Jeff is one of the founders of Azùcar! Latin Dance Company as well as one of its most active teachers. Jeff is currently teaching Intro to Salsa and Salsa: Novice classes 4 days a week and working to promote the school and think up new classes the rest of the time. He also occasionally sleeps but tries not to make it a habit. He also thinks he is Batman.
How long have you been involved in Latin dance?
I started dancing in Vancouver as a university student in 2004. I chose to dance salsa because when I was in elementary school, I saw a group of salsa dancers at an outdoor social event, and I was completely awestruck by how much fun they were having. This image stuck with me as I got older, and when opportunity came along, I jumped in.
8 years later, I have not been disappointed.
Why do you teach and how did you decide to become a teacher?
I am sure everyone teaches for similar reasons – a sense of gratification to see their students grow and develop, and to see that special “aha” moment when they transform from novices into hot stuff on the dance floor.
Personally, I am more focused on bringing variety into the Ottawa salsa scene. Ottawa has so many talented dancers and artists of every genre; it would be awesome to integrate their style and energy into the salsa community. Thinking about it makes me smile.
I’ve always wanted to teach, but I had lots of difficulty finding opportunities to do so in Ottawa. I’ve had a few opportunities teaching one-time workshops and private classes here and there, but never anything consistent. That is until Roy, the founder of Salsafanatics, offered me a teaching position; I was finally allowed to try my hand on teaching a full class (which, by the way, I am eternally grateful for) and haven’t looked back since.
What are you a stickler for, in your classes?
For those who have been in my classes, they would know that I have two pet peeves: timing and communication.
I have a background in music (as do most Asian kids; it’s required by conventional stereotype): 22 years in piano, 10 years in violin, and 9 years in percussion. So when I see someone not dancing on beat, it causes me physical pain. One thing I always tell my students: If you are not listening to the beat, you are not dancing!
Another thing that I am particular about is for guys to make their lead comfortable. I could go on forever on that topic, but I’ll just leave it at this: if you are not comfortable to dance with, who would dance with you?
What advice would you give to your students?
Personally, I had a relatively slow start as a social dancer because I was quite shy. When I finally worked up the courage to ask someone to dance only to be rejected, it pushed me further back from trying again. Luckily, I had a lady friend at the time who was patient enough to go dancing with me constantly, and encouraged me to continue dancing. Without her support, I am sure that I would not be where I am today.
Since then, I have met some wonderful people in the dance world, and have become a much better person and dancer because of it.
What I am trying to say is, salsa is a social dance, so it is important for all dancers, both guys and girls, to be social with one another. We Ottawa dancers are very fortunate to have such a friendly salsa scene supported by great schools and event organizers, so let’s keep that tradition going, and make sure that we all have a great time!
Oh, and guys, don’t put on too much cologne.
What do you do when you’re not dancing?
Off the dance floor, I am a bit of a gamer (much to the chagrin and loving support of my partner). I also enjoy cooking, photography, and using laser pointers around cats.
I also spend ridiculous amount of time planning teaching materials, and working on collaboration projects and special workshops, so I can bring the latest and coolest things to Ottawa dancers!
One other thing students should know about you?
As you can see, I am a very serious and no-nonsense individual.
Also, I am Batman.