Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Solares Debuts

I decided to open Solares as I mean to go on, with a workshop on bolero.

The slow tempo Cuban dance genre was selected because of the attending audience: all of them had been dancing studio or academy salsa for years. I wanted to provide a complementary experience; to develop skill sets under-emphasised by convention, and these features are key:

A convention of non-verbal vocalisations
Creating sounds with the human voice as a means of learning and propagating rhythm in the African tradition. We began with the vocalisation "gung-ging-gung" simulating the conga open tones of the bolero tumbao instead of an European-centric count of "and-4-and".

Synchronising movement to vocalisations
The lateral cradle-swing of the hips, thus transferring weight, was timed to the "gung-ging-gung" vocalisation. This brings the practice immediately to the First Stage of Independence (FSI), where each student is able to practice this without any external support. FSI is crucial for self-motivated, engaged students who would like to function in a flipped learning environment.
"Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter." (from
Correlating vocalisations to sonic artefacts in the music
Understanding that the sounds they produce have their counterparts in music, and that this relationship between human-generated sounds and instrument-generated sounds is one of co-operative complementarity, not of dominance-subservience.

Synchronising movement to sonic cues
Once sonic (vocal) and kinesthetic (movement) production is matched, the sonic production is synchronised to the sonic artefacts in the music, resulting, too, in synchronised movement.

Raising the seat up timing
Conventional salsa studio instruction is foot-based i.e. it is the foot-placement to the floor which is correlated to each number of the count. This means that the rest of the body, most importantly the hips and heart, move, and are felt to move after the beat. This causes a dissonance, and even disconnection with the rhythm. (Hearing-impaired dancers have better rhythm because they are taught to feel the low-frequency vibrations of music in their chest.)

The synchronous "gung-ging-gung"-pelvic sway practice moves the seat of timing off the floor, up to hip level.

Fine control of movement
With a tempo range of 80-100bpm, there is twice as much rhythmic distance between each beat in the bolero compared to salsa (160-220bpm). Movements must be made more slowly and smoothly in order to fill these elongated spaces.

The greatest challenge faced by any attendee is a conceptual one. Having spent years being selected for and being optimised in an European learning convention, whom might cope with the change to a non-European learning context?

Loo Yeo

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