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by Tiffany Sanchez, special correspondent

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We also have the Hot Salsa Friday w/Yemaya Quick-Take (incl. photos)!


Location: Dance Spectrum, 1707d South Bascom Ave., Campbell, CA 95008

Date:  April 6, 2002

Ricardo and Michelle hooked us up again, bringing dance group Yemaya for workshops on Saturday April 6. These two do not ever cease to provide entertainment options for us, and going to their Hot Salsa Friday socials is the only thing that gets my lazy self to drive down to the South Bay. It was a killer weekend with Yemaya performing two long routines on Friday night at the social, and then we could really get to know them all day Saturday at their four-hour long workshop.

Yemaya is an all-female dance group from LA. During the week before they came to SF, I was checking out their website, I was like whoa, these women are gonna teach us how to be sexy! I was not mistaken. They are just as stunning in real life, and the cool part about them is that even though they look like delicate demure models in their pictures, in person they are strong, bad-ass, high-energy dancers. These beautiful women were hip hoppiní, Afro-Cuban, salsa rockiní funksters who knew how to put on a fun show and teach a great class.

The workshop was split into basically four parts, each one hour in length: Ladiesí styling, Guaguanco, a Shines routine, and Partnering.

The first class was just for us divas, and Dedelle (or Dede), the director of the group, led us in various exercises to instill in us some serious attitude. A good kind of attitude, like a sexy confidence we can bring to the dance floor, as well as an underlying sense of our power as women. I remember vividly her teaching us a look, which she said, tells the man, "I donít know if you can handle dancing with me." She also taught us an alternate glance which a little bit more coyly expressed, "Come on papi and show me what youíve got." Which reminds me, that she called us mamis through the whole class to remind us of the dance personality we are working toward.

Dede is an amazing teacher, and we did more than just learn glances and attitude. These concepts were the foundation for the moves that were taught during the class, and we were encouraged to use those concepts in our movement repertoire, starting with just our basic footwork. Each of the other four dancers taught us part of the class. Veronica started us off with a high-energy merengue warm-up, which was actually very nice to start us going, for both the cardio workout and getting our hips moving. Carolina taught part of the dance routine later in the class, and she threw in some of her signature sexy hair tossing moves, which I recognized from the video of her performance at the 2001 salsa competition. The moves arenít as hard as they look! All in all, these expert teachers packed a lot of style information into the hour and surprised me by being as hilarious as they are beautiful.

Also, these ladies are sweet and approachable. Dede took time out to answer my question to her about putting styling in as a follower, and she clarified for me that we as followers donít want to stop moving in the middle of a move, because it would interrupt the lead. She explained when we can stop and pose without causing the lead to be affected. She was so clear that I finally understood something Iíve been confused about for a while. They really do know their stuff!

The second class, Guaguanco, was absolutely my favoritest class ever, because I have never known about or taken a class that taught this information. It was Rumba for beginners, so I finally realized what is going on as the basis for this amazing Cuban dance Iíve seen Cubans do, and never thought I would ever ever be able to do. As soon as I realized that people could teach it from step one, I was given a new confidence that it is possible for me to learn.

Dede expertly explained the purpose of the class right away. She explained that since many of the dances we do, such as salsa or hip hop, are derived from African dances, it can only be beneficial to become familiar with them. For example, to develop oneís salsa, Dedeís advice is to find someone from Cuba and learn about Guaguanco, which is exactly what she and her dance team had done. The dance is a play between male and female, rooster and hen, in which each gender has its part and unique style. The Yemaya members showed us how the woman would use her skirt and how the man would pursue her during the course of the dance, and they demonstrated the techniques and basic movements. Just from this one-hour class, I felt I really grew as a dancer and am very inspired to take Cuban dance classes. I was beginning to feel the burn in my thighs (a good sign that I was getting it!) and starting to feel it click inside, too. The class really brought home the point that learning more about Afro-Cuban dance is an excellent route to bringing more fluidity, passion, and grace to salsa dancers.

The final classes were open footwork (shines) and partnering, with one hour of each. Parts of the shines routine were very original and I loved it when they used a little hip hop influence in their footwork. For example, the routine had a couple of kicks in it, which always adds a lot of flavor to shine patterns. During the shines class, Dede and Veronica taught the men a set of shines, while Roberta and Tersa taught us women. The women of Yemaya are very skilled at demonstrating masculine style, and the men had an easy time seeing how to make strong, sharp movements with lots of stomps. The members of Yemaya are also great leaders, which was clear in their dance performances the night before the workshop, on Friday April 5. Therefore, there was no problem in Dede teaching a partnering class and I enjoyed the choreography she chose. That is really the strength of this group: that they have very strong, complex, interesting choreography while teaching and performing, and that they have excellent technique to back it up. Yes, the fact that they are beautiful enough to be runway models doesnít hurt, but these six women have way more than just looks. They are oozing with talent, and I would recommend their classes to anyone!

Questions? Comments? Email the author.

We also have the Hot Salsa Friday w/Yemaya Quick-Take (incl. photos)!


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