Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees decided to change her name to Conchita after learning some of the sexy salsa moves featured on this DVD.
Wow your friends on the dance floor.
The Quick and Dirty Guide to Salsa: Part One—Beginners is a well-crafted dance instructional DVD that stands apart from other such instructional releases by using a multi-angle feature. Throughout the entire 48-minute program, you can use the remote control to switch between different angles so that you can view the instructors from any of three angles as they demonstrate the moves: from the front, from a high angle, and from the back. This approach to dance instruction is a terrific idea, since it allows the viewer to see potentially tricky moves from different perspectives and get a better sense of what's going on at any moment during the program. Also, for viewers who like me are accustomed to the mirror-image instruction technique of workout videos, it's very helpful to be able to follow the instructors from the back, so that one's own feet are moving the same way as the instructors'.
This multi-angle feature is what sets this DVD apart, but it's also strengthened by clear, nonintimidating instruction. Our primary instructor is Gigi, and she is assisted by Pedro, who sometimes adds instructions for the men once the partner dancing begins. Both instructors are straightforward and thorough, and they seem refreshingly like regular people instead of perfect specimens; the DVD insert indicates that the program was "made by former struggling students of salsa," so we don't feel as if we're being talked down to by lofty experts. Almost the entire program proceeds without music, so we can concentrate on learning the steps without distraction—and without the fear of getting off the beat and becoming hopelessly behind.
The program is brief but solid; there's no introductory material, and the instruction focuses entirely on footwork and the occasional hand or arm movements. Viewers who are worried about hip action or forming a perfect frame with their partner may rest easy: Gigi and Pedro place the emphasis on the basics and don't ask you to keep too many things in mind at once. The program begins with very basic steps, which both partners learn individually, after which the partners dance together as they learn increasingly complex moves. The program is crafted so that the moves keep building on each other, so it's important to get comfortable with each one before moving on; thus, you may find that you need to repeat a section before moving on to the next variation. Fortunately, the menu breaks the entire program down by dance step, so if you can remember the name of the move you need to go over some more, you can jump right to it. The names of the different steps did present a difficulty for me, I have to admit: Since I was trying to do the entire program at once, I found it difficult to remember what movement each name represented, and by the time I came to the review section of the program at about the 40-minute mark, I was getting terminology confused and couldn't keep up with the routine. I imagine that replaying these segments once again would probably clear up my confusion, though, and every time a move is introduced its name is given in a caption at the bottom of the screen to help cement it in the viewer's mind, so I can't fault the DVD for my memory lapses.
This review segment, which takes place without music, is then followed by another, slightly faster-paced review accompanied by energetic salsa music. Not only does the music mean that the moves get faster, but at this point Gigi and Pedro start getting a little fancy on us, adding more hip motions and sliding footwork. It's nice to see some of the flourishes we can add when we get the hang of the basics, but for true beginners this second review section may be rougher to keep up with. Finally, Pedro and Gigi segue into some truly amazing moves to preview the content of the more advanced follow-up DVDs.
Audiovisual quality is perfectly decent for an instructional video; I don't get the sense that this venture was a high-budget affair, and it appears to have been shot on video as opposed to film, but that's standard in my experience of similar releases. The program is filmed in a handsome, well-lit mansion set, and although there isn't music until quite late in the running time, when it does come in it sounds very clear, with great separation. The instructions come through well by and large; I don't think Pedro was miked, since when he speaks there's a much more echoey, ambient sound than when Gigi gives instructions, but one doesn't have to strain to understand him. There are some slightly distracting edits during the program, but these only occur when the instructors are standing still and giving instructions, so they shouldn't have any effect on one's ability to follow the choreography.
Overall, I was really impressed with The Quick and Dirty Guide to Salsa. I didn't feel ready to hit the dance floor after one viewing, but if I had taken a little more time to make sure I'd mastered each move as I went along, I think I'd have ended the program feeling very confident. This is a clear, thorough guide for the beginner, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to start learning salsa dancing without going to the expense of classes (or who just wishes for privacy during those awkward first practice sessions).
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