Published on June 24th, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut
Stretch, Dance, Eat at a Oaxaca Salsa Retreat
For this post, I’m pleased to present an article written by blogger Steven Roll. Steven is the guy behind Travelojos, an excellent blog about traveling to and living in Central and South America.
When he’s not blogging, Steven is trying to overcome his lack of rhythm and inability to speak other languages by salsa dancing and practicing his Spanish.
Like many good business ideas, Salsa Retreat is the brainchild of a talented person who was looking to fill a void: a vacation during which people could enjoy Salsa dancing and yoga in a scenic, relaxing atmosphere. By choosing to offer all of these things in Oaxaca, Mexico, Alice Kupcik — the founder of Salsa Retreat — added some more key ingredients to the mix, including first-class dance instructors, memorable side trips and distinctive cuisine.
Looking to fill some time between jobs, Alice wanted to take a vacation that offered the perfect balance of stimulating activities and relaxation. She was searching for an experience that would allow her to put aside serious thoughts for a while, yet help her to recharge her batteries for new challenges ahead. Alice ended up taking a trip to Quito, Ecuador where she spent time taking dance lessons and learning Spanish.
Yoga, the Missing Ingredient. But the experience was missing some of the elements she was looking for. While the activities were fun, she would have returned feeling more refreshed if she could have spent time taking yoga classes.
“Yoga compliments the dance practice perfectly,” Alice explained. “Flexibility, balance and a good posture are needed for any type of dance, and yoga practice helps to improve all three. Plus, stretching before dance practice helps prevent injuries.”
Thinking there must be other people who would enjoy dancing and practicing yoga in a scenic atmosphere, Alice set about creating her own dream retreat. This meant combining her two passions: Salsa dancing and yoga.
The final element was a special place to make the experience memorable. The obvious choice for Alice was Oaxaca, Mexico.
“Oaxaca is safe and welcoming,” Alice explained. “You can explore the historical center of the city on foot at all times of day or night, visit art galleries, museums, markets, shops and stores or enjoy a coffee in the Zocalo under the shady trees and listen to a live band.”
Launching Pad to Local Culture. It’s also a launching pad for side trips aimed at absorbing the local culture. “We start the week off with a trip to the Tllacolula market on Sunday, which offers a glimpse into pre-Columbian Mexico,” she said. “The women are still wearing traditional clothes and most people are speaking Zapoteco instead of Spanish.”
Often, it’s the sweet treats that steal the show. “Everybody’s favorite part of the market tour,” Alice said, “is the visit to the chocolate store. Here you can custom make your own hot chocolate mix by picking the cocoa beans and other ingredients such as almonds or cinnamon sticks.”
Later into the retreat, the group visits Monte Alban, the site of the Zapotec pyramids.
Oaxaca’s Salsa Connection. But the main focus of the retreat is Salsa dancing, and Oaxaca is an important part of the equation. “The Oaxacan Salsa community is tied closely to the Salsa Congress and competition scene in the U.S.,” Alice explained. “Many Salsa instructors from Oaxaca compete and teach in the U.S., so they know the most current teaching styles and methods and what students want to learn.”
The retreat works with a dance company in Oaxaca that regularly performs in Salsa competitions. The Oaxacan dancers teach attendees important skills such as memorizing choreography and overcoming stage fright.
“Everything that you do that is not in your nature makes you grow, “Alice observed “and in the end it’s a lot of fun.”
“It’s part of our Salsa workshop to perform in front of our group and show what we have learned,” she said. “Allowing your performance to be videotaped and then watching yourself afterward, is worth a thousand private lessons.”
Distinctive Cuisine. When the group isn’t dancing or taking in Oaxaca’s beautiful sights, they’re enjoying the region’s distinctive cuisine. “We stay at the Casa Colonial, a unique guest house with an amazing cook, Teresa, who has worked there for 27 years,” Alice said.
“Each meal is a celebration that the group experiences together at a long table in the beautiful dining room,” she said. “We get to try a lot of the classic local dishes, such as Black Mole as well as Teresa’s delicious creations. Her food is excellent and healthy. But there’s plenty of sweet deserts, too, and lots of hot chocolate.”
“Thankfully, group members burn so many calories dancing during the day that they can afford to make these culinary indulgences without fear of gaining weight,” Alice added. “In fact, some participants lose weight during the week.”
Friendly, Supportive Atmosphere. Perhaps the most important and lasting benefit group members take away from the retreat are the new friendships that arise in the supportive atmosphere. “We always have a strong and supportive group energy,” Alice said.
“I see people opening up and blossoming during this week together. I was always convinced that people would enjoy this type of travel, but what I have seen on my retreats was beyond my expectations and I am very grateful for that.”
Information about the dance retreats, including a schedule of activities and a listing of upcoming retreats is available on Salsa Retreat’s Website. Find out more about Salsa Retreat by visiting its Facebook Fan Page.