Some recent highlights from the Dance Diversion Blog
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Clumsy Dancing and Culture Crawling
17th October 2017

The network of people connected with Dance Diversion are a classy and cultured lot. As far as dancing goes, some just like to clumsily give it a go occasionally at parties, while others have been taking private lessons with me for years. Should you choose to join us at an event you'll meet a range of different people. Some are creatives... architects, composers, photographers and designers. Others work in finance, IT, law, medicine... We are not a club for people who all work in the same industry. Intelligent discussions, an interest in the arts and lively parties are what it's all about. We meet together for dinners, afternoon teas, dance lessons and visits to art galleries and the theatre.

Amongst other things, we've seen Lea Anderson at the V&A Museum, Pablo Bronstein at Tate Britain and The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House.

We're meeting up to see Michael Clark Company at the Barbican this Saturday. At the time of writing, there are still a few tickets available so do get in touch if you're tempted to join us.

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Dancing Authentically
 17th October 2016

So as I’m born and bred in Surrey, England, why am I claiming to be an expert in Latin dance styles?
 
As Mike Robbins says, “Authenticity has the power to inspire others.” I’m not from the Latino community, so therefore I must be lacking this authenticity. If we research this further however Brené Brown explains, “Being your authentic self is living in line with your values.” She also explains that we each have a unique perspective that nobody else has access to.  
 
I discovered Latin American style Salsa in Surrey. I fell in love with the music and the dancing but I was appreciating them from my own unique perspective. It was important for me to explore the genre in detail and to contextualise what I had found. I travelled to Africa, Cuba and New York and immersed myself in the various styles within their vernacular context. My aim however, has never been to become an imitation of a Cuban or Latino dancer.
 
There was an attempt by a few individuals from the Latino community to try and retain possession of Salsa dancing as it became popular in the UK. The majority of people, of course, paid little attention to this. They followed the dancers who inspired them, the ones who looked the best when they danced or those who danced in a manner that was most appealing to them as an individual. Dance as a museum exhibition, as a relic from the past, does have its place and does have a value. As a form evolves and develops however, the interest and excitement builds. We explore and discover, and expand what the dance can be.
 
The Cuban dance Son, often credited for being the original form of Salsa dancing, came from a fusion of European and African cultures. Partner dancing from Europe combined with hip movements from Africa. You could argue that Salsa is as much European as it is African.
 
When I dance socially or perform my own choreography, I dance as myself. I love having the freedom to create my own style and express my personality. I absorb ideas from watching other dancers and I bring nuances from other dance styles. Other elements just emerge organically from somewhere within. I love to include some elegance and turn-out from Ballet and I naturally gravitate towards more sophisticated styles. I’ve travelled and trained with many of the best dancers in the world. For me, it’s all about trying on a variety of motions then sifting through to find what aligns with who I am.
 
My dancing authentically represents me.
 
The great joy that then follows on from this is the inspiration that my dancing gives others. People are able to discover new things through me and to see new possibilities. It’s the best feeling when someone says to me “Now I know how I want to dance Salsa”, or “I prefer your style” when comparing me to other international artists.
 
The offerings of my business, Dance Diversion, also come from a thorough investigation into my authentic self. I’m offering what gives me the most joy and what opens up new opportunities for others. Modelling what other dance promoters were doing never quite tempted me to set up on my own. I’m very pleased to report that I’m courageously forging my own path. The word courageous comes from the Latin word ‘cor’ meaning ‘heart’. My business is an offering from the heart. What I offer isn’t for everyone. If you like words like ‘raw’ and ‘flava’ then my style of dancing probably isn’t for you. If you dance to avoid talking to people, then my events probably aren’t for you. If your values are similar to mine however, you are going to love what I do.
 
To finish up, I’d like to paraphrase Elizabeth Gilbert,
“An authentic work of art is more engaging than an original one because you connect with the humanity of the artist. The work was created because the artist had to, they wanted to and it made them feel alive. It ignited their soul. This kind of work is what makes the world look different.”

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Let the Ladies be Hipsters, for Gents, Chest is Best
 23rd March 2016

It seems that YouTubers are finding one of my videos rather helpful. The chest isolation exercise I’ve posted on my Dance Diversion YouTube Channel, I’m very pleased to see, has attracted thousands of views. The video is aimed at people who dance Salsa, Mambo, Merengue or Bachata and need the movements of the torso explained and broken down. Some people find the chest and hip movements very natural, but others don’t, and need to be taught them.

The movement of the chest is important for several reasons. It’s surprising therefore, that many teachers completely overlook it. When ladies learn a Latin dance style they know they have to learn the hip actions. They’re integral, and stand out obviously as a main characteristic. Once they have all this movement in their hips, ladies also then have to coordinate the movement of their chest. The hips move up and down and in figures of eight whereas the chest shifts horizontally. These body parts are attached to each other so their contrasting movements can be difficult to perform at the same time.

Men can almost get away with dancing some of these styles without much movement in their torso but their dancing will be missing certain elements. They’ll be missing an opportunity to add masculine styling, but more importantly their lead will be deficient. Most men will probably be aiming to dance with a masculine style. To achieve this the chest should be emphasised more than the pelvis. I teach men the hip movements and then coach them to dance very subtle versions of them. The side-to-side isolation of the chest should visually be more dominant. We interpret this as a masculine way of moving because it highlights the broad strong shoulders that are a feature of the male body.

The movement in the chest is also vital for another reason. I realised this for the first time several years ago when a gentleman attempted to dance Merengue with me. He was stepping with his legs but holding his torso very still. I couldn’t tell the difference between him dancing and him standing still! He had failed to master a key element of the lead necessary for basic steps. The chest movement is vital to communicate your shift of weight, as the leader, to your follower and a good teacher will show you how this is done.

In many cultures this chest movement isn’t required for daily functional activities so it can feel rather unnatural and might take a lot of practice to master. Get started by doing a small shift of the chest, nice and slowly. Keep your shoulders horizontal and focus on moving the lower ribs. Only gradually increase the size and speed of the movement making sure you’re still doing it correctly and not allowing the shoulders to tip. Your shoulders should be relaxed while your abdominals and the muscles in your lower back control the movement. Drill the chest isolation into your body standing steady with the pelvis stable before you try to combine it with dance steps and hip movements. Then once you’ve managed all that, you just need to apply it when you’re dancing with a partner.

May I also suggest that you reward yourself for all your efforts with a nice minty mojito. The arm isolation you require for that is arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!

Thank you very much for watching my videos and subscribing to my channel. I’ll be posting up some more soon. 

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