Have you ever said to yourself, ‘if I didn’t see it with my own eyes I would never have believed it?’
I’ve been taking Salsa lessons for the past four years, and Tango lessons for about two. I love to dance. It invigorates and sustains me, so when an email arrived from my Tango instructor saying he’d decided to change things up a bit, and add Salsa to the last hour of the Tango class, I began to count down the days to Tuesday night Tango & Salsa.
More than expected
Daniel Trenner is a gifted and accomplished dancer… and teacher. Fifteen years ago, while teaching Tango in Cuba, Daniel was introduced to Rueda, which is a Latin social dance that might remind you of American Square Dancing. Since then, he’s taught Rueda to students as young as 12 year old, as an introduction to Salsa.
Instead of teaching us the basic Salsa step of left-foot-forward, step, step, right-foot-back step, step, (that every other dance studio in the area teaches) we learned the Rueda. We began by listening to the vibrant Salsa beat and clapping out the rhythm. Within minutes we were stepping to the music, and weaving around each other on the dance floor, and being told, “Flirt. You’re supposed to flirt with the other dancers you pass.”
Shortly thereafter Daniel organized our group of ten into a circle: and that’s where the magic happened. Staying within the circle we turned with our partners to the left, and to the right. We changed partners. Passed partners. Learned the Spanish words to describe our movements, and learned “the vocabulary of dance,” as Daniel calls it. By the end of the hour, complete novices were truly dancing Salsa.
When I commented to my friend, Mary, that her husband could go into any Latin club and fit right in, even though he had never danced Salsa before tonight, she said, “I know. It’s amazing. Daniel is a genius.”
Mary’s comment lingered into the following day, prompting me to phone Daniel in hopes of learning more about the transformation I had witnessed the night before. There was, indeed, something extraordinary about him. Perhaps speaking with him might give me greater insight into, well…dance, business, life. As someone who has taken every Salsa class within a 30 mile radius, I knew last night’s progress was atypical.
Unlike my other instructors, who turned to teaching dance after competitive ballroom dancing, Daniel told me he has a M.Ed., with a focus on Dance. “I’ve been teaching dance professionally, for 30 years,” said Daniel. “I’m a social dancer, and also a modern contemporary Jazz dancer. I have a deep love of dance.”
What also makes Daniel different is that he doesn’t teach the Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray model, which is the way most people learn in the United States. Daniel says it’s like “ …speed dating. You dance with nearly every partner in the room, and then sign up for a block of lessons to learn the steps.”
Instead, Daniel teaches what he calls the “vocabulary and syntax of dance” where you learn the movements as they relate to that particular culture and historical context of the dance, “…I don’t believe in dumbing-down the material.”
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear” Buddah
Although I’ve been taking Argentinian Tango classes for the past 18 months, it wasn’t until I experienced a Salsa class, taught by my Tango teacher, that I finally understood who could teach me how to dance.
As we were wrapping up our phone conversation about last night’s special Salsa instruction, Daniel said, “I know you’ve been taking other classes in the area. It’s time you took private lessons with me, or my instructors. It will be more expensive, but you’ll learn faster.”
Getting to the next level
Just thinking about speeding up my dance learning curve and moving out of my comfort zone was enough to drive me to the cinnamon sugar pita chips I’d stash away for times of indecision. As my hand reached the crumbs, I knew that I had to stop eating this junk if I really wanted to move ahead.
In dance, as in business, and in life, when you know the right person comes along to take you to the next level, don’t just stand there filling your face and making excuses…dance.