Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Rueda Academy - The Key Concepts

At the Academy, we believe rueda:

  • has a framework based on the Cuban son
  • has a basic timing which is atiempo
  • has the performance musculature of rumba
  • is home to cultural accents, like those derived from dances dedicated to the Orishas
  • is a synchronous coordinated ensemble activity
  • has tremendous freedom for creative self-expression
  • should involve on-lookers equally

We achieve this by addressing ideas and dance skills at three scales:

1. The individual scale – “your voice in the story”
We ensure that you bring your best rhythms to the party
We free you to express your joy compellingly
We help you exude confidence
We help you become a cultural insider

2. The rueda couple scale – “expressions in conversation”
You’ll appreciate the rueda couple as the ‘wheel within the wheel’ providing the internal dynamic of the larger wheel
We help you feel and understand the circular energy of rueda at the couple level
You’ll learn how to leave room in your dancing to let your partner ‘speak’
We help you listen to what your partner has to say
You’ll understand the purpose of a move and the meaning of a call

3. The Rueda de Casino scale – “an epic tale”
We’ll play with the building-blocks of rueda de casino
We’ll delve the properties of a mass-coordinated activity
What is good quality?
We build resilience: ‘When things do go wrong, how do we cope with it? How can we enjoy it?’
You’ll learn how to keep the rueda open to invite the participation of on-lookers

Eşref Ulaş
Loo Yeo

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Solares - The Key Concepts


Imagine you could dance any dance that Spanish America could throw at you.
Imagine you could feel the meaning of each song, each movement, as though born to it.
Imagine you had the confidence and ability to absorb new dances in a heartbeat.

What if this could be true?

The Principles of Solares

Solares is built on an innovative approach to multi-genre instruction – it emphasises the similarities of Latin dance, placing all movement and rhythm skills common to all genres at its core. It’s closer to how natives learn.

Wrapped around this universal core are the configuration skills – abilities which allow you to recognise a genre, tailor your movement and express the rhythms necessary to characterise that genre.

Universality and adaptability combine to produce genre agility: the ability to move seamlessly, instantly, between genres/dance types just as natives do.

Although Solares is centred on the development of skills, dance moves will be used:

  • as a means of providing genre context;
  • to build move and movement vocabularies;
  • in cultural case-examples; and
  • as elemental building-blocks in combination-building.

The Concepts

Yvonne Daniel, a dance ethnographer from the United States, studied, trained and performed as a troupe member of Havana-based Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba. In her book ‘Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba’ (1995) is the observation:
“African cabildos (secret societies) in Cuba contributed to the crystallisation of certain African dance/music concepts in the Americas: that music and dance are not primarily entertainment forms; that music and dance are interdependent; that their structure utilises both set and improvisational elements; that complexity and depth are built by the layering and interfacing of small, simple, diverse units; that the human body is paramount.”
Thus the key concepts are:

  • music and dance are not primarily entertainment forms
  • music and dance are interdependent
  • their structure utilises both set and improvisational elements
  • complexity and depth are built by the layering and interfacing of small, simple, diverse units
  • the human body is paramount

Is Solares for you?

Take a moment to reflect on some key-concept questions:

The nature of interdependency between music and dance – ‘dancemusic’
How have the Europeans made us listen?
Why have the Africans driven us to dance?
Has modernity quietened our primal voices?
“How African is your dancing?” “How European is your dancemusic?” “When did you decide?”

The human body is paramount
How you move is who you are: your body and how you choose to use it is your CV.
How you move is what you believe in, so “what do you believe in?”
Your quality of movement is your personal history
“What are you saying?” “What would you like to say?” “How could you say it?”

Afro-Caribbean music-dance structures utilise both set and improvisational elements
Do natives learn your basics?
Do you let your partner dance? (macro-structure: marcas, combinations and calls)
Have you danced with the saints? (micro-structural elements, motifs and gestures)

Complexity and depth are built by the layering and interfacing of small, simple, diverse units
How much dancemusic can a single body hold?
How nimble are your feelings? (the spirit of dance lives in the in-between)
Would you jangle the keys to Heaven? (hyper-learning the elements and cues of improvisation)
Does your dance sing?

African-derived ‘dancemusics’ in the Americas are not primarily entertainment forms
Where you dance is who you are (social spaces of dancemusic)
Is it in your blood? (Ethnomusicology and embedded meaning)
Do the drums nudge you playfully? (giving as good as you get in live situations)

If you’d like to understand the questions better then Solares could be for you, because the answers to them can already be found inside you.

To express interest, you can contact Loo via:
Loo Yeo

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hierarchy of Advancement Workshop Twenty-Five

Warm-up: bi-rhythmic practice
Playing rumba clave (arms), and alternating between stepping on pulse and salsa dance rhythm (legs).

Warm-up: rumba guaguancó knee action

Concept: rebound of the knee
If the stepping of the foot is atiempo, then the knee action is contratiempo where: the outward articulation of the knee is active, and the inward articulation is rebound-passive.

Practice: rumba guaguancó knee action with rebound
To rumba clave only track. On the spot, then walking all directions.

Concept: "It has to sound great!"
Within the historical context of rumba with its simple instrumentation, even the sounds of the dancer's foot rhythm has got to groove.

Practice: Pulse-Clave transitions
To rumba clave only track, 143bpm. Alternating between dancing pulse for two phrases, and clave "pa-pa, pa-pa-pa'um" in 2-3 orientation.

Learning materials
Rumba clave timelines by Jeremy Wise and Loo Yeo
Flor Pálida by Marc Anthony

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hierarchy of Advancement Workshop Twenty-Four

Warm up, to rumba clave only tracks
Walks in all directions: forwards, backwards, to side, linear and rotated; changing between stepping on pulse and salsa dance rhythm.

Analysis: distribution of movement energy
In front of mirror, stepping between pulse and salsa dance rhythm, upper body engine. There is rhythmic dance energy apparent above the waist than below. It looks unbalanced.

Concept: increasing lower body dance energy
Engaging the knees rhythmically introduces the involvement of the adductors and abductors, increasing lower body dance energy.

Concept: body-part substitution in rhythm interpretation

I - Body-part substitution in salsa dance rhythm

Practice: salsa dance rhythm foot to knee substitution, on the spot
To rumba clave only tracks. Salsa dance rhythm: instead of foot-foot-foot, to foot-knee(out)-foot, static practice. Centre-of-gravity remains a constant distance from the floor, which causes the ankles to raise off the floor as the knees move outward.

Learning points:

  • listen for the foot-knee-foot action. The auditory feedback should be "thump" (foot strikes floor), "rustle" (clothing brushes knee), "thump" (foot strikes floor)
  • lower centre of gravity to produce more power
  • the knee movement is undamped, being allowed to swing freely yet rhythmically.

Practice: salsa dance rhythm foot to knee substitution, walking
To rumba clave only tracks. Salsa dance rhythm: instead of foot-foot-foot, to foot-knee(out)-foot, walking practice (all directions). This is the rumba guaguancó knee action.

Learning point: the knee action is deliberately exaggerated at low tempi so that it will be observable at the high tempi of guaguancó.

Practice: rumba guaguancó knee action, strengthening exercise
Walks to rumba clave only tracks. Intersperse with four steps on same foot, taking successively deeper steps. This develops physical flexibility and strength, and timing compensation for step size.

II - Body-part substitution in rumba clave rhythm

Practice: stepping to 3-2 rumba clave
To rumba clave only tracks, sidewards walks. Six steps to the compound rumba-son clave vocalisation (3-2 orientation) "pa, pa, pa-um / pa, pa" as *side, close, back-side / side, close*

Practice: stepping to 2-3 rumba clave
To rumba clave only tracks, sidewards walks. Six steps to the compound rumba-son clave vocalisation (2-3 orientation) "pa, pa / pa, pa, pa-um" as *side, close / side, close, back-side*

Learning materials
Rumba clave timelines by Jeremy Wise and Loo Yeo
Flor Pálida by Marc Anthony

Sunday, June 16, 2013

15th June 2013 Prince Royce @The Coronet Theatre, Elephant & Castle, London

"Royce? In London?!?" was my first thought.

The freshly-minted event cropped up innocuously on Facebook and I couldn't believe my eyes. My mouse pointer made like Usain Bolt, sprinting to the link before it dropped off my news feed. If this were true, it would be the first time, at least in my memory, that an international bachata artist had played on these shores. Questions careened about crazily in my mind - What would the audience demographic be? How might the live performance bachata differ to recorded material? Would the consumption of bachata differ to salsa? If so, why? Could I hack a whole evening of the Dominican sweetmeat (ahem)? Would experiencing the artist's live performance practice inform my understanding of his music? Would it help in the deployment of bachata in my DJ sets?

A ticket was the portal to answers.

On a blustery, changeable summer's morning, I was transported bleary-eyed after two nights of hard DJing via a fleet steel carriage to the great capital in the company of four fellow Roycers of unique intensity. A smacking Malaysian lunch; a trot up the Mall to Buckingham Palace into the teeth of a deluge which would have had Noah reaching for his nails and saw; an exhausted refuge in a pub cellar, failed to dampen spirits. We joined the tail of people at the Coronet Theatre at the appointed hour.

And we waited. And we waited. In the coldly stiffening evening breeze.

The minute-hand traced more than a full lap around the clock-face; its progress increasingly confirmed that the promoters, Ritmolatinobaby, had bitten off more than they could've organisationally chewed - there was no extra capacity for management to dispel uncertainty and misinformation. I crossed my fingers and gazed at the dishevelled blue cube of a building that was the Coronet Theatre, lodged as it was against the shoulder of London's unofficial hub of Latin American life - Elephant and Castle's shopping centre.

When we were finally loosed within, I was frisked after the metal detectors (a stark reminder of club life in the big city) and ushered past the box office where my name was crossed off a list. Inside the Coronet was much more promising. Its previous life as a place where actors trod the boards is still evident: the entry ramps brought us in at Circle level with a bar and facilities at the rear, Front-of House (FoH), DJ and lighting booths to the front. Steps on either side of the booths led down to the former Stalls area, now a well-proportioned dance space with obligatory security pit in front of the stage. Above was the Balcony area where the seating had been retained.

The sound quality was the first thing which struck me - it was good. Probably was a result of its former purpose, the acoustic coverage was even across both levels and without boom. A lack of sibilance from the flyers indicated the quality of the set-up, good enough for me to distinguish easily when lossless or data-compressed music was being played. The settings on the digital mixing desk reassured me that the band had been sound-checked, possibly the cause of our delayed entry.

Once the doors opened, the influx of people was steady and controlled. Taking a tour around both floors I estimated an attendance of five hundred souls; average age in the early twenties; more than a third Latin; 60% women; and socio-demographically class A, B and C1 due to the comparatively high ticket price. Looking at their movements, more than 90% of them were there to see the concert; there being just a handful of couples doing their fancy twirly salsa and bachata thing.

Which segues nicely to the Disc Jockeys.

There was a whole battery of 'em - all teen-aged, male, and facing directions contrary to that of their caps. "Since when did DJing become a gang activity?" I mused. What started off as poppy post-internationalisation bachata moved on to reggaeton then k-pop/latin-pop. At first instinct I felt it strange, but then looking at the demographic of young, probably first-generation British-born Latinas, it was well-judged. What was not well-judged was the quality of their music samples. Perhaps they'll learn their craft in time. An MC came on extolling the greatness of Dominican bachata, exhorting us all to worship at the altar of dance (or something like that), steering away from mention of hot-dogs or any Bronx-based artefacts from Royce's birthland. Then the MC in concert with the DJs colluded to drum up a couple of false starts, just to wind up the crowd.

I was feeling bear-baited.

Royce the Entertainer
At last the lights dimmed for real, an hour later than billed. The band musicians assumed their posts at their instruments: rhythm guitar, bass guitar, trap-set, conga-bongo-tambora, keyboards, güira-shaker, midi, and backing vocals. Then BAM! Geoffrey Royce Rojas aka. Prince Royce exploded onto stage in a blaze of reddened yellow light.

Clad in jeans and a leather jacket over a white tee, the young man opened exuding charisma and confidence. His manner of stage presentation and engagement was very much in the United States' school, of which Christina Aguilera is a prime example: slick, sure-footed, and well managed. Always mindful of the camera, his stage coverage was heavily biased to stage left where the feed to his video wall backdrop was shot from. He filled the room with most of his 'Phase II' numbers including "incondicional", plus stalwarts from his eponymous debut release like "corazón sin cara".

Prince Royce's songs all have a mid-tenor's tessitura and a vocal range hardly exceeding two octaves: singing which is all about accessibility, about feeling comfortable, not about virtuosity. His musical intonation was good, apart from a rough patch just past halfway through, when the band's in-ear monitoring systems failed. True to his professionalism, Royce gave little indication of this to his audience. I was actually pleased to hear that, because it indicated his confidence to perform without auto-tune's safety net, although I should add that more scale-work would give him better pitch stability.

Unsurprisingly there were no deep moments of personal revelation - he's not far enough along the road for the stage truly to be his home. Instead he went down the well-trodden routes of searching for someone in the audience and singing to her when he found her two songs later; and holding a mini-dance competition with the (unexpected) winner selected via the audience voting-by-applause. These activities were strategically timed to give his singing voice respite in a concert which lasted a good eighty minutes.

Bachata practice
Unlike in salsa, it isn't overtly clear that internationalised bachata's structure is capable of accommodating musical and lyrical improvisation, even though its ancestral genres were. Therefore in comparison to salsa, Prince Royce's performance practices resulted in music which:
  • was closer to studio recorded forms;
  • lacked the flexibility for new interpretations of musical and lyrical themes; and
  • was compact, requiring more numbers to be played in the concert.
The primary mode of consumption was overwhelmingly passive - there was little participation in the interpretation-reinforcement of ritmo on the part of the audience nor was it encouraged from stage. In total, the experience highlighted an unseen division in this country; where the more avid consumers of bachata's music is by non-aficionado dancers, and the more avid practitioners of bachata's dance is by those somewhat indifferent to its music. This is far away from the Latin American cultural concept of 'ritmo' where dance and music are an inseparable whole.

And that Prince Royce's performance practice inherently lacked ritmo integration speaks volumes of his own cultural divestment, despite literature alluding to his Dominican authenticity.

I got my answers, although I must add the caveat that these general observations are not statistically accurate. I have a better feel for why Geoffrey Royce Rojas wrote his songs and what they mean to him personally - it has very much informed me as to how to deploy his music better in my DJ sets.

My friends and I found it strange that although his concert was billed as part of a "world tour promoting his 'Phase II' album", there was no merchandise on sale at the venue. It transpires that Prince Royce is now signed to Sony, leaving the label of his first two albums - Top Choice - on less that amicable terms, if reports are to be believed. It remains to be seen whether this will prove to be a wise move. Sergio George, owner of Top Choice, has an incomparable Midas touch in crafting hits. Sony, in my opinion, has had its fair share of slaying golden geese.

The experience of the concert was memorable and worthwhile; I would be happy to get the Royce treatment again. There are plenty more questions in search of answers.

Loo Yeo

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hierarchy of Advancement Workshop Sixteen

Having achieved the First Stage of Independence, we enter phase two of the rumba guaguancó development plan where the emphasis is on the quality of execution: increasing detail will be followed by cycles of repetition to achieve naturalisation, and then further to achieve hyper-learning. Hyper-learning is the basis of improvisation, a key skill spanning phases two and three.

The theme of this rumba guaguancó workshop is:
  1. to develop a solid understanding and feel for its basic structure;
  2. to be able to open spaces in the structure; and
  3. to learn how elements may be inserted in these spaces.

Section I - Basic structure of rumba guaguancó

Concept: Joint rhythm on the horizontal plane
The hip movement for women and the knee movement for men is actually executed to a new rhythm timeline, and it contributes to the composite time-code. In both instances the joints move to a "cha-cha-cha" rhythm with the first 'cha' co-incident with the foot-fall on the pulse (to a count of 1-and-2, 3-and-4). Women's accents are 'chá-cha-chá', whereas men's are the inverse 'cha-chá-cha'.

Practice: Male knee action for guaguancó
Solo, without music, then stepping pulse to rumba clave only track. Forward walks. The feet are placed on two parallel tracks, the gauge between the tracks is one important variable. The knee orientation for the 'cha-chá-cha' is 'straight-out-in' (relative to the centreline).

Practice: Dancing to rumba clave
Solo, to rumba clave only track. Performing in order of priority: stepping on pulse; clave vocalisation "pa, pa, pa-ún; pa, pa"; torso engine; chachachá hip/knee rhythm, clapping pulse (centre-left-centre-right-).

Practice: Dancing to rumba clave, full music context
Solo, to En El Malecón De La Habana tracks. As practice above but to timba music, same order of priority.

Discussion: Nature of the engine and gender movement differences
Women's chachacha hip action dissipates the lower stroke of the engine cycle, therefore the torso pulse can only be implied when it is deployed. Men's knee action does not interfere with the torso pulse. Hence women must be discerning as to the choice of application between the engine stroke or the chachacha hip action.

Practice: Female upper limb action in guaguancó
Solo. As per the above two practices, except the hand claps are substituted with holding two ends of a shawl or kerchief, or two folds of a skirt. Hands move centre-left-centre-right- on pulse beats.

Section II - Opening up rhythmic spaces in rumba guaguancó

Concept: 'Stopping' and 'starting' points
Ceasing the step rhythm i.e. stopping; and resuming the step rhythm i.e. starting, does two things: it
  1. creates rhythmic tension; and
  2. emphasises preceding and following movement through juxtaposition.
At this stage of development, the engine cycle is maintained even when the step rhythm stops.

There are several potential stop-start points relative to the clave vocalisation. Given that previous learning was with instructors of European bias, we will begin by using two points which European find easier to comprehend:

  • on the pulse beat after 'pa-ún' i.e. on European beat one; and
  • on the pulse beat before 'pa-ún' i.e. before African beat one.

Practice: Stressing the first pulse beat of the European rhythmic cycle
Solo, to En El Malecón De La Habana tracks. Stepping on pulse; clave vocalisation "pa, pa, pa-ún; pa, pa"; torso engine; chachachá hip/knee rhythm, clapping pulse (centre-left-centre-right-). Emphasis is placed by a stronger step on the pulse beat immediately after 'pa-ún', and a louder clap (centre-left-centre-right-).

Practice: Stressing the last pulse beat of the European rhythmic cycle
Solo, to En El Malecón De La Habana tracks. Stepping on pulse; clave vocalisation "pa, pa, pa-um; pa, pa"; torso engine; chachachá hip/knee rhythm, clapping pulse (centre-left-centre-right-). Emphasis is placed by a stronger step on the pulse beat immediately before 'pa-ún', and a louder clap (centre-left-centre-right-).

Concept: Four combinations are possible
With these two points on the European timeline, four shapes of rhythmic space can be opened. These combinations are, in order of increasing difficulty for 'Europeans':
  1. Stopping on the pulse beat after 'pa-ún', Resuming on the pulse beat after 'pa-ún'
  2. Stopping on the pulse beat before 'pa-ún', Resuming on  the pulse beat before 'pa-ún'
  3. Stopping on the pulse beat before 'pa-ún', Resuming on the pulse beat after 'pa-ún'
  4. Stopping on the pulse beat after 'pa-ún', Resuming on the pulse beat before 'pa-ún'

Practice: Stopping-Resuming to rumba clave, solo
Solo, to rumba clave only track. Stepping on pulse; clave vocalisation "pa, pa, pa-ún; pa, pa"; torso engine; chachachá hip/knee rhythm (optional). Stopping and resuming using Combination 1 above, one cycle pause, maintaining engine cycle. The pause should then be lengthened from one to two, three and four cycles.

Practice: Stopping-Resuming to rumba clave, partnered
Partnered, to rumba clave only track. As above. Partners are given the discretion to pause:
  • asynchronously
  • synchronously
  • synchronously, as with a verbal/non-verbal cue from the leader (each partner taking turns being leader).

Practice: Stopping-Resuming to rumba clave, partnered, full context
Partnered, to En El Malecón De La Habana tracks. As above.

Practice: Learning the remaining combinations
Repeat practices sequence of the rumba clave, solo / rumba clave, partnered / rumba clave, partnered full context (above) for start-resume combinations 2, 3 and 4.

Section III - Inserting elements in rumba guaguancó

Concept: Filling the rhythmic space
Combinations are improvised to fill the rhythmic space opened up in Section II. But as we've learned in Section I, improvisation arises from hyper-learning. The strategy is therefore to emphasise practice-to-mastery of two elements so that a simple combination can be executed.

Element: Shimmy
The basic shimmy action is generated identically in both sexes; from the core muscles around the spine centred between the points of the shoulder-blades. The action is genderised:
  • females - hands constrained by shielding the groin, 'shoulder-points' forward allowing the upper arm to partially shield the side of the breast. This results in a 'coquettish' upper-body action.
  • males - hands upper and either side of the groin, elbows out, decreased distance between the upper shoulder-blades. This results in a 'bravado' upper-body action.

Practice: Shimmy, solo
Solo, rumba clave only tracks. Fast and slow shimmy, over one and then two clave phrases.

Practice: Shimmy, solo, to music
Solo, Ay Díos, Ampárame tracks. Fast and slow shimmy, over one and then two clave phrases.

Practice: Shimmy, partnered, full context
Partnered, Ay Díos, Ampárame tracks. Full basic guaguancó then stop, pause (with engine), fast and/or slow shimmy (over one and then two clave phrases, no engine), pause (with engine), resume guaguancó basic.

Element: Slow turn
The simple version of a slow turn is achieved by:
  1. the placement of one foot behind (and to one side of) the other, resulting in a crossing of the legs; and
  2. the legs uncrossed though rotation of the pelvis, pivoting through the control points on the front of both feet.

Practice: Slow turn, solo
Solo, rumba clave only tracks. Slow turn over one and then two clave phrases.

Practice: Slow turn, solo, to music
Solo, Ay Díos, Ampárame tracks. Slow turn over one and then two clave phrases.

Practice: Slow turn, partnered, full context
Partnered, Ay Díos, Ampárame tracks. Full basic guaguancó then stop, pause (with engine), slow turn (over one and then two clave phrases, with engine), pause (with engine), resume guaguancó basic.

Case study: a basic combination, inserted into guaguancó rhythmic space
Partnered, rumba clave only track.
  1. guaguancó basic
  2. stop the basic (your choice of stop point), vacunao (lead)
  3. defense (follower)
  4. pause
  5. shimmy
  6. slow turn
  7. pause
  8. resume guaguancó basic
Note: the shimmy and slow turn may also be executed simultaneously

Practice: basic combination, inserted into guaguancó rhythmic space
Partnered, full music context of students' choice.

Additional materials
Ay Díos, Ampárame by Los Van Van
En El Malecón De La Habana by Los Van Van
Como Se Formó Una Rumba (DVD) film by Iván Acosta

Loo Yeo

Saturday, September 15, 2012

14th September 2012 SalsaWorks @The Engine Shed, Wetherby

Closure is about beginnings.

Twelve months ago when the Pipers and I left the Engine Shed at the end of the night after Palenke's gig, there was no inkling of the turmoil which would buffet the venue, SalsaWorks and the lives of those involved. The Shed's unfortunate closure removed a salsa landmark from England's North, leaving a vacuum which many have since tried to fill. With true doggedness the SalsaWorks team continued to put on the same schedule of attractions - performers, teachers, and disc jockeys - re-homed at York's Holgate Club. But the Engine Shed's uniqueness, the atmosphere, the friendliness, the feel, the spirit, remained elusively... unique.

Then when Tony told me over the phone that the Shed was to open its doors, still as a dance venue, once again; and that SalsaWorks was back in Wetherby, I felt it was time for closure. That I had to be there for the re-opening, to put to bed the awful sadness of having been there when the sight and sound of the doors drawing shut could have been for the last time.

In the early afternoon, Tony picked me up from York station and delivered me to Piperland where, over cups of tea, our chins wagged and we put our kitchen skills to use on the night's buffet. Dusk was ushering in the night when I was chaperoned speedily south along winding country roads. The Engine Shed's front doors were shut exactly as I remembered them, but this time, signs of life on the other side cracked them open and I stepped through to a flood memories painted from her best of times.

The forms of Lorraine and Les of Mancuban were in the far corner, pacing out the content of the night's coming lesson. Alfie, I surprised with a generous hug and a bottle of champagne to commemorate what I hoped would be the closure of an uncertain year - I didn't make an effort to conceal my disappointment that Christine could not be there.

As salsa played, the main salon began to fill. A quarter of an hour later than billed, the pre-club lessons fired up: Lorraine and Les leading the main group downstairs, with Alfie upstairs introducing newcomers to possibly the most profound change in to their lifestyles. The main session's pacing was deliberate (I would have taught a classroom session at a quicker pace, but a club session in the same manner) with frequent partner changes, breaking the ice for everyone to meet each other.

Tony and I skulked about in the shadows rigging the video equipment, receiving the performers to their dressing area, and taking photos.

SalsaWorks bill this as a salsa night and are true to their word - only two bachatas, two bachata-tangos, and one kizomba dotted the un-apologetically salsa playlist - with Lorraine, Les, Alfredo and Tony alternating thirty-minute sets. Space on the dance-floor was tight but not un-navigably so; more than two hundred dancers had travelled from as far as Hull, Newcastle, Preston, and Sheffield to participate in the re-awakening.

The dance show provided a contrasting punctuation mark. Tony's never been one to shy away from controversy and has sometimes made room in the programming schedule for something a little different. True to Engine Shed form, this re-opening night was no exception, and he billed it as:
ANZHEXEN Dark Fusion Dance Troupe (Leeds)
This group of very scarey ladies is led by Beverley Spracklen. They deliver an extraordinary fusion of North African tribal styles in a deeply Gothic mood. Beverley said, ‘Our performance is designed to be unsettling!’ I said, 'Unsettle them as much as you like, Beverley!'
I found it conceptually interesting, but for me, the African tribal message struggled to emerge from the performers' strongly Gothic demeanour. Choreographically, a stronger movement style and increased floor coverage would have provided the dynamism to complement the high-contrast look.

Until it happened for real, the success of Engine Shed's re-opening was a great unknown. A number of events had sprung up in the calendar same slot - a year is a long time in salsa promotion. But whereas a number of events I've been to recently are traded as pure commodities - a 'promoter' hires a room, a DJ, and announces it on Facebook - SalsaWorks is old school. They talk to you, make you feel welcome, dance with you, listen to your thoughts, provide means of forging that most primal of social bonds through the breaking of bread together.

For the revelling faithful, it was as if the Engine Shed had never been away. "It feels as though it's just missed a week" was a familiar sentiment, so easily did the vibe come back. I felt it too, dancing the rounds, reconnecting with old faces, and beguiling the new. It's still one of the few places where I have no reservations about approaching someone for a dance.

The doors shut once again. But this time there was, is, a prospect of a second, third and fourth time.

Closure, as I said, is about beginnings.

Loo Yeo