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Dance Times Square Studio Holiday Party 2008

by Tonya Plank
December 17, 2008
Dance Times Square
156 West 44th Street, 3rd Floor
(between 6th Avenue and Broadway)
New York, NY 10036
(212) 994-9500
On Wednesday evening, December 17th, Dance Times Square Studio held its annual holiday party, a several-hour-long celebration that took place at two venues. The party began at the Dance Times Square studio, located at 44th Street and Broadway, around 7:00 p.m., with an open, all-levels Salsa class taught by studio owners Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin (who are former United States national Latin champions and who choreograph for the popular TV show "So You Think You Can Dance"). (Full disclosure: I used to be a student at this studio.)

The lesson, which was basic and for anyone regardless of salsa-dancing experience, lasted a little over an hour. Tony and Melanie taught the basic steps and rhythm, with movement beginning on the second beat, a "cucharacha" (a side-step-together), a lady's underarm turn, and a man's behind-the-back hand-to-hand turn. As usual for a ballroom dance class, there were a few more women than men (although only about two more) so partners rotated. Then the class took center floor, and the studio's other instructors taught some salsa shines – steps to be danced alone when a partnership breaks from a closed handhold for a short time so each can do his or her own thing. We learned a "Suzie Q" (a side step with a cute, sexy swiveling action), an "Around the World" (a step and tap to the side that goes around in a circle), and a complicated step, tap, and slide move that had no name. This last shine, being the most complicated, was also the most fun; there was a lot of laughter as students struggled to get the taps and slides in the right order, to the proper half-beats. Then, Tony called out different shines and the class tried to remember the steps and keep up with his commands.

After the class, there was a light buffet-style dinner in the studio. Food consisted of a nice variety of good cheeses, slices of meat, pates, small sandwiches, fruit, vegetables with hummus and other spreads, and, for dessert, an enormous cheesecake. There were bottles and bottles of red and white wine, and sodas and juices for people who didn't want to risk being too tipsy for the dance floor. There was more than plenty of food and, somewhat amazingly, more than enough wine as well. DJ music was played throughout for people who wanted to social dance and practice their salsa rather than spend all their time eating.

About an hour later, we all headed over to the Latin Quarter, a salsa nightclub located in midtown on the east side at Lexington and 47th Street. The club consists of two floors and is fairly large with a main dance floor and several bar areas with chairs and tables for relaxing after a dance and socializing. The studio took over one whole corner area on the top floor, where students both sat and chatted with the teachers and each other. People who didn't want to brave the main dance floor danced salsa in the aisles. Many did go out to the main floor, where they danced with other students and teachers, and some with more experience danced with "outsiders" – people who don't go to the studio. I noticed most of the club-goers seemed pretty skilled with their salsa. Almost all of the Dance Times Square teachers went to the club after the studio party and all generously danced with the students. Not all studios' teachers will do that – spending much of their time instead with other dance professionals – but, happily, Dance Times Square is different in that regard. The salsa band was fun and lively and gave the studio many cheer-inducing shout-outs throughout the night.

The evening lasted about five plus hours altogether; most people began leaving the Latin Quarter around midnight or a little later. The whole event cost $70 all inclusive of pre-party lesson, dinner and drinks, and club admission. Going to the club after dinner was especially nice. It gave students the chance to practice their skills in an authentic setting, giving them the opportunity to meet and watch "real" salseros, and added to their general cultural experience with Latin dance. The studio plans to have more such outings to area dance clubs.
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