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Salsa like the Cubans

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1…2…3…high energy Salsa, an energetic dance form comes to the city
1…2…3…high energy Salsa, an energetic dance form comes to the city

The salsa is attracting city folks and the six-inch heels are no deterrent to learning this Latin American dance form. SHILPA NAIR ANAND tries her hand at it while trying to find what makes people salsa

Pulsating Latin music, couples moving to the music (attempting to synchronise steps) to add to the ambience; coconut palms swaying in the background…Ibiza, Cuba or Puerto Rico? Nope, we are talking about nammude Kochi. This one is for all those who longingly watched (over and over again) films such as ‘Dance with me’, ‘Shall we dance’, ‘Dirty Dancing’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and wondered if you would ever get a chance to jive, tango, disco, salsa…in short, dance like that. And this is not dancing of the ‘cinematic’ kind either.

Innate desire

For the past one week a group of enthusiastic dancers have been getting together in a dance studio and doing the salsa and having a great time too. Interestingly, most of these people were responding to an innate desire to dance. This bunch (at least most of them) is not into serious dancing of any kind, meaning they do not have any formal training in dancing. “We have been watching so many dancing movies, and have wanted to learn this form of dance and this is very welcome,” says M (call me that, she says) and her friend Santiago, students of Class XII. “We have done what we thought was the salsa, and now after attending these classes we realise it was nowhere near the real thing,” says M. ‘This’ is the two-week salsa classes conducted in Kochi by the dance studio Jazz Tekkers in Panampilly Nagar. The classes are being conducted by Vivek and Kalpana, who are dancers in Mumbai. Vivek, a certified Reebok instructor, runs a dance academy, Mickey’s Dance Academy in Mumbai. The brain behind the classes is Kalpana, a choreographer. “We are headed to Thiruvananthapuram for a 10-day programme, and that is when it occurred to me to make a stopover here. It was just a trial, and here we are. The classes started on August 15 and we were sceptical about the enrolments. The day before we had hardly eight people, but today we have almost 30 participants and people are still coming in,” says a satisfied Kalpana.

There are several versions of the salsa. The one that is being taught here is Club Salsa, the Cuban version. Salsa is a very vigorous dance, the mere sight of girls doing the twirls and the swirls on six inch heels is enough to go “ouch!”. There is a lot of toil, sweat and pain (not necessarily in that order) involved in acquiring some level of proficiency. “To pick up the dance or at least the basic steps one would need a couple of weeks. What we are doing now is Level 1, later we will be doing Level 2 for those interested. Then we will also have the same course for beginners,” says Kalpana and Vivek.

The classes begin at 7. 30 am. and go on well into the evening. So early in the morning? “There are some office goers who were interested, the timings were not suitable. So we start the sessions early. At that time there are around seven to eight people here. They then change and head to work from here,” says Kalpana.

Margaret, a nurse, and her husband John joined the classes because John is very passionate about dancing’. “My husband wanted to learn salsa, in fact he would have gone to Mumbai to learn the dance form. He wanted to me to learn as well. And initially I had inhibitions, but now I am okay and in fact I am having fun. One thing I have to say is that it will make you confident, at least it has made me.”

Passion the key

Passion is the key, says Vivek. One has to have a lot of that if you are going to be dancing on six inch heels (for the women) for a couple of hours a day. It is the love of dance that has brought Sreevidya Pillai to the classes with her six inch heels. “Dancing in high heels is tough, but footwear is important for the look and feel of the dance,” she says.

And if you are a man, well, you are not balancing on six inch heels but it is the same amount of hard work. Ajay and John, students of engineering on a break from college too are giving it a go. “I have no formal training in dance, I joined these classes because I love dancing,” says Ajay. Ajay, says Vivek, has “vastly improved from the time he joined.” Jokes M, “Ajay’s main problem was getting over his inhibitions in holding his partner. We would tell him its okay, holding is okay because without that salsa would be impossible.”

Ajay’s pal Jerome. says “Besides being an interesting form of dance it is good exercise as well. I would rather be sleeping but then this is healthy and so, here I am.” Avers Kalpana, “the movements are vigourous and 15 minutes into each practise session you are drenched in sweat. This is a very good workout regimen as well, plus you are learning a dance form too.” There, you have it. Two birds with one stone! The fees are Rs. 2,000 per person and Rs. 3,500 per couple for the two-week course. This round concludes on Sunday.

Folks, what are you waiting for? Time to put on your dancing shoes.

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