Monday, March 27, 2006

Have You Tried Salsa Dancing?

Arizona Daily Star Tucson, Arizona
Published: 03.09.2006

Salsa dancing is for everyone; it is music for the soul, says instructor Bruce Montoya. "It's another form of inspiration … spiritually, mentally and physically," says Montoya, who teaches a salsa dancing adult- enrichment class offered by Catalina Foothills Community Schools at Catalina Foothills High School, 4300 E. Sunrise Drive. The class takes place in the cheerleading room of the gym, a location far removed from a romantic Latin nightclub.

Montoya and fellow teacher Summer Sando are professionals, though; they also teach with Salsa Soulseros, a group of dance instructors that teaches all over Tucson. "The students are so confused at first, then they get it and they are so proud of themselves," Montoya said. "They see that they are creating art when they dance."

The four-week class is designed to help guide beginners through the basics of the dance. Many students discover Montoya is correct when he says, "The music is just wonderful; you hear the music and your feet start moving." And it doesn't take long for the couples to start moving together to the Latin rhythms. "It's so unifying, with everyone," Sando says.

For more information about classes offered by Catalina Foothills Community Schools, call 577-5304 or visit the schools/adult Web site.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's true, dancing does lead to sex
By Alok Jha in LondonDecember 23, 2005

SCIENTISTS have confirmed what fans of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever have known all along: men with the best dance moves have the most sex appeal. The finding lends support to the idea that dancing is a way to show off high quality genes and good health - both indicators of a top quality mate.

Charles Darwin was the first to suggest that dance was a courtship signal in animals, but there had been no studies of the relation of dance and genetic or physical quality in humans until now. In a study published yesterday in the journal Nature, William Brown, of Rutgers University in New Jersey, looked at how dancing ability correlated with a person's body symmetry, a typical measure of the quality of a mate in evolutionary biology. Across a wide range of species, less-symmetric bodies are associated with increased disease and poor reproductivity.

Professor Brown recorded 183 Jamaicans strutting their stuff and then presented the results to 155 peers for evaluation on a dance rating scale. The body symmetry of the participants was assessed by matching their elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, feet, ears and third, fourth and fifth fingers. Professor Brown found that symmetrical men were evaluated as significantly better dancers than asymmetric ones. Likewise, men preferred the dances of symmetrical women, although this effect was not as marked, suggesting women are more choosy in selecting mates.

However, the researchers stopped short of saying why symmetry was so crucial, and said more study was necessary. "Attractive dances may be more difficult to perform, more rhythmic, more energetic, more energy-efficient or any combination of these factors," they write. "Does dance ability correlate with reproductive success? We plan to address this question with long-term data from the same population."
The Guardian, Reuters

My comment:
Now, if there ever was any doubt that women LOVE a man who can dance, it's been irrefutably proven that they do. For decades, some of the sexiest men in film have wowed female audiences with their dance moves. Were they sexy before they started dancing? Some were, others, not so much. But it cannot be denied that there's something special about a man who can take command on the dance floor.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Let's Talk Shoes

I often hear the question - 'What kind of shoes should I wear to dance in? It's my opinion that the very best choice are those designed especially for ballroom dancing and even more specifically for the exact dance style you plan to be doing. But until such time as you decide to reward yourself with that sexy strappy Latin shoe with the Cuban heel, or a gorgeous sequined number for the elegant waltz, practicing in street shoes is perfectly acceptable.

Now...having said that, let me quickly add that not just any street shoe will do. Styles that should be avoided include anything with rubber soles, like sneakers, (they just don't give you the slide you need on the floor), open-toes (for obvious reasons, you're still learning and chances are so is your partner), such as sandals or (heaven forbid) flip-flops! And yes, I've actually seen people show up for class wearing flip flops! Try to execute a double spin in those!

But, if you have a leather soled shoe, such as a loafer-type, or for men, a dress shoe style, these will usually accomodate you nicely. The most important factor is that they must be comfortable and not tight on your feet. If your feet are aching, you'll soon be unable to focus on anything else.

The dance floor itself plays a part in the comfort level of your feet. Some studios have the proper flooring for dancing, which usually includes a cushiony, almost spring-like underflooring. This type floor enables dancers to dance for hours without feeling much effect...IF their shoes are also adequately comfortable. But some dance studios are built on a concrete slab, with only a layer of hardwood over it, and on those floors your poor feet will take a pounding.

When the time comes that you decide to invest in a good pair of dance shoes, shop around a bit. Prices and styles vary and the selection is almost endless. Prices can range from $30-50 on the low end to well over $200 on the high end. Dance shoes are designed not only to be best suited for dancing, but to enhance the overall aesthetics of your'll simply look better out there on the floor.

Many of the features of dance shoes serve practical purposes. The ankle straps are not just eye-appealing, they actually help your feet stay firmly in your shoes. Some of the pump styles have elasticized rims on the uppers which 'hugs' the shoe to your foot. The heels are different heights and widths, depending on the style of dance they're designed for. The soles are typically suede, which gives you the ability to literally 'glide' as you dance across the floor, and are especially helpful when doing turns and spins. To preserve the life of these suede soles, dance shoes should never be worn outside. Two other accessories that will extend the wear of your dance shoes - a carrying case for transporting them, and a sole brush to lift the nap of the suede every couple of weeks or so.

One final note - dance shoes (or any other shoe, for that matter) should be tried on in the late afternoon or evening, when your feet are typically at their largest. You'll be requiring a lot of your feet over the span of your dancing experience...treat them right, dress them properly and you'll have a great foundation on which to build a lifetime of ballroom dancing.

Friday, March 17, 2006

It Takes Two to Tango

Tango is one of the most fascinating dances seen on the ballroom dance floor. Fluctuating between flowing steps and sharp, sassy turns, it mesmerizes spectators and captivates them with its distinctive, rhythmical beat. It has been said that the man who can lead a woman in tango can lead in any dance.

I have always found it interesting that this beautiful dance was originally found in the brothels of South America. During the 1880s, Buenos Aires served as a busy port with immigrants from Europe, Africa and other places around the world pouring into the city. The combination of cultures mixed and intermingled to eventually create a completely new type of music which ultimately became known as the tango.

The music of the tango comes from the unending rhythms of African slaves called 'candombe', who would beat on their drums which were known as tan-go. This meshed with music of the flatlands of South America known as the milonga which was a combination of Indian rhythms and music of early Spanish colonists.

The first tango songs had no lyrics and the movements, usually improvised, were generally considered quite obscene, as the dance itself depicted the relationship between a prostitute and her pimp. Early tangos were hot and lusty, and frequently accompanied by an accordian-like instrument from Germany called a 'bandeon'. This has remained a recognizable element of many tango songs today.

In the early 1900s, the tango began to gain a greater foothold in Argentine society. It became gentler, losing some of its more obscene elements and soon spread to the entire world. When it became quite the rage in Paris, the tango was validated with the French seal of approval and a new attitude of respect was shown for the dance.

While the tango may have been born in the seedier areas of Argentine society, it now commands the admiration and applause of all those entranced by its seductive magic around the world. If you have not yet experienced the sensuality of the tango, I would encourage you to schedule lessons soon. Then consider a 'Tango Tour' to Buenos Aires, where you can find the tango being performed by professionals and amateurs alike and the dancing lasts all night long.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ballroom Dancing--More Amazing Than You Thought!!

This article is a little bit lengthy, but I thought it definitely worth the time it takes to read. If this man can learn to ballroom dance, none of the rest of us have any excuses! He should serve as an inspiration to anyone who has procratinated about taking lessons because they think they can't learn! I particularly love the way he handled his buddies who were giving him a hard time about ballroom dancing...see the next to the last paragraph...and go dancing this weekend!

Monday, July 4, 2005

Dancing helped put man once paralyzed back on his feet


Daryl Schmidt doesn't look like a man who some doctors said would never walk again.
He's not only standing on both feet, he also was twirling his partner in practiced routines around a dance floor as they prepared yesterday to compete in the Northwest DanceSport Championships in SeaTac.
"I can't walk, but I can dance," quipped Schmidt, 46, who strolls with a slight limp but is as smooth as any other dancer on the floor. "Dancing was physical therapy for me. It makes me want to constantly work out my legs." He dramatically lowered himself in a sweeping motion, his stronger left leg extended nearly parallel to the floor. "Now I can get down," he said, as he rose up to his full upright posture waiting for his partner, Michele Boyer. "But this is the key part -- I can get back up."

In April 1993, the Boeing customer engineer (a liaison between customers and engineers) herniated a disk in his back as he put away some binders above his desk. A few months later, the disk ruptured, causing first his right leg to shut down and then his left. The internal explosion squeezed his spinal column and pressed on his nerves, damaging but not severing them. But the two-day delay between the initial onset of his condition and surgery was enough to paralyze him from the waist down.

For Schmidt, a Montana native who grew up playing football, basketball and gymnastics, it could have meant the end of a big part of his life. But Schmidt refused to stay down. He poured all his energy into physical therapy to work his thigh and calf muscles, and after six months progressed from a wheelchair to crutches and eventually a cane 16 months after his surgery. "I knew I could get those muscles to work," he said.

He also found a way to speed up his recovery. A former competitive equestrian who rode for 15 years, Schmidt rode on horses trained to respond to the most subtle of weight shifts and found he could feel the buzz in his legs getting stronger every time he was able to put pressure in the stirrups.
But he wanted to try something different to further his progress. He quickly realized, however, that bungee jumping and running were not options for him and his back. Then an ex-girlfriend who happened to be a dance teacher sold him a package of lessons, and soon he was hooked.

Dancing also gave him someone to watch his back. Or, at least his feet. "Dancing's relatively safe," Schmidt said. "Especially with someone to keep him from falling down," said Boyer, 41, a psychiatrist who had a year more of ballroom dance experience than Schmidt.
"When we started, he could barely stand on his right leg without collapsing. When we first learned the quickstep, he went down and I'm strong, so I picked him up -- all 190 pounds of him! Because his legs were so weak, he had to stand perfectly vertically, so he actually stood better and helped us get further."
"The problem is at the higher levels, everyone stands better," said Schmidt, whose jokes with his partner are as routine as their dance moves.

The two met in January 1997 at a social dance (versus a competitive event) at DanceSport International, the same Lake City studio where they have practiced two or three times a month, nearly every month for the past seven years. The two were looking for dance partners and they hit it off, even though it meant Boyer would have to fly in for them to practice. While Schmidt lives in Bothell, Boyer calls Boise, Idaho, home.
"We joke that Southwest is our third partner," Boyer said, referring to the airline. She considers the trips mini-vacations.

Her husband back in Idaho has also recently taken up ballroom dancing, but the two prefer to keep their dancing separate. "If Daryl and I have a dance fight, we can at least go our separate rooms," she joked.
For the four days she visits Schmidt or he visits her in Boise, they practice four to five hours at the studio, nailing down routines that cover more than a dozen dances, including the tango, foxtrot, swing, rumba and Paso Doble. Since 1998, they've danced in an average of 12 competitions a year, most in the United States but some in Canada and one in England.

Their favorite dance is the waltz and their favorite category is American Smooth, where strictly ballroom gets thrown out the window for often-improvised versions of moves Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made famous.

Schmidt -- who wears two types of flexible braces on his weaker right leg for walking and dancing -- adapts by choosing flat-footed moves and pivoting on his heels. They're considered novice class -- a misnomer because it's the fourth level on a difficulty scale of six leading up to the champion level. This is their second major competition at championship level. In one night's event, they will dance nearly 30 times for an average of two minutes apiece, a pace that gets the heart going as fast as any workout.

Co-workers once razzed Schmidt when they spied him on headphones practicing the tango in a conference room on his lunch break. But once he pointed out the advantages of dancing (like holding beautiful women in your arms in a lovely ballroom) over their recreation, racquetball (getting sweaty with another guy in a small room), they shut up.

"Dancing is about staying young and healthy," Boyer said. "It's truly good for the soul. It's inspiring to see how Daryl gets other couples to get over what they think are handicaps. If Daryl can dance, they can."
P-I reporter Athima Chansanchai can be reached at 206-448-8041 or

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ballroom Dancing in the Movies (again!)

There is yet another chance to catch ballroom dancing on the big screen. If you're in the mood for a comedy musical, try Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. The film stars the likes of Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, and Sean Astin.

You can access the trailer here. Be aware that it may take a few minutes to load.

Robert Carlyle is Frank Keane, a baker by trade but now a man consumed by his wife's death. When fate intervenes, he pulls over to help a stranger in a car wreck, a man near death (John Goodman) who urgently discloses a planned reunion, a meeting with a lost childhood love at a school for ballroom dance. So simply one man's dream becomes another man's destiny.
Starring Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Devito.

If this keeps up, and I hope it does, I'll soon have to add a page just for movie reviews!