Thursday, October 28, 2004


Salsa Halloween party at the Wharf on Sunday night. Classes will run as usual, followed by 'halloween fun - fancy dress is expected'! Wondering who to go as...

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

More visions

Couldn't work out why I was dancing so badly at O'Neills last night. I couldn't seem to get precise timing into my lead. I managed the odd flashy move and a bit of subtlety when I got to dance with the amusing and talented *** (no, I'm not going to put her name here or you'll all be wanting to dance with her) but nothing really flowed.

All was revealed on the next dance when the flashing lights started in mid-dance. I've never had a migraine attack start while I was dancing before. Nothing for it but to go and wait in the car for the scintillating scotoma to go away.

Pre-migraine signs? Thirsty and a bit spaced out, plus the poor lead. I know aphasia (can't get the words out right) often comes before an attack for some people: I once had an attack that was prefigured by my touch-typing going haywire, though I could still speak OK. I suppose the word for dodgy dancing would be aterpsichorea?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Low-flying dancers

Or something like that. My tactics for coping with a manic scrum like the Toad:
- dance parallel to a wall, which cuts down the number of angles from which flying lunatics can appear
- choose a partner with a light dancing style who can stay on line and dance compactly
- keep looking over your shoulder to see where it's safe to put your partner
– keep the moves small and forget about being flash

Or alternatively, wait until later when most of the idiots have gone...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Las palabras

I've been learning Spanish for several years now but started listening closely to salsa lyrics when Clare asked me to translate her favourite song, 'Monton de Estrellas'. It was a really useful exercise, trying to get the exact words by repeated listening. And it's left me with a much better ear for the lyrics of other songs.

And they aren't all about dancing and having fun. It's always a bit strange to watch people dancing obliviously to a song whose lyrics include 'Alone, I'm alone... just waiting for death, when my luck will change'. And in the car this evening I was listening to a pleasant and melodious Cuban number about being in a hospital without anaesthetic: think I'll have to listen closely to that one and try and work out what the real story is.


Things are looking up. I was thinking of giving up on O'Neills after a couple of dodgy evenings there lately. But despite a lingering cold I had an unexpectedly enjoyable hour and a half there last night. Not only were several of my favourite dancers there, but I got to dance with a talented and appreciative newcomer with a great attitude. And O'Neills is the only night she goes to in Cardiff, so I'll be braving John's record collection for a while yet...

Thursday, October 14, 2004

St Donats

John Pamplin's running salsa workshops followed by food then dancing on Saturday at St Donats. He'll be doing the beginners's/improvers Cuban workshop and Martin Travers is doing intermediate NY/LA style. It's essential to book by ringing the venue - 01446 799100 - if you want to do the classes (though the information on their website about the event is inaccurate).

I'm away over the weekend, but St Donats is a nice venue. It would be great if someone could get it together to relaunch the salsa weekends that Cathi used to run there.

Monday, October 11, 2004

How to learn salsa

Yep, how to learn salsa, not how to dance salsa (you can't learn that from a website). I was a slow learner and I made quite a few mistakes while I was learning, so I think I'm qualified to give some advice on this.

1 Look for a teacher who puts plenty of repetition in the class and who concentrates on getting the basics right. Avoid anyone who teaches long sequences. Contrary to what some teachers would have you believe, you can be a good salsa dancer even if you can't memorise long sequences, and you can have a great memory for long sequences and still be a crap dancer.

2 Try different classes, even if you like your teacher. Being amusing and charismatic doesn't necessarily make someone a good teacher. Some teachers are good at teaching some things but have blind spots about others.

3 Go more than once a week if you can, and practise at home. Like learning a language, the more practice you get, the better - so practise the basic steps at home until they come naturally

4 Avoid any teacher who makes women lead because of a shortage of men. Leading and following are very different and you'll just get very confused. (Though when you've reached intermediate level, you can learn a lot by swapping roles.)

5 Listen to salsa in the car, at home, everywhere. Practise listening for the 'one' and getting used to the rhythm. If you don't have the basic rhythm right you'll never be a really good dancer.

6 Take your teacher's advice on which level you should be in. Don't go in the intermediate/advanced class before you're ready (particularly if you're a man). I did it; I didn't learn anything and just managed to annoy my partners.

7 Get out and dance. Don't leave it too long before you start free dancing. This is particularly true for women: once a woman's got the basics, a decent sense of rhythm, and the ability to follow, she will probably learn a lot more on the dancefloor than she would in trying to follow men who can't lead in the class.

8 If you encounter a man in the class who can't lead, don't lead him. You won't learn what the move feels like to follow, and he won't learn what it feels like to lead it.

9 Don't try and learn everything from videos: there's no substitute for the interaction you get in a class. I know one individual who's learnt everything from videos: he's got some flash moves but he can't dance in rhythm.

10 If you're a man, expect learning salsa to take a long time and don't be discouraged. It took me weeks to get the basic step and a year to develop an acceptable lead. Some people can learn much more quickly - being a musician or having a martial arts background seems to help – but for us mortals it's a slow process.

I'll add some more points to this if I think of them.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Raising my game

New tactic number one for the Toad last night: have a rest and get there just before the class ends, then grab some quick dances when everyone goes to the bar. Worked well, too: three good dances before the floor started filling up. Including one with the new face I mentioned last week. She really is an amazingly sharp and precise dancer; when I dance with someone as good as that I find myself raising my game and dancing more precisely myself. I have to admit that as a 'fairly uncomplicated' dancer - as I was once described - I'm not sure that I can keep her entertained for more than one dance a night.

The Toad was very crowded again though. One thing I can be pleased about is that I managed to avoid any collisions even with Tarzan flying around (I was wrong the other week when I said he'd improved...) but why don't other people look where they're going/ where they're putting their partners?

Which brings me on to new tactic number two: get on the dancefloor at the beginning of a song and try to stake out some space with some 'big' moves in the hope that we don't get crowded into a corner. Sort of worked for a bit.

Think I need to finally get to Brean Sands in December: I've been dancing for three years and have yet to get to a Pontins - it's about time I tried it.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Toad again

Everyone's back which means the Toad was very busy last night, particularly with beginners. But Andy's Intermediate class was also crowded with more women than men for a change. The main dancefloor was manic when the free dancing started - Number One Dance Partner and I went off to a corner of the bar to find some safe space to warm up.

Good points: a couple of new faces - including one who follows 'beautifully' as Lucy put it - and the return of some old faces. Good music, especially later on, though starting the free dances with a very fast pachanga wasn't the best idea. Andy's teaching: why does nobody else watch each couple dancing and give them individual advice?

Bad points: start time is getting later. At one point it was supposed to be 8, then it moved to 8.30 and now it's 8.40. Classes so crowded that sometimes there's no space to safely do the move you're being taught (not that that worries some men who are oblivious to what's going on around them). Bar staff clearing away glasses that are half full while you're dancing. Muggles in the way.