Salsa has moved beyond dance schools. It’s now a way of socialising, says Arun Srinivasan, a contender at the World Salsa Championship. MADHUMITHA SRINIVASAN
In a city synonymous with ragas and bhavas, to make a cut as a salsa dancer is no easy feat. But Arun Srinivasan has done just that. In fact, he’s gone one step ahead and put Chennai’s name in the world stage for Salsa.
This former Anna University student got into dancethe waymost students do — by taking part in culturals. Then his pursuit of a Masters in Life Science Research led him to Edinburgh, where academics still took precedence over dance until he was influenced by what he saw at the local Salsa clubs. “I didn’t learn Salsa formally. I watched the dancers at the clubs and picked it up. For the Latinos, Salsa is a part of their lifestyle. Everybody knows it,” says Arun.Eventually he ended up starting his own dance troupe with about 15 students. He found a job washing dishes at a local club, which would let him practise with his students there for free. Together they performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. And that was a week before his dissertation was due.
His visa’s expiry saw him head back to India. “Here I got dressed to head to a Salsa club only to learn that there wasn’t one!” That’s when he realised how much we needed to catch up globally in Salsa. He then joined Lourd Vijay Dance studio and heads its Chennai branch. “In Chennai we have good dancers, but we need to connect with it culturally. It’s more than learning just the steps and the technique,” explains Arun. Salsa is also about meeting new people and socialising. That’s exactly what happens at the Salsa nights that Arun promotes at The Spring (Thursday) and frequents at Raintree’s Havana (Sunday). The girls have it easy, as they don’t have to know the dance per se. They will be led by the men who, unfortunately, need to know at least the basics. Apart from the dancing, when you look at it in the right spirit, a little bit of flirting and lots of fun are integral part of the nights.
Frivolity apart, Salsa has a competitive side to it too. There are International salsa competitions and festivals where dancers from all over the world vie to be crowned the best. And it is in such a stage — World Salsa Championship — that Arun and his partner Minoti Ramanchandra will compete next year, after having placed second in the Professional division at the national Salsa championship. “My knee surgery prevents me from doing the usual lifts and tricks, but fortunately in international competitions the focus is on the technique,” reveals Arun. Arun will also be hosting the fourth Chennai Salsa festival in December on behalf of LVDS. There will be dancers and instructors from all over India from different dance schools who will share their expertise with dancers and non-dancers alike.
What about his pursuit of science? “I knew I could do justice to both and I realised that in dance I can be the best. Hence, I made a choice over science and have stuck to it. Obviously, it didn’t go down well with family and friends but I did have a few close friends who encouraged my decision.”His students who are like family are what keep him going in this path less travelled. Yet, he is loving the journey. “I have not lost my smile; isn’t that proof enough?” Case rested!
- Anybody can take it up irrespective of their body type and age.
- Great form of workout
- Ample entertainment
- Excellent stress-buster. One of my student has actually quit drinking. Now that he dances, he has no need for alcohol anymore!
- It improves people’s personalities. Why, even I was an introvert and would hardly dress appropriately for salsa nights. But now I can feel the change in myself. Salsa will help one open up socially.
- Finally, a word of advice: salsa is not jalsa! Don’t look at it as a vulgar dance between a man and a woman. It’s a simple courtship dance that evolved from a cultural context.
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