Salsa and the City 1: shall we start with hello?
Greetings, fellow dancers! Before I launch into this whole regular column thang, I thought I’d best introduce myself first. I’m Lesley, and I’m really nothing like Carrie Bradshaw. Except for the fact that I’m always on the lookout for must-have dance shoes, daahling.
So why has Nicolai asked me to do a little blurb for you every month? I mean, I’m hardly the fount of all salsa gossip. I’m always too busy dancing... or I’m shaking my maracas and singing with Mambo con Rumbo. Ohhhh, wait a minute. Is that what this is all about? He thinks I’ll collect tales from gigs we do up and down the country? All right then. From now on, I’ll be on the lookout for any salsa shenanigans, people. So don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Right now it’s festival season for the band. At the August bank holiday weekend we’re playing the Galtres Festival near York. It’s billed as “a feast of fine local produce with four genre-defying stages”. Sounds groovy! The Lightning Seeds and The Beat are headliners... plus we’re opening the acoustic stage on Saturday at 12.30 and doing a slot in the evening too. Oh. Did I mention there are over 100 real ales, lagers, ciders and wines to have a crack at plus lots of tasty noms? A good weekend looks exceedingly likely. Check out the website for all the info and I’ll hope to see you there!
Salsa and the City 2: to kizomba or not to kizomba?
Our resident salsa scribbler speaks her mind about the current craze to hit our dancefloors
Oooh, the controversy! What’s the deal with kizomba, this Johnny-come-lately dance style that some argue is spoiling salsa nights up and down the country?
Well, I’ll be the first to admit that, if you’re standing on the edge of a dance floor watching this ‘Afrotango’ from Angola, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing to write home about. But participation is everything with kizomba; it really ups your game when it comes to your leading and following skills. Oh. And did I mention it can feel helluva swoony too? Trust me; if you haven’t given kizomba a go yet, seize the day. Because I’m pretty sure it’s here to stay!
Salsa and the City 3: big up the Manchester massive!
Our resident salsa scribbler reports from GBSEx III
The other weekend I travelled across the Pennines to GBSEx – the Great British Salsa Experience. What can I say about this congress? It just rocked my world for the third year in a row!
It’s all at once amazing, intimidating, exhilarating, fabulous fun, hard going, inspiring, unmissable... ALL of that rolled into one and set against the grand gothic backdrop of Manchester Town Hall. What more could a girl ask for? A new pair of dance shoes while you’re there, perhaps? Hell, yes; it’s tradition!
This year, I purposely only did a couple of workshops so I could save my energy for the full-on parties that go on until 5am every night. It didn’t make any difference; I still returned home an absolute husk, darlings. It was sooo worth it, though. Roll on GBSEx IV and I’ll see you on the floor!
Salsa and the City 4: when DO you merit Yoda status?
Our resident salsa scribbler speaks her mind about the journey to salsa enlightenment
There was a question doing the rounds on Facebook the other day: how long have you been salsa dancing? Depending upon how many years you’d clocked up in salsaworld, Mike the ‘SalsaJester’ dubbed you a newbie, a wannabe, an addict, a salsero and finally, if you’d been dancing for over 10 years, Yoda. That gave me a giggle; but it also got me thinking...
Although I’ve been dancing salsa for well over a decade, my technique still sucks and I’ve never mastered the art of spinning without falling over. Nor can I actually explain to you exactly why I fall over. You see, just because I’ve been salsaing for years, it doesn’t automatically make me any good at it. And it certainly doesn’t bless me with the ability to impart golden nuggets of salsa wisdom to you in a Yoda stylee.
I think what I’m trying to say is this: I’ll persevere with a teacher if they’re not a great explainer but they’re a totally awesome dancer. I’ll worship at the altar of a gifted and experienced teacher who can break things down for me in such a way that everything suddenly becomes crystal clear. But it really rather baffles me when people who show little evidence of either skill decide to set themselves up as teachers just because they’re bored in their local advanced class. Three crosses and the big Family Fortunes ‘uh-uhhhhh’ buzzer from me, people! But do feel free to let me know what you think about the matter...
Salsa and the City 5: close... but no Habana cigar!
Our resident salsa scribbler speaks her mind
I spent bank holiday Sunday in Millennium Square at the first-ever Leeds Loves Latino festival, a veritable cornucopia of outdoor entertainment put together by none other than our very own DJ Lubi. It was great to see loads of salsapeops from York, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and beyond who came over for the day... and, of course, to hang out with my Leeds/Bradford crew.
A couple of our lasses were just back from an adventure in Cuba and, as they told me of their experiences, I considered for a moment that, if I just shut my eyes and listened to the band on stage, I could be right there...
Oh yeah? Yeah. Well... if only I could ignore the fact that I was wearing a coat and a hat and that the breeze was very definitely a stiff British one. Dream on, missy, dream on...
Salsa and the City 6: why does no one ask me to dance?
Our resident salsa scribbler has some sound advice for newbies
Well, where does the time go? It’s been aaages since I last regaled you with my salsa musings. But, having been given a gentle prod, here I am again!
This month I thought I’d write especially for those of you who’ve just started learning salsa. Believe me when I say it’s a highly addictive hobby and the camaraderie is absolutely awesome... but you have to stick with it long enough to break the salsa pain barrier.
The salsa pain barrier?! Yes. The salsa pain barrier.
The salsa pain barrier is a two-pronged beast. The first is learning how to dance. Yes, we all wish we could be Fred ‘n’ Ginge after one lesson, but most people need to attend class faithfully every week for at least six months before they feel like they can sort of do it.
The second and, in my opinion, spikiest prong is much more difficult to unskewer yourself from. It’s that terrible feeling of not belonging. Believe me when I say I know how bad it makes you feel!
I used to start off standing on the edge of the dancefloor, bobbing along to those fantastic Latin rhythms and smiling my head off. Nobody came near me. It wasn’t long before my smile became a grimace, which would then fairly quickly slide down my face into a defensive glare. Soon after that, I’d slope off home and cry myself to sleep because not one single person had asked me to dance.
How horrid those salsa people are, I’d blub to myself. Why don’t they want to dance with me? I came up with every reason in the book: it’s because I’m too fat, I’m too old, they’re so cliquey, they’re so up themselves. Eventually, I stopped going to salsa altogether. Hell, why should I put myself through all that pain?!
Several years later, I had a visit from my friend Barry. He’d started learning salsa and had just had a salsa breakthrough. “All you have to do is go every single week,” he grinned from ear to ear, “then they get to know your face and start asking you to dance. I definitely think you should come back and give it another go!” I rolled my eyes and whinged in disbelief, but I agreed I’d go along with him the following week.
Miracle of miracles, with just a little perseverance and by being very brave and asking people to dance over the following few months, I found out that Bazla was right and that all my insecurities were totally in my head.
The truth of the matter is that, in salsa world, familiarity breeds familiality. In other words, dear newbies, if you’re feeling a bit unsteady right now, the best thing to do is take a deep breath and hang on in there. I hope to see you all lots from now on... and welcome to the family!
Salsa and the City 7: let’s get to know each other better
Our resident salsa scribbler gets philosophical
News reached my ears last night that another of our Yorkshire salsa stalwarts had passed away. That’s two lovely leaders we’ve lost in just a few months... gulp!
So, this morning I was sitting at my desk trying to do some work, but I kept thinking about Randy and Martin. Both of them were way too young to have left us. To me, it really hammers home the fact that, above all else, above diamonds and gold and money, our time is our most precious asset. And yet the majority of us don’t realise it until it’s too late. We squander it being cogs in the machine. I really do think it’s time we gave some serious thought to the alternatives!
Maybe then we’d have more time to really get to know each other. D’you know, I only found out last night just what a leading light in the world of karate Randy was. Now, I don’t know about you, but I “know” shedloads of salseros and salseras... but I’m so busy dancing I don’t know a damn thing about them really.
Perhaps if we weren’t working, or going to bed early so we could get up for work, or going home early to prepare stuff for work... well, we’d have time to spend together off the dance floor and find out a bit more about each other’s non-dancing passions!
But then, maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the unspoken connection we have via the fleeting moments of salsa-fuelled happiness on and around the dance floor is enough. Maybe.
I have a card above my desk with a James Brown quote on it. It says: “The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.”
As I was sitting pondering this statement, my iTunes DJ started playing ‘Do You Only Wanna Dance’ by the Julio Daivel Big Band. If you’ve never heard it, check it out; it’s a proper tune! I got up in my little home office and danced around like a loon in my woolly Christmas slippers. Then I sat back down in front of the computer and got on with my work.
It’s never going to solve all our problems, and it won’t bring back our lost compadres, but salsa certainly has enormous power to lift us up when we’re down.
Salsa and the City 8: a change is as good as a rest
Our resident salsa scribbler recommends going nomad
As fab as your local salsa scene may be, there comes a time when you’ve been dancing long enough to get a little… um, jaded, shall we say.
If, like me, salsa is your fun alternative to busting a gut down the boring old gym, then the clear and present danger is that you slack off and sofa-slump. The truth of the matter is that’s exactly what I’d been doing these past few weeks. Few weeks? Hmm. Probably more like few months. How time flies!
Anyhoo. I’m pleased to report a new lease of life after last weekend’s bank holiday, when one of my salsamigas and I took a road trip down to The Belfry in Birmingham for Mauricio Reyes’ Jubilee special.
What a night! A dancefloor awash with unfamiliar faces. Oooh, how exciting! Who shall I ask to dance first?! There was a time when having to walk up to a complete stranger and ask them to dance made me squirm, but I’m much braver these days. After all, venturing forth into uncharted territory is actually half the fun. As Forrest Gump would say, you never know what you’re gonna get!
Well, I’m pleased to report that this particular box of chocolates was of the Belgian calibre. I had shedloads of fabulous dances and I can heartily recommend you make the effort to organise a posse and go down (or up) to Birmingham. Mauricio has nights aplenty throughout the month, and he always puts on a good do. Plus I’ve heard from various sources that Smooth at Aston Uni once a month is a must too. That’s next on my to-do list. Hope to see you there soon…