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Salsa is a syncretic music and dance genre which was developed into the form we know today by Caribbean immigrants in New York City in the mid 1900s. Amara Arts offers private salsa instruction, practice sessions, and accompaniment to social dance events!

Originally called “mambo”, the word “salsa” came about as an umbrella term for Latin American popular dance music.

Once Fania Records started using the term, it stuck! It is a fusion of various musical styles over time, land, and oceans. West African drums, rhythmic patterns, call and response singing, and polycentric body motion (especially the knees and pelvis) came through the Trans Atlantic Slave trade. European instruments, the Spanish language, and twirling flamenco hands, came with Spanish colonization of the Americas. Maracas, güiros (and sometimes flutes) are major instruments in the salsa sound - they come from the Indigenous peoples of Central America and the Caribbean who have lived in the Americas for thousands of years (and still do today).

Salsa music typically features:

  • Percussion instruments such as claves congas, timbales, pianos, and bongos

  • Brass instruments like trumpets and trombones

  • Voices, most often singing in Spanish (since salsa was born out of Spanish-speaking immigrant communities)

  • Salsa lyrics often deal with themes of life, relationships, or social issues.

Salsa music is traditionally played in a specific rhythmic pattern, known as a "clave." Clave means “key” and it is also what we call the carved wooden sticks we play the rhythm on. Salsa music and dance prominently features improvisation and soloing, so be ready to express your individuality if you plan on learning to play, sing, or dance!

I know we’re in the Midwest and not in New York, L.A., or Miami but there are a few places to meet salsa dancers, social dance and take class in Saint Louis, Missouri! There are clubs, studios, and friends who have house parties all around!

Four Tips for Learning Salsa

  1. Learn the BASICS

  2. Turn up the music and dance every day! REPETITION is key to learning any dance. Folks who are “naturally” rhythmic have just had more chances to learn informally - informal learning is still learning and practicing! Make sure to give yourself opportunities to practice what you’ve learned.

  3. SIMPLIFY: When learning complex combinations of motion, it can be helpful to break them down into smaller segments and learn each part separately before putting them all together (like lego pieces)!

  4. USE YOUR MUSIC: Salsa is a dance that is closely tied to the music, so listen a lot and use the music to help you feel all of those rhythms.

Most importantly, MAKE FRIENDS! Salsa is a social dance that draws folks together and allows you to connect deeply with other humans through touch so use it to build respectful, fun-filled friendships!

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Updated: Jul 2

“Mermaiding” is a growing hobby and profession, in which people of all ages and backgrounds might don mermaid tails to either swim, perform, or just hang out and talk about all things fishy! Amara Arts offers mermaid performers in Saint Louis, Missouri who can swim at your pool party, read a story, or pose for photos at your event. Since we are a performance company based on Black diasporic arts, our mermaids are inspired by goddesses and legends of the Black Atlantic.

Do you want to be a mermaid?

Brown skinned mermaid from Saint Louis Missouri in a green Fin fun tail sits in a waterfall with a starfish next to her
Photo of Mermaid Charis by Cami Thomas, 2019

Becoming a Mermaid

Safety is key! As Circus Siren Pod from Netflix’ “Merpeople” , likes to say: “no dead mermaids”! Learn to swim well before trying on a tail in the water and always practice your mermaid moves with a buddy or a lifeguard around. Create your “mersona” by purchasing a tail (Fin Fun is my recommended starter tail! Watch all the videos!) and doing some thinking about where your character comes from and what they think is important. Are you a mermaid who wants to use the glam to convince people to save endangered sharks and turtles? Or do you just want to hang out and make party guests feel happy? Just like any theatrical show, you gotta do some planning and practice ahead of time.

Hiring A Mermaid

Would you like a mermaid to swim at your pool party? How about a mermaid princess to read a story to your little one? When you hire a mermaid, try to have as much information about the event ready as you can before you contact them and if you want them to swim, hire your own lifeguard! The mermaid is a performer, not a lifeguard! Know the date, the location, whether it’s inside/outside, whether the pool is salt or chlorine (eye-safe levels are important) and how close the dressing room is to the pool. Usually a professional mermaid will have a “mer-tender” with her to help her get ready and carry or wheel her in and out of the performance area.

Finding a Just-For-Fun-Pod

If you just like the idea of mermaids and dressing up and you have no interest in being professional, that's fin-tastic too! Type “*your region* mermaids” into Google or social media. You many have to play with key words, for example we’re in Saint Louis Missouri so back in 2019 when I was looking for my future sea-blings, I tried “Midwest Mermaids”,“Saint Louis Mermaids”, and “Missouri Mermaids”, before I got a hit and found my pod of lovely seastars!

There are also many annual mermaid festivals and conventions, such as the Afro Mermaid Summit. These are great places to start off your magical mermaid journey with easy access to coaches, new friends, tails, and of course swimming practice!

Brown skinned mermaid from Saint Louis in an orange Fin Fin tail laying on a beach at sunset, smiling looking into the distance
Mermaid Charis from Saint Louis Missouri

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Updated: Mar 9

Company dancers Dee, Samantha, and Giselle are taking over classes in August!

Click Here For Classes Page

If you love Charis' samba class, you will also love these one-time chances to learn some other dances! Samba teaches us self love, musical creativity, and provides us with raw vitality. Dee's Afro Latin Heels class has all the confidence and self love of samba. Samantha's Afro Latin Contemporary class will have ALL the musicality and expression. Giselle's Afro Colombian class will bring us energy and vitality!

Check out the more detailed class descriptions here:

Afro Latin Heels with Dee

August 3

"Heels" dancing taught in studios as a unique genre emerged in the early 2010s. It is characterized by a sensual and hyper-feminine affect and of course, wearing high heeled shoes (usually stilettos). Dee teaches a "Bedroom Baddie" heels class focused on confidence and self love. She will be fusing her style with flavor of the dances we do in the company!

Bring comfortable, sturdy heels to dance in or wear whatever shoes make you feel comfortable!

Afro Latin Contemporary with Samantha

August 10

"Contemporary" in the United States has come to imply ballet-based movement with some floorwork and contractions. We at Amara Arts challenge

that limited perspective.

The word "contemporary" literally means of the current moment! Dances of Black and Indigenous cultures are often characterized as solely "folk" or "traditional" when in fact these dances are living, breathing, changing practices! The mambo, bachata, reggaetón, and samba you see in competitions, music videos, and congresses today don't look like they did in 1888. Samantha will give a fusion class that brings in the hottest moves of today plus the influences from ballet and jazz (like long lines and turns) that have been incorporated into Afro Latin performance dance over the years!

Afro Colombian with Giselle

August 17

This will be a great class for lovers of West African dance! Colombia's Mapalé is one of the dances Giselle will teach and it is a perfect example of Africanist aesthetics in movement. Robert Farris Thompson and other dance researchers have theorized several concepts that tie together "African" arts as a category. When it comes to dances that come

from Afro descendants in the Americas, it's all about

  • polyrhythm (multiple rhythmic patterns at once)

  • polycentricism (multiple areas of movement initiation at once)

  • call and response (conversation between dancers or between musician and dancer)

It is often said that Mapalé is named after a fish, due to the "frenetic" motions. Those movements are also "survivals" - practices continued from the cultures of enslaved Africans of various ethnicities brought to Colombia. It's a super energetic and fun class!

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