Written by Partha Mansukhani
“One, two, three…five, six, seven…”, Avan Mehta counts as a new batch of prospective students observe her feet moving to the rhythm as she introduces them to the basic steps of Salsa, a Latin American form of partner dance, at a trial class.
Mehta, 48, is a Salsa instructor and a dance enthusiast. As a child, she was trained in ballet by the renowned ballet teacher, late Tushna Dallas. A first generation dancer, Mehta’s tryst with Salsa began in 2003 during a trip to New York, where she chanced upon a studio called ‘Dance Sport’, which offered trial classes in Ballroom and partner dancing, that piqued her interest.
On her return to Mumbai, she decided to get actively involved with Salsa. Considering there were only a few studios in Mumbai that catered to the dance form at the time, Mehta decided to take the initiative. She got in touch with a fellow Salsa enthusiast and theatre personality, Ashwin Mushran, and along with a few friends, started practicing and holding Salsa sessions in the living room of her Pedder Road home.
“I always loved partner dancing. In Salsa, the footwork is constant and the dancer takes to the music and turn patterns quite easily,” explains Mehta. Additionally, Salsa incorporates a lot of coordination that is required to be maintained with the partner, thus inculcating individual learning through a collaborative effort.
Around 2011, Mehta decided to independently conduct Salsa classes, usually in a studio. “Word of mouth is a wonderful advertisement tool and it has always worked for me,” adds Mehta. Since then, she has taught several students of different ages from university students to homemakers to corporate professionals. Mehta uses social networking platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to notify the commencement of any new Salsa batche. “Definitively, yes!” replies Mehta when asked whether anybody can learn Salsa. “It would take at least three months of classes to feel comfortable with the basics,” she adds. Mehta said she visits New York every year to enhance her dancing and teaching skills.
“Today, Salsa has become popular across different cities in India, with the presence of several outlets and studios to dance, coupled with initiatives taken by organisers and promoters in holding Salsa festivals, as compared to a decade ago,” she added. Mehta conducts a 16-hour Salsa batch, which comprises sessions of one-hour held twice a week, spread over eight weeks, approximately once in two months.