I was impressed!

Learning salsa involves a lot of practice until you can get it into muscle memory. When you take a private lesson it’s easy to learn a lot very quickly and then forget it the next day. If you don’t practice you won’t remember. By writing down what you learned you are more likely to remember when you are practicing at home so you are better prepared for the next time you go out.

A good rule of thumb is to practice what you learned in a private lesson immediately again when you get home to cement the muscle memory. Practice again the next day and as much as you can throughout the week. Even if it’s only for a few minutes or while washing the dishes, practice makes perfect!

So the next time you take a private lesson or even a group class, bring a pad of paper and a pen to write down what you learned and what the most important things to remember are. You’ll remember the right way to do the move a lot more clearly and become a much better dancer as a result!

Good luck!

Evan Carmichael

Dance Shoe Advice

It is great to get articles and advice from our students. Here is another guest blog post from Reshma Ramjattan regarding her experience shopping for shoes. Hopefully it will save you some time and money!

“Hey TDS family,

I wanted to let you all know about something I recently experienced in hopes that you won’t make the same mistake I made. The lesson I learned is: make sure your dance shoes fit you properly!!

As a new salsa dancer, I went out in search of a pair of salsa shoes a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know too much about dance shoes, I just assumed they’re supposed to fit like regular dress shoes. I looked on the TDS website and found a place. I’m normally a 5 ½ or a 6 so I tried on the 5 ½ first and it was way too tight. The size 6 fit a big snug so I tried on a size 6 ½. To me, they fit perfectly but I wasn’t sure how dance shoes were supposed to fit but the lady assured me that they fit fine and that I’d have no problems with them. I left there very happy, not knowing what was about to happen a few days later…..

I went to my regular Sunday dance class and I found that my feet kept sliding forward in my shoes, leaving my toes to hang over the edge. I found this to be very uncomfortable so I asked one of the instructors if this was normal. She said no and suggested that I get insoles to prevent my feet from slipping. I went to a shoe repair place a couple days later and I asked for insoles and the repairman advised me that insoles wouldn’t help me because my shoes were in fact too big for me. He said that because of the material and because they’re dance shoes, I need to buy them a big snug and as I dance, they will stretch out. He also advised me that the space between my shoes and my ankles was too wide. He said that there was nothing he could do for me and that I needed to go back to the place where I bought them and get a smaller size. I called the lady from where I bought them and she said that if I want another size, I have to buy a completely new pair of shoes.

I referred back to the TDS website to see if there was another place I could try. To my delight, I found Century Wide Shoes (www.cwdanceshoes.com). The saleslady Angela greeted me with a big smile and she was very helpful and very friendly but most importantly, she took the time to make sure the shoes fit the way they’re supposed to. I left there feeling satisfied and relieved. I took a few of her business cards as I was leaving and I promised her that I’d give them to my TDS friends as I was very happy with her service. I tried the shoes in my next class and they were perfect.

My fellow dancers, when buying dance shoes, it’s important that you make sure that they fit you the right way. Make sure they are snug and there isn’t too much space in the ankle area and your toes aren’t hanging over the edge. They are supposed to fit a bit tight when you first wear them, but they will stretch out. Happy dancing!”

Written by Reshma Ramjattan

Plaza Flamingo on Friday!


What a great evening…about 500 people salsa and bachata dancing at Plaza Flamingo on Friday evening as part of our last outing of the summer semester!

We started off by celebrating the arrival of Bachata singer Alex Bello with a beginner and intermediate Bachata lesson. Sara and Kimberly taught the beginner lesson and by the end of it people didn’t even look like beginners! Evan and I challenged the seasoned dancers with a complicated intermediate Bachata pattern. The lessons had over 200 people in attendance which was a huge number. Everyone was very respectful and tried to keep quiet so that everyone could hear the lessons. The feedback from the lessons was amazing – I think we need to add a little bachata spice more often!

By 11:30 the house was full with people dancing the evening away awaiting the arrival of Alex Bello. He began his performance at close to midnight and in no time at all people filled up the dance floor and began dancing to his live tunes.

It was a great evening – thank you to everyone who came out. We are taking a break for the next few weeks and will resume classes and outings in mid September….have a great summer!

Helper Outing


At the end of every semester I host a celebration and appreciation day for all our helpers and yesterday (Sunday) was the end of the summer semester celebration.

We met at Bevermead Beach in the Kawartha’s – it is about 1.15hrs drive from Toronto. To my surprise people were early and assisted us in setting up the volleyball net on the beach. By 11:30am over 25 helpers were in attendance playing some seriously competitive beach volleyball, frisbee, kiteflying, and relaxing by the water. We even had some brave souls jump in the lake for a dip.

2 hours later we jumped in our cars and made a 9 vehicle driving line to Evan’s parents Lakehouse. It is an unbelievable home right on Lake Shemong with all the toys (hot tub, boat, tubes, floating toys, etc). We had an amazing BBQ lunch there with home made hamburgers, BBQ chicken, salads and corn and then wasted no time in taking turns boat riding, trying to dunk the passengers behind us on the inflatable hotdog, dipping in the jacuzzi, swimming in the lake and much more.

By 6pm everyone gathered around the karioke machine and proceeded to sing to the oldies and John Radke took out his guitar and serenaded us with some cool tunes. Annamarie (Evan’s mother and the hostest with the mostest) made everyone shakers and we were able to sing and rattle our shakers to the music.

We followed this off by a BBQ dinner of Italian Sausages, salads and an ice cream sundae bar. During dinner we had some Toronto Dance Salsa trivia and after dinner we retired to the bunkey which is a great area overlooking the lake for some games.

There was a huge amount of laughs and it was a very exciting day. I am so happy and proud to have such an amazing group of helpers and I thank everyone for their energy, enthusiasm and participation. Photos to be posted very soon!

Final huge thanks go to Annamarie, David and Evan for making the day unforgettable.

Oh no, the pressure is on to beat this outing…what to do next???

Why We Don’t Have Drop In Classes

I am often asked why we don’t offer drop in classes. Many people have unpredictable schedules and can’t commit to a 9 week consistent group class. Others just don’t want to and like the flexibility of drop ins.

This is how I feel about drop ins. When you have different people coming in every week with different skills and knowledge it is very hard to keep everyone happy and keep the class progressive. With a group class everyone has the same syllabus to learn. You review last week’s work, you learn new material that complements your prior learning and then you put it together with everything else you have learned. This is truly the best way to learn. It is progressive and you will notice your development. There is a pattern to the learning that is optimal and you will see a difference quickly.

Drop ins definitely have their place but are really move geared towards those who already know what they are doing and are looking to learn a new turn pattern or move. That is why we have club classes available at our bi-weekly outing – to get that fix. Please don’t attempt drop in classes as a beginner. Commit to learning properly and you will see how quickly you progress!

The Power of Thought

I love how much great conversations I can find online about salsa dancing…it is so interesting to see your thoughts put down in writing. Such is the case with this great forum thread…click here to read it. Basically it discusses how you can actually improve your dancing just by thinking about it.

When I was learning to dance, I thought about it every free second I had. If I wasn’t actually dancing, I was creating turn patterns in my head, choreographing a song, thinking about what I wanted to work on or improve. All of this actually assisted me. I would wake up in the middle of the night with a turn pattern (sometimes it made no sense but other time…bingo!). I would be more aware of music accents and breaks because I would listen to it constantly and my memory sharpened so that when I was finally on the dance floor I had to think less and just execute.

I always tell my students that if they absolutely can’t practice to at least imagine practicing because it will help with memorizing and confidence. If you can imagine you can do it, then you can do it!

What is it about Bachata??

I hear it constantly…”Bachata is such a great dance”, “I love dancing Bachata”, “Can we learn some more bachata?”. People love Bachata! And so it should be – with a romantic, slow, sexy feel to it, Bachata is widely played in salsa clubs and is gaining in popularity.

I can definitely understand the draw. Salsa is by far my favourite dance – it is complicated, fast, challenging, musically interesting and no dancer is a like. But Bachata is enjoyable for completely different reasons. You don’t have to think. You can close your eyes and enjoy the rhythm, the movement, your partner and the simple moves. The simplicity of the dance allows for more body movement and especially if you are dancing knee to knee it is a very sensual close dance.

Click here for a great post about Bachata, it’s history, some videos and even some music. I enjoyed reading the article and watching the video demos and hopefully you will too.

For a great night of Bachata dancing join us this Friday, August 24th at 8:30pm at Plaza Flamingo. Alex Bello, famouse Bachata singer, will be performing at 11:30pm. There will be a beginner and intermediate Bachata workshop from 8:30-9:30pm and salsa/merengue/bachata social dancing between. Cover is only $10.

See you then!

The Learning Curve Chart

I recently read a great article about the learning curve of both men and women specifically in regards to partner dancing. In this article was a very interesting graph that showed the learning curve which helps to explain many issues when it comes to how differently men and women learn. Check out the article by clicking here.

As you can see this is a generalization but after years of instructing thousands of students I can attest for the accuracy of the information. Take a look at the males’ line. Men tend to learn slowly but consistently. There is a little bit of improvement over a longer period of time and it is only after much time and practice that this curve starts to shoot up and can eventually overtake the average female’s learning curve. If you look at the females’ line, it is very diagonal and steady in it’s rise from the beginner to intermediate level and then can plateau.

So when women approach me and tell me that they are frustrated by the men in their level, this is why it is so. Women learn faster initially. However, many women get an over-inflated sense of confidence and stop attending classes, choosing instead to just dance in the clubs. However, once they reach an intermediate level they get stuck in a rut and feel frustrated by the decrease in progress in comparison to the first months of learning. I know I went through this process and it takes a lot of hard work to get off of the plateau. As suggested in the graph, ladies styling, performance groups and competitions help elevate the dancing at this point.

So if you are a female, please understand that men initially have a tougher learning curve to deal with but with patience and support they will be eventually get to your level…be patient! And men, if you are frustrated by your progress remember that it will come if you keep at it and eventually it will be fun, easy and free.

Let me know what you think of the chart – would love to hear some feedback!

Reshma’s Review of El Cantante

It is great to see students getting involved in the website. Recently journalist and Toronto Dance Salsa student Reshma Ramjattan submitted to me her review of the movie “El Cantante” for our students to enjoy. Here it is…thanks Reshma!

“Hello my Toronto Dance Salsa family!

I checked out the new movie, El Cantante, starring Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony on the weekend and all I can say is: wow! El Cantante is based on the life of salsa legend Hector Lavoe, played by Marc Anthony. It starts off with Puchi, played by Jennifer Lopez, being interviewed about her life with Lavoe. The story begins in 1963 when Lavoe leaves his native Puerto Rico against his dad’s wishes to pursue a singing career in New York City. Shortly after he arrives there, he meets Puchi, they become smitten with each other and end up getting married and having a child.

The movie is all about Lavoe’s life with Puchi and his rise and fall from stardom. It shows how he got signed with his first record deal and how he became a huge star, teaming up with Willie Colon, then branching off and going solo. It also shows Lavoe’s turbulent relationship behind the scenes with Puchi. Looking on the outside, many of us would think that being a world-renowned singer with lots of money would be a fantastic life to live. But this movie shows you both the wonderful times Lavoe had and the very,very dark times he experienced.

I won’t tell you too much because I really want all of you to go check it out for yourselves. But I don’t recommend that you take your kids to see this movie. There is some sexuality, profanity and many scenes that show drug use. Leon Ichaso directed the film and he did a terrific job, style-wise. He used black and white documentary-type imagery when Puchi was being interviewed about Lavoe’s life, and colour to show the scenes in real time. I liked how the movie progressed with a timeline, showing Lavoe’s life in years leading up to his death. The one thing I didn’t like about the film was that it ended somewhat abruptly. It skipped a block of time in the end and went from an accident that Lavoe survived to text on the screen stating that he died five years after at the age of 46. I would’ve liked to have seen more about the times closer to his death and how Puchi’s life was after Lavoe’s passing.

Overall, I really think you will love this movie. The music is so good, I found myself dancing in my seat and I wanted to go out dancing right after the movie finished! I even caught myself watching Jennifer Lopez’s footwork while she was dancing…can you say I’m a Toronto Dance Salsa student??!!

My fellow dancers, go check out El Cantante, I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I’m sure you’ll all really like it. ”

Reshma Ramjattan