Salsa Heats Up Delhi

Updated: Apr 30 2004, 05:30am hrs
Madhu Chawla, a 50-something garment exporter, wears a huge smile on her attractive face. Its past 8:00 pm and shes just finished practising her fairly nifty salsa moves which include much hip-swaying, foot-tapping and partner-swapping over the past hour. Shes ecstatic: I love this. I came straight from work, feeling totally drained out. Now Im feeling great, raring to go.

Ms Chawla is among the 20-odd Delhiites whove been bitten by the salsa bug at Ozone, a Delhi health club. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, theyre out there learning the fluid movements and graceful turns that typify this sexy-yet-fun dance. For the moment, though, its more fun than sexy for these beginners. They giggle, guffaw, exchange names and notes as they stumble along.

Theyre part of a trend sweeping Delhi. Earlier this week, 600 people showed up at Ssteel for a salsa night we organised, says Kaytee Namgyal who runs the Salsa India Dance Company in the capital. Six full-time instructors teach 150 people across five studios in Delhi and Gurgaon, a far cry from year 2000 when he started a small salsa school and personally instructed a grand total of three clients. Now, add the 10 students Mr Namgyal tutors privately, the stream of new batches, the workshops plus the performance classes which fuse hip hop and salsa. Garnish with Delhis 2,000-strong salsa community on Mr Namgyals database. Note his plans to hire six additional instructors by June and the sprinkling of other schools and you know that salsa is in serious demand in the capital.

A reason for its popularity is that today, Latin is hotter than ever before in the West. Ms Chawla, who travels abroad on work, wanted to learn the dance ever since she got a taste of salsa bars. Since she joined her class two months ago, she has been living and dreaming Latin, listening to Latino music even in her car.

Salsas draw is far stronger among youth like 29-year old Ashish Malhotra, who loves the fact that not every one can do it. But beyond the dance being different or intrinsically linked with pop icons such as Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias, salsa has one major, major plus. Its seriously sensual so much so that 20-year old Bani Singh insists that if its not, it isnt salsa! And that suits shy youngsters such as Vikram Dhall just fine. The 25-year old who enrolled for classes four months ago now links the dance with his new-found confidence to close dance with a girl. For others, salsas appeal lies in its maturity. As 60-year old Kusum Haidar, theatre actress and Tai chi master puts it, it has depth unlike bebop or rock n roll.

Best of all, salsa affords the luxury of each to her own. Twenty-two year old Kanika Kohli turned to salsa because jazz dancing was too much like aerobics while Ms Haidar believes salsa gives her enough exercise to stay in shape. Ms Singh, a kathak and odissi fan, does the salsa to both Hindi numbers and Enriques tunes but shes partial to the Cuban version since its less stylised and more on the beat than the LA strain. On the other hand, Ms Chawla admits that she isnt a good dancer yet doesnt let that prevent her from having fun.

Mr Dhall chirps that once you get the basics right, there shouldnt be a problem. Then, smiles as he adds, In any case, most people dont know it so who is to know if you goof up. And dont worry about age. As a 74-year old student proved last year, youre never too old to do the salsa. But sniff out potential partners with body odour and/or bad breath, warns a sufferer. He didnt and decided to drop his lessons rather than embarrass the partner!

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