Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Reasons He Won’t Ask You For A Second Dance

Ladies… so you think you had a super fun dance with a great dancer.  But you wonder why he never asks you for a second dance.  Most guys won’t tell you why, but here are some common reasons…


Unfortunately, leaders are subject to the dreaded “finger squeeze” by women supporting their weight and balance by squeezing their partner’s fingers like they’re milking a cow.  If you’re a finger squeezer, you’re a potential source of injury for your partner.  Make it a priority to improve your balance and own your steps to avoid benching him.  Injured men means fewer dances for us and we don’t want that!


This is not about weight, rather about tension/tone.  Achieving a nice, fluid, comfortable connection with your partner is needed to let expression flow freely.  When it feels like the leader is basically dancing FOR you (physically dragging you everywhere, keeping your time and balance), it’s a work out. You could be 90 pounds but could be the heaviest follower in the club.  Leaders don’t want dance FOR you, they want to dance WITH you.  Listen to the music, stay on time, and manage your own balance.  Imagine if you had to carry him while he was dancing…for 3-5 minutes. On the other hand, when a follower is too light, she can feel invisible.  He feels like he’s chasing you.  (This is not the same as back leading).  Whether salsa, bachata, cha cha or Kizomba, there’s a certain level of elasticity needed in your connection for a true lead and follow to happen.  When you find that right level of elasticity, you’ll feel like you’re actually dancing together and isn't that what it's all about?


Trying to guess what a leader is going to do defeats the purpose of following.  And it can ruin the connection you have with your partner.  Great followers are awesome at responding to the leader’s….well, lead.  Women are often afraid of being behind or missing the lead, but sometimes we think too far ahead and anticipate what’s about to happen. In doing so, you’ll likely miss the lead, interrupt his flow, mess up timing, and ruin your connection.  It takes skill to wait for that lead and respond quickly.   That skill is part of what sets apart good followers from awesome followers.  Your first job as a follower is to follow.  There can be only one driver ☺  So try not to “guess” what’s going to happen because you’re going to miss the fun of “feeling” what he’s going to do.  


Hijackers take back leading to another level.  In the hijacker bucket include: 
  1. Over-stylers who take every opportunity to ram in every styling element they know in one count of eight, for the whole song whether or not it matches music.
  2. Social performers who use excessive energy (often taking down her partner) as they eyeball the crowd and potential onlookers. 
  3. Self-dippers who propel themselves into dips without a lead from her partner.  This is an accident waiting to happen. And can injure your unsuspecting leader. 
Don’t be a hijacker.  Leaders don’t like dancing with them.  


This includes, but is not limited to
  1. not smiling
  2. not making eye contact
  3. looking bored
  4. lazy stepping/following 
  5. rolling eyes
  6. looking around
Outside of technique, your attitude could be a turn ON or a turn OFF.  Men like confidence, an easy going vibe, a sexy attitude.. but not an “I’m too good for you” attitude. Sometimes it’s simply bad taste, however it's possible that some women don’t know their doing it.  Be a friend and let your best gal friend know if she’s a dancing diva.   Whether you’re dancing with a beginner or someone you consider a superstar, it’s good etiquette to give him a positive, happy vibe ☺ 


It may seem like women are the ones complaining about bad breath or BO, but it goes both ways. Keep some mints handy (avoid the potential choking from gum chewing), a change of clothes, deodorant and body wipes.  Don't make hygiene the reason he doesn't come back for more. 


This one is more about awareness and has nothing to do with actual technique, but it’s worth mentioning.  If you’re planning on dancing where there could be some spinning involved, high braided pony-tails are pretty much a weapon.  Imagine a stiff, tightly wrapped rope whipping you in the face with every turn.  Save that hair do for Kizomba.

So girls, let's do a self-check every now and then, and make some adjustments as needed.  Let your dancing speak for itself and make him want to come back for more!  Happy dancing!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

HOW TO BE A BETTER DANCER: Learn Footwork, the Art of “Solo” Dancing

Some of you were probably hoping that this wouldn’t be on the list of “HOW TO A BETTER DANCER”.  Pero si, it’s definitely on the list.  Some of the most admired Latin dancers in the world can throw down and burn the floor with funky, sexy, playful and always musical footwork (otherwise known as "shines" in salsa and cha cha).  Needless to say, their talents go beyond just turn patterns.  While partner connection is the essence of the Latin dances, evolution has brought other elements that allow for individual freedom of expression.

We at iFreeStyle.ca love shines/footwork!

If you’re thinking “I hate shines!”, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to step up your game and become a more rounded dancer.

Coming from an urban dance background, “solo” dancing not only taught me HOW to move, but also WHEN to move with a confident attitude. So naturally, coming into the Latin dance scene, it wasn’t as scary to learn footwork.  But for the millions of people whose first ever dance steps were to Acid (which I still love by the way) or some super slow salsa/cha cha/bachata, dancing on their own isn’t what they signed up for, and for as long as possible, they avoid doing it AT ALL COSTS.  Eventually though, it creeps up on you...like when you want to dance with some really awesome dancer who enjoys a balance of partner work AND time to shine.

Why some people don’t like shines/footwork

  1. I’m afraid”/“I feel naked when I’m dancing on my own.”  This one isn’t so hard to understand…many feel self-conscious about how they look when making up their own stuff.  
  2. Isn’t Latin dancing about partner work?”  For the most part it is… As mentioned above, the dances have evolved to include solo work or adding footwork to partner work.  
  3. I don’t know when to do it.”  When a dancer hasn't yet developed an ear for musicality, what you do, and when you do it might just be arbitrary.  If it happens to match the music, it could be purely coincidental.  
  4. I can’t remember what I learned from class.”  This is just for lack of practice.. or more accurately, avoiding practicing what you hope you never have to use.
So let’s try looking at footwork in a different way…   If you knew it could help you be a better dancer, would you do it?

 Here are 8 Ways Foot work/Shines (“solo dancing”) can help you improve your dancing.

  1. TIMING:  Dancing is about connection.  Whether we're talking about partner connection or musical connection, it’s always important to connect to the rhythm and pace of the music.   Learning to match your footwork to the beat of the music is a fundamental skill that you typically learn before you attempt dancing with another person.  Practice footwork to help drill solid timing and develop the skill of connecting with the beat of the music.  Learn to speak the same language first (same timing, coordinated stepping) and your on your way to smooth dancing.
  2. QUALITY OF STEPS – Many dancers think that just "doing the steps" is good enough. In reality,  HOW you do your steps becomes more important… how you transfer your weight, how you coordinate your body with your steps.  So not is it only a no-no to be late for class (don’t get me started..), don’t come late to class with the intention of missing the footwork warm up because you’re missing out on an important element of your dance training!
  3. SPEED (FAST, SLOW & IN BETWEEN):  It takes energy to move body across a floor quickly and on time.   And it’s also challenging to take sllllooooooow controlled steps. It starts with your centre and then your feet.  Learning to adapt to the different speeds and moods of music takes focused practice.  Learning footwork can help challenge your ability to move at different speeds in ways that are controlled and on time.
  4. AGILITY: Great dancers make quick directional changes look easy.  Until you try it yourself and realize that it takes a heck of a lot of balance, centering, and clear intention to change directions quickly.  Learn and practice a footwork combo that incorporates quick directional changes and be an agility champ!
  5. BALANCE & CENTERING:  In partner work, many new dancers and even experienced dancers depend on their partner for balance.  And while you may think I’m talking about followers, this goes for you too leaders! If you struggle with spins/turns (which is a tough skill to master), or keeping your balance within partner work, it’s time to practice that stuff on your own.  Practice at home, practice at the club on the sidelines, take advantage of the “solo” time on the dance floor.
  6. MUSICALITY:  Some of the most musical dancers in salsa, bachata and cha cha are not only comfortable dancing solo, they are liberated by it.  Latin music has such a variety of sounds, instrumentation, moods, flavour…  Dancing on your own can give the opportunity to explore the nuances of each song without the added challenge of leading or following.  The horns, the baseline, the piano melody, the vocals, the breaks….. it takes time to master moving to those musical elements.  And the better you are at doing it on your own, the more comfortable you’ll be to incorporate into your partner work.  So work on YOU and you’ll have much more to give to your partner!
  7. DEVELOP YOUR OWN RHYTHMIC STYLE:  Once you’ve learned a bunch of footwork, with practice, you’ll develop a rhythmic style to your dancing.  It may be intentional or it may sneak up on you one night at club.  Rhythm is part of musicality and every experienced dancer has developed his or her own flow that they express both within partner work and when they seize opportunities to do it on their own.
  8. CONFIDENCE TO DANCE WITHOUT PARTNER:  One of the greatest benefits learning footwork is overcoming your fear of breaking OUT of partner work and dancing on your own!  Dancing is a mental challenge and a physical one.  And gaining confidence to dance on your own is like taking the training wheels off your bike.  Once their off, the world is yours!  
In summary, foot work can help improve your dancing both technically and artistically. Take a footwork class – whether in salsa, bachata or cha cha.  Be not afraid.. embrace the challenges and look forward to the rewards to come!  

Monday, March 31, 2014

From "Wall Flower" to "Dancing Machine" – HOW TO GET MORE DANCES

This blog, originally posted back in November 2007, is dedicated to an iFreeStyle student and friend who, like many shy intermediate salsa, bachata and cha cha dancers wanted to know how to “crack the code” on how to get more dances… This one is for you! Enjoy my friend and I hope it helps!

If you’re SHY or NEW to the Latin dance community in your city, it may be scary to ask complete strangers to dance.  You might be a beginner (stay tuned for more on that), or you may have been dancing for a while and you don’t understand why experienced dancers aren’t asking you to dance. We all have some insecurities and fears of rejection, but know this… rejection has happens to EVERYONE.  The best of the best dancers out there were obviously NOT the best when they started.  You’re not alone.  And there’s ways to get out of the barren dance experience.  

It’s partly a numbers game…  The nature of partner dancing requires some sort of explicit or implicit invitation to dance.  Many times in one night.  Sometimes the answer is “yes”, sometime “no”, or sometimes “later”.  We put ourselves out there and rejection is a real possibility. The frequency of this invitation also invites more opportunities for “no’s” and yeah, that might not sound very encouraging.  If you want to be a dancing machine instead of a wallflower, prepare to put yourself out there.  It’s going to take some courage and know-how to maneuver your way to success, but chances are good that results will come fairly quickly if you give these tips a try.  

These 10 tips on HOW TO GET MORE DANCES apply to both men and women ☺

  1. Smile :) This seems pretty basic, but many people don’t realize that they might have a miserable look on their face – frowning, angry, bored, blank… Someone who wants a fun dance is looking for someone who looks happy and fun.  Check your misery, diva attitude and stress at the door and get ready to have a good time!
  2. Show welcoming body language.  Uncross those arms, face the dance floor, pay attention, stand up, put your drink down…  Like #1, your body language can either say “I love dancing!” or “stay away from me”.  Be yourself and show your happy, fun loving personality - we're drawn to people with a positive outlook and vibe!
  3. Easy Access.  Be near the perimeter of the dance floor (not ON the dance floor unless you want to get smacked in the head or irritate those dancing).  Unless you’re one of the top dancers, most people aren’t going to travel to the other side of a room, behind the plant, or reach across a table to ask you to dance, especially if the person is shy or afraid of getting a “no”.  So, make yourself available.  Easy access, in this case, is a good thing.
  4. Dance on the sidelines:  If you’re not dancing with a partner, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance or enjoy the music.  Many experienced dancers look out for people on the sidelines who show a good sense of rhythm and are enjoying the music.  So why not do a bit of advertising?  Move to the music and show them you can groove!
  5. Be gracious while you are dancing. Many people pre-select their next dance based not only by dance ability, but also attitude and how they observe people treating his/her partner on the dance floor.  There have been many AWESOME leaders I’ve seen on the dance floor who make their partner feel inferior, and that is a BIG TURN OFF.  Also, ladies are notorious for giving that dreaded “bored” look.  This is a guy’s worst fear.  Keep in mind that people may be watching, and a bad attitude towards other people could lose your ticket to a dance with someone awesome, and even worse all of his/her friends.
  6. Thank you partner after each dance.  It’s just common courtesy to thank your partner for sharing 3-5 minutes of dancing together.  You’ll likely be more memorable and perhaps get an invitation to dance again later.
  7. Put together the best you.  Okay, many of you are not going to like this one because it seems shallow.  Hear me out…If you put together a great outfit, shoes that look good and feel good, nice hair, smell good… you’re likely going to feel more confident.  And people are naturally more attracted to confidence.  This doesn’t mean look slutty, or that you need a million $$ outfit with dark shades in a nightclub to look cool.  Present the best you possible. And when you can back up that up with confident dancing, you’ll be on your way to super-dancing-machine status.
  8. Go out dancing more often.  When dancers see you out regularly, they start to recognize you as someone in the community.  People naturally connect with people who enjoy similar things.  With each new dance, you’ll meet new people and even develop a “favourites” list!  Those people know people who know people.  It’s networking.  Soon you’ll have a new group of dance friends who you can enjoy dancing with on a regular basis. Success!!
  9. Share. If you’re out with your friends, make it a point “share” favourite dancers with each other.  You’re getting the endorsement from your friend that you’ll probably enjoy the dance.  And it helps to grow your network of people to dance with.
  10. ****Be proactive & just ask.  This is by far, the easiest and fastest way to transform that barren dance experience to an oasis of dance filled nights.  If you want to dance with someone, ASK.  Simple.  Take control of the situation and go ask them yourself (nicely, of course).  And ladies, it’s equal opportunity in the dance world.  Gone are the days when men do all the asking (although it’s still nice when he does).  So unless you like being a spectator all night, learn to get over it and just ask! 

These tips are doable, right? Ultimately, pro-active people get more out of life. So don’t wait.  Ask. Give some or all of these tips a shot and see how it goes.  Take charge of your night and you may just kick yourself in the butt for allowing yourself so many dance-less nights… Go get’em.  Have fun!  

Monday, March 24, 2014


Remember these days??

Many of us have been there before… when you’ve been dancing a while, it’s not uncommon to suddenly feel uninspired, unmotivated, almost empty inside.  It sucks.  Maybe you feel like you’ve plateaued.. It feels like someone threw a bucket of water over the fire that has been burning inside of you to dance your heart out year after year.  You feel lost because you can’t remember life without dance… 
What happened?  And what do I do now? 

Is this you... sad, confused.. but hopeful that you'll get out of the slump?

 At this point there are a few common reactions..
  1. You second guess whether or not you should be dancing.  Maybe it’s not for you anymore. 
  2. You figure that it’s just a phase and you’ll eventually crawl out of this dance death hole.
  3. You throw yourself into dance and fight your way back to inspiration.

In some ways these lapses can help us appreciate how much dance can make us happy.  Frustrating at times, yes… but for the most part, DANCE IS FUN.  The music is awesome, meeting people is awesome, talking about dancing with other dancers is fun…  and the social aspect of Latin dances takes it a step further and provides a whole other salsa life with new “non-salsa” friends at “non-English” clubs in the middle of the work/school week.  Your non-dancer friends, family and co-workers just don’t understand how you dance late on a work night… if they only knew how it was worth the fatigue...

If you’re feeling blue about this emptiness and think you want to get back into it, don’t despair.   Here are some ways to help re-ignite your passion to dance.  In reverse order…


Sometimes, what we need is to step away… not forever, but maybe for a couple weeks, a month or so.  Maybe your mind is telling you that you’re neglecting something else that needs attention.  Maybe you're tired and your body need some rest.  If dance is really important to you, you’ll crave it again.  Unless within that time, you find a new passion (love, new hobby etc.).  Not to worry though, dance is always there, and welcomes you back with open arms when you’re ready.


This is probably the easiest, fastest, cheapest way to find inspiration. YouTube and Facebook (among others) are endless resources for finding inspiration.  Top dancers around the world have footage of their performances, competitions, social dancing, rehearsals, workshops (although there’s nothing like learning live, from a real person who can give you feedback).  WARNING – Do this in moderation as surfing YouTube is highly addictive and extremely time consuming.  You know this already, right? Just saying :)


Music that "moves you" is what dancers crave. When you hear a tune that touches your soul, it's tough to resist getting into it.  How old is your playlist? If your music playlist has gone stale, so has one source of inspiration.  The cool thing about dancers is that we like to share our favourite songs on social media. It can't get easier than that to find new music.  So mix it up.  Keep you tried and true favourites, and give your playlist a facelift with new music.  Not only do we need variety to keep things interesting, it's also great education to learn about the artists who feed our soul. 


If you feel like you've plateaued, please be advised that this is nearly impossible to accomplish in Latin dances.  If you look at the sheer variety of styles in any one genre (salsa, for example), it would take several lifetimes to be a master at all of them.  And when I say master, that means knowing everything there is to know.  There’s simply an infinite amount you can learn to improve your technique, musicality, and artistry.  Liken Latin dances to the galaxy.  There IS NO END.  Are you getting the visual?  Perhaps you’ve only been exposed to a small sample of what’s out there, and you need some variety, or just need to be educated on what else exists within the dance galaxy.  Be curious.  Investigate the dance world outside your immediate circle.  There’s ALWAYS something new and exciting to learn.


This can open up a whole other world of movement.  In street dances like salsa, cha cha, bachata, or kizomba,  there are many other genres that have been infused over the years – like hip hop, tango, ballet, modern, jazz etc.  Venture out and learn new ways to move your body that you could infuse into your style. The process of re-inventing yourself is fun, exciting and keeps the wheels turning. 


If you haven’t tried performing or competing, let’s just say this is a whole other level of challenge beyond social dancing.  What you’ll learn through preparing for a competition or performance is a combination of extreme growth, pain, elation, frustration, excitement, anxiety, self-satisfaction, fire.. oh… wait.. did I just say “fire”?  Mission accomplished.


In Zurich, Switzerland with my team (iFreeStyle Bachata from Toronto & Jose Maldonado Pasofino Dance, Atlanta)
Take a second look, each of us are in this photo twice :)  
Sometimes a routine of the same ‘ol same ‘ol can get a bit tired… boring.  I saved this one for last because this “cure” works almost every time, at least for me, and hopefully for you too!  Travelling to a new city to experience their "scene", watching and dancing with local and regional superstars, has almost always opened my eyes to something new and fresh.. and achieves the goal of re-igniting the passion in a big way.  There's SOO much is going on in the world right now, and it’s there for you to experience.  (Thank you to a good friend Wesley Small for the many Babaluu chats about how travel has kept his dance passion alive!)  There are zillions of congresses to choose from, so go to ones are recommended by your well-travelled instructor or fellow dancers.  Make sure to get involved – take workshops, social dance with the locals and the headliners, watch the shows, do some sight-seeing if can.  You’ll come back a brand new dancer, full of life, and excited to get dancing again.  Maybe you won't be so full of life the day you get back, but give it a few days to recover.

Friends, I hope at least one of these ideas could help the ball rolling. And as mentioned before, this happens to almost everyone at some time or another, and when you’ve been dancing for years, it’s likely to happen more than once.  The nature of music & dance, and what it does to the soul is magnetic and has a way of attracting people back.  Enjoy the journey back to dance heaven :)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

HOW TO BE A BETTER DANCER: Master your Basics

We live in the era of instant gratification.  

We want to see results ASAP, right now… yesterday even.  

We like challenge, but don't let your ego get in the way of your own growth.
When it comes to dancing, it’s a bad idea to skip or rush through learning the fundamentals.   

If you want to know why, READ ON.  While the reasons can apply to dances in general, we’ll focus on the Latin street dances – salsa, bachata, cha cha.


The basic steps, timing, and technique in dance provide a foundation for EVERYTHING that you’re going to learn going forward. With great fundamentals, you’ll acquire knowledge and skills that can serve as “short cuts” to learning new things.  You’ll ALREADY understand and can execute the most elementary skills like timing, lead and following technique, weight transfer so you can focus on what’s NEW. 

It’s so refreshing to meet students who say “I’m interested in learning to dance properly and don’t mind starting from the beginning”.  That is someone who understands the value of great fundamentals :) Unfortunately, this is more an exception than the rule.  Most people like to be challenged.  Being bored doing the same thing is no fun.  However, if your goal is to be a better dancer, your time and money are better spent taking a progressive route, building on skills that you learn and put into practice on the dance floor as soon as possible.  

Most ladies can't wait to start learning how to "style", but often it's too early.  And leaders are so eager to add flare to their dancing without knowing how lead a clear basic or cross body lead in salsa, or hold frame in bachata.   Imagine a house built on an uneven foundation – if you try to add new levels, the house is probably so shaky that it's bound to collapse.  Similarly, styling without body awareness, timing, coordination, or contra body movement can turn into an awkward situation for both the dancer and anyone watching.  We all seek challenge, but take the opportunities to learn and practice great techniques from people who know.

While we all crave to learn the latest and greatest, experienced dancers know that intricate moves are built on top of great technique.  In the Latin dances there are basic steps, basic timing, and essential partnering techniques required to communicate with each other on the dance floor.  Forget styling or fancy moves if you aren’t even dancing together.  Step 1 – connect with your partner!  And interestingly, many experienced dancers enjoy dancing less “busy”, appreciating great connection and musicality over complexity.

Most dancers are attracted to the fun and connection they see in Latin dancers – the magic, the sensuality, the way that two complete strangers can move as one on the dance floor.  It feels amazing when you have a great connection with someone and can actually feel their lead or follow.   It’s heaven on earth.  Things like being off time, bouncing, being too strong or invisible can be distracting, not to mention prevent some playful or intricate partner work from being executed well. 

It seems that the more experience a dancer has, the more he/she understands that you need to practice to master their basics.  In other classical dance styles like ballet or modern, you’ll find dancers with years of experience in the beginner level classes so they can continue to master those elementary skills that they use in more advanced dance moves.  In salsa and bachata, it’s not uncommon to see students with less little dance experience trying to ace an advanced class.  We all need challenge to keep us interested and motivated, but if you want to be a better dancer, master the basics. 

Stay focused on the goal..."To be a better dancer".  Be patient.  LEARN YOUR BASICS.  Practice your basics.  Enjoy the rewards in the long term :)

For information about beginner level classes in salsa and bachata at iFreeStyle.ca Latin dance school visit our website - www.ifreestyle.ca/classes

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to dance SALSA!

If you're considering learning to dance salsa, there's a lot of reasons to take the plunge and just do it! Salsa dancing is one of the most social dances in the world...it's a style of dance accessible by people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, professions.  And if you think you can't dance, think again...!

Caryl Cuizon & Angus Dirnbeck (Co-Founders, iFreeStyle.ca)

Here's our TOP 10 reasons why people love to dance salsa...

  1. If you thought club dancing was fun, multiply that fun factor by a zillion. There's a reason for the term "salsaholic"... You just won't be able to resist it!
  2. Salsa dancing gives you the opportunity to meet A LOT (like a lot) of people who love dancing too.  Whether you are shy or really outgoing, salsa dancing offers a place for you to connect with people.
  3. The music is infectious... With so many influences in salsa music (jazz, afro, urban, folkloric), there's so much variety.  It's tough to get bored of salsa music because there's always something to fit every mood!
  4. Salsa dancing offers a great night life! Spice up your date night, create new friendships and maybe meet a new love?
  5. It's a way to de-stress from day to day chaos (without alcohol).  Salsa music can move your soul and inspire you to let loose and be creative.  Save $$ on drinks and still have a blast!
  6. A big attraction for many people is that salsa is not only cool, but super sensual (if you want it to be, of course).  We all have a desire for connection, so some no-strings-attached dances with a few dozen partners a night could be just what the doctor ordered :)
  7. You'll get exercise and won't even realize it.  Salsa can be fast, slow, mid tempo...but in all cases, it's the kind of dance that keeps you on your toes!  Why not get a workout AND have fun? 
  8. Salsa is meant to be danced socially.  What you can learn in the classroom ca actually be put into practice at the clubs immediately!  You won't have to wait years to start enjoying it.
  9. You learn a new skill to keep your mind and body challenged.
  10. Take your dancing anywhere in the world.. Just about every major city in the world has a salsa dance community.  You never have to search too hard to find something to do on a vacation, business trip, or long weekend... salsa is awaiting!
Let the fun, experienced instructors at  iFreeStyle.ca Latin Dance School take you on a salsa journey that you only wished you started sooner!  We offer 6-week group lessons, drop-in classes, workshops, performance classes and private lessons.

Visit our website for the latest schedule of classes!
(416) 669-1385