Ali has some of the longest and most diverse dance history of the Azúcar! team, but experience has far from dampened her love of dance or enthusiasm for introducing others to salsa. She is currently teaching Intro to Salsa and Salsa: Novice classes with Darnell on Wednesdays, and dividing the rest of her time between choreography practices and social dancing.
How long have you been involved in Latin dance?
It’s been a life-long process – I started social dancing as a kid, living in Latin America, where merengue is a fact of life. I went back to it in Canada first as a club dancer, then started taking classes 3 years ago and never stopped.
What’s the best thing salsa has given you?
An instant family. I moved to Ottawa knowing one person. Within one week, Jeff and Ana invited me to dinner after we met on the dance floor. After a few months, I had a great group of friends who shared the same passion for dance and have the same interests. And the greatest thing is, through salsa, you can do that in any city in the world – it’s a universal language.
Why do you teach and how did you decide to become a teacher?
Teaching always seemed to be a natural extension of training – as a teen, I stared teaching ballet, rhythmic gymnastics, jazz, contemporary, musical theatre… There wasn’t a definite start to becoming a teacher, I sort of evolved into it by being willing to help others in class. It’s been the same with salsa.
What are you a stickler for, in your classes?
Dance manners. Poor salsa dance etiquette is unacceptable. There will always be a bit of my classes dedicated to the importance of being courteous and considerate on the dance floor, from personal hygiene to respecting other dancers’ space.
What advice would you give to your students?
First: buy good shoes.
Second: always remember why you started dancing. If it’s to meet new people, then go dance, be social and strike up conversations. If it’s to learn rhythm and movement, find people who can help you reach those goals. Always remember why you took up dancing.
What do you do when you’re not dancing?
Sleeping through movies on the couch. Between working, dancing, teaching, taking lessons and performing, there’s really not much time left in the day.
One other thing students should know about you?
I get really excited when my students do well. So don’t be alarmed if you see me clapping hysterically – it’s a good thing.