International Afro Latin Women’s Day

I first published this article on June 12th, 2010…

Women’s Liberation Movement in Salsa Dance!

“Ladies and Gentlemen” is the common phrase announcers begin with when announcing an act, but in Salsa the roles are always reversed. When announcing a Salsa Dance instructors couple, the announcers start 99% of the time with naming the men first. No wonder: the Salsa Dance teachers and performers submit their names in that specific order.

Sometimes the announcer does not even know the name of the female part of the duo. In such case they are announced as “Male Salsa Dancers’ name & Partner”. If you do not believe this statement, then just go through the long list of hundreds of Salsa Artist duo’s worldwide. The ladies having a prominent role stand on their own. This phenomenon is strange if one considers that more women are taking Salsa Dance classes than men. To properly understand this inaccuracy we will have to take a look at the history of Salsa Dance instruction and the changing role of  female instructors.

History of Women Teaching Salsa   

The first Salsa teachers were Latino men. This fact alone explains a great deal of the ‘problem’. The Cuban Son is the first Salsa Dance style taught by Cuban men outside Cuba. Men have a very dominant role in Cuban Son, which in time evolved into modern Cuban Casino dance. The ladies role was – and still is (!) – to complement the dance of their male partners. Cuban Son evolved into Porto Rican Mambo and LA Style Salsa on1, but the ones responsible for this evolution were all men. In the 1950’s and 60’s, during the ‘Golden Era’ of the Palladium in New York, it was mostly men who took the stage to execute intricate shines. The women wanting to dance Salsa were attracted to the way men – or male Salsa Dance instructors – lead other women when dancing together. Western women asked these Latino men to start teaching Salsa, and they were honored with their roles as ‘mere’ assistants.  Most Salsa Dance choreographers of the Copacabana shows in Cuba and the emerging Salsa show teams were all men. 

It was, oddly enough, a man who converted Salsa dancing to make it more ‘women friendly’, which in turn jump-started the ‘Woman’s Liberation Movement in Salsa Dance’: Eddie Torres.

Woman’s progression from Assistants to International Salsa Instructors 

When Eddie Torres invented his own version of Mambo Dance in the beginning of the 90’s, he intentionally also boosted the role of women in Salsa dancing. The women have a more dominant role in New York Mambo ‘on 2’ Eddie Torres Style. The shines are done in ‘ladies timing’, the women break to the front instead of the men when they start dancing together, and dancing Mambo without the man grabbing the woman’s wrist and hands gave her more freedom to execute her own styling when dancing. The woman became ‘the painting’ and the man became ‘the frame’ instead of the other way around. Some of the former female students of Eddie Torres such as Addie Rodriguez from Razz M’ Tazz Dance Company, New York, started teaching “Ladies Styling” classes in New York, and they also made Salsa Instructional videos for ‘ladies only’. As the role of women grew in the dance, so did the solo Salsa Dance activities of the ladies pioneering in LA Style Salsa on1 such as Joby Vazquez (now Joby Martinez), the self-appointed “Princess of Salsa” Josie Neglia, and Susanna Montero from the U.K.

In this videoclip, the shy and warm-hearted Susanna Montero shows her small Ladies Styling dance routine at the end of a workshop.

Josie Neglia is one of the first female Salsa Dance Instructors having several of her own male partners as assistants. But there is one woman who has been soaring on top of the game for years and inspiring a new generation of female Salsa students to become Salsa Dance instructors themselves: Edie ‘the Salsa Freak’.

Edie, and Women’s Liberation in Afro Latin Dance

The phrase “there is a strong woman behind every successful man” is rule of thumb in the Salsa Dance scene. Most of the successful male Salsa Dance instructors have their assistants to thank for their superior status. Female dancers partner(ed) up with already known and promising male Salsa talents, became their (non-speaking) assistants during their classes, and did all the hard work such as administration, promotion, and networking. This setting can be compared with magicians: the men  present the illusions while their assistants do the hard work making the illusions possible. This was also the case with Edie the Salsa Freak. But she is one of the first international female Salsa instructors to invent Dance Moves for females while partnering. Her drive for achieving a more dominant role of women in Salsa dancing made her go against the basic rule of Partnering Dance – the men lead and the women follow – by teaching women to ‘Back Lead’ ( = women lead the men) with her so called “Highjack” Dance moves. Many of her female students around the world became more obsessed with showing their own Salsa Dance skills when dancing together with a male partner instead of following the lead of their male dance partners. Edie heard the complaints of men, recognized this problem, and fixed it with her invention “Musicality”. Now all women are required to not only follow the man’s lead, but they also have to react accordingly to what the music dictates.

The following video of Edie teaching Basic Ladies Styling is out of synch, but has some great tips.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSwT_nmGAdQ

Edie also made a large step in the Women’s Liberation Movement in Salsa when she came out with her “World’s Best Lead” DVD series: she chose good leads from around the world to teach their ‘magic’ together with her.

Salsa Students deterring the Independence of Women in Salsa

Most Salsa Dance students in the world pay for only one Salsa instructor. If they have to choose between the male or the female Dance Instructor, most of them will choose for the man. It has taken years and hard labor before some Salsa Dance instructors finally acknowledged the role of their assistants and started calling them Salsa instructors. This is also the case with male Salsa instructors giving their female counterparts a voice while teaching Salsa together.

The future of Women in Salsa

There is still a long road up ahead for women. The situation has not changed much. Female international Salsa instructors such as Magna Gopal have a great name because they are not depending on male partners. The new Bachata stars such as Troy & Jorjet still maintain the tradition of putting the men in first place. Jorjet Alcocer is without any doubt a better instructor than Troy Anthony, and he knows it. The male part of the dance couple stays popular when an (international) Salsa instructors pair break up. Luis Vazquez is still popular while his ex-wife Joby Martinez has practically disappeared from the international Salsa Dance arena.

This is a videoclip of Jorjet dancing Salsa as the leader.

The situation will remain the same as long as men lead and women follow when they dance Salsa together.

UPDATE ON MARCH 8, 2020 ON THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

The international Afro Latin dans scene has grown exponentially in those 10 years. And yet, women still have a long way to achieve a proper dance status.

  • Not long ago the organizers of a Kizomba dance festival decided that women should pay a higher entrance fee than the men in order to solve the shortage of men at the parties.
  • There was also a big scandal concerning Kizomba DJ’s and festival organizers filming their sexual acts with a lady in a car without her consent. They then proceeded to spread this video among themselves on WhatsApp.
  • And a Sensual Bachata dancer had written a blog on Facebook complaining about men who dance Bachata in a very disrespectful manner with women.

And these are only a couple of examples. Do you have more examples?

SYMBOLS OF AFRO LATIN HOPE

The number of influential women are growing steadily. In my initial article I omitted to mention Jamie Josephson. She wrote an entire salsa dance syllabus with which has the same structure as the (Ballroom) Latin dances.

The First Afro Latin Promoters Summit was held in Budapest from the 4th until the 6th of September 2019. Nearly all of the participants were men. There was one woman as a speaker: Ania Chagowska of El Sol Warsaw Salsa Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dGkCSfX-Bs

Annetje Riel organized the First European Salsa Congress way back in 1998. Since 2006 she’s organizing the Dutch Salsa Dance Championships. Annetje also runs the official Dutch Salsa Dance Teacher’s education center (SON). Annetje is also a big supporter of ‘All Inclusive Dance’. The competitors at the Dutch Salsa Dance Championships include the Same Sex category, in which women can dance together as couples. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt48Kkwtrls

AFRO LATIN WOMEN INDEPENDENT!

Most women dancing partner dance wish to dance as followers. Many times they are compelled to dance as leaders when there is a shortage of men. And sometimes the women like to lead. To ‘dance as a man’ is a common phrase being used when women mean that they dance in a leaders role. But there are many teachers who are starting to use the terms leaders (or leads) and followers (or follows), which take the gender out of the dance role.

And there’s another movement rearing it’s wonderful head: switch dancing. That is: the switching of dance roles whilst dancing together as a couple. It seems that this trend is gaining some momentum in the Brazilian Zouk dance scene. And I created a dance concept I call the Ocho Dance in which you can switch the dance roles by applying Musicality to make the switch. Here you can see the complete dance tutorial I made together with the ladies of the ‘Ladies Styling and Leading’ salsa dance course of Amanda Torres at Happy Salsa in Den Helder (The Netherlands): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-KSqdIBD0E&t=618s     

Everything is now in place for women all around the world to become truly independent afro latin dancers… if they so wish to!

I wish all women a Happy International Women’s Day 2020!

Super Mario and the Chanty Salsa Dance Move

Last Saturday, February 16th 2019, I joined a salsa dance bootcamp of Super Mario, which was organized by DJ Bripa ‘El Loco’ at Event Center Fokker in The Netherlands. It was great seeing the legendary ‘Million Moves Man’ in action and learning from him again after so many years.

Mario’s workshop was very educational and entertaining at the same time. Hallmarks of a true salsa dance icon. His flawless combination of humor, superior teaching skills and tantalizing new dance techniques kept us all wanting for more. It felt like standing in a bakery and eating all the pastry you love without any remorse!  And Cinnamon van den Aakster – a teacher at Latin Club Fiesta and also the Dutch Salsa Dance Champion of 2016 – assisted him perfectly!

Evolution by Popularity

Mario Hazarika is one of the few dancers who radically changed the way salsa has been danced from the early 2000’s up to this day. The ‘Million Moves Man’ introduced many rules and technicalities for modern salsa dancing into the international salsa dance community such as:

  • The ‘8 count rule’: The hand of the follow stays where the lead puts it on the follow’s body, usually on the lower back of the follow whilst turning and/or spinning. If nothing happens after 8 beats, then the follow may use that hand as he or she pleases,
  • Many of the so called ‘Hand Shines’,
  • Hand Flicks, Hand Drops & Catches,
  • The ‘Hand Slides’, ‘Clicks’ and the ‘Gravity Rule’ for the follow are directly responsible for the fast paced & Cuban looking armstylings which have become very popular since the last couple of years,
  • The ‘Sticky Hand Rule’: If the lead puts the hand of the follow on his or her body, then that hand stays there until the lead grabs the hand, or lose contact in which case the ‘Gravity Rule’ applies,
  • Etcetera.

By first inventing and then teaching these new rules & dance techniques in London, Super Mario has helped to create a new style of dancing called ‘London Style Salsa’ at the end of the 90’s. From there on, Super Mario’s brand of salsa spread like wildfire across the planet. His instructional salsa dance DVD’s have not only changed L.A. Style salsa on1, but they also changed the way in which the Eddie Torres Mambo on2 is being danced. Furthermore, many of these dance techniques have been adopted into the Bachata Moderna and – in some extend – into the Bachata Sensual as well.

Click on the following link to buy Super Mario’s DVD’s. I highly recommend them!

http://www.salsaclass.tv/dvds.asp?pageID=8

So, in contrast to Ballroom and Latin dance, the evolution of salsa has been driven by popularity, and not so through rulings being dictated by a committee or an organization . ‘Inventor Dance Instructors’ such as Eddie Torres, Super Mario, Ismael Otero, Edie ‘The Salsa Freak’, Leon Rose, Susana Montero, Adolfo Indacochea, Fernando Sosa and the Vazquez brothers (just to name a few) play the drums to which the international salsa scene has been responding to accordingly. Until a couple of years ago, that is. Now the popularity of YouTube videos with the most hits are slowly starting to dominate and change the Afro Latin Dance market. Just take a look at the explosive growth of sensual bachata and kizomba in the last 5 to 10 years.

Now listen to what Super Mario himself has to say about all of this:

THE CHANTY SALSA DANCE MOVE

During the bootcamp, Super Mario taught us two variations of a salsa dance move which are danced over 2 bars (16 counts). A Cross Body Inside Turn followed by a 360 is a good example of a (semi) standard 16 count salsa dance technique. But these moves Super Mario taught us last Saturday were entirely new dance moves for a lot of us. And Super Mario also told us he was playing more with 16 count moves.

Very exciting stuff! 🙂

Chanty Jacobs, an assistant for salsa school Latin Club Fiesta who teaches together with me on Mondays at the Event Center Fokker was also following Super Mario’s bootcamp at the time. She was standing across the room. As soon as Mario explained the first variation of his 16 count move, I started to lip sync yell ‘Chanty Move!’ Chanty Move!’ towards Chanty. But she didn’t understand what I meant. I think she thought I ment she should move from there 🙂

What was I trying to explain to her anyway?

Next to her assisting me, I’m also training Chanty ‘on the job’ to become a salsa dance instructor. On Monday, December 3rd 2018, I gave Chanty a surprise assignment: collect the dance techniques which the students would suggest to her and turn those dance moves into a turn pattern on the spot. The students did not comply. So, Chanty decided to create a dance technique on her own. She did it in a couple of seconds. I tested it with her, we polished it together, and voila: the Chanty Salsa Dance Move was born!

The Chanty Move is also a 16 count salsa dance move. That’s why I got so excited. Because Super Mario had just confirmed Chanty was thinking in the right direction.

See the Chanty Salsa Dance Move for yourself!

I have also created some variations to the Chanty Move for myself and taught these to my salsa students on Fridays for Latin Club Fiesta (Haarlem), on Wednesdays for salsa school Sizzling Salsa (Alkmaar) and for my students at salsa school Happy Salsa (Den Helder). All these salsa dance students know the Chanty Move by now.

With your help we can elevate the Chanty Move from a local dance move to an international salsa dance technique. Yes, you who’s reading this! Here is a link to the version of the Chanty Move on Facebook:

#new #salsatechnique #chantymove #latinclubfiesta #supersalsa #inventor #innovator

Posted by Sederick Blommestijn – Short on Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Will you help us by sharing this article, the Chanty Move YouTube video and/or the Chanty Move Facebook Video? You can also see it on my supersalsa8 Instagram account. Thank you very much in advance for sharing and spreading the love for salsa 🙂  

And make sure you buy some of Super Mario’s Dance DVD’s. You can also like the Super Mario Salsa Fans Page and check it out regularly for all of his workshops and bootcamps. Just click on the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=supermario%20salsa%20fans%20page&epa=SEARCH_BOX

Que Viva La Salsa!

Bruce Lee and Merengue Dance

What does Bruce Lee have to do with the boring merengue dance? Why has merengue caused a salsa recession in the 80’s? What kind of influence did merengue have on the evolution of bachata and salsa? And  what is this ‘merengue show dance’?

Let’s delve into the virtual rabbit hole and follow the merengue breadcrumbs, shall we?

Kung Fu Merengue Dancing

At the beginning of the 80’s, a merengue band called Los Kenton did something very unique at the time. The Kenton brothers mixed merengue dancing with Shaolin Kung Fu (martial arts) to create a new way to dance merengue on stage. Singing whilst dancing short merengue dance choreographies became a new dance rage called the ‘Kentomania’. As the Kentomania spread along the whole of Latin America, many bands felt compelled to follow their act.

There was another element which precipitated this success: the popularisation of the video recorder. Because of that, people could practice the dance steps they saw the bands display on television and practice them at home. This way they could dance together with their favourite artists when performing live. These small choreographs were consequently copied, put on sequences and then performed by teenagers in merengue show teams. And that’s how I started my Afro Latin dance career dancing in 1983/1984: With merengue show dancing on the beautiful island of Curacao!

Merengue caused the Salsa Recession!

Bands such as the pioneering Johnny Ventura, Fernandito Villalona, Wilfrido Vargaz, the New York Band and Juan Luis Guerra y su 440 were dominating the international Latin music charts. From Santo Domingo to New York city: merengue set the pace. This ‘merengue overflow’ had a bad side effect for Fania Records and other smaller salsa music labels: their sales dropped dramatically! Bachata musicians started to speed up their ‘musica del amargue’ and put merengue on their bachata albums in order for them to sell more records. At the end of the 80’s and at the beginning of the 90’s, salsa music got a new boost because from artists such as Marc Anthony, Issac Delgado and Eddie Santiago who took the main theme of the popular ‘telenovelas’ ( = televised soap opera’s) & popular ballads and remixed them into salsa versions. Thus, Salsa Romantica was born.

Example: Ilan Chester’s original version of ‘Palabras del Alma’ ( = Words from the Soul).

And now Marc Anthony’s salsa version:

So, what happened to Merengue Show dancing?

The music was first converted to Merengue Hip Hop by bands such as Proyecto Uno and Sandy y Papo. The popular reggaeton swallowed up merengue, and merengue continues to be a trans-formative force in (Dominican) bachata music. Elvis Crespo made house versions of popular merengue songs. Merengue has also been integrated in other mainstream Latin house music.

As for the dance: The merengue show dance died because of the following facts:

  1. The dance was never intended to be danced in show teams. This has mainly to do with the repetitive nature of the small choreographies.
  2. The merengue partnering has never been fully developed in the way salsa partnering has.
  3. The original salsa dance teachers were folkloric dancers. Modern merengue dancing was not a part of their folklore.
  4. Many of us – merengue show dancers – only use(d) merengue as a means to teach the budding salsero students basic partnering dance techniques and body movements.
  5. Merengue dancing has never been a part of the international (salsa) dance congresses or festivals. It’s only used sometimes as a warming up by international bachata dance artists such as Jorjet Alcocer.

Today, many merengue dance steps (or variations thereof) can be seen in Dominican bachata, in Zumba and in animation dance routines.

El Nergito Del Batey

I’m very glad I had the honour to start my dance career with merengue dancing. I also danced merengue in the first Dutch semi professional Afro Latin dance team Euro Latinos. 20 years ago (on October 30, 1997) I started teaching salsa. All of that was only possible because of merengue 🙂

On June 1st 2018, the ‘King of Merengue’ José Tamárez Mateo – better known as Joseito Mateo – passed away. I wrote this article to honour him and the music with which he gave a lot of joy to millions of ‘merengue afficionados’ just like yours truly.

Fun fact: Bruce Lee was also the 1958 Cha Cha Cha Dance Champion of Hong Kong. Maybe the Kenton brothers got their inspiration from this fact about their hero?

Que Viva El Merengue!