Friday, March 28, 2008


There was a discussion on Salsajive recently about how humourless cross-body dancers are - apparently they/we get stroppy if partners get things wrong.

I don't recognise this on the Cardiff scene - but, more to the point, how do you define 'wrong'? Yes, it's good to dance with someone who you can rely on to follow your lead perfectly, but some of the partners I most look forward to dancing with are women who I know won't always interpret the lead in the way I expect. They are very stylish dancers - often from a ballroom or other dance background - but they haven't had standard CBL moves drilled into them. Having to respond instantly when a woman has done something unexpected with the lead makes the dance more interesting, exciting and unpredictable - and it also makes it more of a partner dance, rather than the woman just following what the man intends.

So, guys, the next time a woman does something 'wrong' don't stop and point out the error of her ways (she'll just think you're a git, quite rightly): keep dancing and treat it as an opportunity to show how spontaneous you can be.


The best CD I bought last year wasn't the latest from Cuba or NY: it was Congo: Rumba on the River 1954-67, which I picked up while sheltering from the rain in WOMAD. It's a double CD of beautiful Latin-influenced music, mostly from the early 60s. You can dance to it but it's also gentle, warm music to chill to - remarkably, as the 60s was a bloody time in the Congo. Some of the songs are essentially Congolese versions of Cuban hits (with piano replaced by shimmering guitars) but there are also plenty of original pieces. I was familiar with some of the musicians - I photographed Rochereau (performing under his African name of Tabu Ley) at an early WOMAD - but I'd never heard of the wonderful Grand Kalle.

Looking at things the other way round, earlier in the year I bought Out of Cuba: Latin American music takes Africa by Storm. This CD is intended as a kind of ethnomusicologists' guide to the (mostly) Cuban music which was the source of much 60s African music, but it's also a great primer to early Cuban music even if African music isn't your thing. It goes right back to El Manicero, the first ever international Latin hit. Another thing that's good about it is that the clave is really loud on some of the earlier recordings: it can be difficult to hear it buried in the mix of a lot of modern salsa tracks, but you can't miss it on the old songs.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter weekend

Dancing's a lot more fun when you know you haven't got to get up for work the following day, and Thursday night pretty much everybody was in that position – the joint was jumping. I got into the buzz right from the start with Andy's warmdown/up, probably helped by having been at Barocco the previous night: unlike some of my other vices, dancing is more fun the more often you do it. For over two hours the only time I really stopped was to cool down (it was seriously warm).  Ms X timed her arrival perfectly just as the first bachata track was starting, so that a good evening got even better. 

Last night was my birthday, so after some very good curry at the Vegetarian Food Studio (highly recommended) it was dancing at La Tasca. At 1am I was flagging and thinking of going home, and then I got my second wind and the last hour was great. Think I'll try and fit in a few more late nights this week as I'm not back in work until next Monday : )

Monday, March 17, 2008


For anyone who, like me, was struggling with the Colombian footwork the other night (yes, my knee is much better, thanks) how about this: 

It' s not just the footwork that's remarkable - watch what happens at about 1  minute 15 seconds into the clip.

BTW it's my birthday on Saturday, and thanks to the leap year it'll be on a dancing night again - if anyone would like to help me celebrate I'll be at La Tasca from around 11.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


It took a bit longer than anticipated for my knee to recover from last week's workshop. Missing dancing is bad enough, but not being able to cycle either made it worse - it doesn't take long for lack of exercise to make me feel like an irritable slug. To my relief it was just about OK by the time Sunday's private lesson came around. Even though neither of us was at our liveliest it was very useful, and I finally cracked a move I'd half-learnt a couple of weeks earlier. It's remarkable how small adjustments can make a huge difference to how smoothly a move works. And I learnt how to do bachata so that the step doesn't look like "a dog against a lamp post" (thanks, Abby).

A couple of hours off and then back for round 2, the advanced workshop. This was very entertaining, the most amusing bit being when both women and men had to do solo cross-body lead turns from one side of the dance studio to the other, and then go back doing sombrero turns. Finally we had to do it the length of the dance studio, which is where people's ability to spot really came into question. One woman (a brilliant dancer) showed how effortless it could be, after which everything ended up as a series of races with people shouting encouragement to the leaders. One dancer (who I won't name to save her embarrassment) was just about to win the final lap but fell over a metre from the line...

The partner work started by revising the move from the previous week, looking in detail at positioning, how to lead the move and how to 'anchor' the end of the turn. Finally Andy looked at fitting the moves to the music, identifying the stronger and weaker measures. Very worthwhile and a completely different emphasis from most salsa classes, with their emphasis on long sequences of elaborate moves strung together with no relationship to the music.

And I felt so much better after some dancing.

I tried out some of the new moves in O'Neills last night and a couple of them worked on someone who didn't know they were coming, which is the real test. Need a bit more practice to get them working every time, though. I'm thinking of trying to get a few people together to hire a dance studio for practising as those mirrors are really useful.

No salsa in O'Neills next week (St Patrick's Day) but as a bonus it's open on Easter Monday.

Monday, March 03, 2008


That advanced workshop was good last night (I really liked the partner move Andy taught us) but my 'good' knee is giving me trouble after all that high-speed footwork. So I'll miss O'Neills tonight. Assuming my knee behaves I should be out on Wednesday and Thursday, and twice on Sunday (once for a private lesson, once for the workshop).