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April & Juan Workshop Short-Take

Another great workshop at The Beat in Berkeley just wrapped up this Sunday, November 18!  For those of you not familiar with these workshops, they are organized by our very own Gabriel Romero (of Mambo Romero dance company).  They are always taught by guest "on 2" mambo instructors and run in an intensive three-day format (Friday evening, plus Saturday and Sunday for four hours each day.) Take one to get your feet wet or take them all for complete immersion!

This month we scored big again!  We had the pleasure of having two great teachers from the New York: April Genovese and Juan Matos.  April performs with Descarga Latina and Juan with Frankie Martinez's Abakua Dancers.  If you've never seen these two dance before, you must!  Juan's distinctive Michael Jackson style and April's beautiful sexy styling are just amazing to behold.

Since I had practice with my dance troupe on Sunday, I was only able to attend a full Saturday workshop.  Both 2-hour sessions started off with open floorwork (shines) followed by partner combinations.  When I was told to dress to sweat, that wasn't exactly misleading.  During these workshops, be prepared to lose plenty of fluids!  I thought it was even more intense than my practice session!  Instruction moves along at a fast and steady pace.  The more advanced 2:30 p.m. workshop was fun and challenging, and the followers rotated in the circle very quickly.  Excellent idea: don't get used to one person for a long period of time.  I found that it helped me to become less complacent and was always on my toes, since I knew I had to adapt and adjust slightly to the next follower in line.  Both April and Juan were in the rotation, too, which helped a lot.

Saturday was very well-attended and the skill level of the students was particularly high!  Not surprising if you saw the shines we performed and the complex partner work we executed. If you get through them well, I applaud you.  If you can do them AND add the styling--the moonwalk on the open break for the guys and cool body rolls for the women, for example--I might just be in awe of you!  Itís been three days already and Iím still trying to absorb all that new information.  Ahem, did I mention the body rolls for the women (hint, hint)? 

Incidentally, I had the chance to dance one song with April at Cafe Cocomo on Saturday night and she really does practice what she teaches.  As many New York dancers can be, she could be flirtilly playful with her partner (me!) and the music.  Not just with the rolls--everything that can look great styled, she can do!  In fact, I was more of a spectator that night, since I really just wanted to see how beautifully she danced, with all levels of partners.  A female friend and I were standing on the balcony and just observing; she pointed out all the little details of styling she did with her hands.  Then Ismael Otero and his troupe came in and I pretty much was in observation mode the rest of the time!

I also spoke with two women who attended Sunday's women's styling workshop.  They were just raving about April and proceeded to show me some of what they learned. 

Lastly, be well-prepared so as not to be overwhelmed:  preparedness is key!  Bring plenty of water and your favorite food substances to help you last throughout a long day.  What I also find helpful is to bring a video camera and politely ask somebody to record yourself performing the shines and partnerwork before "instant amnesia" sets in the next day.  You also pay a lot for these workshops, so bring your video camera if you have one and don't hesitate to ask lots of questions!

My only suggestion for this workshop:  we want April and Juan back again!  And soon!!


For more info on April, visit her website.

Questions, comments, feedback?  Email author.

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