Thursday, December 29, 2005

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Merry (belated) Xmas and a Happy New Year to you all. Just a quick one for anyone suffering from cold turkey - while there isn't a class on Tuesday on Cuba it is open and Andy will be DJing. Might try and get there if I don't manage to get out before then. I've got an NYE party to go to in Penarth but I'm going to see if I can get to La Tasca for an hour first.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fiesta Havana Xmas Party

What a great time we had. Yes, it was hot and it wasn't always easy to find room to dance, but it was a terrific atmosphere with good music and plenty of good partners for both the girls and the boys. Loads of Cardiff people there, though it's funny how much more fun it is dancing with the usual suspects in a different context. Actually I only danced with three non-Cardiff women all night, which is hardly entering into the spirit of things. One was someone who I used to look forward to dancing with when I came over to Bristol or Bath, but who I hadn't seen for about two years. Really nice to dance with her again.

I took to the stage a few times just to get some space. Which was normally OK, except that at one point I got up on the stage to dance bachata with one of the Cardiff girls and nobody else joined us. I don't mind bachata in La Tasca when it's too crowded for anyone to see how rubbish my dancing is, but it really isn't good enough for public display (particularly as I could see people out of the corner of my eye who were dancing it really well).

Even though I was enjoying myself I wasn't doing anything particularly interesting. Then I had the usual peak just before the slump: a couple of dances where I really seemed to be at my best, and then on the next dance I'd completely lost it and was going through the motions. (So had the woman I was dancing with - or so she said, though her dancing seemed to be fine to me).

The three women I'd travelled down with all left enthusing about the standard of dancing being better in Bristol. I think that's certainly the case with the men, though the overall standard of women dancers in Cardiff has really improved over the last year. And, in fact, the couple I enjoyed watching most was Kevin and Tammi.

I left feeling nicely relaxed and better than I had for weeks, even though I'd been feeling rubbish all day and would have had second thoughts about coming if I hadn't agreed to drive. It was a really good way to get into the festive spirit. Thanks Stevie, definitely one not to be missed next year.

I think there are going to be a few New Year's resolutions about getting over to Bristol on Wednesdays more often. It's not that easy for me - I can't afford to be knackered in work two days a week, whereas I can usually get away with being a bit spaced out on Fridays - but I'm going to try and get over now and again.

I had plans to get to the Toad last night but I was just too knackered after getting to bed at 3am, so that's salsa over for me until New Year's Eve. New Year's resolution is to get a couple of private lessons and to do some more practising. I've also asked Tammi to teach me that flashy lift she does, and I've now found someone who's brave enough to try it and light enough to do it without too much risk to either of us. (Well, she was brave enough when I asked her on Wednesday night - she'll probably have come to her senses by the next time I see her!)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Dancefloor hazards: The Prat in the Hat

(I'm not actually sure that he always wears a hat, but he was wearing one last night and anyone who was unfortunate enough to be dancing near him in the Toad will know who I mean.)

An infrequent visitor, this individual believes that the entire dancefloor is his personal territory. I did hear that a few years ago one veteran Cardiff dancer got so fed up with him that he refused to give ground when the PITH decided to move into his dancing space, and the PITH tripped over him and ended up on the floor. Wish I'd been there to see it...

Monday, December 12, 2005


11pm is a pretty disreputable time to start your Saturday night, but then La Tasca is Spanish for a disreputable gaming house or tavern. So, fortified by a half hour power nap and an extra strength Ibuprofen for my creaky toe I set out to get some sleep deprivation. I did wonder what time I was finally going to get there when I hit traffic chaos on Penarth Road, and Cardiff city centre itself was looking pretty disreputable after the big gig.

It was a while since I'd been: it takes some willpower to resist the temptation to stay in with a bottle of wine on Saturday night. On my previous visit the dance floor was fairly empty early on, but this time it was a matter of trying to carve out space among the drinkers right from the start. Cramped space is OK for close-up bachata and merengue but a bit limiting for salsa, though as the night went on I got better at fitting more elaborate moves into tiny and fluctuating spaces. Rachel told me "that was brave" after I successfully slotted in one of my trademark sequences, though I thought she was the brave one for letting me do it!

In these kind of circumstances what you really need are partners who will get on with enjoying themselves and let you take care of checking that there's space and keeping them safe from drunks and backsteppers. So it was great to dance with Sofia again - she's particularly good at dancing with style and enthusiasm in hardly any space. There were quite a lot of other good dancers there, including Sarah who turned up dressed fetchingly as a Red Indian squaw.

Andy played a good, varied selection of music, from salsa to merengue, bachata and reggaeton. Though I have to admit that a quarter of an hour of reggaeton eventually persuaded me it was time to go home at half past one. Which is probably a good thing as otherwise I might have stayed til the end and felt even more knackered yesterday.

I might even go to La Tasca again next week. I'm also looking forward to post-Christmas when there should be plenty of dancers – trying to get back into it after the break – and fewer drinkers. I must remember to take a spare T-shirt next time:
it was seriously hot and sweaty (and pretty smoky - I'm looking forward to the public smoking ban).

*Welsh for 'the night before last' .

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


There's a recent discussion on Salsacity about how to get the courage to ask people to dance, started by Elena who's obviously been put off by some of the gits who go to salsa in order to patronise women.

I liked the posting from Nathalie about how even an experienced and talented dancer/teacher like her still gets nervous about asking some people to dance. She would probably be amused to know that she used to be one of the people I wouldn't dare to ask...


Good news on the Toucan front - they're taking over Journeys, in Newport Road, in the New Year. Let's hope they get the occasional Latin band in.

Christmas and New Year

A quick update: Andy's posted details of opening times for his venues at

O'Neills ends with a party on the 19th and restarts on the 9th January.

There's a Christmas party at Fiesta Havana on the 21st which should be good.

There are New Year's Eve parties both at the Claverton Rooms and La Tasca. I gather the biggest and best NYE party is the LatinMotion event in Birmingham. It has cheap accommodation (as does the Claverton Rooms) but it's a bit far for me.

I've also noticed that Bonghy-bos in Bath is now on Saturdays, with a Christmas party on 17 December. (Never been to their events, I wonder if they're any good?)

All told there's less of a salsa desert this year so I shouldn't get too rusty. Shame the Wharf isn't open on New Year's Day, but you can't have everything.

Running on empty

Knackered again, and thanks to the late train I didn't manage to get to see Lady Salsa after the bachata workshop last night. Hope it was good.

Having missed a couple of nights salsa I went out on Tuesday last week. I thought I'd try learning some Cuban stuff at the Great Western but the class seemed to be just for beginners, so I thought I'd try Cuba instead. On the way I passed Zync which didn't look too enticing (the music, both times I went past, was either Brazilian or reggaeton). Cuba, though, was much more civilised than it was the previous time I went. Not nearly as many dodgy drunks, and not too crowded (though still a bit smoky). There were only a handful of good dancers there, though.

I hear Brean Sands was good this year, with a better balance of men and women. Texted one dancer who replied that she wasn't going to be at O'Neills because she hadn't got to bed until 6am (wimp...) A bit frustrating not being able to go - next year I'm going to have to be more ruthless about making sure that salsa takes priority! I had to miss the Wharf on Sunday due to a demanding day in work on Monday. I went to O'Neills with no great expectations but had a surprisingly good time: John's got some new music which was interesting (interesting in a good way, not just wierd and cheesy) and I had several enjoyable dances. But I could have done without Peter telling me that I'd obviously been to Pontins, because I looked so knackered...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dodgy week

Last posting I thought I was getting somwehere, so it was frustrating to go backwards again. I went down with a cold which meant missing out on dancing for the entire week. I finally got to G2 in Birmingham on Sunday night, but there was a grand total of four women there. Last year I went and it was pretty busy; this year it was virtually empty and I wished I was at the Wharf. (You don't get many people at the Wharf but two or three of my favouriate dancers are almost always there). I gather G2 isn't usually as quiet. I didn't do the class because they don't do intermediate any more, though I watched it and it looked useful: Michael is an enviably smooth and elegant dancer. It's friendly and inclusive there: both Michael and Maxine dance with the punters. I did have a couple of good dances.

I was staying in Coventry the rest of the week and the plan was to go to Bar Risa in Birmingham on Tuesday night, but when it came down to it, it was too cold and too far to travel. I had a contingency plan (dancing in Coventry) but the teacher's number was unobtainable so I didn't risk it.

Good to be back in Cardiff last night: I hate missing the Toad, though for the first hour or so I was really ropey. I knew what I was doing wrong but didn't seem to be able to correct it. I was seriously hamfisted until about half eleven (sorry Sarah!) but then started to get into it and had some good dances. Can't get out this weekend, so I'll have to make sure I do Monday and Thursday.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Getting somewhere

Definitely getting a lot of dancing in lately - and it's starting to pay off. Andy's Advanced workshop on Saturday was exceptionally useful. Much more useful than a class, this focused on subtle leading using body weight, and using a 'compression block' (I think that's what he called it). It sounds like a plumbing term but it's a really good technique for varying the lead, adding dynamism, and giving myself more time to complete my move while the woman turns.

I was lucky to be doing it with Sarah who was great despite not having got to bed til 5am! Not only is she a dynamic dancer, she's also good at telling me what I'm doing wrong, which is really useful in a dance partner. (Sue told me the other week that the reason a lot of men in London dance with each other is that men are more willing than women to tell their partner when the lead doesn't work - and if your partner won't tell you it's broke, it's difficult to fix it.)

Andy's hoping to run a six-week Advanced course on similar lines if he can find a free night, which would be great. He's also planning to run an Intermediate one.

That night was Liz's party in Newport: a good time was had by all. I didn't stay that late as I was knackered after the workshop.

The Wharf was very quiet, due largely to the party, I think. I nearly didn't go but it was well worth the trip over from Penarth to dance with Laura and Sarah. Sarah and I tried out the workshop stuff over several dances and it really works. I also found that it made it easier to play around with the rhythm (after being inspired by Lee the other week).

Don't think I'll get to the Toad this week, unfortunately: I only managed to go last week because the heavy Friday I was supposed to have in work got cancelled. So it's a choice between La Cachaçaria and La Tasca (I could go to both..).

I'm staying in Birmingham on Sunday night so I'm hoping to get to Michael and Maxine's class at G2 - it was very good last time I went.

Friday, November 11, 2005

More fun

Lisa*, it was great that you were finally back in action last night! I had a great time dancing with you - hope you didn't overdo it. I should have some new stuff from tomorrow's workshop to try out the next time I see you.

I nearly didn't make it cos I had a heavy day in work scheduled for today, but it got cancelled : )

Strange how few people there were last night, particularly as the music was buzzing. I really wasn't ready to go home at half twelve...

*see comment on this post

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Great Western

Cuban salsa etc at the Great Western has now moved to Tuesdays.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Back to basics

I went along to Andy and Lucy's 'Improvers to Intermediate' workshop on Saturday to make up the number of men (along with honorary men Irene and Christalla). The venue was excellent - really good floor, mirrors on two walls, and very effective air conditioning. And while I think I made the transition from improvers to intermediate about three years ago, it's surprisingly useful to go back to basics and focus on the correct way of doing moves I normally do without thinking. Looking forward to the Advanced workshop this Saturday.

The Toad was good last week as well: I think the standard is definitely improving, and there was loads of good people to dance with. And that's even after arriving too late to dance with Christina and leaving too early to dance with Sofia. Most inspiring dance of the evening was with Lee: she has a fascinating way of working with the rhythm.

Sunday was fun at the Wharf, though the intermediate class (which I didn't join) looked a bit overcrowded since the previous day's workshop had got quite a few improvers deciding to try moving up. One of my favourite Cardiff dancers has been watching from the sidelines on Sundays since being sidelined with back problems. Fortunately she seems to be on the mend, so let's hope she'll be back in action soon. Most exhilarating dance was with Laura to a very fast track. I was momentarily disconcerted by hearing applause at the end until I realised it was for Andy and Lucy!

Went to O'Neills last night for the first time in weeks - busiest I've seen it for a long time. Music was better than usual.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Flashy London moves...huh!

The flashy London move I was pleased about learning last Wednesday? I found out on Sunday that it doesn't work (at least for me) on anyone who wasn't in the class. I think I may have worked out what's wrong with it, though, so I'll be trying out my new improved version on Thursday.

BTW the floor in the Wharf is now nicely grubby, so there wasn't too much skating on Sunday.

Good to see Irene back from Barcelona - hadn't danced with her for ages.


There's a bit of a debate lately on Salsajive about dips: someone complaining that his partner was injured by someone dipping her and suggesting that promoters should ban them. I've met women who've been put out of action by dips so I'm not a big fan. But I think they're OK if used sparingly and carefully.

I've learnt dips from both Andy and Paul, and they've both stressed safety as a priority. I've also seen (not from a Cardiff teacher) elaborate and potentially dangerous dips being taught without any mention of safety.

Key safety points? Don't do a deep dip on a new partner. Make sure there's plenty of space. Try to keep your own back straight and to dip by extending your arm, so that both of you keep your own balance.

Some people say you should always ask before you dip a new partner, but that does take some of the fun out - a bit like those guys who tell the women what move they are going to do next. My technique is to do a gentle dip the first time, led in such a way that she's got the option of not going with it. From the way she responds I can tell whether she's an enthusiastic dipper or not.

I would agree with the general point that some guys you see doing a lot of dipping aren't actually good dancers (I don't have any individual in mind here), a bit like the characters who try to do salsa trio when they can't actually lead one woman adequately.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Rumba Caliente

Big salsa/funk/soul/latin jazz etc band play St Donats on December 3rd (same weekend as Pontins).

Friday, October 28, 2005

The best laid plans...

Last week I intended to do plenty of dancing but it didn't quite go according to plan. After skating in the Wharf on the Sunday I thought I'd try the Toad on a Wednesday, but the only dancers there were Than on the decks and a disconsolate male dancer from the Thursday improvers' class. Couldn't do Thursday, so I thought "no problem, I'll go to La Cachaçaria on Friday". Which would have worked if my intended 8pm power nap hadn't continued until 2.30 am : (

This week there was the Wharf - still a bit slippery, but on the positive side a very good dancer asked me to partner her for the upcoming Advanced workshop (you have to book in couples) which was flattering. And then on Wednesday I was in London and managed to hook up with Abby for a night's salsa in Bar Cuba on Kensington High Street. The club was OK - friendly, non-cliquey, adequate teaching - but the sound system was appalling (ear-damagingly loud) and there weren't that many good dancers there. But it was great to dance with Abby again - I think she's got even better than she used to be - and I'm hoping to organise a repeat in January.

Last night was supposed to be the Toad but thanks to Great Western I didn't get back to Cardiff in time. Might get to La Cachaçaria tonight to inflict my flashy new London move on whoever's there...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


If you've been struggling to stay vertical in the Wharf recently (and not because of alcohol) you'll be pleased to know that the cleaners are going to be polishing the floor just once a week from now on. It's incredibly difficult being precise or stylish when you're trying to make sure nobody ends up on their arse! And it's a real shame having to concentrate on just staying upright when dancing with people as good as Laura and Sarah.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Feet and other things

Someone was asking over on SalsaCardiff the other day whether there were enough men to go round at the Toad. Last night, the answer was definitely yes: it was a good night for the girls.

One consolation when the summer holidays end is the return of dancers who've been away for a while. Last week the welcome returners were Harriet and the excellent Frenchwoman whose name I haven't found out yet (must ask her the next time I dance with her). This week it was Deborah, and Kevin, who's been away with the circus.

It was really nice to dance with Deborah again: she has a nice light style of following and a flowing way of dancing, and certainly by the second dance it was hard to believe she'd been off the dancefloor for six months.

I recommended Kevin to a couple of women who were new on the scene, though I don't think either of them got round to dancing with him - he was in demand, as were most of the better dancers.

Best news from my point of view was that a £5 appointment at UWIC's School of Podiatry seems to have stopped my arthritic toe joint interfering with my dancing. An absolute bargain: if any of you are having trouble with your feet it's well worth getting them looked at there.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bachata, reggaeton and more

6th December Andy's bringing Tony Lara and Claudia Loiacano to Bar Cuba for bachata and reggaeton workshops as part of their UK tour. I'm hoping to get there so I can learn how to do more in bachata than just going forward and sideways...

Andy and Lucy are also running a series of one-off workshops, including an 'advanced hardcore' workshop on 12 November for anyone who wants a challenge. See the DançaLatina site (link above) for more details. Might go for that if I'm feeling confident, particularly as I'll be missing Brean Sands : (

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Great Western

Just a quick update - the Callaghan's crew (Manuel, Maria and Sabina) have now moved to the Great Western on Mondays. It's free and runs from 8.30-2, with beginners' Cuban-style salsa classes, running concurrently with improvers' salsa followed by other Latin dances, from 9.15-10.15.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Good dancing

Ah, that's better: tired, dazed and dehydrated. That's what Friday mornings are supposed to feel like (though missing the train to work after limping to the station wasn't in the plan). In other words, I had a good night in the Toad last night.

Some really good dancers there, including the Spanish woman who used to dance in Bath, and the welcome return of Harriet who's as brilliantly elegant and precise as ever. Definitely the best person to dance with in limited space: even if there isn't room to do interesting moves she'll make the basic stuff look special.

Had a rather lively dance to 'Cuba Queridos' with Vicky, and then a couple of gentle dances with the other Vicky (who speaks Spanish, so I got some tips on which Latin American novel to read next).

I also followed up the tip Paul G-S gave me on Sunday about my pivot turn: thanks Paul, it turned it from something that works with some people into a move where I'm in control and my partner feels relaxed.

And went I wasn't dancing there were dancers who were worth watching. Being a normal competitive male I tend not to be easily impressed by other male dancers, but I did enjoy watching the guy from Bristol with the two-tone shoes who was doing some lovely stuff dancing with Lucy. He's not just good when he dances with experts - he can also make less talented women look like stars.

Spare a thought for Christalla, who was taking the beginners' class - she was invaded by forty freshers and had to dance standing on the bar so that everyone could see her!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New list of Cardiff salsa nights

If there is no comment by a night, it means I haven't been to it (or heard comments from others about it) recently. I'm only listing nights with a reasonable amount of time for free dancing afterwards rather than those that are classes only.

Tuesdays at La Tasca (Cuban)
7pm-7.45pm Beginners, 8pm-8.45pm Improvers, 9pm-9.45pm Intermediate, Freestyle until 11.30pm (includes rueda)
Friendly, authentic Cuban classes from Sabina.

Thursdays at O'Neills, St Mary Street
8:00-10 Beginners, Improvers, Intermediate classes; dancing til 'late'.  A new home (it'll be familiar to long-time Cardiff dancers) for this popular night. Good teaching from Andy Witt, Kate James and Gemma Bailey. The classes are LA-style but the music is varied and very danceable (including Cuban, bachata and sometimes zouk). Good teaching.

Thursdays at La Tasca (Cuban)
Beginners 7, Improvers 8, Rueda 9, dancing until 11.
Friendly, authentic Cuban-style classes with Sabina.

Saturday (mixed styles)
Free dancing in La Tasca. Good music and live percussion. Sometimes it's overrun by drunk muggles - best avoided on big match nights - but it's usually got a real buzzing atmosphere. There are some good dancers there who you don't see dancing anywhere else, usually including some real Cuban-style dancers for those who like dancing in circles. It runs from 11 until 2 and it's free.

Roger M Wilson runs a nice relaxed Wednesday night in Revolución de Cuba in the Friary, usually with a live band; monthly Friday salsa parties (normally the last of the month) with guest teachers in O'Neills in St Mary Street, and monthly Sunday night salsa 'chill' nights in Revolución de Cuba.


Monday, September 26, 2005


I shouldn't go on about how much I enjoy the Wharf in case you all start going and we end up with a scrum like the Toad, but here goes.

I nearly didn't go last night as I thought everyone would be away at the Congress, but it was still worth the trip. Even though I was only there for an hour I was on my feet almost continuously. There weren't that many people there, but they were pretty much all people I like dancing with. Good to see Sarah back on the scene: Paul G-S, there for the first time, asked me who she was and commented on how good she was. Good music, good dancers and plenty of space - a great way to end the weekend or start the week, depending on how you look at it.

Last night there was the added thrill of trying to ensure that neither me nor my partner ended up on our arses: the floor was like a skating rink, which did cramp my style a bit. I think someone needs to get the management to change the polish they're using...

Added bonus: even though the Wharf isn't a non-smoking pub the dance area is non-smoking so I didn't go away smelling like an ashtray.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fiesta Havana

Stevie's just sent me a list of the regular guest teachers on Wednesdays at Fiesta Havana in Bristol, for those of you who want to plan your dancing for the month.

First Wednesday of the month: Henry Vina
Second Wednesday: Helena and Nicolai (Fuego Latino)
Third Wednesday: Mauricio or Zane (LatinMotion)
Fourth Wednesday: Saher or Osbanis and Helena
Fifth Wednesday: Saher or MoFlex and Helena.

Salsa levels one and two are taught by Nigel Maye each week. Ian teaches la rueda on the first Wednesday of the month.

Friday, September 23, 2005


A couple of changes to salsa in Cardiff.

Callaghans ends on Tuesday - they're going out with a bang by getting Osbanis and Iris de Brito to perform. They perform at 9.30 but they'll be dancing all night, and it's free.

And there's a new latin night on Wednesdays in the Toad, so we now have free dancing seven nights a week again.

Excellent class last night - all the women liked the move from the second class, and when I tried it out on someone who hadn't been in the class, she said it was 'lovely'. Andy, if you're reading this, more of the same please!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I've been putting off going for months but the doctor's just told me that the reason my big toe joint on my right foot hurts is arthritis. I'm only 48! (And I was told only the other week by a kind Cardiff salsera that I "don't look or dance my age".)

I've got a nasty feeling that it's four years of tapping vigorously on the four and the eight that's done it. Fortunately the doctor didn't tell me to stop dancing, but I'm going to have to be careful from now on : (

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bristol dance day

Not as many Cardiff people I expected in Bristol on Saturday, but we met some friendly Bristol dancers.

Got off to a slow start: Nigel turned up very late (and with no explanation) for his merengue/bachata class, by which time Martin had started it but couldn't get the sound system working. So we did a bit of merengue but I didn't get to learn any bachata which was the reason I'd opted for it.

Things really picked up in the second class - Styling'n'Attitude with Helena and Mo. Really refreshing, with the emphasis on varying the pace, and on men doing simple styling to give the woman space to do their own thing (rather than constantly doing learnt sequences, or 'exercises' as Mo called them). They also had a really neat trick where the woman takes control and stops a cross-body lead halfway through to do a body roll - I can just imagine how that would go down with those men who already complain about styling, but I thought it was great.

For the third session I went for Nigel's salsa/hip-hop, thinking that would be less strenous than samba. Big mistake: I've still got stiff legs two days later. But I did learn how to make a certain Cardiff dancer scream when I tried out one of the moves on her later! (I should point out that it was what she thought I was going to do, rather than the move itself, that made her scream...)

Fourth was Helena and Mo again: clear teaching and a good straightforward sequence.

Rather than doing Maurizio's advanced class, I thought I'd cool down with some gentle rueda, but I found Ulisse and Cressida's class frustrating. I think if you're teaching rueda with beginners in the class you should teach some standard moves and then get them swapping partners fairly early on and focusing on the rhythm. Instead of which we got some non-standard and cheesy stuff, which was amusing but not very useful. When we did eventually get going the timing of his calling was all over the place. (Apparently Maurizio's class was very good.)

I was tired by the evening. Good floor and good music, but I wasn't dancing very well. Militsa and the gang's samba show was good. Later there was a flamenco display, which was impressive but went on a bit, disrupting the salsa atmosphere. Then Ulisse did an interminable rueda at which point I decided it was time to go.

Verdict? The best workshops were really good, but I think I'd have had a better time if I'd just gone for the day, come home for a shower, and then gone to La Tasca.

Friday, September 16, 2005

This week

I've missed the Wharf for a couple of weeks because of work, which isn't doing my dancing any good. Won't be there this Sunday either : (

O'Neills was pretty thin on the ground on Monday, which is a shame as Phil Heath was standing in for John which meant good music.

And it took me ages to get going in the Toad last night - a couple of people I danced with said the same thing. I think it's partly because it was crowded early on, and partly because the music was a bit odd. I finally started getting in the groove with a nice dynamic dancer whose name I don't know (and must find out - I tend not to ask young women's names the first time I dance with them in case they think I'm on the pull, and then somehow never get round to asking).

I noticed a small blonde woman with short hair who looked like a good dancer and though "must ask her for a dance later" - but then she asked me for one and I realised it was Carys. She was looking great but she was having to introduce herself to all the people she knew because nobody recognised her. A couple of dances with her and I really started enjoying myself: let's hope she starts coming regularly again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


According to the box office 'loads' of people from Cardiff are going to Bristol (see previous post) on Saturday. Tomorrow is the last day for advance bookings, which work out cheaper than buying tickets on the day (£33 for all the day workshops excluding the tango salon, plus the night event). The box office number is 01179877877.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cuba and its music: from the First Drums to the Mambo

I've recently finished Ned Sublette's book. It's hefty - over six hundred pages - but it's the best book I've read on any form of popular music. It's the antithesis of Frank Zappa's description of rock journalism ("People who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read.")

Sublette, a New York musician and music broadcaster, has undertaken a phenomenal amount of research covering a period stretching from prehistory to the fifties. One of the things the book seeks to do is to show how Afro-Cuban music has been a huge but hidden influence on other Western popular music, including jazz and rock and roll (after all, 'Louie Louie' is a chachachá).

There are lots of fascinating and provocative ideas in the book. He shows that the difference between North American and Afro-Cuban music basically has its origins in different regions of Africa, with 'swing' originating in deserts and savannahs and 'clave' having its roots in the forests. He also shows how earlier black African musical influences had already been important in shaping the European musics which mixed with the music of the slaves in Cuba to produce Afro-Cuban music.

Throughout the book he links the music with its social context, whether that context is seventeenth-century Africa, mediaeval Spain, or twentieth-century Cuba. Because of this it doesn't always make easy reading as some of the history which produced the music we love today included horrific brutality. But if you have any interest in Latin music (and perhaps even if you don't) it's a fascinating book and well worth taking the time to read.


There's a woman I've been dancing with off and on for years who's told me her name at least three times and I've forgotten it three times. Not sure why - she's a good dancer. I thought this was a bit embarrassing, and I didn't want to ask her again, so I thought I'd ask the other guys who dance with her regularly. It turns out none of them can remember her name.

At least they didn't get it wrong: one woman danced with me a long time under the illusion that my name is Brian. I mean, getting my name wrong is one thing, but Brian?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Pointy shoes

I've come across a few sartorial hazards on the dancefloor recently: a contact lens dislodged by flying braids, and getting stung by the end of a fringed leather belt. Here's another one: those pointy shoes that end about four centimetres in front of the woman's toes. I expect to be able to tell where a woman's feet are without looking, but not in this case - not only did I trip over her feet, but at one point she managed to trip over them herself without any assistance from me...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

La Cachaçaria

Finally managed to get there last night (and to work out the keyboard combination for the cedilla!) It's a small, civilised cocktail bar downstairs in Las Iguanas. When I arrived Than was playing chillout music for the cocktail drinkers and there was only one woman dancer there. Fortunately that woman was Laura who's a lovely light dancer, and Than soon built up the tempo. It was very quiet because people were avoiding the football fans, but Andy and Lucy turned up later. It's a nice venue: not quite as small as I'd imagined from Than's description. The floor is smooth but not ideal for spinning. Definitely worth calling in for anyone who hasn't had enough of a salsa fix on a Thursday.

Friday, September 02, 2005


A bit of coordination and consultation might not go amiss on the Cardiff salsa scene.

I'm reluctant to criticise Andy: I have a lot of respect for his teaching, and I know he's one of the few teachers in Cardiff whose livelihood is based on teaching. But I still think it's unfortunate that he's decided to start his own rueda course just after Kate's got back from the States, when she has a well-established reputation as a rueda teacher and leader.

(It's also hardly a great idea for Mikey to be running Zync on Tuesdays, the same night as Callaghan's which is the only other night run by Spanish speakers.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fiesta Havana

Stevie from Salsamania has just let me know that Fiesta Havana does now have working air conditioning, so for anyone who's going tonight it should be a less sweaty experience than before.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Good night out

So much for all my plans to get to Zync, Bristol and La Cachaçaria - didn't get to one of them. But I had a good time in the Toad and a really good time in the Wharf last night. I'm going to try and get there regularly in preference to O'Neills: it's a nice relaxed atmosphere, the lesson was really interesting and useful (and Andy was in top comic form). The standard of people in the class was refreshingly good (all the women in the class could do the moves, and apparently most of the men could too). Plenty of space for free dancing - there were only half a dozen women dancing afterwards, but they were all people I like and enjoy dancing with, and I got some really useful feedback on my lead on a couple of moves (thanks Sue!)

(Only problem was the newly polished floor which was a bit like a skating rink - let's hope plenty of people with grubby feet walk across it before next Sunday...)

Big Latin Night Out, Bristol

Bristol, 17 September: a day of dance workshops (in venues near Corn Street) and outdoor displays, followed by a latin night in the Students' Union in Clifton. I went last year: there were some good workshops but it wasn't that well attended (though there was a good-sized Cardiff contingent). This year the workshop programme looks even better, and they have a proper evening event which was lacking last year. Lots of interesting stuff, though unfortunately three workshops I want to do are running at the same time (samba with the distractingly gorgeous Militsa, salsa hip-hop with Sahir, and Latin Jazz with Oscar).

Monday, August 22, 2005

Toad, Wharf etc

The Toad was fun last week - or at least it was when i finally warmed up (ten minutes before my daughter rang and asked for a lift home...). Great to dance with Kate again for the first time since she got back from America; and particularly good to have her leading rueda again. (She makes it more dynamic and fun than any other leader I've encountered.) She's going to be running a five-week rueda refresher class in Swansea on Monday nights soon, which I'll try to get to.

Didn't get to Than's new night at La Cachaçaria, unfortunately - hope it went well.

The Wharf was a lot quieter last night than the previous week, when I was impressed by the number of good or very good dancers there. I was glad I went last night anyway - this time I did the lesson (usefully, Andy pointed out where my CBL had got sloppy) and danced with Lucy for the first time for weeks.

Going to miss O'Neills tonight. Might try Zync or Callaghans tomorrow, or alternatively I might save my energy for Angus's class in Bristol Golf Club on Thursday.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Than's new night

Than's starting a new salsa night in La Cachacaria (downstairs at Las Iguanas) next Friday. It runs 8pm to 2am. Apparently the dancefloor is very small, but with Than DJing it should be fine if the right people turn up. Nice to have somewhere to go for a dance early in the evening without hanging round for classes to finish.

That's more like it...

Ah, now I remember why I like dancing! I wasn't that inspired after Monday, but as soon as I got to the Toad I livened up - it was great to be back and surprisingly busy with several of my favourite dancers there. I had a really good dance fairly early on which made me feel like a proper dancer again. (Or at least, I thought it was really good - hope you did too, Lisa!)

Still got a little way to go before getting back to full fluency again: there were a couple of dances later on where I was definitely lacking subtlety even when dancing with really good partners. But at least I don't feel as if it's going to take months.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Toucan closed

The Toucan Club has moved out of its St Mary Street premises because a developer is converting the upper floor of the building into flats (yeah, like Cardiff really needs more luxury flats). Apparently they hope to reopen soon once they find another venue, and they'll be running one-off nights in other venues in the meantime.

In its previous location - which is now Callaghan's - the Toucan was where salsa started in Cardiff (before my time). The St Mary Street venue was one of the few civilised places to see good music in the City Centre. They haven't done a lot of Latin gigs recently but it's still a shame to lose a good venue.

Visit their website for the latest news.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Who needs them? Well, I do - but it's frustrating trying to get back into salsa after a fortnight away and then a week off with a bad cold. I was pretty rubbish last night and I reckon it'll take several weeks of going at least twice a week to really get back to speed.

O'Neills was amazingly busy with quite a few new faces, and some who haven't been around for a while - in particular Jayne, who hasn't been around for months. Jayne was really helpful to me when I first started dancing - it's good to see her back on the scene.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Fiesta Havana

Well, if that's what FH is like when the air conditioning is supposed to be working I wouldn't like to be there when it isn't!

Amazing number of people there, even once the beginners had gone downstairs. Helena and Nicolai's teaching was as good as expected: they really do teach as partners, unlike many salsa duos where the man does all the talking. The sequences assembled some lovely moves which worked really well together, the only problem being that they were a bit long.

I was a bit surprised by the standard in the intermediate class. There were some good women there but there were a fair few armwrestlers and a really bad backleader. It's hard remembering the next bit of a long sequence when it's been a battle to get the woman through the first bit - in fact I thought I'd lost it completely until I got a delightfully light follower which meant I got most of it. And then Sue appeared and suddenly it was easy.

The advanced class included most of the same people (though one or two men had wisely dropped out). A bit long to remember - eleven measures – but I did eventually get it.

Free dancing was a bit manic - FH is notorious as a place to get kicked and trodden on. I had a few good dances - and got asked to dance by people I didn't know, which is always nice - but the heat got to me and I went rapidly downhill. Quite a few Cardiff people there: Nathalie, Hugh, Malcolm, Tammi and former Cardiff person Shirley.

I'll definitely go again as I really liked the stuff Nicolai and Helena taught (they teach there on the second Wednesday of every month) but I hope it's cooler next time.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hot Hot Hot

Bloody hell, that was warm in the Wharf last night. I went outside to cool down and even there it was warmer than I'd normally be comfortable dancing.

Danced with "passionate salsera" - the first time we've danced together each knowing who the other was. PS, I'm amazed that you described yourself on salsacity as sweaty - have you seen some of the other people who dance in the Wharf?

Just heard from Stevie at Salsamania that Fiesta Havana now has working air conditioning, so I'm tempted to head over to Bristol on Wednesday.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Trouble is...

...while I'm really looking forward to a fortnight in Morocco – it's over twenty years since I was last in North Africa – I know that it's going to take me weeks to get back up to speed after a fortnight's break. (Can't imagine that there's a big dance scene there, though there is a decent Moroccan salsa track on Putamayo's Salsa around the World compilation.)

I realised after last night that to really keep up the standard and improve I need to go an absolute minimum of twice a week - I let this slip over the winter, unavoidably, and as a result I've felt that my dancing has been pretty pedestrian for months.

So I'm desperately trying to fit in as much dancing as I can before I go. Should be out at least once over the weekend, and I might try Callaghan's on Tuesday even though it's a late start to the free dancing.

Where were you?

Well, PS, if you were in the Toad last night you didn't introduce yourself. And "Anonymous", didn't you want me to point out the good dancers? (Or are you the same person?) Most of them were there, with the exception of Thano, who you already know, and Kevin. But Kevin's brother Hugh (not the Salsacity one) was there, and he has a similarly subtle and precise style.

I had a brilliant time - danced with all my top three, and even managed to lead that tricky move I've been trying to work out for weeks with two of them. I felt more on form than I've been for about a year, managing subtle leads with people I usually find myself wrestling with, and getting proper LA-style timing going (holding the 5 to build up the tension for the end of the measure). I was reacting fast as well, which came in handy when one dancer threw herself into a dip before I'd led it and I managed to catch her with one hand!

Mind you those flowing moves I picked up in the Wharf on Sunday are a pig to lead with anyone who wasn't in the class - I need to really work on the timing for them.

Learnt that Lesley J - a recent and welcome addition to the salsa scene - is very good at dancing compactly: we were hemmed in at one point and she was managing to do moves in about half as much space as I'd normally allow for them.

I could have stayed all night but by about half twelve I had to recognise that while I was still having fun, heat and tiredness was taking its toll.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Rueda terms

Thought I'd post this again (I originally posted it on salsacity):

Dame una
Literal translation: Give me one
Action: Man collects the woman on his right and brings her across to his left for a casino step.

Lit: Another
Action: Man does another Dame while the caller tries to think of an interesting move to call

Lit: Plug her in
Action: Man turns his partner then does 'dame' while waiting for the caller to think of an interesting move.

Enchufla doble
Lit: Plug her in twice
Action: Man half turns his partner, turns her back, then does enchufla, while hoping that the caller will think of an interesting move soon.

Enchufla por abajo
Lit: Plug her in downwards (I'm not making this up)
Action: Man turns his partner then moves left to collide with the man on his left who has forgotten what 'por abajo' means

Dame dos
Lit: Give me two
Action: Man runs like hell to the next woman but one in an attempt to get to her before the man on his right who has forgotten what 'dos' means

Ochenta y ocho
Lit: Eighty-eight
Action: Man follows a figure of eight around the two women to his right, starting by going in front of the first, then starts again and collides with a man on his right who can only count up to 8 in Spanish

Lit: You really don't want to know what this means in colloquial Spanish
Action: Man pretends to have sex with the woman on his left (you've probably now guessed what this means in colloquial Spanish).

Lit: Bayamo is a town in Cuba
Action: Man tries to look as if he knows what he's doing while hoping that the woman can remember this move without waiting for him to lead it

Lit: Sit her down
Action: Normally called as the track ends. Two thirds of the men sit their partners on their laps while the other third do a completely different move called 'setenta'.

The Wharf last night

First time I'd been to the Wharf for a while, but I needed a fix! Andy's intermediate class was great with some unusual, flowing moves which are definitely going into the repertoire. About the right number of people there afterwards as well, good music as always, and some nice dances. Great to see that Marlene is back on the scene – I've always enjoyed dancing with her.

It was still busy when I left at 10.25, which is good as it used to peter out by then. And I had my last dance of the night with Lucy so I went home happy.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Leading ladies

Yes, PS, in answer to your question in another place I did manage to get to the Toad on Thursday. Highlight was Tammi leading Lucy while dancing to her (Tammi's) single, which got me thinking - if the question about 'who are the best dancers' actually asked 'who are the top ten leads', they wouldn't all be men. The last time I danced with her she told me that men have started asking her to lead them. (Might ask her myself sometime - the few times I've tried following it was a revelation because it didn't feel anything like I imagined.)

Other women who lead well are Natalie (who I once saw leading a very drunk ********* more successfully than I had managed), and of course Kate James, who I saw once doing leading Irene in some of the smoothest and most elegant Cuban dancing I've seen in Cardiff.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Best dancers

'Anonymous' - see comments for 'It only takes one dance' below - has asked me who I think the best dancers are. I'm a bit reluctant but here goes. Many people might make a different selection, but my current top three (in no particular order) would be: Gail, Lucy, Sue K.

But there are plenty of other women who I also rate highly and enjoy dancing with. The number of good women dancers has increased recently, which is a relief after several of my faves left Cardiff or acquired non-dancing boyfriends.

There's definitely a shortage of good male dancers (though there are quite a few who think they're good). Apart from Andy and Fred Astaire (see comments again - somebody's going to have to find out his name) I rate Thano, Kevin and Jordy. Thano looks really exciting (my former regular partner described dancing with him as like a roller-coaster ride); Kevin is very smooth and precise; Jordy isn't ostentatious but women rave about how good he is to dance with.

But I'm sure there are other good male dancers who I haven't noticed because what's good about their dancing is obvious to their partners but not to spectators.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Over on Salsacity 'Passionate salsera' has been trying to work out who I am (it's made clear on both this site and that one if you look far enough). One clue, PS - I've also posted there under my real name.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Oops, let my free email account lapse so anyone who's tried to email at the address in my profile won't have got through. Should be sorted now.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

La Tasca

Great night at La Tasca - I must get there more often. Most fun I've had out dancing for months.

It was dead quiet when I got there at 11, which meant an empty dance floor for the first dance with Laura (I think that's her name). She's a lovely fast, light dancer so it was a really good start to the night even though she claimed to be out of practice. We even got a round of applause (from a non-salsa group of spectators).

Surprised to see Liz and Theresa there. They must have a lot of stamina after going to the Claverton Rooms the previous night. I introduced Theresa to Jordy later on and he showed her what bachata and merengue are like with someone who really knows what he's doing (unlike me). I got to dance a nice fast Cuban track with Sofia later which was a great end to the evening - she really is fun to dance with.

Than's music was consistently great, from fast salsa to merengue, bachata and even samba at one point: it certainly isn't a pure salsa night. The dancefloor rapidly filled up with a few salsa people, a few slightly pissed non-salsa people and quite a few young Spanish people. Yes, of course it's limiting and I found myself sticking to moves that work in a tight space and forgetting the fancy stuff - though in a situation like that it's surprising what you can do with a partner who follows precisely if you're ready to react instantly to space appearing and disappearing.

So: don't go to La Tasca if you just want to practise your elaborate moves with other salsa dancers. Do go if you want to have fun with your dancing and are happy to go with the flow, at least for one night a week.

Friday, June 24, 2005

It only takes one dance

Had to drag myself out to the Toad last night. I'd been sweltering in London all day and didn't get home until nearly 9pm, but I decided I had to go as I hadn't been for weeks.

I definitely wasn't at my best, though I had a couple of good dances earlier on. Maybe it was me but I wasn't too impressed with the music.

I managed one reasonable bachata; then I made a complete mess of the next – with one of the best dancers there – while the guy next to me did some very elegant stuff with someone who didn't think she could dance bachata : (

I'd almost decided to go home, but I decided to have one last dance with one of my favourite dancers. She doesn't dance like anybody else - in fact it took me ages to get used to her style - but her dancing is so dynamic, graceful and imaginative (I'm running out of superlatives here) that I left on a real high.

(A similar thing happened to me the last time I went to the Claverton Rooms: I'd changed out of my dancing shoes and decided to relax and have a drink, when I noticed that someone I'd sussed as a good dancer was available; I shot across the room to nab her before anyone else did, and had the most enjoyable and exhilarating dance of the night.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Another Tuesday night

Mikey from Peru is starting a new Latin night at Zync - formerly Sam's Bar - on Tuesday 5th July. There will apparently be themes, salsa classes twice a month, and early evening tapas. It's competing with Cuba and Callaghan's on the same night, which might be a bit ambitious.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Is that move any good?

I used to think that any move was good if it was learnt well enough, but I've since realised that just because a good teacher has taught it doesn't mean that a woman is going to like it. I remember taking ages learning a sequence only to be told by my commendably frank erstwhile dancing partner that it was 'crap', but that it was also crap when she danced it with the teacher. To take another example, having roadtested it (gently) a few times I'm convinced that nobody over five foot tall actually enjoys disappearing under my right armpit, being dragged sideways behind my back, and reappearing from under my left armpit.

So which moves am I going to keep? Any move that has had a positive comment from more than one woman - and any move where I've ever been complimented on my lead. Though that can come and go: I had one that always used to get a 'nice!' from my regular partner, and then I completely lost the plot with it for a couple of months (it works again now, much to my relief).

I definitely got into a bit of a rut relying on the same old moves (and too much spinning the woman) over the winter. I reckon to keep a competent partner entertained I need to include a few easy moves, one or two unusual or unexpected ones, some challenging ones so she can show how good she is, and one or two to make her laugh. I picked up a nice one from Angus last week which is going to be a definite for the 'unusual' category once I've refined the lead a bit.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Cuban band Asere have a gig at the Patti Pavilion in Swansea on 16th July - I'll be away, but they are also down to play St Donats on 3rd December so maybe I'll catch them there.


Got to Angus Peters' class at Bristol Golf Club last Thursday - only a 40 minute drive from Canton (and yes, I was sticking to the speed limit). The dance floor was a bit small and there weren't that many people there, but you could tell right from the warmup that it was going to be a good class. Angus' warmups and footwork are funky but easy to learn. And the class was as good as expected: very clear and structured, focusing on the key points for each move - I managed to pick the sequence up despite being in a post-migraine daze. Nice to have some new moves to bring back to Cardiff. Unfortunately I'm away the next week he's teaching there, but the plan is to get to Torquay on July 2nd for one of his regular Saturday workshops followed by dancing.

Not many people stayed around for the free dancing, and I wasn't really on form. Trying out new footwork in new shoes after a migraine isn't a good idea, as I discovered when I tripped over my feet and toppled into my partner. Fortunately the dancefloor was empty, the lighting was low and she reckoned that if she hadn't been watching my feet she wouldn't have realised it was a mistake!

Friday, May 27, 2005


I nearly didn't go to the Toad last night as I was knackered, but I started enjoying myself as soon as I got there. The class was a good illustration of why a lot of people (including me) think that Andy's the best teacher in Cardiff. The moves were quite unusual but he used them to make more generally applicable points like the importance of keeping arms light/loose and why you need to stay on line, with a lot of individual advice. I was very sceptical about whether one tricky arm-flick was actually leadable on a woman who didn't know it, but it worked on KatewhospeaksSpanish in the free dancing later on. Great to have her back on the scene (she's now teaching the beginners' class).

Definitely got more energy for dancing now summer's here and it seems to be infectious: at least, I'm getting asked for more dances and I haven't been turned down for a while (mind you, I'm going to Bath tomorrow so that might change). I had some really fun dances, including one relative newcomer who definitely has the right attitude.

Andy and Lucy have a new lambada/zouk night starting Monday 6th at Edwards (beginners/improvers classes 8.30-10, dancing until eleven) and a series of Saturday workshops in June and July in Keppoch Street, including bridging (getting from beginner to improver), spinning and leading/following. BTW Fridays have now ended at La Tasca.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I've realised that the Thursday night at Bar Med in Bristol won't be Michael and Maxine every week - looks like they alternate guest teachers.

But there's yet another Thursday night alternative coming up soon - Stevie (Salsamania) is going to be starting a club night at Jongleurs shortly.

Salsa trio

Thano's salsa trio class in the Toad last Thursday was great - just about the right amount of information. It looked as if it wasn't going to happen because there weren't enough women, but as the improvers' class had a surplus we just pinched some of them. So I got to dance with some people I wouldn't have danced with before.

More to the point, I actually managed to remember a large part of the class and tried it out on Liz and Teresa (who hadn't been in the class) on Monday night. The plan was to practise it unobtrusively at the edge of the dance floor, but I rapidly realised nobody else was dancing...Wasn't planning on an audience when trying out the moves for the first time, but most of it worked. Helped by my two partners being really good dancers (they both seem able to follow by telepathy on occasions!).

Planning to go to the Claverton Rooms (for the first time in ages) on Saturday, and to try out Angus' class at Bristol next Thursday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bristol Golf Club

These are the class times for Thursday nights:
7.30pm (ish) Beginners (Phil)
7.30pm (ish) Beginners/Improvers (Angus)
8.25pm Improvers
9.15pm Intermediate (alternates between Phil and Angus, this week it should be Angus)

Monday, May 16, 2005

La Tasca

Went to La Tasca on Saturday night for the first time in ages. Salsa has moved downstairs, which means more space and less heat; but I think there must be some variation on Parkinson's Law stating that the number of drunk muggles expands to fill the space available...

It's a latin night, not a pure salsa night. Andy plays a variety of latin music including merengue, bachata and lambada, but it's all good stuff. There's a live percussionist as well. I got there around half eleven and started enjoying myself a bit after midnight. Not that many salsa dancers there, but enough for me to have a few nice dances in the limited space available. There was more space (but fewer dancers) later on. Well worth going again soon. Not next Saturday, though: I'll be giving town a wide berth for the Cup Final.


Former salsa teacher Frank Rozelaar Green – he used to teach in the Point – was devoured by large flying monsters outside a church in Grangetown on Saturday night.

(I should point out that this was on Doctor Who...)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Another new night in Bristol

You wait all year for an alternative on Thursday night and then two come along at once! Hot on the heels of Phil and Angus' new night at the golf club comes a night at Bar Med with Michael and Maxine from Birmingham. I happened to go to one of their classes in Birmingham back in December and I thought the teaching was excellent. Going to be a bit torn...

For more details, click on the link above (Salsajive site listings) and scroll down to Thursday.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

New Friday class

I see from Andy's site that there's a new absolute beginners' and improvers' class running at the All Nations Centre, Sachville Avenue, Heath on Fridays from 7.30-9.00.

Week off

Amazing what a difference a few days off work can make. I had a great time at the Toad last week and I was dancing better as well. There was even a bit of rueda - Manuel, Maria and co - which Abby and I managed to gatecrash (they didn't seem to mind). Abby's last night in Cardiff which was a shame. At one point it was so hot and crowded that we ended up dancing outside by the ramp: I thought it was going to be hard to dance on concrete but it wasn't bad. My former Spanish teacher was there as well though she said she needed 'un otra copa de vino' before dancing.

Had a grilling about salsa this morning - I had to record an interview about my digital story prior to it being broadcast on BBC2W. I thought it was going to take 20 minutes as the intro piece is going to be edited down to 30-40 seconds, but the interview went on for nearly an hour. Interesting questions, including "what's it like dancing salsa?", "how do you choose who to dance with?" and "how do you learn to lead?" - none of which are easy to answer succinctly!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

New night in Bristol, etc

Promising new Thursday night starting at Bristol Golf Glub, which should be easy to get to from Cardiff as it's just off Junction 17 of the M5. Classes from 7.30 with Angus Peters and Phil Heath, then dancing til midnight. Angus is an excellent teacher, very clear and structured; I don't find Phil's classes that easy but I always pick up something useful from them.

I think this might get popular with people who are tired of getting kicked and elbowed in the Toad. (Having said that, Andy's class was spot on last week - just the right amount of material -and things improved on the dancefloor later on).

Quick reminder that O'Neills no longer runs on Bank Holidays (but for John's fans there's salsa, dinner and dancing at St Donat's on Saturday).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Capture Wales

My digital story is finally on the BBC website, so if you want to know who's behind the screen name (and haven't already worked it out) visit the link above. You can also see what I looked like 20 years ago and have a good laugh at my dancing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Finally getting somewhere...

O'Neills last night after yet another week away from salsa, and it was surprisingly lively with the very welcome return of several people I hadn't seen for a while. Music was pretty good on the whole apart from the odd bit of cheese. Nice variety of dancing styles, including an exciting dance with Cardiff's most individual, stylish and expressive salsera (who was dancing with remarkable enthusiasm for someone recovering from broken ribs).

Unfortunately the video screens are working again, so I could see just how rubbish my bachata looks. My partner said that doing the hip wiggle made her feel like a dog cocking its leg on a lamppost, which can't be how it's intended to be danced!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Going backwards

I'm working away all this week, as it happens, which means yet another week without salsa.

I can feel the quality of my dancing going backwards, which is frustrating. It's not just that I can't get to the 2 nights a week I reckon I need to keep up to standard - it's also that three of the women who I've danced with best have acquired boyfriends and get to salsa little if at all, while a fourth has left Cardiff. Oh well, after this week I should be able to get back into going regularly, and I imagine a private lesson or two will help me get back up to standard.

Monday, April 04, 2005

12 and 16 April

I'll be away, but there's a Latin American solidarity evening at Kiwi's Night Club, Wyndham Arcade, Cardiff on Tuesday 12 April from 7.30 until late. Only £1, and there will be Latin music (and a bit of beginners' salsa teaching) from John Pamplin.

Also it's the Claverton Rooms in Bath on 16 April. Guest teacher is Angus Peters, who I was impressed by when I went to his class at Pontins.


The original plan was to get to the Favela (formerly Cuba Norte) for Farah and Duncan's Thursday night Cuban class and some rueda. Didn't work out like that - I couldn't get there in time for the class - so I went to Havana on Hope Street instead for some CBL. I got there just before 10 as a very crowded beginners/improvers class was ending. In the free dancing people were much better at dancing compactly and sticking to their own space than in Cardiff. (Maybe that's a result of learning in such crowded conditions). None of the "I'm going to do the moves I want and everyone else can get out of my way" attitude you sometimes see here.

Good standard, generally friendly, and I had some nice dances there, but god it was hot and crowded! I'll certainly go again the next time I'm in Glasgow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Digital story

Anyone who has a digital TV and who fancies a laugh might like to watch 'Your stories' on BBCi tomorrow, Wednesday 30th. (You need to press the red button while watching a BBC channel).

Look out for a two-minute film called 'How I got my groove back': it's one of four that will be shown on a continuous loop through the day. You'll see why the video camera was in O'Neills a few months back.

Don't worry, the only dancers apart from me who can be recognised are Anne and Charlotte, and they both agreed to appear.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Kate James is off to the States for three months, so this Thursday I imagine she'll be danced off her feet. Hope you have a good time, Kate - look forward to learning any new rueda moves you pick up...

Back on track

Finally back on track, I hope: work has really got in the way of dancing recently. I went to O'Neills last night after only managing to get to salsa twice in the previous month. (I usually reckon I miss it if I go less than twice a week). Women a bit thin on the ground (several people I'd expect to dance with were away) but an hour or so's relaxed dancing has made me feel a lot better.

I never used to take salsa seriously as exercise, but I've noticed a drop in fitness. I recently did a little sum for those of you who are trying to justify your addiction: most salsa is around 45-55 bars per minute. 3 steps to a bar means an average of 150 steps a minute. So 67 minutes of salsa gets you the ten thousand steps needed to maintain basic fitness.

"I'm so glad you told me that, I hate aerobics!" (dancer in the Toad a few weeks ago).

Friday, March 11, 2005

Toad reprieved : ))

The Toad is back in business until May at least, as they didn't get a licence to refurbish it. Gives Andy and Kate some time to find an alternative.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Claverton (Bed)Rooms

Visited Salsajive the other day to check the dates of the next Claverton Rooms salsa nights (26 March and 16 April) and I noticed that you can now get on-site accommodation through the university ( It costs £30.50 plus VAT a night. A lot more attractive than driving back to Cardiff in a daze and getting to bed at half past three. It even makes it possible to avoid using the car altogether - take a train over, spend an afternoon in Bath and then head back at a civilised time in the morning.

Monday, March 07, 2005

No more Toad : (((((

This Thursday (10th) is the last night at the Toad (and I'm going to miss it because I'll be on the road between London and West Wales). It's a real disaster as it's been the best salsa night in Cardiff for a long time. I can imagine finding another venue won't be that easy - three classes running simultaneously needs a lot of space, and the Toad was barely big enough.

Not sure what we're going to do for an alternative in the meantime. I think La Tasca is going to get busier, and I imagine a few of us will be going to Bristol on Wednesdays (clashes with my Spanish class, unfortunately). At least I'll get a bit more work done on Fridays...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Autres langues/Otras idiomas/Ieithoedd eraill

J'ai vu (des 'statistiques') que quelqu'un de France a visité cherchant renseignements sur 'salsa a cardiff'. Si vous voulez poser des questions (en Français, en Español ou en Gallois (!)) appuyez sur 'Comments' - j'essaierai a traduire y repondre a votres questions.

Si quiere preguntar algo en Español, usa 'Comments' - yo intentera a contestar en Español.

I noticed from the stats that someone from France has visited a couple of times looking for information about 'salsa a Cardiff'. If you want to ask questions in French, Spanish (or Welsh!) click on 'Comments' and I'll try and reply (you're unlikely to get a response that's grammatically correct, as you've probably worked out from the first two paragraphs). I've also got a friend who's fluent in German, so I'll forward any questions in German to her.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Got my fix

God, I needed that last night! I usually reckon twice a week is a minimum, and the combination of work and a virus meant I'd missed it for a fortnight. I wasn't really dancing at my best but had some dances with some nice people. Danced with Harriet early on, who's far too good for most of us, and it was great to see Charlotte back in action (and surprisingly unrusty for someone who hasn't danced for six weeks).

***** told me with a very straight face in mid-dance "I'm a bit worried about dancing with you.". When I asked why she said "I've just discovered your website". She was joking (the bit about being worried) or at least she said she was...

Monday, February 28, 2005

La Linea

The London latin festival is on again at the beginning of April (link in the title of this post). Highlights are Los Van Van on 1st April and Orishas on 8th April. Doubt if I'll manage to get to either, unfortunately.

Got a work trip to Glasgow coming up soon, though, so I'm hoping to catch Farah's excellent Cuban class again.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Salsa trio

Than's salsa trio at the Wharf last night was good fun. It looked as if it was going to be a bit of a disaster as there were only three women to start off with, but eventually enough joined in to make up the numbers. Neat and stylish moves that are actually very simple but need precision to do with two women.

It also helps if the women have similar styles. It doesn't really matter if they both have light following styles or both have heavy following styles; but one pair I had required very different strengths of lead. It worked OK but took a bit more thought: I had visions of mixing them up and failing to budge one while projecting the other halfway across the room!

There were some very promising improvers there, but unfortunately there weren't a lot of people later on. Let's hope it starts picking up soon: it's got good teaching, a good sound system and good music - and the free dancing is now literally free.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Embarrassing moments

Having just mentioned someone else's most embarrassing moment, here's mine: I'd just been taught how to stop dancing and 'brace' to let the woman do a shine, but I hadn't been warned what else the woman might do. So when I tried it out in Bath I was a bit shocked as the woman concerned dived feet-first between my legs, and then shouted out "Get me up!" from her position on the floor...

Monday, February 07, 2005

Salsa trio

Not sure whether I'll go to bachata in Bristol on Sunday as Than is doing a Salsa Trio (one man dancing with two women) lesson at the Wharf. Than is one of the very few people who I've seen doing this well.

Though I did once see Anna doing a pretty good job of leading two men. A better job, at least, than one formerly prominent Cardiff dancer who famously managed to drop Anna and Lee and then fall on top of them...

(Just in case their namesakes get confused I should point out that I'm referring here to Anna and Lee the scientists. Confusing how common some first names are on the salsa scene: I recently encountered a third talented dancer called Kate).

Sunday, February 06, 2005

La rueda

Great to get some rueda going again in the Toad, even if most of us were incredibly rusty: hope the promised refresher course starts soon! As usual with Kate leading it was really dynamic.

Rueda always intrigues non-dancing onlookers, though not usually to the extent of the character on Thursday who somehow ended up observing the spectacle with rapt fascination from inside the circle...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In the Zone/Bachata

Surprised myself by entering the Zone last night: that state of grace where everything works better than usual and the moves just seem to flow without thinking. Haven't been there for a while: hope I manage to revisit it soon.

I've just spotted that Heber, who ran an excellent bachata workshop at Pontins, is now doing monthly workshops in different latin dance styles on a Sunday afternoon in Bristol. The first is on February 13th at the Southville Centre. More details on the 'Special Events' page on salsajive. (The web link from there just goes to the Club Cubana website which doesn't actually have any information that I could find about the workshop). The first one is Bachata and Lamba-Zouk. Subsequent months carry on the Lamba-Zouk while offering tasters in other Brazilian dances. Worth a try, I think.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Not worthy...

Filling in a tax return isn't the best preparation for a night's dancing; but I was out early last night. I was determined to actually get there in time for Andy's class last night, having seen the tail end of a class with some really interesting moves the previous week.

Not really wide awake in the class, which was a shame as it some really useful stuff in it. But in the free dancing I got to dance twice with H******: ) What a remarkably poised, precise and controlled dancer she is. I gather she learnt salsa from the same teacher as Andy, which figures. The dancefloor was crowded and chaotic, but she made it easy to dance in a cramped spot by the wall: I could predict exactly where she would go when I led a move. Only problem is dancing with someone as good as that makes me very aware of my own limitations.

Had a major deadline to meet today which meant I didn't manage to stay beyond 11 - I even missed out on dancing with Charlotte. Frustrating, but I knew if I stayed beyond half eleven I'd get my second wind, stay til half twelve, and then be unable to sleep. Has anyone worked out an efficient way of winding down after a night's salsa?

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Monday nights are definitely picking up. Loads of nice people to dance with this week: extending it til midnight was definitely a good idea, even though staying til midnight wouldn't be (well, not if you've got the deadline I'm trying to meet this week).

Welcome reappearance - on a flying visit - of someone I used to dance with regularly, even though she was amused by being a bit rusty: at one point I did a move that involved walking her round behind me, turned to pick up her hip only to see her doubled up with laughter about six feet away. I didn't think my leading was that funny. Fortunately there was plenty of space so we weren't dancing near anybody.

I also danced with a very talented beginner (on Keith's recommendation - good to see him back on the scene). It's amazing how some women 'get' following immediately. She'd just done the one lesson but will obviously be a very good dancer with a bit of practice. What will complicate matters for blogging purposes is that she shares a first name with two of Cardiff's most talented dancers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Pretentious crap (again)

Thinking about it over the weekend, I can't really justify the comments I made (see post below). They weren't intended to be quite as critical and dismissive as they came across, but that's no excuse. Memo to self: think before posting next time.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Reality bites

Oops, thought this blog might get me into trouble once people realised who I was (and I've left enough clues for anyone who can be bothered to work it out). This week I was confronted by someone who told me that the blog is 'pretentious crap', presumably because they had been the subject of some mildly critical comments.

I've removed the comments. I've also amended this post as the previous version may have made the identity of the person concerned a bit too obvious.

Otherwise it's been a pretty good week for dancing. The later finish (midnight) on Monday seems to be attracting more dancers. Even though I don't stay much later than I did before, it's nice to leave when the joint is still jumping (as it were) as opposed to winding down. Music was pretty good this week too. Thursday was good too (as usual) and didn't wrap up until twenty to one. Good for dancing, not good for productivity on Friday.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Get out and dance!

Felt great after Thursday at the Toad, so I thought I'd try the Wharf again last night. It was quiet again, but there were a couple of good dancers there so the evening wasn't wasted.

Frustratingly, there's one woman who does the class and is obviously a very talented dancer but can't be persuaded to stay around for the free dancing (though I once saw Andy 'persuade' her by picking her up and carrying her onto the dance floor). I don't think she realises how good she is - maybe she's selfconscious about not knowing all the moves, but that doesn't matter if you have her natural ability.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Back in the swing

The Toad was at its best on Thursday night: not that many people there, but most of them were good to dance with. Dancing with Charlotte made me feel like a dancer, rather than a lump with two left feet, for the first time in weeks.

Everybody was complaining about being out of practice, but I had a really good time and felt surprisingly unrusty. Nice relaxed atmosphere as well: a good start to the dancing year.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Happy New Year

The Wharf was very quiet on Sunday. Looked promising when I got there and the class was good, but the three people I really wanted to dance with left before the free dancing : (

The Toad is back on this Thursday, with Nigel Maye teaching for the next couple of weeks. (Andy and Lucy are in the Dominican Republic.)