David's Salsa Story - So Far

Why David started salsa in the first place and how that led to teaching salsa in Belfast.

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.

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