|Hitesh Salsawala at the workshop.
Picture: Rashbehari Das
Hitesh Salsawala can instruct an entire salsa with no music. Just some acapella-type sounds, his own beats accompany some amazing footwork, matched with a wicked sense of humour that leaves you undecided if you want to salsa or ROFL. Not to forget that northern English, slightly Scottish accent (Hitesh lives and teaches dance in Guildford, UK, since the last four years). Oh, the accent gets funnier when he tries to pronounce ‘Vatsala’ and funniest when he’s on to some Bangla!
He shows a step and immediately turns to ask if it’s a “yes, no, maybe or almost”. He’s cool. So what if he breaks into song-of-the-moment Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen’s). “Should we get started? Shake our tail feather?” he grins tugging at his tee, showing off a hint of his clave (percussion instrument) tattoo.
In town to conduct a 3-day workshop at Flash Fitness recently, it ended with a beginner’s certificate (LA style salsa) and some valuable gyan. Here are the top 10 things learnt:
1 Beginners, it’s best to not count 1-2-3. Get used to dancing on cues like ‘forward’ and ‘back’. This goes a long way because in partner work, girls start with a back basic, which at regular count would be a 5.
2 The wider you step, more grounding you have. Stepping big leaves you more in control but spread your legs only if you are going to fall. Keep it small, keep it compact.
3 Ladies, it’s best to wear shoes with ankle-straps. This minimises the chance of your heel being flung around to your partner’s face.
4 Posture proper. The upper body shouldn’t bounce. Remember the song Head Shoulder Knees and Toes? Now replace toes with heels. “Keep in mind this Indian remix to align your body properly,” says Hitesh. Stand tall. Don’t lean too much into the move. Look up. Your partner matters, not their shoes, so look up! Looking down at the floor can be construed as two things — lack of confidence or too much arrogance.
5 The salsa sign language is easy to learn. In close hold, if the man swings the lady’s arm up to a 90-degrees in the first three counts, it indicates that a turn might be coming up. A nudge from his right hand on her left shoulder confirms the turn. The signs get tougher as the levels advance.
6 If your partner is not the same height as you, Hitesh suggests you don’t lift her hand making her look like the Statue of Liberty! Raise your lady’s hand up to 90 degrees, not higher. Aim for a nice W shape with both your arms.
7 Practise salsa to commercial music. It’s nice to salsa to music that you like so you can keep your moves going even when there’s no salsa music. In class we did a sequence on Jhak maar ke from Desi Boyz. #win.
8 Remember that your partner is your audience. Dance with her, for her. And guys, when taking an individual turn, pass your lady’s hand from your left to right without letting it go.
9 Always go back to class. Don’t feel like a pro after attending one workshop and some salsa nights. Lessons and socials are parallel growth. What you learn in class is what you practise on the floor.
10 Finally, don’t stick your tongue out when you miss a step. No one would know — till your tongue is out!