Why Dance in Transit?

The Dance in Transit concept and title belongs to Sam’s Dance. It was conceived out of a desire to build community, expand social networks, and add some face-to-face contact into our daily lives. It is a way to “bring it to the streets.”

Traditionally, dance schools experience a slower period during the warmer months when people want to be outdoors. We thought, why not combine the beautiful outdoors with some exhilarating dance experiences?

Dance in Transit provides a continuous supply of dancing during the warm months to the existing dance community—at no cost—and offers people who are not already dancers to watch it, try it, and see if they love it, too.


Why Sam’s Dance?

Many people have asked me why I started my own dance school. Good question! (I ask myself that on the discouraging days.)

Although I’ve taken various styles of dance classes for decades, they were all community centre classes in basic styles: Ballroom, East Coast Swing, Tap, Belly Dancing, Jazz, Hawaiian, Line Dancing. Whatever was available at the right time and place. I did it for fun and exercise and to spend time with my Mom.

It wasn’t until I went to Cuba for the first time three years ago that I really got excited about learning salsa. When I got home, I started taking classes.

I loved the teachers and the classes, but some things bothered me right from the start and continued to bother me. First, I noticed that the students who were already known to the teachers were treated differently. Second, I noticed that the new dancers who needed a bit more time and attention didn’t receive it. Most of the attention was awarded to the better dancers. Third, I noticed that students arrived, changed shoes, took a lesson, changed shoes, and left. There didn’t seem to be any socializing outside of the actual class. I thought of dancing, particularly partner dancing, as a social activity.

Once I tried going to social dance events, I noticed that the people there tended to dance exclusively with people they already knew. That shuts out new dancers. I noticed that the only time dancers spent more than one song together was when one good dancer was with another good dancer. New dancers, if they were lucky enough to be asked to dance, experienced the unspoken one-song rule. Leaders rarely asked new dancers to dance. The whole experience felt like a high-school sock hop where only the popular kids danced and the rest stood and watched. The dance community felt stagnant.

I decided I wanted to create something different. Sam’s Dance is inclusive, welcoming, friendly. We make everyone feel like they belong there, whether they’re good dancers wanting to learn more movements, practiced dancers wanting to learn a new style, or dancers that are just starting from scratch. We spend time with all the students before and after classes and encourage them to spend time with each other. We invite them to bring their friends and family to experience the joy of dance. When we hold events, we make sure everyone who wants to dance gets the chance to dance, even if it means we have to introduce them to each other.

All this takes time and energy, but this is what makes us different. We’re interested in our dancers—who they are, what they do, how they found us, what they want to learn. We think this is the way to build a community of diverse people, initially brought together by a common interest or curiosity, but on a journey of discovering other commonalities. A community.


The Social Contract on the Dance Floor

Yes, women want equality. Nobody said that meant killing chivalry. Good old-fashioned manners go a long way in social situations, no matter what your age or philosophy.

There are a few unspoken rules that make social contact with strangers at dance events more comfortable. Nobody likes feeling rejected or judged.

On the dance floor, this is what that means.

Men: Assume that everyone is there to dance. Ask them!

Women: That means if you’re not there to dance, don’t sit on the edges of the dance floor looking like you want to dance!

Men: Don’t assume by glancing that you know which women are going to be fun dance partners. A good dance partner is not only about skill. It’s also about being relaxed and enjoying the experience. It’s about dancing with a partner who can laugh at her mistakes and make you feel good.

Women: Don’t assume the men who ask you to dance are bad dancers or creepy. The old “don’t judge a book by its cover” rule applies here.

Men: Don’t let fear of rejection stop you from asking for dances from people you think might say no. Who cares? Believe in you! If someone says no, it’s probably more about them than it is about you. Their loss. Head up, move on.

Women: Unless you have a damn good reason, don’t say no when someone asks you to dance. Good reasons are: you have an injury; you have danced with that man before and he hurt you; or your feet hurt too much to dance. If reason #1 or #3 apply, get away from the dance floor!

Both parties: Dance with people you don’t know. Dance with people at all levels. Be kind. Smile! This is supposed to be fun.



Quote_ SilversteinAllow yourself to fail faster.

This is a concept introduced to me by my friend Miyuki.  It’s advice she received from her father and it makes so much sense.

If you don’t take chances because you’re afraid to fail, you don’t avoid failure, you only delay it.  Unless you never take any risks at all–and who wants that life?  Entirely safe, but dull and unrewarding.

If you trust yourself, if you take chances, if you go places you have not gone before, if you’re brave, you might fail.  BUT, you will fail faster so you can get that out of the way and clear the path for success sooner.

Life is short.  Don’t waste time fearing failure.  Embrace it as a means to bringing you success faster.

THIS is what “dance like nobody is watching” means.  If you look silly, who cares?  Move, smile, laugh, have fun, & you win every time.

We can show you how.



Here’s the thing about dance classes.

If you think you dance too well to need them, you’re probably wrong.

Dance classes smooth out your basics, improve your transitions, point out your problem areas so you can improve them, keep you humble, & give you the opportunity to bring new people into your dance world.

Yes, you take dance classes to improve your dance ability.  That’s the means to an end.

You also take them to spend time with friends, meet new people, & have fun doing something you love with other people who love it, too.  That’s an end in itself.

You take dance classes for social reasons as well as for the activity.  You take them to support dance schools and dance teachers and other lovers of dance.  You take them to become a part of the dance community.

Join us.  We guarantee you’ll have fun!


img_2185There are no special requirements for dancing Forro, but relaxed Brazilian style is a good guideline.  You should wear cool, comfortable clothing that you can easily move in.  Breathable materials are best.  Flowing skirts will show off hip movements for women.

The only tricky part is shoes for the forrozeiras (girls who dance forró). Since the followers mostly dance on tiptoes, it is really important to have comfortable shoes that will support the sole of the foot and not slip off the heel. Shoes with heels common in other latin dances are not used, mostly due to the style of dancing but also because it can get dangerous on crowded dance floors. Any flat shoes that will not slip off your feet and allow you to turn easily are good.  You can also dance barefoot or in socks.

Forro is a fun party dance so being relaxed and happy are the most important thing!





Cuban salsa

According to The Dance Training Project, dancers don’t listen to their bodies.

“Call it suffering for your art, or whatever you want, but if you don’t listen to the messages your body is sending you, there will come a time, when you won’t have a functional body to create your art with. These messages are actually really easy to interpret: Pain means stop, no pain means go (or rather, proceed with caution). Pain is generally your body telling you to slow down, and stop, because what you’re doing to it feels really bad. If you do not stop, your body will stop you, eventually, and it won’t be pleasant. You will be out of commission for longer than if you had initially listened to your body, and be stuck on the sidelines, watching your peers (which can actually be an excellent learning experience if you let it). Being stuck on the sidelines is damaging for the ego.”

As Stephanie Hanrahan points out,

“When injured, dancers are expected to watch classes. Although a few found they could learn something while in the role of spectator, no one enjoys the role. Many would rather dance on an injury instead of observe. Additionally there is the underlying stress of others improving and looking good when the individual cannot participate because of illness or injury.”

“It is clearly more intelligent to avoid injury in the first place, by not doing stupid things, but many of us must learn the hard way. There is obviously a difference between good pain, and bad pain. If you have to stop and consider whether it is a good pain or not, it probably isn’t.” [Good, she means.]

-The Dance Training Project


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Dancing NO-NOs • A Fresh Look & Straight Talk: Bright Ideas, Gentle Reminders, & Good Suggestions for Building a Community

Dancing is great for your brain, great for your body, a fun, safe social activity, and an energizing pastime. With a few simple tips, you can make it the best it can be—for you, for your dance partners, and for the Vancouver dance scene.


Your mouth is close to your partner’s mouth when you’re dancing. Use mints! If you’re chewing gum that you started chewing hours before, thinking it’s got you covered, NO-NO, think again. Pockets, tiny mints, easy peasy!


When dancing with a new partner, just take a second to say, “Hi, my name is Joe.” (Only say the Joe part if your name is Joe.) It lets your partner know you’re engaged in the partnership, no matter how brief it might be. Just grabbing a partner and dragging them onto the floor is a NO-NO.


If your shirt is drenched with sweat, change it before asking your next partner to dance. Close holds are intimate, but getting your sweat on your partner is a NO-NO.


Women have come a long way in our world. They can and they do everything. Men, how about bringing back a little old-fashioned courtesy by asking them to dance? Don’t make them come to you. Right off the bat, they will think you’re awesome! (Tip: asking someone to dance goes like this: “Would you like to dance?” with a smile and an outstretched hand. It does not consist of an elbow nudge, a head flick towards the dance floor, and a grunt. Just saying. That would be a NO-NO.)


If you’re an advanced dancer and you ask a beginner to dance, should you:

  1. Dance at your level and show off your amazing skills?
  2. Dance at your partner’s level so the dance is fun and comfortable for them, and thereby enjoyable for both of you?
  3. Not ask them to dance?

Now, here are the answers:

  1. NO-NO. You’ll look selfish, inconsiderate, and like a show-off, which is not flattering to you at all! By making your partner look incompetent, you’ll look like a clown.
  2. Yes! If you make your partner look and feel good, you will look and feel good. Not every dance has to be a showcase for your abundant talent.
  3. Tsk tsk. NO-NO. Only dancers who think they’re better than they actually are choose this answer. Partner dancing is supposed to be an act of sharing, not a contest. Try it and see how great you’ll feel!


When you’re in a class or workshop and your partner isn’t doing what you think they should be doing, should you:

  1. Stop following the teacher’s instructions and correct your partner?
  2. Keep trying to lead or follow your partner as best you can until you manage to do the move?
  3. Call the teacher over to ask them to tell your partner they’re not doing the movement correctly?
  4. Leave the class because you’re too good to dance with people who don’t know what they’re doing?

The answers:

  1. NO-NO-NO! Your job is to work with your partner to learn something new and to treat the lesson like a fun experience. Besides, are you so sure you’re not the one doing it wrong?
  2. Yes, of course! You might have a few laughs and learn something along the way. If not, you still have the laughs.
  3. Yes and no. Sure, ask the teacher, but don’t whine about your partner, just ask if there is something you’re not getting. At least half of the time, you’ll find out that your partner is fine and you’re the one with the problem.
  4. NO-NO. Go ahead if you want the Idiot of the Day award. This is such a social no-no, there is no excuse for it. Why make someone else feel bad when the problem is your vanity? Suck it up and be a good sport. Everyone can learn something new, but you have to open your mind to it. Sometimes, the lesson is just being a decent human being.


Take classes and workshops. The best dancers continue to learn and train throughout their entire dancing lives. Practice on the dance floor is not the same as taking lessons. If it has been awhile since you’ve had classes, chances are your basics are not as smooth as they could be and your movements or form may get a little sloppy. That’s a NO-NO.


If you attend many free or nearly free events and say you’re supporting the community, don’t kid yourself. Yes, it’s good to come out to events and participate. But events are only free (or almost) for you, not for the people hosting them. Events are expensive to host! If you sign up for classes and conferences, you can say you’re supporting the community. If not, be honest, we’re supporting you and that’s a NO-NO.


Before you launch into a complex, acrobatic move involving a lot of head rolls or crazy spins, dance a bit with your partner to see if they’re up to it. They may be capable, but just not interested in Cirque de Soleil movements. That doesn’t make them bad dancers. NO-NO. Some of the most impressive dancing is built from basic moves done beautifully.


Try something new. No matter how much you love a dance and your dance friends, at some point, you will realize that you are doing the same old thing with the same old people to the same old music. NO-NO. Expand your horizons. Cross the dance floor from your group and ask someone new to dance. Try a new dance style. Try classes with a new teacher. Grow.


Stop talking about your dance friends like they’re your “family.” It’s a NO-NO. We all have families, whether they’re average, dysfunctional, or absent. Family relationships are simply different than friendships and friendships are different than acquaintanceships. You can have all these kinds of relationships in your life and they can all be worthwhile, but recognize that they’re different and come with different obligations and rules of conduct.


If you really want to support your dance community, dance school, and dance event promoters, register and buy tickets early. This is the way organizations determine whether or not a project is feasible. Not everyone will have to make money on every project, but most of them can’t afford to lose money over and over. Step up, commit to your passion, be a frontrunner, not a last-minute NO-NO. There is no virtue in waiting for something “better” to come along.


Dancing does not have to be an endurance test. That’s a NO-NO. You can love to dance without going out dancing six nights a week (like if you have a job and/or a life that is more than just dance). If you attend a congress or festival, there is no need to dance for 12 hours every day. Quality is just as important as quantity. It’s not a demonstration of your devotion to the dance if you dance until your legs are swollen and your feet are bleeding. People who dance for a couple of hours when they can might love dance just as much as the competitive, obsessive, endurance dancers do. Don’t dismiss them as less committed than you are.


Being a cheapskate is a NO-NO. Almost everyone can afford to fund his or her own leisure activities. Don’t expect dance school and event promoters to subsidize your passion. If something has a fee for participating and you want to take part, pay it and stop whining. Buy a bottle of water for $2! If you’re strapped for cash, have a regular coffee instead of a latte every time you go to Starbucks. Cheapness is rarely related to a scarcity of funds. It’s usually a character flaw and it affects everything about you—your tolerance for differences, your generosity towards others, and your spirit. Don’t be this.


Looking down on the clothing choices of fellow dancers is a NO-NO. Some people like to wear short, form-fitting dresses and heels to dance. Some people prefer jeans and sneakers. Neither of these choices defines dancing ability and in a truly accepting community, all are just fine.


This has been tough, straight talk, but we hope you will understand that it comes from a good place. Vancouver is not well known as a place with a vibrant, exciting dance scene. We can change that by building a place that is an inclusive, generous, giving community to share dancing with friends and new people who just might be friends you haven’t met yet.





There aren’t any BAD Dancers!

Often, you hear people make comments such as, “he has no rhythm” or “she can’t follow.” Sometimes the comments are even more harmful or mean-spirited.

Have you ever thought this or even said this to your friends? What’s really important about dancing anyway?

If you watch the dance floor at social dances, have you ever seen the dancers that dance every dance (even if they can’t dance?) but they’re always smiling – always having fun. They are actually having a great time.

When you watch people on the dance floor, do you sometimes wonder why they are dancing because they look like they’re in pain? Why would anyone go out social dancing for a night of work, frustration, and angst? There is a time and place for everything in life and those things don’t belong on the dance floor.

Social dancing is people moving together on the dance floor and enjoying themselves. We don’t all have to dance the same way. Even if you just get up and sway to the music, that can be your way of expressing pleasure in dancing.

A dance floor will always have people with different styles and knowledge levels about dancing, which doesn’t mean they are good or bad dancers, just people enjoying themselves differently for an evening.

Maybe if you take dancing so seriously that you’re losing your ability to laugh at yourself over a mistake, it’s time to take a lesson or two from a social dancer that doesn’t perform perfect steps but actually moves to music just for FUN!

-From Karen Kiefer



This is the foremost question many women ponder while sitting bored at a dance event.
“Why do I have to wait for someone to ask me to dance?” You don’t! If you’re comfortable doing so, get up out of your chair, cruise the floor, make yourself visible, walk over to a likely man, and ask, “May I have a dance?”

Admittedly, for a woman, or even a man, this takes a bit of courage. The fact is every person at this event has come to dance. The likelihood is strong that that you won’t be refused. This is the rule: you must dance with someone who requests. You must dance at least one dance; it is simply polite.

However, there are a few polite excuses:
• I am so sorry, I just refused another person, so I can’t accept your offer.
• I just danced so many songs in a row, and I have to sit down for a second.
• I’m dying of thirst and on my way to find a drink.
• My feet are killing me and I have to rest them for a little while.

Then, end with: Please ask me again later.

Dancers should also make themselves as appealing as possible to potential dance partners. Smell clean, wear clean clothes, and use breath mints. If you sweat a lot, change your shirt through the evening. It’s not fun to dance with someone who is soaking wet and/or smells awful.

When you receive a yes, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself. You could say “I’m just a beginner, so please be patient.” Most men are flattered to be asked, and are pleased to give the ladies a hand. On the other hand, most women are flattered to be asked, and are pleased to give the man a hand.

When you’re done, say thank you, and men escort the lady back to her seat, unless she is grabbed en-route by some other eager man.

If your dance with this person was not a particularly satisfying experience, resist offering advice. Try to be pleasant and even upbeat; remember you were a beginner once, too. Avoid saying “Don’t ask me again, especially until you’ve learned how to step on the floor, not my feet.”  That’s just rude!

Beginner dancers are shy and embarrassed and find it hard asking a stranger for a dance. It may feel comfortable and secure to always dance with your regular partner, but it’s like the blind leading the blind. As with any new experience, beginners must persevere to climb this platform and reach a higher level. Beginners should ask more experienced dancers because here they will find consideration and guidance. More experienced dancers should offer dances to starters in a spirit of mentorship. It builds confidence on both sides.

A dance is a social event. Make new friends, get acquainted, and maybe arrange a dance practice. You’re not yet being invited to meet the parents. You’re being invited to assist the other person to facilitate the learning process at a workshop or an evening of dance. You will both benefit by being more competent and confident.

-From Tibor Káldor