Overcome your shyness of social dancing

by Jeffrey Huang

As a dance teacher, one thing that pains me greatly is knowing that my students aren’t going out social dancing. The reasons are as colorful as they are varied. Here are some of the more popular ones:

“I am shy.”
“I am not good enough yet.”
“I need more practice.”
“My dog ate my dance partner.”

Ok, maybe the last one is slightly less common (slightly), but in most of these excuses I hear the same message: I feel anxious and uncomfortable about social dancing, and I am afraid that I’ll embarrass myself.

Maybe it’ll surprise you to know that it took me about 6 months from my very first salsa class before I even dared to step into a salsa social. As a socially recluse university student who lived at home and was never into sports, this was definitely far beyond my comfort zone. It was a painful learning experience, even though it did not have to be.

So, from one ex-recluse to another, here are some ways you can reduce your anxiety when social dancing.

Step 1: Listen to lots of salsa music
As a beginner, this was my greatest secret weapon; knowing the music gave me many advantages – I found the beat much easier, I was able to predict when the chorus would come in, when a solo was coming, and when the song would end. When I heard a familiar song during a social, I felt confident and prepared.

Step 2: Make friends in class
One of the great advantages of group dance classes is that you get to make new friends, on and off the dance floor. Once you feel ready to hit the dance floor, go with a friend or as a group. You’ll feel less intimidated, and you’re guaranteed to have someone you like to dance with.

Step 3: Take the class at a salsa social
Most socials start with a free, beginner-friendly class. Going early and taking the class not only gives you a chance to learn something new (or practice something you already know), it helps break the ice and meet other dancers. Introduce yourself to each new partner, and if they seem nice, ask them to save you a dance later. No one will turn you down.

Step 4: Sit and observe
Lots of beginners feel an obligation to dance when they come to socials, but there’s no shame in people-watching (in fact, it’s half the fun!). So sit back, pick your favorite dancers from the crowd to study, listen to the music and practice finding the beat, and chat with other dancers. Knowing the crowd and the music will make you more confident, and when you feel up to it, you’ll start dancing.

Step 5: Stay positive
After coming to socials for a while, you will start to recognize familiar faces, hear familiar songs, and will come to the realization that, just like you, every dancer on the floor is trying to learn and improve. But what’s more, you are surrounded by a group of like-minded people, who love good music, dancing, and great company.

So next time you see me out there, ask me for a dance, and go easy on me. I’m still learning.

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Azúcar! News – Week of May 20

It’s news day on the Azúcar! Blog. Here are the latest happenings from around the salsa scene

We hope everyone’s had a fantastic long weekend. As for us, we spent the last few days at the Montreal Salsa Convention, taking in some amazing shows, social dancing with people we’re in awe of, and learning some great new moves and techniques that we can’t wait to pass on to all of you!

Intro to Salsa A make-up class
Since our studio was closed both Saturday and Monday this past weekend, we are holding a make-up class for our Intro to Salsa A students, today (Tuesday, May 21) at 6pm. Hope to see you all there!

Instagram

We’ve joined Instagram!
Help us tell our story in pictures – connect with us @AzucarOttawa and tag your photos with #azucarottawa. Let’s get this party started!

Twitter

Connect with us on Twitter!
We’re  @AzucarOttawa. Come chat, ask questions, and get news and updates from the worldwide salsa scene.

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.com!

We know a few of our students got their lessons as gifts for a special occasion. Now we’re making it even easier to give your loved ones the gift of dance – you can send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.com. Click, order, and have the card send directly to them, electronically or by mail!

This week’s events
For a list of other socials happening this week, check out Salsa à la carte.

Artist of the month – Marc Anthony

by Jeff Huang

Not too long after I’ve started dancing salsa, my method of finding salsa music was mostly by going to Costco and buying the “100 Best Salsa/Must-have Latin/Best Tropical” CD collections (this was before YouTube and the era of fast downloads). Of course, most of the songs ended up either being not salsa, totally un-danceable, or one of those gritty, old old school salsa. (You know, the ones with nothing but trumpets blaring. All. The. Time. )

I didn’t know better then, and thought that salsa music was pretty one-dimensional, and forever stuck in the 60s, until I found this song:

Marc Anothony – Ahora Quien (Salsa Version)

This was my first introduction to romantic salsa, and furthermore, it put me in a state of shock. How could this be salsa music? I must have listened to this song at least 500 times before the CD gave out (read: I sat on it by accident). I had no idea what the lyrics were saying, but I could feel the power behind his words. These were by far some of the strongest feelings I felt listening to a piece of music. I was hooked.

It was much, much later, when I started researching salsa singers, that I learned who sang this song; it wasn’t “Mac Anthoughny” as the back of the CD had suggested, but Marc Anthony. And this month, I’d like to do a feature on him.

Born Marco Antonio Muñiz in New York City, Marc is the youngest of 8 siblings in a Puerto Rican family. Marc started his musical career in the 1980s as a session vocalist for freestyle and underground New York house music acts. He produced a number of freestyle records, and worked as a backup singer and vocals for other artists.

After 1992, Marc changed his focus from freestyle to salsa and other Latin melodies, and soon after, he was quickly recognized as one of the great new talents in salsa world. He released his Spanish-language debut, Otra Nota, in 1993, followed by Todo a Su Tiempo in 1995, winning him the title of “tropical artist of the year”.  Marc went on to produce eight more albums, making music ranging from salsa to ballads to pop, and sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, making him the top selling tropical salsa artist of all time. Marc also received numerous awards for his accomplishments, including both the Grammy Awards and the Latin Grammy Awards.

I could go on talking about Marc’s film career and his complicated personal life, including his marriage and divorce to a former Miss Universe, and more famously to Jennifer Lopez. However, this is a salsa blog, and I am here to show case his music, so here are some of Marc Anthony’s more memorable pieces for you to enjoy:

Marc Anthony – Valio La Pena (Salsa Version)

Marc Anthony –  A Quien Quiero Mentirle (Salsa Version)

Azúcar! News – Week of May 13

Monday is news day on the Azúcar! Blog. Here are the latest happenings from around the salsa scene

Victoria Day long weekend
The Montreal Salsa Convention is taking place this weekend, and all Azucar! teachers will be in Montreal learning some new tricks to share with you, straight from the world’s best dancers. As a result, our studio will be closed and all classes will be cancelled on the following days:

  • Saturday, May 18
  • Monday, May 20

If you have any questions, please email us at info@azucarottawa.com.

Twitter
We’re on Twitter!
We’ve seen the light, joined the 21st century, and got with it. Connect with us – we’re  @AzucarOttawa. Come chat, ask questions, and get news and updates from the worldwide salsa scene.

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.com!
We know a few of our students got their lessons as gifts for a special occasion. Now we’re making it even easier to give your loved ones the gift of dance – you can send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.com. Click, order, and have the card send directly to them, electronically or by mail!

This week’s events
For a list of other socials happening this week, check out Salsa à la carte.

Azúcar! News – Week of May 6

Monday is news day on the Azúcar! Blog. This week, we’re starting a new class session, and announcing a special Burlesque Workshop by Emilie!

Spring/Summer session starts today!
We’re back with a full array of classes! Tonight:

  • 6pm – Intro to Salsa A, with Ana and Jeff. Take your first steps into Salsa and Merengue!
  • 7pm – Beginner Bachata with Ana and Jeff. This 4-week class will teach you the basics of this sensual dance.

Be sure to check out our full Spring/Summer schedule at http://azucarottawa.com/schedule

Express – a new Burlesque Workshop by Emilie Phaneuf this Saturday!
Want to feel sexy and have fun while learning some hot dance moves? Emilie has a great routine inspired by Christina Aguilera’s “Express” that’s sure to bring in your inner bombshell.
This Saturday at 2:15pm! More details on the Facebook event page.

Twitter
We’re on Twitter!
We’ve seen the light, joined the 21st century, and got with it. Connect with us – we’re  @AzucarOttawa. Come chat, ask questions, and get news and updates from the worldwide salsa scene.

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.com!
We know a few of our students got their lessons as gifts for a special occasion. Now we’re making it even easier to give your loved ones the gift of dance – you can send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.com. Click, order, and have the card send directly to them, electronically or by mail!

This week’s events
For a list of other socials happening this week, check out Salsa à la carte.

The Art of Getting Better

by Ana Gherasim

Have you ever watched a great salsa dancer and wondered why your basic step doesn’t look as smooth as theirs? Or taken a class, learned the move, then got discouraged because your teachers seem to flow through it while you look like you’re fighting for your life?

I have. And I’m here to tell you it gets better!

It’s easy to put it all down to natural ability – “they were born dancers; I’m too uncoordinated / too old / too white” (I’ve heard it all and thought it all) – but the truth is, in most cases, that’s just not true. Most great dancers are made, not born, and they were made through years of practice.

Recently, a few students told me I look “so naturally graceful” when I dance. I’m flattered, but I have to tell you, there’s nothing natural about it. I spent most of my life as a hopeless klutz, tripping over my feet and bumping into furniture at least 4 times a day. When I started learning salsa, my dancing was clunky and awkward, and I had all the grace of a tortoise trying to jump rope. But time and practice and practice (and practice) trained my muscles and my brain to find these moves increasingly normal, and as a result made them look better.

Ana & Jeff. Now slightly less clumsy than rope-jumping tortoises.

Ana & Jeff. Now slightly less clumsy than rope-jumping tortoises.

Ask any dancer who’s been around a while, and they’re likely to tell you the same thing: learning a new move is the easy part. The hard part is practicing it until your brain rewires itself and your muscles reshape themselves to make it look effortless.

Yes, some people are naturally more agile or graceful or flexible or coordinated than others, but this alone never translates into great dancing. Never assume a good dancer got good without effort and practice, and never assume that effort and practice won’t get you there – because it will!

So:

  1. Practice often
  2. Keep track of your progress with videos of yourself dancing
  3. Seek feedback and help when you need it

and you’ll become a better dancer than you ever thought you could be. And in a year, everyone will assume you were naturally gifted.

I’m still nowhere near where I want to be in my dancing, but a few years of practice have taught me that a few more years of diligent practice will get me there. And if the girl who uses her shins to mark the height of her furniture can do it, then so can you!