Teacher poll: If there is one thing that could be improved with the Ottawa salsa scene, what would it be?

One thing we’re big on at Azucar! is always striving to get better, whether it’s improving our own dancing or seeing what we can do to make the world a better place (one song at a time!). This week, we asked our teachers what improvements they’d like to see in the salsa scene. Here were  some of their answers:

I think it’s a combination of venue and atmosphere. I started dancing in Toronto where there were designated salsa night clubs. There were strict rules about not bringing drinks on the dance floor and so on, but it was great. For new dancers, being able to have a drink by the bar makes going out a lot less intimidating.

I would love to see the overall salsa population in Ottawa grow.  There is never a lack of beginners, which is great, but it would be even better to see more people continue to advance their salsa repertoire.  Some hardcore dancers have to go to Montreal or Toronto to get their salsa fix; it would be great if Ottawa could be one of those places as well!

One big improvement for me would be to have an environment that is more accessible to newcomers. A common complaint I’ve heard lately from beginners is that the Ottawa salsa scene can be hard to break into. When they are out on the dance floor,  they find a crowd of people that already seem to know one another, and tend to dance with the same partners out of routine. This saddens me, as when I first came to Ottawa, I found the salsa community to be incredibly warm and welcoming.
I would love for all of us to get back that community spirit and welcome new dancers, so that newcomers at all levels continue to find a fun and vibrant dance scene! I am trying to promote that with Azucar!, and I think we need more events like last year’s Summer Salsa on Spark Street, which brought salsa to the people in a welcoming and accessible way.

To me, variety is the spice of life. Ottawa has some great long-standing social dance venues already (Rahim’s Latin Fridays, Salsaria, Club Caliente) and some newer ones that are picking up (Discoteka, Sundays at Amigos), but I’d love to see more “non-traditional” dance venues and events – like Summer Salsa on Sparks Street and Salsa at the Vineyards.


Teacher poll: As a teacher, what have your students taught you?

As teachers, we learn as much from our students as you do from us. We’re always in awe of the lessons we learn from being in class, be it about different learning styles or even about ourselves. This week we asked our teachers to share the biggest lesson they learned, from teaching dance:

My biggest lesson is that everyone learns differently, so it is important for me to know how to approach a subject (for example, inside traveling turn) from many different perspectives; to be able to break things down, and to pass on knowledge in ways that can be received properly. Not only will this help the students learn faster, it makes me a better teacher, and definitely a dancer as well!

During the short time I’ve been teaching, I’ve learned that I really have to pay attention to the little details in my dancing.  Since I’m the example my students are following, I want to make sure that I weed out as many bad habits as I can in my own dancing.  This higher level of awareness also adds to what I can offer students during classes in terms of technique.

Teacher poll: If you could instantly learn another dance style right now, what would it be?

Once you start dancing, it’s hard to stick to one style or dance, and the more you experience different dances, the more you’re tempted to broaden your range – and teachers are no different. This week, we asked our teachers what dance they’d love to be able to dance right now. Here are the answers:

Argentine tango. I did two courses in Toronto and loved it. So sexy and powerful. Anyone who has seen me dance will probably notice how much I use tango styling.

For me it would be contemporary dance.  I’ve always wanted to learn this style, and the grace and athleticism required to master this form of dance is just amazing.

West Coast Swing is my current fixation. I love how smooth, cool and effortless it can look, the wide variety of music it can be danced to, and that it emphasizes personal expression quite a lot, for a partner dance. In fact, I’m not sure I’d want to learn it instantly, because the process of exploring and discovering it gradually seems like a lot of fun to me!

I’ve always wanted to learn hip hop, being so varied and stylish, and as an outside observer, it feels so free. The improvisations seem to be limitless, and it all comes down to the attitude you bring to the moves, rather than something that is defined by a rule book. I can dig it.

What is your favourite dance at the moment?

This week we asked our teachers what their favourite dance is, at the moment. Here were the answers:

For me it would have to be Bachata, as I have recently found a new wave of inspiration and connection to this style.

Recently I had a few great salsa moments, and fresh inspiration that got me out of a bit of a rut. So for now, I’m enjoying my renewed love of salsa and especially focusing on breathing new life into my styling.

Thanks to Valentine’s Day, as well as the recent pre-Valentines party, I’ve been in a bachata mood most of the time. It is a nice change of pace from salsa’s sometimes frantic energy, so I can mellow out and enjoy my dance partner’s company.

Teacher poll: What has dance taught you about yourself?

This week, we asked our teachers to share one thing that dance has taught them about themselves. Here are their answers:

I’ve been dancing as long as I can remember so this is a rather difficult question to answer. I do know that I wouldn’t be me if it weren’t for dance. It’s where I find my joy and where I get away from any negative.

I am not fast enough to never get stepped on.

Through dance I learned that I’m capable of expressing myself through movement. Growing up in an academic environment, all the emphasis was on one’s mind, and the body was seen as a vehicle for your brain. Dance gave me new appreciation for our physical form.

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!

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.