Monthly Archives: August 2007

Salsa in the Corporate Environment

There is an interesting article recently published about corporations and employee morale ad motivation. In it, the writer discusses using different methods of sports, arts and other creative means as a replacement to the usual team building and motivation exercises to bring out the best in their employees. Click here to read the full article.

“Whether it involves opera or jazz singing, flamenco or salsa dancing, extreme sports or even a spot of method acting, staff across the country are being removed from their comfort zones and asked to attempt something new, and potentially embarrassing, often with dramatic results.” According to the writer, encouraging your employees to get out of their comfort zones and try something new, something physically or creatively stimulating can improve a workers morale and performance in the workplace.

Having a background in Human Resources, I remember trying to get creative in the types of activities we had our associates participate in and salsa was definitely one of them. It made people laugh and let loose, touch co-workers they normally wouldn’t and there was a real high that you would see from the team after an activity like this.

In the article, a company was profiled after a session of salsa dancing: “Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves, even though some people were slightly out of their comfort zone. Although some people were natural dancers and others less so, any embarrassment disappeared once we got going.”

When interviewed, the organizer stated that even though the results could not be measured, she thought the impact of the session was very high…morale, productivity, staff rentention, workplace relationships and teamwork were all positively influenced.

Get salsa classes happening in your corporate environment and see the difference yourself!

Salsa as a Wedding Dance?

So what is all about this new craze of couples learning a more exciting wedding dance such as salsa instead of the usual traditional slow dance? It seems, with the influence of popular dance shows and movies, that couples are going above and beyond to create a fun entertaining evening for their guests and this includes an exciting wedding dance.

There is a great article about this topic…click here to read it. Essentially, the article talks about the great lengths that couples are going to make their wedding unforgettable. One couple spent $2500 on 30hrs of private dance lessons to be able to really feel comfortable, knowledgeable and confident in their choreographed routine.

If you are thinking of a spicier dance for your wedding there are some things you should keep in mind. I get phone calls all the time requesting private wedding lessons and I mostly just refer them to a ballroom instructor after asking them if they want something more traditional and if they have time to commit. I would only take a couple on if a) they understand what salsa looks like, it is high paced, fun, difficult to dance in a long dress and definitely not traditional b) have they taken lessons before? Starting from scratch is really difficult. If all you want is to do the basic steps and turns, then a couple of lessons may do the trick. But if you want to competent and really make an impact, this takes time and practice. For every 1 hour of private lesson, I recommend 4 hours of practice.

If you aren’t prepared to make a commitment to practice, this may not be the dance for you. My suggestion is to decide whether you want to learn to dance for the long term benefits so that it is not just about the one night. Then take the time to take some group classes and once you are prepared take some privates to hone your skills and choreograph the routine.

Happy dancing and congrats to all the engaged couples!

The Birthday Dance

Since receiving a birthday dance on Sunday evening I have received several questions on the topic…questions about how long it is, how to change partners, what is appropriate, etc. Here is some info that may be useful when participating in a birthday dance or being the star of the birthday dance!

First of all, remember that there are usually many people interested in participating so the amount of time you spend dancing with the person should not be long…30 seconds is the usual time frame although it depends on whether there is someone waiting. If there is, keep to the 30 second rule. If there isn’t you can go on longer until you see someone approach.

How do you aproach? First you see if there is a line up. If so, go to the end of the line and wait for your turn. If not, start to do your basic on the oustkirts of the circle and slowly move closer to the dancing couple. Make sure the leader sees you and just wait. The leader will do the rest.

If you are leading and you see someone approach, finish the combo you are doing and then execute a move that allows the follower to be led into the new lead easily. Moves like arm throws, free turns, bowling balls, etc. Anything where you direct the dancer to the new partner and let them go. Be careful not to push the person into the new partner. If you are a lead and the birthday person, gently let your partner go with a similar move and then dance closer towards your new partner.

I find sometimes dancer want to show off their most difficult moves in a birthday dance. Just remember that the birthday person has to adapt to many different partners in a very short time so keep your moves clean, easy to follow and execute, and most of all, fun.

Hope you all have wonderful birthdays…see you at the next birthday salsa dance!

Montana Outing

Well it was another awesome outing to Montana Lounge Sunday night as almost 250 people danced the evening away. Christianne and Carolina taught the absolute beginner class, Rob and Sara sexied it up with the level 1 class, and Evan and I challenged the more intermediate students with a complex turn pattern (poor men are still dizzy from the turn, turn and a half, hook turn, etc. combination!).

Even though it was hot in there, it didn’t stop the crowd from taking advantage of the lessons and dancing non-stop. I was happy to see lots of beginners on the dance floor, practicing their right turns and open breaks and, as usual, I as always proud to see the level 3s and up practicing the more complicated moves and looking really great!

It was nice of everyone to remember that I recently celebrated my birthday and, in the usual salsa tradition, I received a birthday dance (in fact, not one but two and later on an added bonus). A birthday dance basically means everyone gathers around in a circle and takes a quick turn dancing with the birthday boy or girl. It usually lasts one or two songs. Yesterday was quite hot and it was hard to dance more then 2 songs in a row with close to 20 partners, switching from leading to following, from dancing on 1 to dancing on 2. However, it was great fun and thanks to all who participated and Evan for setting it up!

Later on Teddy Olaso and the gang from United Salseros/Mambo Mosaic did another dance which as also quite hilarioun and I danced with many partners I haven’t seen in a while…thanks to Jessie, Brian, Jason, Kerem, and more for the dance!

Many people have asked me questions about birthday dance etiquette so tomorrow I will offer some tips on this salsa tradition.

Our next outing is Friday, August 24th at 8:30pm at Plaza Flamingo for a special evening of bachata with Alex Bello. More info to follow!

Linda’s Miami Congress Experience Part 4

Here is the last part of Linda’s adventure at the Miami Salsa Congress … thanks Linda!

“Miami Salsa Congress 2007…thoughts by Linda Domenichini!

Bachata! What a nice way to start the morning. We were so excited to take that class and build upon the basics that we’ve learned in level 1 at TDS. There is a cute move that instructor Jorge Elizondo (Texas) dubbed “popcorn.” Ask me to dance bachata and maybe I will show it to you! Puerto Rican style salsa was next on the agenda with Jhesus Aponte (Puerto Rico). Jhesus is a fantastic performer, but we were so tired that we were struggling to pick up the advanced on2 shines and turn pattern. Transitioning from on1 to on2 is tough enough, but the lack of sleep didn’t help us. Luckily, Joby Brava’s (L.A.) ladies styling on1 class helped us to gain back some of our confidence. We rocked it! But then, we were told about another injury: Andy Cruz, scheduled to teach us some mambo hip hop, came hobbling into the room in crutches, but he showed us his support, as an instructor from Salsa Lovers (Miami) took over and taught us an athletic shines combo. We sure did heat up the floor! I finished the day with a dips and tricks class with Al & Karla Espinoza (L.A). This is my second class with Al & Karla; I had the opportunity to take class with them last year during the Canada Salsa Congress. I enjoy their classes because their millennium style really focuses on musicality. I did the shines section of the class, but as there weren’t enough men available, I sat out and observed the dips portion and how they broke it down and explained the technique. I tried it with a couple of the men when the class was dismissed and I got it! So, it was a very leadable turn pattern and trick/dip. After all my hard work, I rewarded myself with a swim in the ocean before the last night of performances and dancing. The evening included yet another memorable performance by Al and Karla Espinoza. Can you imagine salsa dancing to a James Brown song? Well, it is possible! Al came out dressed as the “Godfather of Soul” and injected a little bit of comedy into a spectacular salsa routine. I also lost my voice cheering for Toronto’s own Los Salsomanos. The night ended with more dancing into the wee hours of the morning, and as I rested in between dances, I enjoyed watching a very advanced rueda circle.

I am very pleased that I had the opportunity to grow as a dancer by attending the Miami Salsa Congress. I was inspired to continue my salsa development by the wonderful people I met, the classes I took, and through the performances that I saw. If you ever get the opportunity to go to a congress, please go because it is worth it. I am really looking forward to the Canada Salsa Congress in Toronto this coming October. I hope to see you all there celebrating our love of Latin dance and music!”

Linda’s Miami Congress Experience Part 3

Here is part 3 of Linda’s adventure in Miami…

“Miami Salsa Congress 2007…thoughts by Linda Domenichini!

To jump-start the morning, we got a taste of Colombian Style Salsa partner work with Son de Cali. It was so interesting to experience this style of salsa, which will certainly add some flair to my dancing. We learned the Columbian basic, mark, elevation, fours and a basic with a cha cha cha, the latter being a move we were told is used often to replace the standard basic during really fast songs. With just a few basic moves, we were dancing with some Columbian flavour! We were scheduled to take ladies styling on2 with Griselle Ponce for our next class, but unfortunately, Griselle had a hairline fracture and couldn’t teach that day, so Nelson Gaston Vidarte from Energy One (Miami) stepped in to take over the class. He performed the night before, so we knew all about his fantastic body movement, but now we know that he is also a fantastic instructor! My shoulders still ache from the isolation exercises and shines combo he took us through. Shake, shake, shake! While some of us took Ismael Otero’s (New York) turn patterns on2 class, I decided to take some casino rueda with Rene Gueits & Salsa Lovers (Miami). They had three circles going – beginner, intermediate and advanced. I’ve never taken a casino rueda class before, but since I consider myself a strong enough follower, I decided to jump in the intermediate circle. It was a lot of fun whizzing around the circle and I think I had a permanent smile on my face the entire hour. If you have yet to try rueda, you should definitely give it a go. Next, we dove into on2 territory with Jayson Molina (Puerto Rico) who challenged us with a shines routine. The advanced class was tough, but I learned a lot by pushing myself to try something out of my comfort zone. After Jayson’s on2 class, I finished the day with an on1 turn pattern class with Salsa Karibe (Miami). I’m glad that we rotated frequently in this class because I got to dance with some great dancers. After a tough day, I needed a little cat-nap before the performances and evening dancing, so I decided to snooze by the pool, but of course, it was non-stop action at this event – with poolside dancing!

At any given salsa congress, the Saturday evening is usually known to be the biggest night of entertainment, and I was once again blown away by the talent on stage. My favorite performances of the evening included Al & Karla Espinoza (L.A.) who inspired me to keep working on my multiple turns! Griselle Ponce (N.Y) braved the stage in her wrapped foot (that beautifully matched her costume I might add) and proved that even with an injury, she is one of the best dancers around. Billy Fajado and Katie Marlow (Ft. Lauderdale) gave a stunning cabaret style performance with incredible lifts and graceful style, while Jhesus Aponte and Sheila De Jesus (Puerto Rico) injected salsa with a swing/jive feel. A most amazing performance was given by a troupe from Montreal (I’m still trying to track down who it was because they were so fantastic) and I absolutely loved the show by Santo Rico (N.Y) The future of salsa looks bright as we watched a group of high school kids from Massachusetts – Salsa Con Clase – who brought down the house with their funky flavour.

Once again, I was exhausted by midnight, but I wanted to check out the social dancing for a bit, and I’m sure glad that I did because Sonora Carruseles from Columbia was in the house! What a great concert.”

Last part on Monday!

Linda’s Miami Congress Experience Part 2

Here is the continuation of Linda’s experience at the Miami Congress

“Miami Salsa Congress 2007…thoughts by Linda Domenichini!

Our first class was with Miguel & Darija from Germany, who taught a fun Cuban style turn pattern, but I was really looking forward to Cha Cha Cha class with Franklin Ayala (N.Y). After going over the basics, he kicked it into high gear with a difficult shines combo. At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to pick it up, but I was proud that I was able to catch on to the choreography. Our next workshop of the day was a shines combo with Salsa Heat (Orlando). It was a familiar set of moves, but a fun combo that gave me the chance to work on my technique and ability to pick up choreography. Andres Echevarria was a fantastic instructor who really encouraged us to excel. The excitement kept building with an Afro-Cuban rumba class, taught by Neri Torres (Cuba), which was by far one of the most interesting and challenging body movement classes I’ve ever taken. Next on the list: shines and styling with Hooked On2 (Miami). Once again, the class consisted of another challenging combo, especially since I just started learning On2. When our instructor Ivette started styling, you knew right away that she was a pro. That ended my day of classes, although I heard that the styling on2 class by Sheila De Jesus (Puerto Rico) was a great experience. I enjoyed some sunshine by the pool and was off to the get ready for the evening performances.

A jam-packed list of top international salsa performers took the stage during the weekend. I had so many favorites, but the most notable Friday night performances included: Energy One’s Nelson Gaston Vidarte (Miami); Jayson Molina (Puerto Rico); Joby Brava & Omar Muñoz (L.A.); and Alessalsa Style (Italy). By midnight, I was too tired to social dance. I missed out on a live concert by one of Florida’s most sought after bands, Potencia Latina, but I knew that I needed some rest to make it through another day of workshops. I dreamed of swift feet and salsa beats that night!”

Part 3 tomorrow!

Linda’s Miami Congress Experience Part 1

Linda, Carolina, John 1 and John 2 hit the hot Miami Salsa Congress last week and Linda agreed to guest blog for the week and share with you her experiences…Thanks Linda!

“Miami Salsa Congress 2007…thoughts by Linda Domenichini!

One word: phenomenal! This sums up my experience at the 6th Annual Miami Salsa Congress. Held at the Miami Beach Resort & Spa on August 1-5, the event brought together all those who have a passion for salsa for five full days of parties, performances and workshops – and wow, this event did not disappoint!

We arrived in Miami early Thursday afternoon, which gave us a chance to settle in and hit the beach. Before we knew it, it was time to go to the official kick-off party at Yuca Lounge in Miami Beach. The small venue was packed with salsa enthusiasts and I had some great dances. I even learned a few new moves and a dip! Many of the instructors gave a freestyle demonstration of their talents as well. Among the salsa pros was Toronto’s very own Giovanni Torres, who tore up the floor with his shines. I was really impressed with the talent during these demonstrations – especially since the floor conditions weren’t the best (stone tiles) – but nothing could stop us from moving our feet to the beats of DJ Alberth Moreno (South Florida) and DJ Franklin Ayala (N.Y). We didn’t get back to the hotel until three in the morning!

A late-night made it a challenge to get up for the workshops, but we didn’t travel all that way to sleep in and miss out on classes with some of the most acclaimed salsa dancers in the world. With two classes (in different rooms) an hour to choose from, we had to plan which ones to take for our dance development. The program offered classes from the beginner to advanced level, ranging from various styles including Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Colombian. On1, on2, footwork on clave, ladies styling – whatever you were after, it was there! The congress even offered a beginners bootcamp, taught by Edie “The Salsa Freak” Lewis. I wish I could have taken all of the classes, but I managed to participate in five out of the seven timeslots of classes each day.”

Stay tuned to the next post from Linda’s exciting Miami trip…

Another dance movie

Well unfortunately for some reason El Cantante has not come out in Toronto yet and I am not sure if it actually will which is disappointing. There has been a lot of discussion about this movie and with all the talk it would make sense that it should show in Toronto. Oh well we shall see if it does…

So to combat the lack-of-dance-movies-blues, Evan and I, alongside Evan’s parents Annamarie and David, rented the movie Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. It looked to be a small independent movie which is not my usual cup of tea but the word “dancing” and the cover of the DVD sold me so we rented it.

In case anyone was planning on seeing this movie, here are my thoughts on it. First of all, if you wanted a movie with dancing scenes in it, you will be disappointed. There was very little dancing to be seen and what was shown was very basic lessons in cha cha and merengue with the wrong music played. Definitely did not satisfy me in that way.

What was left was a very slow, although touching, story of healing and love through dance. At Marilyn Hotchkiss’ dance school, several mourning widowed gentlemen found laughter, joy and even new romance through the miracle of dance.

The story was somewhat choppy, lacked some details to make it truly believable and was too slow for the most part, but if you are looking for a simple background movie while you are doing something (e.g. working on a puzzle as in Annamarie’s case), it will be a nice movie to see.

Part 2 – Is Salsa Changing?

Part 2

Yesterday I commented on a great article I read on how salsa has changed in New York which many say is where salsa was born and cultivated. Click here to check out the article. It is very interesting to see how some are very excited by the changes and some feel the loss of an art.

If you ask Eddie Torres who really took the gritty New York Salsa and turned it into a sleeker more structured dance, he will tell you the changes in salsa are positive. It is less about partying and more about skill and focus. Young kids are no longer being integrated into a scene that promotes alcohol, smoking and even drugs. You will not likely find any great salsa dancers with any of these vices. Instead young salsa dancers feel inspired to get in shape, stay clean, work hard and dedicate themselves to the sport similar to any young athlete.

If you see Torres teach a workshop or dance, you will likely believe he truly feels the same passion and love for the dance as he did 30 years ago. So the passion of the dance is still evident. Go to a congress and you will see it. However, it is just not as free flowing and careless. And that is where the loss is felt by some.

I am so glad to see Toronto Clubs doing better then ever. We are lucky to have a choice of several good clubs to choose from 7 nights a week. All the new shows and dance movies like “So You Think You Can Dance”, “Dancing with the Stars”, “Dance with Me”, etc…have managede to introduce the art to new dancers. I know we can keep the upwards momentum and continue to enjoy this great art.