Monthly Archives: September 2007

Learning Tip #4 from Evan

Here is the third segment of learning tips during private lessons from Evan…enjoy!

Private Lessons – Part 3: Bring a Camera

Guest writer: Evan Carmichael

When you are doing a private lesson I have said that you typically learn three times as quickly as in a regular class. In other words, in one hour of a private lesson you will know how to do what ordinarily takes you three hours to learn in group classes.

It can be hard to remember all the moves that you go over in a private lesson and if you don’t practice you will forget it. It’s also easy to forget the exact way a move is done. Because you are expected to practice at home, you don’t get as much time with the instructor to practice during the private. Chances are you are going to forget some of the exact footwork and body work and end up practicing the moves incorrectly.

A great way to prevent this is to bring a camera to your private lesson. Ask your instructor if, at the end of the private lesson, you can record the moves that you learned over the hour long session. The best way to do it is to have the instructor call out the move and then proceed to demonstrate it in slow motion as well as in real time. This will give you a good understanding of exactly how the moves should look.

Most instructors will not have a problem if you record the summary session. It will help you absorb the information better and will make you a better dancer. They might ask you to keep it to yourself and not post it on YouTube and other video-sharing websites, which is a reasonable request.

By bringing a camera and recording the moves you have a way to practice the exact motions so you do not make a mistake and you can etch it into your muscle memory. Remember that practice makes perfect but you need to practice the correct way of doing the moves so remember to bring a camera to the next private you go to!

You Tube and Salsa

Unless we live under a rock most of us have viewed a You Tube Video. In the last month or so I have thought about the role of You Tube a lot, especially in relation to salsa. And then I read a blog post that made me laugh and think and I thought I would share it with you. Click here to read the article by Salsa Gigolo. Not sure who he is but he is here in Toronto and the posts are amusing and interesting.

What is interesting is the stages of salsa. I was once at the completely addicted, couldn’t function without dancing 7 days a week, can’t think about anything else but salsa, stage. That stage can’t possibly last forever. First of all, I was sick all the time. I couldn’t understand why such a young, healthy girl who exercises all the time by dancing 30 hours a week would be sick all the time. I am quite sure I underestimated the value of sleep :) Averaging 3-4hrs per night for the first year of dancing had me struggling with pneumonia, bronchitis, and every imaginable cold. And still I would dance every night!

Now if I had You Tube back then, I may have stayed home a little more surfing the video clips looking for great salsa dancing and instructional clips. I was so hungry for salsa info back then and if there was less than a tenth as much videos, blogs, websites and information online back then as there is now, I would be in salsa online heaven!

I know many of my students are religious You Tube viewers. On the show “The View” last week the young host talked about having You Tube dates with her husband where they sat together on a Friday night and surfed through videos, sharing the best ones with each other.

It is interesting to see this movement recently. I am pleased that my students have so much more info available to them and hopefully we can have even more salsa info online soon!

What Women Want by Kimberly

Here is a great article written by Kimberly Robinson after a girls night out last week. Thanks Kimberly!

Guest Write: Kimberly Robison

Article: What Women Want

Put a bunch of salsa affictionadas at the same table, and you’re bound to get an energetic conversation full of opinions. The conversation last night lead to a discussion about leading and following. Our conclusion was the more the leaders learn and advance, the more the followers can’t keep up.

Let me back up.

As the salsa bug takes over the leader’s heart, he starts taking private lessons, salsa workshops and goes to all the salsa congresses, picking up amazing turn patterns and awesome checks. Of course he can’t wait to try them out on the dance floor. Like a skilled orchestra conductor he masterfully waves his hands to lead triple turns, contortionist arm movements and coca-colas that are anything but vanilla. It’s all supposed to look beautiful, just like the instructor showed. The leader looks expectantly at the girl, with a twinkle in his eye thinking she should be impressed, but in reality she looks like she’s either about to trip over her own feet or pass out from dizziness and exhaustion.

A music composer may be able to write brilliant musical melodies and harmonies on paper, but unless he actually plays an instrument, he can’t be certain that the music will be playable. There are only so many fingers on a hand and keys on a piano. Hands can only stretch so far and fingers can only move so fast. There are limits. The same thing goes with dancing. While in theory, these fantastic dance moves should work, they don’t necessarily work in a salsa club. Salsa is all about timing. This goes for the music and it goes for the dance as a whole. Though a follower may appreciate a high-intensity dance, there are times when she would like some smoothness and playfulness and variation.

Sometimes both leaders and followers forget that salsa is a partner dance. It’s not about showing off what skills YOU have, it’s about working together to make both of you shine. The only way to truly understand just what a leader or follower goes through is to swap roles. You may feel like you’re starting from scratch as you go back to the basics, but at least you will fully understand and even learn to appreciate the other half of salsa.

Even with greatness, it’s always better to eat humble pie than take a turn down arrogance lane. Once you’ve mastered leading, try to master following and you’re guaranteed to not only learn how to lead better, you’ll become a well rounded salsero and make the dance enjoyable for all!

Favourite Dance?

Obviously by now if you have read my posts you know I review a lot of salsa blogs. There actually aren’t that many out there but there are a few good ones. I came across an interesting topic today. The blog is by GoGo Earl, a Salsa-holic from Washington. DC Earl is the creator of which is DC’s up to the minute salsa news network. Click here for his interesting blog post about “The Perfect Dance”.

I am not sure if I have considered in the past if I have had a “Perfect Dance” and I agree with DC Earl that there really can’t be a perfect dance. I have thought a great deal about who have been my all time favourite dancers and I also have a top list of my favs. I am sure my list will constantly change with every year and every new dancer I meet.

Here are a couple of my favourite male congress dancers that I have had the pleasure of dancing with:

Super Mario: By far one of the most fun dancers on the scene, Super Mario is just plain fun. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and every time I dance with him he has amazing fun new turn patterns that keep you on your toes, but at the same time, flow well together. Every congress we laugh at the crazy line up that starts as soon as he walks into the room. He may be underrated as he doesn’t quite look like the typical salsa pro but looks can be deceiving. Ladies, ask him to dance at the next congress and you will have a blast!

Milton Cobo: Now I only had the pleasure once to dance with him but I have never seen him turn down a dance and Milton Cobo always looks at you like you are the only dancer in the whole world. He doesn’t notice the crowds around him – he just loses himself in the dance. Amazing body movement, very sexy styling…I definitely am wowed by his smoothness and skill.

Have you had a perfect dance? Any favourite dancers on your list? Share!

Tips from Evan

Here is part two of Evan’s tips for private lessons!

Private Lessons – Part 2: Practice Makes Perfect

Guest writer: Evan Carmichael

“They say that for every group class that you take you should practice three hours during the week. You need the time to develop the muscle memory so that by the time you get to the next class your body remembers how to do the lesson from the previous week.

When you take a private lesson you generally learn three times faster than in a group class. The challenge that most people face is that they learn too quickly and they don’t practice. Because you are learning so much in a private lesson you need to practice that much more during the week. If you don’t practice, you won’t improve.

Take a pad of paper and write down what you need to work on. Have you instructor lay out a plan for you on what you should practice and what you need to improve on. You should be able to together create a plan for what you can do for practice sessions between your privates. Then make sure you set a time aside during the day so that you can put on some music and practice your salsa!

Good luck!”

Injuries on the Dance Floor

I read an interesting blog post about injuries on the dance floor. Click here for the full story.

The basic gist of the post was that some people get extremely upset about being injured by others on the dance floor, to the point where it is uncomfortable or disruptive. Here is my advice about avoiding injuries and what to do if you do injure or are injured on the dance floor.

Ladies, if you are wearing heals, please try to not put all your weight on the heel when you step. For balance, speed and safety it is much better to step back with your weight on the toe. That way your weight doesn’t shift back too much which will avoid you losing balance, following too slowly and, most importantly, grinding your heel into someone’s foot. I think this is the most common injury and it rarely comes from men stepping on women. It is always women with crazy painful dance shoes stepping very heavily on your foot…ouch!

Ladies, spot where you are heading towards when being led and take small controlled steps. This will avoid your partner leading you into another couple on the dance floor. When bringing your arms up be very careful of your elbow – it can be a serious weapon.

Gentlemen, consider yourselves the driver of a very expensive car (porshe, ferrari, whatever you like :) . You wouldn’t drive this car without carefully seeing where you are heading and what is in front of you. You would look over your shoulder when changing lanes and look carefully around you when parking. Dancing is no different! Look carefully to see where you are taking your partner and divert her if someone dances into the space. Be aware of you surroundings and remember that it is better to be safe than sorry.

Even with care, injuries are inevitable. Should you injure someone on the dance floor, please make eye contact with that person and mouth an apology. If it is a serious injury that has made the person stop dancing, stop yourself and ask if they are ok and apologize.

If you were injured by someone, remember that it was not intentional. I have gotten upset many times over very painful injuries and I had to remind myself that it happens and that I have done the same to others.

Hopefully we can all reduce incidents and keep the dance floor a positive haven!

Mad Hot Ballroom

If you are looking for a movie rental, consider Mad Hot Ballroom. Here is a great review for you from Reshma Ramjattan who viewed it this weekend…

“I rented the movie Mad Hot Ballroom this past weekend and it’s definitely something I think all of you should see.

It’s a 2005 documentary about three New York City public schools learning how to ballroom dance. The film focuses mostly on the fifth graders at P.S. 115 in Washington Heights. The school has a 97% poverty rate. The ballroom dance program is free to the students and at the end of the school sessions, the kids get a chance to compete in the American Ballroom Theater Manhattan dance competition. It’s a huge deal to the kids and one even said “I like dance because everyone is nice regardless of what country they are from”.

The film starts eight weeks before the competition and shows the joys and struggles that the kids face as they make their way to the finals. The kids learn how to dance merengue, foxtrot, swing, tango and the rumba and I was amazed at how well they danced and how much drive and passion they had. It was nice to see under-privileged kids get the opportunity to participate in something as wonderful as dance. One kid said that dancing brought relationships and friendships closer. I think that’s true…I myself found that I’ve made some great friends in my class.

In the film, the male instructor was a positive influence on the students and he himself had said that he wanted the kids to see that men could be dancers too and there was nothing wrong with that. I liked that there were many positive messages in the film…hard work pays off, you can do anything you put your mind to and men and women can be good at the same things. But most of all, the film showcased that dance can be a great distraction…dance can make you happy. No matter what bad things are going on in your life, once you hit the dance floor, your worries tend to fade away. One teacher said that dance isn’t just about physical education, it’s about etiquette, other cultures and life. I couldn’t agree more.

I won’t tell you who won the competition in the end…but I will tell you that there were tears and cheers. Some of the kids who won silver in the quarterfinals didn’t make it to the semis and seeing the kids cry made me so sad. But seeing them persevere and believe in themselves made this movie worth watching. I really think you will all benefit from seeing Mad Hot Ballroom.”

Written by Reshma Ramjattan