Beware of pattern monkeys, and avoid becoming one!

by Jeff Huang

If you’ve been to at least one of my classes, you’ve probably heard me say that dancing is all about communication with your partner. After all, the reason dancing exists is to help people socialize, to entertain, and to foster self-expression.

Unfortunately, there is a particular niche of dancers labeled “pattern monkeys”, whose sole purpose on the dance floor is to execute/follow combinations after combinations, moves after moves; never blinking, never smiling, almost as if he or she has reached a deep zen state of other-worldly detachment. These are what most dancers’ worst nightmares are made of, and a chance encounter with one could turn a healthy, well-adjusted person into a broken pile of self-doubt and regret before the song is half over.

*deep breath* Alright, full disclosure: I was once *gasp* a pattern monkey. I was often so deeply entranced in making a particular combination work that I completely forgot that there is another human being in front of me. In the meantime, my partners (including Ana) were wondering where I have been for the last five minutes, and why in the world are they dancing with me, when I’m not really dancing with them. It has been a traumatizing experience, but after multiple interventions (read: getting yelled at by people), and confrontations (read: getting yelled at loudly by people), I’ve finally come out the other side of the tunnel. Never again!

So how do we avoid becoming slaves to our patterns? Here are some of my suggestions, from a guy’s perspective:
  1. Do not treat your partner as a mere dummy to try moves on – you are, in fact, dancing with another human being. This is VERY important, it means that you should pay attention to your partner and observe what she is doing. Is she enjoying the dance? Is she having trouble following you? Is she even paying attention to you? By establishing a connection with your partner, you’ve just made the first big step towards making the dance enjoyable.
  2. Adjust your lead – every dance partner is different, like a beautiful and unique snowflake *cough*, whether it be height, size, arm length, or dance experience. Make sure that your partner is comfortable following the more basic moves before you start throwing around advanced patterns and combinations! Remember, in the majority of cases, if the pattern does not work, the lead is to blame.
  3. Be musical – no matter no many fancy patterns you are able to throw around, if you don’t express them with music, you are not dancing well. A good lead is able to identify what the music is trying to say (romantic? fun? cheeky?) and dance accordingly. If the music is fast and exciting, don’t start leading long and complex moves because you’ll pretzel your partner; instead, stick to simple turns and cross-body leads, do some shines and goof off. If the music is slow and sensual, be bold, jump into the hard stuff and impress her with the depth of your repertoire.
I guess it all comes down to this – dancing is never just patterns; it’s about enjoying the music, and each other’s company! So the next time you’re out dancing, take a look at what your partner is up to, and don’t forget to smile!

Open House, new classes, and your opinion!

Azucar! News – Week of October 28

Azucar! Open House – this Saturday!
We’re half way though our Fall 2013 session, which means a new 7-week class session starts next week! To start it off in style, we’re offering FREE Salsa, Afro-Urban and Samba Reggae workshops this Saturday, November 2nd, to give you a taste of these new classes. Find all the details on our Facebook event page.

New classes start next week!
A new session of our Intro to Salsa classes starts next week, as well as new 7-week sessions of Natalie Gelman’s Afro Urban and Samba Reggae classes. Class times will be as follows:

  • Intro to Salsa A: Wednesdays, 6:30 to 7:30pm and Saturdays, 11am to noon
  • Intro to Salsa B: Mondays, 6pm to 7pm and Saturdays, noon to 1pm
  • Afro-Urban: Thursdays, 6pm to 7pm
  • Samba Reggae: Thursdays, 7pm to 8pm

To register for any of these classes, email us at info@azucarottawa.com or come by for your first class!

What are your thoughts on children’s/teens’ classes?
So far, we only offer adult classes, but we have had a few requests for kids’ or teens’ classes. If you know or have children or teens who might be interested in dance classes, we want to hear from you! Tell us: what class would they be most interested in, and for what age group? Leave a comment, or email us at info@azucarottawa.com.

MSC

We’re organizing a school trip to next year’s Montreal congress! If you haven’t checked out a salsa congress before, we highly encourage you to go. Get your tickets, and email us at info@azucarottawa.com to let us know, so we can include you in our Montreal Salsa Convention mailing list!

Connect with us!
On Twitter: @AzucarOttawa
On Instagram: @AzucarOttawa
On Facebook: /AzucarOttawa

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.ca!
Give your loved ones the gift of dance – send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.ca. 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.

Halloween, Open House, and more fall fun!

Azucar! News – Week of October 21

Halloween salsa parties
Halloween is coming soon, and we love dancing in costume, so you don’t want to miss this year’s Halloween salsa events:


Azucar! Open House – November 2nd

We’re half way though our Fall 2013 session, which means a new 7-week class session starts the week of November 4th! To start it off in style, we’re offering FREE Salsa, Afro-Urban and Samba Reggae workshops on Saturday, November 2nd, to give you a taste of these new classes. Find all the details on our Facebook event page.

MSC

We’re organizing a school trip to next year’s Montreal congress! If you haven’t checked out a salsa congress before, we highly encourage you to go. Get your tickets, and email us at info@azucarottawa.com to let us know, so we can include you in our Montreal Salsa Convention mailing list!

Connect with us!
On Twitter: @AzucarOttawa
On Instagram: @AzucarOttawa
On Facebook: /AzucarOttawa

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.ca!
Give your loved ones the gift of dance – send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.ca. 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.

Is your Halloween costume dance-ready?

It’s October, and those of us who are excited about Halloween are looking forward to Salsaria’s Masqu’oween Gala, and to Rahim’s Halloween Salsa Bash!

Picking a costume for these events is always a fun challenge – not only does your costume have to be awesome, it also has to be easy (or at least possible) to dance in, otherwise you might be in for a pretty miserable night.

If you’re ready to make a bit of an investment, an actual themed dance costume might be the best way to go; dance costumes are built for the stage, so they are often showy and fun, but they are also made with comfort and range of motion in mind, so they will be dance-friendly.

However, if you are buying a ready-made, non-dance costume, or making your own, here are a few tips for making sure your costume is dance-ready:

  1. Leave yourself room to move
    Costumes that are too tight to move in, or too heavy or unwieldy to dance in will probably have you sitting all night. Try to pick something that gives you enough range of movement to dance the way you would normally, and will also stay on through multiple spins. Layers you can put on for, say, a costume contest, but take off for social dancing are also your friends.
  2. Choose breathable fabrics
    Most of the affordable all-in-one costumes you will find at costume shops will be made of cheap polyester that’s only a couple of steps removed from wearing a plastic bag, in terms of breathability and heat dissipation. Try going for more breathable, more natural fabrics to avoid overheating. Heavily layered costumes, wigs and other props can also get very warm very fast, so choose carefully.
  3. Pick masks wisely
    Masks that cover your entire face can limit your field of vision, which can make you a threat to others on the floor if you can’t see where you’re going or if your peripheral vision is gone. (Dear pirates, your eye patches will affect your depth perception!) Also be mindful of how well you can breathe in your mask – you will need much more oxygen while dancing than while standing in the store picking out your mask. Try to opt for something that doesn’t cover your nose, and has wide eye holes; if you want a full-face mask, try getting the look with make-up rather than plastic.
  4. Accessorize with safety in mind
    Animal tails will whip those around you when you spin, but you can still have your tail if you, for instance, secure it to your pant leg while dancing (velcro, double-sided tape, and safety pins all work). Long, heavy earrings will whip you in the face while you spin (trust me), and wigs/crowns/anything else that goes on your head can move around or even fly off if they are not well secured.
  5. When in doubt, dance-test it!
    There’s nothing like a live test, so when you’re shopping or digging through your closet, try to dance in full attire (preferably for a full song) before committing to a costume.

Are you dressing up for Halloween this year? Who/what will you be, and how are you dance-proofing your costume?

Kizomba classes, Halloween salsa parties, and more!

Azucar! News – Week of October 14

Kizomba classes at Azucar!
We’re thrilled to once again host Kizomba classes in our studio, starting this Saturday at 8pm! For more information, join the JazZombA Facebook group!

Halloween salsa parties
Halloween is coming soon, and we love dancing in costume, so you don’t want to miss this year’s Halloween salsa events:

MSC

We’re organizing a school trip to next year’s Montreal congress! If you haven’t checked out a salsa congress before, we highly encourage you to go. Get your tickets, and email us at info@azucarottawa.com to let us know, so we can include you in our Montreal Salsa Convention mailing list!

Connect with us!
On Twitter: @AzucarOttawa
On Instagram: @AzucarOttawa
On Facebook: /AzucarOttawa

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.ca!
Give your loved ones the gift of dance – send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.ca. 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.

Samba-Reggae starts this Thursday!

Azucar! News – Week of October 7

Samba Reggae web
NEW – Samba-Reggae class stars this Thursday!

Looking for more Latin flavour to add to your dancing? Natalie Gelman’s new Samba-Reggae class starts this Thursday at 7pm! Sign up for a 4-week course ($50), or drop in for individual classes ($17/class).

Thanksgiving Weekend classes
Next weekend (October 12-14) we are celebrating Thanksgiving! Our Saturday (October 12) classes are still on, however all classes are cancelled on Monday, October 14. We are scheduling make-up classes as follows:

  • Intro to Salsa A – Wednesday, October 16, at 5:30pm
  • Salsa: Intermediate 2 –  Tuesday, October 15, at 5:00pm

MSC

We’re organizing a school trip to next year’s Montreal congress! If you haven’t checked out a salsa congress before, we highly encourage you to go. Get your tickets, and email us at info@azucarottawa.com to let us know, so we can include you in our Montreal Salsa Convention mailing list!

Connect with us!
On Twitter: @AzucarOttawa
On Instagram: @AzucarOttawa
On Facebook: /AzucarOttawa

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.ca!
Give your loved ones the gift of dance – send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.ca. 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.

New Samba-Reggae class, Thanksgiving weekend, and Montreal Salsa Convention

Azucar! News – Week of September 30

NEW – Samba-Reggae class stars next week!
Looking for more Latin flavour to add to your dancing? Natalie Gelman is starting a new Samba-Reggae class next week, replacing our Thursday yoga classes. Check back next week for all the details!

Thanksgiving Weekend classes
Next weekend (October 12-14) we are celebrating Thanksgiving! Our Saturday (October 12) classes are still on, however all classes are cancelled on Monday, October 14. We are scheduling make-up classes as follows:

  • Intro to Salsa A – Wednesday, October 16, at 5:30pm
  • Salsa: Intermediate 2 – TBD (possibly Tuesday, October 15, at 5:00pm, but check back next week for the official time)

MSC

We’re organizing a school trip to next year’s Montreal congress! If you haven’t checked out a salsa congress before, we highly encourage you to go. Get your tickets, and email us at info@azucarottawa.com to let us know, so we can include you in our Montreal Salsa Convention mailing list!

Connect with us!
On Twitter: @AzucarOttawa
On Instagram: @AzucarOttawa
On Facebook: /AzucarOttawa

smakk logoAzúcar! gift cards available on SMAKK.ca!
Give your loved ones the gift of dance – send them an Azúcar! gift card from SMAKK.ca. 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.