Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Managed to persuade a couple of friends to come to Callaghans last night. Started a bit late (they were waiting for punters to turn up) and the warmup was the most shambolic I've ever seen until Maria took over and injected a bit of style into the proceedings.

The 'advanced' class was interesting with a nice turn pattern which I hope I can remember. Slightly strange because it's largely taught in translation: Jordy, an excellent dancer himself (and a nice guy) tells the students what to do, but Maria - who speaks very little English but is clearly an experienced dance teacher - picks up key points of technique which he then translates. I think perhaps they could do with including a bit more practice and repetition in the class: I've forgotten all the setenta variations I did there a couple of weeks ago. My dile que no is definitely getting better, though.

It's also a bit too crowded to do the Cuban moves properly, particularly later on when people try to negotiate their way through the class carrying pints of Guinness. Did Yogur, which every partner I practised it with seemed to think was hilarious (don't know what they'd think if they knew what Yogur means in Spanish slang) and learnt a cool lift, though now I need to work out who I dare try it with.

The party seemed to be just getting started when I left. Made me wish I was young and irresponsible again, but 11.30 is quite late enough for me on a Tuesday. It goes on until three. It's a nice relaxed atmosphere and there are lots of people you don't see anywhere else, including some good merengue dancers (who are rare as hen's teeth on most salsa nights). Next time I've got a quiet Wednesday I'll try staying til late.

They played 'Monton de Estrellas' twice (bet you wish you'd been there now, Clare!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Mambo blogorama

Blog by the group Mamborama, for Cuban music fanatics.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

You're on Candid Camera

Scary but instructive to film yourself free dancing. It's actually incredibly useful, and if your ego will put up with it I'd recommend it to anyone. It's good at affirming that at least some of my moves look good, and at picking up the ones that I really need to practise or abandon.

I found that I lean forward too much (Charlotte had already told me about that one), that I look a prat doing shines (which she'd tactfully implied rather than stated), that I still move my arms about too much and that my LA footwork needs more precision. (Andy had already told me about the last two, but somehow seeing it on video is much more convincing).

The most interesting thing I spotted was that even though I'm not a Cuban dancer I seem to look better doing Cuban moves. Which is an incentive to head to Callaghan's again next week.

At least I looked a lot better than in the sneaky video which someone shot of me dancing while drunk at a conference a year ago. That video was really useful, though - it made me stop doing elephant strides and spend an evening in front of the mirror concentrating on SMALLER STEPS as Andy had been telling me for at least a year and a half...

Monday, June 21, 2004

Caramelo Son

Went to the Toucan on Saturday night to see Caramelo Son, a nine-piece all-woman band from Cuba. Very crowded and smoky, and most of the audience were the usual Toucan regulars rather than dancers. Which is nice in a way - feels a bit more real - but can make the dancing very tricky as muggles are so unpredictable.

The DJ played a good variety of music, including several I recognised from the NuYorican Funk Experience compilations, but he played some which were far too fast, too early on. Particulary difficult when dancing with a very drunk ******* (name omitted to save embarrassment) though she's still easier to dance with when pissed than a lot of people are when sober! I was surprised at how rough the sound system was.

The band started very wooden but soon warmed up. They did some very long extended songs which was great if you were dancing with the right person, but must have been difficult if you weren't. I had to dance as 'protectively' as possible, particularly as one idiot was waving a lighted cigarette around between eye and arm level next to me at one point. It's hard to relax into the dance when you're spending half your time looking over my shoulder to see if there was space for me to CBL the girl into, Had a couple of really enjoyable dances. One with KatewhospeaksSpanish who's always great to dance with, and another with someone who obviously used to find me difficult to dance with (the feeling was mutual) but whose dancing style I suddenly 'got' a few weeks ago and I find very rewarding to dance with now. I've had the same thing happen with two or three people over the last few months, so I must be making some progress.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Learning to dance in circles

Went to Callaghans in the Holiday Inn last night for the second time (the first was months ago). It was much busier than before. This is the only salsa night in Cardiff run by Spanish speakers and it makes a difference: the atmosphere is more relaxed and friendly, the clientele are younger (and very multinational), and of course the teachers dance in circles. Well. Or at least, a lot better than I can. Very few of the usual Cardiff mafia there - I think I was the only one there in Blochs'n'black.

The way they run it is to have fairly short lessons interspersed with short freestyle breaks. Quite a bit of merengue in the breaks as they vary the music according to who's there. At 11 they were starting a merengue lesson for everybody, but apparently the night goes on until 3. You have to keep Latin time if you want to hang around for sustained freestyle!

Very smoky and a lot of beginners or inexperienced dancers. We did the intermediate class run by Jordy and Maria. I discovered that my dile que no (Cuban cross body), which I had fondly thought was not bad by Cardiff standards, is rubbish and learnt how to improve it with a proper Cuban 'frame'. In the second lesson they taught several variations on 'setenta'. I thought it was a really interesting lesson, and that and watching the teachers dance freestyle persuaded me that Cuban salsa actually is something I want to do: it looks great and a lot of fun when it's done properly. I've been taught a few Cuban moves in the past but this was much more vigorous and convincing than the way I've been taught it before.

One or two problems: it was crowded (though no worse than the Toad) which made organising the class a bit tricky, and the standard of the dancers in the class wasn't all that good: of the participants only Clare and a Spanish man were actually good Cuban dancers already. I got my dodgy wrist yanked about by a couple of women who (a) couldn't get the sequence and (b) had never learnt to follow. But I did learn a lot. Might be nice to try and persuade the teachers to run a crossover class for teaching experienced CBL dancers to do Cuban style.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Clave(rton Rooms) and the Salsa Taliban

Ugh, tired, bed at 3.15 am Sun after a night in Bath. Disappointing turnout - I gather Caramelo Son were on at Fiddlers which may have had something to do with it. A couple of nice dances but I wasn't really on form. Had to drop out of Paul's class as my RSI was giving me gip.

Worth going to watch a tall black dancer whose technique Charlotte described as feeling 'like dancing in slow motion'. No flashy or spectacular moves but a lot of precision to his footwork and timing. Made me want to rethink the way I dance: perhaps I should ease off on the spins and new moves, and video/get feedback from partners on my current moves to see where I could make them more subtle and intricate.

Which brings me on to Salsa Taliban: quite an amusing attack on the salsa mafia from a Latino in Sheffield: "For those who are not in the scene, or even aware of the concept, the 'salsa taliban' is a group of unique people dotted across the united kingdom (UK) who ONLY want 100% Salsa, and despise other types of latin rhythm. You usually see this people wearing black clothing with salsa oozing from either a T-shirt, special dance shoes, etc." I'm afraid I'm guilty on the black clothing front (though I certainly wasn't wearing black on Saturday) and the special dance shoes (I do like my Blochs). But I do agree with a lot of what he says.

The right way to teach

Interesting post (click on the link above) about how to teach salsa, emphasising the importance of repetition. He's absolutely right: even teachers who basically have a good teaching technique hardly ever drill sequences enough. I think it's no surprise that some of the best salsa teachers have a sports background so they know something of the theory of how we learn physical routines.

One thing I'd disagree with is the suggestion that 'it doesn't matter how long the sequence is'. Maybe he means 'within reason' - I once saw an idiot 'teaching' a sequence that was over 20 eight-beat (two-bar) measures long. Some teachers seem to thing that long sequences are OK cos 'you can just pick up the moves you like out of the sequence', but I think this is a very inefficient and wasteful way of teaching. Saul suggested once on the salsacity forum that teachers should teach advanced lessons that just consist of _one_ move, taught in detail, and I'd have to agree with him.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Once and future salsa

Giving the Toad a miss tonight to save my energy for the Claverton Rooms in Bath on Saturday.

John was playing some dodgy stuff in O'Neills on Monday night. I thought the salsa version of Satisfaction was bad enough, but salsa Mozart? What was he thinking? On the positive side, it's great to have Charlotte* back on the dancefloor and refreshed after her little break from salsa. We haven't quite got back into look-almost-no-hands salsa telepathy mode yet, but maybe we'll get there on Saturday.

Just noticed in a couple of places that Sierra Maestra are now down for the World Music prom on 19 July instead of Orchestra Baobab. They should be great: I saw them at Womad last year and had my one dance of the weekend by finding the one available salsa dancer in a sea of drunk and stoned muggles. Dancing on uneven mud while someone pushes a pushchair across the dancing line isn't the easiest, but I still felt a lot better for it.

Next Saturday is Caramelo Son, a large all-girl salsa band in the Toucan club. I like the Toucan - before La Tasca started it was the only civilised place to go in Cardiff on a Saturday night. I'll probably call in La Tasca on the way as bands usually start very late in the Toucan.

*not to be confused with Charlie who demonstrates with John, who I've never danced with

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Dale (2)

There are some touching personal comments about Dale on the Salsacity forum (click on the link above). A lot of people have been really shaken by his death: even people who didn't know him that well are finding it difficult to come to terms with. I was pleased to hear from Neil (Salsara) that a dance night is planned in his memory.

Neil's other comment was that he used to joke with Dale that Dale was his target for the standard of dancing he'd like to achieve. He was certainly well beyond anything I could ever hope to achieve, and was a deserved winner of the first Welsh salsa championship.

I remember one evening a few months ago he was dancing in the Toad when Andy - for a joke - cranked up the bpm to a ridiculously high level. Dale hung in there, still slick and controlled, and still smiling: I don't think there's another dancer in Cardiff who could have kept pace.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Working away

If I'm working away from Cardiff I always try to get to salsa if I can manage it. I've escaped for a night's salsa in London, Leeds, Cheltenham, Bangor (North Wales), Cork and Belfast. I've never had a bad time dancing in a strange city, though I danced with the rudest woman I've ever danced with in Leeds. Fortunately everyone else there was fine. Hoping to check out Glasgow and Edinburgh soon.


Well, I know from the site statistics that people are reading this blog, but nobody's saying anything... Feel free to comment on any of the posts by clicking on '0 comments' at the bottom of each post'

Ladies who lead

A very long thread which I sparked off on the Salsacity forum.

Rueda terms

My not entirely serious list of rueda terms on the salsacity forum.


Salsafrenzy is a site which links to blogs by salsa dancers. They've linked to me so I thought I should return the favour. Click on the post title to visit them.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Another Saturday night

Last Thursday was subdued for obvious reasons. Main item of interest was the Amazon sisters: very tall, young and friendly, and only one of them was obviously attached so the other one was targeted by le(e)ches. Some people never learn that the etiquette is pretty straightforward in these cases: ask her for one dance, thank your lucky stars that she dances with you, dance with her nicely then say thank you. Wait for her to ask you for another dance. Don't monopolise her for several dances while her smile becomes fixed...I once encountered a woman hiding behind a pillar in the Toad to try and avoid having to dance with one of these people.

Other good things about Thursday: dancing with Carol again (good to see her back into salsa: triathlon's loss is salsa's gain) and a nice dance with VaguelyCuban whose name I've forgotten (dark hair and glasses). She's really good: precise, fast and graceful, seems to glide across the floor. Gets the LA switches of direction with no problem, but she instantly revealed her Cuban dance background the first time I tried a wristlock half turn and back: LA girls will turn more or less on the spot, Cuban dancers walk back and forth. (Learnt that one from dancing with you, Clare.)

Saturday I went to Tall Paul's event at the David Lloyd centre, after debating whether to go to the Samba Gales event instead. Paul's obviously put a lot of effort into organising it but it wasn't the greatest salsa night ever. Points against: room with little atmosphere, intermittently dodgy music. Paul does tend to favour cheesy stuff with lyrics in English, though there was some good stuff as well. Very few of the usual Cardiff gang there - mostly Paul's students from the David Lloyd centre. Points in favour: Joe Lantelli's class was entertaining, though I have to admit I rarely pick up anything I'm actually going to use from his lessons. Spectacular dance display from Joe and Siobhan (I found out why Joe has that unusual haircut - I won't spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn't seen the show, but the display has a kung fu theme). Got to dance with Siobhan who was great, and felt very chuffed when she complimented me on my moves. Identified a couple of good dancers who I hadn't danced with before, (if anyone reading this was there, they were the woman in the pink trousers and the smiling woman in black - though I think she might be over from Bristol).

As it was winding down I thought I'd try Andy's Latin night in La Tasca, the tapas restaurant in Cardiff's Old Brewery quarter. (Good food, but I hadn't danced there before). Almost didn't go as I wasn't feeling that inspired and Cardiff on a Saturday night is not my favourite place. But the top of St Mary Street was less like a zoo than usual, which made me feel optimistic. Got upstairs to a compact dance floor which was almost empty. Andy assured me that people would be there later: and at about a quarter to twelve, there they all were - Lucy, Katy, the Constantinou sisters and the woman who first tried to teach me the cross-body lead in Life a very long time ago. Plus a substantial Latin contingent. The atmosphere was great: good dancers but everyone just having fun. Katy, Chris and Rene doing their line dancing - sorry, styling routines ; ) Bloody crowded: at one point I found myself dancing in a very narrow gap between the DJ booth and someone's table, which was very good practice for keeping to my line, and at another point I was attempting to dance in circles in the entrance to the gent's toilet. (Must learn to dance Cuban-style properly if I'm going to ask Spanish women to dance). Music was great: mostly good salsa, a bit of merengue, I think I recognised some punta. I thought it was the best atmosphere in Cardiff since Journeys ended.

Friday, June 04, 2004


Dale (Jaycee) was killed in a road accident on Wednesday. One of the most talented dancers in Cardiff, he was a former Welsh salsa champion and a Latin percussionist. With Than he used to run the very popular Saturday salsa night in Journeys, and he also taught at Life and O'Neills.

I was shocked to learn that he was only 23. There's nothing useful you can say when somebody as young and talented dies like that.

Andy Witt has written a tribute on the Salsa Cardiff site.