DJ Yuca reports
Terence – A Latin Life
DJ Yuca reports
Terence occupies an unusual position within the UK and international salsa scene. Also known as t.t. and tangotime, he has achieved fame (some might say infamy) on certain online salsa forums due to an extensive knowledge of the history and practice of mambo and salsa dancing, first hand recollections of people and places the rest of us can only imagine, and outspoken views that have been known to cause perturbation. Yet hardly anyone in the UK has seen Terence dance, even fewer have witnessed his teaching.
I felt called to investigate Terences story. A phone call to his present home in Dorset resulted in my speaking to the holder of a gentle American accent (the result of almost 50 years living in the United States). I began our conversation by taking Terence back to his childhood, dancing in 1930s in the UK.
As a child in those days I think parents, with ballroom being at its peak, used the dance schools as drop offs for their kids, like baby sitting, and I took to it like a fish to water , you did a bit of Ballroom, a bit of Tap, it was all very geared to kiddies, and then I got into the Old Time dancing,( Sequence dance ) and that led to Ballroom,and eventually Latin, in those days there was no cha cha, no mambo, no salsa.
Sometime around 1958 Terence decided to leave the UK.
I actually moved to Canada first, primarily because I’d met somebody who’d been working in The States and told me about the Arthur Murray schools.So. I asked‘What do they do?’ and he said ‘Its called American style,’ I asked ‘Really, is it different?’ and he said ‘Oh yeah.’ "So thats part of what made me want to check it out . I packed my bags, and off I go to Toronto," knocked "on the door of the Arthur Murray studio, and they told me I would need to train in their Syl.before employing me , which I duly did" .
My very first introduction to Mambo was this: every studio in those days used to have student nights out where you’d go to a club and dance with your students. They took me to a Latin club and they played a Mambo - I had never even SEEN one. After I had danced with a student,and I had attempted to dance mambo, she eventually turned round to the manager , and said... ‘I don’t know about terence being a gold professional, he couldn’t even dance a basic Mambo.
I had no idea what the Hell it was, and that was the eye-opener; what is this Latin genre they teach here, all about?
After several months Terence moved again, this time to California, via NYC. He was motivated by having family there, however California was to give him opportunities that were to set a course for the rest of his life.
That’s when I started to get into the Latin, the real thing. at a club called Virginia’s in LA, which was the only Latin dance club in the city, it had the same type of set up as The Palladium in New York and both had the same kind of vibes going on.with big bands attending like, Puente , Tito Rodriguez , Machito and Cal Tjader, and more . Many of the famous names would play there on a regular basis. And it was free.So many of the teachers at 10 o’clock at night after teaching all day ( 8hrs ) would drive downtown to Virginia’s, arriving about10.30, and dance until around 2/3 in the morning. And that’s when I started to get my introduction to what the genre was really all about.
And, looking back, I thought I knew what Latin was, but as years went by Ive realised how little I really knew. The styling that I’d been used to, because I was ballroom trained, prompted my colleagues to poke fun at me ( more about the WAY I was dancing Mambo ) .saying , ." It’s not what youre doing, it’s the way youre doing it.’ I said ‘I don’t know any other way' and then they proceeded to show me how... ‘Take a look at the Puerto Ricans and other latino dancers' and thats the point that I started to emulate their style.
Terence was then introduced to Puerto Rican twins Doug and Don Rivera, who were cousins of one of the teachers ( both had danced in West Side Story in New York.) .
They were phenomenal.and rally influenced my style as they began educating me on the nuances of rhythm and how it should look. That’s where I got my real first understanding of what this was all about, musically speaking. From that point on I watched, learned and danced, and everywhere I went, the first thing I looked for, (and I worked in a lot of States, as I was in some demand for coaching etc), Where ever I went, I looked for Latin clubs,and if there were any, I would immediately immerse myself into them in my off time., I also gradually began learning to speak some Spanish , mainly for teaching purposes.
When Salsa emerged , after the phasing out of Mambo in the 70s , I again became revitalised with the genre to the point where . . many of my colleagues and friends would say ‘Are you nuts?’, because there I was, teaching all day, and then going out to clubs afterwords to dance : just had to get my fix , I wouldn’t stay late, just a couple of hours maybe, 10 to 12.,as I was usually teaching mornings.
And it never got boring. This is the strangest thing. For some reason, every time it’s fresh. I don’t know if it’s the musical influence,or the culture; people have asked me what it is, and I really can’t put that into words.
Many yrs ago , a Latino friend said ‘We dance from the inside out,.and Most non-Latinos dance from the outside in, .’ I thought ‘That’s an interesting statement,’ and then I gradually began to understand what they meant.
Before I came back from The States, . I was teaching at that time out of a Puerto Rican club/ restaurant, in a small suburb of Atlanta. One day I got a call and a lady said ‘I am a representative for the region for the National Latino Heritage Month, would you care to come and give a lecture and a demonstration at the Air Force base?.. And I thought ‘Me? There’s like fifty Latins that are teaching in this area, me,as white as the driven snow, and they are asking me to come and do this. I guessed it was because I had developed my style to a point that it had become so Latino, that people in clubs for many, many years,and to this day, thought I was Cuban.....
I asked Terence about the success of mambo, and how it transformed into salsa.
If you think back to the period of the forties through to probably the late to middle fifties maybe early sixties, mambo went through a phase, and although many people claim to be responsible for its growth , in reality , the Org. who did more to awake the general public was The Arthur Murray Dance Studio. And the reason was, they did a weekly dance show [on television] in the States, and every week they would demonstrate different dances . One particular week, they showcased mambo ... everybody went wild over it. And the next thing you know, they’re beating the doors down at studios to learn mambo. Eventually they had hundreds of students learning , and very few places to go, other than a studio. Club owners soon realised that there were people who wanted to come out and dance in nite clibs, So the clubs obviously started meeting that demand.
I asked.. "where and how did the mambo thing start ? "
You’ve got to look at its root. When you look at what Bolero was in the States in the thirties and forties, its origins were Cuban,( it breaks on 3), it was very sensuous, danced in an apart and close position . Eventually the studios took it up and modified it. And so when mambo became a dance as we know it today, (or maybe not quite as we know it today), it reflected on the basic concept of what the steps that they taught in bolero were. And Danzon being the mother of all of that,it became the rhythmical application of the dance. So if you took the square box of Danzon, which is a slow quick quick rhythm, and add the basic concept directionally of Bolero, then you have what was then called the mambo box. And to that, they applied the crossover breaks, as they called them (or New Yorkers) the natural / reverse turns (forward and back spots ), .All of these basic ideas were drafted from Bolero through a Danzon rhythm into Mambo.
And as they needed more variety, they started to turn to swing. and began adapting swing moves, from East Coast and West Swing, into Mambo, and so the dance grew. Now if you look at what people call the street side of things, they found out that a lot of people were dancing solo, just getting down to the music, so they ( the studios ) decided ‘Let’s put some steps together which people can dance in shine position,’ and then shines started becoming more popular, and you had a choice now, that you could dance all partnership, or part shine. And so the dance evolved through that kind of medium of the combination of the indigenous Latinos’ dancing, and the people who’d been taught in studios. .
If you look from the beginning of the seventies, it took a complete nosedive. The clubs didn’t exist any more, they weren’t getting the business, and of course the New York scene said ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got all these great musicians here, let’s rewrite some of this and start to give it a different feel and a different influence.’ And when that came in, the word Salsa was coined as a descriptive name for the new style. The dance began to change , as the music had changed, it had modernised, it was going in a different direction, a new paradigm.... and so as teachers we had to learn and adapt to that.
I then asked Terence about his experiences of salsa in the UK since his return in 2005.
I’ve danced in several different cities since I’ve been back, mainly out of curiosity, to see what they were doing.
I’ve had numerous offers to come and teach people privately, from varying locations. Problem is, number one, I don’t have a car, and that wouldn’t be a problem going there, but to go all the way for one or two private hours is not financially viable.
I did however, offer on a couple of occasions, just for a bit of fun, to go to London and do a free workshop on a Saturday. Well I got responses, ‘ and then when i asked them to find a location , I started getting objections about why they couldn’t do that , and I thought , well, if you’re going to put objections in the way of free learning then what’s the point?’ I did finally do it thru the help of David .
I was not looking to do a monetary gain thing out of it, that was not the objective, it was purely to maintain and to make sure, that the understanding of what we’re trying to do is not lost.
The larger problem seems to be that: the majority of teachers, from my understanding, and I will stand corrected on this one if I’m wrong, do not expose their students to the various rhythms that are available in the many different styles of music in the genre. They don’t explain or maybe don’t know, I don’t know the reasons, I just know it’s lacking, because when I did go to clubs and I saw people dance, they appeared to look like robots who had been taught sequences, and repeating those sequences ad nauseum throughout every song. No matter what the style/type of music came on, they did exactly the same thing.
Many don’t know what a cumbia break is, guapacha rhythm , or guajira; there are so many different rhythms built within this genre, because it’s a Son driven music. and Son rhythms may change. All salsas are not the same. They may seem the same to the uneducated ear, but when you listen to the type of rhythms that are being employed, then you should dance to those rhythms. You should not continue to dance the same things to every song that comes on. It wouldn’t make any sense. One really cannot blame the student, if they have never been exposed to the varying differences in music and style.
Everywhere you go in the world you’re going to find enormously talented people. You’ve got them here . . I think a lot of teachers don’t have the guidance they need. They make that common mistake of realising they’ve got talent, and instead of getting training, they’ve relied upon completely their own intuitive senses. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I think when you’re going to get out in the public arena, as we say in the profession: you need to clean up your act. Knowing how to present yourself, just a lot of things that I look at and go, ‘Why are they doing this or why didn’t they do that, or, why didn’t they say this or why did they say that?’
So what plans do you have for the future Terence?
As far as nationally or locally here, I have no immediate plans other than to get a video done. That’s something I’m going to be working on and putting up on Salsa Forums , if that brings any interest or work I’ll follow that through. I’m going to include some dances on there that most people talk about but don’t really understand,
Before we finished I asked Terence to describe his style of salsa dancing.
I dance what I call a Puerto Rican style with a strong Cuban influence. It’s definitely not anything close to a ballroom style. I’m also a ballroom teacher, but I can’t defend something that I think has lost its way ; its moved so far away from its indigenous roots that it’s becoming to look like foxtrot.
Fellow with International Dance Teachers’ Association
Fellow with United Kingdom Alliance - ballroom and Latin
Fellow with North American Dance Teachers’ Association
Former examiner for North American Dance Teachers’ Association in 5 divisions
Contact Terence: email@example.com
I would like to give my special thanks to Terence for taking the time to talk to me.
Written by DJ Yuca, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright DJ Yuca 2008
Re edited by terence.. Dec. 23rd 2010