India International Salsa Congress in Bangalore, Aug 16-20, 2006

August 14, 2006
Sujatha Bagal

"Four one, cha cha cha, two three cha cha cha," went my instructor. We, twelve of us students, tried to follow her steps as she sashayed her way around the floor. By the third or fourth session, we barely managed to keep up with her feet movements.

She, of course, was moving way more than just her feet. Her hips swayed, her arms moved fluidly in the air, her shoulders and spine were ramrod straight. I, on the other hand, punched my hands in the air, hunched my tense shoulders, took giant strides on my flat feet and tried not to crash into any of the walls or crush anyone's feet.

But I keep at it. Why, you wonder. Because I'm a glutton for punishment. Well, no. Ok, maybe yes.

But there are also a few other, perhaps more logical reasons. For one, the music is infectious; you can't help but dance. Two, I have delusions of being able to wiggle my hips a la Shakira, the operative word being delusions. (Did you see her FIFA World Cup Final performance? Aye, Caramba!) Three, once you get one sequence right you feel like you can do all of it. Four, my instructor is good at what she does, both the dancing and the teaching parts. Five, any form of exercise that is fun and enjoyable is gold. Finally, and most importantly, there are no mirrors where we dance. So while I feel ungainly and have a faint idea of how klutzy I might look, I really don't have concrete evidence of the blasphemy I commit twice a week.

Over the past few weeks I've been finding out that some or all of the above reasons are responsible for a whole lot of Bangaloreans to turn to Salsa.

And by whole lot I mean thousands.

I spoke briefly to Lourd Vijay, a businessman and purveyor of all things Salsa. He should know. He started the first Salsa school in the city, Lourd Vijay's Dance Studio, in 1997. Now he has three of them up and running in which he, along with four full-time and four part-time instructors, teach a total of six thousand students. Yup, that's right, 6,000. And he has plans to open three more studios in the next three months.

Vijay himself came to dancing and to Salsa like many of us do. He saw the movie Dirty Dancing and he was hooked. His sister, who lived in Australia, sent him books and video tapes of dances so he could get familiar with the art. He then went to Canada, to Vancouver and Toronto, to train in the various dance forms. Now he travels extensively all over the world attending workshops, conferences and congresses.

Although the average age of his students is around twenty-five, the classes are so popular among all age groups and among people from all walks of life that his studios offer exclusive classes for those over 40, those over 50, for homemakers, etc.

The reasons most of his students attend the Salsa lessons, he says, are to have fun (which is crucial to any activity that you intend to pursue for a long time), the studios are a great place to network, to meet like-minded people, especially if you are new to the country or to the city, to get fit, and because going to the gym can get boring pretty fast.

The dance form is so popular in Bangalore that the India International Salsa Congress is all set to kick off in Bangalore on August 16th. The official website has all the details of the Congress including the schedule, details of all the performers who are flying in from all over the world, competitions, workshops, parties, etc.

So if you've vaguely heard of Salsa but don't know squat about it, now's the time to go, watch and learn. Lead with your hips and don't forget your heels.

Sujatha Bagal is a writer currently based in the US. She recently returned following three years as an expat in Bangalore, her hometown. For a glimpse into the life of an expat, visit Blogpourri.
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India International Salsa Congress in Bangalore, Aug 16-20, 2006


Author: Sujatha Bagal


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