Dancers sway to the beat of a Latin tune as Praveen Kumar moves around the room correcting postures and footwork. “Listen to the music; let the rhythm take your feet,” says Praveen, encouraging a new member.
A dance form that originated in the Caribbean, Salsa seems to be the ‘in’ thing, judging by the crowd at the dance studio at Talwalkers, Kurvankonam. And it is not just popular with the young and happening, those in their golden fifties are hitting the dance floor too.
Says Praveen: “Till, say about a decade ago, if you were to ask anyone about “Salsa”, they would wonder if you were talking about the Spanish tomato-based chutney. Although the dance form is popular in metro cities, Salsa is only gradually making its presence felt in cities such as Thiruvananthapuram. ”
A techie, Praveen says it was serendipity that led him to a Salsa workshop while he was working in Chennai. The rest, to borrow a cliché, is history. A couple of Salsa workshops, and courses later, he quit his job and started focussing on the Latin dance form.
Praveen, who hails from Coimbatore, holds Salsa classes in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and in his hometown. While the classes in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are held once a week, it is twice a week in Coimbatore.
So, why Thiruvananthapuram? “I had worked briefly in Thiruvananthapuram and feel the people of the city would take to the dance form.” Praveen tested the waters by holding a few day-long workshops near Technopark. Although the first workshop saw only two attending the event, he now has 25 regular students in his class.
While some troop in to his class out of curiosity, many have either seen the dance on television or have attended workshops elsewhere.
Dentist Shantala Keni recalls being fascinated by the dance right from her teen years. She would imitate the moves of the dancers on screen. “Those days Salsa wasn’t popular and it wasn’t the age of YouTube videos.” When a Facebook alert popped up on screen one day announcing a Salsa workshop in the city, she decided to attend it.
“While I was aware of Salsa, and its different forms, I did not know the techniques,” says Dr. Shantala, who is currently a level two Salsa dancer. This doctor who loves to dance, says she finds the dance form a great stress buster.
Techie Leenu Peter decided to check out the Salsa workshop as it was held close to her office. Although she had attended a few Salsa workshops elsewhere, none held her attention.
“I, however, like the class here; it’s fun. Although I was apprehensive about being able to follow Praveen’s lead in class, the steps were surprisingly easy. We occasionally have themed evenings where one has to wear an outfit of a particular colour. We have had two Salsa Socials which is open to all. At the Social, students demonstrate what they have learnt so far and the public can join in the fun.”
According to business consultant Deen Edgar, Salsa is an effective workout, mood lifter and social activity. “People from all walks of life attend the class. It is a great place to network and the dance form is an excellent stress buster.”
Salsa, says Praveen, comes under a category called ‘social dances’, that is, dances that take place with a partner. “However, unlike traditional Salsa, where one holds the partner close, here we maintain an arm’s length distance while dancing as we don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable,” he says.
Partners change at every song to break the monotony of dancing with the same person. Level two students like Shantala help tutor the newcomers. “It helps them polish their skills,” says the 28-year-old Praveen.
Although he hopes to build a community that is into charitable work further down the line, right now Praveen is focussed on promoting Salsa. “I want more and more people to learn and enjoy the dance form.” And with that we leave the instructor to his class.
~Content & Image Courtesy: “The Hindu”