Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Nordic Goddess

While attending a house salsa party about three months ago, I chatted up Jacqueline, the Nordic Goddess.  With auburn hair, peaches and cream skin, and long dancer's legs, she looked like an
Orange Creamsicle come to life.

She:  What do you do?

me:   I'm a Leisure Consultant.

She:  A what?

me:  Yeah, I coach my clients on how to enjoy life.

        My advice:     Step One: Quit your job.  Step Two:  Do what you love.

She:  What if I'm already doing that?

me:  Then you don't need my advice.

Last week at the Pura Austin salsa social:

She:  Hi!  I just stopped in to tell you goodbye!

me:   Oh?

She:  I booked a one-way flight to Spain today!  I leave next Monday!

me:    How nice.  Let's dance.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Brazilian professor


    The eleven piece Cuban timba band, Timberos del Norte, played at the One2One bar Sunday night.  The sparse crowd included a Brazilian college professor of my recent acquaintance.  She danced samba with Brazilian flair, and enjoyed salsa as a second love.  During the break, the DJ played a cha cha cha.  I asked her to dance, but she said she had last danced cha cha many years ago, and was unsure of herself as a follow.  I told her no worries, all she had to do was look beautiful, and I’d take care of the rest.  She smiled, and took my hand.  We were the only couple on the dance floor.  About half way through the song, she got her cha cha legs back, and we shared a lovely partnership.  I especially loved her cha cha walk.  The song ended, so we returned to our table, high as kites.  As we sat down,  a woman spectator came over to her, spontaneously hugged her, and told her how beautiful she looked while dancing.  The Brazilian beamed, while I nodded in agreement.  

        I believe that out of all the things a woman can do, she is at her most beautiful when dancing cha cha cha.

             Bruce Lee:  1958 Hong Kong Cha Cha Championship Winner.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


These are the people to whom I owe a great debt:

My salsa daddy:

                     Jose Santoyo.  He’s the Man.

My salsa mamas:

             Debra Jean Hernandez.   Enough said.


              And Robbie Sky.  I can’t say enough.

My cha cha cha daddy:

                      Stuart Yaros.   Thank you.

My cha cha cha mama:

                        Mimi Corpus.  I love you.

My bachata daddy:

               Favian Bustos.  A tip of my hat to you.

My bachata mama:

                               Cynthia Mendez.                                                      The Cihuapillahtocatzintli.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Austonian

Sunday night, I went to hear Timberos Del Norte, an excellent salsa dance band at the One 2 One bar on South Lamar. After several dances with Unika, I took a break, and hung with the crowd watching the dancers.  I stood next to a 40-something Austonian looking fine in her cocktail dress and heels.

Out of the side of her mouth, she asked me: "Who's the cute little Emo with the fluorescent Mohawk?"

She apparently thought I would know.

I replied: "Why, that's Robbie Sky. Isn't she exotic?"

She nodded her head "yes" in time to the music.

Friday, January 8, 2016


She:  I just came from a Kizomba class.

me:  (Looking at the dance floor)   What'd you think?

She:  It was pretty sexual.

me:  Yeah.  I say you gotta wear a condom to dance Kizomba.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Eye of the Beholder



A couple of weeks ago, I joined more than 150 other dancers to attend Robbie’s salsa event “Salsa Under the Stars”.  She booked an outdoors venue right on Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin.  The moon shown on the water, gentle breezes rippled the lake, and a trio of D.J.s played a string of wonderful salsas.  In other words: a gorgeous evening. 

I sat with a salsera I call The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.  We danced several tunes, and when we returned to our front row table, I could see her empty wine glass, and that the beer fairy had finished my beer.  I asked her if she wanted another glass of wine. 

She said: “Yes, please.”

I asked: “What are you drinking?”

“A Spanish rioja”, she replied.

“Ok, I’ll be right back.”

So I went into the service area.  A young man of about 25 tended bar. 

“What would you like?” he asked me.

“The lady I’m with wants another glass of your Spanish rioja” I replied.

Holding up a bottle in each hand, he responded: “We have two.  Which one does she want?”

I considered him for a moment, then asked: “Which one did the Most Beautiful Woman in the World have?”

He instantly thrusts forward the one in his right hand, exclaiming: “This one!”

I returned the drinks to our table with a smile and a story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Last Thursday night, Favian Bustos and Fabricio Aleman led their first On2 mambo, salsa, cha cha cha class.  Entertaining and informative, the class comprised about 30 On1 dancers seeking to expand their dancing repertoire.  Robbie Sky leads a similar class, and as she pointed out last class, we must challenge ourselves to be the best dancers we can be.  Austin dancers, as a group, primarily dance On1, as this format is taught to beginners in most Austin dance schools.  On1, in my opinion, is easier to teach, and easier to learn, than On2, so the dance schools teach that way to maximize the early success of entering students.  As Robbie so nicely pointed out, the more styles one can dance, the greater the universe of dance partners available, and the more fun you can have at any given dance venue, anywhere in the world.  Makes sense to me.

Back to the class.  After a short introduction to the history of mambo, we got down to basics.  Here are my notes from that class:

Cha cha cha evolved from mambo in Cuba back in the 1950’s, and both are danced, and only danced, On2.  Mambo was reincarnated as salsa in the 1970’s, and can be danced either On1 or On2.  When teaching mambo, it helps to teach cha cha cha at the same time, as they are so similar.  I find it easier to hear the On2 beat in cha cha cha, whereas the polyrhythmic nature of mambo obscures it.
Musicians call the basic rhythm of mambo, salsa, and cha cha cha the tumbao.  Played on the congas, the drummer accents the beats on 2 and 6, which the dancers then use to locate themselves in the music.  Fabricio played the tumbao live on congas while we listened to recorded music.  This teaching technique helped me hear and focus on the accented beats of 2 and 6, making it much easier for me to maintain my timing.  Fabricio exhibited an impressive knowledge of percussion, and his drumming brought the tumbao into the foreground for us beginners.  I suggest that other dance teachers adopt this technique.  David Zygn has played congas in his On2 classes for years,  but I do not know of any other instructors in Austin doing so.

One big hurdle for me with On2 is finding the second beat of the measure.  I’m not a musician, and I have no formal musical training.  Instructors should not assume that any given student can find One consistently while the music plays.  I suggest that instructors poll their classes to see if anybody or everybody can find One.  Once you know where One is, finding Two becomes obvious.  If the class is unsure of the location of One, hand clapping on One for an entire song would benefit most students.  In my struggle to learn On2, it helped me when I realized that whether dancing On1 or On2, the leader consistently steps on One with his left foot; forward when dancing On1, and backward when dancing On2.  Thus, knowing where One lays in the song becomes crucial.

Another facet of On2 instruction bothers me.  As Fabricio pointed out, beginner On2 instruction typically involves showing the students the follower’s footwork, so that both leaders and followers step forward on One.  Several times in the past, during On2 instruction, the class began by doing the follower’s footwork, and when partner work began, I was told to ignore what I just learned, and do the opposite.  Why?  This stuff is hard enough to begin with, so why make it harder?  We’re talking about building muscle memory, right?  So why practice it wrong?  During instruction on the basic step, leads and follows should be separated, and each group taught their appropriate footwork, so no class time is wasted learning the incorrect step.  I understand that teaching the followers footwork to everyone is traditional, but it’s wrong.  Don’t do it.  Teach it right from the beginning, or don’t bother. Tradition is nice, unless it’s not.