On the Dance Floor....

                                    ....with Howie & Evelyn


by Howard Turner & Evelyn Moro

 

Let us start off by quoting Plato: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”


We believe that the phenomenon that’s called Salsa lends itself to a very passionate life style. When you get swept up in it, there is no turning back. It’s a one way ticket to paradise—as El Gran Combo would say, “Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso.”


Salsa is very exhilarating to the soul, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. These are some of the reasons we can’t live without it. Salsa has always been and will continue to be the essence of our lives. This Hopi Indian saying sums it all up for us: “To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.”


After teaching salsa for quite a few years , we learned that teaching the way we dance is and always will be a challenge, since our method is to listen, understand the rhythm and not to count. We took so much of what we do for granted as far as our subtle movement, the delicacy of our flow and clave sense, that we knew this was the most important thing that had to be taught before your feet can move.


Spending many years in the salsa world we reached a point of mastery in our dance style, and people approached us to start a dance school again. Though we found a certain amount of gratification from teaching, we grew weary, longing for the simple life we knew, which was going out just to have fun dancing again and meeting new people. And so we spend our time dancing at different clubs and for now, no longer teach.


The Crystal Room at Taino Towers, Lorraine’s and The Westgate, (not necessarily in that order), are a few of our favorite clubs where you’ll catch us dancing. Every so often we miss teaching and give free classes at the development where we live. But as for right now, we are just enjoying life, dancing as much as we can. It is what we love to do!


“I get up, I walk, I fall down, meanwhile I keep on dancing” is the quote by Daniel Hillel on a poster hung on our wall. ◊◊◊


 

The following excerpt from Vicki Solá’s column “A Bite From the Apple” was originally published in Latin Beat Magazine’s September 2002 issue.

 

 

Howard Turner, better known to New York City’s Latin dance community as “Howie,” sat before my WFDU-FM microphones not too long ago, explaining his philosophy and teaching methods to my listeners. Turner, who instructs students every Monday evening at the Cardinal Spellman Center on Manhattan’s East 2nd Street, has a clearly joyful approach to his subject and to life. Anyone who has watched him dance will attest to the fact that Turner has attained what few do in any arena—a total mastery of technique that gives way to a seemingly effortless, seamless flow of improvisation, with each step and smooth move purely spirit-driven.


Turner told radio listeners that he was fortunate enough to have experienced the “heyday” of the club scene. “It was a grand old time for people that went out and enjoyed those clubs—the Copa, the Ipanema, Justine’s, the Cork & Bottle. It was tremendous. Everywhere you went there was a great time to be had. The dancing was fun, rich and pure, and that’s what I set out to bring back, that essence of salsa, clave, and understanding of the music. We really need to get back to the roots of what salsa, mambo and chachachá really brought to the forum musically and dance-wise. The most romantic dances in the world occur when a man can dance with a woman and reflect the masculine/feminine aspect of dance. It’s such a beautiful thing to see. It’s captured through dancing, and I wish everyone had a chance to experience it.”


I asked Turner how he became such a great dancer. “I don’t know if I’m great, but I’m pretty good,” he responded. “It’s really because I actually studied it.” Turner, who also plays keyboard and sings, stresses education, and remembered being totally blown away by La Sonora Ponceña’s Moreno Soy, wailing away on his keyboard, trying to replicate Papo Lucca’s solos. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned!” he exclaimed.


“I had a very funny experience in a club once, where I asked a girl to dance,” he recalled. “She happened to be a very good friend of mine. I always wanted to dance with her, and she obliged. So we danced, but when she saw I wasn’t as progressive or experienced as she was, she left me right on the dance floor! I thank her for that. At the time, I felt rejected,” said Turner, adding that within six months of the experience, he became one of the best dancers in the club. He went home and practiced dancing in front of a mirror, to the music.


“I learned that the music is your first partner, and the mirror is your second,” said Turner. “We happen to have a few mirrors right now, so that’s what I’m teaching people to really understand. You want to see how you want to move. That’s going to help you. And you keep practicing the fundamental step, and after that, start creating. That’s how to develop a unique style. No two people should dance the same.”


Asked if he’d ever left anyone on the dance floor, he replied, “No, I never thought of doing something like that.” He added that he’s danced with all kinds of dancers, but even with the bad ones, he’s just stayed and “finished the song.”


“There’s courtesy involved. We can’t become too big-headed about being able to dance, and that someone else can’t. I had two left feet in the beginning, just like everybody else.”


Turner is able to dance with anyone, and teach anyone. What about the “on one vs. on two” controversy? “It’s really unbelievable,” replied Turner. “Music, when listened to properly, is very simple. It becomes the foundation of what you’re doing.   So the art of keeping it simple is the most difficult thing to do. I’ve watched mambo turn into salsa. As it progressed over the years, people became bored because of the repetition; they had to make a change. There are people who have confronted me and said that I dance on both. As for me, all I’m concerned with is the clave.”


“One time a conguero from the Louie Ramírez band came up to me and said, ‘You know, you’re the only person I’d let my wife dance with, because no one dances on clave anymore.’ So I set out to learn what that meant,” said Turner. “Basically, it’s just listening to the music….If you’re going to have a routine, let it be yours.”


Turner is in favor of flexibility and uniqueness, and stresses the necessity of feeling the music, calling the style he teaches “universal.”


“It doesn’t matter what I’m dancing, I have to feel it, and I create off of that. Once you develop that ability to create, you’re flowing.”


Turner has high praise for his business partner, Evelyn Moro. Moro was the one who convinced him to open up a dance school. She was more than flattered when he asked her to join him as his assistant. Moro has loved the music and dance forever, and recalled that her Puerto Rican parents made their New York home “much like the home they left in San Juan; playing Latin music all day long. I woke up and went to sleep with the sounds of mambo music coming from the radio. I can remember all of us dancing around the living room with my father to a serenade of Felipe Rodríguez, El Gran Combo and Tito Rodríguez.”


Moro echoes Turner’s sentiments about the “one vs. two” debate, which really boils down to the fact that people hear music in different ways. “When I am out at clubs or parties,” explained Moro, “I feel fortunate that I’m able to dance with anyone. In the dance world, that’s considered being able to dance on the ‘one or two.’ Dancing is not about a number, it’s about a feeling, and it’s about being able to express individuality and personal style. I think it’s important to have the music inspire you to move, and the steps will come with a little instruction.”


Turner summed it all up. If you want to learn the rhythm of the tumbao and ride the wave of the swing, come on down!” ◊◊◊


 

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