Teacher poll: Favourite bachata song of the moment?

I feel like we’ve been talking about bachata a lot recently: we introduced our Beginner Bachata class this semester, we’ve talked about the origins of bachata on this blog, and we’re planning a big bachata-centric bash on February 10th. So with all of this bachata going on, we asked our teachers for their favourite bachata songs. Here are their picks:

Emilie will always LOVE Bachata en Fukuoka by Juan Luis Guerra.

Darnell’s pick was Las Cosas Pequeñas by Prince Royce.  Not only is it a great song, but he says the lyrics really speak to him as well.

Jeff’s current favourite is Playa Fa Sho’ by Toby Love. A bit of a different bachata style.

Ana had a tough time deciding between Te Extrano by Xtreme, and Contra el mundo by Bachata Heightz, so… here are both of them!

Te Extrano, by Xtreme

Contra il mundo, by Bachata Heightz

What are your current favourites? Share them in a comment below!

Backleading

If you’ve taken classes with us, or with almost any social dance school, you might have heard your teachers warn against backleading. But what IS backleading, why is it bad, and how do we avoid it? Let’s find out.

Lead & Follow
In social partner dancing, one dancer leads (i.e. chooses moves to suit the music and communicates his intention via physical “signals” and “leads”), while the other follows (i.e. interprets the signals and leads and executes the moves).

Backleading is a term for when the Follow goes through a move either without waiting for a lead, or that goes against the lead. It is considered a bad habit in social dancing because it can make the Follow difficult to dance with, and can also put dancers at risk of injury in some cases.

Why do we backlead?
Ladies, let’s be honest for a moment: we’ve ALL done it, especially as beginners, and the reasons can vary:

  • Beginners often backlead because they don’t yet know what the lead is supposed to feel like. (this is fairly easily corrected in class)
  • Some of us backlead to “help” our partners get through a move. (this is an especially bad habit because you’re giving your partner the impression that they’ve led the move properly, and it prevents them from correcting a weak lead)
  • We backlead when we get an unclear lead and take our “best guess” as to what we’re meant to do. (this can often be due to a weak lead. In theory we’re supposed to wait for a clear lead, however in practice it’s less clear-cut)
  • We backlead when we get caught up in the dance and put styling ahead of following. (never forget that you’re dancing with a partner!)

How can I tell if I’m backleading?
If you’re in class, a teacher will let you know. If you’re social dancing, most dancers will be too polite to tell you. However, you can always dance with someone you know leads well, and ask for feedback.

Another good exercise against backleading is “dancing blind”. For this, you need a partner you trust, and an empty dance floor. Then, try following with your eyes closed. This will force you to rely only on the physical signals you are receiving, rather than on visual cues. It will also make you more likely to wait for a clear lead before executing a move.

Any other tips to avoid backleading? Leave them below!

Azúcar! News – Week of January 28

Monday is news day on the Azúcar! Blog. Here are your latest school updates and news from around the Ottawa salsa scene.

Hard to believe January is almost over already! How are everyone’s New Year Resolutions coming?

First off, the winner of our 100th Blog Post giveaway is Trish Stolte! Congrats, Trish – we’ll be in touch about your prize!

Reminder: Intermediate 1 class times
As promised, this week will be the first time that the Intermediate 1 class will be offered on Saturday from 1 to 2pm. Thank you all very much for your continue support and participation!

Also, due to popular demand, we will be keeping the Intermediate 1 class on Monday from 6 to 7pm! How awesome is that?

Special Valentine’s Day events at Azúcar!
If you haven’t checked us out on Facebook lately, we will be holding two major events in February. The first is on Saturday, February 9th, from 3 to 4:30pm, when the awesome Emilie Phaneuf will be holding a Burlesque Workshop just for you special ladies!  Space is limited, so sign up while you can!

On February 10th, Azúcar! will be holding Be My Valentine, our very first Pre-Valentine’s Day social! From 7 to 8pm, come take a bachata workshop for beginners, or challenge yourself with an intermediate level couples-only bachata pattern! From 8 to 11pm, the floor will be open to a night of romantic salsa and bachata music provided by Jeff and Darnell! It’s going to be a steamy night that you won’t forget!

For the full details, check out the Facebook event pages linked above, and don’t forget to share!

This week’s events
Our free studio socials are continuing, every Monday (8:00-10:30pm) and Wednesday (9-10:30pm). Free, and open to all!

Want more? For a list of other socials happening this week, check out Salsa à la carte.

100th Blog Post – Giveaway!

Welcome to our 100th blog post! Over the past few months, we’ve written:

To celebrate, we’re giving away a custom “social dance care” package made up of:

  • 1 pair of Etymotic ER-20 earplugs
  • 1 music CD by our resident DJs – you tell us what kind of music you would like (classic salsa? Hot bachata? A romantic mix? A pop-inspired selection? Good practice music?) and they’ll put together 20 great tracks just for you
  • Free admission for You+1 to our upcoming February 10 Pre-Valentine’s Day Party (including workshops!)

How do you enter to win?

  1. Go to our Facebook page.
  2. “Like” us.
  3. On our timeline, post a link to your favourite Azucar! blog article, no later than Monday, January 28 at noon (Ottawa time).

Other rules
You can enter several times, but if you do, you have to pick a different article each time (multiple identical entries will be screened out). Each valid entry will be assigned a number; after the contest closes, we’ll use a random number generator to pick one winner.

The winner will be announced here in our next post, and on our Facebook page, on Monday (January 28) afternoon, and we’ll be in touch to work out the details. Since earplugs will need to be custom-ordered, and the CD will need to be put together after we talk to the winner, the prize will be delivered at our party on February 10th.

A different kind of teacher poll

Earlier this week, on our Facebook page, we asked you for questions to put to our teachers, to help you get to know them a bit better, or to get their opinion on anything dance-related. The question that came up instead was one regarding the credentialing or certification of dance instructors. 

I’ve already stated my views on this matter on Facebook, but the question did get me thinking about what makes a good teacher, and how that can be measured or “certified”. So I’m turning to you, dear readers, and asking you this:

Who was your best teacher/instructor, whether in dance or any other creative field, and what made him/her great?

I’m looking forward to reading your answers, either in the blog comments on the Facebook page, where this post will be linked.

Artist profile – Prince Royce

For this month’s artist feature, I figured that we would follow up last week’s bachata introduction and showcase a great new bachata artist – Prince Royce (real name: Geoffrey Royce Rojas).

Born in 1989, (He’s only 23!?! Whooo boy, talented artists are coming out younger and younger…), Royce was raised in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. Both Royce’s parents are Dominican – his father working as a taxi-cab driver, and his mother in a beauty salon. Royce was greatly involved in music growing up: competing in talent shows, singing in choirs, and writing his own music as early as age 16.

Royce’s debut album, “Prince Royce”, came out on March 2, 2010, focusing on bachata music with strong R&B and pop influences. The lead single, Stand by Me, a cover of Ben E. King’s 1961 song by the same title, instantly became a huge hit across the Latin music scene (Ben King himself was so impressed that he performed the song alongside Royce at the 2010 Latin Grammy Awards), and propelled Royce to stardom.

Prince Royce – Stand by Me
(for some reason, embedding videos isn’t working for me today. Sorry guys! Click the link above to open the YouTube video.)

His second and most recent album, “Phase II”, was released in 2012. Royce had the same R&B influence in a number of his songs, but also started experimenting with other genres, infusing Mariachi styling into one of his most popular singles, Incondicional. The album was certified platinum in the US and Puerto Rico within 6 months.

Prince Royce – Incondicional

What I like about Prince Royce is that he represents a new breed of bachata musicians – a breath of fresh air and modernity into a genre often accused of refusing to evolve beyond its classic “feel” (making a lot of bachata songs sound exactly the same). Not only was Royce able to make a name for himself at a young age, he also successfully blended other genres of music into bachata to create new sounds. My hat off to you, Prince Royce. The future of bachata is in good hands.

Ana’s Dance Shoe Tips: Dance Shoe Straps

Last Friday, I wrote about quirky search engine results that brought people to this blog. Well, today, also while browsing the search terms, I found that someone searched for whether it’s better to fasten Latin dance shoes around the ankle or under the foot. And since we’ve had a couple of dance shoe shopping trips lately and got a few questions about strap configuration, here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of straps available:

1. Simple Ankle Strap: This is your basic strap connecting one side of the heel cup to the other. It’s the least supportive of all strap styles – except, of course, for shoes with no straps at all, which we don’t recommend.

Ana’s tip: Wider ankle straps are a bit better than thin ankle straps. The thin ones tend to dig in and put a lot of pressure on the front of your ankle.

t-strap2. T-Strap (or T-bar strap): This is a simple ankle strap, plus a strap that connects the ankle strap to the toe of the shoe. The t-strap secures your foot more evenly to the shoe and takes some of the pressure and tightness off the ankle. Some dancers swear by t-straps, because they allow you to point your feet without the front of the shoe sliding forward.

Ana’s tip: I like t-straps, but whether or not they’ll be great for pointing will depend on the flexibility of the shoe and the strength of your foot. It takes a strong arch to bend a t-strapped shoe and still keep the arch of the shoe glued to your foot; in many cases, you don’t get as nice of a point, and you get a gap between your arch and the shoe. For social dancing, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re competing or performing, it’s something to consider.

x-strap ankle3. X-Strap: This is a very popular style, because it offers quite a bit of stability; there are two main variations of the X-strap:
a. Around-the-ankle (first photo): gives about twice the support and stability of a simple ankle strap.
b. Around-the-arch (second photo): more supportive and stable, this strap anchors your foot to the arch of the shoe. This is ideal for newer dancers, as well as anyone who is prone to “rolling” ankles (feeling wobbly in heels with a x-strap archtraditional ankle strap). This style of strap also helps the shoe stay close to your foot when you point, instead of having a gap under your arch.

Ana’s tip: any shoe with an around-the-ankle X-strap can be converted to an around-the-arch X-strap, and vice versa. Simply un-loop the strap and wrap it around the other part of your foot.

double x-strap4. Double X-Strap: This style combines the around-the-ankle X-strap and the around-the-arch X-strap, for the maximum amount of stability and security, short of wearing lace-up shoes. Your feet will feel amazingly secure, so long as you don’t mind fastening 2 straps every time.

Ana’s tip: I’ve never tried this type of style, but I’m curious about it. Mainly, I’m wondering if all those straps would dig into my ankle too much or limit my range of motion, and whether it would take me annoyingly long to get into and out of the shoes. Once I find some and try them, I’ll let you know!

Of course, there are many other possible strap configurations, found in more modern, trendy dance shoes, and their effectiveness will vary.

Back to the question of whether around-the-ankle or around-the-arch X-straps are “better” – there’s no definitive answer because, like many other aspects of a dance shoe (heel height, stiletto vs. flared heel, closed vs. open-toe, strappy vs. solid etc), much of it is personal preference. However, if you’re looking for the strap style that will give you the most support and the greatest stability, then I would recommend the around-the-arch X-strap.

Do you have a specific question about dance shoes that I can answer? Leave it in the comments or email me at ana@azucarottawa.com.