Monthly Archives: January 2009

Salsa Etiquette- Part 3

Here is part 3 of the article “Salsa Dancing Etiquette – A Guide for Salsa Students and Dancers”. Please make sure you read before your first salsa class and outing to a salsa club!

• What moves are appropriate to execute

A crowded dance floor is not the right place to practice new moves so only execute moves that can be followed by your partner. Try to practice new moves in a classroom, a practice session such as an afternoon or evening social or during a slow club night. Dangerous moves such as dips, tricks and lifts are also not appropriate in a busy club as you are endangering yourself, your partner and those around you. Gentleman, consider yourself drivers and please watch where you are leading your partner. Every traveling move should be executed only after checking the direction that you are taking the follower. Be aware of your surroundings and the skill set of the dancers in your immediate vicinity.

• Respect on the dance floor

The best position to dance in is the slotted position in a linear formation. It is much easier to go into someone else’s space when you are dancing in a circular formation. Keep your movements clean and small and ensure your partner is doing the same. Try to keep your heel up when stepping back so as not to step on others. This is especially true for ladies wearing high heels. Please be considerate of other dancers and keep to your space. If you do bump into someone, please do not ignore the situation. Make eye contact and apologize at that moment. Gentlemen, please respect your partner and treat her with care. She is entrusting you with her safety and this needs to be the forefront consideration in every leading decision you make. Ladies, please do not execute moves you are not comfortable with or cannot execute properly as you are endangering your partner and others.

• Partner communication and connection

Salsa is a very connected dance. Every leader has different moves to execute, every follower interprets the lead in a different way and every dancer has their own style, strengths and areas of improvement. Communication and forming a connection is the key to ensuring both parties have the best dance experience possible. An introduction is always a great way to build a connection. Eye contact throughout the dance will ensure you are aware of each other’s lead and follow and can react/alter your movements appropriately. Gentleman, the women are relying on your lead so please lead. That means having a firm frame, consistency in your pulls and pushes without any surprises and jerky movements and a close lead. The busier the dance floor, the more the closed hand hold should be used to keep the follower closer to you and safer. Keep your elbows in and take small steps. Ladies, please mind you own business and focus on your dancing responsibilities: creating resistance having a strong frame, keeping your core engaged for balance, staying alert and reacting quickly and safely to each lead.

Salsa Etiquette- Part 2

Here is the second part of the article I wrote called “Salsa Dancing Etiquette – A Guide for Salsa Students and Dancers”.

• Turning down a dance
It cannot be stressed enough that rejecting someone’s offer to dance can be a very negative experience for that dancer and has even led some to give up dancing. Do your best to accept every offer unless you are uncomfortable with the person. Remember that people have very long memories and one rejection (for whatever innocent reason it may be) may be remembered for a long time. The salsa scene is a small one and people do relay stories about others. Be as gracious as possible. If there is a legitimate reason for the refusal, please specify it (e.g., I have just been dancing up a storm and am taking a break, I promised someone else this dance but maybe we can dance later, I am just about to leave, etc). Don’t forget to ask that person to dance later on if it is possible as a show of respect. Try to never reject a person and then go dance with another person immediately after. Dancers, especially beginners, are trying to build, gain and maintain confidence. This can be very hurtful and affect a person’s ability to ask others to dance.

If you are on the other side of this scene where you have been rejected for a dance, keep a practical and positive perspective and remember that it is not a rejection of you as a person but potentially the circumstance. There are many other dancers who would be more than happy to accept a dance.

• Ladies – how to get asked to dance

If you are not comfortable in the asking role, there are many tips to use to be more approachable. Always make yourself visible. Stand at the edge of the dance floor. Make eye contact with potential dance partners around you and those coming off the dance floor. Let your interest and eagerness to dance show and never stop smiling. Remember the rules of body language – gestures such as crossing your arms, looking down, looking bored, uninterested or unapproachable and congregating with groups of friends are just a few things to avoid. Dance with anyone who asks as women who dance throughout the night are seen by male dancers as more likely to accept their invitation to dance. A man is more likely to ask a woman as she is walking off the dance floor after completing a dance then one who is standing around. Also, the more partners you accept, the more dancers you get to know, and this opens up new networks and groups of dancers to you, as dancers often introduce you to their friends and fellow dancers.

• How to read your partner’s skill level
Every partner you dance with will be at a different level. If you are a male the best process to use is to start slowly and gain momentum according to your partners’ skill level. Begin by executing basic footwork, turns and basic cross body variations. If your partner is following with ease then slowly introduce more difficult moves. If you are a beginner female, specify this when you are asked to dance so the male is aware of your position and can work with your skill level.

Part 3 coming up in the next blog post!

Salsa Etiquette- Part 1

I wrote an article a couple of years ago about salsa etiquette. It is very important that students read it before their first salsa outing and also as a refresher because it is a determining factor to how much fun you and the people around you will have going salsa dancing.

Here is the first excerpt from the article:

Salsa Dancing Etiquette – A Guide for Salsa Students and Dancers

Salsa clubs have their very own code of ethics and conduct that may sometimes not be apparent for new dancers. To make your dance experience as well as your partners’ and the dancers around you more enjoyable, please take note of the following salsa club guidelines and tips.

• Positioning yourself on the dance floor

You have just arrived at the salsa club and are anxious to begin dancing. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the surroundings and the dance scene. Every club is different in terms of where it is appropriate to socialize, stand and dance. The edge of the dance floor is a great place to position yourself when you are ready to begin dancing. Try to refrain from bringing glasses or bottles close to the dance floor as it can be dangerous. Be aware of the dancers and give them enough space to maneuver. Do your best to always navigate yourself around the edge of the dance floor (not through the centre) and take your time to ensure you do not bump into a dancer. There are many instances when a female is being spun and is bumped into by a passing patron/worker/dancer. This can be very dangerous and frustrating. Try not to congregate or socialize in groups around the dance floor. Most clubs have an area around the bar or to the sides for this and it will be less obstructive to the dancers.

• How to ask someone to dance – the male and female perspective
Gentleman, there is a right and a wrong way to ask for a dance. Please be polite. A smile and a general inquiry of “Would you like to dance?” is usually the best method but if you are not comfortable it is also appropriate to offer your hand (with a smile of course) to the lady. Once she accepts, an introduction of yourself will put her more at ease and create a connection.

Ladies, don’t feel that you have to wait for the men to ask you to dance. It is quite appropriate for you to do the asking. Remember that most men are very open to dancing. They may just be uncomfortable with doing the asking or afraid of being rejected. They will be relieved to have this task out of the way. If you have a good connection on the dance floor, the chances are great that the man will take over the asking task in the future.

More from the salsa etiquette guide in my next blog post!

Last Friday at Plaza Flamingo!

Friday night at Plaza Flamingo was really fun. After a long rest over the holidays it was awesome to see the TDS family get together again in a salsa club to get our salsa fix.

The evening began with lessons as usual. Velina and Mark taught a beginner lesson and Evan and myself taught the intermediate turn pattern. The classes were packed and hopefully everyone could hear us over the noise. Regardless of the usual sound issues, everyone seemed to do really well with the combinations and hopefully the turn pattern stuck with everyone throughout the evening so that it became muscle memory.

At 11:15pm our TDS Helper Team were introduced for their performance. For those who don’t know, about once a year we hold a special class just for helpers that teaches them how to become performers. This includes learning a professional choreography by our awesome choreographer Caryl (go Caryl!), fitting for costumes, and makeup assistance from professional makeup artist Shirley Yung (thanks Shirley!). The team, after months of practicing, has now performed at least twice and has been invited to several other functions to show their stuff.

Here is a list of the performers:

Barry Ip
George Reichert
James Anes
Sandra Villella
Tracey Hsieh
Winnie Fung
Manuel Alvarez
Marta Slowik
Ozzy Gul
Phoebe Yu-Kowalski

Needless to say the group looked amazing. They were polished, energetic and I was super proud of their hard work and dedication. Congratulations to them as well as David and Mildred who are part of the group but could not be in attendance on Friday.

Hopefully everyone had a great time at Plaza. Our next two outings are as follows:

1) Friday Feb 6th at Lula Lounge
2) Saturday Feb 21st at Peridot Lounge

See you all there!

Salsa Tips to Keep In Mind

Now that we have started classes there are similar tips that should be kept in mind whether you are a beginner salsero in level 1 or an intermediate level 5 dancer. Here are some of these universal tips that will assist you on the dance floor and in class.

1) Create tension in your frame – When you instructor keeps reminding you to keep your arms 90 degrees, open the thumbs and only use you fingertips in a light pull, they are reminding you to create tension in your frame. This is because salsa is not a choreographed dance. You never know what the next move is and the leader has to communicate what the upcoming move is with the tension in their fingers. To assist in the communication process, keep your arms at a 90 degree angle with your elbows flush along the sides of you bodies. Don’t stretch your arms. This weakens your tension. Both leaders and followers should not clamp their thumbs down on your partners hands because, again, this weakens tension. Your only hold should come from your fingertips curling and pulling gently against your partners fingertips.

2) Don’t look down – Looking down is a bad move for many reasons. The first is it shows your self consciousness which affects lead and follow. Your partern can sense when you aren’t confident and they become less confident about your lead or follow. Also looking down as a leader doesn’t allow you to see around you and you can end up hurting yourself, your partner and couples around you. Same with followers who look down. You can end up traveling too far or into another couple.

3) Listen to salsa music outside the classroom – Many students worry that they don’t understand the salsa beat. This is because they only listen to salsa music for 1 hour a week in a classroom where you are busy learning new moves and it is difficult to concentrate on several things at once. Instead, take the time to listen to salsa music in your Ipod or in your car and tap out what you think is the beat 1-2-3, 5-6-7. Slowly you will start to distinguish the one of the music and be able to understand the beat. This will then translate to better, more musical dancing in the classroom and on the dance floor.

There are many more tips to discuss. I will try to provide some more over the next few days!

Welcome back everyone!

Wow this is my first post of 2009! It has been a very busy beginning to the year and it is nice to see everything finally falling back into a routine. Classes have started and will be starting over the next couple of weeks, outings are beginning this week and students have been enjoying the Sunday Socials with the new time for a couple of Sundays already.

Welcome to all our new students and welcome back to our returning students. It is great to see and feel the excitement of students back in class, meeting new friends, getting a great workout and really feeling the fun and joy of dancing. For me, I really missed dancing as I have been also away from it for a couple of months spending time in Hawaii and trying to get through the first trimester of my pregnancy. I feel so much better on the dance floor physically and mentally and I know everyone feels similarly after a low key holiday season.

Our first outing of 2009 is this Friday, January 23rd at 9:30pm at Plaza Flamingo. Get there a bit early so that you can check your coat and be ready for the lesson from 9:30pm – 10:30pm. Velina and Mark will be teaching the absolute beginners lesson and Evan and I will be teaching the intermediate class. As a special treat our Toronto Dance Salsa Helpers Performance Class will be performing their choreographed routine that they have been working on for the past few months at 11:15pm so come out to support them!

The Sunday Social time has changed to 6-9pm. Every Sunday (excluding long weekends) we dance the Sunday evening away at Empress Walk. Over 100 students and friends come out weekly and it is a ton of fun and very comfortable.

We also have non-salsa classes available at Empress including Zumba which is an amazing fun workout on Wednesdays with Tracie, Belly Dance level 1 and 2 with Ece, Hip Hop with Ece (Sold out), Yoga with Pamela and Pilates with Elizabeth. Check out details on the Class Schedule Page.

I have been asked where students can buy our new Toronto Dance Salsa sloganed T-Shirts. They are available every Sunday at the social. You can also email us and we can try to bring you a shirt to your own class. T-shirts are only $20 taxes included.

That is about all the news for now. See you on Friday at the outing!