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social dance

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How can I feel less intimidated on the social dance floor?

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Last night, a student asked "What is the best thing to do to overcome intimidation when social dancing?"

If you've asked yourself that before, you are not alone.

When you're first getting started, social dancing is scary as h***. 

Dozens of people spin around looking totally effortless, on a dark, crowded, loud dance floor. 

You can barely hear yourself talk, let alone think. 

You may or may not know other people there and it seems too hectic to try to introduce yourself to strangers, let alone dance with them. 

Does this sound familiar? 

Let me tell you a story.

When I first started dancing, I was a freshman at College of Charleston and would beg my friends to go to Southend Brewery or Toucan Reef with me for the Latin nights.

I did not have any friends in the Latin dance scene, and I would hug the edges of the dance floor, silently hoping someone would ask me to dance but too nervous to ask someone myself. I knew the basic step and that was about it. I thought my ballet background would get me through, but besides keeping my balance during turns, it hindered more than helped me because I carried myself stiffly and was NOT used to having to follow. 

But I was hooked, and went as often as I could and occasionally someone would take pity on me and I would stumble through a merengue or Salsa, totally lost and totally thrilled and totally frustrated at myself but determined to "get it." 

Eventually, I made a friend in the Salsa scene. And then she introduced me to the ever fabulous and welcoming Yaenette Dixon, who took me under her wing and introduced me to more and more dancers. 

I started taking classes and training with a performance team, Estilo Seis, and practicing with other dancers. Then I went to my first Salsa congress.

I spent the weekend taking classes and social dancing and, like magic (or it seemed like it), things started to make more sense. Like the counting. The pause on 4 and 8. That you always went back to the basic. The nuances of footwork during turns and different steps. Body motion. How to step. 

A whole new world opened up to me.

The Salsa congress, plus learning, practicing and making Salsa friends transformed my dancing.

Social dancing stopped being so scary and frustrating. I knew people in the scene who I could dance with and, more importantly, I understood more about the dance itself. 

There were people I still felt too intimidated to dance with, but my confidence grew the more I learned and the more I practiced. 

There's a point with social dancing where you have to just Nike it and DO IT. Like jumping into cold water, you have to just brace yourself and dive in and eventually you'll get used to it and warm up. 

But the amount of time it takes to "get used to it," decreases the more you prepare, practice and learn outside of social dancing. The more you can take classes, work on your moves, and meet other dancers, the easier the transition will be onto the dance floor. 

So , based on my experience, I advise this:

-Learn and practice outside of social dancing.
-Introduce yourself to other dancers. It may feel like an awkward networking event at first, but don't be afraid to take the first step. [Bonus from taking classes: you'll meet other people in the same boat.] 
-Push yourself to just do it-- go out social dancing, ask someone to dance, and be ok with your dance not being perfect.


It's not necessarily easy, but the pay off is worth it. You will grow as a dancer and as a person.

I still get intimidated when I go to big events and feel too shy and nervous to dance with certain people.

But the more I learn, the more I practice, the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

It feels awkward to whip out your phone and ask to add someone on Facebook, but it helps to know you'll see a familiar face next time you go out. 

Dance, like life, is a work in progress, and always will be.

 I hope this helps you get out on the dance floor. If you're not a member of the Holy City Salsa Dance Fam on Facebook yet, join our group and use it to connect with other dancers and stay informed about what's going on in the community.

As always, happy dancing!

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Closed position...how close is too close?

One of the questions that always comes up during classes is "How close should I be in closed position?"

To me, there's not a hard and fast rule. It's not like you're supposed to be exactly 11.25" away from your partner at all times. There are a few factors to consider for "ideal" placement: your body, your comfort level, and what the dance calls for. 

Check out this video and read on for more thoughts on closed position.

 

Some of your space will depend on individual anatomy...people with longer arms might be able to stand further away from someone and still be in the correct alignment (shoulder blades down the back, not "popping" out of socket). Partners who are significantly different heights will have to be closer together to accommodate the height differences. Everybody is different, and that's what makes dancing so beautiful!

Space also depends on personal preference. Some people need to maintain their "bubble" of personal space, especially with strangers. Also, if you're super sweaty, whoever you're dancing with *might* not want to be quite as close to you. True story: I was dancing with a guy who looked like he had gone swimming with his clothes on. Naturally, I was trying to stay as far away from him as a I could, even floating my left arm off of his body in closed position to try to stay dry. 

Other people, especially those who dance Sensual Bachata and Kizomba, like to go in and be super close. If you are going for a close hold, whoever initiates it (lead or follow), have good frame and be sensitive to your partners' needs and the needs of the dance. Some dances and some moves require a close hold because they rely on connection across the body, not just in hand placement and one shoulder. 

As always,one of the  goals of social dancing is to build trust between two people and make sure both partners feel confident. Happy dancing!

What do you think? What are your feelings on closed position? How close is too close? How do you lead or follow closed position in a way that's comfortable to you? 

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Places to Dance in Charleston May 2017

Figuring out where to dance can be tricky... here's our list of upcoming Latin nights and events in Charleston. As always, double-check with venues and organizers before stepping out. 

Happy Dancing!


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:  May 5***, May 19

May 5 Elite Dance International is hosting a special CINCO DE MAYO Party from 7:30-10 pm with a Bachata/Merengue lesson, performances, snacks and more. It's $15/person, $10 for students/military. This is separate from the Odd Friday Salsa Social and is more geared toward ballroom dancers.


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:  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: May 26


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: May 13


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: May 7, May 21


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.

 

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Practice Time: The Key to the Next Level

You know those dancers when you see them.

Every movement is flawless. Graceful. Smooth. Confident. 

They seem to glide across the floor, like butter melting in a hot pan.

Guess what? They're no different from you. They weren't born that way. They didn't wake up one day, magically able to dance.

They put in the time. The work. The sweat. The effort.

They practiced.

And...they continue to practice. 

Practice is the ONLY way to take your dancing to the next level... from where you are, to where you want to be. Practicing will maximize your enjoyment of dancing, because steps you once struggled with will become second nature. You'll be able to play with the music more. Experiment with expressing your personality and stop focusing merely on staying on beat. 

Common excuses people make about practicing:

I don't have anyone to practice with.

Use your connections! Put it out there on Facebook that you're looking for a practice partner. Ask your dance instructor to put you in touch with someone. Holy City Salsa dancers, use the Dance Fam group on Facebook to find a partner. If you're out dancing and you are dancing with someone you connect with, ask them if they'd like to get together and practice. You might feel awkward, like your'e asking someone on a date, but try this simple script.

"Hey, I really like dancing with you, and I want to take my dancing to the next level. Would you like to get together sometime and practice? Let's exchange info and pick out a time and date to practice."

I don't have time to practice.

Ever heard that quote that Einstein, Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Beyoncé, Lin-Manuel Miranda, [Insert your favorite accomplished person here] all had the same number of hours in a day as you? Does that excuse really hold up? If you want to do something, you'll make time for it. No questions asked. Block out your practice time the way you block out time for anything else, whether it's going to the gym, working, socializing, or catching up on Narcos. 

When you have a practice partner holding you accountable, you're more likely to practice as well, so find someone to work with you, and help you schedule your practices.

I don't have anywhere to practice.

Kitchens and living rooms usually have ample space for practicing, but if you are looking for a larger spot, consider seeing if your gym has a group fitness room you can use when classes aren't being held. Try renting out a dance studio, or asking a community space (a church, university, recreation center, park, etc), if you can rent or borrow space. I've practiced in gyms, on basketball courts, in living rooms, empty classrooms, hotel hallways, parking lots...use your imagination. An open floor usually equals a dance floor, IMO. 

If you're here in Charleston with us, come to an Open Practice Time at Holy City Salsa. Think of it as shared studio rental. You can use the floor, the mirrors, the sound system, and ask an instructor-on-duty questions. Be polite though!  Don't hog the instructor (s). If you want a private lesson, hire an instructor for a private lesson. Connect with your friends and fellow students through the Dance Fam Group on Facebook, and make a "practice date." Try it out for a month and see how much you improve through regular practice!

No matter who you are or what your level, you have to practice to maintain and improve. Challenge yourself to practicing today, even if it's just five minutes of walking through your moves while you're cooking dinner or practicing counting the music while your'e driving. Every little bit helps!

 

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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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