UWCE Beginning Latin/Salsa Dance

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Event Dates

This event occurred
in the past.

  from 4:30-6pm
Wed, 15 September 2010
Wed, 15 December 2010

Instructor: Darrell Dieringer
Limit: 30; 2.1 CEU; $155/person
Program #1147

Held At:
  State Street Center – 122 State St
  3rd Floor Studio

Offered By: UW Division of Continuing Studies
You must register through the UW Division of Continuing Studies

UW Continuing Studies

New and experienced dancers alike, learn to lead and follow with skill and confidence! Learn the music, basic patterns, styling, turns, and common moves for Salsa, Merengue, Rumba, Cha Cha, Bolero, and other related partner dances. Beyond just steps and patterns, you will learn the movement and partnering principles needed for making any dance move possible. You will actually remember new dance moves and know how to apply them to many different dances. No dance experience required. No partner needed. Dress comfortably for a movement class.

Though taught by an instructor from the Art of Dance, this class is offered exclusively through the UW Division of Continuing Studies.

To enroll in this class, you must register with the
UW Division of Continuing Studies.

Gift certificates or discount specials issued by the studio may not be used for the activity described above.

Class Notes

The class notes for UWCE Beginning Latin/Salsa Dance

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Class Notes

Week Thirteen

This week you covered some important details specific to Latin dancing. Actually, the ballroom dance world makes a distinction between two terms – Latin vs Rhythm. This distinction is important for competitions since each includes its own set of dance genres (and related movement technique).

In the class notes so far, I have used the term “Latin” in the colloquial sense, not in the ballroom-dance-world sense.

Today, however, the distinction is important.

The big lessons I wanted you to take away from today are…

  • Turnout is important
  • You big toe on each foot remains in constant contact with the floor at all times

From that, other actions develop…

  • Knee, ankle, and foot articulation
  • Hip rotation

You learned about how to transition weight from one foot to the other. Plus, you learned useful, dynamic arm control.

  • How to unfold/expand your arms
  • How to trace the inside of the globe

Thank you for being so interested in this kind of material. It is some of my favorite things to cover in class.

Stay warm – and don’t forget about USA Dance on Saturday, 18 Dec 2010.

Week Twelve

The various Latin dances have a lot in common. Cha Cha, Bolero, Rumba, and Salsa/Mambo all share common moves. Of course, each dance has its own distinct music and style, but the moves from one can be done in the others, often with very little modification.

This week, you revisited the School Figures originally presented in Week Nine (see earlier class note).

  • Opening Break and Under Arm Turn (OB & UAT)
  • Cross-Over Breaks (X-Overs) (aka New Yorkers)

Additionally, you learned the Walk Around Turn (where each partner does a turn). I called it the “Villain In The Wind” turn – someone else in class called it the “Pulp Fiction” turn. (Imagine Travolta and Thurman doing their fingers-across-the-face dance at the retro diner.)

I also introduced Darrell’s Rule of Three – you ought to only do three of any one move in a row, otherwise it gets kind of boring.

In Cha Cha, you also learned Outside Partner Breaks.

Next Week…

  • More Cha Cha
  • More Bolero

Please attend the next USA Dance-Madison social dance on 18 December, 2010.

Week Eleven

This week was only review – you got the best deal on a private lesson anywhere!

  • Review the School Figures from previous weeks
  • Apply those figures to Rumba, Salsa/Mambo, Cha Cha, and Bolero

Week Ten

Only a few weeks left in the semester. This week we were cramming for exams, so to speak. You worked on “School Figures” – the syllabus “moves” that appear in several dances.

You learned the Basic, Opening Break and Underarm Turn (OB and UAT), and Crossover Breaks (aka New Yorkers) in Rumba, Cha Cha, and Bolero. Additionally, the same moves can be done in Salsa/Mambo.

All of those dances are related to each other. Still, each uses different music, and each has a different style/emotional tone. Many partner dance have more things in common than there are difference. It’s not to say that the differences are not important. Rather, the partnering and communication elements of partner dancing identical, regardless of the specific dance.

Next week (day before Thanksgiving)…

  • no new steps
  • only review – a chance to catch up

Week Nine

We are already more than half-way through the semester. I understand that the time around Thanksgiving through New Years can be very busy for many people. It is still very important that you attend class regularly. I am available for private lessons, too.

This week, we did an adventurous move in Merengue, starting with a Right-to-Right, Left-over-Right handhold. Leads do a move that resembles a Hammerlock (but with criss-crossed hands, as described), ending with the Lead’s right hand across their lower back. Then the Follow is passed behind the Lead’s back. We did two different endings, one involved just letting go, the other involved the Lead tucking into a small ball, ducking, and spinning under the Follow’s arms.

Then, you worked on American Style Rumba, including the Rumba Box, and the Opening Break and Under Arm Turn (OB and UAT). The moves you are learning in Rumba happen in a side-to-side movement (vs in a Box). Transitioning from a Box to do the moves and back into a Box when you are done is an important part of Rumba.

Then, you applied the OB and UAT to Cha Cha – a dance that already moves side-to-side. In addition, we added Crossover Breaks (aka New Yorkers).

It was a lot of material, but I wanted to get through it in those two dances so we can begin working more earnestly on more school figures (and ultimately more dances) in the weeks to come. You will (hopefully) come to see that moves from one dance can be done in many other dances.

Field Trip
Remembers, Saturday, 20 November 2010, is the next Social Dance hosted by USA Dance-Madison [their website]. It is never too early to begin attending social dances, and this is an excellent dance for you to attend.

Week Eight

The focus this week was on keeping the Salsa Rhythm (the QQS or Yump Bump Bahhhhh) while starting to do other patterns with your feet. We covered a number of ways to modify the Salsa basic, like passing your feet instead of closing them, side breaks with a cross, and rock-stepping action.

You applied the Alternating Right Side Pass to the Salsa – Follow goes, the Lead goes, the Follow goes again. Then you’re done. You need to open up space to initiate each pass, but you must be close together again at the end of each pass.

Since we had an unusually small class today, I introduced the Safety Dip. I emphasized the importance of the work Follows and Leads alike must do in order to do a dip safely, and I discussed how to bail out of a dip if something goes wrong.

Remember, you now have more knowledge than many other people who dance. You have actually been taught how to dip. So with the knowledge you now have comes great responsibility. You shall not impose dips on any unsuspecting dancer. It takes two to dip safely, and that means both people must practice dips before expecting them to work.

Next Week…

  • Opening Break and UAT
  • Cha Cha and Rumba

New Feature: Sarah Calhoun – my pro partner – and I have published a number of Music Playlists to help make it easier for you to practice at home or anywhere else with an Internet connection.

Week Seven

This week you learned the Right Side Pass (and the Alternating Right Side Pass) in a new dance, the Hustle.

Hustle is a fast-tempo dance done to techno/disco/top 40 pop music. Learning Hustle gives you a dance to do at weddings and parties, plus it drives home the fact that small steps are important. It also introduces the concept that the Lead/Follow can “mirror” each other in the foot patterns, vs doing the “natural opposite”.

You then applied the Alternating Right Side Pass to Salsa. I introduced Darrell’s Rule of Three – three-in-a-row of any move is plenty.

Next Week…

  • Opening Break and UAT
  • Cha Cha and Rumba
  • a little more Hustle

Week Six

By unanimous consent we learned a new dance, the Cha Cha. At one point in the evolution of Cha Cha, it was called the Triple Mambo. Cha Cha is danced to slower music than Mambo/Salsa, so there was more time for dancers to do more weight changes (thus the “cha cha” (change change) in the basic.

I started everyone with a preparation step to the side on the “One” count of the measure, followed by a break (either forward or backward, depending on the foot that is free – more in a bit), followed by a replace, followed by “Cha Cha” or “Four And”. When starting on the “One”, the rhythm for Cha Cha is Slow-Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick (SSSQQ), or “One Two Three Four And”, or “Quarter Note, Quarter Note, Quarter Note, Eighth Note, Eighth Note”.

That rhythm then repeats on the “other side” – ie, if your “One” count was to the Right the first time, it will to the Left the next time.

Tiny Steps are Important! It’s hard to do five weight changes in one measure of music unless your steps are very small.

Cha Cha Always Breaks On Two! Anyone telling you any different is just doing sloppy Cha Cha. A Break, in a general sense, is a movement goes in one direction, abruptly stops, then goes back in the direction you came from. For instance, the Salsa/Mambo basic consists of a Forward Break and a Back Break.

The Cha Cha basic also has a Forward Break and a Back Break, and those breaks (as well as other kinds of breaks that you will soon learn), happen on the second beat of the measure (ie, the “Two” count, as in Cha Cha Always Breaks On Two).

In the Cha Cha basic, just as in the Salsa/Mambo basic, the Forward Break happens on the Left foot, and the Back Break happens on the Right Foot. Above in this Class Note where I described the timing of the Cha Cha basic, I said the the preparation step to the side on the “One” count is followed by a Break (either forward or backward depending on the foot you have free).

If your Left foot is free after the preparation step, you do a Forward Break on the Two count. If your Right foot is free after the preparation step, you do a Back Break on the Two count. It is just as common for the dancers to start with the preparation step to the Leads Right as it is to start with the preparation step to the Leads Left. There is no one “correct” way – both are correct. However, in class we did the preparation step to the Lead’s left/Follow’s right.

It is important in the Cha Cha basic, however, to do Forward Breaks with the Left foot and Back Breaks with the Right foot, and that Cha Cha Always Breaks On Two. I cannot be emphatic enough about that fact.

You learned a few additional moves, including the Crossover Break and the Fifth Position Break (both happen on the two-count). You also did a version of the Chase Turn.

Next Week…

  • Cha Cha review
  • Forward and Back Locks
  • Several versions of the Chase Turn
  • The Rumba – another new dance

Week Five

We spent class time reviewing the Tunnel and learning the Sliding Door. These are both examples of moves that also make you better Leads and Follows – ie, you are becoming more accustomed to reacting to each other while dancing.

Many of you are becoming more interested in knowing how to string moves together and how to know what fits together.

You are also becoming more interested in knowing how to differentiate between dances – Merengue vs Salsa, for instance. Both are examples of what I call “Latin Jazz” – lots of percussion and brass instruments. Tempo is a clue. Rhythm is a clue.

It is very difficult to describe musical qualities using writing alone. It is also difficult to provide music examples directly (given copyright issues). However, there are characteristics to music that will help you to determine the style of dance that may fit – the choice of dance is often subjective, and for some songs different people will hear it as a Salsa, Merengue, Hustle, or maybe something else. (There are few absolutes with dance, but there are many guidelines.)

Merengue music is characterized by a strong bass drum (or bass guitar, or both) on each beat of the measure. The music is often described as “driving” or “pounding”.

Salsa music has more characteristic layers. There is an element to Salsa music that I have not discussed in class yet – that is the Clave Rhythm (sometimes called the Son Clave). It is a specific two-measure rhythm that helps to identify Salsa music as Salsa music.

The links below go into detail. If you know how to read music, there are many technical videos on YouTube that you may enjoy – search for “Clave Rhythm” on YouTube. You will find some great examples devoted to percussion and piano. (There are also many crummy or confusing videos on YouTube.)

Here are a few resources that may be useful…

If all of that seems overwhelming, don’t worry, I have been playing musical instruments for over twenty-five years, and some of the musical theory is over my head. You do not need to understand intricacies of music and musical theory in order to dance. You just need exposure to different genres of music, and you need someone who can tell you what they are at first. After awhile, you will get a sense for it. Our brains are excellent at categorization, and that categorization does not need to be on a conscious level. You will get a sense for what dance belongs to a particular piece of music with a little time, patience, guidance, and practice.

Also, notice that the Clave Rhythm is not the same as the rhythm you use for the moves/patterns while dancing Salsa. Confusing, I know. The Clave Rhythm helps you identify Salsa music as Salsa music – it does not translate directly into when you move your feet while dancing Salsa.

When we switched to Salsa in class, you reviewed the Chase Turn, which is a done with a Visual Lead (no physical connection between the Lead and Follow). Both partners get to be the turning person, so in the descriptions that follow, I refer to the “turning person” instead of Lead/Follow.

Doing a Chase Turn involves a specific type of turn – a Three Step Turn (aka Walk Around Turn or Spot Turn). The turn occurs during what would have otherwise been the forward-moving part of the basic (the Left-Bump-Bahhh) for the turning person. At the end of the turn, you will have returned to the same place on the dance floor as you started, ready to do the backward-moving part of the basic (right-bump-bahh always follows left-bump-bahh). Your right foot will not have moved to a new place on the dance floor (it will have rotated in place, but will not have moved from its original starting position).

The Chase Turn emphasizes some important dance principles. (1) You can be “connected” to your partner without physical contact. (2) Each parter must continue dancing (ie, keeping the rhythm) while the other person is turning. (3) The turning person must also keep the same rhythm while turning (and finish the turn in the appropriate amount of time (in one measure for Salsa).

Food for thought, how can the Chase Turn become a Hammerlock for either the Follow or the Lead?

You learned the Cross Body Lead (CBL) in the Salsa. The CBL is a very important and versatile move. It is a specific way to change places taking two measures of music. The CBL involves two 90-degree (quarter) turns for the Lead, and a single 180-degree turn for the Follow.

Next week, you will do much much more with the Cross Body Lead Salsa, beginning to incorporate many more turns.

Next Week…
– Linking the Sliding Door to Chase Turns
– More Cross Body Lead (CBL)
– Adding one-hand turns to the CBL

Week Four

You worked on a negative space move that I called the Tunnel. You were doing a Lead’s Cuddle on the Follow’s right side, which then turned into a Tunnel, followed by a series of two-hand-up turns.

You did a two-hand-up kind of turn that I called the I Go You Go. Then, you introduced a “delay” (using one hand at shoulder level), making a more complicated-looking move.

In Salsa, you reviewed a Chase Turn, which is a done with a Visual Lead (no physical connection between the Lead and Follow). Both partners get to be the turning person. The turning person begins turning on the forward-moving part of the basic.

Next week…

  • review delays and chase turns
  • the Cross Body Lead in Salsa
  • alternating right-side passes

Week Three

The Salsa

I very briefly introduced the Salsa basic. I will start by teaching “Salsa on One”, meaning the movement forward or backward (the Break) off of our imaginary paper plate happens on the first beat of the measure of music.

  • There are flavors of Salsa that happen on the two, meaning the forward/backward movement happens on the second beat of the measure (NY Style/Salsa Nuevo, and Mambo – the dance from which the Salsa we know today originated).
  • Salsa on One, itself, can occur with several regional style differences – Cubano-/Miami-/Miami-Cubano/Rotary-Style, and LA-Style.
  • There may be other styles. Salsa is a very popular and ever-evolving dance form.

You could count the Salsa (on one) basic as Quick-Quick-Slowly-ly, 1-2-3-hold-4, or my favorite Yump-Bump-Bhaaaaaaa. I find that singing the rhythm helps the movements relate to the music better.

Musicians may find it helpful to think about quarter-note, quarter-note, half-note. (or Quarter, Quarter, Half-Note). You could count “1-2-3 (hold 4) 4-5-6 (hold 8)”.

Some people found it helpful to count the rhythm as “Left-bump-bhaaaaaa, Right-bump-bhaaaaaa” (or Right-bump-bhaaaaaa, Left-bump-bhaaaaaa). Counting Left-2-3-hold, Right-2-3-hold is the same kind of thing.

Regardless of how you find/maintain/feel the rhythm, the important thing is that you do find/maintain/feel the rhythm! Any system that works for you – numbers, quicks-and-slows, sounds, left-bump-bhaaa, etc – is the one you should be happy to use. There is no one right way to keep the rhythm! Use what works for you. It does not need to be the same way as the one that works for your partner.

You learned a Chase Turn, which is a done with a Visual Lead (no physical connection between the Lead and Follow). Both partners get to be the turning person, so in the descriptions that follow, I refer to the “turning person” instead of Lead/Follow.

The Chase Turn emphasizes some important dance principles:

  1. You can be “connected” to your partner without physical contact
  2. Each parter must continue dancing (ie, keeping the rhythm) while the other person is turning
  3. The turning person must also keep the same rhythm while turning (and finish the turn in the appropriate amount of time (in one measure for Salsa)

Doing a Chase Turn involves a specific type of turn – a Three Step Turn (aka Walk Around Turn or Spot Turn). The turn occurs during what would have otherwise been the forward-moving part of the basic (the Left-Bump-Bahhh) for the turning person. At the end of the turn, you will have returned to the same place on the dance floor as you started, ready to do the backward-moving part of the basic (right-bump-bahh always follows left-bump-bahh). Your right foot will not have moved to a new place on the dance floor (it will have rotated in place, but will not have moved from its original starting position).

Next week

  • More about Negative Space
  • Modifying the Chase Turn
  • “Two-Hand-Up” turns
  • “Delays”

Week Two

Thank you to everyone who completed my Welcome Survey. If you still need to complete it, you can find it here.

In addition to the small half-sheet waiver that the UW requires, I also require a separate Waiver. If you did not complete an Art of Dance waiver, you can find it here.

Please talk to me (or email me) early in the semester if there is something about class that you would like me to address.

We reviewed the material from last week, including the friction connection, standing with turnout, leading turns and being lead to turn using arm-level connections. Next week we will begin to develop the characteristic Latin hip action (the rotational action of the hips).

We worked a system for turning based on one hand going up (to approximately forehead-height of the person who will be turning) and one hand going down (so that the wrist is below the elbow on both partners).

By leading hand-across-the-face and hand-away-from-the-face turns with the up-hand while maintaining connection with the down-hand, the Lead provides the space for the Follows to turn, creating Cuddles – hand-across-the-face (the cute move) – and Hammerlocks – hand-away-from-the-face.

Leads can put themselves into Cuddles and Hammerlocks by moving their bodies under the up-hand, though without moving either of the hands while in the process of turning. Double the number of “moves” you know by being aware of the following fact – if the Follow can turn, so can the Lead.

Cuddles and Hammerlocks are very versatile and are the raw ingredients for countless other moves. By envisioning Negative Space, we can find new and interesting ways to get out of familiar moves. Letting go with both hands always works!

While the things we are doing in class are “moves”, more importantly they are exercises that allow you to discover for yourself the kinds of things that are possible in when dancing with a partner. It is not necessary to master any particular “move” but rather to use those exercises as a way to expand your own concept of what is possible.

Next week

  • You will use Cuddles and Hammerlocks as a way to explore Negative Space, including the Tunnel and the Sliding Door.
  • You will also work more on Floor Craft – the art of collision avoidance.
  • The Salsa Basic, and the importance of the Salsa Rhythm over the particular Salsa Pattern.
  • Rotational hip action.

Learning to dance – for most people – requires developing an expanded awareness of your own body. Most people have a sixth sense, but it is not ESP or anything paranormal. Our sixth sense is called Proprioception – the awareness of the position of one’s own body. In fact, unless your sixth sense has been lost or damaged – as can happen with our other five senses as well – you can further develop proprioception.

In order to learn to dance – or rather to learn to dance well – it is our proprioception that must be enhanced. The warmup exercises in this class – and in many of the better dance classes I have taken in other genres of dance – are designed to do many things, including enhance our proprioception.

For those interested or curious, I enjoyed reading the book Running with the Whole Body. Among other things, the book discusses proprioception and describes exercises intended specifically for runners. Almost anywhere in that book where it says “running” it could have very well said “dancing”.

An entire approach to movement (and physical rehabilitation) – called the Feldenkrais Method – employs the same kinds of strategies discussed in the book. (The book was written by a Feldenkrais practitioner, so the book actually uses the Feldenkrais Method.)

I make use of similar principles in dance class. I endeavor to teach everyone how to move effectively and comfortably with a parter, as well as how to communicate movement with a partner (applies to Leads and Follows equally).

Remember that “doing the steps” is only one small part of “learning to dance”. It takes a bit more time to develop the physical awareness to dance well, but once you become comfortable with the idea that dancing happens in the body (vs in the feet), you can learn countless patterns more easily, and even make up your own new “moves”.

Week One

Hello Dancers,

Each week I will post the highlights of what we covered in class. This is not meant to be a dance manual or a substitute for attending class. Instead, it is here to help you remember what we did in class.

In order to learn to do something new with your bodies – like learn to dance – you need to engage in new activities. The warmup is designed to be just such an activity.

The warm up is the most important part of any dance class – it is the time when you learn to use your body in new ways. In addition to promoting greater leg and back strength, general flexibility, and avoidance of injuries, you will develop numerous isolations and greater coordination though the exercises in the warmup.

Dance classes in other genres of dance – Modern, Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop, African – all begin with a comprehensive warm up. Partner dancing (ballroom dancing) is another dance discipline equally as involved as those I just mentioned, yet a warm up is frequently missing from many ballroom dance classes.

In the ballroom classes and workshops I have taken over the years, participants get through more material more quickly and with greater satisfaction in those classes that began with a comprehensive warm up.

I believe in teaching you how to dance, not just how to reproduce steps, patterns, and figures. It takes a little bit of time to lay this foundation, but it is time well spent. Leading and Following are skills that you can develop in a short amount of time, by engaging in all of the activities and exercises in class. You will continue to refine your Leading and Following skills for as long as you continue dancing.

The Lead’s role is to define space. The Follow’s role is to react to the new space, deciding how and when to fill the new space. Partner dancing is a dialogue between two people – each person voluntarily participating in the activity, dancing together. The lead does not tell the follow what to do! Leading does not imply control. Rather, it means “Going First”. Following means “Going Next”.

Furthermore, Follows have a lot of power in the partnership. A Lead cannot create more new space until the Follow has reacted to the existing new space. That is, Follows can make Leads wait their turns to go again. The communication between Leads and Follows involves taking turns.

We worked on what I called the Friction Connection – not too hard, not too soft, just right – and that each person is responsible for building and maintaining the connection.

We used the Friction Connection to begin moving around the room – simply at first and then adding turns. Leads turn their own bodies by creating space under the contact point and moving their bodies through the space. Follows turn when the leads create space that goes in a circle (ie, the contact point moves).

Learning to lead and follow from the very beginning of learning to dance promotes greater understanding of dancing and ultimately allows you to dance creatively and expressively. When you begin learning the specific steps and patterns for the various dances, already knowing what it feels like to lead and follow will help immensely.

I end each class session with a review, in the form of a question. “What is something useful or interesting you learned today?” Everyone will have a chance to answer, because sometimes the best observations and really good insights can come from your fellow classmates.

Next Week

  • The three socially-acceptable regions of contact
  • The system of moves based on “up, down, across, & away”
  • The Salsa basic

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sorry I missed firstclass, will be there on the 22nd, I live in both Manhattan and Madison so I am back and forth once or twice a month, as much as possible I try to be off work on Wednesdays but that is not always possible.
Ojala que nos veamos mas en Otobre.

I also missed the first class, but I am looking forward to catching up today. See you then!

Great class, I’ve learned more in the 3 lessons or so that I was able to attend than any other venue with more complexity

I unfortunately won’t be in class this week as I will be out of town. Hope to catch up on what I missed when I get back!

field trip
leave MSN behind

Salsa Calena, juanchito, Columbia


Not ballroom Samba, the clip is from the “ensaios” (rehearsals) of the various Samba schools prior to Carnaval.
Best dance party I have been to, outdoors, 100 man batteria (drum core), no VIP rooms, no crystal, just dance. Intensely aerobic, 30 sec breaks are the rule.
Note the kids, school night, up till 4 or 5 in the morning, no truant officers, this is much a part of the culture as football is to Wisconsin.

Madison has a taste of this in April, on the Saturday before fat tuesday the Handphibians play at the High Noon, very good.