We chat to Jaff the salsa man about getting the dance bug
Time Out Bahrain staff
How long have you been teaching salsa and how did you get started? I’ve been teaching since 1997. I previously represented Bahrain in martial arts at taekwondo and I originally got interested in dance as a form of exercise and movement.
Often people dance for fun but, for me, it became a challenge to be able to do it really well – a challenge to myself.
I initially learned from a Cuban guy here in Bahrain but then he left and there was no-one teaching salsa here so I wanted to reintroduce it to the island.
Once I’d started learning then I travelled to Spain and other parts of Europe to study and teach and then came here and started teaching in Bahrain.
At that time I was the only one teaching in Bahrain, now there are lots of classes and I have taught many of the teachers.
So how hard is it to learn? For women it’s much easier than for men. That’s not to say that men find it harder to learn to dance but, in salsa, the man has to learn to lead – he has to be in control of the dance and of his partner. So, I would say, a woman could come to a beginners’ class and within a few weeks she will be able to move on to the intermediate level whereas for a man it will take longer because there is more to learn. Once the woman has learned the basic steps, if she is dancing with a guy who knows what he is doing, she will always look good.
And what about equipment, on the TV we see dancers in fabulous costumes, but what do you need to come to a salsa class? Well, you don’t actually have to have anything at all but the one thing I always suggest for people to get – once they’ve decided that they like the dance and want to carry on – is good shoes. Lots of people dance in trainers but for women, once they find their feet, it’s actually easier to dance in heels and for men, they will find that proper dancing shoes will enable them to move more easily whatever surface they are dancing on.
So is salsa popular here on the island? When I first started out I used to get more than 70 people in a class, which wasn’t really ideal but people wanted to come. Now, of course, there are other classes so I’m not as busy as that but salsa is still very popular – it’s active and good fun and one of my students lost around three kilos in her first month!
It’s also something you can do at any age and either as a single or as part of a couple because, when you come to the classes, everyone dances with everyone. If a person comes to class alone, they will always find someone to dance with.
Is there any competition dancing here in Bahrain? There are competitions in the Gulf but not in Bahrain,. What I teach is dancing for fun but I teach LA salsa, which is what’s used at competition level, As well as my classes, there’s also a salsa band at the Novotel every night except Sundays and I’m to bring a dance partner over from Qatar to dance with me there on Fridays. We’ll be doing acrobatic dancing, which you don’t see here in Bahrain. I want to show people what’s possible
What’s the future for dance in the kingdom, will there eventually be competition dancing? Well we had hoped to stage a competition here last year but circumstances changed. Right now I’m working with others in the hope of putting on a dance festival – not just salsa but other types of dance too.
In the long term, I’d like to set up a studio teaching all sorts of dance and also martial arts but that will be some time in the future. For now, I’m happy just getting the island moving to the salsa beat. Classes at Z Club in the Pars Hotel Juffair. Sun & Tue, beginners 7-8pm, intermediate/advanced 8-9pm. BD4 per class or BD30 per month. Call (33 696 866).
Like this? Try these
Ballet Start them young, children from three can enjoy classes such as ballet, jazz and salsa with adult classes also available. Bahrain Ballet Centre, Budaiya. Call (17 693 232).
Belly dancing Learn to dance like a local and burn off loads of calories with this incredibly seductive dance form. Shake those hips. Life Fit, Budaiya Highway. Call (17 692 424).
Masala bhangra Think Bollywood and the big train station scene at the end of Slumdog Millionaire and you’ll have an idea of masala bhangra. Great fun classes that will leave you sweating. Dessange, Adliya. Call (17 713 999).
Mixed dance Lots of classes including ballet, zumba, acrobatics, cheerleading, break dance, street dance, hip hop, jazz, pilates, musical theatre and much more. Ballare School of Performing Arts Saar. Call (17 300 021).
Mixed dance Fitness studio offering a selection of classes for both children and adults including zumba, belly dancing, capoeira and more with highly qualified instructors. World Beat Fitness Centre, Janabiya. Call (17 612 576).
Swing dance You may have spotted dancers Tosin and Zach strutting their swing stuff at variuos events across the island. Now they’re hoping to start regular classes this month. Details will be posted on their Face Book page, check out Bahrain Swing Dance.
Zumba Currently one of the world’s most popular dance forms. Fitness with a Latin beat. Brilliant fun, a great workout and keep an eye out for regular fund-raising zumbathon events - yes dancers do keep going for hours! Classes on various days with a schedule which changes monthly. Dessange, Adliya. Call (17 713 999).