An introvert’s journey through salsa choreography
by Jeff Huang
“Which are the differences between social dance and choreographies? To look at the audience? to exploit all the space of the floor? to have a ”tighter” posture? what else??? what do you think?”
“The ridiculous costumes.”
– Excerpts from a salsa forum
As many of my friends know, I harbor strong reluctance when it comes to dance performance and competition. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who do perform and compete, but I fell in love with salsa for a different reason. What lured me in was the incredible sense of intimacy I shared with my dance partner, and the chance to have someone’s undivided attention for a magical 3-5 minutes to beautiful music. Now to trade that in for shiny costumes, bright flashing lights in your face, and hundreds of pairs of eyes dissecting your every breath? No thank you!
When I started Azucar!, thinking about the possibility of having to perform was terrifying; and when Ana finally did propose the idea last year, it was only with much consternation that I cautiously jumped into the dark side, and guess what? It’s not all that bad! Here are the things I have learned on my choreography journey.
First things first – choreography is hard work! Our troupe members meet up for two hours at least once a week to practice, AND MOSTLY ON SUNDAY AFTERNOONS. That alone took a lot of commitment from everybody involved. At the beginning, we practiced a series of isolation exercises for nearly a month, and it is only when we have improved on our techniques that we jumped into the actual routine. I have to admit – a lot of material did not come naturally to me. I struggled to keep myself focused, as well as accept new moves to memorize each week. It was a difficult process that required dedication and focus, but later on, came with just rewards.
Choreography is another person’s point of view
When I saw the choreography concept presented by Darnell and Ana, my first thought was, “that’s not how I would’ve done it.” Choreography is one’s interpretation of the music, and it will be as varied as the number of people that dance it. It took me a long time to adjust to Darnell’s style, but I believe that it has made me more aware of how he sees body movement and partnering, and it made me more appreciative of his dance philosophy. This experience has made me more receptive to different approaches to music, which I believe are characteristics every strong dancer should have.
Choreography can be beautiful
Having had the privilege of attending numerous salsa congresses, I know that not all performances are cut from the same cloth. Some stick to super fast music and impress the audience with endless tricks and acrobatics, and others use performance as a medium to tell a story, to paint a picture, and to have fun. Our choreography does the latter, and the way Darnell and Ana interpreted the music made the entire performing experience fun, energetic, and full of playfulness. Sure, it does not have the same freedom that social dancing allows, but being able to play with every beat of the music, and to be able to emphasize every drop, pause, and accent can be just as satisfying.
Choreography forges friendships
Saving the best for last – after spending so much time with my teammates, I am glad to call each and every one of them my friend. Dancing cuts away your personal space really quickly, and helps you develop strong bonds with your fellow dancers. This is even more evident when you see the same dancers on a weekly basis, practice together, laugh together, and hang out together. I have lost count of the number of inside jokes we share, as well as the number of times my face got sore from laughing so hard. I am incredibly thankful for the time I’ve shared with them, and they are the most important reasons that choreography is such an incredible experience.
Jeff and his teammates will be performing Azucar!’s new choreography starting this Sunday! Please come out and cheer them on! Jeff is also now considering starting another troupe in September, so stay tuned!