Uncle Phil: Living Long & Passing It On

I came to this country in 1975.

When I came here I was going to be an instructor, not a dancing instructor, but an instructor in a University. That was my goal.

I went to lecture in Lancaster University, Manchester University. I met my first girlfriend, and she wanted me to dance salsa. She had seen people dancing salsa. I did not want to dance salsa, as I had only done ballroom dancing.

Uncle Phil at Newcastle Salsa Congress

At the time that she met me, I was a professional author. I had my
own shop and did very well, playing golf. And as the business was going
down, and I was taking her out. I decided to take her to Salsa, and
that’s when I saw the dancing.

Dirty Dancing was just coming out at the time, and I thought this could be really good. 

It could be really romantic for us. So I started attending classes. But within 2 years, because I already had skills in dancing, people where demanding that I should teach them.

I was the best in the classes. That motivated me. So I started teaching in 1994. Up to 95′, 96′ and my class was up to 70 – 80 people per night. I decided to quit for Salsa. I was a social worker then, so I decided to quit. My business at the golf club was also not doing good and I was getting into debt.

So I thought I’d just do some Salsa. I was also buying properties, buying houses and stuff. Then the business just peaked out. I was the only one from here to Scotland, apart from my teacher. My teacher was a policeman. He was old and didn’t want to travel, he didn’t want to be known as the Salsa teacher because of his job.

So I started to go around. Up to Scotland, to do the promotion for Salsa.

In the North of England, including Cumbria, about 75% of people have been taught by myself- people gone through Salsa North West.

From that – and because of the demand – I started to go for competitions and going through competition stages. I had partners here and there, but they where letting me down. They wanted me to pay for their boyfriend’s travel to the competitions and there came a time when I thought about my sister’s kids.

The little girls. I’d coach them. Even if I travel with them, spending the money I am actually developing my own girls. That’s how I started the three girls, and because they where my nieces:

They used to call me “Uncle Uncle Uncle!” and people started making it a joke.

We’d been doing shows, we had been competing all over the world.

We’ve been to Miami and the British championship. We won the European competition which was to do Salsa. We won the world salsa event in 2008 in Austria. Then after I retired because the British dance council did not want me to continue, and then they made me a judge. As dance judicature, you cannot be a competitor because you know the tricks.

I start to become an instructor for other instructors, and it became a business. I have qualified a lot of people, I train them and they go for exams. Because of these two things, I started hosting the championship itself.

I started hosting the British championship. You cannot organize an official British championship without my authority, you see, as I have the license. I started hosting the competition in Preston and then we decided to go to Bolton. Which is a massive competition, all competitors coming for miles. But it was getting too clustered for me then I lost the sponsorship.

So I started to organize the congresses. Because I had been doing that, all my students all my friends they come up and do all sorts of things. But they do that, I have not stopped to assist them as I am here to assist Sam because we need so many people to dance, and also make a business.

So you see that’s why people respect me, because I’m here to assist on those grounds.

As you grow older, you’re not there to lead. You have to leave. They can take the skills that you are offering.

 I’m trying to pass on to the people and encourage them. This is really fantastic.

To dance. Everybody has got a dance in them, I would encourage that. There is a lot of benefits to dancing, not just the physical benefit of it or the mental benefit of it. You getting on with people, meeting people its so fun. But you have to be careful, its an addiction.

You can get addicted.

I can tell you. Some of the people that I’ve seen, and that has arrived. I was in Cyprus just a few months ago, and they where there. I was in Bristol, they where there. In Birmingham, they where there. Now they are here!

People save weeks and weeks just to come out, and it becomes part of there life.

I would encourage anybody to go dancing.

The exercise you do, you don’t even realize that you are actually doing it but still enjoying it. That’s good if you want to live long.

The Passionate Business of Bachata

There’s no dance without connection, and there’s no connection without passion. But how do you take your social dancing to the next level?

These are some more highlighted excerpts from my interview with Sol & Laura from the Newcastle Salsa Congress which are thought where worth sharing. Even though they talk about Bachata, mostly, I believe the wisdom can be transferred not only to other styles of partnered dance but life in general!

Never Stop Learning

Sol: Bachata for us is limitless, as its our passion, its our specialism. Even as teachers, we still take workshops. We still take classes. We’re still learning and trying to better ourselves. I think that has a lot to do with the little bit of success we’ve had in the last five years. I think that’s because we’ve never stopped and thought “we’re teachers, we don’t need to take classes”

Laura: Never stop learning!

Anybody Can Teach You Something

Sol: I believe that anybody can teach me something. In life, or in dancing. Anybody who is anybody can teach me something. Even if its little, its that little thing that adds to the whole that I already have and makes me the person I want to be in the future.

Its all about connections

Sol: There’s a few Salsa songs I love, but Bachata makes me feel like…

Laura: Connected

Sol: Yes, Connected with the music and connected with the partner. And that could be anybody. Sometimes you can dance with somebody you have a strong connection with, and sometimes its someone I don’t have that strong connection with – but its still enjoyable and that is what I look for when I dance with somebody.

Some more important than others…

Laura: We’ve been dance partners for

Sol: Five years of more

Laura: five years. and we’ve been boyfriend and girlfriend for four years now.

Sol: We got lucky in that regards, because I know a lot of fellow dancers and a lot of teacher’s friends – we’re talking Bachata, Salsa, Kizomba – that since I’ve been teaching with Laura have changed three to four different dance partners. We’ve been lucky and blessed, in that we found it first time. I didn’t have to try with different people and different dance partners. The first time that we got into the business, we found each other.

Laura: In this Latin dance world, there is so much mess. In that you become dance partners, and you become boyfriend & girlfriend or you sleep together because there is that much connection when you’re dancing together and practicing together and living together. This happens! They either stay together, or t hey break up because its a very challenging thing to be in a relationship in this business.

All it takes it the right drink, and the right song

Sol: Some people quit altogether and go back to their main job. Some people try with somebody else. Its the same story that happens all the time, you have this dance partner and they get involved romantically and they break up.

Laura: And it goes round in a circle.

Sol: The thing is to me, it makes sense because of that passion that brought the man and the women together. They spend a lot of time together practicing, going over the moves getting close. When they get a booking, like we get right here at the Newcastle Salsa Congress they spend a lot of time in the hotel rooms.

Laura: There is alcohol involved! … the right song…

Sol: All it takes is the right drink and the right song! [laughs] That’s all it takes. I would never blame, that’s just nature and just the way it is.

No-one said it would be easy

Sol: I’ve been very blessed to be with this one innocent partner the past five years. We try to make it work everyday. Its not easy. You’ve got to have the right attitude all the time. Like today, before my workshop, I was very tired and we traveled all day to get to Newcastle.

Laura: We worked late last night as well.

Getting Down to Business

Sol: We worked late, we had a little bit of a nap and we had to get up and work on what we where going to teach in the next thirty minutes. As soon as you walk out the hotel room, you’ve got to put a smile on your face because at the end of the day it wouldn’t be fair. I do not want people who have paid the full passes to see us in the worst light, they deserve the best of us.

Laura: Sometimes as couples we argue, and we still have to put on a smile. We can’t really show our emotion, as we need to stay professional. Its not easy as I’m a very emotional person. But this is my job, this is my full time job.

Sol: I’m the opposite. My dog could have died this morning and no-one would be able to tell from my face! I can just switch and put whatever problem I have on the side to keep my eyes on the prize – which is teaching and keeping it professional. Because at the end of the day, this is our job. This is what we chose to pay our bills at the end of the day and we cannot let our personal issues get in the way of people enjoying the weekend.

Invest in yourself, and support those around you

Sol: Its important for people to invest in themselves and believe they can do it. And to believe they can achieve whatever image of their future selves they have. What happens is that there is going to be a lot of failures. A lot of failures. Even if your gaining bit by bit, through repetition, always think about where you want to be.

Laura: The competition is very very high.

Sol: You’ve just got to specialize in that one thing. A hole for them to make a name for themselves. For us it was hard-work, a lot of luck and plenty of support. And this is what I meant by investing in themselves.

When people see there own local people, or students trying – they are going to need support to make it. Nobody can achieve anything on their own, they are going to need support at some point. They just need that investment from people, people believing in them.

Something can happen, a gig or work can fall into their lap just by people talking about them. We struggled a lot the first two years we where in the business, it was very hard to pay the bills. But I never doubted that we could get to a point where we have food on the table, and bills are paid and stuff. It took us three years of hard work, and all the stuff that happens behind the scenes.

Laura: Hard work.

Be different, be you.

Sol: Behind the scenes is an ugly place to be and its something that they’re gonna need to figure out. But hard-work, talent and always stay humble. These are the three things that I would always tell anybody wanting to do this. Be different, be you. Don’t change for nobody else. Don’t be one person for one to two years, and then change drastically into somebody else. Just be you. Be the person you invested in and everything should be okay.

Getting Introduced (feat Sol Hissirou & Laura Fogliata)

The second couple I cornered at the Newcastle Salsa Congress where Bachata artists Sol and Laura. The pair give off such a passionate vibe it was infectious.

Clint: So, Salsa. Where did you start?

Sol: Me, personally? It was around 2009 – but I wasn’t taking it very seriously. My brother asked me to come once, twice and I learned a few moves from there. Its not until 2011 that I started taking classes and started really dancing socially.  [turns to Laura] When did you start?

Laura: Some years after you. You started first. There was a couple of years maybe after –

Sol: 2011, or 12 or something?

Laura: I used to go to an [Acrobatics] class for kids, actually, I was the only adult in there. Where I contour and did all this crazy stuff. After the Acro class was a Salsa lesson, and what afternoon the guy was like “why don’t you try it out?”. My first lesson was Tango, actually, and I started and I fell in love with it. That’s how I started my tango, then my Salsa.

Sol: There’s something actually very funny, because, obviously like in festivals and congresses. Like the one we are in right now. There are three main styles of dances. You’ve got Salsa, obviously. You’ve got Bachata and you’ve got Kizomba. The Salsa one is the one that everybody knows what Salsa is, even if you don’t know what it looks like, you’ve heard that there is a dance called salsa.

Laura: Salsa is very popular.

Sol: But what actually made me stay that long in the Latin dance scene was that I fell in love with Bachata. Salsa for me was a door  that introduced me to Bachata. Its when I started listening to Bachata, dancing with Bachata I completely fell in love with it. And I started teaching, that’s when I met [Laura].

Laura: He actually made me love in Bachata. I used to hate Bachata, I thought it was basic and boring. But he introduced me to it, and learn steps and stuff. He was such a passionate person.

I common refrain I hear from dancers is how they found their preferred style though another, often Salsa. The community is large and welcoming, but the doors into it can seen very niche tucked out of site at times.

There is a very big temptation to join one of the many “tribes” in the community, and to look down at one style or another for whatever reason. Its important to remember that by taking a chance is how we became initiated into this vibrant scene.

Maybe some readers are wanting to knuckle down and get really serious, getting involved in performance groups or competitions. Maybe another style, not Latin at all. It could be something as simple as being shy about putting a styling workshop to work in a social setting, or even getting that person’s number.

Why not open the door an inch on something new, and have a look on what’s on the other side?

David Padayachee & Siobhan Talk Urban Kiz, Newcastle History and Bus Journeys

David Padayachee & Siobhan 

Last Friday I dragged Tina through the pouring rain to the Newcastle Salsa Congress seeking content for this blog. I managed to record nearly 2 hours of audio, which I will be writing up in the coming weeks!

Clint: So, you said you were in South Africa. You were 14, 16? Did you just end up in a club, or did you..?

David: Well my friends, my Angolan Friends, invited me to their house party. They’d been dancing kizomba. Just traditionally. They grew up listening to Portuguese music and were dancing it in a really natural way and that was when I first started learning it. They showed me the steps on how to do it, but it was very basic. It was a while ago, in the 90’s, early 2000’s. Then I came to the UK, here to Newcastle about 7 years ago and I started learning more traditional kizomba and steps with counts.

Clint: So, what brought you to the UK, was it the dancing? Or were you just working?

David: Working, yes. I came to the UK for work as a professional engineer.

Clint: Okay. Was the dancing just a hobby?

David: It was a hobby. I actually started learning in South Africa; partnered work, latin american, and ballroom dancing. I learnt salsa, and all that, about 9 years ago. I came to Newcastle and I started developing more… specifically… in salsa. Back then it was mainly salsa, mostly salsa. In those times there used to be a group that toured the country, and also internationally, called Latin Connection. I was part of the performance team for about 2 years. That’s when I really developed my salsa skills. I still had the kizomba skills, but it wasn’t as used as the salsa skills. Then in about 2013 I started doing partner work stuff with a partner of mine that I used to dance with in shows, demos, teaching and competitions. So, in 2013 we competed in the Teeside Salsa Festival Salsa Heats. My partner and I of that time, we won the heat and we went to London to Scala Latino. I don’t know if you know Scala Latino, it’s one of the old, old salsa clubs. So, we went there for the championship finals and we came runners’ up salsa champions. That’s a lot of my salsa history. So, with salsa I was traveling all over with Latin Connection, we were performing with a lot of salsa congresses around the UK and internationally; Scotland, Birmingham, London and a whole lot of places that are not coming to me now! [laughs]. So, after the competitions and the solo work – I then was actually in Newcastle, where I live, and I joined a new team that started to develop called The Mambo Factory.

Clint: I’ve heard of them, yea.

David: I was actually one of the original members of The Mambo Factory. I performed with them for 3 years, until last year when we did our final Mambo Factory performance and the group went its separate ways. After The Mambo Factory died down, I started exploring my passion for kizomba. I am very passionate about salsa, but I am also very passionate about my upbringing with kizomba. I started exploring more advanced kizomba stuff – flashier, more modern kizomba stuff.

David: I was very used to the old stuff, but I wanted something newer, something fresher, something more exciting. Because the old traditional stuff is very calm and there’s a connection… it’s very relaxed. I wanted something more energetic as I was used to the energetic salsa, hard energetic salsa. So, I started exploring the new urban kiz concept. I travelled out of Britain and went to Dubai to do some lessons at the Dubai Kizomba Gold Congress. It was urban kiz training, so I did quite a few lessons there and started learning. Siobhan and I got together and we started practicing also, developing our urban kiz. Siobhan herself is a traditional kizomba dancer. I don’t know if she wants to say something?

Siobhan: Well, for me I believe I’m quite new, relatively compared to David. I’ve been dancing for two years. The first year doing some lessons at Black Swan with Chris. doing salsa, kizomba and bachata. I was enjoying it all, and went to Birmingham for the Latin Motion New Year party, in 2016, and I ended up in the kizomba room all night and absolutely loved it. So, for me, it was just – I felt more… of a connection with that dance, rather than with the other ones. So, I’ve been dancing just kizomba since then.

David: We started practising urban kiz, a lot. Starting with all the steps and working up to the advanced steps, and also practising the speed, and the timing to really start developing our connection and style. As well as increasing our repertoire of urban kiz moves so it flows easily. And that’s kind of where our passion for urban kiz started.

Siobhan: Yeah

David: So that’s when we started developing ourselves in urban kiz. It was invented five years ago in Paris. Quite a fresh new dance.

Clint: So how did you guys hear about urban kiz. Was it at the Dubai congress?

David: For me, it was before that. I met another guy, who I had done workshops before doing Dubai training. I had done some workshops with a guy, from France; Djemix, who was traveling the country teaching urban kiz. He learned the original urban kiz from France. He moved to the UK and started teaching all over the UK. That’s when I started learning – I learnt a few things from him, then I went and learned from the international artists there in Dubai. Yea…

Clint: So, you think there’s a big kizomba scene in the UK?

David: In UK?

Clint: It doesn’t seem as popular as salsa. Like, you go to a lot of clubs, there seems to be a lot of salsa.

Siobhan: Yea!

Clint: Maybe there’s a lot of bachata in some places, but kizomba – you maybe get a couple of tracks.

David: Kizomba… is not as popular as salsa, but there is still a big kizomba scene. It’s actually, mostly popular with the Angolan people, or the African people.

Tina: Yeah! [nods]

Siobhan: So, we went to a party actually, in Newcastle. I think we saw you. It was when – I can’t remember what his name was – Mario something or other.

Clint: Mario Pertence!

Siobhan: And obviously from dancing kizomba at Black Swan, when not many people were dancing it at the time, to going there and seeing so many people dancing it and I was like “Where have all these people been?”.

David: When I moved to Newcastle seven years ago I remember it happening. But it’s been intermittent, so it’s never been constant. It goes from this venue, it goes again to another venue so… not as strong as salsa.

Clint: It always seems that salsa has fliers in bars, Facebook pages. But that kizomba night I had to phone a number to book tickets and sometimes meet someone in a bar.

David: Ahh!

Clint: It wasn’t as easy to go, you know.

Siobhan: I think that’s because salsa in Newcastle has been going a long time and it’s really established, the businesses are really established.

Clint: Oh, and kizomba is still finding its feet a bit?

Siobhan: Yeah, but, there is a regular night now. It’s still, relatively, new.

Clint: Where is that?

Siobhan: Rumba… on a Sunday with Mo?

Clint: Oh, I’ve heard of that… Coco’s night!

Siobhan: It is salsa and bachata.. as well, I think? I’ve not had the chance to go yet, but they seem to be focusing on doing kizomba at the moment, which is good! Hopefully there’ll be more kizomba dancers in the upcoming year.

David: Salsa in Newcastle, from what I recall and from what I’ve been told from most of the older salsa dancers. Is that over 12 to 14 years ago the original salsa in Newcastle was mostly Cuban style. I don’t know if you know Peter Robson?

Clint: I’ve seen Peter Robson, but I think Yersin is the main Cuban guy now.

Siobhan: Yea

David: Now it’s Yersin. Actually, when I finished performing with Latin Connection and after going solo with my partner, I was teaching for Yersin in SalsaAfro, we were called SalsaAfro dance troupe and it was during that time, this was 2014, that I was doing cuban salsa.

Siobhan: Was it still in Kommunity?

David: Yes, but it was called “Vamos”.

Clint: They were changing the sign and things when I first moved to Newcastle.

David: But before, actually before Vamos it was in… Space Bar in Newcastle College, and before that there were some regular Cuban classes in Gosforth, so it’s been all over.

Clint: So, compared to 14 years ago. How is the salsa, latin dancing scene now? Do you think it’s more popular, or its waned? How do you feel about it?

David: I think it’s more popular?

Clint: Yea?

David: Yeah.

Clint: I’ve only been involved for about a year and a half, so I don’t know the history, so this has been really interesting.

David: I think about 14 years ago…I don’t know if you know Coco Vega?

Clint: I think everyone knows Coco, there’s no salsa without Coco.

David: When Coco first came, and he was doing his big nights, he used to do some big student nights on a Wednesday. That was years ago, maybe 14-15 years ago. Latino nights.

Clint: I first saw him playing in Descarga? His band. Then I saw him in Harry’s, then in Bar Rumba, He’s been everywhere. Popping up.

David: Back in the days when it was still fresh, he used to run these big, big nights and all the students used to come to it. Really, really big. In the really established clubs like Madame Koo’s. But that all changed. It was years ago, when it was fresh… I think. But yea.

Clint: So, Coco has been going a while?

David: It’s been a while yea.

Clint: People always talk about Coco, and he’s still going.

David: He’s still going! What was your last question?

Clint: I can’t remember, but that was a good rabbit hole…

[I turned to Siobhan after messing about with my phone to start a new recording]
So, what made you want to get into dancing? Black Swan was your first night?

Siobhan: Yeah so… for me, I had Always, Always wanted to dance.

Clint: Uh huh

Siobhan: But I had never had the opportunity to, so I was really self-conscious. I was really like, “I wish I could do this [dancing]”. I don’t drive, so I’m on public transport a lot and sitting on buses listening to songs, wishing I could be good at dancing. I had checked the salsa clubs a few times to check the times that the classes were on. But, it wasn’t until one of my friends from University had said we should go that I went along with her. She wasn’t that fussed, but I completely fell in love with it. And for the 1st year, every single Friday, every single Tuesday and like every event Chris was doing… I just got the guts to get up and do it. And I think it’s really nice for people who don’t have a dance background, and are nervous and self-conscious and don’t have the confidence to do a solo dance.

Clint: Yea

Siobhan: It’s so much less intimidating when you’re in hold with somebody and you’re in it together. So that’s what I love about dancing, especially kizomba as it’s so much about the connection you have with somebody and, like, learning how to follow and learning how to really naturally react to somebody’s movements. It’s really nice, and it sounds really soppy, but it’s actually really good for the soul – to just go dancing, put everything else aside, and have a really good time. If anyone was thinking about dancing, I would totally recommend it and support it.

David: For me also, dancing for me also is about the connection. Dancing is a language, in itself. It’s communication. It’s a special communication because there are no words spoken. It’s a feeling, and it’s kind of like a response with movement and body movement between your partner and that communication in itself is very special. So, that’s something that’s special for me. For me also, what is very special in dancing is I really feel the music and enjoy the music a lot. So, I like to portray that enjoyment of music in dancing – that also adds a really good dynamic when two people are enjoying the same music and dancing, and communicating with dancing. That’s something that I enjoy a lot.

Clint: I know it would be the same steps and things, but what for you is the difference between social dancing and a performance?

David: It’s very important to have a connection with your partner, and to not lose that connection, it’s extremely important. However, in performances, it’s very important to have a connection with the crowd because you’re performing to the crowd – so all your moves become flashier, and more open. So, your focal point changes between both your partner and the crowd – you have to try and connect with your partner and the crowd, and also express yourself in the dancing to the crowd. That is the biggest difference really. And then obviously, during performances, your moves are bigger, stronger, more dynamic. But when you’re dancing together it’s more careful, more controlled and your thinking how to lead in the most comfortable way possible. But when you’re doing a show it’s all about being flashy, dynamic, strong, expressive.

Clint: Interesting, that’s cool. Thank you that was great.

 
You can follow David here: www.facebook.com/david.padayachee
Siobhan can be followed here: www.facebook.com/siobhan.shuttleworth


More of this to come. It’s been fantastic to get input from people who actually know what they are talking about, and talking about the dancing and scene with such passion.

I can’t wait to share more with you guys, and hope that I get the opportunity to record more of these great artists and personalities.

And as always, please shimmy responsibly!