Problems British People Have With Salsa

Its a bit of a culture shock. We can rule the seas, literally fight wars over tea and make the entire world set their watch by us. But when faced with dancing, smiling and making eye contact with the opposite sex – its enough to make our stiff upper lips quiver.

This is why I thought I’d address the elephant in the room, and address the problems Brits face at Salsa events.

Despite the images of British club life portrayed on television, most clubs on a weekend consist of a huddle of grown men and women having a (gradually louder) conversation over a pint glass.

Around half eleven, a band of women might break form and start dancing around their hand bags to the latest Chain Smokers record.

The guys will watch the ladies, often in silence, before queuing for a kebab on the way home.

We’re All Closet Disco Dancers

Although most notable Salsa Play-lists consist of songs off a 4/4 timing, the kick is not as pronounced or important. Most club music we are used to, we follow a heavy ‘4 to the floor’ beat, the same rhythm we’ve grown accustomed to from the late 70’s disco era.

It takes time for Brit to acclimatise to the new rhythms. A big part of dancing is actually training the brain as well as the body. A lot of Cuban music, even their chart music, has jazz roots and will include more playful rhythms and even a change in tempo.

This is a far cry to to what we usually nod along to in wetherspoons, so it takes time to get used to it.

Our Main Aim is to get Wasted

Europeans will generally enjoy a glass or two of wine with a meal. For a Brit, a couple of bottles is “warming up” before we leave the house.

This extends our first point, that complicated and subtle music does not have a place for a tanked up Brit who is having enough problem trying to feign sobriety to slip past the bouncers and still get served.

Staying perched on a bar stool is enough trouble, and now you expect us to perform subtle footwork and tight turns?

“Just Who Does He Think He Is?”

Showing off is generally frowned upon. If you see a man walk in with expensive jewelry on show, bright colors or – god forbid – a hat then we’ll all exchange a sideways glance at one another and wait for them to be out of ear shot so we can slag them off (because we wouldn’t want to offend them, you see).

We’re actually secretly grateful, and in desperate need, for such characters to grace us with their presence as its gives us something to talk about other than the weather.

We’re naturally very uncomfortable in our own skin and I think when you see someone who it highlights our own insecurities.

So I’ve just written four paragraphs on why a hat would cause a ruckus, so imagine the splash some bloke is going to have if he starts spinning around the dance floor.

There’s No Licensing Involved for this Higher Art Form

When we think of dancing in the UK, we think of ballet dancers or urban youths spinning on their heads. Dancing is something technical that requires careful study and flamboyant attire.

Africans dance for literally any or no reason.

Ayyyyyyy!! – An African within 10 meters of a radio.

Whether its finding a toy in a cereal box, tax-rebate or someone turned on the radio its a natural part of life.

I think we like order and structure. We need some form of signal, or license, or piece of paperwork from the council that would tell us what kind of dance is appropriate and at what time that dance should start and when it can end.

It Affects Our Ability To Re-Enter the UK and Our Marriages

Like some kind of extra chromosome that only exists abroad, or in our flamboyant mates, unless you’re dry humping the shot girl’s leg at 1am then both your nationality and sexuality will be brought into question.

You can get away with it though if all your mates have had at least eleven pints, then by the morning they wouldn’t have remembered any of it.

I’m Wrap This Post Up With Another Sauce Pun

I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it. Of course, the most popular British past time not mentioned is roasting ourselves.

So much like the dip, you shouldn’t be afraid of the heat but revel in it. If not, then I’ll meet you in ‘spoons for a pint and a debate about whose football team is better and why you’re wrong.

Peace!

Five Ways To Offend a Salsa Club

Having too much fun? Meeting too many new people? Or maybe your just too polite to excuse yourself from getting dragged along with your friends.
Fear not, for I’ve compiled a list of the worst advice which will enable you to make a splash and make sure you are remembered!

 

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Smell Awful

Going out for food beforehand? Make sure to pick an option with garlic. Bonus points for coming straight from the gym, or keeping the same clothes on after a long day at work.
Its better to arrive 20 minutes late and smell like a flowery meadow, than to engage in aromatic warfare with your partner.
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Arrive Drunk

Remember that drinking is a competition, so don’t get left behind! You can get a head start on the competition – and avoid those expensive restaurant prices – by getting tanked up beforehand.

Drunk is loud and loud is fun. Your charisma and coordination only improve with every additional unit of alcohol. So bottoms up!

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Wear Offensive Footwear

I have genuinely seen men in motorcycle boots. These offer fantastic protection for your feet. In particular it will shield your delicate heels from the abrasive and hard toes of other dancers.

Ladies, heels that are as tall and narrow as possible. If you do topple, you can regain your balance by spearing another dancer through the calf muscle. Not only will this add unique styling, but will prevent anyone from outshining you.

Don’t Learn Steps

Why spend your hard earned cash on classes, when you can badger other people for free? If no-one is offering a free tutorial, simply grab someone at random and pull their arms as hard as you can.You’ve seen people do this in the movies, how hard can it be?

Maybe you dance Jive and find yourself at a Salsa night, or only know cross-body but want to try a Kizomba night?

Just power through every track with the steps you know, everyone else is wrong. While you’re at it, you might as well bust out the Macarena during the cha-cha track.

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Be Really Really Serious

Your face should show that your here to win. Your not a child in need of friends. Second place, is first loser.

Assert your dominance over your partner by staring through them. Tut if they make a mistake. Steer them through each move, and repeat moves they got wrong until you have fixed them.

If the serial killer death stare is not your style, then could always be the cool edgy one who refuses to talk, smile or even look at your partner. A free hand can be utilized to check your phone.

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[Bonus] Remember That Everyone is Judging you all the time

Everyone is judging you from the moment you walk through the door, till the moment you leave.We actually was already watching on our network of spy cameras and laugh at every mis-step and botched move.

We not only laugh, but we write them down in a register. If you look like your having too much fun, we’ll report you to the Salsa police who will Shimmy their way through your living room one day and take you to Salsa prison – where your only sustenance will be the fruit you can eat out of the cocktails, dance everywhere and have to spend the remainder of your years wearing sequins.

So you want to start your weekend on Thursday?

Are you at a loss for somewhere to go on a Thursday, with no option but to save yourself till Friday?

Sometimes I just wanted a place to let my (proverbial) hair down, drink a few cocktails and enjoy some music. I was enjoying the classes dotted around the city, but my favorite part of these events where the social hours at the end. Most notably, the free styling, reggae-ton and of course just kicking back and watching the other dancers.

I really do believe that dancers who attend classes, but not socials, are missing out on proving their chops in a live environment… as well as embracing the most fun aspect of the scene as well!

Whether you’ve been taking classes for a while, or you still think Salsa is something you stick doritos in, Latin social nights are really for everyone.

If you don’t know the steps, someone will show you. That’s if you want to. Many geordies just let the lager does its work on their inhibitions and break out their own choreography.

Harry’s Bar’s Salsa night starts at 2000. its free entry and has half price cocktails to boot.

Any other socials you’ve stumbled across? Or maybe you’re also a fan of this one?

Let me know in the comments!

Cuban Shines and The God of Iron

In a workshop, or even a social, you might see a shine that looks like the movements shown in this video.

I like these movements because they’re eye catching and interesting… so I did a little digging in to what I called (mentally) “the angry axe chop dance shine”.

Its actually a religious dance.

The religion in the spotlight is Yoruba, which primarily comes from South West Nigeria. This culture spread to Cuba as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Yoruba comprises of many deities called Orisha, the one I’ve seen to date in Newcastle is called Ogun.

Not physically, of course (Not to play down the no-doubtful chiselled and impressive physiques of the social salsa crowd in Newcastle). I mean in spirit.

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Ogun

The religious dances of the Orisha are a little more than aping the steps of a an other-worldly macarena. The come from a spiritual practice of inviting the Orisha to take over the body of an individual who enters a trance.

Ogun is portrayed as a large muscular man with a big weapon. He fights for injustice, invented the worlds sharpest axe, cleared forests and was a hit with the female Orishas.

So I can totally understand why people would desire a little bit of Ogun inside of them.

There’s an abundance of information on the mythos around Ogun and the culture that bore him. So pay a little thought about the Main Man and what his movements represent next time you’re cutting some God-like shapes in Bar Rumba.

Who, What, Why, When & Where

There seems to be a little confusion as to what this is all about. So I’m going drop some truth bombs that will have you leaving a little more enlightened in regards to my devious agenda.

Who

My face is on the sidebar. Its your friendly, neighborhood Clint. I’ve been an enthusiast ever since I stumbled into my first Salsa night.

What

After hearing of many events through word of mouth, I thought someone ought to list these nights somewhere in one easy to read format.

For now my main focus is just covering all the great nights, and then hopefully the great personalities on the scene.

Why

A lot of fun people seem to be blissfully unaware and miss out on fantastic nights, simply because if you don’t pick up a leaflet or someone tells you there’s no way of finding out besides wandering around Newcastle listening for latin music.

Or Google.

When

I’ll try and put something together every week.

Where?

Here!
I’m only covering events and people who are regularly active within Newcastle. 
There’s a lot of other great nights in other places, and probably a lot of great blogs writing about them!

Yersin Rivas

This has become my regular class, If you’ve met me at a social, you’ve probably already heard me big it up.


Authentic

I’ve yet to encounter a teacher in Newcastle with the experience and passion that this man has. His style is super-literate, interesting and authentic.

Easily the most enjoyable and physically demanding classes on offer – in my humble opinion – in Newcastle.

Don’t just take my word for it, though…

If you keep your eyes peeled on Facebook, he offers free taster sessions for beginners.

It may be of interest not just for people who are new to Salsa in general, but those that know cross-body and want to know more about that Cuban stuff you’ve seen at socials.

I feel that the style encourages the student not to simply memorize a sequence of moves but to feel the music and build a connection between leader and follower.

Yersin’s classes are very animated and physical, and are injected with lots of culture to give the moves context.

Regulars are friendly and chatty. Once you’ve got the basics down as a smaller class, you can expect to be challenged and pushed to improve.

About the main man…

Yersin Rivas was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba. He’s performed in in shows across Cuba and even toured South America.

There’s a lot more on his site over on salsafro.co.uk.

Where to find him

Yersin can be found every Wednesday night teaching in Kommunity. For the more vigilant on social media, you can can find his workshops and parties on the weekend and his Cuban classes at the Black Swan.

Chris Pentland


Chris’ classes and socials draw a large and diverse crowd  of regulars. His warm charisma and unique brand of humour keeps people coming back, as well as getting them up dancing at the end of the night.

The pace of the classes feel more laid back then other classes I’ve attended, especially for beginner levels. The technicality soon ramps up for the more advanced routines, which you are quickly encouraged to stay for.

Chris Pentland DJing at Black Swan

What initially attracted you to Salsa?

I was bored doing the same thing every Friday night so I told my friends I was staying in but was sneaking out to salsa. I got the initial feeling whilst travelling South America.

Favourite salsa track of all time?

Sonido bestial by Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz for the sheer energy and musical theatre it brings

Your golden rule?

Never leave your t-shirts in the washing machine too long before they’re dried. Once you dry them you think you’re ready to go soon as you get onto your fourth dance and heat passes through them you smell like a pair of tramps kegs…night ruined 

I couldn’t recommend Chris’ classes enough for beginners, and his social events are popular through no accident.

I’ll be listing all regular events on the where to dance page!

5 Essential Salsa Dancing Tips You Already Know

Smaller Steps

When dancing salsa, it is safer to take smaller and more controller steps. Men are less likely to crush a ladies toe, and ladies are less likely to spear a calf!
Secondly, it looks better. The dance looks more controlled, and it brings out a sexy movement in the hips. Leave lunging and large steps for your Zumba class, and lets have less jiggle and more wiggle!
Smaller steps allow faster and sharper transfer of weight, so you’ll not look flustered during a faster track.

Listen

Pin your ears back and take in the music. Even if it means dropping the “arm fu” and shines in favor of more basic steps, you’ll look sharper and interesting if you react to changes and shifts in gear.
Listen at home, at work or in the car. Details you may overlook in the buzz of a social will become more pronounced.
Learning to freeze on a pause or accentuating a drum fill with a shine will make you connect more with the music.

Smile

Let people know you’re not being held against your will at a social with a warm smile.Not only does it make you more inviting, but it also transforms your body language and movements. Let your partner know you’re enjoying their company.

Let Loose

Its easy to get locked into a set of moves you know you are “allowed” to use, but remember that you’re here to dance and let your hair down. Sometimes we can look a little stiff and robotic going though our repertoire of cool moves and practiced shines.
Do what you want and what feels natural. The more you suppress that desire the more your going to train your body to ignore what is going on in the music and march through the same routine to every song.
If you let it go, and ride it out, you might not only sprinkle on some of your own flavor but the more you allow this then the more your training your body to interpret the music and make it a fun expression rather than a memory test!
So use your arms, move your head, strike a pose… let loose! Worse case scenario is you get a laugh out of your partner.

Pretend Your Partner is a Person

When leading, try to invite your follower to move with you instead of forcing her. There are times when she just isn’t going to understand what you want, but it doesn’t matter, she’s there to have fun too.
Likewise, as followers, if you’ve agreed to let someone lead you then let them. The leader might be out of step, following the wrong beat or have absolutely no rhythm. If this is the case, then the leader has enough problems without also having to get into a battle for control.
Adjust your moves to the level of the other dancer. If the follower is not in the right shoes, or looks off balance during a certain type of turn then dial it down a bit. If the follower is really confident and is putting in lots of styling, then give her some space to do her thing.
In Conclusion
Have fun, and allow other people to have fun as well.
Did you agree with the above? You’re allowed not to!
Feel free to add your own tips in the comment section. 😄

Sam Mills

Every week kicks off with Sam’s party in Passing Clouds, attracting a medium sized group of mixed ages and abilities looking to opt out of the Monday Blues in favor of something decidedly more upbeat.

Sam Mills & Natalie
Sam Mills with, his dance partner, Natalie

My first class with Sam (and his cheeky partner, Natalie) was actually above Paradiso. The new venue, however, has been used for a couple of months now, and draws in extra dancers for the social. The raised stage allows Sam to more effectively demonstrate his footwork.

Sam has been on the scene for over seven years, initially promoting the Salsa / Bachata scene on Facebook. He’s a regular at the congress and has built up a dedicated band of regular students.

Sam’s teaches a Cross Body Salsa that emphases hook turns and intricate leads that will have the guys turning as much as the ladies.

Teaching a very smooth and polished style, which despite looking effortless, I found quite challenging. The routines are short, in-depth and build on-top of one another over the weeks.

Without feeling overwhelmed, I quickly felt I had a nice repertoire which was usable at socials.

I find the length of the classes just right. Sam and his partner are warm and welcoming, and always open to answer questions.

Overall a good relaxing night, with a deceptively steep learning curve.