Tuesday, February 18, 2014


On Saturday (Jan. 4th), Tango Fusion Dance Company had their first rehearsal for a new Salsa piece for the upcoming event Salsa Sunday on January 19th.  Before we get to the rehearsal point, much preparation goes into the piece first.

The time factor.  Sometimes I have a vision for a new piece and then choose the music and on other occasions I hear a dynamic piece of music and think, “I need to choreograph to that.”  In this case, I had a plan for how I wanted the piece to start and I thought that some complicated switching of partners would be fun, would suit the dancers that we were working with and would satisfy another element that was looming over our heads - parenting which translates into - Limited Time.    My husband Johnny and I have two active boys and the other couple that we were performing with had 6 year old twin girls and had just had a baby boy in June, so the precious commodity of time had become a factor as well. 

With fun and limited time driving our decision making process, we choreographed accordingly. Sometimes poetry and love inspire choreography sometimes necessity and time.  The changing of partners within Salsa is called Rueda, or in our situation Mambo Doble (because we had two couples), which can sometimes be easier to memorize because you the patterns have charming names and you can call it out beforehand to the other dancers to let them know what is coming up.  The other couple, Juan and Amy Soler, were accomplished Salsa dancers so intricate Salsa patterns that could be called out, suited their style.

Music Selection.  Choosing the music occurred in the car on the way back from NYC on Friday January 3rd.  Johnny was driving and I was listening to music.  Luckily, the song “Ya Boy” was one of the first songs that I listened to and loved the opening right away. Generally, I am drawn to music that has “hits” or “breaks” that give shape to the music and encourage dramatic choreography. “Ya Boys” opening included some great “hits.”  So there, the music was chosen. 

 Next I listen to the song and start to plan it out asking myself questions like - “How long should the opening be?”  “When would changing partners work well?  “Is there a section that would support lifts and drops? “ Is the music too long and do we need to edit it?”  As it turns out, “Ya Boy” is too long and needed to be edited.

I regard a song as a story, the individual sections as chapters, a section of 8 -8’s as a paragraph, one 8 of music as a sentence and individual notes as words.  With this in mind, choreographing is somewhat like writing a term paper, planning the sections in advance and making sure that some of your previous ideas are included in the piece.

Another method that my husband, Johnny Martinez, and I employ is dividing the piece up.  I was slated to put together the opening 12 -8’s and he was going to choreograph the first partnering section and our plan was to ask Juan to put the shine section together.  Shines are Salsa steps that you do by yourself without touching your partner, hence you are “shining.”

We are prepared with an opening for the first rehearsal and Johnny has choreographed 16 - 8’s of partnership.  Sometimes, I have an idea for a move that needs fleshing out when we try it.  At the end of the opening (which is dramatic) we needed a way to transition into partnership.  Between my idea and Juan’s suggestion, we came up with a fun step.  The first rehearsal ended with a solid beginning and about halfway through the piece.

The second rehearsal, (Jan. 12th) Juan gave us our shines and they were very fast and brand new steps for Johnny and I as well as Amy.  I was dancing in jazz shoes and was trying to imagine doing these fast shines in heels.  Hmmn??  It was decided that we would slow down the music a bit for our debut.  An added difficulty factor was that I needed to change positions during the shine section.  So - in addition to executing new, fast shines in heels, I had to slightly alter them to change positions.  I vow to practice a bit on my own before the next rehearsal.

After the shines, Johnny and I put together a section of partnership including changing partners.  I would say that I dance at least a third of the time with Juan which is fun and adds interest for the audience from both a visual and personality perspective. I have known Juan for about 7 years and we have always enjoyed dancing together.  This is the first time that Johnny and Amy have danced together, so it is fun all around.

To memorize or follow!!  Honestly, I used to really memorize the entire routine and be neurotic regarding the order of steps, but after dancing with my husband/dance partner for over 15 years, I don’t feel the need.  I believe that our routine actually looks and feels better if it is truly lead and follow. My body movement is more committed and full out when I follow as opposed to anticipating a step. Because it is just the four of us, Johnny and Juan are constantly communicating regarding the next step in the Rueda section, so I relax and follow. However,  It certainly does help to know when a lift, drop or multiple spin comes up as that could look hectic if I am caught too off guard.  For the most part, I am able to mix up anxiously being aware of the shine section with relaxing and settling into the partner dance sections.

For the ending, I  decided to go backwards and finish where we started. We had to cut out about three minutes of the song but found a good point to take us to the end which sounds like the beginning, so our choreographic decision works to end it similarly to our beginning.  There is a part in the beginning where we lift the men’s chins up and for the ending, we plant a kiss on our husbands.  It’s fun. 

We do short rehearsals on Thursday the 16th and Saturday the 18th to polish and build stamina.  When a piece has a lot of turns, you have to tune yourself up for that each time and we also need to work out the transitions and we are always working out the shine section.  By Thursday afternoon, we are running the piece quite smoothly.

So this piece had no angst, no suffering, no storyline - just pure fun and complicated patterns and a little spicy ending.  We have decided to name it “Salsa Complicado.”
We manage to pull it off swimmingly on Salsa Sunday and people enjoy the playfulness of the piece. 

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

No comments:

Post a Comment