Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Dimension to Dance... Salsa La Rueda

Today a friend and I ventured to the Dance Connection Studio for a group class in Salsa La Rueda. We went because my companion had experience in La Rueda where she used to live, and she wanted to introduce me to it before Chicago Salsa Congress (where rumor has it there will be at least one Rueda workshop) being that I generally love all things Salsa and am looking to broaden my Latin dance experience I was more than happy to go.

La Rueda (translation "the wheel") is what I term the "Latin version of Square Dancing" in this case the dance choice was Salsa. In La Rueda, there is a circle of men and women paired off and they dance Salsa in sync with a caller who calls the steps (in Spanish, and with signs) everyone should do. This takes some of the pressure off the leads as they don't have to think up the step, just know the word or sign to lead the follow. It's nice if the follows know the words and signs as well, but mainly it's important that they can follow.

As we arrived, the space was long and narrow the floor well worn from dancing, great natural light and the instructor was conducting a private lesson for one of his couples. There weren't many others around, but being a Sunday I would have found it odd if the space had any more people in it. As we commenced my friend and I appeared to be the only ones in attendance. Well hmmm... it was going to be tough to have a group class in La Rueda with just the two of us. Our instructor informed us that there may be another couple joining us in a bit, until then we would go over the basics... The basic Salsa step is a tad different, but thanks to RT's group classes I was fairly comfortable starting on my left foot moving forward. We went over some basics, and what they are termed for La Rueda, as my friend is much more advanced than myself it took me one or two more tries to get some of the terms to steps right, once he started using some of the signs it was much easier for me to associate those with the steps.

About half way into the lesson the other couple showed up, they were actually quite excited to have us so we could actually do our best tries at some real circle Rueda. It was SO MUCH FUN! I mean going out dancing is social enough, but La Rueda is the definition of social dancing! Partner switches and all the laughing at silly mistakes. I really liked that, and generally I am NOT a fan of any group class format, but this was different. I think my friends and I may have to pop in and take a few more of these Salsa La Rueda classes.

A big part of the enjoyment is because of the instructor, his name is Alex Aldape, turns out he also owns the studio. He was so kind! It's tough to put into words, but when you're learning something like dancing... you can just tell within the first few measures of a song and instruction if your instructor has a good heart and you can work with them or not. It was about 10 minutes into the lesson when I had personally confirmed I may just have to come back to work with Alex on my Salsa at least if not look into what other Latin dances he teaches.

Alex was good at taking care of his follow, which I generally need... for example I was having trouble remembering the call for what I would call "5th position breaks"... it just didn't click... Alex was very in tune to that and when he called it, if I was dancing with him he'd whisper "5th position" so I wouldn't screw up and make one of my classic "I'm hopeless" faces.... it's THAT kind of attention to detail in helping me drive home some of the little things I have trouble remembering that really made him stand out as an instructor... it's the same kind of thing that RT and Buddy do for me too.

At one point Alex noticed my friend's Latin shoes and asked where we take lessons... we said "Fred Astaire" and he said " you know [RT]?" NO WAY... I was taken aback... the Fred Astaire chain is well known, and some of their instructors are too... RT is fairly well known in some circles on the Latin Circuit but I never imagined that I'd ever run into someone else that knew him... So I made sure to clarify a few things to make SURE Alex was talking about MY RT... and then followed up with "Yeah, I know him... he's my instructor." SMALL FREAK'N WORLD! I was blown a way... and Alex had such nice things to say about RT... I guess RT had spent quite a bit of time at Dance Connection a few years ago. Figures that I would take a liking to someone that RT has worked with... one thing the two of us have in common is our ability to "sense" when someone is cool or not. The fact that RT spent time there only confirmed for me that my instinct is correct... Taking some instruction from Alex would absolutely be worth my time.

So, if you're interested in La Rueda, check out Dance Connection Chicago...or check out what other classes they have... most of it isn't stuff you'll find at your local Fred Astaire and the more people you dance with...the better dancer you become!

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