Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

MANCUBAN MONDAYS!

This week, for the second in my series surveying Manchester salsa classes and events, I’m looking at Mancuban Salsa – especially their Monday evening classes.

mancubanlogo[1]Les and Lorraine of Mancuban were among the earliest teachers to offer Salsa in Manchester, and their classes are still up there with the very best of the Cuban Salsa scene. In fact they’ve gone from strength to strength, thanks to regular visits to Cuba to work with leading professional Cuban dancers. This means that they have a wealth of authentic experience in Rumba and Orishas as well as in mainstream Salsa and are able to teach all of these.

Monday evening classes are at the Ape and Apple pub, 28-30 John Dalton Street, Manchester M2 6HQ (Beginners and Improvers 7:15; Intermediate Salsa/Casino Rueda 8.00; Advanced Cuban Salsa 9.00; dancing 10-11. £5 per class, two classes for £9). Amanda and I have been fairly frequent attenders at these, and always get a lot out of them.

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Stylish dancing between classes @ the Ape and Apple

Lorraine’s an inspiring teacher who works to a very high standard, yet manages to do it without being intimidating. She’s an enthusiastic and encouraging teacher for beginners; and for the more experienced, she has a sense of how to help dancers develop and improve by gentle attention to small details. Lorraine’s years of experience with many kinds of Cuban dance give her a depth of knowledge which is genuinely rare in the UK.

Les, besides having a similar level of experience with Cuban dance, is one of the most purely entertaining teachers I’ve come across (readers of my book Travels on the Dance Floor will spot him there as the teacher ‘who could have made a living as a stand-up comedian’!). At the advanced level he tends to specialise in teaching quite intricate moves – there’s always that ‘little bit on the end’ that I find quite challenging, being a bit of a slow learner myself. But the advantage is that even if you remember only a quarter of a move, you usually come away with something new that you can actually use on the dancefloor.

The Rueda classes often include elements of Orisha dances – the Afro-Cuban dances associated with the West African gods brought to Cuba by the slaves and fused into the Cuban religious culture of Santería. This is truly valuable, because Salsa gets its spiritual dimension from the elements of Afro-Cuban religion that find their way into the music and dance. You may not know it, but many of the tracks you dance to in clubs or classes have lyrics about the Santería gods: this is spiritual music that’s completely at home in a secular context. (I have a theory that this is one reason Salsa is so addictive: it works on levels other dances don’t reach!)

 

The venue has a good wooden dancefloor, and Les’s sound system is outstanding – both he and Lorraine do a lot of DJing – and there’s a fair amount of time for free dancing between and after the classes. It’s a notably friendly crowd so newcomers at all levels get a warm welcome.

Other points to consider: Classes are upstairs in a pub; if you want a drink you’ll need to bring it up from the bar downstairs. And we tend to be on Cuban time here: classes often run over and things are fairly relaxed, so don’t expect your class to start and finish exactly on time!

If you want to learn more about links between Salsa and the Afro-Cuban gods, or simply escape February in the UK for a Salsa tour of the Caribbean, try my book Travels on the Dance Floor (currently available at 30% off) – just follow this link:

http://www.carltonbooks.co.uk/books/products/travels-on-the-dance-floor-one-mans-journey-to-the-heart-of-salsa-1

Other Mancuban classes to note: Friday 10 a.m. to 12 noon at Langworthy Cornerstone, 451 Liverpool St, Salford M6 5QQ: Casino Rueda and Afro-Cuban, mixed levels, £6; and Sundays 3 pm  at The Jam Inn, 537-539 Wilbraham Rd, Chorlton, Manchester M21 0UE: Cuban Son, £5 (a really unusual class, which I’ll write about in a future post!).

 

Kerry Ribchester at Salsa Republic

Lorraine, Kerry and Noel - Hail to the Trinity of Cuban Dance Teachers!!!

Lorraine, Kerry and Noel - Hail to the Trinity of Cuban Dance Teachers!!!

Another great night last night at Les and Lorraine’s SALSA REPUBLIC in Chorlton, Manchester. Particular highlight this time was a workshop by Kerry Ribchester. Kerry is Director of Key2Cuba, an award-winning producer and director of Cuban music videos, and one of the country’s leading dance teachers and choreographers.

She’s an old friend of many of us in Manchester, and it was really exciting to have her here in her home city, giving us an intensive workshop in Rumba, Son and Salsa – and how to blend the three together. And she was joined, unscheduled, by Noel Hernandez, another leading teacher who just happened to be there and, as an old friend of Kerry, joined in. It was challenging but great fun and an excellent, confidence-building workout.

Amanda and I went to Cuba with Key2Cuba in 2008, shortly after I published Travels on the Dance Floor, and it’s certainly the most authentic and intimately Cuban holiday it’s possible to have with any tour provider. Most of my own travel has been solo and independent, but if you prefer to go with a group, and to have intensive salsa and Cuban dance classes laid on, plus transport to the best clubs and many other good things, key2Cuba is the way to go. It leaves other operators way behind.

Salsa Republic (run by Les Murray and Lorraine H. Mason) are this year offering not only their excellent monthly salsa party but are inviting a leading dance teacher each time, so you get the workshop as well as the party. The value is astonishing – last night we paid £10 for the whole evening. That basically means a Kerry Ribchester workshop for £3 (as usual, the party alone was £7). So look out for the next Salsa Republic – don’t know yet who the teacher will be but it will be good.

Meanwhile – don’t forget LOS VAN VAN, Leeds, 2 March! See you there!