Monthly Archives: January 2008

Babaluu’s Last Night!

Well it was another fun night at Babaluu’s last night. I hadn’t been dancing there for a few weeks and, as usual, it was great to get back on the dance floor!

It is so nice to see how many current and graduated Toronto Dance Salsa students there were in attendance. About 25% of the club was filled with our group and I loved seeing everyone enjoying their new skills.

I always enjoy Wednesdays because there is more space to dance. Yesterday was even better then expected because it was soooo cold and windy. I wasn’t sure if anyone would come out but salsa dancers don’t let little things like minus twenty degree weather get in the way of their fun time!

We came in just in time to dance to La Pallomilla by Joe Cuba, a great salsa song to dance to and get going.

Thanks to Evan, Tawfiq, Rob, Ozzy, Daniel and everyone else I danced with last night. Looking forward to next week’s Babaluu night!

Wow it’s been busy!

Sorry for not updating the blog recently. It has been a super busy month. With over 900 students this semester starting classes in the last 3 weeks as well as our 3 appearances at the Shopping Channel as well as looking for a temporary studio space, things are hectic.

With regards to the studio issue, Northridge Club at Yonge & Finch is being renovated and we will not be able to use the studio next semester. It’s so difficult finding another studio space, especially one as large, air conditioned and practical as Northridge on the subway line at Yonge & Finch or even Yonge & Sheppard. So I have been searching for the last few weeks. If you have any suggestions for studio space in that area, let us know!

At the same time we are also looking at starting classes in Richmond Hill/Markham and midtown at Yonge & Eglinton so we will keep you informed if that works out. Let us know if you are interested in these locations and if this will be convenient for you. Again, anyone who knows of great space, do let us know! Hopefully we can get the schedule out for the new semester by next week.

Girls Night

It is always great to get together with some of the Toronto Dance Salsa Gals! Especially when we hadn’t seen each other due to vacations and the holiday season. So a couple of weeks ago the ladies got together for some Asian food and laughs and all shared their news.

A huge congratulations to Alfred and Nina who got engaged on New Year’s Eve in B.C. Alfred and Nina met at Acrobat Lounge salsa dancing a couple of years ago. Another salsa couple ties the knot – it is so great to hear!

Obviously the topic of salsa always comes up and I enjoyed listening to the ladies talking about their new years salsa goals for 2008. From body movement, to learning to lead to styling to performing, there were lots of goals for the ladies.

Hopefully you have thought about your salsa goals for 2008. Is it to lead or follow better, to go dancing more, to be more musical, rhythmical, to style more, to perform, to compete? Let us know your salsa goals.

My goals include another competition for 2008 for our students, to use salsa for good (a salsa fundraiser) and to find new dance venues for our students. If anyone knows of a great club or space for us to use for classes or for outings, we would LOVE to hear your suggestions so let us know!

First class back

So if you have a class starting in the next 2 weeks and are worried that you are rusty due to holiday turkey and relaxation, not to worry. Just remember that we will spend the first 20 minutes reviewing the prior level’s syllabus. Also try to come to the outings (Friday Feb 1st at 9:30pm at Plaza Flamingo). You would be so surprised as to how good and confident you feel after only 1 night out dancing.

Also try to practice your basics, listen to salsa and watch some DVDs, video clips or youtube performances just to get your mind back into the swing of things. If you can, visit a salsa practice or club at least once. Go through the syllabus we sent you last semester and try to visual how to lead or follow each move.

We also have our Monday night practice sessions beginning Monday Feb 4th at 9pm at the Adelaide Club. It is $4 to drop in or $25 for the entire 9 weeks. Come out and practice.

Hopefully if do a couple of these things you can feel a little more confident about starting classes back up. Good luck with your first class and looking forward to seeing everyone at the outings!

The Shopping Channel Tomorrow!

We are very excited to be featured on the shopping channel tomorrow (Tuesday) during three time slots at 1pm, 5pm and 9pm as well as reruns during the night. We will be featuring our Salsa for Beginners Instructional DVD during their Fit for Life segment.

Evan and I will be with the host and we have Sara and Rob, Kimberly and Mark, and Emmett and Velina demonstrating the different phases of the DVD. Each of them had to take a day off work to do this which is really great of them so thank you again, guys!

If you would like to check us out The Shopping Channel is Channel 19 in Toronto. Not sure what it is in other areas.

Will report on Wednesday how it went!

Flex’s 21 Things for Followers To Follow

Yesterday I wrote some advice geared toward leaders and I thought it should only be fair to discuss some tips for followers today because dancing is a two way street. So I was surfing and came across this great list of things followers should do to improve their dancing by someone named “Flex” on Thank you to Flex for taking the time to post this list and give followers some great things to work on!

Flex writes:

“Let’s try to compile a list of simple basic things that followers should do automatically, but all too often don’t:

1. Wait for a lead.

2. In the absence of a lead – i.e. when the leader does not signal and initiate some change of direction or momentum – do your basic over 8 beats (many moves particularly in X-body rely on the follower executing her basic: if On1, back then forward, forward then back. Sooooo many followers don’t do this simple thing!).

3. Maintain your frame – connect to the lead with responsive arm pressure. Otherwise he can’t guide you with precision.

4. In open hold, follow the hand that is being led, with your frame. i.e. orient your frame towards it

5. When they’re below shoulder height and your hands are on his, keep the connecting hands slightly angled up at the wrist (so that, using the connection pressure, he can guide you backwards with that hand as well as forwards)

6. Keep your hands available – waist height when loose, if not in a styling moment – so that he knows exactly where to find a hand.

7. Take the offered hand, returning any pressure.

8. If the lead drapes your hand on or round his body, leave it there until he removes it one way or another – this helps him to find that hand again immediately, as he can feel exactly where it is even if he’s turning.

9. If he tosses or flicks your hand / arm up, for pity’s sake continue the movement gracefully up and around. He’s expecting you to do that, not to make your arm go stiff after moving three inches!

10. Distinguish between hand flicks where the lead wants that hand back again (the majority) from those where he is throwing away that hand in order to take the other. The beat on which this occurs is usually critical to that distinction.

11. Do not take the initiative to let go the leader’s hand, even if you worry that what he is attempting to do may result in a knot. (This assumes that the leader knows what he’s doing – if you decide not to trust him, the dance may as well end there and then).

12. Do not hold on to the leader’s hand so that he cannot drop yours easily. The initiative to take or drop a hand is his.

13. If the leader initiates a turn or spin, keep turning or spinning until he acts to stop you. Many moves over the full eight beats rely heavily on this principle and become joyfully easy if only the follower understands it. If she doesn’t, they either require a heavy mechanical lead or result in one of those moments where she knows she’s hesitated and got something wrong – but may blame it unfairly on his leading!

14. Unless otherwise engineered specifically by the lead, keep some bend in your connected elbow so that there is always some flexibility for you to step backwards as well as forwards.

15. Recognise the signals to go into a shine and learn some of the conventions to signal when you’d like to come out of it. Have a few steps you can shine with, rather than freezing in horror.

16. Recognise a block and have your bodyroll etc. ready to occupy that space of four beats until the block’s lifted.

17. If he’s doing something amazing in front of you but not leading you to do anything at the same time, don’t stand there frozen in open-mouthed wonder! Do something cute and sexy.

18. In the absence of any tactile lead, use visual cues. If he’s positioning for a cross-body lead, no contact, then do a cross body. If you’re doing X-body style and he starts walking round you, don’t turn (just do your back-and-forward, forward-and-back 8-beat basic). If it’s Cuban and he walks round you, do turn.

19. If the leader’s behind you and one or both of your hands are loose on the pause beat, make them available to him (use the seagull position if both hands, half seagull position if one hand, and if he doesn’t take them on the next beat withdraw them quickly as he may be coming round you and doesn’t want to go round a wide circle to avoid your extended hands).

20. When he starts to lead your arms overhead, take the tension/pressure off as soon as he takes the tension off (don’t fight a head-comb, and when spinning or turning keep those overhead arms soft so he can do touch-and-gos or neck wraps or hand drapes or hand flicks etc without you getting into a stiff-arm wrestle)

21. Pay attention to your leader as well as to his lead. Look at him when he’s looking at you. And smile! The least you can both do is be each other’s for five minutes on the dance floor.”

This is really a great list for followers to work on. Ladies, most complaints that men have centre around these issue so choose 1 tip a week and work on it!

Flash vs Smooth

Yesterday KT posted a discussion on our forums regarding Partner Preferences that said:

“When I first started dancing salsa over 2 yrs ago… I used to prefer flashy partners… those who can lead me into crazy turn patterns, dips, and all kinds of moves I’ve never seen before. Even amongst friends who are in the same level, from the same class… it seem to be more fun dancing with those who can execute moves they’ve learned outside of class (even though often it is not executed well). As time passes, I notice my preference in partner changed… these days I don’t care so much about crazy turn patterns as I do about my partner dancing on time, or being playful with the accents of the music, or executing a move that’s clean and simple instead of sloppy and complicated. What do you think makes a good partner? Does your preference change with time?”

I responded to that post because that is exactly the development that I went though. When I first started dancing the stronger and flashier the lead, the better. I loved dancing with guys who did crazy dips, neck drops, danced big and strong. But to be honest sometimes dancers dance this way to hide the fact that they are not versatile with the lead, musicality, body movement and after you dance with gentle, layered dancers who can add body movement, accented leading, styling, shines, playfulness, speed variations and much more, you realize how much more interesting and challenging this style of dancing really is for a progressing follower.

Now it is much harder for me to go back and dance with the flashy dancers…and sometimes it actually hurts as they are so rough! Dancing should definitely not hurt and be aggressive so remember that next time you are leading or following!

I was reading a salsa blog on the San Diego Salsa Dancing Website and it had a list of pet peeves from a woman’s perspective. Here is pet peeve #3:

“(3) The rag doll leader. OMG, one of the worst possible ways of encountering rejection on the dance floor is to obtain that reputation of tossing your partner around like a rag doll. Guys should be gentle in their lead. If she’s a beginner or inexperienced, forcing her through moves is not the solution to the problem. In any case, an experienced dancer can still suffer from the rag doll effect. I know this long-time instructor (and good dancer) who got her shoulder dislocated by dancing with one of these guys. It’s a serious problem, not just a pet peeve. No one wants to go dancing to end up injured.”

So gentlemen, now that you know what women are talking about, please know that if your dance partner looks like a rag doll, you are not dancing salsa correctly! The dance is close, sensual, textured and gentle and should leave the woman wanting more.

Looking forward to seeing smoother salsa on the dance floor!

Dancing Magazine – it’s about time!

I just read about an online dance magazine called “Hot Stepz Magazine” which is taking steps to go from online to print. There really isn’t very much out there for dancers so it will be great to have a magazine dedicated to all forms of dancing, salsa and mambo included.

“After five years of intense meetings, networking and research, Blake said, 6,000 stores in New York and Boston will be distributing the magazine. Founders are negotiating with Barnes & Noble for a nationwide distribution agreement, according to editor Michael Thierry.”

Obviously there is no mention about Canadian distribution but if it does well in the US we may see the magazine in stores like Chapters/Indigo which would be great for all u dance addicted people who craze more information.

Hopefully this is a push towards dancing becoming even more popular and mainstream – you can never have enough dance-focused movies, shows, books and more!

Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann

Did anyone check out the new dance reality show debuting last Monday called “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann”? Basically two of the judges from Dancing with the Stars are spinning off a separate reality show about creating 2 dance groups that go head to head. The only catch is the performers have to sing as well as dance. This took a little of the interest away from me but since there is still half the show dedicated to dancing I am on board for the ride :)

So basically Carrie Anne and Bruno spent the first episode auditioning in 3 cities hundreds of talented hopefuls and narrowed the participants down to 14 people. These 14 people will then be fought over by the two judges to create their own groups. At that point each of them will choreograph routines for their own groups and fight for the viewers’ votes. Each time a team loses, they have to vote someone off the team.

I find the first episode a lot more interesting then Dancing with the Stars and a lot less interesting than So You Think You Can Dance. It was great to see all types of dancers and some of them were fabulous. You had to really feel for those singers who couldn’t dance and those dancers who couldn’t sing but they want both for their groups so they had to eliminate talented people who just didn’t have both.

I am interested to see their choreographies…definitely rooting for Carrie Ann as Bruno, well he bugs me truthfully. Let me know what you think!

Salsa Performance Video Clips

I can’t believe how many salsa dancing clips there are online. Recently I found a new website which had a couple of really good video clips that I wanted to compare.

The first one was of the 2005 San Francisco Salsa Champions. I hadn’t seen this video before but I thought it was very interesting. The salsa music was very fast and if you dance salsa, you know how hard it is to keep up with all those spins to the music. I thought they were very talented and the woman’s spinning skills were outstanding. I didn’t love the repetition of the spins though – it was too much of the same spinning move and at many points the choreography and turnpatterns completely stopped which is not visually as pleasing to watch as the second video that I saw by Danny Zepeda and his group from San Francisco, I believe. You can’t see the routine well as it is filmed so far away but the routine is really great. They have the same fast salsa and almost as many spins but done in a way that blends with the rest of the turnpatterns which makes it more interesting to watch (for me at least).

I also noticed that the first clip of the SF 1995 Champions showed a bit of an error half way through. They did a great job of getting back on track but it made me think of a choreographer’s job of balancing moves that are safe and will not cause room for errors vs moves that are much more difficult and will really wow the crowd if they can be pulled off. What is better? Do you play it safe with your choreography and although it my not be as much of a wow it will be smooth and error free or do you go for it and hope for the best, taking a gamble.

I guess it depends on the confidence you feel at rehearsals trying out a risky choreography and your ability to continue the choreography if an error occurs. It also depends on experience. When you first start performing keep it simple and clean. After some experience start to stretch yourself and the choreography to keep the challenge and energy in your routine.

Would love to see the videos that you guys are watching…send them my way!!