Links on this page: ephemera : events : venues : tips : easier for women? : footwear : my progress
I started Salsa dancing at the end of April 2003. Salsa is a free-form style of dancing originating in South America. Salsa means "sauce" in Spanish and when you see expert salsa dancers, you can see why! There's some information about salsa's origins and the different styles on Club Salsa. I do remember one drunken evening spent dancing in a night club in Bogota, but that is just a hazy, distant, though enjoyable memory now! Looking at some of the expert dancers is both daunting and exhilarating! There's some information about basic steps at Salsa Basics. I didn't go to salsa much for a few years due to finances, but have been going more often recently, as I decided the improvement to my health and well-being outweighs the cost. I enjoy both LA and Cuban Salsa, and my Bachata is slowly improving.
See me dancing Salsa in Lille in 2004, which has been downloaded over 30,000 times to date! I have created a slowed-down video of the special move I learnt in Lille at my Salsa in Lille 2003 report.
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You can also see my short Lille Salsa 2006 video.
See my yoga page for some information about Salsa and Yoga workshops.
I was sent an email from about arts: dance resources, a directory of dance-related websites and discussion groups. I hope you find it useful.
If you disagree with anything on this page, or have any comments, please email me.
This section is for fleeting thoughts and news of recent salsa events (ephemera is from the Greek 'ephmeron', meaning daily or short-lived.)
9 October 2009 I enjoyed Babylon Lounge tonight, and danced several times with Vanessa.
16 October 2009 I went to Babylon Lounge tonight, and enjoyed the lessons, and the dance with Linda.
25 October 2009 I went to Salsa at the White Hart Inn at Lewes tonight. They just restarted lessons after a gap of around a year. Doors opened at 1900 and the lessons started about 15 minutes later, with Salsa and Merengue warm-ups. I did the intermediate lesson, which was a good sequence. The advanced class looked good too, but I wanted to get back into the swing of things slowly. There was a Merengue class, which I also enjoyed. After the lessons, quite a few women left, particularly from the intermediate class, so there was a bit of a gender imbalance. Overall, there was a friendly atmosphere and I will return.
1 November 2009I went back to the White Hart Hotel, Lewes. The lessons were good and I enjoyed the sequence, but mostly enjoyed all the dancing afterwards. I danced with everyone from the intermediate class and quite a few others, and feel my confidence returning.
I've had some tips passed on to me by various people, and some I've discovered through experience:
Send more tips here.top
No, I don't have any deep, hidden longing for a sex-change, but I think Salsa is much easier for a woman!
In Salsa the man has to lead. Put that bluntly, it doesn't seem much of a deal, but having responsibility for putting the sequences together is yet another thing to think of when just getting your feet to move in time with the music seems an insurmountable problem, and communicating the next step to your partner, without words, is even more daunting.
The problem I faced as a beginner, was that when I concentrated on my feet, I forgot to lead, or led diffidently, so my partner wasn't sure what we were doing next...
When I concentrated on leading, I forgot to move my feet, or lost the beat
... and when I tried to put the steps together in a sequence, I sometimes lost the plot completely!
On the dance-floor, I used to feel like a rabbit in car headlights, frozen with fear and indecision, but as I go to more sessions, I feel much more confident.
I was sad to hear a woman tell someone recently that she only stayed for the lessons then went home as she was afraid nobody would dance with her. What a pity! If you pluck up the courage to ask someone they'll nearly always be pleased to dance. I have to admit that I'm still sometimes a little diffident about asking people for a dance, but I'm delighted when someone asks me, so if you're a Salsera, do drag me onto the dance floor.
If you disagree with what I've said. or have any comments, please let me know.top
In this section, I'll highlight other events.
I haven't been to Salsa for months, so jumped at the chance to get to this special annual event at the White Hart Lewes on Saturday 23 December. We arrived, uncharacteristically, late, but luckily so did everyone else, so we were in time for the lessons.
I was in a red shirt with red trousers and matching hair, and Chris wore a red dress. There were many other interesting outfits on display, including half-naked Santas and a very naughty nun.
The lesson was fun, but, as always, they tried to teach a very long sequence. It was more like a memory game than Salsa, and I forgot most of it almost immediately. I wish they would teach a shorter, more complex, sequence that mere mortals would have a chance of remembering - I still remember the complex sequence I was taught on the Lille 2004 Salsa holiday.
After the lesson, I danced with a couple of partners, but mainly with Chris - I am still lacking in confidence after such a long break from regular lessons.
Only a week after my last Salsa excursion and I was putting on the dancing shoes again. The weather was shocking, with driving wind and horizontal rain, so Chris and I took her car, and I volunteered to be the designated driver. We arrived at the Babylon Lounge in plenty of time to be greeted by a somewhat worried-looking Trevor.
This was the first-ever Babylon Lounge New Year's Eve party, so he wasn't sure whether enough people would come. He needn't have worried - after a quiet first lesson, people started arriving, and it was a lively crowd (and a relaxed Trevor) that greeted the New Year a few hours later.
I was feeling more confident so danced with more people and had a great time. Overall, I danced more salsa this evening than I had over the last twelve months, and felt it in my calves the next morning. I do feel my confidence returning as I manage to remember more moves, and hope to resume Salsa on a regular basis over 2007.
I have enjoyed great Salsa breaks in Lille in the past and enjoyed 2006 (see my Lille 2004 Salsa report and associated poem, and Salsa in Lille 2003). See my report for 2006...
It was on the weekend of 07-10 July, travelling via Dover - Calais by Seafrance, on the spacious silver coach arriving late in Lille.
There was a full programme of teaching, dancing & sightseeing opportunities during Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and we arrived back in Sussex late on Monday.
The cost was only £130 per person (single accommodation subject to availability £50 extra), including all travel, 3 nights accommodation with substantial breakfasts based on en-suite twin rooms, all teaching, and 'in-house' dancing. Contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org, on 01825 872574 or 01825 830708 for details of future events.
Saturday 17 December It's the famous (or should that be infamous) Red, Religious, or Rude Party. Returning for its fourth great year at The White Hart in Lewes between 20:30 and 01:00, it features Julian the duke DJ Numero uno, plus Frankie Santos Salsa and Bachata Master Class, and more. It promises to be great fun. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it as I'm looking after my children that weekend, bur read my report on the red, religious, or rude Salsa Christmas party 2004.
Again they asked for outrageous, shameless, wanton, bawdy, and festive costumes! As Santa says, "I only come once a year, but I'll fill your stockings". They wanted scarlet harlots, rouged pimps, red devils (and devilets), bad santas and evil elves, defrocked vicars, fallen bishops, naughty nuns, mad monks and slutty snowmen - and, do you know, I think they'll get them...
Friday 06 June Chris and I went to an arabian night event at The White Hart Hotel in Lewes. Read the report.
Friday 31 Dec This year, Chris and I went to a Salsa New Year's dance at The Albany (Lions) Hotel in Eastbourne. Read the Salsa New Year's dance report.
Friday 3 Dec was the Xmas Salsa party at the White Hart Hotel in Lewes. Classes started at 20:30, but the fun continued until 01:00.
Last year (see below), I wore red socks, trousers, a red and white shirt and covered my hair with Lazer Red florescent hair gel, and this year I wore a similar outfit. It was a fantastic evening. Read the report on red, religious, or rude, Salsa Christmas party 2004.
10 November Sadly, I couldn't get tickets for Deep Mamboo at the Komedia as they sold out again (I tried to go last December). This ten-piece band specialises in up-tempo, party-time music using vocals, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion. As they say, "Join the party and you won't be able to keep your feet still!". I must try to get tickets next time.
13 February I took my daughter to Clair Hall, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath tonight to see - and dance to - La Receta, one of the hottest live salsa bands on the UK scene. It's from 20:00 to 01:00 - but I had to leave at around 23:00 to get her to bed at a reasonable time. It was £10, including lessons. See www.salsamagic.co.uk for more information.
19 December the last Babylon Lounge event of the year, but it was in the downstairs room, which I don't usually enjoy so much. However it was great! The LA class was small but challenging, and the Cuban class combined beginners and advanced. I enjoyed this class. Firstly because Emmanuel is always great fun, and secondly because it really gives you good practice in leading. During the free dancing after the lessons, I danced with lots of people from the class and they were surprised to find they could do such moves as Dile Que No!, Enchufla and Setenta!
5 December was the Xmas Salsa party at the White Hart Hotel in Lewes. There was a Flamenco lesson and some demonstrations. Classes started at 20:15, but the fun continued until 01:00.
They asked for our most outrageous, stunning, sexy, shameless, wanton, chic, holy, bawdy, and festive costumes ever, and wow, did they get them! Topless Santas in loin cloths, naughty nuns and randy reverends vied with basques, swooping red dresses and mesh-panelled black numbers that revealed much and covered little.
I wore red socks, trousers, a red and white shirt and covered my hair with Lazer Red florescent hair gel. My self-confidence was raised considerably when someone said after a Salsa with me, "That was my best dance of the evening." In keeping with the theme, I drank red wine through the evening - but suffered later. I recovered the next morning with tea and croissants in the bath, which had a strangely therapeutic effect. Overall, a fantastic evening.
29-31 August I really enjoyed the 2003 Summer Salsa Special three-day visit to Lille, from Friday morning to Sunday evening. See my report on Lille Summer Salsa & Tango 2004! Email Jonathan at email@example.com for more details. He also organises ski trips and I would like to try one of them. See sussex ski special for more details.
You can read my full report on the last trip and see the pictures at Salsa in Lille 2003.
The sessions at Babylon Lounge (now The View) in Hove are on the first Friday evening of the month (21:00-02:00). You can just turn up and it's eight pounds for both the LA-style lessons from 21:15-22:15 and the Cuban-style from 22:30-23:30). See www.salsatap.com for more information. Babylon Lounge is a nice purpose-built club with good air-conditioning and a particularly friendly atmosphere. It's my favourite venue and I go frequently.
I used to enjoy Salsa at the White Hart Hotel in Lewes on Sunday evenings (19:00-23:00). Dancing was in a large room with a low ceiling and no air-conditioning, so it can get a bit warm in the summer. See www.salsamagic.co.uk for more information.
I haven't attended classes here, but everyone I met at the Salsa Lille weekend who goes there, rates it highly.
Classes for all levels are from 20:00-21:30 on Wednesdays and only cost five pounds, or you can miss the class and just attend the club for only two pounds. Dance till midnight. High Rocks is at High Rocks Lane, Tunbridge Wells.
Paul & Lindsay Newton-Palmer run Ezyfeet Dance, and I've had the pleasure of meeting them at two Salsa Lille weekends.
Their popular classes are at Maresfield Village Hall and they also host events at Uckfield Civic Centre. Their motto is, "The feet keep the beat, the heart pumps the rhythm!"
For more details, email Paul & Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leo also gives lessons on Thursday evenings at the Norbury Complex, The Edge Club, 1300 London Rd, SW16 4DG.
It's between Norbury and Thornton Heath.
I haven't tried this venue, but Leo is a great teacher, and very popular at the Babylon Lounge (see the picture of him DJ'ing at the Babylon Lounge!).top
I've finally bought some dance shoes. I used to wear ordinary shoes or sandals, but they are all rubber-soled and make it impossible to spin.
Quality dance shoes should last for years with proper maintenance and care. Most dance shoes are fitted with a soft, suede sole. These soles are fragile, and may be damaged by water, dirt, oil, or other substances, so should only be worn on the dance floor. Even when dancing on a good, polished dance floor, the soles pick up dirt and wax over time. You can get special shoe brushes for a couple of pounds. To keep your soles clean and with the right amount of traction, you should brush them every couple of times you wear them. Brush with short, firm strokes, until the sole is slightly rough, without any smooth or shiny patches.
I always have trouble getting shoes to fit, but found a good, local supplier, Shuffles, in Hassocks. Inevitably, the ones that I thought looked best, weren't very comfy, but in the end I bought some Equity Astaires for about £50.
Having used them for a few months, I would be loath to go back to ordinary shoes, and they're very comfortable. They don't slip and spinning is easy, given enough practice. I changed the laces, which were very 'slippy', for some flat ones, so they won't keep coming undone. I've also bought some new soles and heels.top
For the first couple of weeks, I found I started well, but half-way through the evening, my feet started panicking and eventually I couldn't even get the basic steps, which made me feel embarrassed and dispirited. Other than Gabrielle Roth's 5-Rhythm (which is more akin to meditation than dance), I had hardly danced for at least 15 years. I persevered and slowly got the rudiments. It takes time to become really good, but I'm determined to get there and as Kahlil Gibran said, then shall you truly dance. I have been lent a video, Salsa Inferno, which helped.
Everyone is very friendly, and I've had some interesting conversations as well as dances. Thanks to everyone who put up with my first clumsy attempts at tripping the light fantastic.
After about five lessons, I moved from the beginners group to intermediate.
The week I started, it was very crowded as there was a live band, Leo Duany y su Mambochambro (who were very good). The intermediate group was too large, but I had a few dances afterwards. I felt somewhat humiliated when someone asked if I was doing the Waltz at one stage - it was supposed to be Salsa - but enjoyed dancing with most people.
Whenever possible, I attended both lessons at the Babylon Lounge and the White Hart Hotel, and made progress and learnt new steps - now I can both pronounce and dance Dile Que No!, Enchufla and Setenta. Some of the sequences get quite complicated, and it's very satisfying when I get it right. Every time, I learn some new moves, such as the Basila and the Slingshot (which I used to keep calling the whiplash - I don't know whether that said more about my memory or my technique!).
It doesn't help that different classes call the same moves by different names, such as Dile Que No! and Cross Body Lead or Basila and Throw-away, and sometimes different moves by the same name, like Son, which is sometimes forwards and back, and in other classes, a step back followed by both turning together. Son is sometimes called Mambo. One of the reasons for this confusion is that I go to both Cuban and New York style classes, and many of the Cuban moves are different or not formally-named.
As I improve, I feel happier going up to strangers and asking for a dance, without fearing I'll waste their time and embarrass myself. I'm now putting more complex sequences together and my confidence is steadily improving.
Yes, I've now gone to a few advanced classes, both LA and Cuban styles at the Babylon Lounge and in 2004 at the White Hart Hotel. I don't think I totally disgraced myself, and I even got a compliment or two on the way I led...
Things are looking up. So take heart - whatever your current ability, if I can do it with my advancing years, Diabetes, and two left feet, you can do it too!
Update: Then I only danced Salsa occasionally for three years, restarting in August 2008. I have forgotten much, but it is coming back - slowly.
: : © Mike Bliss 2011