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Salsa & Mambo Video Reviews


Irene Miguel

MambolifeStyle: Pure Freedom

Level: Beginners - Intermediate

Style: On2

Content: Irene Miguel and Edgard Del Rosario have spent several years researching and developing a holistic system of dance training which they call MamboLifestyle. The system is designed to enable students to learn to express themselves and free their movement through incorporating exercises from pilates and yoga. With a focus on body movement, posture, breathing and attitude, as much as the technique involved in learning new shines and turn patterns, students may develop skills and increase their fitness quickly with an emphasis on individuality and positivity. This first volume has been produced as a taster of Mambolifestyle's styling technique.

The DVD is split into 5 parts: body isolation exercises; dancing to the congas with two different steps; dancing to the cowbell with two different steps, dancing to the piano with two more steps and improvising. The voiceover is in Spanish with English subtitles.

General Comment: The DVD has been filmed outdoors with mood music in the background which sets the scene for the free-flowing, let-yourself-go atmosphere of the DVD. Irene has filmed the exercises with four students (2 men and 2 women) of varying abilities and dance backgrounds all of whom have had a least a couple of lessons in the MambolifeStyle. They each interpret the exercises in their own way according to their personalities and what feels good to them. We are often told: "If it feels good, it will look good!" The idea is that you can improvise with your styling once you know the basic steps and understand that you have to use each part of the body as practiced in the body isolation exercises. The fact that they are students and yet still manage to look pretty good though not exceptional gives inspiration to the ordinary dancers amongst us as we can see the potential to improve our styling without the need for natural ability. The concept is good and I look forward to seeing how it develops in future videos. If you want some encouragement to shut yourself away and dance in front of the mirror until it "feels good" you will enjoy this video. If you are a complete beginner and you want to learn some basic shines which you can practice in your own way to gain confidence before hitting the dance floor this will be useful. Personally I think this DVD serves the purpose of promoting Irene's group classes from which I have no doubt students would benefit, rather than offering much for students at home.

Reviewed by Ally - OK

Some DVDs are different from others, which is a good thing; they may show you elements which you know already, but present them from a different angle and refresh your perspective. This DVD is about creativity, freedom of expression and finding your own freestyle, all very noble aims in a dance which far too often traps us into trying to look like our most recent salsa idol. Creativity, expressivity and freestyle may echo a little bit of ‘hippy’ culture, and there is a little of that in this DVD, with some yoga-like breathing and stretching exercises at the beginning and the setting in a nice green outdoor park, but it is all good and somehow refreshing.

The instructor is Spanish, and that is the language she uses. English speaking students may follow the DVD via subtitles. Demonstrations are done by students, most of them with only a few months mambo experience. This is a nice idea, because it demystifies the learning process and shows you what you can reasonably achieve within a short time frame. You may not find a role model among them, but this is exactly the point of this work.

In this 40 minute DVD you will learn some simple footwork. Most of it is taken from classic mambo shines. However, it is not taught as ‘shines’, rather as basis for improvisation in order to follow specific salsa instruments: conga, campana and piano in particular. I have to admit this part is not too clear to me, since it is not explained whether you should do that during different parts of a song, or whether you should tune your hearing on your preferred instrument. A lot of emphasis is given to moving your arms, hands and shoulders, but you are mostly lead to do so according to your inspiration, rather than by following explicit patterns. If this is the approach to learning which suits you, you may find this DVD useful. If you are after strict, detailed instructions, maybe not.

Reviewed by Fabio - Ok

Ladies Styling

Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Style: On1

Content: Styling exercises and tips.

This DVD is worth every cent it costs. While many salsa DVDs contain barely one hour of rashly organised material, this one lasts 2 hours and 20 minutes (I have never seen anything like that!) and, despite some repetitions, is packed with material. Most importantly, it shows the result of some serious planning, a well thought out teaching method and for sure, several years of professional dancing from Irene to make all this possible.

As Irene and some of her instructors explain in the opening interview, her method does not offer merely salsa training, but a complete program, from yoga and Pilates exercises, basic solo dance training and elements of body expressivity to the couple dancing. It all sounds quite appealing and if you can not check this out personally in London this DVD tries to deliver what technology allows. It is organised into a set of short clips each containing one exercise first explained and then demonstrated in different levels of development. The explanations do not cover merely the technical content of the exercises but also the expressivity they aim to achieve. The short elements are then combined piece by piece, with music and at different speeds: first the arms, then the shoulder, then the head etc..

The theme of the DVD is music interpretation. In other programs this concept is often intended to busy the left side of the brain: how to listen to the instruments, how to recognise the beat, how to learn to count. In this DVD Irene fires the right side of your brain, trying to catch the expressivity an instrument communicates. Her choice is by far the most daring in salsa - the bass, and she designs the decoration and styling from its round and smooth sound.

This is unlike other ladies’ styling DVDs and I am quite impressed: Irene is surely a proficient dancer with extensive knowledge, she explains well and I will confess, even sparked my curiosity (I am a guy) to try the exercises myself. I look forward to more items from this series.

Reviewed by Fabio - Reccomended









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