Getting Sweaty At Salsa

Summer is here, with her long and hot nights.

The clubs are packed with dancers, but are you worried about drowning your next follower by the end of the next song?

Appropriate Clothing

An obvious one, for sure. But what is appropriate?

Anyone who has hit the gym in a thick cotton T-Shirt can testify that not all summer clothing is actually appropriate for the heat.

Now might be the time to bring back the Tank Top or invest in some short sleeved shirts.

If you’re terrified of showing your knees in shorts and don’t want to rock up like a Hip Hop dancer in jogging bottoms. Chinos might just be the article of clothing that will save your life.

Commandeer The Source of Cool Air

This could be propped open fire exit or – praise the salsa gods – a fan. Rock up early and take possession of the valuable sweat-free real estate.

If you rocked up too late, you might be able to find a partner who already hast he same idea. Obviously, pick that partner and leave your actual friends to sweat to death under the lights.

Take it Easy

You don’t have to dance every dance (unless you’ve paid to get in and your determined to get your money’s worth).

Your partner and your car seat will thank you on the way home for graciously bowing out of the kizomba set to catch your breath outside.

If you’re a beginner then even the basic probably feels like an aerobic class. Rest assured that the more you dance, the more relaxed you’ll feel and the lesser the likelihood of you steaming up your sequins.

In Closing

  • Wear something breathable
  • Find some cool air, even if its outside
  • Take it easy

And as always,

Shimmy responsibly!

Taking Partners Home

Everyone has their own motives for taking up classes. I was bored, and looking for something to do.

I’m really glad I did, not just because I now have an arsenal of latin dance moves at my disposal. I’ve also increased the size of my small social circle, and it includes more than bearded men (although there’s nothing wrong with that!).

Figure A

I also found a follower who I liked so much, I picked her up and took her home. She’s still there now – of her own free will, of course!

If I could email my past self, I’d definitely tell myself about the outrageous amount of fun and great people I was missing out on.

Especially during times that I was single. When I was breaking the ice in King Chicken in the early hours, or eating cake in front of a game console.

4 Reasons Why You Might consider dating a dancer

There are plenty of reasons why you might consider finding your next date within the salsa scene.

Great Atmosphere

These nights have a good atmosphere and positive vibe. Taking part is almost compulsory. Good for wall flowers, and those with an aversion to the lurkers.


You know the one
There’s something about meeting a room full of smiling, dancing people rather than mingling with men slumped over pints or shouting over house music.

Money Matters

I’ll address the elephant in the room, or… blog post.

I’ll make the assumption that if you are a lady, you’ll be looking for a man with a job.

Classes and socials are rarely free, so most of the clientèle have some disposable income to throw around.

Time To Impress

No-one likes to be kept waiting. At least you know a dancer will have good…

 

 

 


… timing.

 

Yea Boye!!!


Tortured puns aside, if you can find someone with the motivation to turn out and turn up then you’re already on the right track.

Postures and Posteriors

Not everyone is going to look like Patrick Swayze. You will, however, have a better chance of meeting someone with a dancer’s body at a dance class.

Gotta strive for your five a day!

Sat on pavement outside a kebab shop after a dozen pints is not only bad posture but also the waistline. I have seen some young people burn off a bit of the kebab by throwing their shoes at the local police force or scrapping.

More Social

Dancers tend to be more outgoing and social so you’ll be less likely to endure awkward silences. It’s also helps that the class will pair you up in the world’s easiest ice breaker, and any dead air can be filled either by watching the other dancers or joining in yourselves.

Have something in common

If you manage to develop a taste for salsa, then anyone you hit it off with already have something in common with you.

Unsolicited Advice From The Internet

If you’re still reading this far, you’re probably invested. Maybe you’re mentally preparing for your next date, already plastering on the war paint. Maybe you just want to see where this article is going.

Either way here is some unsolicited advice that comes from some person on the internet. If it works for you, then I’m obviously a guru. If it does not, then it’s purely for entertainment purposes.

Don’t Schmooze At Your Regular Class

Your not in highschool anymore. The stakes are higher.

Obviously, if you are a really hardcore regular at one class, it is going to be very awkward for all concerned if you screw things up and have to endure hacky looks till one of you drop the class.

There might be a class with good instruction, but maybe not many suitable candidates to fill your vacancy. There would be a good place to learn.

There might be another class where you are not into the classes, but it draws a larger crowd. Now if it all goes pear shaped, at least you don’t have to denounce your hobby.

Dress to impress

I have been mocked a lot for my dress sense, so I’m not going to offer any advice other than maybe not wear what I used to.

Clothes that fit well, is a good starting point however!

I’ve heard heels and makeup are good if you’re wanting to meet people. I’ve got no idea what to advise the women to wear however.

Make the effort

I apologise at this point to all introverts, nerds and engineers. You may have to talk to people.

A good opening line that I used to use was “sorry for bumping into you” or “do you need some ice for your foot?”.

Do it for you

This is the most important.

If you don’t enjoy the process, you won’t enjoy the reward.

If you don’t enjoy Salsa and you meet someone at Salsa then you’re going to be resigned to dancing for the rest of your days.

At the end of the day, you’re doing this better yourself and better your life!

In Closing

Please remember to Shimmy Responsibly.

Stumbling Into Newcastle Salsa

I’d moved to Newcastle to give myself a fresh start, and meet new people. I figured I’d have more chance of meeting like-minded people in the city.

Most of my social life up and to this point usually involved shouting over house music and drinking up to that point where you can no longer remember anything.

I was an avid reader of Hunter S Thompson. I guess I felt I had a lot in common with a wiry Airmen with a love of travelling and the absurd.

His essays and interviews where a gateway drug to existentialism. This led to other schools of thought, and my interest in philosophy.

I started attending the odd talk and debate around town, however I was more interested in the harder, logical debates on existence and thought. I felt like a minority amongst one to many academics who wanted to talk about ethics and other – in my opinion – softer societal topics.

Like the beginning of a pulp noir novella, in between my reading and working in an obnoxiously loud office I found some peace and consistency within the Jazz Cafe. It was free to get in (most nights) yet there is something about improvisational live music that creates as distance between myself and the hordes of screaming drunks that pour out Central Station.

I started attending salsa at the Black Swan out of pure curiosity after seeing a chalkboard near the arts centre. There was a half remembered quote from Summer in Algiers spinning in my head, and it seemed a good idea at the time.

What’s with all these new dance instructors, anyway?

It seems that every month I read another bio for a new dance couple that reads something like:

“We first started dancing [dance style] a year ago. We formed a connection instantly and picked up the style in record time. We now teach at [dance venue] every [week day]. To book tickets for [new couple] click here…”

On the one hand, I find these stories aspirational. It’s fantastic that within a year you can meet a fantastic dance partner, venue and paying students!

On the other, I see why people roll their eyes. How could you really learn anything within a year, good enough to teach?

What I really want to learn from these people is not the basics of [dance style] but how they managed to learn both the art of teaching and a new dance style within a year.

It’s the sort of scenario Tim Ferris would write about. He’d learn a dance style, raise the money to build a dance studio and promote it on a radio station he founded in Cuba.

Personally, as a random dude on the Internet, I believe people should be free to do what they want. As long as they’re humble and bringing in something fresh, maybe there is a lot to be learned from them.

I reserve a certain amount of cynicism, however. Teaching is hard. I’ve moonlighted in different disciplines, from time to time, and I’ve always felt it’s like herding cats.

But maybe with enough hard work, and sticking to one aspect of a style. Creating a slick, short class is achievable.

A lot of dancers may comment “well I’ve been dancing [number of years] and I wouldn’t feel comfortable teaching it”. There is a difference, however, of social dancing once a week and practicing every night for [amount of hours].

Maybe an amateur who commits to a goal, and strives for it every day is no longer an amateur? Maybe a professional is only a plastic professional until they’ve gained enough experience?

Either way I’d love to hear opinions from fresh faced greenhorns and old salts alike.

Always remember the following, however. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an excited new dance couple, established Salsa community lynch pin or just scouting for women at socials…

… always shimmy responsibly.

Connection In Salsa

When we encounter another individual truly as a person, not as an object for use, we become fully human – Martin Buber

When we refer to the connection between two dancers; leader and follower, it’s a reference to both a physical and mental one.

The physical connection refers to the hold and hand position. Through this, a leader can suggest the rhythm and positioning. He can also signal what moves are coming next and lead the follower through his improvised choreography.

A person might have an incredible command of the English language, say maybe a London barrister.

But would that person be able to form a meaningful connection with a stranger? The same barrister might struggle to hold your interest long enough to progress past painful small talk.

For something so intangible, the connection between two dancers is something that you can see the absence or presence of fairly quickly.

I believe one of the main draws and strengths of partnered dancing is not just the aesthetic beauty, but also the therapeutic quality of connecting with other members of your community.

Some members you may have never encountered or spoke to otherwise, some might not even speak the same language.

Maybe making a more concerted effort to form a deeper connection with other people in our lives would make us not only better dancers, but better people as well.

Salsa Consistency

When I see and talk to other salsa dancers around Newcastle; the most common trait amongst the more proficient and technical dancers is their commitment to dancing regularly.

But isn’t variety the spice of life?

There are fantastic events every month where you can do walk out a 1 hour Cuban salsa workshop and straight into a sensual bachata workshop. Have a drink and then do an hour of cross-body.

These events are fantastic socials and a great opportunity to dip a toe into other styles. Keeps it fresh, and give you a new direction to pursue if you find something you really like.

Forming that foundation

But being consistently inconsistent won’t build that foundation you can rely on. In any other trade or profession, you need a solid background in one discipline before you can branch off into another.

From there they can use it as a sort of launch pad, an island in the ocean you can push off from, and if you stray too far you can reach out and steady yourself on that.

Not only does consistency foster discipline and measurable progression, but forming a habit of practicing a skill (any skill) little and often will take you much further than if you binge every one to two weeks.

Something relatable

I very good analogy would be to think of a boozy night out.

Now if you drink a glass of wine every night, you’ll be fine.

But if you don’t drink for two weeks, then go crazy mixing and binging drinks then you’re going to have a headache the next day and not remember much.

Same applies to the Newcastle Salsa scene.

The More You Snow

The “Beast From The East” had turned my street into a ski resort. It was so bad the shops ran out of bread, and then the news ran multiple stories about the bread shortages. I still however thumbed Facebook and sent a message:

“Is Salsa still on?”

I knew what the answer would be. But my fear of being left out overrode my fears of getting snowed in on a metro on my to a Newcastle salsa class. Spending the night defending my bread from hungry northerners.

This hasn’t been the first party I wasn’t able to attend due to not being invited. So I was ready with a backup plan of having my own party.

An actual alternative party this time. Not eating crisps in bed and then telling my mates I had a much better party the next day.

I’m blessed enough to have a (mostly willing) follower within the house so there was no need to bother the neighbors – not that I am on the best terms with them *.

* The neighbors that is.

Beaming YouTube to the TV and getting over the weirdness of living-room Rumba (which isn’t a metaphor like the no-pants dance) after a few minutes we might as well have been in the club.

A smaller, tastefully decorated club that lacked such staples as people to trample on my new trainers or that guy who just likes to stare.

You know the one

Had I been living alone I probably would have just got a £3 bottle of wine from Lidl and practiced shines in front of the mirror.

Man dances in mirror
After half a glass

I strongly believe these lowkey, private parties keep the scene alive. Big kudos to those guys and girls who organise their own practice sessions and parties!

It is also a great exercise in adapting to the uncertainties of life. I say this and I hate breaking routine. It’s not just about sticking to goals but also an opportunity to connect with those close to you.

If you’ve got no-one that close to connect to, than there’s probably even more reason for you to put some time aside to nurture a lighter and carefree attitude.

Or you could depress yourself by brooding over Facebook or start getting animals and dressing them up in human clothes.

“What have I become, my sweetest friend?”

Learning More Than Moves

Anyone who has spoken to me after a couple drinks can probably attest that I’m a casual reader of philosophy and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to tie my two passions together.

The more I study and practice, the more benefits I see. It is my belief that the lessons learnt on the dance floor can be taken outside and into your everyday life – like some flamboyant Kung-Fu.

Timing is everything

Every step and movement is either in time or its not. You could argue that the only difference between random free movement (like some Qigong practices) and a dance is whether or not its in time with the music.

Sometimes its not just about meeting the right kind of people in life, but its meeting them at the right time to. If you can follow the beats and crescendos of modern life and take time to pause during the breaks, you’ll be in-sync like a nicely choreographed boy band.

If you don’t listen, or make the effort to keep up / slow down accordingly, then you’re not only ruining your own performance but making it difficult for people around you too.

We’re on a Road to Nowhere

What if, instead, life didn’t resemble a journey at all, but was instead more akin to a work of art; a piece of music, a dance, a play? – Allan Watts

Watts makes a good argument, using music as an allegory for our lifes, that our lives are not a race from the cradle to the grave. Your FaceSnap feed would have you believe different, and so would your peers. There’s so much pressure to get up, buy the things, make the family and post the pics and get it all done in time to retire to a life of TV and Scrabble.

In music one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition.  If that were so the best conductors would be those who played fastest, and there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord; because that’s the end! – Allan Watts

Its still tempting, however, to complain if the musics too slow or maybe its too fast so you can’t steam through you’re greatest and latest routines you’ve just learned?

Everyone enters the venue through one door, and we all leave at the end of the night through the same door. Its what we make of each dance, song and night that makes it all worthwhile.

This is another valuable outlook to chew on next time you’re sipping a mojito at the bar, or stick in a traffic jam the next morning.

You’re Only as Good as the people you surrounded yourself with

In partnered dancing, we’re only as technical as our partner is and only look as good as they make us look.

Likewise I trust the DJ to play the right music, and the venue to supply some subtle mood lighting and not light us up like those bodies in the morgue on Law & Order.

Its one thing to put the effort into your role, but you can’t control everything. So its healthy to just accept that things are as good as things are going to get, and everyone is trying their best.

We really are just a tiny insignificant player as part of a much larger team.

I really, really, would like someone to prove me wrong and create a One Man show of Dance, Music and Lighting.

Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t.

See you on the dance floor!

Dance Yourself Thin. Ditch the Gym and Drink the Gin

Staying fit has always been a priority for me.

Well… more of a goal. A destination I’m heading towards on this rickety wagon I keep falling out of.

Image result for fall off the wagon 

First it was a reaction to ridicule from my classmates at college, then it became necessity as part of my short military career.

Now my fitness regime is just a knee-jerk response to my expanding waistline which has been growing ever since I started sitting down for a living.

I love dancing, and I love drinking. I’ve been doing the former consistently for almost a year now, the latter I always manage to find time to purse as well.

So what if this proverbial wagon could be made into some kind of booze stocked disco bus?

I don’t claim to be any kind of nutritional expert, scientist or even a very responsible adult.

Crunching the numbers, however, I think there’s some solid math behind this rambling fever dream.

Having plumbed the depths of my tactical background, I realized the first port of call before undertaking any daring operation is to build some solid situational awareness using some solid intel.

Image result for oprah
According to Oprah Winfrey’s website, Salsa Dancing burns an average of 393 calories an hour.

My FitBit confirms a similar amount burned. I started at 7.30pm, and turned in at 11pm.

A pint of lager is, on average, 180 calories.

So 25 minutes of shimmying would burn that off. Fantastic! Reward yourself with another refreshing pint of lager!

A cheeky Gin & Tonic, that averages around 120 calories, you could burn off in under 20 minutes at this rate!

So I guess if you want something to take away from this, as long as you don’t drink more than three drinks an hour then you’re getting skinnier.

Happy Days!

Attending a Flash Mob

Image result for flash gordon

I’d seen the “flash mob” craze on my social media feed from time to time, and had the ambition in the back of my mind to participate in one.

Flash mob: a large public gathering at which people perform an unusual or seemingly random act and then disperse, typically organised by means of the Internet or social media.

Having experienced some writers block; It was a gift from the Salsa / Blog gods that beamed a salsa flash mob invite to my Facebook feed.

Kevin Sharkey, pictured above, had all the gear. The most impressive being a chest rig that looked like something Christian Bale would wear in a Batman film. 

The mob was to mob outside the Pitcher & Piano. A dozen hardcore dancers had shown up, familiar faces that would walk through fire for a hard wood floor and decent sound system.

The general brief for the whole show was mill around, don’t be obvious and as soon as you hear the tune… go.

Oddly, despite a huddling of people around some camera equipment, no-one really batted an eyelid. That being said, its a popular haunt for photographers, film students and news crews. Especially near the bridge.

Once Fonzi’s Despacito (the Justin Bieber version, unfortunately) started playing the dancers started doing their thing and a large crowd formed.

I don’t think anyone really struggled with being watched, as most of the dancers would be used to bar patrons gawking by now. Plus we had the added bonus of 99% of the Sunday strollers wouldn’t be dancers themselves and wouldn’t pick apart our flawless free-styling.

The music was hard to hear at times, as it was an open space. Even the shuffling of shoes on concrete seemed to be on par with the tunes. I think the tracks chosen where popular enough that we all had it engraved in our minds anyway. It did make it a little challenging. Everyone seemed to be given it 100%, and where looking great.

All in all it was a short a sweet experience. I’d rate this two del canos and a mojito out of five shimmys (that’s three mambo and a shot if you’re measuring it in cross-body).

Personally, this was one off my bucket list and a nice thing to report. Well worth dragging my partner out of bed and running from Central Station to make it.

Promoting the scene is always good, and hopefully they’ll be a few dozen people punching queries for dance classes and socials into their smartphones after that surprise performance!