Class Review and Interview from www.exploredance.com by Marcus Brooks April 3, 2003
Well, do I have the place for you! Cap 21 Studios (18 West 18th Street, 6th Floor) you will find an exciting Beginner 1 & Beginner 2 Mambo/Salsa On 2 dance class given by the very confidant and humorous Winsome Lee. Yes, she is Chinese, and she is one of the most progressive Mambo instructors and dancers in the scene today!
I arrived at Cap 21 Studios 20 minutes before class one Monday evening. While waiting in the reception area I noticed that there were others waiting as well. I did not think too much of it until I saw Winsome walk in. She was immediately greeted with hugs from a majority of those waiting in the reception area. I later realized that these strangers are Winsome's students; thinking to myself "Winsome seems to have a very affectionate student following." My assumption was reaffirmed when I saw a student pass a small gift to Winsome. The student then spoke of her recent tip to Puerto Rico and mentioned that she had brought a present back for Winsome. I was pleasantly taken-a-back by the gesture and was prepared to take part in what was obviously a warm learning environment.
The Beginner 1 class began promptly at 6:30PM with a warm up session of "shines" or "open partner work." The studio began to come alive with energy as Winsome called out the names of various dance steps for her student to perform while the intoxicating Mambo played in the background. For my review of Winsome's class I brought a dance partner with me, Cynthia Araujo, Co-Captain of the Piel Canela Dancers. While in the class I was overwhelmed by the amount of attractive women and men in the class (including my partner and I :)). It looked as if Winsome recruited all of her students from the Ford modeling agency!
While Cynthia and I participated in Winsome's Beginner 1 class we discovered the secret to her success: positive reinforcement, excitement, humor and attention to detail. A round of applause at the end of every song displays the positive reinforcement once a series of "shines" are completed. The excitement and humor comes from Winsome throughout the entire one 1 hr. & 15 mins. A lesser instructor might be drained by 7:45PM, not Winsome. Her excitement and humor are so contagious that her students appeared to leave her class looking more invigorated after having their blood flowing for over an hour. Her attention to detail was exhibited while she observed her students perform the "shines." Winsome actually bends down to ankle level to make sure all of her students' feet are in sync. If that's not student dedication through attention to detail, I don't know what is!?
Maria Torres, Winsome says, was the source of her "inspiration" to continue dancing Mambo. Actually, Winsome's first encounter with Mambo/Salsa On2 was at the now gone (but not forgotten) Latin Quarter, formerly known as "Club Broadway." She recalls entering the club for the "Mambo Magic" social and being captivated by Eddie and Maria Torres' dancing. While studying On2, there are a few individuals who Winsome often practiced with, amongst them were Carlos König & Bernard Martinez; "I learned to spin while dancing with those guys!" She recalls how in the early '90s Mambo/Salsa On2 was very underground, "now there's a different place to go out dancing every night." During her embryonic stages of dancing On2, Winsome was the only Chinese woman in the Mambo scene. From my viewpoint, it is difficult to imagine anyone being the only anything in the world of On2.
Winsome was determined to progress as a dancer and instructor. Some of Winsome's noteworthy accomplishments include bringing On2 to her native Hong Kong while teaching there for 6 months, performing with some of the most well known musicians in Latin Music in addition to choreographing the legendary 1999 "Mamfu" dance routine, a combination of Mambo and Kung-Fu. Winsome, reflecting on her Mamfu routine says, "I think that routine opened a can of worms." It was the first "fusion" dance routine, a combination of Mambo with an additional theme. "It was actually a routine in tribute to the beauty of Asian culture;" says Winsome, however, she acknowledges that most people just remember the fighting scene.
So, what is next for Winsome? Naturally, she is interested in expanding her student base, however, her passion seems to be choreography. She is the director of the Latin Jazz Ensemble, her professional group, and is now beginning a student-performing group. So for those dancers with years of experience, or for those of you just stepping into the On2 dance scene consider contacting Winsome if you want to take your dancing to the performance level, she mentioned that she is always looking for dancers willing to learn.
Overall, Winsome Lee is known and respected as a pioneer in the world of Mambo/Salsa On2, who is very passionate about the development of her students. And if you, like the millions of other of 9-5ers are looking for a reason to look forward to Monday, her New York Style Salsa class is a godsend! What's more, Winsome also teaches a Pre Intermediate and Intermediate class on Wednesdays at Chelsea Studios, located at 151 West 26th Street.