Saturday, 21 April 2012

Salsa in Medellin

I know it is a sweeping generalisation but I am coming to the view that although many young Colombians profess to be salsa dancers and to love dance they do it in a distinctive and somewhat pedestrian way. At the salsa school that I attend' Baila Latino there are some very good teachers who can dance and teach well but in the 2 clubs I have been to dancing seems to follow the form of a rhythmic battle with ample hip movements, short indistinct steps and few if any turn moves. Most women don't know how to be led and resist moves or worse confuse mistake one's intentions and attempt to lead and execute what they think you had in mind! I have seen a few well practised Salsa Caleña style but little cross-body or as the call it here, 'en linea'. But that said, I have yet to visit the more well known salsa venues and maybe there is more good stuff to come.

It has been a pretty active salsa week:
Monday, en linear lesson with Dahlia – we perfected some moves and added a few more – she is encouraging and positive and and I can integrate some of my own favourite moves. Her style tends towards more circular patterns but this suits the club environment and is potentially very helpful.

Tuesday – Free lesson with Ana at the Wandering Paisa Hostel. I feel for Ana because each week she has a mainly new batch of rhythmically challenged travellers and she also has to overcome the language barriers in a ground hog day repeat of the week before. This week she chose me as 'el modelo' to demonstrate the steps and the big plus for me is I get to dance with her and practise some of my newly acquired skills. She is a very able dancer and can boogaloo really well, a challenging step which I hope to master in Cali.
Wednesday – back with Dahlia for salsa Caleña. This week we spent a lot of time just trying to perfect a simple but elusive step pattern requires simultaneous foot step and lift on opposing feet – more work needed here!

Afterwards I started level 2 SalsaCasino with Yamile. An indication of her great teaching style almost everybody re booked for level 2 and we perfected the moves we had learnt in level 1 and added a few more. It is hard for me to remember all of them and at times my concentration ebbs but the rueda form throws a new partner at me around every 10 seconds so needs must! The moves I can recall include: guapeo, dile que no, dar me una, dar me una para abajo, tourniquet, prima, prima con hermana, sombrero, yoghurt, princepe bueno, princepe malo, vacunala etc…....................

Thursday – Sebastian, my new Congas teacher invited me to go to Sinko Bar where his group, Gauntanamo SonCubano y Salsa were playing live – I teamed up with Merille newly arrived from Miami and now adding the female dimension to our apartment. Bar Sinko is kind of a posh sports bar/restaurant with other stuff going on. When we arrived we couldn't get seated due I think to an ongoing game between Chile and National Athletico. Once seated we had some very agreeable mohitos and eventually band came on – they were pretty good but nobody seemed to want to dance and in any case there wasn't really any floor space, just tables. We had a couple of dances and had our photo taken by the club photographer.
With Merille
After the first set we headed off for the club Son Havana hoping for better dance prospects. Here too there was a live band and the contrasts between the clubs couldn’t have been greater – with much more character and a fun atmosphere we both liked it better. Flatteringly I was taken for Merille's boy friend but when this was explained away she began to receive quite a bit of attention for dances. We left after a couple of beers and walked home getting back around 2 – a fun evening in good company.

Friday - More clubbing – I had previously posted a message on CouchSurfers asking if anyone knew where I could hear live cumbia music. There wasn't much response but Elizabeth an optrometrist kindly invited me to a dancing event that include cumbia at libreria la anticuaria in El Centro. We met up and I was intrigued by this tea party style event. People danced mainly in a style called porro but also cumbia, waltz, pasa doble, bachata and a few more. I was able to join in for a little of the cumbia and bachata but it was clear that these dancers were in the main well rehearsed and expert. 
Elizabeth and friend

Elizabeth's friend
It was an entirely civilised get together with a pretty mixed bunch of friendly people of all ages. After a while it became clear that Elizabeth needed to leave to be with her young son and also that she had further arranged that I join up with another group of friends for an evening of salsa and a live band at a club in Poblado called Cuchitril. She left me with them sheltering from a tropical style downpour in Poblado and about 8 of us travelled the remainder in 2 taxis. We arrived quite early and there was rock and pop musica and people were bagging tables. We bought a bottle of rum and mixers between us and someone else had a bottle of tequila. They then proceeded to imbibe pretty quickly and me less so – by the time the band set up, an 10 piece called group son Guajiro they were all pretty fired up. We danced quite a bit of the rest of the evening and I stayed until the end of the second set, around 3am, returning by taxi to be somewhat hung over the next morning. By the end they all looked tired if not a little drunk!

So ended a week of salsa among other stuff – I still have around 3 weeks of lessons to come and I plan to pass 4 or 5 days in Cali where I will try and set up a programme of lessons in Caleña style salsa. All pretty good so far and very welcoming and enjoyable if somewhat frustrating social dancing.

Just as a postscript I am publishing below a photo of my sala casino group - nice guys and good fun to be with - many thanks one and all.
Salsa Casino - end of level 2 and my goodbye

1 comment:

Jill said...

I never heard of caleña style--I am wondering if it is what we call New York Style here in NY? (Dancing mostly back and forth in a line.) Here it is commonly danced on 2 but most other places I think it is more typical to dance on 1. My favorite style is Cuban,