Saturday, June 12, 2004

Chill out with salsa
This Latino dance form is sweeping both the young and not-so-young off their feet

ITíS hot and happening, sizzling and pulsating, young and vibrating and now itís taking even the laid-back Chandigarhians by storm. Five years after it happened in Delhi, Mumbai and Goa, the Latino dance salsa is the latest on the fad scene in the city. In the more cosmopolitan cities, however, it has already reached its zenith of popularity and is being practised with gay abandon in discotheques and bars and even in the more upmarket weddings. There, one is quite likely to stumble into an exclusive salsa party or a salsa night or competition.

In India, cities like Mumbai and Goa have always been Ďa step aheadí of Delhi in any new dance forms that strike the international popularity scene. Pankaj Narayanan, who recently returned after his honeymoon in Goa, was particularly excited about the salsa steps he had learnt while on a local cruise. "It was crazy fun ó the sea, the sun, the surf and salsa," he exclaimed.

Salsa has gained unprecedented popularity after the film Dance with Me hit the movie halls. Popular pop icons like Enrique Inglisias have also contributed to its cult-like status among the global youth today. In Chandigarh, salsa is being popularised by a leading health club which imports Anubhav Kumar, a dance instructor in Delhi, every weekend. Although salsa is being taught in the city for just the past few months, already about 100 people have enlisted in the dance class.

The lessons, held over the weekend, cost Rs 1100 for eight one-hour sessions, yet there are five batches in place, swinging, swivelling and swirling away to hot, grinding salsa beats. Says Virendra Sharma, a factory owner who is 10 lessons old, "Working out was so monotonous. Salsa is a fun way to lose weight and keep fit. You can burn about 250 to 400 calories in one session and also improve your stamina and body tone. Why should anyone want to lift weights when they can do the salsa?" He demands.

Rashmi, who manages a gym, says, "The vibration and passion level of the dance is mind-blowing. The dance also results in healthy interaction between members of both sexes."

The remarkable thing is that salsa is being learnt by all age groups, as varied as 12 to 60 years. "Itís doing away with the generation gap," exclaims Manish Goel, an avid dancer. "I mean, one just wants to dance with a good dancer, no matter what age she is." In fact, housewives in their 30s and 40s form a large chunk of learners. Then there are college students and the ĎMNC typesí. "Itís a great way to socialise and interact," says Sanjay.

About the dance itself, Anubhav explains, "Itís a three-count couple dance, executed with the male guiding the female. Solo performances can also be done but essentially a partner of the opposite sex is required. Your weight doesnít matter an ounce ó itperfecting the technique and practising the formations that make you a good salsa dancer. Spanish tunes with at least 100 beats per minute are preferred but one can even indigenise with bhangra music."

Salsa is getting so popular in the region that Anubhav is going to conduct classes in Amritsar and Ludhiana also. However, strangely, discotheques in Chandigarh are not striking the salsa chords as yet.

"Weíre going to have to do something about salsa in the Chandigarh discos," declares Anubhav. "Watch out for the salsa night in July and then see how the city swings to salsa." And what of the famous definition of salsa that "itís a vertical dance with horizontal intentions?" "Oh nonsense," dismisses Anubhav. "Itís a vertical dance with vertical intentions." ó A. S.