Eddie Torres comes to Liverpool

Liverpool has, for a while now, had a strong advocate of New York 2 style Salsa, in Jane Griffiths. She spent some time in New York last summer getting in lots of dancing on 2 and came back enthusing about this style. In April 2000, as part of his UK tour, Jane brought Eddie Torres to Liverpool so that more people could find out about this style of Salsa.

Now, I'd already seen Eddie Torres in action (at the Salsaweb Convemntion in DC in 1999). I'd seen a dance display with seemingly a hundred different dancers involved and I'd even taken a group class (where Eddie taught some shines). However, I still wasn't sure quite what to expect. I'd only seen a couple of on 2 classes and all I'd ever seen taught were shines. What I really wanted to learn was how to dance with a partner in this style.

So, I turned up at the hall where the class was to be and chatted to people I knew. This was Eddie's only event in the North West, so there were a fair number of people who'd travelled across from Manchester. I even saw someone from Leeds there (Mark, who teaches Salsa in Leeds) and someone from Birmingham. As is typical on such an occasion, there were the inevitable traffic delays which meant that Eddie and his dance partner, Nelida, didn't turn up for a while (but this is Salsa, it's not meant to start on time).

Anyway, Eddie did turn up and the whole evening started. The schedule was to consist of a workshop, followed by a dance display. Eddie said that he was going to start at the beginning and try to get as much covered as possible, hopefully meaning there was something for everyone. To begin with, he got all the men into lines on one side of the room and all the women in lines on the opposite side of the room, facing the men. He then went through the basic step for New York 2 Salsa.

I'd just like to clear up a common misconception about dancing on 2, before going any further. There is one way of dancing on 2, often called ballroom 2, which basically consists of the same steps as our standard UK way of dancing on 1, but delayed by a beat. So, whereas we'd normally start by stepping forward with our left foot on beat 1, with ballroom 2, you'd pause on beat one and step forward on beat 2. So, all the same stuff happens, but a beat later. Now, this is not the on 2 style which Eddie teaches (and which is often referred to as New York 2). New York style Salsa has different footwork, with the right foot moving forward a little on beat 1, then the left foot coming further forward on beat 2 then the weight moving back onto the right foot on beat three, with a pause on beat 4. So, just like our on 1 style, you are moving on beats 1, 2 and 3. However, like ballroom 2 style, the left foot comes forward on beat 2. This is why the New York style is said to break on 2.

So, for Eddie to treat everyone like beginners was quite reasonable (and was, in fact, the best way for him to teach us). Basically, we all needed to go right back to basics and learn a different way of doing turns, for example.

Anyway, to get back to the lesson, Eddie taught us this basic step and tried to get everyone doing it in the correct style. The basic step falls into three parts: the footwork, the hips and the hands. Once we'd got the footwork down, we moved on to look at the hips (by doing the steps on the spot and just moving the hips). Then we put that that together, at which point we moved on to look at what to do with our hands (myself, I don't like this much instruction on style; I think that style should be personal, but horses for courses and all that).

When Eddie was happy with our basic, it was time to look at spins. To do this, he got the men to turn their back on the women (and vice-versa) and Nelida took the women through the footwork for their spins, while Eddie took us through the footwork for the men's turns. When we had that to a reasonable amount of competence, we went back to the women to learn a short routine.

The routine was quite straightforward (if it had been on 1, I'd have expected to have it sussed in a few minutes). However, because it was on 2 and I had to think where my feet were going all the time, it took a while to get it all sorted. I found that everything was going okay as long as I was doing the basic, but after I did a spin, there was a really strong temptation to go back to dancing on 1. It was strange having to dance and concentrate at the same time!

It was now time for Eddie to put on a little show. He said that he and Nelida would do two dances, the first being a more ballroom style and the second being more rootsy and Afro-Cuban. So, they did the two dances and they both looked really good (although I'd have found it hard to call one more Afro-Cuban than the other). Afterwards, there was so much applause that they had to do another dance. Eddie just told Nigel, the DJ, to put on one of the club's favourite tunes and they'd dance to it and true to their word, that's what they did (despite the track being one of the fastest Salsa tunes around).

After this, there wasn't much time before we'd get chucked out of the club, but there was time for a few more tracks. And despite the amount of dancing he'd done, Eddie still had the energy to get in dances with the women there. Nelida was very friendly too and even danced with me! The people running the club, literally had to push people out of the door in the end.

So, in summary, what can I say? It was a great evening, with just the right number of people and an excellent atmosphere. Eddie managed to teach a class in a style which most of them had never seen, keeping everyone interested despite a wide range of abilities. All in all, I can genuinely say that a good time was had by all.