Monthly Archives: September 2007

Practice, Practice, Practice!

The last couple of weeks I have had my first classes with about 400 students. They have been amazing – great natured, ready for a good time and focused on learning.

Many students want to get some extra practice so here are so places to go salsa dancing:

1) Toronto Dance Salsa Practice Session – every Monday beginning October 29th there will be an hour practice session at the Adelaide Club (Bay & Adelaide) where an instructor and several helpers will be around to dance, ask questions, catch up on a missed class, etc. Only $4 for the hour!

2) Toronto Dance Salsa Outings – every two weeks on different weekend evenings we take all our students out to local salsa clubs. We have a workshop for an hour where we teach you cool new turnpatterns and then everyone social dances. What is great is that the crowd is all students so you feel comfortable and not intimidated. Our first outing is this Sunday, Sept 30th at 7pm at Montana Lounge.

3) Toronto Salsa Practice Session – this is not a Toronto Dance Salsa event but we highly recommend it. On Saturdays at Trinity Church downtown there is a big practice session – it is cheap and fun and purely for practice and enjoyment:

4) At any of our great salsa clubs – my favourite club is Babaluus in Yorkville but don’t go on Friday or Saturday as it is too packed. Sunday, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are a better option. Check out the list of clubs available by clicking here.

5) At home! You can grab one of our level 1 DVDs and practice at home on your own or with a friend.

Hope this helps…get out and dance!

Evan’s Private Lesson Tip #4

Here is the 4th installment of Evan’s series on preparing for private lessons…thanks Evan!

Preparing For Your Private Lesson

By: Evan Carmichael

In order to get the most from your private lesson it is important to prepare in advance what you are need help with.

Most students take a private lesson for one of two reasons – either to catch up on a lesson that they missed or clean up and work on a particular part of their dancing.

In either case, before coming to your instructor you should analyze your dancing and think about the areas you want to improve in. Here are some of the factors you might want to consider:

• Was there a move in class that you had a particularly hard time learning?
• Would you like to improve your styling skills?
• Do you need help with leading / following the different moves?
• Would you like to learn a new, more advanced turn pattern?
• Can you pick up the beats in the music and dance on time?

You should go in to your private lesson with at least one thing that you would like to improve on. You can also have your instructor dance with you at the beginning of the lesson and ask for his / her opinion about what you need to improve on. Getting this objective advice from an expert will only serve to make you a better dancer.

The more you prepare for your lesson the more likely you will get the specific help you need to take your dancing to the next level!

Good luck!

Cardio Salsa

A lot of people ask me about the relevance of cardio salsa classes when being assessed for higher salsa levels or just in general as a way of learning salsa. Here is my opinion on Cardio Salsa classes.

I think cardio salsa classes are great. They are a great, fun workout that incorporate great merengue, salsa, cha cha and other latin rhythms. It introduces students to fast footwork, step choreography, musicality and body movement. For those looking to get healthy, lose weight, have fun, and dance it is a great step to take.

The thing that these classes don’t teach is how to dance with a partner and that is the essence of salsa dancing. Leading and following turnpatterns is the key to dancing salsa. So what you get in a cardio class is a good workout and fun steps but it really doesn’t have much to do with the partnerwork, turnpatterns and feel of the dance.

So if you have taken cardio classes like Zumba, it will help you learn footwork better in class but it won’t help you skip levels because you have to learn how to lead or follow and that is the difficult part of dancing.

If you take cardio salsa in conjunction with regular salsa classes you will definitely see the benefit though as you can last longer, learn footsteps faster, have a sharper memory due to the choreography and speed of the class. So the moral of the story is everything helps but nothing can replace a good salsa partnerwork class!

Tips for Women Part 2

Yesterday I discussed some tips that female students can use to become better followers and dancers. Here are a few more.

Back leading is not a good habit to allow yourself to indulge in. Many beginner female students back lead which means they try to control the dance – they assume a move is taking place and will lead themselves in it. Because they don’t concentrate on it right from the beginning it becomes a difficult habit to break as they progress and they will find men will not enjoy dancing with them as much.

Remember that it is not your role to lead. Your role is to follow and look great doing it. A great tip to combat back leading is to close your eyes when you feel you are starting the habit. Let your partner tell you when you begin and as soon as you do, close your eyes and allow your partner to guide you. If you are back leading because your partner is not leading you properly, then verbally tell him what you need as opposed to moving his arms for him.

The other thing you could try to do to avoid back leading is to concentrate on your styling – the way you look, your posture, your arm movements, your body movement from knees, to hips, to rib cage to shoulders and your facial expression. Concentrating on your own areas will help avoid back leading.

The last thing to note is that men who learn with a partner who has back led them will end up suffering from this as they will not be able to lead another dancer assertively and quickly enough. So stick to your role, ladies, and after the first month or two you will see a noticeable difference in yourself and your partner!

Tip for Women

We have recently written a couple of blog posts that offer gentlemen advice on dancing and someone commented that it would be useful to do the same for women so I thought I would add some tips for women who are learning how to dance.

Leading and following are both equally important roles. However, as a beginner a woman may feel that her role is easier than the leader’s role which is true to some extent. Men have to think about themselves, the women, the music, their surroundings, what is happening next, how to execute the move, etc. So women, you have to always be sympathetic to men as they are learning how to dance. However, somewhere around level 3 women begin to fall behind and men begin to stabilize. I think this is because men almost never miss classes and they concentrate on their development. Women can sometimes take classes for granted and tend to miss a lot more classes then men. They don’t practice at home as much also and so once the men start to get better around level 3 or 4 they find that they may be falling behind.

Ladies, my suggestion is to take classes and practice seriously right from the beginning because the lead gets so much harder to follow after level 2. So if you have done your homework, go out dancing and go to classes you will be much more successful once you reach the intermediate level. The foundational work is always the most important. If you get it right from the beginning you won’t have to go back and undo bad habits like I had to when I learned how to dance without formal training.

Don’t be afraid to ask your partners for suggestions on your follow. Men tend to receive more feedback then women and I think if we heard more about our dancing we would be more likely to make positive changes. So once in a while, ask your partner what you can do to improve.

If you can do it on your own, you can do it with a partner. I always say this in class. Can you do a cross body lead with a turn by yourself well? If so you will be able to follow it well even with someone who is not leading it properly. Practice at home on your own – it will assist with balance, rhythm and movement.

Keep tuned in for some more ladies tips in the future!

What happened to all the Competitions?

When I started salsa dancing about 8 years ago salsa competitions were in abundance. That was what you strived for – the idea that one day you would be good enough to compete. Now when I speak of competitions they were not the formal ballroom competitions you may have heard of or seen. Salsa competitions are usually held in clubs around the city and are quite “underground” when compared to ballroom or other types of dance competitions.

However informal the competitions were, there were lots of them. The big one was the Berlin competition but most salsa clubs had some sort of informal competition throughout the year. It really was a great way for amateurs, semi pros and pros to get together, show their stuff and battle it out for great salsa-related prizes. It gave salsa dancers a goal to strive for and beginners something to look forward to seeing and one day participating.

We held a great competition several months ago and I was very proud of the competitors and their improvement and progression. I hope to hold another one same time next year (Feb – May). Not sure if I will keep it the same structure in terms of having only Toronto Dance Salsa students or if I will open it up to all students (your feedback is always appreciated). I encourage other schools/clubs/organizations to renew this great competitive sport and put Toronto on the map for great salsa dancing!

Our New DVD!

After months of waiting, we are so exciting to launch our new level 1 Salsa for Beginners Instructional DVD. We really created this DVD due to the numrous requests from students who wanted to practice the moves they have learned in class as well as give the gift of salsa to friends and family in hopes of creating new salsa addicts.

So we created a 2 hour double DVD set that goes through everything we cover in level 1 salsa (no merengue and bachata though – that would take another hour!). From body movement exercises to basics to turns and turnpattern combination, the DVD covers it all. We also include drills and exercises after every new move so you can practice along side us as well as on your own to solidify the muscle memory.

The DVD is available for purchase on our website at a discounted rate for our students for $23 taxes included. We can bring it to class for you or you can have it shipped to your home for a nominal fee.

Thanks to Rob, Sara, Mark and Kimberly for their assistance on the DVD as well as Cache who provided us with Canadian salsa music. We hope you enjoy the DVD!

First day of class

So Sunday was my first day of classes after a not-so-lazy month off. It really was a pleasure to be back teaching and my 3 groups were fantastic! I started off with a 40 person sold out level 1 class. Within no time the were Merengue dancing and having a ball and it was like I hadn’t been off for the past few weeks. My second class was a sold out level 2 class and it was such a great surprise to see that they remembered almost all of the moves in level 1 which made the class much easier and it flew by. My last class was level 3 and again I was pleasantly surprised by the students’ memory…catching them up was no problem.

Sometimes I do get returning classes that have forgotten all the moves of the prior level, especially after 2 months off in the summer. To combat this, make sure you go out and dance. We have outings every two weeks to practice at in addition to all the great clubs and practice sessions in Toronto.

The other piece of advice is that we send out the syllabus after every semester. Print it out, make notes while you can still remember the moves and even record yourselves executing the moves so that it is not such a shock to come back to class.

More new classes this week – can’t wait!

Red Violin

Friday evening we headed to Red Violin for dinner with friends. For anyone looking for a small intimate restaurant where you can hear live Latin music, eat in abundance and dance, this may be the place for you.

Red Violin is located at Danforth & Broadview. They are a Brazilian Steakhouse and offered a upscale buffet full of Brazilian meats. Servers with skewers of beef, chicken, pork and more approach your table and you get to cut the meat right off the skewer…very yummy! You definitely need to bring your appetite but the good news is their live band is Latin (Cuban I believe but don’t quote me) and they play several sets throughout the evening so you can dance off all the food you eat. At 10pm there is s small show with a couple of female samba dancers which gets the crowd going.

The band wasn’t a salsa band but we did hear salsa-like beats, Cha Cha and Rumba. They had a nice sound to them and they weren’t too distracting if you came to have some great conversation like we had.

Prices are definitely on the high side but if you are looking for a fun special evening check out Red Violin!

Secrets revealed at Girls Night!

Well last week a few of the TDS gals headed out for dinner in Yorkville. We were supposed to head to Remy’s after for some salsa but we ended up talking for over 4 hours. I thought it was interesting that we didn’t really speak of salsa for most of dinner. We so rarely get together outside of the salsa environment that it was natural to catch up on everyone’s lives. I almost thought we would get through the whole evening without the mention of the “S” word but soon after dinner it came up and then of course we hung around for 2 hours discussing the always fascinating story.

Men, here are some girls night secrets that we discussed! The first discussion was mentioned by Kimberly in her guest post and focuses on how some men and women get better and better and better and all of a sudden start to get worse as dancers, not because they stop dancing but mainly because they start to care more about their styling and advanced moves then making their partner look good. It is great to take styling and advanced classes but slowly incorporate it into your dance smoothly and make sure it enhances the dance and works with your partner instead of taking away from the partnership.

We traded ideas about the qualities of good dancers and the main ones included being smooth, being fun, challenging us without overdoing it and having a varied dance. Smooth means easy to follow moves, smooth transitions, rhythm and musicality and eveness in resistance. Fun means eye contact, taking the dance lightly, joking about mistakes, really immersing yourself in the dance. Challenging us means moves and patterns that keep us interested and busy without overdoing the turnpatters or shines. Having a varied dance means using all the different aspects of the dance such as turn patterns, shines, styling…slow down, speed up, close dancing, open dancing…playful, serious…keep the dance changing and varying to keep it interesting and unique.

Hopefuly these tips will help…until the next girls night!