Monday, 11 November 2019

The Best Bachata Ever!

Last Saturday Fliss and I went dancing.
That in it self shouldn't be a surprise for a couple involved in salsa since 1992 (please don't make the calculation!) 
Perhaps it would be more typical of a couple of fifty somethings to be sitting at home watching 'Strictly Come Dancing' but last Saturday was different.
Having spent all day teaching at my Salsa  Rapido 1-Day Intensive Course at Bar Salsa I was totally spent, but this time, my reason to dance outweighed my fatigue. In fact in my mind there were two reasons:
First,  we had been invited by a wonderful woman to dance at a Celebration of Life, or as she put it, a Tumor Shrinking Party.

Last summer I had danced in a North London park with a lady (I'll spare her blushes by naming her) who, as we danced, reminded  me that I was her first salsa teacher. This alway touches me deeply. I specialize in beginners and Improvers classes and  seldom get recognition from those who, in spite of me, stay within salsa. They've moved on to higher levels with the latest movers and shakers and I fade into their history as is quite right and proper as any dancer's achievement is theirs alone to take pride in and share. 
On the occation I'm credited, I feel the warmth of pride, the respect for their effort and I usually brush off their compliment with a comment about not giving refunds!
This dance was different as the lady (a perfect description of her) said casually, that she had just six months to live.

The extra line I give is not sufficient to convey the shock of hearing those words. 

Cut to a few weeks ago when the said lady messaged me to invite Fliss and I to a 'Tumor Shrinking Party'  My response was hell yes!
I've still no idea what that means other than to celebrate the moment and every extra moment of life it implies.

As part of our online chat, she informed me that Cheryl, one of my first students back in April 1995, had just passed away. 
This too was a blow.
Cheryl was a natural dancer and as many readers will know, I never subscribe to the 'nature over nurture' debate (it's not in the blood!) and the internal racism it often  expresses. (Google 'internal racism' before you throw any toys out of your pram)

Cheryl didn't just dance, she flowed across the dance floor like an elegant isotope of mercury. Her smile was so warm that when she entered the room I knew it was going to be a good night.
When we danced it was if we had been practicing constantly for years,  intuatively connecting in a way, years later, I would term 'rapport'.
I'm not a close friend and I had no awareness of her illness until very recently but I feel her loss. 
Last Saturday was a celebration of life, which Cheryl's loss made so poignant. It honored my friend, who's tumors have shrunk, and if I'm honest my life: the friends I've made and lost, the people I've taught,  the Latin music I love and the sheer 'J'oi de vive' of dancing in my middle age as I did in my youth.

So what message would I pass down the line?
Dance as if there's no tomorrow and no yesterday, dance for the next heart beat and celebrate the last.
My only regrets are the dances I didn't have, and the people I didn't get to know. 

Reality check: She (my friend) was busy making sure everyone ate. I was concerned I would be too tired for my i2i course the following day. We got to dance one dance: a bachata! She hates bachata as do I but we danced, and chatted, and celabrated life.
The best bachata ever!

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Yesterday I received an email from TripAdvisor informing me that I had been awarded a Certificate of Excellence. I had no idea that there was such a thing but now I've got one I'm a big fan. It's the chance to thanks to everyone who's taken the time and trouble to say some kind words about my Salsa Rapido 1-Day Intensive course.
Click to see tripadviser reviews

When I embedded TripAdvisor into my site I was hoping for praise but open to the possibility of harsh and unfair criticism, and in fairness I've received a one star review from someone who wasn't on the course and a two star review from someone who enjoyed the class but didn't enjoy the fajitas at lunch! May I just add that fajitas are not compulsory and anyone can eat wherever they wish. Lunch isn't part of the deal so bring a packet of crisps in if you wish but don't blame my course if they didn't have your favourite flavour! (I'm so over it now) .... Anyway, I overcame my fears and gave it a go, realising that feedback is good and TripAdivsor offers a third party review that's useful for the pubic when booking. 

Many months later and I've received mainly five star reviews. 
This tells me that: 
  • My presentation is engaging and entertaining. 
  • People are way nicer than I deserve. 
  • Salsa Rapido is a well formed and mature method that can do well when compared to traditional classes. 
  • I'm really good at asking for five star reviews.
On the last point my hobby of stand up comedy led to five shows at the Edinburgh Fringe where at the end of a show we would have a 'bucket speech' to encourage the audience to give a tip (The comedians only source of income) Infamously cliched lines like: "Take some change, fold it and put it in the bucket" are common. One time I got a waif-like act to kneel down holding the bucket while looking as mournful as a Dickensian child. Another time a showed the audience picture of my cats on my phone and asked "which one should I 'economise' first?" Well it works for charities! The result were seldom any different from no bucket speech. It was the show's content that counted. 
You'd never catch me plugging my Intensive course at a comedy gig!

I'm fairly cynical about reviews but third party reviews they are useful  in a world awash with
hyperbole. Another thing that has helped me throughout my career is open honest feedback. I've learnt the tough lesson that criticism stings like a needle but delivers a powerful medicine. I invite anyone who's attended my Salsa Rapido courses or party events to feedback in person or by email. They always get my full attention and steer my development.
Thanks in advance :-)


Monday, 10 June 2019

The launch of Salsa Clasica N8

The launch of Salsa Clasica N8

It’s the morning after the launch of Salsa Clasica.I’m guessing that it’s around the fifty fifth venue I promoted salsa at since 1995 and for Fliss, A.K.A. Dj Felicidad, it was back to our roots. Not long after we started teaching salsa we started a monthly Friday night at the Old Bull Arts centre in High Barnet.

Our aim was simple: To create a friendly local monthly event where local salseros of any level and any style could come and dance and socialise.

I haven't launched a new night in the suburbs for years and to be fair, I was a little nervous.

There was only ever going to be three outcomes: No people, loads of people and somewhere in between. Last night we had enough people to establish the event and create a friendly atmosphere. We had people from several local venues and from our old venues no longer operating i.e The Cuban, Camden and the King Head Crouch End.

My sincere thanks to everyone who supported us and those who send their best wishes for the event.

It was like a house party in a mansion’s funky ball room. Oak panels with Punch and Judy serving hatch and trapease mannequins looking as if their about to jump down and dance with us. I was happy not to charge an admission and delighted that everyone danced with everyone, chatted and enjoyed themselves. For anyone who’s been on our Thames Salsa Cruise (July 28th) is was like that but with a stable dance floor and no queuing!

Fliss played classic salsa which transported me back to the early days of Salsa Fusion in Leicester Square. It was also fun to merge a micro salsa class (10mins) with a Gestalt exercise designed to break barriers and place ‘connection’ at the heart of social dance. Fitting as I found the venue by drinking there after my psychotherapy course across the road.

I was also pleasantly surprised with my energy levels. I’d taught my 1-Day Intensive for five hours on Saturday and the Salsa Rapido i2i Musical Interpretation for four hour on Sunday. Usually that would mean an evening of blobbing on the sofa. After a quick turn around we headed in for a delicious meal at the The Three Compasses. I had the nut roast which was superb and Fliss had a gourmet Cheese burger. Then it was plug in, set up and dance pretty much non stop until about 9.30pm. Thanks be to the air-conditioning and kind wooden floor!

My mission was simple, dance with everyone I could. I also wanted to meet and speak with everyone who came and I’m pleased to say I achieved that too. I believe the atmosphere in any event, big or small, comes from the promoter’s leadership and the way to avoid cliques and sleaze is to chat to everyone.

We now move to the first Sunday of the month so the next Salsa Clasica is Sunday 7th June.
7-11pm See you there :-)
The Three Compasses , 62 High St, Hornsey, London N8 7NX

Monday, 3 June 2019

We got Hacked on Facebook

I got Hacked on Facebook

I wanted to ‘boost’ my post for our new monthly Sunday night event Salsa Clasica (plug plug here’s the link ) I hadn't used it for a year and so wasn’t checking for any activity but found my Facebook advertising account had been hacked last March.

The hackers used my account to advertise and pay for adverts for training shoes, to the tune of £200 per day. Fortunately the ads were suspended “Your ad account has been flagged for ‘policy violations’.” This limited the spend to £1250. OUCH!

I assume anyone who purchased those trainers never received them and their card details would also be sold on to other criminals so what goes around, keeps going around!

Facebook is incredibly hard to contact, no telephone number and no online chat. The ad support contact system isn’t working at the moment (day two and seven attempts). The general help just sends the same “try ad. support” messages. I’ll persist but what a waste of time, let alone the stress.

Why didn’t Facebook contact me? I am a client who spend money with them.

The ads were suspended due to ‘policy violations’ which usually means too much text in an image or something similar but surely a hacker would not want to draw attention or risk failure through a ‘policy violation’. I believe that ‘policy violations’ in this case means Facebook were aware of the hack and did nothing to help other than stop it after four days of taking the business! I was under the impression that ads had to be approved before going live, not four days later! This leads me to conclude that Facebook have no duty of care to is clients. They’re the tech giant who doesn’t care if a few ants get crushed.

So what have I learnt?

Big tech companies are big targets for hackers. That’s no excuse as they have the resources to secure their platforms but choose not to. It’s like car theft. If a law was passed to make car manufacturers replace stolen cars, how good would car security be? Awesome! They have the resources therefore it’s a policy choice.

Is my personal security up to it? No! But it is now!!!

Am I on top of my paperwork admin? No! That needs to change. I had school reports that basically say the same thing from thirty five years ago. (I just got around to reading them!)

Finally a big shout out to First Direct bank. Since I paid with credit card they will reimburse me the full amount as it’s fraud. How do I know? I called someone who explained it to me. Yes, there’s a green button on my phone which actually allows me to speak with people in other locations! Someone please tell Facebook about this magic green button. I would but I can’t get through!

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Flow and i2i Deep Salsa

Have you ever wondered why we dance?

The usual quick answer is fun. But where does that fun come from?
What stops us having amazing dances every time?
Can we understand and adjust salsa to have more fun and more amazing dances?

i2i Deep Salsa is a London based workshop based on those simple questions.
We examine the group social dynamic, and how we fit into our salsa tribe through our status within the group.

And we take a close look at the partnership, that heady cocktail of body language, gestures, proximity and moves that goes from zero and back within a single track leaving us amazed and satisfied, or disappointed and reflective.

Why do some people click with us and others not? Is it just chemistry as many believe and fixed like a round pegs seeking round holes? I don’t believe this is always the case. Very little about us is fixed. Our skills change as do our confidence, mood and willingness to engage. If they change then we can change them. What happens when the round peg becomes a little squarer and the square peg becomes a little rounder?

Deep Salsa has evolved since 1998 and now incorporates many psychological concepts including:
body language, proximetrics, and transactional analysis.

At the heart is a one of the simplest Flow. Coined by the famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975, Flow or Peak State is a state of mind we enter when there’s a perfect balance of challenge and skill.
As we drop out of Flow we get a burst of happy brain chemistry that makes us want more, which motivates seek Flow again see Flow - What is it?

Understanding this Challenge/Skill balance in salsa is the key to becoming an amazing dancer at any level see Flow - How it Affects Salsa

This is done through altering this balance to find Flow more often and with more people.
Along the way our communication and empathy skills are enhanced which boosts our confidence see

Flow - Finding Flow in Salsa

Powerful stuff but in practical terms it’s easy when broken into simply exercises that can be practised on any dance floor with anyone at any level.

I’ve released three short videos about Flow on the Salsa Rapido Concepts playlist
Please take a look at and subscribe to the channel.
Salsa Rapido Concepts

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Progress Report on Video Clips

I though it a good idea to post an update on how the Salsa Rapido Concepts playlist on YouTube is going.
In been a little over a month since I published the first fourteen clips.
Since then the Salsa Rapido channel has received over four hundred views from 72 unique viewers.
Small numbers compared to some but they're not zero.
I'm delighted to say there's twenty six subscribers (more wanted) and no negative comments :-)

Only thirteen percent of views have come via YouTube search which takes time as they reward those that have been posting for longer and I haven't sorted the End Cards that slide in to offer viewers links.

A massive thank you to Leigh at who published my blog post on the Footwork clips. Pease share if you can.

I'm currently scripting and producing a series of Concept clip around the Rapport and Flow. This is the heart of the Salsa Rapido method as it explains why we dance and offer ways to have a great time at any level.
I'm also working on a series around musical interpretation. There's so much neuroscience research that happening now and totally relevant that I'll just have to put my ideas out there and hope they stay relevant for a while.

One  of the advantages for me in producing these clips is that it's tightened and improved the Salsa Rapido i.2.i courses at Salsa Soho. Because the video work the conceptual content on the courses is clearer allowing for more progress and more moves. I look forward to offering a heap of 'notes in the form of clips to the i2i students.

The video project started last year as an online vehicle for Mambalsa (my new partner dance). It seemed sensible to work on the Salsa Rapido clips first as there's plenty to say and I could gain the skills necessary to deliver script to camera. I had no idea how challenging that would be! A year later and I'm two thirds through the Salsa Rapido Concepts playlist and haven't started the 'How To'  playlists.

I've become a full time script writer, editor, presenter and publicist and occasionally I teach people in the real world! It feels right to be publishing ideas that I've been working on for twenty four years. I'm the first to admit I don't know it all, but there's a lot of experience that the next generation of instructors and dancers can benefit from.

....back to the scripts

Friday, 18 January 2019

Salsa Footwork. It's all in the feet! - first 4 Concept Videos

Salsa Footwork. It's all in the feet!

A post to introduce the first four videos in my...
Salsa Rapido Concepts playlist. (please subscribe)

“Footwork, footwork, footwork” the beginner salsa dancer's bete noire. The very concept that defines salsa and so many dances, hence the Salsa Rapido rule number one:  

No Footwork Sequence, No Salsa!

The mastery of the Footwork Sequence FWS becomes the conceptual barrier between beginners and Improvers levels. Which means any time spent on it is well worth it.

For most people who learn salsa, the footwork is the first thing they learn. As Lao Tzu father of Taoism said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" Sadly he did not go on to say “Then another, and another and then a pause”, personally I prefer his sister's work: Tirrama...(Boom tish!)

How footwork is presented and what it’s wrapped up with has profound influence on the student’s progression.

In the first clip Footwork Sequence I define the footwork sequence (FWS). This is a major break from traditional teaching as it separates two concepts: The rhythmic sequence of steps and pauses known as the FWS from Direction, which allows us to add the concept of Direction in two different ways : Moves and Patterns. 
see Add Direction to the Footwork Sequence

I find that a significant proportion of absolute beginners struggle with footwork patterns. They fall into the trap of overthinking a specific detail, usually the position of the step. Position seems to consume all of their attention so they fail to transfer their weight and so the pattern fails. This then has a domino effect where fears of falling behind or holding the class back undermine their confidence making more mistakes likely.

Stripping away Direction from the footwork keeps thing as simple as possible and allows for a universal FWS that can have repeating patterns added to form Footwork Patterns later on, or shapes added to form moves.

Getting hung up on footwork patterns is doubly unhelpful as no matter how good the patterns they offer little to improve leading or following skills.
Keeping the FWS going is easy when that's all we're doing but adding Direction, events, shapes and the music and we've got a multitasking nightmare.
The idea that FWS is the glue that holds salsa together and concentrating on it holds everything in place leads to the tool of ‘Vocalising’, which keeps the attention on the FWS.

Finally we get to The Basic Step of Salsa What is meant by the term 'The Basic Step' in salsa? Well actually it easier to answer the question ‘What isn’t called a basic step!” The answer will vary depending on who you ask. Default step? Any pattern? Moves? It a multi use term meaning many things. I’ve tried to simplify things and explain why different regions have different default footwork patterns.
I also touch on the mindset of Consideration and the skill of adapting to other peoples salsa style through a mindset of adaptability and playfulness which helps us learn salsa faster.

There’s always so much more to say but that’s enough for now.
Please like share and comment on the videos and above all keep dancing :-)

link to the Salsa Rapido Concepts playlist.