Monday, August 5, 2013

Dancing makes you Smarter?

Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter
Richard Powers

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Most recently we've heard of another benefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.

A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.

There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming - 0%

Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%

Playing golf - 0%

Dancing frequently - 76%.   That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.


What could cause these significant cognitive benefits?

In this study, neurologist Dr. Robert Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in mentally engaging activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving these neural qualities.

As Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Coyle explains in an accompanying commentary:  "The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use."

Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn't need to, then it won't.

            Aging and memory

When brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there's only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information.  If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it.  As people age, some of them learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks.
The key here is Dr. Katzman's emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses.  More is better.  Do whatever you can to create new neural paths.  The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living.

When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:

            The more stepping stones there are across the creek,
            the easier it is to cross in your own style.

The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution.  But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical.  Now it's no longer a matter of style, it's a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all.  Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one.  Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed.  But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.

As the study shows, we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal connections.

In other words: Intelligence — use it or lose it.


What exactly do we mean by "intelligence"?
You'll probably agree that intelligence isn't just a numerical measurement, with a number of 100 plus or minus assigned to it.  But what is it?

To answer this question, we go back to the most elemental questions possible.  Why do animals have a brain?  To survive?  No, plants don't have a brain and they survive.  To live longer?  No, many trees outlive us.

As neuroscience educator Robert Sylwester notes, mobility is central to everything that is cognitive, whether it is physical motion or the mental movement of information.  Plants have to endure whatever comes along, including predators eating them.  Animals, on the other hand, can travel to seek food, shelter, mates, and to move away from unfavorable conditions.  Since we can move, we need a cognitive system that can comprehend sensory input and intelligently make choices.

Semantics will differ for each of us, but according to many, if the stimulus-response relationship of a situation is automatic, we don't think of the response as requiring our intelligence.  We don't use the word "intelligent" to describe a banana slug, even though it has a rudimentary brain.  But when the brain evaluates several viable responses and chooses one (a real choice, not just following habits), the cognitive process is considered to be intelligent.

As Jean Piaget put it, intelligence is what we use when we don't already know what to do.

            Why dancing?

We immediately ask two questions:

  • Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?
  • Does this mean all kinds of dancing, or is one kind of dancing better than another?

    That's where this particular study falls short.  It doesn't answer these questions as a stand-alone study.  Fortunately, it isn't a stand-alone study.  It's one of many studies, over decades, which have shown that we increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes.  Intelligence: Use it or lose it.  And it's the other studies which fill in the gaps in this one.  Looking at all of these studies together lets us understand the bigger picture.

    The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  The best advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.

    One way to do that is to learn something new.  Not just dancing, but anything new.  Don't worry about the probability that you'll never use it in the future.  Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.

    Then take a dance class, which can be even more effective.  Dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.

                What kind of dancing?

    Do all kinds of dancing lead to increased mental acuity?  No, not all forms of dancing will produce the same benefit, especially if they only work on style, or merely retrace the same memorized paths.  Making as many split-second decisions as possible is the key to maintaining our cognitive abilities.  Remember: intelligence is what we use when we don't already know what to do.

    We wish that 25 years ago the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thought of doing side-by-side comparisons of different kinds of dancing, to find out which was better.  But we can figure it out by looking at who they studied: senior citizens 75 and older, beginning in 1980.  Those who danced in that particular population were former Roaring Twenties dancers (back in 1980) and then former Swing Era dancers (today), so the kind of dancing most of them continued to do in retirement was what they began when they were young: freestyle social dancing -- basic foxtrot, swing, waltz and maybe some Latin.

    I've been watching senior citizens dance all of my life, from my parents (who met at a Tommy Dorsey dance), to retirement communities, to the Roseland Ballroom in New York.  I almost never see memorized sequences or patterns on the dance floor.  I mostly see easygoing, fairly simple social dancing — freestyle lead and follow.   But freestyle social dancing isn't that simple!  It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the Lead and Follow roles.

    At this point, I want to clarify that I'm not demonizing memorized sequence dancing or style-focused pattern-based ballroom dancing.  I sometimes enjoy sequence dances myself, and there are stress-reduction benefits of any kind of dancing, cardiovascular benefits of physical exercise, and even further benefits of feeling connected to a community of dancers.  So all dancing is good.

    But when it comes to preserving (and improving) our mental acuity, then some forms are significantly better than others.  While all dancing requires some intelligence, I encourage you to use your full intelligence when dancing, in both the Lead and Follow roles.  The more decision-making we can bring into our dancing, the better.

                Who benefits more, women or men?

    In social dancing, the Follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next, sometimes unconsciously so.  As I mentioned on this page, women don't "follow", they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.

    This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow.  With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables.  This is great for staying smarter longer.

    But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.

    Here's how:
    1) Really pay attention to your partner and what works best for her.  Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which signals are successful with her and which aren't, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations.  That's rapid-fire split-second decision making.

    2) Don't lead the same old patterns the same way each time.  Challenge yourself to try new things.  Make more decisions more often.  Intelligence: use it or lose it.
    The huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion.  And as a result, you'll have more fun too.

                Full engagement

    Those who fully utilize their intelligence in dancing, at all levels, love the way it feels.  Spontaneous leading and following both involve entering a flow state.  Both leading and following benefit from a highly active attention to possibilities.

    That's the most succinct definition I know for intelligent dancing: a highly active attention to possibilities.  And I think it's wonderful that both the Lead and Follow role share that same ideal.

    The best Leads appreciate the many options that the Follow must consider every second, and respect and appreciate the Follow's input into the collaboration of partner dancing.  The Follow is finely attuned to the here-and-now in relaxed responsiveness, and so is the Lead.

    Once this highly active attention to possibilities, flexibility, and alert tranquility are perfected in the art of dance partnering, dancers find it even more beneficial in their other relationships, and in everyday life.

                Dance often

    The study made another important suggestion: do it often.  Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week.  If you can't take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can.  More is better.

    And do it now, the sooner the better.  It's essential to start building your cognitive reserve now.  Some day you'll need as many of those stepping stones across the creek as possible.  Don't wait — start building them no
  • Tuesday, July 30, 2013

    Nuevolution Dance Performance Team Tryouts

    OK GUYS!!!!
    It's Official!!!
    Nuevolution Dance Studio will be conducting tryouts for ALL PERFORMANCE TEAMS at 2PM on August 24th, 2013.

    The teams are the following...
    Casino Rueda Team
    Student LA Style Team
    Bachata Team
    Mambo Team
    Ladies Shine Team
    Mens Shine Team

    See you all then...

    We will be conducting tryouts for Kids Performance Teams and an adult Hip Hop Team…

    Monday, July 29, 2013

    Overcoming Fear of Social Dancing

    Hey Guys...
    Here is another interesting article written by Steve Shaw back in 2001.  It is a good read breaking down what most people may experience when dancing in the social scene for the first time.  Sometimes the fear gets to you.  Here are some ways to overcome those fears and also how to get more partners.  Hope you enjoy...

    I've heard a lot of people worrying about being at a mambo event when there are some very good dancers in the crowd or on the dance floor. They get intimidated, they hang back, they get embarrassed to dance.   Some of them hang out right over there where the best dancers are doing their thing, just standing there and watching and wishing, and feeling inferior, excluded or angry.  And some of them get upset because they don't get many dances.  Sometimes, the people who are worrying or intimidated are beginner or intermediate dancers, or dancers who are new to our metro mambo scene. They may feel that the crowd is "cliquish" or "stuck-up" or "judgmental and critical".  Here are a few thoughts on the matter, and some strategies to get you dancing more, having more fun, and bitching less.
    Most people most of the time choose their partners for 2 reasons:  1)  ability to dance at their level and in their style, 2) and friendship.  And within the dance community, these two often go together:  one's dancer friends usually dance at a similar level and in a similar styleLevel refers to one's technical skill.  Style refers to how one moves their body, their manner, shows their feelings & attitude, shows their masculinity and femininity.  For example, here in New York City we refer to an "uptown" and a "downtown" style of dancing mambo On 2.  Another example is that some dancers keep their body motions quite clean and simple whereas others do a lot of extra hand and body motions.  As mentioned above, NY mambo dancers tend to choose partners whose style is similar to theirs.  Partly that's an aesthetic choice and partly it's because people who move their bodies in a similar fashion will be more synchronized in their dancing.

    By the way, this is also true in other dances like hustle and swing, and in sports and many activities where a skill is involved.  If you play basketball or tennis, you usually play and hangout with friends of a similar level of ability.  Whether this is right or wrong, fair or unfair, the fact is that it's just human nature.   Generally, it's not "cliquish or stuck-up", it's just people naturally congregating together who enjoy and share a similar level and style of dancing, and a friendship involving shared views. 

    For those who feel excluded, I would simply say that if you work your way up in terms of your dancing skills and style, and you hold similar views and make friends, most of these so-called "cliques" can eventually become the groups you congregate in, if that's what you wish.  You can also find out what studio they go to or come from, and then go take classes there.  This way, you become friends with them in classes and learn their particular style, and hang out with them at the socials or clubs.  My point here is that they are not really "cliques" in the sense of being exclusionary, but rather people congregating together around shared skills and interests which, incidentally, is called "The Right To Free Association" in our U.S. Constitution.


    Regarding the worry that some of these very good dancers are watching you and are judging and critical, I have bad news and I have good news:  1)  The bad news is that   unless you're a really super dancer, they're not watching you.  You're being ignored.  2)  The good news is that unless you're a really super dancer, they're not watching you.  You're being ignored.  3)  And if you are a superdancer, and they're watching you with a frown on their faces, it's probably because they envy you, and also they're hard at work trying to steal your material. 

    So you don't really have to worry at all about them watching you and being critical or judgemental.  Think about it:  who do we really watch on the dance floor?  The so-so dancers, or the really good ones?  The good ones, of course.  My point here is that everyone should just take every opportunity to dance, practice, learn, and not waste their time worrying  about who's watching, because they're probably not watching you anyway.  Being timid and staying off the dance floor is totally counter-productive: you dance less, make fewer friends, get less practice, and don't improve as quickly, so it takes you that much longer to reach the level you wish you were at, so that people would not look at you critically, and in fact would be admiring you and saying:  "Wow, so-and-so sure is dancing great!"


    Let's say you're a beginner or intermediate dancer and you're standing and watching some really good dancers, and you're feeling intimidated and afraid to dance.  The problem is not with these really good dancers.   The problem is in your own head.  You are not a victim of those dancers, nor of the thoughts in your own mind.  It is YOUR mind, YOU control the thoughts in YOUR mind.   You have a mental CHOICE that you can make:  You can CHOOSE to be Intimidated, or you can CHOOSE to be Inspired, by these excellent dancers.  You can CHOOSE to take the attitude that they're great and you're lousy, and that you'd be Intimidated and embarrassed to get on the dance floor.  Or you can CHOOSE to take the attitude that they have some great dancing abilities which someday you can learn, and you can use them as Inspiration to learn and grow bit by bit, as you study and practice this great dance over the months and years.  Intimidation or Inspiration:  You're not a passive victim, you have the power to actively CHOOSE whether you want to be Inspired or Intimidated.  Now, which would you rather choose?  Which choice would be more constructive for your dancing progress, for your self-esteem, and for your dancing pleasure?


    Let's face it, all people are not the same.  Different people are different.  And different people dance differently.  Furthermore, these different dancers often dance in different areas of the dance floor.  It's just human nature.  Generally, there are areas with beginners, other areas with intermediate dancers, and still other areas with the hot shots.  There are even little sub-areas within these main areas.  It's not a rule, but it just sort of happens that way, naturally.  It's like a cafeteria:  you eat what you want, when you want, and you sit where you want, with who you want.  On the dance floor, everyone can make their own choice of how good they want to get, who they want to dance with, and where they want to dance on the dance floor, and often it breaks down according to ability level and friends. 

    Now, sometimes I've noticed beginner and intermediate dancers  spending hours standing or sitting in the area where all the top dancers are dancing, and they're complaining that no one will dance with them, and that the good dancers are stuck-up.  This is not a constructive or helpful approach.  Here's a better strategy:  As I mentioned above, most people usually want to dance at their own level.  While it's great, as we're working up, to spend a little time watching excellent dancers in order to admire them, or be inspired, or to learn new moves and style, it's not realistic to be expecting more than a very occasional dance over in that section of the dance floor, until you dance very well. 

    If we really want to get lots of dancing practice, our best strategy is to spend most of our time in the areas where dancers at our own level are dancing.  Complaining doesn't help;  taking action does help.  Eddie Torres used to tell us:  "When you go to a club or social, don't dance right away. First, walk around and see who can dance ON 2, and who dances at your level, or maybe a little bit above your level, and where they're hanging out.  Then spend most of your time dancing mostly with them.  That way, you get the most dancing practice, meet new partners, and have the most fun."  It's the geography and  psychology of the dance floor, and the sooner you learn it the sooner you'll have great evenings dancing.


    Especially for the beginners and intermediates, once you've got the geography of the dance floor figured out, here's how to get more dances:  LADIES, a lot of us guys may look bold, but we don't like rejection, and some of us are just downright punks...with muscles.  So we're most likely to ask someone to dance if they're right up there standing on the edge of the dance floor, especially if they're moving to the music already.  We know that she's probably going to say "Yes" to a dance.  The farther away from this position she is, the less likely we figure she is to say "Yes".  For example, if she's standing more back in the crowd, or she's sitting down, or she's sitting or standing way back from the dance floor, we figure she's much more likely to say "No" to a dance, so therefore we don't go over and ask those ladies to dance as often.  I've seen people sitting way away from the dance floor, or behind rows of other people, or behind tables and chairs, and complaining that no one will dance with them. 

    SO LADIES...

    I know we men are supposed to climb the highest mountain, and swim the deepest ocean, for that woman of our dreams, but I guess over the years we fellas have either become a lot less heroic and romantic, or we have just learned to play the odds and the probabilities.  So we focus most of our attention on the ladies right up by the dance floor.  Therefore, here's the best strategy for you ladies:  if you really want more dances, stand up near the front, make yourself more visible, get into moving to the music....ON 2, try a little eye contact and a smile (not too much, 'cause you know guys can't handle intimacy!), maybe even give the guys a helping hand by asking one at your level to dance, so that others see you want to be out there dancing instead of just sitting in a corner.  Why do I say "move to the music ON 2"?  Well, believe it or not, if you're new to our ON 2 mambo scene here, and the guys don't know you yet, they will be more likely to ask you to dance if they see that you're moving to the music ON 2.  Something else to remember:   If you arrive, leave, and spend the whole evening mostly with one guy, even if he's "just a friend", many possible partners will not approach you to dance because they'll think he's your boyfriend and you're sticking with him for the evening.  So if you want people to ask you to dance, it's best to roam around a bit or hang out with different people during the evening so the guys will perceive you as more available.  Read what another author suggests in his Guide For Women - 19 Ways To Get Men To Dance With You


    We have to remember that most ladies who are true salseras come to these clubs and socials to dance, not to just sit or stand around and be cranky or depressed.  We're not talking here about the generic ol' club scene here, or a "meet market".  We're talking about the mambo scene.  So when we're hesitating and timid about asking someone to dance, we need to remember that the majority of these ladies really do want to dance....that's why they came.  So just take action, fellas.  And if the lady says "No", well....we've been told "No" many times before and we're still breathing.  And there are definitely 10 other ladies right nearby who would probably love to say "Yes".  And if a lady says "No", and then 30 seconds later she's dancing with another guy, well....what can you do?  We all have a right to be choosy, and so does she.  But it doesn't mean you're a jerk, or that you were wrong to have asked her to dance.  Just get over it, move on, and ask someone else.  Of course, there's an important matter of courtesy and respect to remember here:  if a woman is standing or dancing most of the time with a certain man, which means they might be dating, good etiquette and respect requires that you ask the man if he would mind your asking the lady for a dance.  Here's another author's suggestions; read her 10 Tips For Men To Attract More Women To Dance With You.


    Sometimes someone is a pretty accomplished mambo dancer, but no one knows them yet.  They stand over in the area where the other good dancers are, but no one thinks they can dance, so no one will dance with them (woman or man).  Here's a strategy:  Find one good dancer who will dance with you, and make sure you place yourself and dance right in front of the little crowd you are wishing would notice and dance with you.  Once they see you can dance well, you'll be out there on the floor for the rest of the night.  Again, complaining doesn't help;  taking action does.


    Learning to dance mambo ON 2 takes time and work for most of us, and it includes some evenings when you feel you'll never improve and when almost no one will dance with you. But if you keep learning, by taking classes or privates, drilling the fundamentals and practicing, and getting out there social dancing, you will most likely master the dance and come to enjoy the results of all that work: the joy of dancing well and being able to dance with many different partners.


    Most people (especially more advanced dancers) choose their partners based on ability to dance at their level and in their style, and friendship.  "Style" involves a lot of things.  Think about it.  "Style" means how we move, our mannerisms, our clothing, how we feel the rhythms of the music and which ones we choose to accent, how we relate to our partners, our dance "attitude", the expression on our faces, how we show the passion and sexuality of mambo and its historical Latin culture on the dance floor, and even how we express our personal, family and cultural beliefs about leading and following, male and female, modesty and showing off, competition and sharing, and other aspects of life.  All this is visible in our "style" of dancing mambo.

    And "Friendship" is who we've become friends with as we've attended classes, socials and clubs.  People will always have their personal preferences about who they want to dance with, in the same way that people have their preferences about who they want to spend time with in other activities. That is just plain human nature (in fact it's animal nature too), and also something very important called "freedom of choice".  We cannot teach, suggest or legislate away human nature and the freedom of personal choices.  What that means is that some people just don't want to dance with me, or be friendly with me.  I try a few times, then I shoot them....oops....I mean then I move on.  You will have the same experiences too.

    But there are some strategies available for this problem too.  1)  First, don't take it  personally.  2)  Second, try becoming friends.  3)   Third, if you really admire the way a certain group of people dance, and you'd like to dance with them, it would be helpful to dance like them, in their way: that means their footwork, styling, rhythm, partnering techniques, song preferences, "attitudes", etc.  These qualities make mambo dancers synchronized, and help them share the dance emotionally and have a good time.  If you are a woman, watch closely how the women in that group dance; a man should watch the men.  Try to incorporate these techniques and attitudes into your dancing.  You may be able to learn this on your own, or you may need to take classes or privates where these people do.  In any case, allow months or longer to begin to change.  4)  Forth, remember that there are no guarantees that certain people will ever want to dance with you, so just accept that, get over it and move on.  See the article by Rose, host of, about How To Fit In & Move Up To Dancing With More Advanced Partners.


    I have received a lot of positive feedback from dancers expressing their appreciation for my tackling these typical but sometimes unpleasant problems.  And in return, I'd like to thank all of you for your feedback and helpful ideas to share with others.  Now, here's one more suggestion: don't give up!

    And that's Doc Salsa's pep talk.  Forget all this silliness about "cliques" and criticism, intimidation and neglect, complaining and inaction.  Be realistic and take constructive action.  Now let's all get out there and dance and have a ball.  We're there to mambo, not to worry about who's watching.  So let's just get out and dance, and make the most of it!

    Sunday, July 21, 2013

    Dance Schedule Change

    Every Wednesday at 8PM there will be a 30 minute spins class. We encourage all the Nuevolution Dance Students to participate. Also every Friday effective immediately at 9PM there will be a Styling and Timing Class. In order to take this class students should be at least in Beginners 2 level to benefit this class. Looking forward to seeing you guys come out...

    Saturday, June 29, 2013

    Nuevolution Dance - Pachanga Workshop

    We are blessed to have Ms. Madi Portes head up an amazing Pachanga Workshop. Madi Portes has been one of Eddie Torres' premier dancers for over 8 years.

    She will be showing us it the Pachanga is suppose to be done. This is certainly a workshop you all do not want to skip out on.

    Check out this video of Eddie doing the Pachanga

    Saturday, June 29th, 2013

    Nuevolution Dance Studio
    8979 Taft Street
    Pembroke Pines, FL 33024

    Nuevolution Members - $15
    Prepay - $20
    At the Door - $25

    Purchase your ticket Online Today...

    "Innovate your Body and Soul"

    Monday, May 27, 2013

    Nuevolution Dance - Memorial Day Class Cancellation 5/27/13

    Nuevolution Dance Family...
    ALL CLASSES Today on 5/27/2013 will be CANCELLED
    Enjoy your Memorial Day Holiday
    The regular class schedule will resume on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013.
    See you guys tomorrow...

    Class Cancellation

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Salsa, Pachanga, and Charanga

    One of the things that has always appealed to me about salsa is the high degree of subjectivity within the discipline.

    Unlike most other forms of dance, there is not ONE correct way of doing anything. There are pretty much as many styles of salsa dancing as there are dancers.
    This obviously extends not just to teaching, but also to the culture itself.
    Ask 5 teachers where salsa comes from, and you’re likely to get 5 different answers.
    The terminology is not fixed. Several teachers use the same name for different steps, or different names for the same step…

    Below are a few examples of things I’ve heard and read that illustrate this:
    • I read an article once that affirmed that “salsa” was the music and “mambo” was the dance.
    • One teacher I learned from said “inside” and “outside” turns applied to followers, “right” and “left” applied to leaders. Another teacher used “inside” and “outside” for traveling turns, “right” and “left” for turns on the spot. Another will use the terms indiscriminately, depending on the leaders relative positioning.
    • I could draw a long list of songs that claim to belong to a given genre, but clearly don’t.
    Why am I thinking of this? Well, I’ve been studying pachanga steps of late, trying to learn by studying online videos (much as I learned my 0n2 8 years ago). I was discussing this with a friend, who asked me what was the difference between charanga and pachanga. And I couldn’t provide a solid answer. The issue is further muddied by the fact that, for instance, Eddie Torres uses pachanga or charanga music indiscriminately when he teaches pachanga shines.

    So where to start?
    First, my subjective feeling, on a musical level, is that pachanga and charanga are almost identical, but charanga tends to incorporate more violin and flute. So basically, if I hear as song that could be either, I decide which way depending on the instruments’ presence.
    However… If you listen to the lyrics of La Pachanga Se Baila Asi, a classic pachanga with many covers including Charlie Palmieri, the lyrics state unequivocally that “charanga” is the band, and “pachanga” is the dance. This argument is somewhat supported by the fact that there are dozens of bands with “charanga” in their name, whereas only one to my knowledge that has “pachanga” in its name. By the way, I’ll note that a good number of these “charanga” artists don’t in the least play music that is either charanga or pachanga…

    Next, some exploration of wikipedia. Although I find the detailed information incomplete and somewhat inaccurate, the inclination is clearly in the direction that pachanga is a dance/music whereas charanga is a band/music. I’m still not satisfied, and wonder if wikipedia in Spanish might be better. But that proved a false hope. Wikipedia spanish is Spain-focused, not Latin-America focused, and their definition of a charanga is that it is a colloquial word for party… Surprisingly, it’s the French version of wikipedia that gave me the answers I liked best:
    French wikipedia has two definitions of Pachanga: a musical style whose heyday was in the early sixties, between those of cha-cha-cha and of boogaloo. Derived from charanga music, it was popularized among others by Fania’s Johnny Pacheco (some erroneously believe that Pachanga = Pacheco + Charanga). Second definition, according to the pianist of Orquesta Aragon, is that a pachanga is a guaracha (kind of rumba) interpreted by a charanga (kind of band).

    As for Charanga, French wikipedia defines it as a musical ensemble of Cuban origin that incorporates violin and flute, that originally played danzon. Structurally speaking some modern Timba orchestras are very similar to Charangas (explaining why some use “charanga” in their name).
    What does it all mean, you might be asking? And my answer is that we can make up our individual minds about things like that. Don’t let anyone tell you that they have the final answer.
    Keep in mind that salsa was called salsa because it became necessary to create one name to market all the different kinds of afro-caribbean music that were cross-influencing one another in the late sixties/early seventies.

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    LA Style Salsa Basics

    Hey my Nuevolution Dance Students.  Today was also a great class discussing the basics of LA Style Salsa.  Here is yet another article I found on the internet that gives you an explanations of all that I was discussing with you today in class.  Please read as this is really important to you.  I don't want you guys to simply "DO" the move but rather "BE" the move itself.

    L.A. style is danced on a slot and starts on the one beat ("on 1"), which is usually the down beat in a salsa song. In contrast, New York style salsa begins on the two beat ("on 2"). As with New York style, the back and forth Mambo basic, again in a linear motion, is still used in L.A. style. But by beginning on 1, L.A. style feels faster to dancers and the moves appear more powerful to audiences. In L.A. style, the leader breaks forward with their left foot on 1. The follower mirrors the leader's footwork and steps back with their right foot on 1.

    As with ballroom dances, the two essential elements of L.A. style are the forward and backward basic steps and the cross-body lead. Similar to New York style and the Cuban Casino style (dile que no) , many of the moves are based from cross-body lead variations.

    In a cross-body lead, the leader and the follower switch places on the slot. The leader steps forward on the on 1 and then steps to the right on the second and third beats while turning 90 degrees counter-clockwise (facing to the left). The follower then steps forward on the fifth and sixth beats and then turns to face her partner on the seventh and eight beats. To finish the move, the leader makes another turn 90 degrees counter-clockwise. After these eight counts of music, the leader and follower should have successfully exchanged positions and should be facing each other, heart to heart.

    Musicality, the ability of a dancer to be harmonious with the music playing, is a major part in all forms of salsa dancing, including L.A. style. Solo choreography moves, known as "shines," are an important component of this type of salsa and can be used to explore musicality. Shines usually involve more complex, jazz inspired, speedy footwork and can occur when a pair of dancer wants to take a break from partner dancing during a song. Shines can be previously choreographed or spontaneous. Either way, shines are considered a form of freestyle dancing.

    Styling is another term related to musicality in L.A. style salsa. Styling refers to the way dancers pepper their dances with flourishes of personality communicated by flairs in their movement. Each person will develop their own personal style of dance but a person interested in developing their styling can absolutely do so with instruction from a professional. In L.A. style salsa, styling is a huge component.

    In order to learn L.A. style salsa the fundamentals -- the cross body lead and basic linear steps -- are essential. With proper training and practice, the extras, such as shine choreography and styling, can take a person's L.A. style dancing to the next level.

    Nuevolution Dance Pattern of the Week

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Kids and Adult Instructors Needed at Nuevolution Dance Studio

    Click here if you are interested in becoming a dance and fitness instructor at the Premier latin dance studio in Pembroke Pines, FL.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    What is the Clave?

    The clave is traditionally a wooden instrument consisting of 2 sticks which are struck together to make a clicking or tapping sound.  Nowadays, sometimes it is a plastic hollow rectangular "box" which may be hand-held or mounted on the drum set - the timbales, cowbell, cymbal, woodblock, etc.   And sometimes the clave rhythm sounds come from other sources, such as the drummer tapping the side of a drum, the conga or bongo player's beat, a clave rhythm from the singer, piano or other instrument, etc.  In Spanish, the word "clave" means a "key", like a "key word" or the "key to a code".  In salsa music, the clave rhythm establishes the key or structure of the song.  Directly or indirectly, all the other instruments and the singers in the band are guided and structured by the clave rhythms.  While it cannot always be heard in some salsa music, the clave's beat always underlies the rhythmic structure of good salsa.  While there are various clave rhythm patterns, the "Son Clave" is the one used in the classic, mainstream New York Caribbean-style salsa music preferred by New Yorkers for On 2 dancing.  This clave is played within 2 measures of 4 beats each, a total of 8 beats.  But it is only tapped on certain of those 8 beats in the 2 measures.   There are two son clave rhythm patterns:   the 3/2 clave and the 2/3 clave.  The 3/2 clave is struck on the following beats:  1, 2 1/2,  4, 6, 7.  The 2/3 clave is struck on the following beats:  2, 3,  5, 6 1/2, 8.    The clave creates a complex, syncopated, unevenness in the rhythmic structure that builds a tension in the group of 3 taps, and then releases or resolves that tension in the group of 2 taps, once in each of the 2 measures.  It does this by going against, and then rejoining, the regular 8 beats, a little like one instrument playing in 4/4 time, and another playing in 3/4 time simultaneously.  This syncopation fascinates and inspires those more experienced On 2 dancers who are particularly in tune to the music, and affects the way they feel and move when they have reached the level of the dance where they are truly "dancing in the music".  
    You may have heard the expression "Dancing on Clave" to describe New York On 2 mambo.  This needs some clarification.  Actually, this is a loose expression to mean that the clave contributes to the 8 beat rhythmic structure of salsa, and also affects how we feel and move to the music.  But we do not literally step to ALL the beats that the clave instrument taps out.  For example, the 2/3 clave instrument taps out 2, 3, 5, 6 1/2, 8, while we step on 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7.  So we are only stepping on the 2, 3 and 5 taps of the 2/3 clave.  And the 3/2 clave taps out 1, 2 1/2, 4, 6, 7, while we step on 1, 2, 3,  5, 6, 7.  So we only step on the 1, 6, and 7 of the 3/2 clave.  As an example of how the clave makes us feel and move, we break on 2 and 6, but the 6 break feels much more emphatic and part of the body than does the 2 break when we are dancing to a song with a 3/2 clave, because the 6 break is "On Clave", at least when it's audible in the music.  In contrast, when the song we are dancing to has a clear 2/3 clave structure, the 2 break feels stronger than the 6 break.  Many intermediate and advanced On 2 dancers feel this difference, particularly those who are closely attuned to the music. 
    The clave always has one measure with 2 beats, and one measure with 3 beats.  The 2/3 clave has 2 beats in the first measure, and 3 beats in the second measure.  The 3/2 clave has 3 beats in the first measure, and 2 beats in the second measure.  It is in the nature of the clave rhythmic structure that the 2 beats always stand out more emphatically than the 3 beats.  That is, they feel stronger in the rhythm.  Partly this is because the 2 beats resolve the syncopated unevenness or tension of the 3 beats.  When we are breaking on 2 and 6, we are actually changing our body direction in conjunction with the strongest rhythmic emphasis in the clave's beat.  So although we don't literally step on every clave beat, we do make a major body movement (a change of direction) on the major beat of the clave, the 2 beat which resolves the tension.  It is in this sense that we "dance on clave".  This style of dancing accents the clave's emphasis on the 2  in the way we move our bodies in the dance.  Other timings, such as breaking on 1 or 3, do not accent the clave's emphasis on the 2 in this way.
    There are other uses of the word "clave" you may hear.  (1)  "Finding the clave" - referring to when we take our first step, on the 1:  "finding the clave" in this usage means finding the first beat of the 8 beat measure.   (2)  Also, you may hear someone describe a DJ as "mixing the songs on the clave" - This usage means going from one salsa song to the next keeping the tempo/timing of the 8 beats.  Both of these uses of the "the clave" have to do with the regular 8 beats, and do not literally refer to the rhythms created by the tapping of the clave instrument.  (3)  Finally, you may hear the expression "changing the clave", referring to when a song restarts the count after only 4 beats instead of 8 beats.  When this happens, the dancer is now off-timing since we dance to an 8 beat count.  More advanced dancers who feel this "clave change" will do a "transition step" which adjusts their timing to the new count in the music.

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    Getting the most out of your classes

    To all my students and non-students I will be posting information about different theories and ideas on dance.  Lots of this information is extremely useful and will help you all become much better dancers.  Here is a very interesting article I found on the New York Mambo website about getting the most out of your dance classes.  Please Read… Give your opinions…
    Practicing is the most important and usually the most underrated aspect of becoming a good dancer. It does not matter how much you learn, if you do not practice you will improve very slowly and and possibly even forget what you’ve learned in class. In fact, a good time to go out to a club and practice is right after a salsa class so that you can practice what you’ve just learned. We cannot overemphasize the importance of practice! Practicing is not only limited to dancing at the nightclubs though. You can practice turn patterns at home by yourself or with a partner (real or imaginary). You can practice spinning almost anywhere there is a good spinning surface i.e. wood or hard tile. When practicing you will get better results if you do it in front of the mirror so you can see how you’re doing. This is especially important when practicing styling, so you can judge what looks good. The best way to improve your dancing besides taking classes is by practicing as much as possible.
    One of challenges of learning to dance is actually remembering what you’ve learned. It is common for students to forget a move they’ve learned just one week before. This usually happens when the moves are not practiced. A great way to avoid this trap is to write down what you have learned after every class. You can ask the instructor for the name of the move or name/describe it yourself. When naming a move yourself, try to pick a name that will remind you what the move actually looks like.

    Another key point is to repeat all the moves you’ve learned including the most basic turn patterns. Most students end up practicing just the latest move and neglect all the turn patterns they’ve previously learned. They end up only remembering the new stuff and significantly reduce their repertoire.

    A great way to see how you’re progressing is to videotape
    yourself dancing. You can bring a video camera to a workshop and tape
    yourself performing what you’ve learned after the workshop is over.
    Videotaping yourself is beneficial because it gives you a concrete record of
    many of the moves you know. In addition you can look at your execution andsee the areas where you need to improve. So remember a lesson will just be a waste of time if you can’t put what you’ve learned into practice. So practice and use these tips help you refresh your memory.
    One more thing that will help your dancing is listening to the music. Buy a few salsa CD’s, and listen to them as often as possible, even as background music. You will be improving your timing and musical understanding — both key aspects for becoming a good dancer. This is especially important if you do not have any music or dance background. This will also help you get the most out of your dance classes. Learning the proper timing is one of the hardest things to teach so if you are comfortable with the rhythms and the music you will find it a lot easier to dance.
    When you arrive late to a class you not only cheat yourself, you also disrupt the class for the rest of the students. If the classes are too far away or at an inconvenient time you will be more likely to miss classes and lose patience. It’s preferable to arrive a few minutes early so you can change your shoes (if necessary) and mingle with your fellow students. If everyone arrives a few minutes early the class can start right on time.
    Listen to what others have to say about your dancing. This is really hard on the ego sometimes but it is a great way to find out what areas you need to improve on. Take all feedback with a grain of salt and keep in mind the source. In most cases the constructive criticism you get from your dance partners is pretty accurate. Sometimes comments on your dancing may not be flattering but don’t take it personally. No one is perfect and everyone can improve their dancing in some way. Probably the best and most constructive feedback you can get is from an instructor so try taking a private lesson every now and then to get a good idea of where you stand. Also try getting feedback from more experienced dancers you don’t normally dance with as your regular dance partners may have already adapted to you. The more feedback you get the better, so dance with as many different people as you can. Remember however that not everyone if comfortable giving feedback, so although you may politely ask for feedback, don’t push for it.

    Saturday, April 6, 2013

    Theories and Concepts in Dance from Magna Gopal

    My Nuevolution Dance Family… You know I love learning and trying to see things from different perspectives especially when it comes to theories and concepts of dance.  One World Renowned Magna Gopal’s website, she has tons of very informative ideas on different situations as well as concepts in improving your dance as well as ideas on how to deal with different situations in relation to dance.  It is very, very, very informative and I highly recommend that you read guys.  In fact, I would say that it is mandatory…  Be like a sponge and absorb that knowledge…

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Magna Gopal at Nuevolution Dance Studio


    Salsa Dance Etiquette for Guys and Gals

    1. When asking someone to dance, be polite, if you don't know the person you are asking, first introduce yourself and then ask her or him to dance, 99% of the time, they will say yes if you're nice!
    2. When dancing, pay attention to your partner, keep eye contact and try to smile as often as possible. Nobody enjoys dancing with a grouch, no matter how good they dance...
    3. When someone makes a mistake, don't argue about it or give them attitude, laugh it off and keep dancing, this will relax the person who made the mistake. The more relaxed you are when you dance, the better you will lead and follow.
    4. When dancing in a crowded club, keep your steps small and move your body more (on the spot). When restricted with space, keep your elbows to yourself, try to move your hips more, shoulders etc, and you will find that you don't step on other dancers... and other dancers won't step on you... hopefully ;)
    5. When leading a beginner dancer, KISS :) (keep it simple stupid) ha ha Don't try all your complicated moves on the first 4 bars, start slow, single spin, CBL, basic, and as they relax, try to slowly bring the level up to their limit.
    6. When following a beginner dancer, be nice, smile and make them feel comfortable and relaxed so they can remember their steps... if they make a mistake, just smile and keep dancing! Remember, we were ALL beginners at one point.
    7. When dancing, leave behind anything that could get in the way ... your purse, your drink... etc.
    8. Try not to wear a watch or any jewellery that could get caught on hair or clothing.
    9. When entering the club, wipe the bottom of your shoes or change your shoes before getting to the dance floor. When it's raining or snowing out, all that mud and dirt will stay on your shoes and if you walk through the dance floor leaving a mud trail behind you, other people with dance shoes on will not appreciate it.
    10. When you're not dancing, don't stand in the way of other people trying to dance. Even if you want to watch, stand back and leave the space on the dance floor to people who are dancing.
    11. When you arrive to the dance club, never say no to the first person asks you to dance. Once you get out there a couple of times with different partners, other potential partners will know you won't turn them down.
    12. A hardwood dance floor should be treated with care. Drinks, food and cigarettes on the dance floor are a big NO NO.
    13. If you are a beginner, remember that everyone out there has probably experienced that same sweaty palm, stiff-as-a-board, jittery feeling. It will pass, relax, smile and enjoy the music!
    14. If you had a great dance with someone, tell them at the end of song! They will love to hear it.
    15. And last but not least, when greeting someone with a kiss, if your face is all sweaty, DO NOT make cheek contact!!!! Shake hands or kiss the air...
    salsa dancersTIPS FOR THE LADIES:
    1. When your have long hair, try to tie it in a way that it won't whip your partner or other dancers around you. Getting hit in the eye by flying hair does not feel great.
    2. When dancing, don't wonder around with your eyes looking at other dancers. This will tell your partner that you wish you were dancing with them... and not him.
    3. If your partner has forgotten to shower that day, try to smile and breath through your mouth :) This way, you will still enjoy the dance instead of trying to hold your breath for a whole song.
    4. Girls, I cannot stress this enough, do not anticipate moves. You may think you know the move and just go without letting your partner lead you. There are millions of combinations so never assume it's the one you know...
    5. When styling, make sure you bring your hands back by 3 (when dancing on 1). Your partner needs your hand by 3 to start leading, turning... etc.
    6. Always look at your partner, pay attention to hands and body movements and you'll be able to follow much better.
    7. Relax your arms and shoulders when following, this will allow your partner to lead better.
    8. Don't sink into your steps, this will make you slow and heavy, stay on your toes and keep soft knees to follow quickly and light.
    1. Don't stare at your partner's chest when asking her to dance or while dancing.
    2. Say thank you after dancing the first song... if you wish to continue dancing, ask one more?
    3. Most important, try to remember, your partner is not disposable - don't toss her around like a bowling ball.
    4. Try to wear a cotton shirt under your dress shirt, this will help absorb the sweat and keep you dryer. If you tend to sweat a lot, try to bring an extra shirt or towel.
    5. Try NOT to wear your "construction boots" type shoes on the dance floor. If you happen to step on a girl wearing sandals or dance shoes, she will never forget or forgive!
    6. When wearing a long sleeve dress shirt with buttons on the cuffs, try to roll up the cuffs. Those buttons always catch on the girls’ hair.
    7. Girls love to get dipped, but not into a table or someone else. Always look around before you dip her. If her hair is down and it's long, don't dip her low or other people will step on her hair.
    8. And most important, treat your partner like a lady. She will always love dancing with you.
    Thank you for taking the time to read these tips!

    Magical Classes

    Classes today at Nuevolution Dance Studio were just magical.  Was great seeing all the students come together and learn something new.  You should have seen their eyes light up when they all felt that they have learned a new skill and have the ability to express that with someone else.  That look is something that can not even be explained.  Was such a joy to experience that with all you guys.  Love you all...

    Saturday, March 30, 2013

    Joby Brava - Afro-Caribbean Dance Workshop

    Don't Miss this amazing workshop happening on the Saturday, April 6th, 2013 at 2PM

    Click here for more information.