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What is salsa?
Salsa is a latin social dance that came out of several latin traditions in the 50s. It is usually performed in couples, but can also be done alone, or in groups. It has three basic step patterns that are ongoing; moves are led while maintaining the rhythm of those step patterns. It has many turns and limitless combinations. Many salsa dancers include dips and other flair in their repertoire. It is extremely easy to learn salsa, and people can go out and just dance after only one class. It is also easy to progress to an intermediate level. It is more difficult to attain a truly high level of precision and style, but most people dance it socially rather than competitively anyway, so there's not as much pressure as with, say, Ballroom to become a performance or competition-quality dancer. Unless of course you want to. Should you wish to compete, there are numerous local, national, and international salsa competitions. Some are open to all styles, some focus more certain styles.
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What do I need to learn?
Just be eager to learn, we'll take care of the rest. No innate ability is necessary. True lack of rhythm or coordination is rare; almost anyone can be taught. Just be willing to put in whatever time it takes for you to learn, have patience to get through some of the more tedious parts (like practicing hearing the rhythm if that's a particular challenge for you), and be ready to practice outside of class. It's best if you can supplement what you learn with us with regular trips to the salsa club, and practice at home. But we know you will love salsa so much once you try it, that this will hardly be a chore.
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How fast will I learn?
This really depends on the individual. Some people progress super fast, others take much more time. The beauty of private lessons is that we work at your pace. However, there are some averages that might help you get an idea of what you can expect. After one class most people will be able to grab a partner and do the basic steps on the floor, but usually no turns and combinations. After two or three classes, you will have enough to get out and dance with some basic turns. After about five lessons most people will start to really get a feel for salsa, it will seem less awkward and they will be dancing without thinking quite so much. It normally takes a good couple months to achieve a solid intermediate level. And you can work the rest of your life on being advanced. There is always room to grow, and George and Elisabeth are still growing as dancers all the time. We can help you as much or as little as you like with your own growth as salsa dancers.
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What music should I buy to practice at home?
Look for salsa compilations. If you can listen before you buy, look for songs that have clear beats rather than songs that focus more on vocals (like a lot of Marc Anthony songs). Stay away from people like Tito Puentes (at least initially) as the rhythms are generally very fast and difficult to keep up with. Most singers/bands work pretty well. We have had good luck using Victor Manuelle in class since his rhythms aren't too slow or fast, he has a lot of catchy melody, and his rhythms are clear. Some other good ones: Joe Arroyo, N'Klabe, Hansel y Raul, DLG, Ruben Blades, Jose "El Canario" Alberto, Sonora Carruseles... the list goes on...
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Do I need to buy a certain kind of shoes?
You will want shoes that allow you to bend your feet without flopping off (ladies that means no mules/slides whatsoever), and gives you some traction but allows you to slip on the floor through spins and turns. Old tennis shoes for instance work really well, though they don't look great when you go to the clubs. You can also buy dance sneakers which work really well. Other people prefer to use formal dance shoes for class since this is what they'll likely wear when they go out. The only thing is if you are learning at our location we prefer you do not wear heels as it will damage our hard wood floors.
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What is Casino/Miami Style? And what are the differences between it and other styles?
There are three main categories of salsa: Mambo/New York, L.A., and Casino/Cuban. NY & LA styles tend to dance more "in the slot" which is straight back and forth whereas Casino dancers are constantly rotating around one another. Mambo/New York has a strong emphasis on showing flair with fancy footwork, while LA style tends towards flashy arm styling and dips and tricks. Both incorporate lots of high-speed spinning. Casino style has lots of knots, pretzels, entrapments, and escapes. Casino style is more "street" and less formal, but has it's own style that is just as unique and just as precise as the other styles. Miami style is a slightly more formal version of Casino than the traditional Cuban version. Miami is all about image, so even though we're less formal, we do a lot to impress too. Miami style is also unique in the way it uses open taps to start a lot of moves.
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What is Rueda?
Rueda (or Rueda de Casino), which is spanish word for 'wheel', is the group version of Casino-style salsa. It has two or more couples forming a circle and dancing Casino moves simultaneously. One person calls moves using standardized names and sometimes hand signals (it is a club dance after all, and it gets mighty loud in those clubs!) Most moves are called for the men to lead, but some calls are called directly to the women for them to do their own thing. As it is called, couples switch partners, sometimes one right after another and at breakneck speed. In more advanced ruedas, directions are changed, sometimes there will be a switch in lead (i.e. girls leading the boys), and moves become longer and more complex. Throughout, couples remain synchronized. Sometimes the formations of the group as a whole will be interesting... Almost like a latin (and perhaps slightly more hip) synchronized swimming.
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What's the history behind Casino/Rueda?
There is some debate as to how the dance was created, though legend has it that it came from a club in Cuba in the 50s called 'El Casino Deportivo'. Many great dancers gathered there for friendly competitions. They would practice all week to invent new moves and go to the club to show them off. Sooner or later they began to dance the moves together. In order to keep a distinction between one move and another, they began naming them and Rueda de Casino was born.

As a result of the Castro regime, many Cubans immigrated to the US, a large portion of which came to the Miami area. With them they brought their culture including various foods, music and dancing. Rueda de Casino began to slowly make its way into the Miami salsa community and in the late 1980s and early 1990s it experienced an enormous explosion of popularity. There it has been so embraced, that one is hard-pressed to find a nightclub in which Casino or Rueda is not danced.

Salsa Casino has evolved in Miami to such an extent that a new and distinctly different style has emerged. Miami style. Miami Salsa Dance Studios is the first to bring this style to Colorado! George, the founder of this rueda school, lived in Miami for 20 years and studied Rueda de Casino, Miami style. In May 1998, he came to Colorado and discovered a desire here to learn this dance. He began by teaching a few friends and later taught large classes.
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Do I have to learn Rueda to learn Miami Style?
Not really. We don't normally deal with Rueda much in one-on-one private lessons. If you take private lessons, learning Rueda is your choice. We will certainly be teaching Casino style, however, as that is what we're best at. When we teach group classes, we do teach rueda, especially above the very beginning level, just because, aside from being super fun, it is an incredibly useful teaching tool. It allows to have students switching partners frequently without the usual reluctance that most instructors get. The circle itself offers a means of orienting the group so that each students learns how to complete the same moves covering the same space, and ending up facing the same way. Also, it helps with timing. When we are all doing it together, the simultaneous nature of rueda helps students learn to get the timing of certain moves and combinations better. And really you are learning two dances for the price of one. A couples and a group dance. And it's up to you which you use when you leave our classes.
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Is rueda for advanced dancers only?
Absolutely not. One needs to know only the very basic steps of salsa before taking their first rueda class. We have seen so many students come in to rueda with this amount of salsa and have progressed wonderfully. It's a wonderful tool for learning salsa.
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Will I be able to do what I learn with you at the clubs?
Of course! You can do Ruedas in the clubs. However, you don't have to dance in a circle to use what we teach you. You are learning how to dance with a partner and a group when we teach you Rueda, so all you need to dance what we teach you is someone who can follow/lead you. Be warned that there are some complex moves that should only be done with other Casino dancers who have experience doing those moves. No matter how accomplished your partner, they will not be able to do those moves if they haven't been shown how they are done. The same is true of NY & LA styles too. Some moves have to be shown before they can be done, even by exceptional leaders/followers.
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What style do people dance in Denver?
The style in Denver is not pure. It leans most toward LA style, but it is more of a watered-down/social version. Also, as a result of the variety of teachers and styles we have here, a sort of hybrid style has been developing. Many people who teach other styles have become enamored with certain Casino moves and have incorporated them into their repertoire and class syllabi. As such it is difficult to distinguish anyone as purely LA/NY/Miami anymore.
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How do I find other Casino/Rueda dancers?
What you learn with us, you can dance with most people here. However, there are some adaptations that can be made to accommodate dancers who don't have experience with certain aspects of Casino style. Those accommodations can be covered during class per students' requests. If you are looking specifically for someone whose style is predominantly Casino, look for others who are in a rueda, or who tend to do a lot of knots. Typically, Casino style has arms above shoulder level (in knots and such) more than the other styles. Or you can always ask us to connect you with people.
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How do I join/start a rueda?
There are never any invitations necessary. If you feel you know enough to join a rueda, do so! And don't be too intimidated by advanced circles. Often the most basic moves (switching partners, etc.) are the most fun to do. Most won't mind accommodating you. But if they call moves that you don't know, it's best just keep doing Guapeando (the rueda basic also known as the reverse basic or Cuban basic) until they are done. Don't flail around complaining that you don't know the move, or try to mimic what they are doing (unless you are very adept at doing this.) Normally that will cause more frustration and problems than just smiling and waiting until the next move that you do know. However, just because most Rueda callers can accommodate a wide variety of skill levels, this does not mean that just anyone can or should join a circle. You and your partner MUST know how to switch partners and do a few basic moves in the orientation of a circle before you can join. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER bring someone (no matter how skilled they are at other forms of salsa) into a circle who has never learned any Rueda. The other dancers in the circle will be gritting their teeth through the rest of the song! And guys especially -- just because many women are great followers it doesn't mean they can follow anything! They won't know which direction to turn. Dancing with you is very different from dancing in a circle.

If you don't see a rueda going, don't be afraid to start your own. As long as at least one of you knows how to call (male or female), you are golden. You just need a minimum of four people to make a rueda. Oh and although we sometimes make it through with odd numbers of leaders and followers in class, it's best to have a matched up set when you are dancing at the club.
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How do I call a rueda?
Just start calling! If the caller is stumped, take over, call what you want to do. Some callers may prefer the torch to be handed over, in which case, you can indicate to them somehow that you would like to call, but most people don't mind it if you just start calling. Timing of calls is easy, but important to get right. Moves that start with a tap are usually called on 1 and the rest are usually called on 5. Practice makes perfect, so don't be afraid to try. But if it's just not flowing, don't be afraid to hand the torch to someone else and name them to call for a while.
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How should I act when there is a rueda going on nearby?
If you want to join, join! Otherwise....

Doubtful that many non-rueda dancers will ever read this, but ah well. If you are reading this, please give the Rueda dancers a little space when they're out there, huh? We know we take up some room, but we don't normally go for more than 3 songs; soon it will be over, and the floors will be free of us for another little while. Please do not dance through the circle, or in the middle of our circle, and please don't crowd up against us unless there just isn't any other room. (In which case it's better, and more polite to wait a song or two when the floor isn't as full, instead of ruining a Rueda that's already in progress.) We dance outside of the circle too. We know how to dance next to Ruedas without causing them problems. You can learn too.
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I don't see my question answered here!
Well, not to get nit-picky, but that's a statement, not a question. If you want to ask us your question, feel free to contact us. We're always happy to answer any questions we can on the Miami Salsa company, Classes, Miami-style salsa, Casino, and Rueda. Send your questions our way!
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