KOCHI: Many think of Salsa as a social dance performed by couples with sensual overtones but they miss the essential point that it is not about dance alone but a vibrant culture that evolved from Africa to Latin America, Europe and then to Asia, says Rahul Stephen, an international Salsa trainer and performer based in England.
Salsa has its origins in Africa when its rhythms spread to Cuba by way of slave trade. The African music blended with official Cuban music. Salsa music evolved from African based on Clave Rhythm, a two-piece wooden instrument. With the advent of Radio in 1920’s Afro-Cuban music made inroads in USA where they blended with Jazz music. It gradually spread to Europe in 2000 and rest of the world. It is now featured in movies, TVs, plays and parties all over the world.
The club dancing style of Latin America is now a mix of different cultures with its roots in African Mambo dance, clave rhythms, Bachata, Merengue and different forms of dance. Salsa as a dance form is this is a fusion of different cultures. “ When you perform and understand Salsa you become part of the global evolution of dance and music. You may find Indian tribal dance and music influences in Salsa as it has spread imbibing local influences whether in Europe or America,” Rahul Stephen.
Rahul Stephen was in town on invitation from Beats’n’Steps, a dance fitness studio in South Kalamassery for a Salsa workshop. He along with his twin brother Deepak Stephen now based in Russia has promoted Salsa Twins Entertainment and performed across the world-Malta, Turkey, UAE, France, Ireland, UK, Israel, Germany. They were semi-finalists in Greece Got Talent in 2012, participated in the torch lighting ceremony in London Olympics 2012.
Born to dance
Rahul was married to Abi Gail Ramsay in early January 2017 in Thiruvananthapuram. “I met Abi at an event in England and she is also a Salsa dance trainer and works for a finance company. Rahul who holds a BBA in European University of Cyprus also works as a financial analyst.
Rahul and brother Deepak started dancing from an early age of 4 encouraged by their mother while their father was working in UAE. They learnt break dance from an institution called Footloosers in Thiruvananthapuram while they were studying at Christ Nagar School and later on in 1990’s when cinematic/Bollywood dance became popular they changed tracks. After Plus Two, both the brothers moved to Cyprus to study BBA on a scholarship. They got introduced to Latin Dance at the Dancers Club there and met their mentor Christos Shakkalis who also ran his own school, Shakkalis Dance School. Both the brothers learned Salsa, Bachata and Ballroom dancing.
After five years training in Cyprus they went to England to get a dance diploma from International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA).
Among the early achievements cherished by Rahul include the standing ovation received at International Dance Festival in Cyprus, appearances in Cyprus Television and impressive performance at Greece Got Talent.
Having performed on stage, competitions and also being a trainer, Rahul feels entertainment dance and competitive dance are different. In competitive dance, the emphasis may be on technique and in India there are allegations of favouritism shown by judges and organisers. On the other hand, being a performer and entertainer requires regular practice, teaching and bringing innovation. A good dancer ‘s steps will be more influenced by the music than pure technique, Rajul says.
Rahul is here since January leading a quiet life in the capital city doing occasional workshops and awaiting to clear the hurdles in obtaining his marriage certificate to return to UK. His next major event is the Thailand Dance Festival apart from an event England. “Whenever, I am in my home state, I would like to help Salsa trainers here to improve their skills and help spread the Salsa culture as it will help us learn more about other cultures and how they evolved, ” he said.