Lady Salsa comes to town, proving the dance has come of age in Dubai

I was never a salsa person. I grew up more on a staple diet of The Cranberries, which is why when I was dragged to a salsa lesson purely on the pretext that everybody else was doing it, my two left feet went numb.

And yet, after the lesson, it was established rather firmly that here was a dance that was actually left-foot compatible. Once the logic behind the steps is worked out, the rest is pretty simple. The music takes over, the limbs loosen up and the dance comes alive.

“You see what I mean?” says Phil Bedford, a salsa instructor in Dubai. Bedford has been teaching for the last 6 years and dancing for 14, but says he derives incredible satisfaction as a teacher.

“Salsa makes people confident. There’s all sorts of people who come in with such a strong mental block against dancing, which is completely gone after they learn to salsa.

"That makes me really happy when I see the person’s self-esteem rise when they get into the dance and feel the music,” he says.

The methodical approach to the steps is the beginning and end of any serious element. The rest, as Bedford and DJ Jimmy, a local promoter of salsa, say, is all about fun.

“It’s a strictly fun dance that has no rigid rules. Contrary to the classic stereotype where women who salsa are long-legged beauties or men who salsa are supposed to have olive skin and wavy long black hair, appearances really don’t matter.

"Anyone of any body type can salsa and it’s how you dance that enhances your appearance,” Bedford says.

The salsa community has grown in Dubai and disproved many doubters who said it was a trend that would pass quickly.

It could well be that the diversity and mix of nationalities has played a critical role in salsa’s success story in the city. In turn, salsa has acted as a crucial element in bringing together the many cultural cliques that tend to stick to each other.

DJ Jimmy affirms this and adds that once at salsa lessons or at a salsa event, the background of the person does not matter.

“CEOs and secretaries are all on the same floor and it’s not an exclusive event that is determined by the financial background or position in a company,” he says.

As a DJ, Jimmy has also seen the growth of the different types of salsa over the years. He usually spins the discs for most salsa nights at popular clubs, and talks of the branching out of the music.

“Now you can hear Hindi salsa or even Arabic salsa, which I suppose was a natural evolution that had to happen,” he says.

“Salsa is like English and the different forms of salsa that have evolved today can be compared to the various accents that are associated with the English language,” Bedford says.

Though Bedford and Jimmy have been closely associated with bringing over some of the best salsa acts, and even the Salsa Congress, to Dubai, they believe that the arrival of Lady Salsa will help in bringing the dance out to more people.

A commercial venture always helps erasing any concerns that people may have, they say. “Salsa is a fun and passionate dance, but the ambience of the salsa lessons and the events that are held here are also very clean,” Jimmy says.

Jimmy has been particular that the salsa lessons or salsa events he organises have a smoke-free floor for dancers.

“Salsa is a very intensive dance in the sense it requires a lot of energy, and smoke anywhere near the floor doesn’t help. It’s also a great way to work out and lose weight,” he says.

“Lady Salsa does not require people to have a previous knowledge of the dance at all. We’ve heard great reviews about it and the Cuban form of salsa is always a great visual experience as it’s the original one.”

The show
Lady Salsa is a tour through Cuba’s vibrant and volatile history expressed through music and dance and plays at the Madinat Arena in Souk Madinat Jumeirah tonight and tomorrow night.

It combines the true story of the Cuban Revolution with the history of Cuban music and dance tracing its history through Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and 20th century jazz numbers ending with the exuberant salsa moves for which Cuba is famous today.

Tickets are available at the Box Office in Souk Madinat Jumeirah.