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Places to dance in Charleston September 2017

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School's back in session, but the dancing continues! As always, follow the individual organizers of events for more info, including theme nights and special parties. 

Below is a quick and dirty list of non-weekly dance opportunities, scroll down for more comprehensive info on venues and events. 

September 1 Odd Friday Salsa Social @ Elite Dance (Latin Dance with LaQuinn)

September 3 One Year Anniversary Party @ Holy City Salsa

September 8 Return of the Mambo Nights @ Nights of Columbus (Salseros of Charleston/Charleston Latin Dance)

September 15 Odd Friday Salsa Social @ Elite Dance (Latin Dance with LaQuinn)

September 16 Salsa Saturday Social @ Festival Dance Centre (Oui Dance 2)

September 17 Salsa Sunday @ Holy City Salsa

September 22 BONUS Return of the Mambo Nights @ Nights of Columbus (Salseros of Charleston/Charleston Latin Dance)

September 29 Odd Friday Salsa Social @ Elite Dance (Latin Dance with La Quinn)


Tuesdays

Prohibition

Havana Nights Charleston

547 King Street

WEEKLY

8-9 pm Intro Salsa Lesson

9 pm- midnight Live Latin Jazz with the Gino Castillo Quartet

No cover. Buy drinks to support the venue and the band!

Vibe: A little wild, in a good way! The band is excellent-- but come hydrated because they play really long, really fast songs (average song length: 20 minutes). They take a long break, and during the break, there’s a mix of Salsa and Bachata (of normal lengths and speeds) played over the loudspeaker.

*Parking can be a little bit of an issue downtown, the Visitor’s Center Parking Garage (73 Mary Street) is a few blocks away and charges a flat rate of $5 after 5 pm. Sometimes you can luck out and find a street parking spot, but the garage is nice, well-lit, and an easy walk.


Wednesdays

Poblano’s Mexican Cuisine

7575 Rivers Ave, North Charleston

WEEKLY

10 pm-2 am

DJ spinning a mix of Salsa, Bachata, Reggaeton and Merengue

No cover

Vibe: This is a Mexican restaurant-turned-dance club, so there’s a mix of patrons of the restaurant/bar and actual dancers. It tends to be a small crowd, but very laid back and lots of fun. The kitchen closes at 10 though, so if you want to eat, come early! If there are no Salsa/Bachata dancers there, the DJ will play other types of Latin music, so I recommend getting in touch with other dancers before going. The Holy City Salsa Dance Family on Facebook is a good place to start!


Fridays

Fridays rotate between multiple venues, it can get a little confusing.

Odd Friday Salsa Social

(1st,3rd, and 5th Friday)

Latin Dance with La Quinn hosts at Elite Dance International,

709 Johnnie Dodds Blvd, Suite 200

Mt. Pleasant SC

$10 cover, BYOB.

Intro lesson around 9-9:30 pm, open dancing 10 pm-2 am.

Vibe: The host of this social, La Quinn, is a bundle of energy and the floor is FABULOUS. This tends to be more dancers and less party people, so you’ll usually get in a lot of good dances. Ample parking is a plus!

Upcoming Dates:  September 1, September 15, September 29

The Return of Mambo Nights

2nd Friday

Salseros of Charleston/Charleston Latin Dance hosts at the Knights of Columbus

143 Calhoun Street

$10 cover, there’s a bar at the venue that serves the cheapest drinks in downtown (seriously…$3 for a mixed drink is a steal in Charleston)

Intro lesson 7-8 pm, Open dancing 8-11 pm.

Vibe: The host, Yaenette Dixon, always brings in guest DJs who run the congress circuit, so the music is FIRE. The venue is very cool-- it’s an old building downtown and it has a very vintage feel to it. This is geared toward social dancers-- seasoned and new.

*This is in the heart of downtown and can be tough to find street parking. Hit the Visitor’s Center Parking Garage (73 Mary Street). It’s a few blocks away and is only $5 after 5 pm. It's only a few blocks from the Knights of Columbus. I've also found that parking on Calhoun Street near the Addlestone Library on the CofC campus is a good spot. Also a few blocks walk, but it's quiet and there are always meter spots open. I'm coming from West Ashley, so it's en route for me to just slide into a spot on Calhoun street and walk. And it's free!

Upcoming Dates:  September 8, September 22 (BONUS!!!)

 


Saturdays

Latin Night with Latin Groove at Sushi Blue

61 State Street

$10 cover

WEEKLY

DJ Luigi of Latin Groove (Charleston’s longest running Latin party promoter) spins at this restaurant from 10 pm-2 am.

Vibe: More of a club vibe-- he plays Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, and some top 40. A lot of people are out partying in the Market Street area on Saturday nights and find their way to Sushi Blue. Good music and fun, though the amount of dancers who attends varies. The restaurant is great, so you can go early and eat.


Latin Night with DJ Leo at Agave’s Cantina

885 Island Park Drive, Daniel Island

10 pm- 1:30 am

WEEKLY

DJ Leo spinning mix of Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, and more.

Ladies get in free, $10 cover.

Vibe: Restaurant turned Latin club. The crowd varies, but the music is usually pretty good.


Saturday Social

Oui Dance 2 Latin Dance hosts at their permanent home, the Festival Dance Centre.

5101 Ashley Phosphate Road Suite 138

North Charleston

8-9 pm Intro Lesson

9 pm-1 am Social dancing

$10/person, BYOB.

Vibe: This is a new venue and it’s got a huge, beautiful floor.

(I haven’t been yet personally so I can’t speak for it, but I’ve heard people have a great time when they go!)

Upcoming dates: September 16


Sundays

Holy City Salsa Dance Studio

Salsa Sundays

1st and 3rd Sunday of the month

7:30 pm Intro Salsa Lesson

8-11 pm Open Dancing

$10 cover, BYOB

1954 Ashley River Road Suite H

(Behind Rite-Aid off Savage road...use Google Maps or Waze, Apple Maps doesn’t work)

Vibe: Casual/laid back...at a dance studio, so more for dancers than for party-ers.

Upcoming Dates: September 3, September 17

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Finding the "1" in Salsa

When learning to dance Salsa, most people have the hardest time with the music.

The steps themselves are not that complicated...step forward, step back, do some turns. BUT what makes Salsa dancing (and music) so complicated, and so invigorating, is the complexity of the music. 

Salsa music incorporates a variety of rhythms and instruments to create a unique sound...that's why it's so hard to dance Salsa to music that is not Salsa music. 

So when you're practicing and you don't have an instructor shouting off "1,2,3..5,6,7," how do you find that "one" to get you started? 

What helps most for me is to train my ear and body at the same time. 

So, count while you're dancing. When you're in a class, count along with the instructor. Or practice with pre-recorded counts, really listening to the count while feeling what's happening in your body. Music and movement synched together is dancing. It can be hard to feel as a brand new beginner, but you may surprise yourself. Muscle memory is a powerful thing. 

Here's a track pre-recorded with the 1,2,3,5,6,7. It's a little obnoxious, but if you practice with it, you'll hear and feel where and how you're supposed to me moving. Here's one with just the 1..as you get more comfortable, try just practicing with the 1 and filling in the rest of the counts on your own. 

Listen to the different instruments and follow one with a strong down beat.

The easiest instrument to pick out is usually the piano playing it's riff, called a montuno or tumbao. The down beat/one is very heavy in the montuno, and it repeats. Often. It's part of the rhythm backbone of a Salsa song. 

This video does a great job showing you the montuno and explaining how to hear it.  This video also teaches you to listen out for the congas and the clave. 

The congas have a heavy emphasis on the "2" and the "6" during the song, so you can use those strong beats to mark where you are in the eight count. 

The video above also discusses the clave. 

Clave means "key" in Spanish...it's that distinctive sound of two little sticks being hit together that you may or may not have picked out in Salsa songs. Itcan be in a 2/3 pattern (with the hits going 1-2..1-2-3) or 3/2 (with the hits going 1-2-3...1-2).  Personally, I think trying to find the one based on the clave is very difficult for a beginner because you have to be able to differentiate between the 2/3 or the 3/2 clave to find your one, so if you're new, try listening to another piece of the puzzle first. 

We all need more cowbell, right? 

When songs have a strong cowbell in them, that's one of the easiest ways to find the one. The cowbell usually hits on 1, 3, 5, and 7, and feels like the "heartbeat" of the song. 

Salsa music and Salsa dancing are endlessly complex and fascinating. This is just the tip of the ice burg discussing the different instruments and rhythms that make up Salsa. 

Listen to Salsa music. Lots of it. Practice as much as you can and find which method works for you to find the one.

What works best for you? How do you find the one beat? Is musicality the hardest part of Salsa dancing for you? 

BIG THANKS TO JASON TORRES FOR HIS INPUT FOR THIS ARTICLE...he shared some great videos and articles that I used as resources to put together this post. 

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Places to Dance in Charleston April 2017

Finding where to go dance Salsa in Charleston can be a little bit of an adventure for the uninitiated.

It can feel like a mysterious insiders club...you never knew that there was a Latin Dance Scene right in your own city, but there is one and it is thriving. 

Here's a list of places to dance with upcoming dates, vibe notes, and parking recommendations. This is a long list, so buckle up. I've tried to make this as up-to-date as possible, but last minute closings or cancellations are always a possibility. Double-check with the venues and organizers to make sure all systems are a go!


Tuesdays

Prohibition

Havana Nights Charleston

547 King Street

WEEKLY

8-9 pm Intro Salsa Lesson

9 pm- midnight Live Latin Jazz with the Gino Castillo Quartet

No cover. Buy drinks to support the venue and the band!

Vibe: A little wild, in a good way! The band is excellent-- but come hydrated because they play really long, really fast songs (average song length: 20 minutes). They take a long break, and during the break, there’s a mix of Salsa and Bachata (of normal lengths and speeds) played over the loudspeaker.

*Parking can be a little bit of an issue downtown, the Visitor’s Center Parking Garage (73 Mary Street) is a few blocks away and charges a flat rate of $5 after 5 pm. Sometimes you can luck out and find a street parking spot, but the garage is nice, well-lit, and an easy walk.


Wednesdays

Poblano’s Mexican Cuisine

7575 Rivers Ave, North Charleston

WEEKLY

10 pm-2 am

DJ spinning a mix of Salsa, Bachata, Reggaeton and Merengue

No cover

Vibe: This is a Mexican restaurant-turned-dance club, so there’s a mix of patrons of the restaurant/bar and actual dancers. It tends to be a small crowd, but very laid back and lots of fun. The kitchen closes at 10 though, so if you want to eat, come early! If there are no Salsa/Bachata dancers there, the DJ will play other types of Latin music, so I recommend getting in touch with other dancers before going. The Holy City Salsa Dance Family on Facebook is a good place to start!


Fridays

Fridays rotate between multiple venues, it can get a little confusing.

Odd Friday Salsa Social

(1st,3rd, and 5th Friday)

Latin Dance with La Quinn hosts at Elite Dance International,

709 Johnnie Dodds Blvd, Suite 200

Mt. Pleasant SC

$10 cover, BYOB.

Intro lesson around 9-9:30 pm, open dancing 10 pm-2 am.

Vibe: The host of this social, La Quinn, is a bundle of energy and the floor is FABULOUS. This tends to be more dancers and less party people, so you’ll usually get in a lot of good dances. Ample parking is a plus!

Upcoming Dates: April 21


The Return of Mambo Nights

2nd Friday

Salseros of Charleston/Charleston Latin Dance hosts at the Knights of Columbus

143 Calhoun Street

$10 cover, there’s a bar at the venue that serves the cheapest drinks in downtown (seriously…$3 for a mixed drink is a steal in Charleston)

Intro lesson 7-8 pm, Open dancing 8-11 pm.

Vibe: The host, Yaenette Dixon, always brings in guest DJs who run the congress circuit, so the music is FIRE. The venue is very cool-- it’s an old building downtown and it has a very vintage feel to it. This is geared toward social dancers-- seasoned and new.

*This is in the heart of downtown and can be tough to find street parking. Hit the Visitor’s Center Parking Garage (73 Mary Street). It’s a few blocks away and is only $5 after 5 pm.

HOLY CITY SALSA WILL BE IN THE HOUSE AT THIS EVENT. Staff and students will be there hanging out and dancing...join us!

Upcoming Dates:  April 28* This is a change from what was originally scheduled, May 12


TGIF Friday Social

4th Friday

Oui Dance 2 Latin Dance hosts at their permanent home, the Festival Dance Centre.

5101 Ashley Phosphate Road Suite 138

North Charleston

8-9 pm Intro Lesson

9 pm-1 am Social dancing

$10/person, BYOB.

Vibe: This is a new venue and it’s got a huge, beautiful floor.

(I haven’t been yet personally so I can’t speak for it, but I’ve heard people have a great time when they go!)

Upcoming dates: April 28


Saturdays

Latin Night with Latin Groove at Sushi Blue

61 State Street

$10 cover

WEEKLY

DJ Luigi of Latin Groove (Charleston’s longest running Latin party promoter) spins at this restaurant from 10 pm-2 am.

Vibe: More of a club vibe-- he plays Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, and some top 40. A lot of people are out partying in the Market Street area on Saturday nights and find their way to Sushi Blue. Good music and fun, though the amount of dancers who attends varies. The restaurant is great, so you can go early and eat.


Latin Night with DJ Leo at Agave’s Cantina

885 Island Park Drive, Daniel Island

10 pm- 1:30 am

WEEKLY

DJ Leo spinning mix of Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, and more.

Ladies get in free, $10 cover.

Vibe: Restaurant turned Latin club. The crowd varies, but the music is usually pretty good.


Saturday Social

Oui Dance 2 Latin Dance hosts at their permanent home, the Festival Dance Centre.

5101 Ashley Phosphate Road Suite 138

North Charleston

8-9 pm Intro Lesson

9 pm-1 am Social dancing

$10/person, BYOB.

Vibe: This is a new venue and it’s got a huge, beautiful floor.

(I haven’t been yet personally so I can’t speak for it, but I’ve heard people have a great time when they go!)

Upcoming dates: April 15


Special Events Coming Up:

Cinco de Mayo Festival

May 6

7-11 pm

Visitor’s Center Bus Shed

375 Meeting STreet

$10 in advance/$15 at the door

This event is always a BLAST. DJ Luigi (Latin Groove) gets live music, performers, food trucks, drinks, etc. You’ll be dancing on concrete and it gets HOT, so plan accordingly with your attire.

Food and drinks are separate costs-- bring cash so you can buy food and drink tickets. There are always really good Latin food trucks and vendors...if Pacha Mama is there with the arepas, get them!!!

Come see us! Holy City Salsa will be performing.

Everyone registered for the May Dance Challenge by May 3 will be entered to win tix to Cinco, the Mambo Nights Social May 12, and the HCS socials in May.


And of course, we have our Salsa Sundays (we'll be back in May!)

Holy City Salsa Dance Studio

Salsa Sundays

1st and 3rd Sunday of the month

7:30 pm Intro Salsa Lesson

8-11 pm Open Dancing

$10 cover, BYOB

1954 Ashley River Road Suite H

(Behind Rite-Aid off Savage road...use Google Maps or Waze, Apple Maps doesn’t work)

Vibe: Casual/laid back...at a dance studio, so more for dancers than for party-ers.

Upcoming dates: May 7, May 9

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It's Raining Men! Gentleman taking over Salsa and Bachata Classes

Image from CreativeCommons.Org   

Image from CreativeCommons.Org

 

For the last month or two at Holy City Salsa, there’s been an interesting phenomena in several of the group classes—more guys than girls.

            It’s surprising...how many times have you been at some sort of group dance class or event that’s been overflowing with women and only a handful of men? So what’s the deal? Why are men taking over the dance class game? And what are women missing out on by not taking classes?

            Here are a few theories and observations from personal experiences—comment below if you agree or disagree and let’s have a dialogue about this.

            The Learning Curve is Imbalanced

            Women/follows can go on the social dance floor, be led through moves and achieve a certain degree of competency without necessarily knowing much more than a few basics.  Though classes and lessons are important to learning finesse, style, and technique, most ladies can at least learn enough on the social dance floor to have a decent time at a dance event.  

            Men/leads can’t really learn by doing on the social dance floor. Or if they try, women/follows may start avoiding them because they will get tired of being improperly led through moves. For a man/lead to have a good time at a social dance event, he needs to be somewhat competent, and at least have a few moves he can lead in his arsenal.

           A lead said his enjoyment of dance events exponentially increased the more he learned. The more moves he knew, the more technique he had, the more fun dancing became for him. Follows are not expecting leads to come out of the gate being excellent dancers—there is definitely a learning curve on both ends, but follows often advance faster than leads, at least in the beginning.

            This makes women/follows feel like they don’t need to take dance classes on a regular basis—however, once women/follows plateau from just learning by social dancing, they tend to stay in a plateau, whereas leads who take classes regularly tend to advance past their plateaus. Think the tortoise and the hare.

            The Social Structure is Imbalanced

            Women may opt out of taking dance classes because they statistically spend more time on housework and childcare than men.  If a woman has to get dinner on the table, make sure the kids are taken care of, and get those extra loads of laundry in, she’s probably not going to spend her spare time taking dance classes. Women with kids, especially single moms, often have to arrange childcare when they are taking dance classes, so a one-hour dance class turns into an expensive and time-consuming process after setting up and paying for childcare.

        Men are also more likely than women to spend time on any given day participating in a leisure activity, such as dancing.

            The time of year may also affect whether or not women can attend classes—those with kids find more responsibilities heaped on them at the beginning and ending of the school year and around the holidays.

            Women also may have less disposable income than men. Women still earn 80 cents to every dollar that a man earns, and so it’s possible that women have less discretionary funds to spend on dance classes as well as less time. 

            The Dance Class Model is Imbalanced

             Social dance classes for partner work, like Salsa and Bachata, tend to focus on learning steps, patterns, and combos. Since the onus is on the lead to lead these combos, more attention is usually given to teach the lead’s technique and footwork. Though principles of following and styling are also taught, the elements of a class that would appeal to a lady are not necessarily the focus.

            Though it is always beneficial to practice a step over and over again, ladies/follows may grow bored with the repetitions needed for a lead to master a step. It’s up to the instructor to make sure that the ladies/follows always have something to work on and refine.

            Women may start out taking dance classes, but stop because they feel like they get the same experience from just social dancing if the instructor doesn’t take the time to work with the follows.

 

So what do you think? Do you think these observations and ideas are valid, or totally off the mark? What have you noticed happen in dance classes? Does it vary from community to community? Are you in a scene that’s overflowing with women? 

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If the Shoe Fits: Dance Shoe Tips and Tricks

Photo from CreativeCommons.Org

Photo from CreativeCommons.Org

Dancing is a wonderful sport/hobby because it doesn’t require much in the way of equipment or materials. People + Music + Floor usually make for pretty good dancing. However, a good pair of shoes can greatly enhance your dance experience.

         People new to social dancing usually ask two questions: What kind of shoes should I wear? and Where should I get them?

         If you’re taking a dance class for the very first time, wear shoes that are comfortable and smooth-soled. ABSOLUTELY NO FLIP-FLOPS. You need something that isn’t going to fall off of your heel and something that you can turn in. Tennis shoes are not recommended, because they tend to have treads that stick to the floor. Sandals, flats, and dress shoes (for men) are great for your first lesson or first month or two of dancing. There’s no sense in investing in a pair of dance shoes if you aren’t even sure if dancing is your “thing” yet. Ladies, if you’re a beginner, don’t worry about dancing in heels. Dancing in heels requires control and balance that you will develop as you continue dancing. If you really want to wear heels, start with something low and sturdy, and then work your way up to higher, narrower heels.

         Ok, I hear you. I’m sold on this dancing thing and I want to get a pair of shoes…where should I go?

         If it’s your first pair of dance shoes, get fitted in person for them. Even if you don’t buy the pair that you try on, you’ll have an idea of your shoe size and you can order shoes online based on that size. Locally (writing here from Charleston, SC), you can get fitted/buy shoes at The Turning Pointe, located at 1650 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. They mostly sell shoes for ballet/jazz/tap, etc., but carry some character shoes and can give you an idea of your shoe size. They're also a great place to get dance sneakers and jazz flats, which are great for practicing. 

         How should they fit?

             Your shoes will probably be uncomfortable when you first buy them. It’s ok! You’ll break them in soon enough. Opt for the shoes that fit snugly— they will stretch with time, especially satin shoes, and you want your shoes to be smaller and tighter for better support. Ladies in heels, this is especially true for you. Some people say that for open-toe shoes, your toe should actually hang a little bit over the edge.

            I wear a size 6 ½ or 7 in street shoes and buy dance shoes in 5 ½. The last thing you want is to feel wobbly and out of control in your shoes. The tighter your shoes fit, the easier it will be to “feel” the floor, and your shoes will actually rub less, leading to less blisters. Like other types of clothes and shoes, size and fit will vary a LOT so you want to try on as many as you can and find what works best for you.

Where are some other places for me to shop?

            Online, there are a wealth of dance shoe options. My new favorite right now is Yami Shoes for heels-- they have extra padding in the ball of the foot and heel and are way more comfortable than other heels. You can customize the heel option if you don't want their pre-stocked ones, which are usually 3" or 4".  I have bought shoes from ExoticSalsaShoes.com (it sounds more exciting than it is--sign up for their email newsletter, they always have good sales) or DiscountDanceSupply.com. I have friends who swear by LightInTheBox.com for cheap, stylish shoes, and others who only buy dance shoes on eBay.

            When you’re trying to decide what shoes to buy and from where, it all depends on if you’re going for comfort, durability, or fashion, and on what kind of dance floor you’re spending most of your time. I don’t recommend buying a really expensive, high-end pair of shoes if the only place you go out dancing is a bar. They’ll quickly get a build-up of God knows what—spilled drinks, dirt, hair, grease from food, sweat, etc. You can always scrape that build-up off with a shoe brush (which is a great investment to go with your shoes), but I’ve found it wears my shoes out a lot faster.

            I typically opt for boots/flats/sandals for going out to bars and save my dance shoes for studios, performances, and special event venues.  

But they hurt!

            It might seem obvious, but give yourself time to break your shoes in. It’s really easy to get a super fly new pair of shoes and want to wear them all night at an event.

That is a recipe for a world of pain. Take it slow with new shoes. Wear them around your house to break them in. Wear them during one hour long class or for just the first part of a night of social dancing, and then switch. All shoes are going to rub your feet in different ways. In my experience, blisters are an inevitable part of dancing. But the more I break in a pair of shoes and build up callouses on my feet, the less they hurt.

             Be open to having some ballet or jazz flats or a pair of street shoes that you can dance in that are super comfortable that you can always switch to when you’re tired and your feet start hurting during social dancing or classes. They might not be as snazzy or as sexy, but you’ll feel better the next day.

 

            Like everything in dance, it’s about finding what works for you. What style? What fit? What price point? What durability? Some people are dance shoe fanatics and have dozens of pairs for every occasion. Other people find one pair they love and wear them to the ground. Be open to experiment, give yourself time to break in a pair of shoes, and have fun dancing while you do it!

 

            What do you think? What kind of shoes do you like to dance in? How do you like your dance shoes to fit? Where’s your favorite spot for dance shoes?

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Dancing to the Beat of Your Own Clave: Loving YOUR Dance Style

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hale, check him out at  halemd.smugmug.com

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hale, check him out at halemd.smugmug.com

         I was recently added to a group of people who consider themselves the “underdogs” of Salsa congresses…the people who work hard, leave it all on stage, but don’t get the recognition that the big name national and international artists receive. We are the people who aren’t Youtube sensations, who aren’t getting paid top dollar to travel the world, teaching our special brand of Pachanga Footwork or Sensual Bachata dips.

            I used to think that’s what I was supposed to want if I went pro in the Salsa world…a pair of Burju shoes named after me, a million views on my Youtube videos, adoration at every congress for my gymnastics/Salsa routines.

            But then I realized that was someone else’s dream, not mine. I can’t stand wearing lycra, full body sequins, and false eyelashes. I have no interest in my routines looking like everyone else’s, following the formula of spin, spin, spin, spin, flip, dip, crazy shine, crazy turn combo, repeat, lift, aaaaand finish. I don’t even really like wearing high heel dance shoes anymore.

            One of the taglines of my first dance company, Baila ConmiGA, was “I Like My Own Style.” It’s taken me a while to embrace this idea…I have always been self-conscious about the way I dance, because my lifelong ballet training makes me look more like a ballerina than a salsera on the floor. I can turn well, but I don’t have Afro-Cuban body isolations or hip movements for days.  I have short hair and can’t do all the sexy hair-whipping that so many salsa dancers pull off so well.  

            If I really wanted to, I could probably learn and practice enough to look more like a “Salsa dancer.” But I don’t.  I love my choreography, movement style, costume and music choices precisely because they are so different. I take all of my dance and life experiences and put them together to truly express myself, whether I’m social dancing or performing.

            Whenever I’m teaching, I stress the importance of developing your own style. We all have different body architectures, and therefore, every step is going to look different on every person. No two people are going to turn exactly the same or have arm styling that looks exactly the same. And that’s the beauty of dance.

            Every time you step on the dance floor, you have a chance to express and assert your personality. You have a chance to show the world who you really are—where you’ve been, who you’ve loved, who you’ve lost, what you stand for in life.  I love the quote from Mikhail Baryshnikov “When a body moves, it is the most revealing thing. Dance for a minute, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

            When you’re trying to copy someone else or look exactly like this star or that one, it shows. It looks inauthentic, disingenuous. Be yourself on the dance floor, and that’s when you’ll really shine. When people will take notice. When you’ll feel happier and more confident. It may take time to develop your style, you may have to try out several and find the one that works best for you. You may take a piece here and there, a move from this workshop, a step from that video.

            But at the end of the day, you’ll know that you’re dancing as yourself. You’ll have made your own formula, a special blend that only you can dance.

            So perhaps I am an underdog in the sense that there’s not a line of people waiting to dance with me or I don’t get thunderous applause for a performance, but I dance MY way and am able to express myself and get other people to do the same, so somehow, I feel like I’m coming out on top.   

One of my favorite pieces I've choreographed/performed. Borrowing elements of Salsa, Ballet, Contemporary, hip-hop, and Afro-Cuban to tell a story. 

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Salsa Dance Performances: This S*** is Scary!

This year marks the one year anniversary of my Studio-to-Stage performance groups, and it’s pretty amazing to see how far they’ve come. From five girls in a rented fitness studio on Johns Island late at night to three different levels in my OWN Latin dance studio in Charleston, this program has come a long way. Twenty-something people have gone through the program  and it’s been incredible to see individual’s growth with every session. But what I really want to do is commend these ladies and gentlemen for having the guts to participate in a Salsa dance performance.

            It is utterly terrifying to get in front of your friends, family, peers, and strangers. When you dance, you kind of bare a part of your soul. It’s a little easier tobare your soul when you’re in a room with a bunch of people who are doing the same thing, i.e. on the social dance floor. It’s a lot harder when you’re in front of people you know or don’t know, and you know they are just watching you.

            From a non-performer’s standpoint, it’s easy to watch a performance and to criticize it or pick it apart. Oh, that person was late. Oh, the music selection was weird. Oh, I don’t like their costumes. Oh, it was too long. But what audience members have to remember is that performers are taking a huge risk by putting themselves on stage.

            They could fall. They could mess up. Any number of things can go wrong in a live performance—I’ve seen people puke, have nosebleeds, and break bones on stage.

            Besides physical risks, when someone is onstage, they are making themselves emotionally vulnerable. They are opening themselves up to criticism. They are creating a piece of moving art. They are tapping into some aspect of their emotional self and sharing it with the world.

            And that is scary!

            But the payoff is huge. There’s so much satisfaction that comes with performing. Seeing the progression of a piece rehearsal after rehearsal. Bonding with the your partners in crime in your dance group. Feeling accomplished from learning a piece of choreography and committing it to your muscle memory. Playing dress up in your costumes and make-up.

            And then there is the actual rush of performing itself. It’s like a high…your adrenaline is spiked before the moment you actually step on stage and that spike usually lasts through the performance and beyond. There’s the feeling of stage lights and eyes on your skin—nothing compares to it. And then when you’re done, hearing the applause. Realizing you did it. You performed.

            As soon as the last performance is over, you’re already looking for the next one.

            So despite Salsa dance performances (or any type of performance) being scary, making your heart pound, giving you anxiety and stress dreams before the show, they’re so worth it. You feel alive. You feel powerful. You feel accomplished. You feel wonderful. If performing is on your bucket list, then DO it. Find a place, find a way. You’ll thank yourself.

Thank you to all of my amazing Studio-to-Stagers past and present. This post is for you. I love you guys and I can’t wait for more rounds in the future.

What do you think? Do you perform? Have you experienced this? Or nah? Prefer to stay in the audience? Comment below!

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Why is Salsa a Worldwide Phenomenon?

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Why is Salsa a Worldwide Phenomenon?

Cultural phenomena fascinate me. The Beatles, Harry Potter, Michael Jackson, the Nae-Nae…phenomena like those that can transcend countries, classes, races, socio-economic statuses, gender, sexuality are incredible. We claim to be so different from one another, but if that’s the case, how do these things cross so many borders?

 Salsa is another cultural phenomenon that seems to be just about everywhere. From small towns in the States to metropolises in Thailand, it seems that you can go almost anywhere in the world and find people dancing Salsa. Why is that?

  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure it out and here are some of my theories.

Salsa Symbolizes A Wider World

            People who dance Salsa know that there’s a wider world out there. They know that there are people, places, and cultures, beyond the microcosm that they experience on a daily basis.  And they want to explore that wider world. Salsa, by it’s nature, exposes people to a variety of cultures in just one song. There are musical influences from all over the world in a single piece of music—just hearing a Salsa song transports you to another place or time.  By the same token, the dance draws upon influences from all over the world and people are constantly fusing new styles with it to keep it evolving and growing. There’s a sense of exploration and adventure you get from dancing Salsa that pushes people out of the confines of their daily lives.

Salsa Proves There Is “More to Life”

            There’s a special kind of abandon that I’ve only ever seen on the Salsa dance floor that shows without a shadow of a doubt that there is more to life than just working, paying bills, and dying. It’s what makes Salsa dancing so intoxicating—there are so few instances in our lives these days where we are truly present. On the dance floor, there are no phones, no emails, no obligations or stress. People look so happy to just BE there—it’s a space to not dwell on yesterday or to worry about tomorrow. Salsa dancing gives a life and energy that keeps you going through even the roughest of times.

Salsa Creates Human Connection

            Humans thrive on physical touch and community. We aren’t made to live in isolation, not talking to or touching each other. Salsa dancing gives an opportunity to just touch other people—in a respectful and not-creepy way. Human touch makes you feel loved, keeps you from feeling alone. Physical touch releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel like everything is right with the world—and also lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Part of the reason Salsa dancing is so addicting is because you get multiple hits of oxytocin every time you go out…so you leave feeling pretty damn good.

            What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Think there are other big important reasons I’ve missed?  Comment below!

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