Monthly Archives: November 2007

The Geography of the Dance Floor

There is a great ON 2 salsa website called Salsa New York. I found an article called: Overcoming Some Fears Of Social Dancing – How To Get More Partners – Tough Talk For A Tough World”. It is a long title and a long article but very interesting and informative, written by Steve Shaw.

Below is an excerpt that is useful on any dance floor that may help you get more dances!


Let’s face it, all people are not the same. Different people are different. And different people dance differently. Furthermore, these different dancers often dance in different areas of the dance floor. It’s just human nature. Generally, there are areas with beginners, other areas with intermediate dancers, and still other areas with the hot shots. There are even little sub-areas within these main areas. It’s not a rule, but it just sort of happens that way, naturally. It’s like a cafeteria: you eat what you want, when you want, and you sit where you want, with who you want. On the dance floor, everyone can make their own choice of how good they want to get, who they want to dance with, and where they want to dance on the dance floor, and often it breaks down according to ability level and friends.

Now, sometimes I’ve noticed beginner and intermediate dancers spending hours standing or sitting in the area where all the top dancers are dancing, and they’re complaining that no one will dance with them, and that the good dancers are stuck-up. This is not a constructive or helpful approach. Here’s a better strategy: As I mentioned above, most people usually want to dance at their own level. While it’s great, as we’re working up, to spend a little time watching excellent dancers in order to admire them, or be inspired, or to learn new moves and style, it’s not realistic to be expecting more than a very occasional dance over in that section of the dance floor, until you dance very well.

If we really want to get lots of dancing practice, our best strategy is to spend most of our time in the areas where dancers at our own level are dancing. Complaining doesn’t help; taking action does help. Eddie Torres used to tell us: “When you go to a club or social, don’t dance right away. First, walk around and see who can dance ON 2, and who dances at your level, or maybe a little bit above your level, and where they’re hanging out. Then spend most of your time dancing mostly with them. That way, you get the most dancing practice, meet new partners, and have the most fun.” It’s the geography and psychology of the dance floor, and the sooner you learn it the sooner you’ll have great evenings dancing.”

What to focus on?

If you are a beginner dancer taking your first level class, you may be confused as to what is the biggest focus when you learn a new move. Is it the footwork, is it the arms, the music, the lead/follow??

This is my suggestion to pick up a new move at a beginner level:

1) Focus on the basic footstep first. Make sure you are stepping with the right feet in the right direction. If it is not perfect that is fine to begin with but just get it approximately right
2) Next focus on the arms (especially for leaders as you have to signal the move to your partner). Make sure your arms and hands are moving when and where they are supposed to go and ensure that these movements work for your partner
3) Next focus on the lead or follow. If you are the male ensure resistance is created and the push and pull, which will make the move successful, is being implemented. If you are the follower make sure you are creating resistance and “shadowing” the leader’s fingers so you can follow the move properly
4) Now put it together with the timing. It doesn’t have to be with the music yet but ensure that you are moving your feet, body and arms on the correct count.
5) Now that all the major components are in place it is time to perfect the move. Re-evaluate your foot work to ensure it is fully correct. Same thing with your arms, the lead and follow and the count. Finally, put it together with the music and pick up the pace so you are on time.
6) When the move is working well you can add other elements like body movement and styling

Hope that helps!

Congress Tips from Azzey

I found this info on the Salsa Forums. Check out some of my favourite Azzey congress tips…


- Print the workshop schedule before you leave and hilight possible workshops to take. On the day you’ll be tired and running around so I just put a * on any workshop I would like to do and an X on any I definitely don’t. Saves thinking time on the day and I can still change my mind at the last moment.

- Choose a hotel in hobbling distance. You’ll thank me when you come out at 8am to get changed for workshops at 10am.

- Arrive early in the afternoon so you can get unpacked, iron a couple of shirts (in case you decide to come back and change during the night) and get some sleep/relax before the dancing.

- Go to the pre-congress party as the big names are often more approachable there. I danced with Maya Torres several times at the UK party without even knowing who she was until the congress! Also Edie TSF was leaning against the bar in a small club when I first asked her to dance. After that it was easy!

- Bring several different types of shoes to dance in as the floors can vary from congress to congress. Usually expect a much more slippy floor than you’re used to. Great for spinning!

- The carpet or off-floor area: there will be a circle where the performers mainly dance (off the floor). Great viewing action between midnight-4am!

- When it’s busy. Carpe Diem! Ask dancers who are coming off the floor to dance first as they are most likely to accept.

- When you’re tired sit down at a big table next to the dance floor (groups of people from a particular school often book a whole table) and chat to people about their evening. Now you have a connection to that table and can go and ask people now or later to dance.

- After-parties are where you will find the hard-core salsero and a good opportunity to dance with the remaining teachers or someone you had your eye on earlier!

- Sleep: as much as possible! I’ve noticed that during 10 straight hours of dancing per night my leading ability can vary considerably due to tiredness. At my first congress I was going to the after parties and only got 2 hours at the most sleep before the workshops the next day.

- 4 hour power nap in the afternoon between the last workshop and the evening party.

- Workshop Bag contents: Spare t-shirt, Towel, dance shoes, water, energy snacks, chewing gum/breath mints, paracetamol, vitamin C tablets, a tube of deep heat rub (for muscular aches and pains), nothing steal-able!”

Difference Between Mambo and Salsa

With all the ballroom shows on TV, I know some students are wondering what is the difference between Mambo and Salsa. I found a good description on a website called The Dance Store Online. Here it is…

“What’s the difference between mambo and salsa? This depends completely on how each is defined. If we are talking about club style salsa and club style mambo, the only difference is that salsa can be danced on any beat whereas in mambo, the break step is taken on the second beat of the measure. Thus salsa encompasses mambo. In other words, mambo can be thought of as the special case of salsa where the break step is taken on count 2.

If we are talking about salsa and ballroom mambo, the differences are larger. Ballroom training encourages precise and sharp movement with sudden stops and fast changes of direction. In addition, big arm lines are used in ballroom figures. Ballroom figures normally have precise geometries and usually move in linear or lateral directions. In contrast, salsa is more relaxed, more flowing, and the patterns are more circular. Big arm lines are not used in club style salsa dancing.”

This is a good definition because New York Mambo is very different from Ballroom Mambo. So what you see on shows like Dancing with the Stars is definitely not what you will see when you go to New York to a salsa event. So New York Mambo is a very smooth On 2 salsa and Ballroom Mambo is more formal, bigger and stiffer. Hope that answers the questions!

Dancing with the Stars Update

I know I already wrote a blog about Dancing with the Stars a few days ago but I have to voice my frustration again. I just don’t remember it being so frustrating and overdone in the last few seasons but maybe it has been a lot longer than I remember.

What is the deal with the music choices? On Monday, out of 10 or 12 performances, there was only one choreography to a Latin song. The rest were to country songs (seriously???) and other genres of music that just don’t suit sexy Latin dances such as the Samba and Cha Cha.

The other frustration was the inconsistency of the judges. I haven’t watched many episodes but I have seen enough to see that they definitely have their favourites regardless of how well or badly they performed. They will tell one person that they didn’t dance enough, that there was no substance to the performance and yet another couple will completely get away with a performance that is full of walking, stopping and posing. I really think the judges need to get some consistency in their feedback and scoring.

When I compare this show to a solid show like So You Think You Can Dance, there is just no comparison. Dancing with the Stars is very superficial and has less to do with actual dancing and more to do with stars trying to regain their stardom. So You Think You Can Dance is amazing to watch with real people who have an extreme passion and love of dancing develop and grow in a professional environment.

Just my opinion…would love to hear some other opinions!

The Salsa Bug

I am always curious to know why some people catch the salsa bug so much more seriously then others. I have been doing this for many years now and I can see it right away when the salsa bug hits a student. Most students love to come to classes and really enjoy the outings but it is only about 5% of the students that really catch the obsessive salsa bug which I suffered from for many years!

I think it mainly comes down to a few factors. Salsa fills something in your life that was missing. For me, I had never been musically or artistically talented and always wished I had been so when salsa came into my life, I was so excited that I found a way to express my love of music in an artistic and creative fashion. For some people, it is the social aspect – so many new and interesting people to meet in such a simple way, what could be better? For others, it is the physical challenge and the adrenaline rush of the exercise. It really is a high that is hard to beat.

To describe the salsa bug really is to describe an addiction. I would dance 6-7 nights a week for the maximum amount of time possible. I would close the club every night. I would get upset if a work or family obligation forced me to miss an evening of dancing. I couldn’t imagine not dancing.

I see this “bug” in some of my students and many of my helpers. It is fun to watch because you know they are in for an amazing ride filled with great exercise and challenge and new social relationships and friendships. There isn’t much you can take for this bug – just have to let it ride out!

Salsa Cliques – LaVos Magazine

There is a salsa online magazine out there that has interesting articles and videos called LaVos Magazine. The article below is about Salsa Cliques and I think it is an interesting topic because many people have complained to me about how cliquey the salsa scene can be.

I agree with what the author, Jason Pacheco, writes below. I think that it is an unnecessary worry many people have because you will find groups in every situation. High school, the local baseball club, work. You hang out with your friends and the people that you like and are comfortable with and if a new person comes into the group it is great. When you are in a new environment you see groups all around you and feel isolated but you probably are a party of many groups yourself and if asked I bet you would be happy to have new people in the group.

So next time you want to dance with someone in a “clique” just ask and you’ll probably be surprised!


“Salsa Cliques By Jason Pacheco

I was having a late snack after dancing and I was trash talking with some people about life. Picking up the info on who was dating who and who left which dance company. We had a few veteran dancers but there was a new child on the scene. She made a comment that a lot of young dancers make. “The salsa scene has too many cliques.” I had to laugh because it was such naïve statement.

I grew up in a very strict evangelical home in the inner city of Chicago. Every social event from childhood through high school was surrounded by church. I went church, bible study and bible camp during the summer. Then I went to college and was exposed to many different social circles. I wasn’t sheltered to the point that I never had exposure to other social circles, but I never really saw them in depth like I did in college. It was a fun experience because I enjoy watching people interact. When I started dancing I realized that the salsa scene was by far the most entertaining social circle that I have ever witnessed.

“People are people” I say this all the time. Sometimes we become so involved in our social world we think it’s the exception. Really people tend to behave the same regardless of the scene. Growing up in church you meet good people and you meet not so good people. There is a church jargon and yes they have cliques. This goes for every social group where people gather together. The word clique has a lot of the negative connotations. (Except for the Hip- hop scene) If you were to look it up in the thesaurus it’s synonyms are faction, gang and elite. Ouch… Who wants to be described as elite faction or gang? There isn’t anything wrong with cliques. Yes I agree that the dancing scene has many cliques. No one should apologize about wanting to hang out with his or her friends. That’s what humans do. People who complain about cliques are usually jealous that they are not part of a clique. Their complaints subside once they have their own niche. Newbie’s will always make this complaint until they gather the skills to hang with advance dancers. Everyone goes through it and no one likes being humbled.

I use to play basketball in high school religiously. I would play for to 4 to 5 hrs straight everyday during the summer. Even within athletic circles groups would form. These revolved around your skill level. There are three outdoor basketball courts in the park. On the south end all the kids and busters would run their games. In the middle was the High school and mid level players ran their games. On the north end was where the giants roamed. These were grown men and a few large teenagers. No one complained about cliques on the basketball court. You played at your level until it wasn’t challenging and then you attempted to make the jump. If you weren’t good enough you wouldn’t get picked to play. How much fun would a grown man have going over to the south end of the courts and totally dominating a bunch of kids? Not only wouldn’t it be fun it’s dangerous.

It’s the same thing with dancing. You want to dance with people who are going to challenge you. Of course you should dance with beginners and make an effort to welcome new people. No one should expect that if they are just learning the fundamentals that they are going to be dancing every song. If you are not dancing it’s not because these cliques want to deny you a good time. Truth is no one gives it that much thought. (Expect for over analytical people like myself). So just keep dancing and practicing soon enough people will complain about how left out you make them feel.”

Dancing with the Stars

Anyone watching Dancing with the Stars these days? I wish I could say I have been able to catch the show but I teach in the evenings and very rarely get to catch a rerun. I do sometimes get curious about the Mambo performances that are taking place on the show and YouTube is a great place to see the reruns!

I wish the Mambo routines were more authentic but they usually don’t even use Latin music. Below are two routines.

The first is Marie Osmond dancing Mambo. Obviously the technique is not there and her dancing is not as strong as some of the others but I preferred this routine simply because they used a Latin song

Now check out Mark Cuban who had a stronger routine but they did it to Nelly’s Rap Song…the feeling is completely changed and it doesn’t even look like Mambo.

I wish the music was more authentic because there is so much more energy to it. Anyone have any opinions about this or has any opinions as to who will win??

Musicality – an insteresting find!

Well I found this blog about a person who loves salsa but could not understand the salsa beats. Click here to read Doug’s story. Doug has been struggling, as many others including new students, with finding the beat and being able to lead musically.

Well it turns out someone read his blog and has offered to convert Doug into a musical marvel – all over the medium of email/internet. Check out The Unlikely Salsero. Don learned to dance salsa at age 40 but has been a musician since childhood and teaches instructors about musicality. He took on the challenge of teaching Doug about salsa music.

I think this is wonderful. I am curious to see how Doug progresses in his learning. If any of my students want to follow Don’s exercises, it would be great – we can keep track on this blog and follow your progression too !

Let me know how it goes and I will keep you posted on Doug’s progress.

Good luck Doug and Don!!