Tag Archives: Dance

What Makes a Great Dance Congress?: Dublin Fever Fest 2015

13 Oct

I danced so hard I caught a cold!

That’s exactly what happened to me a couple of weekends ago when I attended the 2nd Dublin Fever Fest, Ireland’s most recent Latin-dance congress and a show of how popular salsa and a whole spectrum of other dances have become in the Emerald Isle over the past few years.

How do you catch a cold from dancing? Well if you have to ask you’ve clearly never danced hard enough before 😛 . Continued heavy exercise can weaken your immune system and I’ve run myself down in the past after suddenly thinking it would be a good idea to go dancing every night for a week straight (I’m usually a 2 or 3 nights a week kind-of-guy). Fever Fest, however, was my first time catching a cold after only a weekend of dancing… well done Fever Fest.

Despite, running myself into the ground and catching a cold (which I still have by the way “sniff sniff”), I really had a blast at Dublin Fever Fest and I think it’s worth pointing out why; what made it special and maybe what could make it even better.

Size Matters!
Let’s be honest… it does! In the case of salsa congresses, they can be small local congresses with just one class at a time or they can be huge international congresses with thousands of attendees and multiple classes running simultaneously. They all have their own Pros and Cons.

Fever Fest is on the smaller side with about XXXX attendees in total and two classes at any one time. I have to admit that I really enjoy this type of “cozy” congress. By the end of the first day of workshops you get to dance and chat with a good portion of the attendees and knowing more people makes for much more enjoyable nights of social dancing.

One of the great advantages of smaller congresses is getting to know and dance with so many people in such a short time.

One of the great advantages of smaller congresses is getting to know and dance with so many people in such a short time.

Great International Teachers
Most people who go t congresses go for one of two reasons; to dance their asses off or to learn new skills from teachers they wouldn’t normally get the chance to learn from.

The line-up at Fever Fest was a great mix of mostly European teachers who, again due to the smaller size of the event, came together as a mini-family of “dance parents” who happily mingled during the event with their “dance kids”, the attendees.

While I usually don’t condone favoritism I have to mention one of the instructors in particular. The world famous Marco Ferigno, dance partner to the equally famous Karol Florez, gave a Master-class in Mambo Shines and it was simply… masterful. On top of being a simple astounding dancer, he also happened to be a very friendly, approachable and down-to-earth teacher. I was exhausted after an hour and a half of his rapid fire choreography, but happily so.

A great collection of talented and friendly teachers that really mixed with the festival goers.

A great collection of talented and friendly teachers and performers that really mixed with the festival goers.

A Class Act
While the actual teachers at a congress are vitally important, the type of classes they teach are just as important. Everyone is used to doing the good old staples like “LA Partnerwork” or “Ladies Styling” and these were duly represented at Fever Fest. However, they were supplemented with novel classes such as Boogaloo and Reggaeton. This is the kind of refreshing variety that makes a congress worth attending; classes that take us out of our comfort-zone and expose us to new styles and techniques that broaden our horizons as dancers.

It’s full of Dancing Irish People
While I may have the internet rights to call myself “The Dancing Irishman”, the dance-floor of Fever Fest was full of many more Dancing Irish People just as worthy of the title. Fair enough, the dance community in Ireland has a huge expat component but I really think that if you want to party with the Irish, there’s no better place to do it than on home-turf.

Great social dancing is a must at any congress and Fever Fest didn't disappoint.

Great social dancing is a must at any congress and Fever Fest didn’t disappoint.

Show me something new
Last but by no means least, I need to mention the performances at Fever Fest. For most people, the most important parts of a congress are the classes and the social dancing and while I feel mostly the same myself, I was definitely impressed with what I saw. To begin with the first performance of the weekend involved four stunningly beautiful women shaking their ample booties in what could only be described as some form of urban/latin/funk… that got me hooked. On top of that there was the usual mix of excellent performances by both professionals and student groups that one would expect at a congress but one in particular stood out. An original choreography by the MC of Fever Fest, Azael Salazar and Nadezda Antipenko simply blew me away. The contemporary piece that Azael described as being about the desire to be with someone you can’t be with literally left me with my jaw hanging. By far the highlight of all that was on show. One final good point about all the performances is that they didn’t outstay their welcome every night. They kept them short and sweet and they didn’t reduce the actual social dance time too much at all.

Quite possibly one of the best contemporary dance performances that I've ever seen.

Quite possibly one of the best contemporary dance performances that I’ve ever seen.

I’ll be back
All in all, Fever Fest impressed me, especially as a congress that is still in its infancy. Even though I don’t live in Ireland any more I can see myself making the trip to this great event on a yearly basis.

Great classes, great performances and a great dancing… what more could you ask for?

Keep dancing folks!

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S#!t Salseros Do

23 Sep

Salsa will change your life!

I think it’s fair enough to say that anyone who starts dancing salsa (or any social dance for that matter) sees some fairly noticeable changes in their life after a short amount of.

We change, we become different from the “muggles” (a term used to refer to people without magic powers in the Harry Potter series) (NOTE: I’ve never read the books but someone told me the term in reference to non-dancers and I liked it). So yeah, once we’re accepted into the Secret Society of Salsa (S.S.S.) we become different from the muggles… those without magical powers of salsa.

Here’s a little list of some of those things that we often do now as salseros, which we never did before.

  • When stepping onto a relatively large floor, like in a restaurant, bar or even someone’s home, twisting the ball of your foot from side to side on the surface to gauge the friction and therefore dance potential.
  • Subtly nodding to yourself and giving a look of appreciation when the above floor meets your standards.
  • Your adrenaline rises and your heartbeat accelerates when you hear a salsa song played in a completely non-salsa setting.
  • The above reaction is intensified when you’re together with another salsero and give each other that look of knowing something that no one else there knows.
  • You dress better and suddenly become far more adventurous with your wardrobe. This could be the skin-tight sparklies common in performances, a revealing little dress with some added flare for the ladies or for the men… you know what I’m gonna say… waistcoats 😉

    Yup, that's a salsa dancer right there!

    Yup, that’s a salsa dancer right there!

  • Doing some serious shoulder and hip movement when you’re dancing to “normal” music. Even listening to music at the bus stop is enough to make you bust a little move if you think you can get away with it
  • Drinking much less alcohol. Gotta maintain some level of balance!
  • Packing for weekend salsa congress becomes a serious logistical dilemma when trying to pack enough clothes for 3 nights of social and two days of workshops into a little carryon bag.
  • Having a weeks worth of laundry to do after said weekend becomes totally normal.
  • Sweating profusely becomes second nature!

    The damn song didn't even last 4 minutes and look at me.

    The damn song didn’t even last 4 minutes and look at me.

  • For the ladies, trying to find make-up that will survive all the sweating so you don’t end up looking like the girl from “The Ring” by the end of the night.

    Make-up smudging half way through a kizomba night

    Make-up smudging half way through a kizomba night

  • For the guys, bringing a few extra t-shirts when going out is a fact of life.
  • Listening and tapping your foot along to normal music and trying to figure out if you could dance to it.
  • Close physical contact with complete strangers is no longer a problem for you.
  • Reacting to breaks in music in public with a subtle body movement followed by looks of concern from the people around you.
  • Feeling slightly awkward at other social functions where no one is dancing.
  • When trying on new shoes the first thing you do is a spin test to see if you could dance in them.
  • Dance classes/nights out/congress’ etc become monthly fixed expenses, just as important as rent and electricity.
  • Personal hygiene becomes even more of a priority.
  • Planning a vacation now involves the essential step of looking up possible latin clubs at your destination.
  • You become incredibly critical of “salsa dancing” you see in popular movies or on TV… “I could do better than that”!
  • You always have chewing gum.
  • Your social circle explodes and Facebook friend requests blow up after a congress.
  • You constantly say that you’re going to learn Spanish so you can understand the lyrics of your favorite songs… but it never quite happens.
  • Standing in front of a full-length mirror is a perfect opportunity for some shines or body isolations.
  • You feel like a living legend if any of your “muggle” friends ever see you dancing with another salsero.
  • You ask complete strangers to dance and accept dances from complete strangers… I’m pretty sure no one did that before starting salsa.
  • Hearing a particular song brings back really powerful memories of that amazing dance you had with that cute girl/guy a while back… ufff!
  • Ladies, some of you have probably decided you didn’t need to buy groceries for a week just so you could get that new pair of dance shoes that caught your eye (to be honest, this one probably isn’t that different from the muggles). diamond
  • Men, you have become unfazed by ridiculing comments made by your non-dancing, male friends and family.
  • You pass other salseros, who you don’t know but have seen out dancing, on the street and you give each other “the nod” and subtle smile of salsa acknowledgement! You both walk away feeling special.
  • Random body rolls 😀

The list could go on.

So, what do you think? Do you recognize any of these new habits in yourself since joining the world of salsa?

Or what have I left out? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Keep dancing folks.

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The Secret Step Between Dance Class and the Dance Floor!

27 Aug

Phase 1: Collect Underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit

It’s that simple, right? You know where to start and you know where you want to end up! So getting from Phase 1 to Phase 3 should be a walk in the park…

…not without Phase 2, buddy.

You need to know “HOW”!
If you’re like me (and I’m not so odd that there’s no one out there that can relate) then the following scenario will be very familiar:

You go to dance class, excited and filled with the desire to learn

You learn the new pattern/technique and have it nailed by the end of class… Yippee!

You go out on the weekend dying to bust out your new move

You step out on the dance floor and suddenly your mind goes blank

How did it even start? Did I really go to that class? Are those my feet?

And yet another sweet move is thrown into the ever expanding “Could have been great” junk-pile in the dark recesses of your mind, never to be used again.

This is probably my most common face on the dance-floor!

This is probably my most common face on the dance-floor!

Stupid Brain
Truth be told, we can’t blame all of our “salsa” forgetfulness on our brains or on the dance class itself. It’s become my catchphrase at this point and it still holds true “You learn the moves in class but you learn to dance on the dance-floor”.

There is however an often forgotten or ignored step in between that most people should really consider incorporating into their salsa development…

Practice at Home!
I know from my own experience that I simply cannot remember a new move or technique after a single dance class. I just can’t. I need to practice that move until it becomes automatic, until muscle memory takes over and I no longer need to rely on my “stupid brain” to “think” about what I need to do next.

There is only one way to save a movement to muscle memory and that, my dancing friends, is repetition. The amount of repetition probably varies from person to person but I’d wager that very few individuals can memorize a move from the limited amount of times you repeat it in a dance class. To those of you who can, congratulations… I hate you!

So what’s to be done? It’s rather simple really: Find yourself a partner willing to join you and practice at home.

Home Sweet Home
There are a few advantages to practicing at home that you will not find anywhere else:

  • Home is comfortable and safe and no one else can see you making mistakes
  • You can practice at your own pace, not having to worry about keeping up with other people in a class
  • You can focus on the parts of a move that you find particularly tricky
  • You can dance like an absolute imbecile and no-one will ever know
  • You can review videos you’ve taken from class to help you work on your technique
  • You can play music you like at a pace your comfortable with (building from slower to faster)
  • You can eat a burger or a pizza or an ice-cream sundae while practicing (as long as you share with your partner)
  • You can wear whatever you want (or don’t want). Superman pijamas… Hell Yeah (once again, as long as your partner is cool with it)
If this makes you feel comfortable while dancing... go with it. I have a pair myself!

If this makes you feel comfortable while dancing… go with it. I have a pair myself!

The Importance of Comfort
I regularly talk about how important it is to get out of your comfort zone in order to improve (at anything). I firmly believe it to be true but I also know that to be able to get out of our comfort zone, it has to exist in the first place. What I mean is that we should practice a move until it becomes comfortable to us. Until it becomes incorporated into our muscle memory. The best way to do that is to practice in a controlled, comfortable safe, environment with someone we trust (your dance partner needs to be a friend or at least someone you feel comfortable with).

Once you’ve nailed a move through repetition with one partner, once you’re comfortable, then it’s time to take it onto the dance-floor and step out of that comfort zone and practice it “in the wild”.

That middle step, that “Phase 2” of practicing yourself and committing a movement to muscle memory is what will help take full advantage of what you learn in class and transfer it to the dance-floor.

Keep dancing folks!

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Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex

28 Jul

We’re going to talk about the evolution of the female dancer!

As titles go, it might seem like I’m really grabbing at straws with “Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex” but there’s a great back story to it and some interesting insight into the stages that make up the development of the most amazing social dancers you will ever have the pleasure of sharing a dance-floor with.

In the beginning, there was woman
So I’m sitting in a cafe in Barcelona with my buddy Tyler who I haven’t seen in almost 3 years, since my days back in Cali, Colombia. Tyler and I share a ridiculous amount in common. We both have backgrounds in martial arts which had led us to live in Asia for a time (Tyler in China and me in Japan), we both had decided that there was more to life than slaving away at a job we hated so we decided to travel instead and we both ended up in Cali, to do the same 2 things; learn Spanish and, more importantly, dance!

So, it was great to catch up with him after such a long time and hear the stories of his adventures over the past few years. After catching up, the conversation naturally turned to women (as has been known to happen when men are speaking with each other 😉 ). Tyler is what I would call a very spiritually evolved individual and he suddenly started talking about 3 different types of women he had met in his life, each one an evolution from the previous with the final, most evolved, most balanced form described by him as this “beautiful gorgeous feminine vortex“! I have no idea how he came up with the term. More than likely he just pulled it out of his a$$ right there and then… but it stuck with me.

So how does this relate to dance?
As Tyler was describing these 3 different types to me, my brain immediately started making the connection with salsa and I realized he was also describing a very interesting way of looking at different types of dancers. I’m going to do my best in this article to try and convey this concept to you, not because I believe everything fits into a neat definition (that idea actually annoys me) but because we, as humans, do like to put things into groups because it makes understanding concepts easier (and because I need to write an article before the end of the month 😀 )

Type 1
Type 1 is the earliest, most basic form of the female dancer. She is content with just leaving the man lead and following along. She has no real interest in doing shines or anything with too much flair. She may be technically very, very good (or not) but her main goal is to get through the dance in the most uneventful way possible. She doesn’t particularly feel any need to contribute to the creativity of the dance and so all dances with her might appear to be very, very similar. More than anything else, this type is defined by both a lack of self confidence and a lack of emotion while dancing.

Type 2
Type 2 is an evolution from Type 1. The easiest way to conceptualize this dancer is to imagine a high powered female executive. She is brimming with confidence and drive to achieve her goals. She has worked hard to achieve the level of skill she has attained and she wants people to know how good she really is. So much so that she might actually come off as aggressive or bossy on the dance floor. She’s not happy with the idea of a man leading her entirely in the dance and will often break away herself to do the shines she wants to do, the way she wants to do them. She want’s to dominate in the dance, to prove that she can do everything, at the expense of her partner. Once again, her dances are probably technically wonderful but they can probably make her partner feel like he was just an afterthought, a tool necessary to actually achieve the dance, but not an integral part of it.

Type 3
This is the final evolution of the female dancer. She has been through the other stages and learned a great deal from them. She is confident and aware of what she is capable of (which is a great deal) but she has tempered that confidence with the ability to allow herself to happily be led on the dance floor. That said, she contributes to the creativity of the dance with her energy, her shines, her flair and the connection she creates with her partner. This is what sets her apart from the other two types; the connection that she allows herself to become part of. She isn’t concerned with how she looks or what else is going on around her, she is there, in the moment, totally present. The dance is neither about her nor her partner. The dance is what they both create, together, with the music, in a continuous game of give and take that is unique every time you dance with her. After a dance with this evolved, balanced dancer both people walk way feeling that they gained something from the dance, from the connection that was momentarily created. This is the Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex!

There is nothing quite like a dance with a Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex.

There is nothing quite like a dance with a Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex.

 

It’s that good
I once wrote an article called “The Cloudy Dancer” that spoke more of the technical side of dancing with a wonderful dancer like a Type 3. However, in this article I’m getting more into the “why” regarding other factors and not just the actual skill level. Let’s be honest, just because someone is a wonderful “technical” dancer doesn’t mean you are going to fully enjoy a dance with them on the level I’m talking about here . The connection that is created is essential to reach the highest levels of dance pleasure and enjoyment. That connection is what creates unforgettable dance experiences.

No rush
With all that said I bet there are a few people, just starting out in the world of dance, thinking that none of this applies to them. I would say, “think again”. While technical ability has its part to play in creating a great dance, connection is what makes dances memorable and you don’t need to be the greatest dancer in the world to establish that connection. That said, time, practice and experience will feed themselves into the evolution of every dancer provided they don’t get bogged down in one of the other stages, meaning everyone has that potential for incredible dances on a technical and connection-based level.

What about the guys?
What about ’em? … Just kidding 😉 . Leads too, go through an evolution in their dancing. My buddy, Tyler has also put them into 3 groups but that’s for another article entirely (if I get round to it). Suffice it to say that the ultimate dance can be had when both partners have evolved to stage 3, where both are willing to be part of something more than the sum of their parts. Where the connection is real and both partners contribute and no-one dominates.

Now that sounds like a great dance to me.

Keep dancing folks.

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Dancing is just like Sex (and not in a good way!)

28 May

“Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire”

It’s funny that one of my favorite dance-related quotes should be written by a fellow Irishman, George Bernard Shaw.

Dancing is just like sex
We’ve all heard somebody say it at some time, in various guises;

you’ve got to take it slow at the start…
you need to discover what your partner likes…
you should change things up a bit to keep it interesting…
the best kind gets you all hot and sweaty…
the more you do it the better you get etc… 

I could go on… believe me!

We often want to focus and compare the agreeable facets of dance and sex. That’s perfectly natural, they’re both very enjoyable pass times so it’s easy to focus on the good.

It’s not all Pirouettes and Pillow-Talk
So, I’m going to be “That Guy” who has to focus on the negative. You know, the one who has to poke holes in everything.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to (intentionally) ruin dance or sex for anyone (fingers crossed!!!). You might actually find what I’m going to say to be pretty helpful.

Imagination Land
Ok, so for you to grasp this concept I’m going to need you to use your imagination and a little bit of memory. Once again, don’t worry, this is not going to turn into anything “NSFW”… unless you work in a convent (in which case it’s time to stop reading).

Imagine you’ve been seeing someone for a while. You’ve gone on a few dates, and had a great time. You’ve really enjoyed the conversations, laughed at each others jokes, maybe you’ve even gone dancing and had a blast. Things couldn’t be any better… or so you think.

You eventually take things to the next level, you know, because all the kids are doing it these days. You have sex… and it just isn’t good!!!

Sometimes it's just not good (someone should tell him to try it the other way around, though)

Sometimes it’s just not good (someone should tell him to try it the other way around, though)

What the hell just happened?!
You rack your brains. How can this be?

You know you’re good 😉 . You’ve had great sex before, many times. You felt a connection with the person and you’re attracted to them. What went wrong?

The Answer: Absolutely Nothing…
The simple truth is that sometimes we encounter people with whom we are just “Sexually Incompatible”. All that means is that despite all the signs pointing towards attraction and chemistry and what not… THE SEX JUST DOESN’T WORK!!!

It doesn’t matter how good you are… it doesn’t matter how good they are… nor how many times you’ve had amazing sex in the past… with other people. The sad truth of the matter is that you two were not meant to have great sex and no frequency of repetition seems to solve it (God loves a tryer though!)

Unfortunately, it's not always going to be like this

Unfortunately, it’s not always going to be like this

Now, let’s talk about dance
I’ll give you a specific example from my own life.

I did a group choreography once and had a great partner who was (and even more so now, is) an excellent dancer. We got on great, practiced really well together and when it came to performing on stage (in various venues), we really nailed the choreo.

However, when it comes to social dancing, it just doesn’t work for us. It’s very hard to describe but our dances feel (and look, I’d imagine) awkward. She’ll agree with me on this, completely. She’s a great dancer, I’m not awful and we both have great dances with other people… but when we dance together, it just doesn’t work. Be it salsa or bachata, it doesn’t matter… we’re “Dance Incompatible”. We’ve given ourselves plenty of chances to test it out too. No dice!

Is it disappointing? Yes! I’d love to be able to have great dances with all my friends. Is their anything I can do about it? Probably not. It’s just one of those things I need to accept as being outside of my influence. From experience, it doesn’t seem to be something I can practice my way around and get better. It’s something inexplicable, just like sexual chemistry (or lack thereof).

Sometimes, no matter how well you dance with others, there's always someone who it just doesn't quite work out with.

Sometimes, no matter how well you dance with others, there’s always someone who it just doesn’t quite work out with.

So there’s no hope?
This article was basically my (typically longwinded) way of saying:

“Sometimes we will meet people with whom we will never have a good dance… and that’s ok!”

It happens. It’s not the end of the world. Just accept it and stop worrying about it. It doesn’t mean you have to stop dancing with that person. Just stop being so hard on yourself because it’s not “great”. Not everyone you dance with will be your Cloudy Dancer.

Being “Dance Incompatible” with ONE person does not make you a bad dancer, just as being “sexually incompatible” with ONE person does not make you a bad lover (every man reading this is nodding his head in agreement right now).

Keep dancing folks!

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The Sneaky Trick that Every Salsa Beginner Needs to Know (Better salsa in just 60 seconds)

19 Jun
60 seconds will soon add up!

60 seconds will soon add up!

This article is an expansion of a point I made in one of my first articles on how to dance salsa.

One of the hardest things for any salsa beginner is asking someone out for a dance, especially someone you don’t know.

However, asking is just the beginning of your worries because when you ask someone out to dance you are pretty much making a contract. It’s a contract that contains two main clauses; (1) you are going to dance with the person and in doing so (2) you are going to entertain the person (through your skills on the dance-floor… one hopes). You need to dance with this person for the full length of the song (at least 3 or 4 minutes) keeping things interesting with all the different moves and patterns which you have apparently learned up until this point.

This means that if you don’t fulfill either of the aforementioned clauses you are in breach of contract. You have reneged on your promise. You have been a very naughty boy and you must be punished!

Thankfully, this punishment doesn’t come in the form of the your partner screaming at the top of her lungs for everyone to hear, how bad you suck at dancing (although she may tell her friends). Nor does it entail you having to wear a large luminous-yellow hat stating “Please Dance with Caution! Sucky and Boring!” for all the other dancers to see and ridicule (although I will admit this appeared in the majority of dance related nightmares I had when I first started dancing salsa).

No, the punishment comes in how you make yourself feel when you believe that you haven’t performed well. You make yourself feel stupid and useless, like the previous few weeks or months of salsa classes have come to naught, like you have no business out there on the dance floor with the other people who “supposedly” can dance.

In short it can be a Salsa Career Killer!

Every beginner feels this way at the start
I can guarantee you that this “fear” of not performing to expectation was one of the main reasons that I had so much trouble in asking people out to dance when I first started and this was one of the specific reasons that I was so slow to improve during my first year.

I was so nervous about what I was capable (or incapable) of doing, nervous that I was going to bore my partner that I would spend nights at salsa clubs dancing virtually exclusively with my girlfriend or one or two friends in order to avoid the risk of making a fool of myself with people I didn’t know.

One thing that made it worse for me was the fact that I learned salsa in Japan. That meant that if I went to a salsa club I stuck out big time (fair hair, pale skin and the beard). In general, the only other foreigners in the clubs at the time were the foreign instructors so that meant some people would assume that I was… you know… good! This only added to the pressure I  felt.

You learn the moves in class, you learn to dance on the floor!
That’s the paradox, you don’t want to dance because you think you suck but the only way you’ll actually improve is by dancing.

So what can you do. For me, the main issue was the length of salsa songs. I could relatively confidently lead the basic steps, a cross-body lead, a basic turn and a cross-body with turn. The problem was that if I had to constantly repeat those few moves over the course of a 4 minute song I started to freak out. Big time!

So, I came up with a little trick. A cheat that helped get me out dancing with other people and saved me having to worry about entertaining for the length of an entire song. It’s a trick that I am happily going to share with you as I know it will get your beginner salsa progress off to a flying start.

Here it is: all you need to do is wait for a song to start, wait a further 2-3 minutes and then invite someone out to dance for the last minute! That’s it. You’ll have about one minute of pure, unadulterated dance time. If you don’t know many moves, you won’t have to worry about boring someone for a full 4 minute (approx.) song and if you feel that you suck, all will be over in about 60 seconds. You’ll have gained valuable dance experience and (hopefully) your ego will still me intact

That’s it! If you’re a beginner, hopefully that will get you out dancing more regularly and with more people and that is all you need to start improving.

More Dances + More Partners = Better Salsa

Obviously this isn’t going to continue forever. You’ll quickly get better, learn more moves, gain more confidence and soon enough not even an 8 minute song will be enough for you and your mad salsa skills.

This one little trick was all I needed to get over my fear of boring someone on the floor. I may have only been dancing for a minute at a time but those minutes add up and they make all the difference.

Now get out there and wait for some songs to be nearly over 😉

Keep Dancing Folks!

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Stick to your Guns (How to make new habits automatic)

31 Jan
Image

If I hadn’t stuck with salsa I’d never have learned just how much fun dance really is!

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine a few months ago, a guy who had traveled to Colombia to find a new, less stressful life much like myself.

He was working here and telling me how much he disliked his new job (he had started a little over a week before) and how he had read from some online guru that people shouldn’t spend their lives doing things that they don’t enjoy. He told me how much he agreed with this “guru” (he quit said job less than a week later) and how he firmly believed that people should constantly pursue new experiences.

“I don’t want to be the kind of guy that can’t remember the last time he tried something new” he told with a smile and a lot of confidence. “I want to try new things as much as I can”, “That’s” how you live your life”!

I felt a little sorry for him as soon as he said it!

Not that I disagree with him. I really believe that new experiences keep life interesting and keep us, as people, on our toes both physically and mentally. If you can’t remember the last time you tried your hand at something new, you really should take a good look at your life to make sure you’re not sinking into a rut.

My problem with what my friend said stems from that fact that he was so fervent about his belief in “new experiences” that he forgot how important it is to dedicate time to ones endeavors, to develop them beyond the superficial.

I’ll explain this the best way I know how; through salsa.

Let’s assume that when you went to your first salsa party a few years ago you were looking at salsa as your new experience. Let’s say you stuck with it for a few classes and learned the basic steps, a cross body lead and a turn or two and were pretty proud of yourself for it.

Then you decided to take up spear-fishing! All in the pursuit of new experiences.

You would never have learned the things that you have in all the time you’ve been dancing. You would never have learned how to enjoy music and dance as much as you do now. More importantly you wouldn’t know all the amazing people that you have met thanks to the world of dancing.

Give it time
As I said, new experiences are amazing but if you don’t dedicate yourself to new activities, you’ll never experience them the way they’re supposed to be. You’ll have just scratched the surface, thrown them a superficial glance and missed out on all the secrets that would have been revealed to you had you only “stuck to your guns”.

New Year, New You
I’m mentioning this now at the end of January because I’m sure many of you started out the year with great intentions and I’m also sure that many of you have thrown some of those goals out the window, just as I have.

Doing something new is easy the first time in the sense that you don’t need to dedicate yourself to it. Keeping it up is what’s tough, keeping it up is what takes effort and keeping it up is what reaps the greatest rewards.

My first salsa class was fun and, in a way, easy because I didn’t have any expectations for myself. I knew I was going to suck. Sticking with salsa for my first year however was tough. The few salsa parties I went to (they were surprisingly hard to find in rural Japan. Who’d have thought?) were like torture. I was terrified of making mistakes and beat myself up after for not having the confidence to ask more people out to dance. I thought to myself many times how easy it would be to just not bother, to give up and try something else.

However I also knew that if I stuck with it I’d be able to do the amazing things that I saw all those people doing on the dance floor and I’d be able to enjoy it as much as they seemed to be.

So I stuck to my guns and now they’re fully loaded (sweet pun, I know). I can dance (something I never imagined I’d be able to do) and dance has improved my life in many more ways than I can go into here.

Give yourself time
All dancing aside, if you want to achieve something, anything, you have to be dedicated to it.

How many of you said that you were going to eat healthier this year and are currently munching on the stale doughnuts you found at the bottom of your handbag? How many of you said you were going to get yourself a new job and your old resume remains only partially updated from the time when you got your last job?

Research these days says that for a new habit to stick, you need to stick with it for between 20-28 days. What that means is that if you try something regularly for just 3-4 weeks you break through a certain wall and suddenly maintaining that habit becomes a hell of a lot easier.

3-4 weeks is not a lot of time but that doesn’t mean that being dedicated that whole time is easy. It’s not. But if you stick it out, if you put up with the unpleasantness and inconvenience for just a few weeks your body will reward you by making it a whole lot easier for you. You’re not running uphill anymore, you’re cruising on the flat and straight road to victory.

Obviously 3-4 weeks doesn’t apply to everything. I takes me much more time to get used to something but from experience I know that there comes a time in every endeavor when things suddenly become easier, when things make sense and it all becomes a whole lot of fun.

I experienced it in salsa when my basic step became automatic and freed up my arms to do combinations and I’ve experienced it with Japanese and Spanish when I learned enough vocabulary and grammar to make conversations automatic instead of tediously over-thought.

Automation
In fact, that might be just it. You just need to give something new enough time for it to become automatic. Once that happens it’s clear skies and a nice wind at your back.

So what is it you want to do or learn?

If you want to get fitter then dedicate 3-4 weeks to going to the gym or going jogging at least 3 days a week.

If you want to eat less junk-food make yourself a promise that you won’t touch the stuff for a whole month.

Give yourself a month and once you start to see and feel the benefits you won’t need anymore will-power to help you achieve your goals. You’ll have made it automatic and that’s when the real magic starts to happen.

Forget January guys, your month starts here.

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Fiona Uyema

Japanese Cookbook Author

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