Pole Dancing soon to be an Olympic Sport!

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So I know what you are thinking why am I, a serious dance enthusiast, talking about pole dancing? Because it’s freaking amazing that’s why!  These dancers are not the strippers that your Grandmother warned you about.  And in all honesty most of them are not strippers at all, but serious dancers or fitness enthusiasts.  Pole dancing is now considered a form of performance art, its no longer associated just with strip clubs and loose women. As a matter of fact it was greatly influenced by the Chinese pole acrobats, who perform in a non-erotic stage performance or circus environment.  And pole dancing has recently gained popularity as a form of fitness, a growing number of gyms and dance studios offer classes, usually in private rooms away from the eyes of gawking men.  And I have literally seen a Church group advertising a pole dancing class in their recreation center, for women only of course.  Plus there are a wide range of amateur and professional competitions that are held in many countries around the world.  Through my extensive research on the internet looking for pole dance information, I have seen the videos of champions from Japan, Russia, Argentina, Australia, the Ukraine, Brazil, Spain, the US, and many other countries.  And I predict with the growing craze around the world and the intense strength, acrobatics, and concentration required to do this sport.  I think pole dancing could become an Olympic sport eventually, well that’s my opinion at least.   Because these girls train hard, and they have the core, arm, and leg strength of Olympic level gymnasts. Now I am not saying sign your daughters up and teach them to work a pole at 12 so they can go on to compete in the World Pole Dancing Championships when they are older.  But if you are over 18 years of age and you want to hone your skills, then more power to you.  And take my word for it, the coming wave of artistic pole dancers are a force to be reckoned with.  Well actually you don’t have to take my word for it I am including some pics and videos showcasing some insane pole dancing skill.  Like I said earlier I have done extensive research on YouTube (not strip clubs), looking for the best pole dancing videos I could fine, and this woman is one of the best I have ever seen.  She is amazing, artistic, and passionate like any great jazz dancer. She gained fame on the TV show Ukraine’s Got Talent and her name is Anastasia Sokolova. She has great skills like most great pole dancers, but she adds a level or professionalism and art that I have so far seen unmatched. And like a true performance artist her set design and costumes are amazing. For example the first video featured below is full of sharp poles that look like she would be impaled on one if she made one mistake, but don’t worry she’s completely safe.  She also has picked great music and is performing to El Tango De Roxanne from the Moulin Rouge sound track, performed by José Feliciano. And if you like her pole dancing skills, search her name on YouTube, she has a lot of other videos that are just as awesome with more really cool sets and costumes.

This next girl is one of my favorites as well, I don’t know her name or if she has won any competitions.  But the performance seen in this video is competition worthy, even if it is really raw and sexy.  She has an amazing body and her movements are animated like she’s moving in reverse.  And her strength and ability to go up and down the pole, either upside down or right side up, are simply amazing.  When you combine all that with her body’s flexibility and many of the one-arm tricks she performs, this all makes her also one of the best you will ever see.  Oh and the song she chose is awesome also its Paradise Circus (Zeds Dead remix) by Massive Attack.

And next up in my world tour of pole dancing is Yukari Makino Pole Dance Champion of Japan in 2011 and 2012. The other girls in the videos I presented showed sex appeal, power, agility, athleticism, and passion. Yukari has all that as well, but her strong point is grace and elegance. Just looking at her costumes you can tell she is more reserved than most pole dancers, but that’s to be expected because Japan is all about honor and pride. With that said, if any of these women were being judged for doing ballet while pole dancing, it for sure would be Yukari that wins that title. During the times that she was on the floor moving from pole to pole I thought I was watching a great ballet performance. And when she was on the pole it looked as if she was performing ballet upside down and defying gravity. It’s no wonder that she is the champion in Japan for pole dancing 2 years in a row. I don’t know the name of the songs she’s using, because it changes a few times in her mix, but no matter what the title of the music was, it suited her dance style perfectly.

Now people I know what you are thinking why would any self respecting girl pole dance? Or I don’t want to see these STRIPPERS shaking their butts!  Hey give these girls a chance and watch the videos, they will change your mind about their skill and their talent. They have trained and worked their bodies to physical perfection and they deserve a chance to change your mind. And besides ladies, men are in on the act as well, and they compete also, either solo or partnered with a woman or other men.  They utilize their power and strength to pull off similar incredible moves done by male gymnasts.  Plus like I mentioned earlier and as you will see in video number 4, in China pole performing is done by men and women.  And these men show the strength and agility that most pole dancers have, only times ten.  After all they have had a big head start on the rest of the world when if comes to acrobatics and they were the originators of pole performing.  There is even a pole gymnastics competition in India called Mallakhamb, where men do incredible power moves and hang upside down from a pole with just their legs, that’s video number five.  And believe it or not here in the US inner city boys are developing a subway style pole dance of their own, utilizing the poles, both vertical and horizontal inside subway cars.  It’s pretty incredible to see, which is why I chose to include it as the last video.  And just like Hip hop, Break-dancin, and Krumpin were born from the streets and embraced by young inner city kids, I expect to see this new urban dance grow in popularity as well. So no matter how you slice it pole dancing is sweeping the world and is here to stay.  So make sure you watch all the videos so you can see what I am talking about, and post a comment and let me know what you think,

by Anthony Hombrebailador

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkOMMq9iNj0

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l98kfwE-wOg

for more info on Anastasia Sokolova visit her website@ http://vk.com/sokolovadancestudio

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La Palapa, Ellicott City Maryland

La Palapa
8307 Main Street
Ellicott City MD 21043
410-465-0070

http://www.lapalapagrill.com
lapalapagrill@aol.com

Salsa night is every Thursday, with Salsa classes starting at 8pm with dance instrutor Eileen Torres.  Social dancing starts at 10pm and the party continues until 2am, there is plenty of public parking behind the building in the public lot and the surrounding streets.  For more info contact  La Palapa directly.

Havana Club, Baltimore Maryland

600 Water St
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 468-0022
http://havanaclub-baltimore.com
Salsa night is on Fridays with a free class starting at 8:30, social dancing starts at 10:00 with free admission before 10pm, $10 after.  Valet parking is $10, and there are drink specials before 11pm.  The night is hosted by Alexandra and NIss with Salas Now, for more info contact them at http://www.salsa-now.net or contact Havana Club directly..

The Houston Salsa Congress

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Friday, after work, I already had my duffel bags in the car, and a few pair of dancing shoes packed. So, at five o’clock, I opened my car trunk and hoisted some clothes and hangers up to the office bathroom on the seventh floor—and started making my transformation into “salsa vixen.”

Half an hour later, I emerged from the super conservative law firm in a tiny leopard print dress and some black, Givenchy fishnets. I’ll be different, I thought. Little did I know that four hours away, in the Sheraton Houston Hollowbrook Hotel, for the 8th Annual Houston Salsa Congress, I would find at least a hundred women wearing some form of fishnets, and, yes, ALL of them, donning a similar leopard-print dress.

In the Congress dressing rooms, dancers with gems-studded stockings, sequins on their satin pumps, and rhinestones in their hair, adjusted shoe straps, fastened long, fake eyelashes, and lined and re-lined eyes and lips. Faces were flawless, skin smooth and tan, and costumes sparkled with glitter.

I arrived late, and found a lone empty seat in the middle of the audience. Peering over and between heads, I tried to catch a glimpse of the dancers on stage—spinning and shaking shoulders and doing splits under the bright lights. The audience whooped and whistled as both professional and student teams displayed their talents, and by the time the performances were over, the audience was more than ready to hit the dance floor.

As volunteers and congress workers cleared the ballroom of chairs to make room for social dancing, I ordered a plastic cup of “vino tinto” from the bar and took a break on a couch in the ladies restroom. Women of all nationalities and backgrounds came in to look in the full size mirror—adjusting shirts, pulling down skirts, re-applying makeup and giving a quick peek at the rear-view. I chatted with an Italian woman and her Spanish teacher, as well as a woman from Africa, and a long-legged white girl in pink lace hot-shorts who looked like a full-blown model.

Glass of wine down, I made my way back to the dancehall just as the New Swing Sextet came out on stage, each in demure black suites, finding their respective place behind the bongos, bass, and piano. However, as the music started, it was the song of the vibraphone, and the round, satin-covered drum sticks bouncing across white keys, that filled the room with a chill yet euphoric, New York-style salsa. No loud horns and in-your-face tempo. Just laid back, smooth jazz from ages past—like music for dancing on tip toes.

One of my first dances of the night was with handsome Karisma dancer, Carlos Hernandez, of New York. Whom I met one night while commenting on his red plaid pants. His dancing is passionate and unique. He spun and swayed and brought me to complete stops. Then he broke out complicated footwork, dipped me, and turned me this way and that, until all I could do was try to follow, and watch in awe the spectacle I was observing. He comes up close to you, looks directly in your eyes, and then is off in his own world. Low to the ground, and then back above you, as if he owns you.

Later on the carpet, I watched him dance with Desiree Godsell—one of the most original, soulful and creative dancers I’ve seen. Originally from Houston, Texas, she now lives in New York and dances with Griselle Ponce in Jersey’s Finest. Together, she and Carlos twirled and twisted on the carpet, like a spontaneous freestyle rap—each one cutting the coolest line they knew, and the other responding with something even better. Their faces emoting sheer pleasure, and Desiree kicking into the air and then dropping down to the ground in guaguanco, and then spinning on one leg. The best of the best. I stood against the wall, grinning from ear to ear, enjoying my gin and tonic, and what I felt was the best seat in the house.

Saturday night, the dancers came out in their sharpest attire—cats from New York, Chicago and Dallas wearing blazers and bow ties, with tight pants and loafers. Hair slicked back and diamond earrings. The women all in small things that showed lots of leg. As the ballroom filled for the performance, seats were quickly taken, and afterward, swarms of people stood around the seating area, spilling into the hallways, drinking, talking, and having to be shushed during announcements.

The energy was high and only continued to escalate as Boston performers turned out to represent in true style. Masacote gave a high-class performance to Latin Funk, with an organic feel—cool and modern, and different from what you normally see on the stage. Instead of sequins and spandex, Ana Masacote in her tan sheath dress and fur rimmed collar was like Salsa on Saks Fifth Avenue.

Later, Hacha Y Machete performed one of my favorite routines— with a powerful, dark and sultry piece of music that combines perfectly with their raw energy and leg-shaking, fist-pumping choreography. By the end of their performance, you were ready to jump up and holler, and the audience did just that.

After all of the performances were over and the chairs were cleared for social dancing, I grabbed Darlin Garcia, and walked in on his sharply-suited arm, happy and ready to dance. Mr. Darlin is a smooth and perfect lead—one who dances with you at the level you can handle but always pushes you to do things you never did before. A true gentleman, he dances with all sorts of women, not just professionals. I see him on the dance floor grinning and getting down with any level of dancer, and one can see him dancing not just with his partner, but more with the music itself, as if the clave and tambor were the only thing that mattered, and all else was secondary.

By the time four o’clock rolled around, I had already taped and re-taped my blisters. The Band-Aids that I had wrapped around my toes had fallen off somewhere. The water jugs all empty and bar closed, I sat in the hallway waiting for my ride until the dance floor was cleared. Hallways stood empty, and ballroom doors were locked. Flyers from upcoming salsa congresses were strewn about like confetti, and everywhere were night pass wristbands, hair ties, and an odd dance shoe—lying around in the aftermath. My ears ringing and body completely dehydrated there were energy drink posters with hot Latin babes on the walls, and the Bachata room vacant when it had been so thick and heavy with sweat and sensuality. I felt like back in the days when I went to raves and there was always that side jungle room—all dark and earthy. These Congresses are the Latin version of those raves that young American kids used to do. But whether your musical taste is House music and Trance, or Salsa and Bachata, I think people everywhere will always find a place to go out and dance until the sun comes up. It’s just something we dancers do.

by Christina Gates

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Click here to view the 2010 Houston Salsa Congress videos

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Flamencology

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Born in the South region of Andalusia, at the end of the 18th century Spain, Flamenco is a style of music and dance that emerged from a mishmash of cultures to include: Muslims, Jews, Gypsies and Castellanos. Even though Flamenco is associated and vulgarly globalized to the Spanish race alongside the Running of the Bulls and Paella as part of the Iberian Trios, it is frequently confused with Andalusian folklore. However, those who venture to gain a deeper knowledge of its impressive history and evolution, discover that it goes far beyond just that; Flamenco is a way of life, an extension of a feeling and a culture through a guitar, a voice and movement. Above all, it is a feeling transformed into an artistic expression coming from the depths of the soul.
The singing, the touch and the dance are its three main components; together, they form this style. Together, they are Flamenco. The song, defined as Andalusian singing, spotlights a singer or “cantaor,” an expression surged from the Andalusian dialect and accent created to allocate the singer. Situated next to the singer is a guitarist, who often uses a classical guitar even though this style has its own special guitar, the flamenco guitar, and a different form and position which differs from any other style of guitar playing. And last but not least is the flamenco box or “las palmas” and “jaleos” tend to be added to the quartet to give a greater musicality to these songs. And finally, representing the dance, we have the flamenco dancer or “bailaor” who will be guided by ear under the instructions of the guitar and vocals to improvise the dance. The shoe and body are usually the weapons of the dancer, although complementary tools are also used to create sound such as the cane, castanets, or others that give greater effect and spectacular movements such as Manila shawls or the Tail skirt.
The subdivisions of Flamenco in “Palos”, each one of the varieties of this art, give you a range of musicality in which you discover the Potpourri of cultures that lie behind this type of music. While some are derived from the peasant songs of the Andalusians, or songs of the era such as Tangos, Tientos, or Caps, others are not of Andalusian folklore, but rather have roots in African heritage such as the Guajira or Rumba. After taking a look at a small portion of the great diversity of Flamenco, and knowing that it was named in November of 2010 a Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO, it is understood that this art has been globalized and is intended to be learned by the entire world. The dance is recognized as a prestigious university career in Spain, or a theme to be studied by great minds under the title Flamencology. It is something unique and soulful “duende” as they say it in the land of its birth, it always fascinates and never leaves anyone feeling indifferent in its wake.

by Ana Puy Manrique Iribas

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If you would like to see the Flamenco documentary that accompanies this article and see some great Salsa and other types of dance videos, click here and subscribe to Sabor & Style Magazine for free!

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The Hot Spot: Scott Gertner’s Skybar, Houston TX

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So one day in July of last year, I was sitting at my computer on Facebook reading some funny posts.  And I get a phone call from one of my friends asking me if I heard the news that Skybar was closing.  I laughed and I said “no way that place is always packed”, then asked him if he was crazy.  So for my piece of mind I called one of the staff and asked if it was true, and to my horror he confirmed my worst nightmare.  Skybar had always been my favorite place to go and dance Salsa.  Hearing that it closed was like hearing that your childhood school burned down.  That place was the one spot in Houston that felt like you were partying in a penthouse club in LA or New York.  And I had been going to Skybar since the first week they offered a Salsa night on Thursdays.  It was a place that you could go to and always have a good time.  And I was always made to feel at home and got the royal treatment from the, Managers, Security, Bartenders, Johnny the Elevator Operator, David Cruz the house DJ, and the house Salsa band Salmerum.  Even Scott Gertner himself always shook my hand and asked me if I was enjoying myself.  If you had never had the pleasure to go to the original Skybar, let me paint a picture for you.  It was a penthouse nite club on the top of a 10-story office building off Montrose and Westheimer.  It had a long glass wall that allowed you to see the city skyline from the dance floor and the tables.  It had two outdoor patios on each side of the club, one with an outdoor bar.  It was one of the best places in Houston to view fireworks on the fourth of July or to just go out on a cool night and look at the stars and the city melt together.  You knew you were in the right spot when you drove up and looked to the top floor.  Because there you would see the white lights that surrounded the roof of the building and the colored lasers, strobe lights, and sounds that came pulsating through the windows.   Well that is what you missed, and that’s what all the regulars will miss.  Apparently Skybar had to close because the building’s owners failed to make needed repairs and didn’t keep the building up to code.  Scott was maintaining some of the buildings upkeep, especially the parking garage, out of his own pocket so he could remain open.   His staff would walk the entire four-story parking garage and lobby to clean it each night after the club closed.  They would also wipe the windows, and clean the elevators which all of this was supposed to be the buildings owners responsibility.  But that effort on Scott’s part didn’t stop the orange City of Houston stickers that were appearing on all doors listing the the violations and expired permits.  All of that plus several visits from the fire marshals about the building were the final straw.  So in July enough was enough and he closed the doors to a Houston legend forever.  Keep in mind Skybar wasn’t just a place for Salsa dancing, as a matter of fact they primarily played R&B and Jazz every other night.  And It has had many famous entertainers on its stage, people like Luther Vandross, Patti Labelle, the Ojays, Brian McKnight, Chick Corea, Bob James, and even Comedian Steve Harvey.  And of course Scott being a three time Grammy nominee himself, would perform there also.  And not just entertainers came to Skybar but a lot of local professional athletes from the Rockets, Astros, Comets, and Dynamos would go to hang out, as well as out of town athletes.  Any night you could walk through the door and maybe rub elbows with athletes like Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Shaq, Mutombo, Jose Lima, and many others, they all made Skybar their regular hangout.   It truly was the end of a Houston legend, but all was not lost Scott already had plans for a new Skybar.  Plus he had already open Scott Gertners Sports bar at 3100 Fountainview a few years back to give his patrons a second place to hangout.  They even brought the Salsa crowd there for a short time, but the rough floor proved to be a problem for the Salsa dancers.  So ultimately it remained just a Sports bar, and the best place for the avid sports fans to enjoy a drink, watch a game and listen to live music.  So after months and months of rumors and waiting and hoping the NEW Skybar was finally opened.  Its proper name now is ”Scott Gertners at the Houston Pavilion”, but myself and all my fellow Salseros still call it Skybar.  It’s located at 1201 Fannin, suite 300 (corner of Dallas and Fannin) on the third floor of the Downtown Pavilion complex.  And it is a even greater more chic place to party than the original Skybar.  It has a huge dance floor, an awesome stage, a VIP area, and several bars scattered throughout the club.  Plus two sets of restrooms, an outdoor patio, and a full service kitchen that serves many types of food during club hours.  The new club has an occupancy of 700 people and is 13,000 square feet, that’s much larger than the old Skybar that was only 10,000 square feet.  And guess what is not even done yet, Scott is still working to complete It.  When its completely done it will be a bi-level club featuring three outdoor patios, a green room for performers, and various VIP areas.  The rooftop will feature an outside bar, couches, cabanas and its own DJ for a separate party experience.  This new club in Scott’s own words “is an extension of the Skybar, only on the next level”.  And what else is new you may ask?  There is a new house band right now, Grupo Kache, featuring local Houston legend Rudy Rincon.  And you can see occasional Samba performances from Lucia Dargam’s LD dance company.  And they have new lovely ladies serving food and drinks, plus two beautiful Salsa/hip hop gogo dancers, dancing above the main stage.  New security staff, cashiers, and managers.  But not everyone is new, there are still lots of familiar faces that make this new Skybar still feel like home.  Edgar Lefort my favorite bartender is still there and a few of the others made the transition as well.  DJ David Cruz is still spinning the hits, Ruby and Darnell are still teaching the free Salsa class.  Even my good buddy Vern is still hooking us up with cologne and other stuff in the mens restroom.  Just like all of them I have made this new Skybar my home and I will watch it grow and become the new legendary spot to dance Salsa on Thursdays, its already off to a great start, the only thing missing is for the rest of you to come and join us.

by Anthony Hombrebailador

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Why do we dance?

originalHave you ever done this? You’re on the floor, the music is pulsing, perhaps you’ve had a bit of liquid courage and your body seemingly moves instinctually to the beat. Suddenly, you consciously think to yourself, “This is really odd; why am I doing this? Why do any of us do this?” If so, you are asking a question that has managed to elude anthropologists and archaeologists and remains a continuing mystery.
Dance exists in all cultures throughout the world. Almost everyone, some more than others, enjoy this most basic human behavior. There seems to be some mental satisfaction gained from moving rhythmically to music. This begs the question, if it is instinctual, does this mean we evolved to enjoy this behavior? Universal behaviors are not randomly acquired; we must have inherited this peculiarity through some need that pre-dates written history.
Evidence through illustrations on ceramic fragments found in Pakistan and the Danube Basin suggest that dance may have originated approximately 5000-9000 years ago. The world’s earliest definitive evidence of dance is a bronze figurine of a dancing girl discovered in the 4,000-year-old ruin of Mohenjo-Daro, an archaeological site situated in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Scientists have also extrapolated information from the preserved ritual dances of preliterate societies. However, I wonder if it goes further back in history to a time before homo-sapiens even walked the Earth.
Though numerous cultures could be used as examples to discuss the evolution of dance, for the sake of brevity, I will only briefly discuss the Native American cultures. Their dances offer some of the best illustrations of dance as a form of communication. They used it to tell stories about war, tribal history and celestial events and other tribal concerns. Also, dance was used to give thanks to the gods or call on them for their blessings and guidance in fertility, sowing of crops, and hunting. As illustrated in the Ghost Dance, a trance like state is achieved which is characteristic of Asian and African cultural dances can be witnessed. Were the Native Americans influenced by another ancient people? Until recently, it is believed that the first people to inhabit North America were the Clovis people some 13,100 years ago. However, recent archaeological discoveries in the Paisley Caves of Oregon, pre- date this to 14,300. DNA that is closely related to the Native Americans has been discovered which has ties to Siberia and Asia. We know that those people came from the Middle East and from there, Mitochondrial DNA is traced to Human origins in Africa. Why did I deviate from the original topic of dance to genetic lineage? To establish that all persons originated from Africa and we all come from the same genetic pool. Hence, do genes play a role in the development of dance and how it evolved?
Scientists studied a large population of dancers and non-dancers and found that only the dancer population possessed two genes that are strongly associated with good social communication. Along with this, two other physical characteristics were also found in dancers. Serotonin levels tend to be higher which boost the moods in humans. Also, dancers tend to be more symmetrical which is associated with health and beauty. These three factors may be part of the answer as to why dancing in humans is culturally universal.
Let’s start with social communication. The ability to communicate effectively was essential and necessary for survival in prehistoric times. Those who could effectively communicate were more successful when hunting and gathering so they were healthier and stronger. Also, successfully reading the physical cues of others would give rise to better cooperation and less conflict within a social group. Did prehistoric people ostracize those that did not benefit their colony? This would certainly decrease the number of offspring that did not possess that genetic quality.
People with higher Serotonin levels tend to be more social, happier and well adjusted. They suffer from far less anxiety and tend to adapt well. One can see that those characteristics would have been beneficial if not almost essential to co-exist in any population be it human or otherwise.
Lastly, symmetry in humans is largely associated with beauty. Numerous studies have been performed that prove both males and females are attracted to faces and bodies that are proportionate and symmetrical. But it’s not only beauty that is at play here. Many genetic deformities and diseases are associated with asymmetry. It stands to reason that this attraction evolved as a way to keep the population healthy and strong.
Without a doubt, most humans love to dance; some more than others. Even though the experts may not have a definite answer as to when dance first came into existence, it is a distinct possibility that contemporary society inherited the ability and desire from our ancient ancestors. There is no longer a need for dance as a means of communication and survival and dance has now evolved to an art form as well as just a social past time . However, the group of women on the dance floor at their favorite hotspot, or, the couple dancing Salsa may seemingly be meaningless to many. Though, I would argue that their movements are more than just a way to entertain or call attention to their selves. They hearken back to our prehistoric ancestral need for physical communication as a means to survive. Many dancers would say that dance, even in contemporary society, is still necessary to their existence.

by Robin Clark

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Samba in Houston

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What do you get when you combine energy, passion, dedication, and spice? Why, LD Dance Company of course which was founded in 2008 by an Argentinean born and Brazilian raised dancer extraordinaire named Lucia Dargam. Samba is LD’s most popular form of dance because of the style that Lucia has developed involving intricate foot and arm work, along with very fast hip shaking and an aerial jump here and there to make for a sexy and an energetic show. Perhaps you are asking yourself, “How in the world is Samba so popular in Texas of all states? Shouldn’t y’all be two-stepping?”.  Well, the way the ladies from LD Dance Company move leaves more than one audience member breathless at every performance. LD Dance Company has taken the Houston dance scene by storm; mostly due to the fire that the company’s performers bring to the stage.

Lucia, our founder was born on February 14 in Mar De Plata Argentina, and has a very diverse dance background in many forms of salsa, hip-hop, modern, and Latin dance. She has had the honor of dancing for artists such as La Sonora Poncena, Victor Manuelle, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Alexis y Fido, and DJ Flex. Lucia is a well known choreographer in the Houston area thanks to her energetic and clever routines which have led her to teach at some of Houston’s best dance studios like the Houston Dance Factory, JD Showtime, and Planet Funk, just to name a few. In 2006, Lucia competed in the ESPN World Salsa Championship where she placed 4th over all. In 2011, Lucia and her dance company had the opportunity to participate in season 6 of “America’s Got Talent”, where the judges sent them right through to “Vegas Week”.

Another dynamo, Yasneydi Useche, is one of LD’s bright talents. Born on May 21 in Venezuela Yasneydi comes from a much different background than Lucia. She was a classical ballerina for many years. And, if that’s not enough for you, she is also a chemical engineer in the oil and gas industry. So, how does a girl go from dancing in Don Quixote to becoming a chemical engineer and on to becoming a professional samba dancer you ask? With determination and perseverance, that’s how. Yasneydi is one of LD’s most dedicated dancers and it shows every time she hits the stage with her signature energy and precision. Yasneydi has been training me for about 6 years and not a day goes by when I don’t learn something new from her. Just like LD Dance Company can’t be complete without Lucia, it also not complete without Yasneydi. If Lucia is like a mother to me, Yasneydi is like my big sister. She is the most responsible person I know as well as a great role model to look up to. Not just for me, but for the rest of the dance company as well. She goes from work to practice, and from practice to shows. She gives it her all each and every time. Thanks to her will power and talent, I have become the well rounded dancer that I am today. I personally don’t come from a very technical background, but I have always appreciated the pointers she gives to better my technique. Sometimes I wonder where she gets all this energy from, but I have come to realize that she is an individual that is driven by passion.

Now for myself, as an original member of LD Dance Company, I can honestly say that I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this company would have come so far in such a short period of time. We have received many amazing opportunities in the last couple of years that I never thought could be possible. Performing on national television and having millions watch us on “America’s Got Talent” was the most amazing and rewarding experience I have ever had. Who better to share it with than Lucia, the woman who feeds my dance thirst each and every single day. I remember the first time I met Lucia and the crazy thoughts that ran through my head when she asked me to shake my booty. I was a mortified 16-year old girl. But I have to say, meeting Lucia has been the best thing to happen to me. You may ask what LD Dance Company is all about and I would say, “The future”. In 2011, Lucia decided to create two new teams, The Mini Divas and The Teen Divas for kids and teenagers. Now, there is a new generation of samba dancers that Lucia is grooming and inspiring. The new generation of LD Dance Company is already making its mark in the Houston dance scene from their debut performance at the 2011 Puerto Rican and Cuban Festival, to their most recent performance at LD Dance Company’s 2nd Annual Showcase. LD has a very busy schedule for the rest of 2012, so be sure to be on the lookout for the feathers and glitter.

by Anais Zamora

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The American Salsero


Loves Warrior

What is an American Salsero and what makes them different from a Cuban or a Puerto Rican or Colombian Salsero?   Supposedly Salsa was first started in New York when Latin Immigrant musicians modified the rhythms of Mambo to create what we know today as Salsa.  So In theory that would make Salsa music itself a product of immigrant Americans, thus making the very first Salseros Americans in essence.  Popular theories tells us those Salsa rhythms then went back around the globe and were further refined into Cuban Salsa, Colombian Salsa, Puerto Rican Salsa, and even Mexican Salsa.  I can’t say for sure that’s what happened, I can only speculate what happened based on the stories I have heard, and unfortunately there always seems to be different story depending on who you ask.  In the days when I was first learning to dance Salsa back in 1997 to 2000, I started dancing Salsa as an outsider and did what I wanted on the dance floor, I didn’t really know what I was doing but I tried my best.  You see I am not Latin, I am part Black, French, and Native American Choctaw, and where I am from in Texas and Louisiana that combination is known as Creole.  When you’re a kid and growing up in Creole home you listen to and dance to Zydeco music, which just like Salsa and Mambo it has African roots.  Zydeco’s African rhythms came to Louisiana through slave trade, just like Mambo’s African rhythms went to Cuba, and Bomba and Plena went to Puerto Rico.  Most all Caribbean based music owes it rhythms to the Slaves that were sold to people all over the world, which is why you find African influences in music everywhere.  Needless to say growing up on a farm in Texas, I never had any exposure when I was young to Salsa or hardly any Latin music, so this dance was completely new to me. The only partner dancing I had ever done before was Zydeco, Slow dancing, and Square dancing in Elementary school.  So when I was introduced to the Latin scene in 1997 I was mesmerized by Salsa and Merengue both.  I tended to primarily dance Merengue because it was easier to do and I seem to already have a natural ability to do it.  But after about 6 months of dancing primarily Merengue with a little sloppy Salsa here and there, I decided to finally learn Salsa and become a Salsero.  Now back when I started there weren’t very many formal teachers or schools, not in Houston anyway.  And even if there were it was against my principles to learn to dance from some class.  I grew up dancing Funk and Disco at house parties, Break dancing in the streets, Hip Hop at school dances, and Zydeco at church functions.  Growing up we did all these dances without ever taking classes, you just did them naturally as kids.  So I adopted the same principle when it came to learning Salsa, just jump in the water and swim.  So I would watch the way Salseros danced and would try and mimic their movements, then I would fill in what I didn’t know how to do yet, with moves from the dances I knew.  But the Salseros back then didn’t like the way I danced, and they told me about it many times.  Now I personally don’t like to offend anyone’s culture, so I made it a point to learn to dance Old School Salsa.  And I accomplished this goal by dancing with the some of the older Salseras that were 1st generation Salsa dancers that also danced Mambo in their youth.  I also danced with 2nd generation Salsa dancers who’s parents were from that 1st generation of Salseros.  Now keep in mind when I first started dancing there was a lot of discussion about who danced Salsa better or who originated Salsa, Puerto Ricans or Cubans?  And then add Colombians and Mexicans to the mix and they all danced Salsa differently, and usually they all claimed each of their styles was the best.  And if that wasn’t crazy enough there was also a East Coast/West Coast debate about which style was better, LA style Salsa or NY style Salsa.  I couldn’t decided which way I wanted to dance, so I just mixed parts that I liked from all the Old School styles, and kept some of my moves that I brought to the table from my previous dance experience, and I created my own unique Salsa style.  But it was still Old School for the most part and rooted in traditional Salsa and Mambo.   And after 3 years of dancing with all types of dancers from all over the world, I eventually began to “get it” and feel the music and thus gained Old School Salseros respect.  Not just because I learned to dance Old School Salsa, but because I also embraced their culture, I went to their clubs and hangouts, even if it was in a bad neighborhood or a good one it didn’t matter.  I went to house parties, and birthday parties, I went to festivals and cultural activities, I even went to weddings and funerals with my new Salsa family.  I ate at all different types of restaurants and Cafes with them and had all kinds of great food.  I ate great Colombian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Salvadorean, and Mexican foods, they were all new and delicious to me.  And I especially enjoyed eating at after hours spots and having Consumé de Pollo and Empanadas after dancing.  So after my three years of trial by fire I was ingrained in the Latin culture and I became a normal part of it.  I also became a pretty out spoken person in regards to Salsa Dancing, but by no means did I consider myself an expert on the subject.  You see there was a new 3rd generations of Salsa dancers that were entering the scene, and they had no previous exposure to the original Salsa and Mambo dancers that myself and many of us had before.  Their Salsa was completely learned in a class room by people that were either 2nd generation Salsa dancers or Ballroom studio dance instructors.  Their style of instruction was based on an 8 count dance system called “On1″ or “On2″ Salsa dancing.  The one or two described when you stepped on the first or second movement of your 8 count of the music.  It was all very technical and lacking the cultural elements of dancing just from your heart and listening to the “Clave” rhythm.  Now don’t get me wrong all styles of Salsa have their pluses and their minuses, and in the past I was biased towards “Old School” or “Street” Salsa as they call it.  The things that I wrote back then and currently write now were not for the sole purpose of putting down new Salsa dancers or their style.  In the past because of the animosity that was created by this new wave of dancers, I may have been a little harsh in labeling them “Ballroomeros”, which didn’t help them understand what my complaints were about.  My primary purpose in my blogs was to let Old School Salseros know that they didn’t need to give up and let the current generation of Salsa dancers take over their cultural dance.  I wrote my original blogs to let the 3rd generation Salsa dancers, and the Classroom/Ballroom Salsa dancers know that we were upset with the way things were changing and the attitudes that they have towards original Salseros.  You see in 2000 Salsa started catching the attention of mainstream America, as a result of that curiosity Salsa schools, teachers, tapes, movies, and TV programs started popping up everywhere.  Everyone was an expert, everyone could teach you how to dance “Real” Salsa, every Salsa club had a free Salsa class, I even taught at a few clubs before I realized I hated teaching.  Non Salsa clubs even started offering a Salsa night, and new Salsa clubs opened that weren’t even owned by Latinos.  Salsa was taking America by storm and everyone was capitalizing on its popularity.  The problem that I had or have depending on how you look it, is that what about the people that came before us, what do they have left of their dance from their culture?  Also new Salsa dancers wouldn’t dance with the Old School Salseros because they didn’t keep the same “On1″ or “On2″ count that they learned in class.  They would tell Salseros that had been dancing anywhere from 10 to 30 years that they danced off count and didn’t know how to dance. That to me that was completely rude to learn something in a class room for 6 months, and then go social dancing and tell a Salsero that their cultural dance, that they have been doing all their life, is being done incorrectly.  And the sad part of this whole thing was, some of the 2nd and 3rd generation Salseros started to believe it and would take classes to correct their so called “off beat” Salsa.  And even worse the newcomers that weren’t exposed to Old School Salsa were being deprived of the experience of learning to dance the original style.  And that’s unfortunately the American way, assimilate something cultural and make it commercial.  Like I said earlier I am part Black and Native American, I know a little something about the raping and assimilation of a culture. You see what happens here in America, they find something unique about a culture that interests them, then they learn about it, they find a way to reproduce it, simplify it and trim away the unnecessary ethnic elements, and make it efficient.  Then they commercialize it and make lots of money, and they eliminate or alienate the originators from their own culture and heritage and then reap the benefits.  I have seen it with African slaves, indentured servants, the Chinese immigrants, the Mexicans native to North America, and many other immigrants that built this country for free or for peanuts.  You have all these diverse people in America that all got here through some type of struggle, and they all brought their unique culture, food, music, dance and heritages with them.  And when its something that most Americans have never seen or experienced before it makes it even more appealing to them.  But Americans want the experience to be on their terms, without having to actually mix with the people that exposed them to the original source.  For example you had Rock and Roll stealing lyrics and rhythms for their music from Rhythm and Blues, the White artists made millions while the Black artists made pennies.  In the 50′s most White Tap, Jazz, and Swing dancers became huge stars after stealing their moves from Black and Latin dancers.  I guess they should have felt lucky when they put them in the shows and movies as background dancers or buffoons for comic relief.   I personally never want to be a part of something that’s going to destroy or exploit someone else’s culture, which is why I made strides to learn Salsa the way Old School Salseros did by living the culture.  I like to experience and learn about different cultures and I want to dance Salsa as close as I can to the way it was originally danced to show respect for their heritage.  Don’t get me wrong I am all for cultural evolution, but I think we should let the salsa dancers evolve on their own, in their own time, and their own way, without forcing an 8 count down their throat.  Don’t tell them they are doing it wrong or their dance style is old fashioned, don’t tell people they have to take classes to do it right, there is no right way to dance.  Dance is about self expression and interacting with your dance partner, and you miss that experience when you are both just counting it out and focusing on the count, instead of feeling the music.  But this is only a suggestion everyone has a right to their own opinion and the way that they want to dance, even if you are an Old School Salsero, or 3rd or even 4th generation On1 or On2 Salsa dancer its your choice.  And I am not saying don’t take classes to learn the basics to get a start.  But don’t become a professional beginner and that’s all you learn is how to count out your dance moves.  REAL DANCING COMES FROM YOUR HEART, you feel each individual beat and you can dance any way you feel.  Experiment with it, you can add foot slides, body shakes, gyrations, dramatic pauses, shines, dips, turns, spins, arm movements, and the such.  And this “New” Salsa has brought some exciting elements to Salsa dancing, I love the cross-body lead and all the extra turns that I have learned.  I have always loved dips and flipping girls and that was hardly done in Old School Salsa.  I enjoy these new elements that became accepted with the new wave of Salsa dancers.  I feel now that there is a bridge between Old School Salsa and New Salsa, and if a dancer chooses they can learn to dance a little of both.  Remember anyone can paint a picture with a paint by numbers canvas. You just have to match the colors with the numbers and stay within the lines and it will look somewhat like a real painting.  That is until you see a Monet, Renoir, Da Vinci, or a Salvador Dali painting, then you see the difference between painting within the lines, and what a master does with controlled brush strokes and a blank canvas.  So to sum it all up, I don’t expect everyone to dance my style unless they are dancing with me specifically.  If you are a new Salsa dancer that dances by counting and it works for you, then more power to you.  Just don’t be a ignorant Salsa dancers that thinks dancing “on 1 or on 2″ is better than original Salsa.  I don’t think any style is better than another, Its all in the individual that dances it at the best of their ability.  I know some “On1″ and “On2″ Salsa dancers that can dance their butts off.  And I know some guys in their 50′s and 60′s that can burn up the dance floor with Old School moves you have never seen before.  The key to all of my statements is that you have to dance with anyone and everyone and try to learn from them.  And don’t get me wrong not every Old School Salsa dancer is a great dancer, there are some bad ones out there as well that won’t teach you anything.  But anyone can learn to feel the music, it just takes time and patience.  And listen to the “Old School” salsa music, if you listen to it long enough it will find its way into your heart and soul,  and eventually it will light this fire in you, then you will be able to dance to it by just feeling it.

by Anthony Hombrebailador

If you would like to read more Afro Latin articles and see some great dance videos, click here and subscribe to Sabor & Style Magazine for free!
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