Music with Latin flair

Ashlé Dawson’s versatility has created plenty of opportunities, including a spot in the top four on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 1 and a contract with Cirque du Soleil. Some of her favorite dance moments, though, were spent socializing. “When I moved to L.A., I went salsa dancing sometimes seven nights a week,” she says. “I would come home and fall asleep with my heels on. The music was infectious.” Those self-taught, dawn-breaking lessons led to tours with major Puerto Rican reggaeton singers abroad.

In her Latin fusion class at Broadway Dance Center and the Ailey Extension, Dawson blends all her specialties: commercial jazz, whacking, house, hip hop and Latin. Whether students are looking to loosen up or get a good workout, Dawson says one of the class’ learning curves is dancing in heels. For those working in commercial dance or auditioning for In the Heights, heels require a whole different technique. “You have to learn how to manipulate your muscles,” she says. “Then you can pull up through the inner arch instead of what is usually taught in technique, over the ball of the foot.” DT

WARMING UP

“I use ‘La Melodia’ for warm-up and isolations. He’s from Panama and has a happy, summery vibe—a great way to start off class. For sit-ups, ‘El Teke Teke’ is a motivating, in-your-face song, but lighthearted enough for people to laugh and have a good time.”

Artist: Joey Montana

Song: “La Melodia”

Artist: Crazy Design and Carlitos Wey

Song: “El Teke Teke”

SOCIAL SOUNDS

“Even though most people listening to these songs haven’t heard them, they tap into a club vibe, so the sound is familiar. They’re good for any portion of class—warm-up, isolations and choreography, too.”

Artist: Wisin & Yandel

Album: Líderes

Artist: El Shick

Song: “Prendelo”

FAMILIAR LATIN TRACKS

“‘Stand By Me’ is a Spanish cover of the original. It’s fun because we can break down the words together. I use it for bachata. Don Omar is one of my favorite artists. He has a commercial sound that you can do anything to: rumba, salsa or samba.”

Artist: Prince Royce

Song: “Stand By Me”

Artist: Don Omar and Lucenzo

Song: “Danza Kuduro”

Photo by Franklin Liranzo, courtesy of Ashlé Dawson

Seen & Heard At the Dance Teacher Summit

Tony Dovolani

Pro on “Dancing with the Stars”

Dovolani was paired with tennis great Martina Navratilova on Season 14 of "Dancing With the Stars."

An Emmy-nominated choreographer and winner of multiple U.S. and world ballroom championships, Tony Dovolani coaches Latin and ballroom at Dance With Me studios, co-owned by Dovolani and fellow “DWTS” pros Valentin and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, in NYC, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. The ballroom veteran will be teaching at the 2012 Dance Teacher Summit, July 27–29, in NYC.

Dance Teacher: On “DWTS,” you work with people who have never set foot in a dance studio before. How do you get them to loosen up and keep an open mind?

Tony Dovolani: The first thing I explain is that walking is dancing. Every single person has a rhythm in his or her body, because it takes coordination to walk. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other, but I try to remove the expectation that they should be able to do it right away. A child takes about a year and a half before she can put one foot in front of the other. Even if she learns to walk at nine months, she’s still waddling back and forth! It takes time, but I 100-percent believe that anyone can learn how to dance, and I actually think it’s the ones who have a hard time learning things in the beginning that tend to stick it out and be a little bit more determined.

DT: Do you think it’s important for teachers to continue their own educations?

TD: Oh, absolutely. Some people stop taking lessons because they think they’re masters. In my opinion, the moment you consider yourself a “master,” you should stop dancing completely because you must know it all! I retired from competing about four years ago, and I think I’ve had more lessons after I retired than before. This is my passion; it’s not my job.

DT: Who do you learn the most from?

TD: I learn from every dancer that I’ve ever watched. I learn from other teachers, from my students, and I ask them all questions. I’m not afraid to tell them I don’t know something. I want to explore their minds and find out how they would approach something. I think people are way too eager to talk about how they do things and not enough to learn from other people. I also go to Broadway Dance Center in NYC, to Alvin Ailey, and I go watch New York City Ballet quite often—I think they’re phenomenal. Pretty much anything that has to do with dance, I’m there. —Andrea Marks

Photos courtesy of ABC

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