MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Binayek Das Shrestha and Katia Verreault have done more than anyone to bring the salsa dance craze to Kathmandu, with their Salsa Dance Academy at Bhat Bhateni offering students the hope of one day turning heads in admiration just as these dance masters do.
Such is the energy of salsa that young and old alike have signed up to learn the moves, and later this month the academy will run a dance workshop, Salsa and More, to introduce participants to a wide range of other dance styles.
There is a growing demand for dance classes in Kathmandu, as people want to move beyond the grotesque body-shaking you do at your cousin's wedding after a few shots of tequila. They want to learn the right moves and proper steps for a specific beat, to produce a graceful movement that is attractive to watch.
With Hindi dance remixes increasingly popular, the Bollywood dance-so evident in movies-is what most urban youth are interested in. Clubs echo with Bollywood bass lines as boys and girls alike gyrate to Dard-e-disco. But there is a dance style to suit every taste.
"While dancing, the mind and body are in tune," says Subima Shrestha, kathak instructor for the academy's workshop. Kathak, the classical traditional dance of Northern India, varies from fiery to submissive, combines intricate footwork with graceful hand movements, and teaches perfect balance.
Caribbean dance forms studied at the academy include the cha cha, bachata, merengue and rueda, all of them full of energy, vibrant and alive with foot-tapping music and breathtaking movements.
These are what Verreault calls "social dances", so the instructors encourage participants to interact with each other and with different teachers to adopt varied styles. "It's important for salsa students to be exposed to a variety of instructors," she says. "Everyone has their own style, and exposure is the only way to learn different styles."
Verreault believes dance is something everyone can do. The academy has special sessions for those over 50, for those who don't want to dance with a partner, or those who just want to dance to stay fit. Late-night classes are available for those people who prefer to work all evening.
The Salsa and More workshop, as its name suggests, will give participants a grounding in salsa, merengue, cha cha, bachata, rueda de casino, line dancing, kathak, Latin ballroom and Bollywood freestyle. The international team of instructors include Verreault and Binayek Des Shrestha for salsa; Lourd Vijay from Bangalore to teach salsa, merengue, bachata and rueda de casino; Vik Maligmat from the Philippines for Latin ballroom, Subima Shrestha for kathak and Rohit Saud for Bollywood freestyle. Students will be able to continue with each style at the academy once the workshop is over.
Verreault says more than 400 students have passed through their academy, which used to be at the Latin Quarter. Now located at Bhat Bhateni, above Roadhouse Cafe, the studio has a welcoming and vibrant feel. So whether you're a salsa maestro or a kathak beginner, shake off those shackles and get ready to move your body.
Salsa and More dance workshop at the Salsa Dance Academy, 23-28 June. Rs 1,500. For more information on timings and schedules, visit www.salsanepal.com or call 4420564.
Salsa and More dance evening, 7PM on 27 June at the Darbar Hall, Hotel Yak and Yeti. Rs 600 per person including one complimentary drink, Rs 300 for workshop participants.