Salsa Dance Classes and Social Dancing in Belfast
Nu Salsa is one of the longest running dance schools in Belfast, since starting our first salsa dance class in 2004. We have been teaching salsa throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland ever since. We have also travelled the world to learn from some of the best salsa teachers on the planet and listen to some of the finest bands and DJs while we're doing it. If you want to learn to dance salsa in Belfast and meet new people, you've come to the right place.
Current Lessons in Belfast
Right now (March 2018), we have no classes running due to other work commitments. If you are interested in starting with us or coming along to our classes because you're an existing dancer, sign up to our mailing list using the link below (we send one email a month) or Like the Facebook page.
What The Class Levels Mean
We use our own rating for our lessons. We do this because there is always confusion over what defines an "improver" dancer or what level you should be in if you've been dancing for 5 years. We don't think time dancing necessarily means that you're a better dancer, in fact some of our students who started with us one year ago would be considered technically better than someone who may have danced on and off for 10 years !!
Level 1 - Absolute Beginner. In your first few salsa lessons, you will learn the basic steps, a few turns and the cross body lead move. You'll get an introduction to salsa music and basically give you everything you need to attend your first social and be able to get up and give it a go, as scary as that sounds.
Level 2 - The next step after your beginners course. At this stage, you will learn more "moves" and learn about Leading and Following on the dance floor. Everything will be new to you at this stage, but that's the fun part of it. You will learn a lot in these classes. Some people choose to stick at this level until they have the confidence to move on.
Level 3 - What some would call Improver/Intermediate level. In these lessons, we start to really focus on the technique side of things. You will generally learn a "pattern" or a sequence of moves during the class. Emphasis will be on the men leading the move well and the ladies will incorporate some styling to their dancing.
Level 4 - Most of the dancers in Belfast will see this as the top level. This is for the more experienced dancers who want to really push themselves. You will be expected to be confident with leading/following, spinning and practising on your own. Most dancers at this level will be travelling outside of NI to different events and congresses.
Level 5 - Mainly reserved for when we have guest teachers visiting. This advanced class will really push your level, where you will learn complicated patterns, difficult footwork and unusual moves. However, for those who can master this level, your dancefloor level will be raised immensely.
What Style Of Salsa Do We Teach
We predominantly teach cross body style salsa, sometimes referred to as L.A. style or New York style. Generally we teach on1 but sometimes also on2. We also teach cha-cha from time to time.
If you are interested in Cuban style salsa, bachata or kizomba, we can give you information on the local teachers for these styles of dance.
Salsa Dancing In Belfast
There are several salsa dance clubs in Belfast where you can go to practice what you have learned in your dance classes. We run our own parties at the Ivanhoe Hotel, you can get more information on our socials page here. There is a great facebook group called "Salsa in Belfast" which gives all the up to date info on salsa nights in Belfast.
Here's a little clip of David and Suzanne messing around before teaching a class in Dublin.
Latest News From Our Blog
I've talked about this before but now is the perfect time to put it into practice, over the lazy Christmas weeks when most salsa classes have stopped for the holidays.
So, what's the idea. Well nearly every student has asked me at some point one of the following questions :
- I can't find the beat in the music
- How do I get better/faster/easier to dance with
- Can you give me some good salsa music
This is the the solution, 2 weeks, 1 song per day, in the comfort of your own home, but it's up to you to do the work :-) I will post a new song every morning and all you have to do is dance to that song (preferably in front of the mirror) on your own. I'll suggest some easy steps to start with but I want you to build your own confidence over the 2 weeks, so that you will add in some shines you may have on your phone from a class, or ladies styling that you've learned but aren't confident enough to try it on the dance floor.
I GUARANTEE if you do this for 2 weeks, you will walk onto the dance floor in 2018 as a more confident dancer, with a better understanding of salsa music and a passion for dancing salsa. I'll be on hand every day to answer any questions and give you that extra push, but you need to put the time in, I know it is hard to get 3 or 4 minutes each day ....... seriously if you can't find that time, there's something wrong with you :-)
We will start on Monday 18th with the first song, so please invite your friends, it doesn't matter if they dance or not and it doesn't matter where they are. You can post photos and videos if you want, but this is all about YOU and making yourself a better dancer. Happy dancing :-)
Day 1 - are you ready ?
We'll start off very easy today. Fairly straight forward song, nothing crazy, all I would like you to do is play the track at least once and just do whatever you think are basic steps. Today is all about listening to the music and keeping your basics on time.
If you are a beginner or not used to dancing shines on your own, just do the very basic steps and simple turns. The song doesn't change beat or change tempo, so just keep going and try to hit the 1 every time. If you don't get it first time, listen through the song and play it again, when you have an idea of what it's doing.
If you're a more experienced dancer, try to anticipate and listen for the breaks in the song and 'acknowledge' them. At this stage, I'm not going to tell you what to do, just do something that you feel suits that part of the song :-)
So, get a bit of space, put on your dancing shoes, turn the music up loud and go for it. There is no-one watching, this is all about you and building confidence in yourself.
Everyone is capable of doing shines and dancing to the music, it's just that most of the time, we are scared of what we look like or worried about doing something wrong.
So hold your head up high, exaggerate everything and just do it. See what happens.
Feel free to let us know if you get through Day 1 and there will be plenty more in the next 2 weeks, with a different song every day, some tips and tricks and a few helpful videos along the way :-)
If you've ever suffered from sore hips, lower back or legs, then it's possible your Hip Flexors are tight. Please note straight away that I have no medical background and any advice should be taken as just helpful guidance. If you have real pain, go see your doctor, although they will probably just tell you to rest and take some painkillers, so this is worth a go first.
Two of the common things that are blamed for tight hips are sitting down at a desk all day and wearing high heels. So I'm guessing that an office worker who dances is a prime candidate. I know for a fact that most salsa dancers (unless they are performers) don't warmup before a night out and don't stretch afterwards. However, I've learned from experience that we really should be doing this as a habit, since lots of short interval dancing followed by sitting down, can certainly lead to tight muscles, including the hips. Then heading home and straight to bed and your muscles never get a chance to relax and stretch out again.
Reading up on what the hip flexors do, one of the main jobs is "Moving your legs from side to side and front to back." .... does that sound familiar if you're a salsa dancer ?
If you have 5 minutes, give this a go and see if it helps. Follow the instructions carefully as I used to do this incorrectly, not tilting forward at the hips and I was basically just leaning forward which did nothing at all. If you tilt correctly and keep the back straight, you will feel this down the front of your leg, right from the hip to the knee, almost like a quad stretch. Don't push it too much to start with but hopefully you might get some relief and feel a little looser after your next dancing session. Good luck.
Anyone who knows David will know that he loves salsa dancing but also loves running. So how do they compare ?
What Makes Salsa and Running the Same ?
- Both are highly addictive
- Your wardrobe (shoes and clothes) changes to suit your new hobby
- After a good session, you'll be sweating profusely
- Your muggle friends will never understand why you love it so much
- You'll happily travel the country just to get your fix
- The social side of it becomes very important, seeing the same people in different places
And What Is Different ?
- Unless you're really good, you don't normally get a medal for dancing.
- Salsa is normally done in a hot sweaty room, running is still sweaty, but a lot more outdoors
- Most people run in the morning, you don't often do salsa at 8am (unless you're at the Scottish Congress)
- You can get up and run on your own, that would get a bit boring with salsa
I love this video, which is going viral on facebook at the moment. In the exact words of Frankie Martinez, "We never apply force. We work to communicate, not physically but rhythmically. Never making our partner feel that we demand. Instead we look to ask questions whose answers balance the equation. That way there's room to actually dance."
I'll be very honest and admit that we travelled to this event with no expectations of what it would be like. It was the very first Bristol Salsa Congress and although we've been to a few events in that part of the country before, it was the first large event run by the organisers, Lauren and Willian. But I'm very glad to say that it didn't disappoint and I'm travelling back to Belfast with a big smile on my face after a great weekend of dancing.
There were just a few of us who travelled from Belfast and the weekend started on Friday with a pre-party in the local salsa club. It was a decent night with everyone getting warned up for the days ahead. It gave us a chance to meet some of the local dancers and also catch up with a few of the teachers who were there for the congress.
Saturday started for us with a Tango class which was really well taught and a lovely change from the usual salsa classes. The teachers were great and very impressed at how quickly everyone was picking up the new dance. There was a nice selection with some of the top teachers in the UK. I think the organisers did well by bringing some of the big names on the UK scene and not paying over the odds for foreign teachers which can be much more expensive to get to the UK. That was a good call and the lineup they chose was excellent, a nice mix of teachers from around the UK and the local teachers, who all seemed to support the congress and make it a very friendly, inclusive event.
Saturday night was excellent. They had 3 rooms of dancing in the Trinity Centre, the venue for all the classes and parties for the congress. The numbers worked out just right, with it being very busy, but didn't feel crowded and there was no standing on feet that you get in some places. There were a few shows and music from some great DJs including DJ Tuli, one of my favourites. I pretty much danced the whole way through to 3am, with loads of the ladies asking me to dance and complimenting me on my dancing, which is a real bonus and gives your confidence a great boost.
More classes on the Sunday, including a leading/following technique class from Super Mario which was excellent. If anyone thinks they have finished learning salsa, just go to Mario's classes and you'll soon find that you've hardly even started !! Add on to that a nice partner work class from Mauricio Reyes and two hours of spinning with Gil and Shelley, my legs didn't think they would make it through the Sunday night. But survive they did, boosted by some banging music from DJ Angus Peters at the start of the night, then 2 hours of a live band, who were amazing and not the usual 12 minute long song bands that we all love and hate at the same time. The atmosphere was really buzzing and everyone was smiling (all be it sweating as well) and Mauricio rounded the weekend off with a nice mix of salsa and party music at the end. The bouncers in the venue even joined in and man, they could definitely move. Fair play to them.
So, to sum it up, it would get 5 stars from me. Yes, there were little issues but those will be gone if they do it again next year. It was very professionally run, with Willian appearing in a different room every 5 minutes to check that all was okay. I was welcomed in like a long lost friend and I barely know them, but they made us feel very welcome and kept thanking us for coming to the weekend, even through it was them doing all the hard work. I really do hope they do it again in 2017 and I would say it can only get bigger and better. We'll be sure to promote it heavily in Belfast as it was well worth the trip and very reasonably priced. Well done to all involved and see you all in Bristol again very soon I hope !!!
My first salsa steps were the fault of Clare Brady. So good or bad, you can blame her for everything that has happened since. From what I remember, she wanted some extra men for a new night she was starting, so I'll never know why she asked me as I was merely a little boy of 19 or 20. Many nights in Becketts Bar in Derry followed this first venture into salsa. And to her credit, Clare is still running successful nights with her Sabroso company. Also, quite literally, hats off to Willie O'Hagan for all the music in those first years. I made many friends back then who I still know today.
The next step was at Queens Uni when I started doing regular classes with Chris. He has to be commended for bringing a lot of us into the salsa scene. During this time, I went through those first few phases of my salsa life, where I went from a beginner, to an improver, to being the most amazing dancer ever (in my head) and then the usual rollercoaster of finding out I wasn't the best dancer ever and having to work hard to improve myself.
Several names come to mind at this point. Namely, Colm and Danielle McCann, Claire and Catherine Annett and of course Solomon Oshagbemi (or Oh Shag Me Baby as we liked to call him). This group of friends probably made the difference to me being a absolute salsa addict as opposed to just doing it for a small hobby. We travelled around Ireland and England more frequently that I can remember. Nothing would stop us from getting our next salsa fix and I still have the speeding points on my licence from one great night in Dublin.
Dublin also has a big part to play. With nights at the Garda Club with Hilary, the Odeon with Fernando and Lisa, many many congresses run by Josh (Dr Rumba) which many of you will never even have heard about. In more recent times, the Salsa School guys have given us the opportunity to be part of Ireland's biggest congress and also teach at the Garda Club (which has moved now to pastures new). And I can't forget Kathleen, Sylvia and their Salsa Ireland team who run the Cork Salsa Bonanza. Again, they have given us many years of amazing dancing in the South of Ireland and I would urge everyone to look at both these congresses in 2015.
I am very privileged to be able to travel a lot with work and so I took that opportunity with both hands. I have to thank Ryanair for their 1 penny flights which allowed me to fly to London a lot, quite often several weeks every month. A big influence on my salsa in those days was Joe Davids and his now wife Claire. My little 24 hour trips to London and Bar Salsa on a Wednesday night had a big impact, allowing me to dance with lots of new people and learn from some great teachers.
Back at home, NuSalsa was born in 2004. This came about after being asked to help with some classes by Linsey Blair. It worked out and we formed NuSalsa in the Lansdowne Hotel on the Antrim Road. After a few years, we moved up the road to the Honey Club where I still remember hosting a great party after receiving our UKA Salsa Teacher qualifications. We travelled regularly to England and this was out reward for a lot of hard work.
The UKA qualification came about due to our friendship with Mel Carpenter in Birmingham and her husband Steve. Mel was a big influence on me, introducing me to dancing on2, teaching me how to dance cha-cha properly and also explaining to me how important it is to cheer on people when they are on stage .... because you never know when it will be you up there .... she said. I never thought I would perform on stage, but hey, that changed.
In Belfast, many friends have come and gone. And I have had the pleasure of working with some great dancers, Lauren, Nichola, Leighanne and Becky to name just a few. They all helped me improve and helped build the NuSalsa name which I'm very proud is still going today. We ran the Belfast Dance Asylum in 2008 and followed this up with the Donegal Dance Asylum events in 2010 and 2011. I have to admit that these were the hardest work in the world and financially, they really were a stupid idea, but I wouldn't change it for the world. Having our own congresses in the North of Ireland is amazing and I thank every single person who came along to any of these.
This next bit might sound like name-dropping, mainly because it is. As well as the people above, the following people have all had a direct or indirect influence on my salsa dancing, either as a teacher, a promoter, a friend or all of the above. Susan Yeates - my London dance partner. Many amazing times were had during my time in London, love you !! Sagi Iluz who runs the Scottish Salsa Congress, you're a legend. Mauricio Reyes in Birmingham, big credit to what you do. Robert and Jean who run Mambocity, you've given me some great memories. Angus Peters and his wife Angelique in Devon/Bristol, love you guys. Brigitte and Franklyn in Manchester, you've always been a big inspiration to me. Moe Flex, Julian Summers, DJ Lubi, George Donoghue/Vicki thank you for all the music over the years, you've taught me a lot. Plus many many more people who I have learned from, thank you all so much.
And last but not least, I cannot even put into words my gratitude to Gil and Shelley in London. Some of you will know that I had the pleasure to move to London in 2010 and stayed there for about a year and a half. During this time I was dancing at least 5 times a week, sometimes more. I went through 3 choreography groups with them. We laughed, we cried and we danced. They gave me so much confidence, and hopefully this doesn't sound big headed, but they have made me such a better dancer and person. It's always said that you regret the things you don't do, so I'm so glad I took that leap and made that move and did my time in London. To this day, I still call them my salsa mum & dad and they call me their salsa son, I absolutely love that !!
So that's about it. Oh no wait, what's the name of that red haired girl :-) Bringing us up to 2014, NuSalsa is going strong, mainly due to the work of Suzanne Coates. I make no excuse for saying that I believe she is the best salsa dancer in Northern Ireland. We have had lots of compliments that we work well together and that is our aim, to teach the guys about the moves and teach the girls about following and styling. We've travelled the country and next year we are already lined up to teach at 4 big congresses. Hopefully there is a lot more to come from Suzanne and I, and I also take this as an opportunity to thank her for everything she has done for me.
So that's really it. You're bang up to date. Who knows what will come next. We have plans for more classes, more events, more teaching and lots more smiles, laughs and dances. I have a whole new group of salsa friends now who weren't around back at the start and you are all awesome and you know who you are. Hopefully you will all be a part of the future.
As the Irish Salsa Congress approaches this weekend, here are a few tips from my own experience to help the guys get more dances during a weekend. You don't need to be a superstar dancer to stay on the dance floor all night. Remember, "girls talk", so if you follow the rules below, they'll talk nicely about you. If you ignore these rules/guidelines, they will also talk about you, but maybe not in a nice way.
Every girl likes to be treated well, so ask politely for a dance, don't be one of those guys who walks up vaguely close and sticks his hand out and the lady comes running like a puppy. Ask nicely and I always think "may I have a dance" sounds a lot better than "wanna dance ?".
Treat the lady with respect. Walk her to the dancefloor, respect her on the dancefloor and don't put her in a position where she feels uncomfortable (this includes doing dangerous moves, flinging her around without control and invading her personal space when it certainly hasn't been asked for) and then when the dance is finished, walk her back to her seat. You never know, her friends might then ask you to dance after that.
Do The Classes
One of the best ways to meet people and break the ice is to do a class. You get to know some more people at your level and that connection in class breaks down the barrier of fear when it comes to asking her to dance at night. The only problem is that sometimes the ladies during the day will be wearing their "class clothes", have glasses on and tie their hair back, so be prepared for her to look completely different at the party night (in a good way).
Pay Her a Compliment
It sounds cheesey but if the lady looks good, tell her so. Don't be sleazy about it but the girls spend a lot of time to look good on the dance floor and I think most of them appreciate when they get a genuine compliment.
Don't Ruin Her Hair
Going along with the point above, try not to ruin her hair or pull her clothes when doing moves. If the girl spends the whole dance worrying whether her top has shifted or her hair looks messed up, then it won't be a good dance.
Don't Smell (Badly)
You will laugh but come on, if you're pouring with sweat, your feet smell and you have bad breath, would you even want to be near the person, never mind dance with them. Shoes and breath are easy to sort out, if you don't know how, then you shouldn't be allowed out !! As for the sweaty shirt thing, then bring a few extra t-shirts or shirts. Maybe even try a t-shirt under your shirt or a waistcoat/jacket. You might ultimately be hotter yourself but the sweat won't soak through as easy. Remember the lady has to keep her hands in contact for a lot of the moves ..... so just go and change that top when it's obvious.
Hunt in Groups
That's a bit of a joke but it does work. If you see a few ladies together, bring a wing-man with you and ask them together, it's just another little ice breaker. Then when the dance is over, you can politely swap partners and hey presto, two dances for the price of one.
Don't Show Off (Deliberately)
If you try to do lots of crazy moves on the dance floor, you might think it looks good but it can be intimidating for people watching. So if you don't want any ladies to ask you, go right ahead, but you'll be the one doing all the asking.
Finally, Make the Lady Look Good
This should go without saying as it should be taught in every lesson from day one. Don't push the lady and try and do moves or things she can't do. Make her feel good and then she will relax and look good. Who knows, she might even crack a smile. If you do this and she looks like she's having a good time, this will be obvious to those watching and I guarantee you will get ladies asking you to dance all night long.
I've called these rules or guidelines, but at the end of the day .... it's dancing. Just enjoy yourself and do your thing. If you have a good time, then hopefully the ladies enjoy it as well and you'll be on your way to sore feet in the morning. Happy dancing.
Some of you were asking for the names of the songs we were using in the cha-cha class last week. Well here you go, enjoy !!
Remember, if you like these songs, make sure to spend a few pennies and buy the CDs or download the tracks (legally of course).
Joe Cuba - Wabble Cha
Orchestra Harlow - Freak Off
Fania All Stars - Estrellas De Fania
Willy Chirino - Guantanamera
I just wanted to write this little article to let you know what it takes to run a salsa congress. Several people have told me recently that they can't understand why it costs so much to attend these weekenders and I feel that some people just have no idea what goes into these events. If you do, no need to read on, because you appreciate what it takes.
It really starts months, or in some cases, a year before the actual event. You need to check your teacher list and see who is available on what dates. This is after you've made sure your venue is free of course. First steps done, no going back now.
If you've ever attended a weekend and thought that it went without a hitch, then this is because a lot of work is put in during the weeks and months before the event. Have you ever tried arranging a dinner party for 10 people, imagine doing that for 500 people or 1000 and organising accommodation for them all as well.
Some things that need done are booking teachers flights, sorting out the hotel accommodation, website setup and maintenance, promoting the event around the country, selling tickets and basically making sure people know about the event. This whole time, there is a huge personal financial risk to the organisers, which is why they always ask you to book early if you can, because it takes some of the pressure off if they know they are getting close to that magical break even figure.
When it gets closer, you have to think about getting all your teachers, performers and DJs to the venue. Just arranging trips to and from airports and making sure everyone gets there on time is a headache just on it's own ... especially if a volcano decides to erupt and cancel all your teacher's flights. Throw in all the setup for the rooms, sound equipment, fans, water, even batteries for the wireless mics.
As for the timetable, do you think that just appears in 5 minutes. Afraid not. It normally takes a LONG time to get all your classes slotted in, making sure nothing clashes and that everyone is happy. The more rooms you have, the harder this gets. So next time you sit looking at the huge timetable for a weekend, spare a thought for the person who had to put it all together.
But sorting accommodation in a congress hotel is always the most fun, honest, it's great craic. Quite possibly the hardest thing is to sort people into rooms, apartments, buildings, whatever. You think you have it sorted then find out that someone has decided to ring the hotel themselves and change their booking without telling you, great fun. Plus, when you finally have it sorted, 10 extra people ring you the day before asking for accommodation, this is after the hotel has confirmed all the rooms, meals and any additional info they need. Again, another reason we always ask you to book early so that everything can be arranged in advance, preferably more than 24 hours before the congress starts.
At the weekend itself, you need to welcome everyone in, sort out rooms, tickets, wristbands, timetables, arrange the rooms for classes, host the shows and performances and a million other things you can't even think of, including dealing with the police at 4am because the residents near the hotel were complaining. Imagine doing all this and keeping a smile on your face.
Finally the weekend is over but you still have to pack up, sort out the last bills and deal with all the leftover tabs that people didn't pay for in the hotel. And what's the first thing that people ask ...... are you doing it again next year !!!!
So next time you turn up at a weekend, spare a thought for the organisers, promoters and volunteers who work their asses off to make sure you have a great weekend. Don't get me wrong, if they didn't enjoy it, they wouldn't do it, so we (I hope other promoters agree) appreciate each and every single one of you for coming and dancing, but it's hard work, so if you see the promoter looking a bit busy, don't ask them to get your towels changed in your room, maybe walk up and say thanks and ask if they need anything done. I guarantee they will say no, everything is under control, but it's always nice to ask.
So get out there and dance the weekend away but remember all the months of work that led up to you having the weekend of your life !!