Dance as if nobody is watching

JAKARTA (JP): Three-and-a-half-year-old Afifah Faishal ran around the dance room at Baile International, the social dance center in Jakarta, on last Tuesday morning. Her white-uniformed nanny tried hard to help her focus on the music, but succeeded only for a minute and then little Afifah,the daughter of famous singer Hetty Koes Endang, escaped her dance class byrunning into another room.

""Denise,"" Afifah called to another little girl in the class, ""I want to see your pet rabbit.""

Teaching young children is not always easy but the instructors know how to do it well.

Shirley T. Calibara, the general manager of Baile International Jakarta, said a dance lesson was introduced carefully by letting children play firstwith the music. This is important to make them feel the rhythm before they are able to follow it -- the key, Shirley believes, as the way to connect with the sense of dancing. Her courage to offer dance classes for children under 5 years old signifies the business credo in Baile as mentioned by oneof its staff members, Dahlia Sophian. ""You only have to learn to dance onceand for the rest of your life, you will have no more fear of not catching the rhythm, no more sitting down at parties, just drinking and hanging around looking at others having fun.""

In short, age should not be a barrier in learning how to dance. ""We have a wide range of students, from children to senior citizens,"" added Shirley. Baile, a Spanish term for dance, was deliberately chosen as the name to honor Spain as the home of Latin dance, and is perfectly pictured in the latest phenomenon of dancing fever in Jakarta. After an international wave of Latin artists, such as Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez in the last two years, ballroom dancing, which is usually identified with mature people, has been attracting a younger crowd as well. These dances have been accompanied by more dynamic Latin counterparts at Jakartan night spots lately. From the elegant waltz and tango to the cheerful jive, merry samba,seductive cha-cha and romantic rumba, the city is now warmly welcoming the hot hot hot salsa dance.

""It seems that everybody I know is talking about it,"" said Vera Elvara, apublic relations officer at Hotel Mulia Jakarta who has planned to join a dancing course in the near future to improve her salsa steps.

Salsa is becoming the most favorite dance in Jakarta. ""People just love dancing it maybe because of its very energetic element. It's also very goodas an exercise, especially for our hips, legs and shoulders,"" said 60-year-old Linda Damsyik, one of the busiest dance instructors in town. Linda, whose famous actor husband HIM Damsyik, also known as a professional danceinstructor, has pioneered the business for almost 40 years.

Running three dance studios, both Linda and her husband have very tight schedules, mostly for giving private lessons for the cities' rich and famous.

""Our latest class is at the Tiga Puluh Music Bar at Le Meridien every Friday and Saturday, where we are the instructors,"" she added.

When the dance night was first introduced on March 25, the bar, which hasa capacity of 300 people, was crowded with almost 500 guests. ""That was because that night was also marked as the first anniversary of the bar,"" said Aprilisa Madewa, the public relations manager at the hotel. The bar mixes jive, swing and salsa as its usual entertainment.

The public's enthusiasm has been reflected by a trend of other cafes and bars here to hold similar events of floor dancing.

Running a dance school then must be good business.

""I believe this business has quite good prospects and it is going to boombecause in Jakarta there are no more than 20 dancing courses,"" said Shirley, who just started her business in February. With a registration feeof Rp 200,000 and the three-month dancing course of four hours a week costing Rp 1 million, Baile has had 50 members, including five children, register for lessons.

At other schools, fees start from Rp 150,000 per month, such as one of the Damsyik studios in the Karang Tengah area, South Jakarta.

In both schools, 60 percent of the students are local, while the rest areexpatriates. They mingle harmoniously as dancing is an international socialevent that allows people to make friends.

""It's fun,"" said Ziela Yacoob, a young Malaysian girl who was taking a cha-cha lesson. ""This is only my third class and believe it or not I am already good,"" she smiled.

And for those who want to be the king or queen of the dance floor, Miss Lisa, an instructor at Baile International, has the simple key to accomplishing that pursuit. ""Just dance as if nobody is watching you!

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