Our pick of classes, veteran dance instructors, costumes and socials for fans and enthusiastic beginners, as the city gets moving to a Latin beat next weekend. By Aakanksha Devi
The lights dim, the music takes over and couples hit the dance floor – not fox trotting or hip-hopping but Salsa-ing their way to better emotional and physical health (as some medical professionals tell us). This weekend, The Third India International Dance Congress (IIDC) will get the city grooving from July 11 until 13, courtesy Latino Rhythms Dance Academy (LRDA) founder, John Anthony, bringing to one stage over 40 international superstars and world champions (including five-time winners from Brazil, Rafael Barros and Carine Morais) and 45 national trainers from across India.
Expect a host of workshops, shows and the Asia Open Championship with countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong competing. The winners will qualify for the World Salsa Championship, which, for the first time ever, will be hosted outside a Latin country. “For the IIDC, we are staging a Latin dance musical with the creme de la creme in the business. A producer from Holland will put together the artistes’ choreography turning it into a fully integrated show. With over 1,500 participants this year and 3,000 aficionados over three delightful days,” Anthony enthuses. We give you the low down on after work lessons, costumes, Salsa socials and exclusive sessions ahead of the congress.
Lourd Vijay advises his students to wear something comfortable to class. And turn up with the right shoes! “Beginners must be comfortable and move easily. Then graduate to jazz shoes. Footwear is really important when it comes to Salsa. We have tie-ups with vendors in the city to supply us with the shoes. If students want we can have them shipped from our contacts in America,” Vijay informs, advising short sleeves, tank tops and halters for women and above the knee dresses so as to not hamper movement. He hints that tube tops can be a problem because they tend to slide down. “If the dancer sticks on for more than a few months, we tell them to invest in proper salsa shoes,” he tells us. Check danceshoesonline.com for quirky options.
For a salsa night out, Vijay stresses that making an effort to look good counts. “People often show up in office wear, without bothering to glam up. You can’t play golf without golf gear, it’s the same with Salsa. Proper clothes boosts one’s self-confidence, alters posture and technique. Besides, when you’re out there looking amazing, you never know who you might meet,” he adds, cheekily.
When it comes to the costumes, two names in the city that often crop up are Anitha Kholay and Aloka D’Souza. D’Souza is someone Vijay swears by. “The designer has to have a good understanding of both the fabric and the dance – how it falls and accentuates the moves. They also need to the get the fit absolutely perfect. It’s not an easy job and my designer of choice is Aloka. She never disappoints,” explains Vijay. Look up her creations on facebook.com/AlokaDsouza
Designing for the IIDC, Kholay says, “We’re trying to move away from traditional Salsa costumes. Keeping in mind international dancers who’ll be flocking to the city, I have crafted a collection of elegant garments with hand-sewn sequins and rhinestone for a dash of bling,” she tells us, adding, “I do not like to restrict myself to colours. As neons are a rage, we have included it into the palette.” Head to her studio, Akimbo Fashion in Koramangala for sassy outfit for your next swing night. Details: 41104263
Lourd Vijay is synonymous with Latin dances across the country. “Bangalore is adventurous when it comes to culture but we also had a head-start with Salsa,” begins the founder of Lourd Vijay Dance Studio (LVDS). “Salsa is influenced by Afro-jazz and Bangaloreans always loved that genre of music,” he shares, adding that, of the 30-odd schools of Latin dance in the city, 27 are by his former students. “Bangalore began this trend in 1997 that is why we are called the Salsa capital of the country,” says Vijay, elaborating that what sets his school apart is his emphasis on fun. “I make sure we get people to enjoy the concept before understanding techniques. We aim to make you confident enough to ask any one for a dance,” he grins. LVDS instructors are up-to-date with the dance scene across the globe. “I send my instructors for refresher courses and congresses abroad constantly. We even send our students to participate overseas,” he says, showing us a photographs of his junior artistes who just won three silver medals in various styles in a dance congress in Portugal. LVDS also teaches Merengue, Cha Cha, Casino De Rueda, Cumbia, Bachata, Swing, Jive, Rock n Roll, Lindy Hop, Tango, Waltz, Foxtrot, Hip-hop, Funk, Freestyle, Breakdancing, B-bop as well as contemporary fusion. Details: lvds.in
Arati Punwani-Sunawala, of Tarantismo Creative Dance Company pioneered belly dancing in the city, and pushes the boundaries of Salsa, fusion and classical dancing. “I stumbled upon a belly dancing class in Hong Kong and fell in love with the strong, empowering movements like a swan on a lake,” says the danseuse. Her classes have grown from dance lessons in her ‘Mamma’s backyard and garage to a sisterhood where it’s more than simply a physical dance but a bond’. Sign up for her unique dance-fitness program called JUMP which combines trampoline techniques and freestyle movement. Tarantismo Creative Dance Company also creates special courses for children in performing arts and for couples on their big day. Details: facebook.com/tarantismo
Latino Rhythms Dance Academy
John Anthony organises Salsa socials and sessions at his two studios and six centres across the city. “Dance is a real way to socialise unlike WhatsApp, which everyone is addicted to,” shares Anthony, crediting city-dwellers for being experimental and happy to give different cultures a go. “Bangalore is diverse and open to new experiences. That is perhaps why we are leaders in Latin dance in the country,” he tells us, elaborating, “you’ll never have an empty class when you are teaching catchy and sensual Salsa.” You could sign up for Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha, Zouk, Mambo, Pasodoble, Rumba, Tango, Jive and Afro-Cuban Merengue lessons with the team at LRDA. Details: latinorhythms.in
While the city is under a strange no-dancing rule with a uniform ban on grooving even at your own table, the Latino dance community has collaborated with licensed restaurants and clubs across the city to get you your fix of Salsa beats. “We call these events Socials,” says Vijay, adding that it is a way to not only meet new people but to stay in shape by taking on another skill and a creative release of emotions. The Salsa socials are held by different dance schools in the city to spread the rhythm and the art of ‘Salsa-lising’. So head to Love Shack in Domlur on Tuesdays, Opus on Thursdays, Habanero on Fridays and No Limmits on Sunday.
Reflecting the same thoughts, Anthony says that since the dancers have to be aware of their techniques and partners who may be new to dancing, they refrain from drinking. “It is a dance etiquette we have. While we are at a social, our dancers will stay away from alcohol, so they are the best people to spend the evening with,” he enthuses, explaining that the socials are a mix of casual dancing with mini lessons on the side for those who are keen to learn. “It isn’t strictly a dance class, but a mix of professionals and enthusiasts. We usually showcase a few complex moves to please the crowd but then it’s a free-for-all dance floor. In fact, our instructors will sometimes sweep across the restaurant and just pick partners from the crowd to encourage those who are having starting trouble,” shares Anthony.
Whether you are a nervous newbie or a seasoned dancer who wants to up the ante, meet Alex Diaz, a first generation Cuban-American or as he puts it ‘made in America with Cuban parts’, who grew up in New Jersey. Specialising in Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha and Merengue, his school Furor Entertainment embodies the Latino spirit and caters to professionals, college students, seniors and kids. “While there is no lack of enthusiasm in the city for Salsa, Bangalore is still in the nascent stages of the evolving trend. There are fabulous dancers and instructors but lots more to be explored in terms of technique,” admits Diaz, who has worked with the best Latino dancers in New York. A Cuban national himself, he believes that while you don’t need to be Latino to appreciate the dances, there is a deep cultural connect that comes when you share the same heritage with the dance. “Being a Spanish speaker and a Latino myself, I am able to not only learn the techniques but also imbibe the passion of music, language and movements in a deeper sense. After all, you cannot isolate dance from its cultural origins,” he signs off. Learn his trademark blend of traditional Salsa/Mambo with elements of Guaguanco, Flamenco, Jazz and Modern to burn the dance floor at your next dance off. Details: salsabangalore.com
Inputs: Rashmi Rajagopal