Salsa dancer Dani K is one of our longest standing tutors, teaching Salsa Dance Classes at City Academy for almost a decade! In this interview he tells us about his unique journey into salsa, how his DJ skills influence his classes, and how he learnt to dance without fear. /em>
Hi Dani! First of all - tell us a bit about your own experience learning to dance. How did you get into salsa?
I first started to salsa dance in 2002 when I was living in Bordeaux, France. I regularly went to hip hop clubs with friends, and one day we walked past a salsa club we’d seen a few times and, almost as a joke, went in to check it out! Inside we saw a beautiful girl being asked to dance salsa by a much older man. It was so different to what I was used to - much more beautiful, inclusive and respectful. I started going to taster sessions not long afterwards at a friends suggestion.
And how did you get into teaching?
After a year of training, my tutor realised I had a talent and I started to teach salsa to others. I actually moved to the UK to study for a PhD but began teaching a little salsa for some extra money whilst studying. I quickly realised that 3 hours of teaching a week could pay the bills quicker than a week’s worth of office work, and I thought, this is great! I get to do what I love and be able to live!
Salsa Dance was different to what I was used to - beautiful, inclusive and respectful.
Which artists influenced you growing up?
Michael Jackson was a huge influence - watching his moves on his music videos, I was obsessed! In the salsa world though, two dancers called Mike and Mab were a big influence on me. They’re big names in the salsa world, and well known in the community. Mike was especially a massive influence because he’d come from a similar hip hop background.
You’ve been a tutor at City Academy for 9 years - can you tell us your most memorable moment over the years?
It’s impossible for me to pick one specific moment, so I’d have to say the community at City Academy. I meet so many different people, and many of my closest friends are people I have met through Salsa Dance Classes. I met my current partner from leading a Salsa Dance class for example, and Magda [Head of Partner Dance], who was a stranger when we met, is now one of my best friends too. Dance is a way of communicating with people, and that’s been the biggest highlight for me.
If you know how to walk, you know how to salsa!
What can we expect from a salsa class with you? How do you inspire your students?
Every class is different, depending on the teacher. I always say, if you don’t like my style of classes - don’t give up on dancing! There will be a class for you. But what I can say about my classes is that you will come out having learnt something, especially beginners.
Tell us about your DJ skills - how does this inform your teaching?
I’m a Latin DJ, which is very different from mainstream DJ-ing - it’s a lot harder, because you have to work with the dancers in the room. When I came over to the UK, I was disappointed to find that this music scene was not the same as in France. In salsa clubs, people were friendly but the music quality wasn’t as high and people didn’t want to learn the salsa styles - they just wanted to be entertained! Over time though, the environment has shifted. Now I play solo sets every week at Bar Salsa in Soho - the biggest Salsa Club in the UK. City Academy salsa students attend the club for free, so it becomes a real community beyond the studio.
Dance is a way of communicating with people, and that’s been the biggest highlight.
Do you encounter any misconceptions about salsa dancing?
Yes! Especially in the UK, where most teachers offer drop-in classes rather than the full-time schools they have in France. This results in no consistency with the content being taught, and a constant financial fear of students not returning. I came to the UK without that fear and I think that really helped me. I began teaching Salsa Dance Classes at City Academy in a more consistent way - there are 5 levels of salsa training alongside other community experiences, including Salsa Socials, a Salsa Dance Company, and Styling Training.
And finally - what are your 3 top tips for beginners?
Oh that's difficult! They would probably be:
- It’s easy! If you know how to walk, you know how to salsa!
- Don’t give up and carry on. Keep practicing until salsa is in your muscle memory. Then it will never leave!
- Forget everything outside the studio - your worries and stresses - you’re here to relax and smile. If you create this enjoyable environment in the studio, it will soon begin to seep into the other areas of your life in a positive way.