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 Londonsalsa.co.uk 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.
Multitasking!
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.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

A Guide to the Salsa Rapido Video Clips




A Guide to the Salsa Rapido Video Clips

These ‘Concept’ clips form the ‘notes’ section to the ‘How To’ and exercise clips yet to be released. This project, although live, is in beta testing.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Salsa Rapido Christmas post 2018

Salsa Rapido® Christmas Blog 2018

So here’s a round up of what’s gone well and not so well this past year 2018.
What’s got me excited and where I think I’m going in 2019.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Blend Format


Blend Format a new type of salsa evening

Fantastic to participate, engaging to watch.

Salsa Classes have been in the UK since 1987 and it’s fair to say that the way salsa classes are presented hasn’t changed much in that time. Usually it’s a couple of classes followed by some free dance.

Over the last two weeks I’ve been gradually integrating the new Blend Format at Salsa Camden. Blend a new way of operating an early week evening that literally ‘blends’ the party and the classes creating an atmosphere of buzz.
It’s taken a long time to create and I’ve waited until we’re back in Gabeto (formerly The Cuban) before I’ve fully committed to it.

"Resistance is Futile"
The truth is there’s always a resistance to change, the safety of old familiar ways that drag at the heels of innovation.  I view my innovations as experiments that either work well or not so well. Hopefully Blend will live up to its strapline ‘Fantastic to participate, engaging to watch.’
I’m prepared for the resistance to release ‘Generation Troll’ in a chorus of ‘It won't work!’ because I’ve got experience of things that ‘won’t work’.
There was my Move Machine format back in the nineties which was salsa meets circuit training, that ‘didn’t work’ at our Rayners Lane venue for a year until the  venue was sold. At Salsa University at the iconic Turnmills nightclub we had up to six advanced classes in every style with different teachers every week. That ‘didn’t work’ for eight years ... until Turnmills was sold.
Then there’s the Salsa Rapido 1-Day Intensive Salsa courses at bar Salsa that now seems such a familiar part of the salsa scene. Back then the idea of a full day Intensive course was unthinkable. Until I did in 2003 see www.streetbeat.co.uk/1-Day, and fingers crossed the venue hasn’t been sold, yet! 
So here goes....

So what’s Blend Format all about?
Within an evening of two and a half hours e.g. 7.30pm - 10pm there’s 105 minutes of tuition fulfilling the needs of beginners through to advanced. This is  presented in 15 or 30 minute sessions, Whole group active interspaced with Free Dance time.
There’s constant music and a buzzy mixing and mingling as groups come and go.
Come for the evening, stay for the evening, dance for the evening, socialise for the evening.

Inspiration?

The inspiration for Blend came out of my Mambalsa project in 2012. Mambalsa is a new partner dance I created that worked to any 4:4 time music. It seemed only right to take a look at a typical evening dance class and see what worked and what didn't. As a salsa teacher who specializes in beginners and improvers, I was disappointed at how poor the traditional salsa UX is. UX or user experience comes from web development and is simply looking at something from the perspective of the user.
The typical absolute beginner, arrives, pays and is left alone until the class starts. They then have to cope with a warm up of footwork that they haven’t been shown. The class is often of mixed ability where they’re the worst, and is led by the least experienced member of the teaching team in the worst location in the room. After the class it’s a quick bye bye as another (more important) class is about to start.
Sound familiar?

Why Blend?
The world has changed!

Our classes are aimed at intelligent career minded people who want to wake up fresh the next day. More and more people respect the ‘not on a school night’ lifestyle. Blend means that dancers don’t have to sacrifice their free dance after the classes for an early finish, as there’s a significant amount of free dance opportunity during the evening. More importantly everyone can stay to the end and is made to feel part of the group rather that the uncommitted one who leaves early.
Blend is our chance to radically value and improve the UX of everyone who attends especially beginners. Effort spent here will retain clients and swell the upper levels.

I’ve spent over twenty years developing salsa teaching so people can learn more quickly and better, so Blend has to offer real advantages for tuition.
The free dance sections allow techniques to be discussed, digested and practised before another load of info arrives. After the free dance you’ll return to the session refreshed in mind and body :-) Finally, Spoiler Alert, the best way to learn salsa is to dance salsa! Freestyle salsa is where you find out if you know something or not. It’s early days but I’ve now got beginners free style dancing within fifteen minutes!

There’s no doubt that Blend is a long way from the traditional evening class format but I think it will be a rewarding learning experience, more fun and more social.
Whenever people try something new there’s always a little resistance between the familiar and unfamiliar.

If it ain’t broke why change it?
Fair question and for those venues that operate the traditional format successfully well done, but does that mean there shouldn’t be an alternative format?
There’s a huge opportunity out there. Ask around in any salsa club and most people like things as they are. ‘It works for me.’ Of course the one’s that it doesn’t work for aren't there! They got filtered out a long time ago.
Five percent of the UK population dance even if not regularly. Some can’t or won’t, but many could and would if the format appealed to them. By appealed, I mean: educated, entertained and respected their lifestyles.
Apart from opportunity, I suggest that the current system is simply ‘broke!’
There are issues in the salsa business that don’t make comfortable reading for salsa teachers:
  • Why are there now less venues than before?
In London there’s used to be several nights for every area, now there's far less. Has the teaching changed? Are we more fussy about venues? Have we become ‘event orientated? Perhaps the venues don’t want salsa or salsa nights are just harder to promote? One thing’s certain, we haven’t overpriced ourselves. In 1995 I charged £5 for one hour. Most classes now work out the same per hour or less with discounts.
  • Why is the dropout rate, so big at beginners level?
I estimate it to be over half within the first few weeks. Whatever the actual number is, it’s huge. Salsa nights simply aren’t compelling.
  • Why is it so difficult to get venues to host salsa nights?
Salsa is stylish, well behaved, and can fill an empty venue on a quiet night but the proposition for bars without a separate function room is daunting.
Stop being a bar while we teach, often in silence. Then everyone will want serving at the same time, and that’s if they want to by any drinks at all!

Blend isn’t going to change the world or even the salsa scene. But it might offer a little more choice that will suit some. It will stretch us teachers which is never a bad thing and I hope it will open up new opportunities for salsa.
I’m not seeking to protect Blend in any way from my competitors. All I ask is credit me for Blend and  I invite you to help improve it together :-)
Happy birthday Salsa :-)

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Counts Commonly Used in Salsa

Counts Commonly Used in Salsa.
A explanation of the most common counts used in salsa classes and a discussion of their pros and cons. I've also included my preferences and recommendations.

What is counting for?
Counting serves several main purposes:
  • To connect us to the rhythm within the music, thereby synchronising the foot work sequence FWS to the speed of the music. This is achieved through identifying the pulses or beats within the music and vocalising them with a word. Our actions, including the FWS can be timed to those words.
  • Counts are used to synchronise the start of the FWS with the desired beat of the bar (usually the first) i.e. dancing in time.
  • Some counts may inform the dancer which foot they should be using at any time. This can either be in real time e.g. “left” is instantly comprehensible as your left foot, or as a debugging tool for when something has gone wrong e.g. “seven” in the 8-count will mean leaders right foot. (With practise this can become instant)

What’s wrong with counting?
The downside of counting is that the nuance of the music is often lost if the count is allowed to dominate your thoughts. Then you’re dancing only to the count and not the music. This prevents you from interpreting the music, or noticing if you are still synchronised to it i.e. dancing out of time.
Counts should be used as a temporary tool, to be discarded as soon as unnecessary. They should be viewed as a way to connect to the music not a replacement.
Worst case you find yourself out of time, with your mouth silently mouthing the words of a count. Beware it’s hard to loose a bad habit!

There are many counts commonly used in dance classes. There is no correct or official count, although some are more popular than others. The important thing is to understand their limitations and benefits and select the best tool for you at any particular time and not to use them when they are unnecessary.

Counts:


Pulse:
Any noise is used to mark the the beat of the music. I’ve used the word ‘Tak’ as this is a popular word used to mark the pulse in mainland Europe.
e.g. Tak Tak Tak ___ Tak Tak Tak ___
Pros:
It makes the beats stand out from the music and allows the dancer to connect to them.
Cons:
It doesn’t inform the dancer which foot they should be used next.
____________

4-Count A.K.A  'The musician’s count':
e.g.  1234 1234
1 Bar = 4 beats or 1 measure (USA)

Pros:
This is a global musical convention used by musicians all over the world. It is also used in almost all school music curriculum's and is clearly defined.
Salsa music is always notated as four beats to a bar i.e. 4:4 time. The length of a bar is not optional if you wish to remain within the musical convention*.
We can choose not to honour the convention but it may cause confusion and even sound ignorant if musical convention terms are used e.g. beats and bars, when we are deliberately not within the convention. I think best practise should be to avoid the phase ‘beat five’ as there is no beat five within the musical convention. Better to say ‘step five’ or ‘foot five’ to lessen the confusion. It may seem just semantics but I’ve seen many incorrect assumption presented in classes e.g. “The musical count spans the same period as the 8-count but is half the speed” THIS IS NOT CORRECT! The correct definition in terms of the musical convention, is that the FWS spans two bars of music.

The 4-Count allows for turnarounds in the music. (see below)

Cons:
This count does not describe which foot is being stepped into. i.e. ‘One’ may refer to a left or right foot.

Left Right Left Pause Right Left Right Pause
1     2      3     4       1       2     3      4

*I took the opportunity to discuss this fully with the head of conducting at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the head of percussion at The Royal College of Music, both are two of the world's leading conservatoires of music.

____________ 

8-count A.K.A.'The footwork count':
e.g. 123_567_
Spanning two bars, the footwork is clearly described, each step has it’s own number. Usually One is leader’s left foot and follower’s right, two is leader’s right and follower’s left etc.  The fourth and eighth beats are silent as no step is taken.

Pros:
  • Referencing the feet allows an instructor to say an action happens on beat five and the whole class understands which foot is required.
  • It’s a very popular count used by many teachers.
  • Eight beats is a near ideal length for remembering movement. I once found some scientific research on this but have since lost the reference. 
  • It’s excellent for conveying a series of moves or combos to groups who have already mastered their FWS.

Cons:
  • For beginners quoting numbers does not have any instant meaning compared to quoting left and right so there is not error prevention only debugging. In fairness to the 8-count, dancers quickly gain mastery of ‘one’ and ‘five’ and it’s almost as instant as ‘left’ and right’.

  • It addictive! So many dancers keep counting when they no longer need to, often moving their lips which looks idiotic. Vocalising numbers seems far more addictive than other words. The cure for count addiction is simple. Don’t count or ditch it ASAP!

  • Often the dancer is not dancing to the music but to the count in their head, which prevents them from interpreting the music.

  • The ‘One’ and ‘five’ is over emphasised leading to a stronger step on the ‘One’ or ‘five’ where there is no emphasis desired or in the the music.

  • The main benefit i.e. referencing the feet is often undermined in classes where the  follower’s One is their right foot when dancing with a partner, and their left foot when dancing in a line-up. This can be confusing.

  • Turnaround: In salsa music there are phrases and sections, like sentences and paragraphs, that form verses and choruses etc. These phrases often end with a distinctive ‘break’ that is easy to hear. In the genre of salsa sections are mainly an even number of bars in length but quite often there’s a ‘Turnaround’ where an extra bar is included. The Turnaround deliberately changes it’s feel of the following section’s rhythmic structure.
Dancers who use an eight count often fall into the trap of assuming the first beat at the
start of a section to always be a ‘One’. After a turnaround it may be a ‘Five’ which make them believe they have made a mistake. I have worked with teachers who have outlawed dancing on ‘Five’ or elevated it to an ‘Advanced Only’ technique. I believe this is not best practice. There is nothing wrong with dancing on ‘five.’  Get used to it. It may feel different and unfamiliar but that’s what learning something new is all about. It will also provoke a different repertoire of moves for the leaders. Listen out for tracks with turnarounds, there’s lots of them.
There is nothing wrong or unusual about dancing on five, but if you don’t want to you’ll need to find ways of flipping your FWS and your partners. I recommend Freezes, Transition Steps and eight beat moves, or just wait for another turnaround.

Without turnaround:
123 567 123 567 123 567 123 567 break 123 567 123 567
note the the first beat after the break is a one.

With turnaround:
123 567 123 567 123 567 123 567 123 break  567 123 567 123
note the the first beat after the break is now a five.   


____________

Beats 'n Bars:  
1234 2234 3234 4234 (underlined indicates which bar, the remainder which beat)
I believe this is a Ballroom/Latin count.
Pros: Great for long choreography
Cons: Choreography is the bane of freestyle salsa.


____________ 




Quick Quick Slow:
The quicks last one beat and the slow lasts two beats.
Another popular Ballroom/Latin count.
Interestingly the words are used to convey the period in between the pulses rather than the pulses as in ‘Tak Tak Tak’. This is actually more accurate as a beat is a period of time rather than a point in time.

Quick Quick Slooooooow
1       2       3       4

Pros:
Can be effective in emphasising a fluid transition from one bar to the next.
Cons:
Very limited apart from above use. The words have no connection to the FWP.
I wonder if ‘Medium’ would mean one and a half beats!
____________

Position to Position:
Unusual and rare but effective for getting the shape of the move.
Position 1 -(no fixed amount of time)- Position 2 -(no fixed amount of time) -Position 3
I’m not sure if this counts as a count, but it uses numbers so I’ve put it in. I once went to a class that used this count and it was confusing as hell at first. Later I enjoyed the way that it assumes you already have mastered FWS and timing.
Pros: It makes the dancer think about certain positions, how they look and the transitions to get there.

Cons: It has no connection with the music at all at!

____________ 

Left Right Left Pause Right Left Right Pause      
  
My personal favourite for use with beginners and anyone who has asked the question which foot am I on?
I recommended its use whenever under stress i.e. the move is new or flawed.
Pros:
Many hesitation mistakes are avoided as it’s very clear which foot is next.
We’ve usually learnt left and right and numbers by around six years old but numbers are never used to describe direction, so in a moment of hesitation, the dancers vocalising left or right will generally take the correct step without having to think. The dancer counting will have to work out which foot it should be.
As a debugging tool. To identify and fix an error quoting the FWS lets the dancer know exactly where the error is before it’s been practised.
It does not linger i.e. it's  not addictive. In fact you'll drop it to soon.

cons:
It's difficult to use at first and requires a little practise to become fluent saying the phrase: left right left pause, right left right pause.
It feels mechanical which is fine if you're debugging something or attempting it for the time. Because of this mechanical feel it doesn’t feel cool.

About 5% of the population have convinced themselves that they are rubbish at left and right, and these people feel a great resistance to the tool. This is sad because it may in fact help them with left and right.


____________ 


Tick Tock:
Quote Tick or Tock on alternate first beats of the bar.

Tick         Tock          Tick         Tock            
1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4

This is my prefered tool which is surprisingly useful and easy to adopt.
It’s best used when not under great stress (see Left Right Left Pause)
I recommend it for when things are working but still require a little help regarding which foot you're on.

Pros:
  • Easy to teach and adopt.

  • Non addictive.

  • These plenty of silence to hear and connect to the music leading to interpretation.

  • The secret is to be very light as is the words touch the beat like a butterfly landing for a moment. This seems to lift the dancer from a dogmatic mechanical mode into a lighter conversational mode.
Cons: Not as useful as 8-count in conveying choreography, and has no sense of cool about it.

____________ 

Conclusion:
People often confuse the style of teaching with the resulting salsa style. Counts are just tools to be used and discarded when no longer necessary. Understanding where the pros and cons of each are enable you to get on with the business of dancing and having fun.

My Salsa Rapido method's approach to counts used when teaching is to use ‘Left Right Left Pause’ for the high concentration mechanics. ‘Tick and Tock’ for to practise up a combo and the 8-count for conveying moves to those who no longer need to count.

No advanced dancer or competent Intermediate counts when they dance freestyle salsa. In other words: It's the music that counts not the dancer!

One final tip: Avoid ANY track or app that puts a count over the music. If they count for you, you’ll be slow to find your timing. 

That's it my number's up :-)