DVD review: Quick & Dirty Guide to Salsa
This award-winning four-DVD-Box Cuban Salsa course, published in 2005, and still available on Amazon as an echo of the past, is as bad as it gets. It only survives because it has been shredded and uploaded to YouTube by the copyright owners themselves: Dirty Salsa YouTube. It is actually worth discussing because it is so bad, so far out that it makes it easy to highlight a couple of important aspect of Cuban Salsa.
No leading and following
This alone disqualifies the course. The most important subject apart from basic steps, the concept of leading and following, is not even mentioned once. When instructing the moves, Gigi (instructor) and Pedro (co-instructor) are mostly just telling us what we are already seeing with our eyes. Since Gigi is clearly in charge, calling not only the moves, but every single turn and twist of them, not mentioning and discussing leading and following, again and again, spells disaster. This DVD course is likely to present a false picture of the dance to very many beginners.
Extreme dance style
We are all encouraged to dance with our own personal touch, to add our own flavor to the dance style we are practicing, let it be Cuban Salsa, Tango or whatever. But when we teach, when we make a DVD course about a well known and well defined dance like Cuban Salsa, we must work inside the mainstream of that dance, or clearly announce that we promote a sub style or our own very personal take. Not doing so is dishonest marketing.
The personal dance style of Pedro, the male co-instructor, is frenetic power dancing with lifted heels and feet at times so far apart, that we are taking about a yard or a meter, at times he is even jumping around. Where I come from we believe in Cuban Salsa as a mainly meditative, romantic dance where the distance between our feet is measured in a couple of centimeters or inches.
To be as fair as possible, let us show a dance example from “the Quick and dirty Guide to Salsa”, they themselves label as an “Awesome Salsa Dancing Routine for Intermediate Dancers”. They even use it to promote the DVD course.
The personal style of Pedro breaks so blatantly with Cuban Salsa as a mostly flat footed dance, grounded in natural walking, that it simply is misleading to label it or market it as Cuban Salsa. As a personal style, ok, except that most dance instructor will have a notebook full of what should be improved.
Compare the above style with Lisandra Garcia and Geonys Boloy, Havana 2017. We are not interested in comparing the skills of the dancers but just the style of the dancing.
What kind of Salsa?
The DVD course never says it is Cuban Salsa, nowhere in the videos, nowhere on the cover of the DVD package, nowhere in the sales pitch! But all the moves in the videos are well known Cuban Salsa moves, and they use the Spanish names for them, and the DVD course includes a section with Rueda de Casino except that it is called “Team Dance”! Considering that just “salsa” normally means LA Salsa on One or New Work mambo on Two, I find it very rude to potential customers not to disclose what type of Salsa we are talking about.
The Multi Views Stupidity
The “Quick and Dirty” Salsa DVD course claims to be the first and only shooting the moves with three cameras simultaneously giving us three views: front, top and back. All the moves can be watch as three long videos. This sounds great but is too cumbersome to be useful. Since each move is shot 3-4 four times, the dancers could just switch position to create different views for one or two of the 3-4 times. That is very useful because you have access to all the views instantly.Two of the four DVDs are not necessary or could have been used to show other moves instead.
Starting the dance on beat Five
The “Quick & Dirty” course share a common problem with some other early videos of Cuban Salsa, like the “Salsa Racing” DVDs. They are too Cuban in one respect. They start every dance not on one but on five. In Guapea the Lead steps forward with his right leg on beat five in the music, but count 1-2-3, step back with the left foot on beat 1 in the music but count 5-6-7 (or even worse: 4-5-6!). When they leave Guapea, often called Guapeando when starting on five, and start the next move, the counting is normalized: The Lead steps back on his left leg and count 1-2-3, following the beat number of the music except that they say “4-5-6” instead of “5-6-7”. This old Cuban tradition of starting the dance on beat five is today rarely used outside of Cuba. Cuban instructors learn it fast the hard way when teaching foreigners in Cuba or outside Cuba: You better adapt to the way the rest of the world starts a Cuban salsa, if you want to have success as an instructor of non-Cubans.
As long as we have plenty of good alternatives, I would never recommend a Cuban Salsa course to anybody, if it complicates matters by starting the dance on five and counting 1-2-3-4-5-6 disregarding the beat numbers of the music. Let us finish this review with a typical example from the “Quick and Dirty Guide to Salsa”. Note the long steps and the stretched arms: