Hot Salsa: Summer Dance Workshop at ZAMAS Hotel, Tulum, Mexico

Think warm tropical breezes, turquoise water and dancing with syncopated jungle rhythms. This third “Hot Salsa” dance workshop taught by San Francisco instructors Ryan Mead and Sidney Weaverling in Tulum, Mexico promises to be one of the best.

Timba, Cuban style salsa music, has many international influences such as jazz, rock, disco, funk and hip hop, as well as Cuban folklore dance like rumba, guaguancó, bata drumming and the sacred songs of Santería. There are a myriad of fusions in this workshop – San Francisco roots mix with Cuban influences, all with the tropical backdrop of a small Mexican beach town full of bohemian flare and an under–the-radar celebrity scene.

Mead and Weaverling are leaders in the Cuban Salsa community of the San Francisco Bay Area and well known internationally for their innovative dance instruction and strong emphasis on rhythm and musicality. Exciting dance performers themselves, they have performed at many Cuban salsa congresses in the Casino/Rueda style that is uniquely Cuban. Invigorating and stimulating, it is a high-energy dance where multiple couples change partners in a circle.

Mead and Weaverling have also orchestrated performances at the San Francisco Carnival, bringing dancers of varying backgrounds and levels into a stunning array of fast paced and colorful dance forms. Further depth is added to their performances with Mead’s strong musical background, anchoring their instruction in the music and breaking down the complicated rhythms of Timba. Weaverling’s creative choreography and vibrant dance experience enmeshed in Cuban roots ensures highly technical yet accessible instruction for their students.

ZAMAS is the perfect venue for this dance workshop. With its hip beachfront style on the pristine shores of the Riviera Maya, it has enjoyed an eclectic and international clientele of fashion professionals, artists and actors, families, dot-comers and everyone in between. Owned and operated by two San Francisco natives, Daniel Vallejo McGettigan and Susan Bohlken, ZAMAS has a been a pioneer in bringing quality, live music to Tulum. Bands perform almost nightly during the high season, with many guest artists of international repute, including members of the famous Mexican rock band, Maná, and Hoppo, a new group led by Rubén Albarrán of Café Tacuba. The resident band is led by Camilo Nü who has performed internationally and is currently developing a documentary that follows his journey to discover the under-recognized African and Arabic influences in the roots of Mexican music.

Owner McGettigan is instrumental in bringing these groups to ZAMAS, a job made easy by the location he developed – with the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea, a rising full moon and an open-air stage on the beach, it is not difficult to attract guests to this beautiful locale with music filling the air. It is irresistible.

Every musician appreciates the visual of lively dancing to compliment his sounds; that is the Bohlken side of the equation. Drawn to salsa dancing by a small contingent in the Tulum community, she followed her passion to her hometown of San Francisco. Elated to find clubs in every part of the Bay Area, she quickly met many of the salsa community including Mead and Weaverling. Hence this salsa dance fusion — a mix of Cuban influence and Mexican tropical flare with San Francisco roots — was born.

Hot Salsa Dance Workshop, 16-24 July, ZAMAS Hotel in Tulum Mexico
Instructors Ryan Mead and Sidney Weaverling, teach partnering technique, movement and style with an emphasis on rhythm and musicality. All levels welcome. http://www.ruedaconritmo.com.

ZAMAS is a small beach cabana hotel situated on a strip of the Caribbean coast in Tulum, Mexico. Email: info(at)zamas(dot)com Website: http://www.zamas.com.

Group excursions may include swimming with the whale sharks, snorkeling in the caverns adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, and exploring ancient Mayan Ruins.

Seasons tidings…

As I write this I'm looking out onto the glittering ocean, and watching a woman slather sunscreen on her outstretched body. This is Tulum in the winter and I love it. Last week it got quite chilly- 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Now we're back to a modest 77 degrees. Yet as we begin to break out our Christmas tunes and decorate our tree with shells and crabs and a few blinking solar lights, I can't help but think this is the way it ought to be. I haven't had a cold Christmas since 1992, and I'm proud of it. I must admit though, I am dreaming of a white Christmas- white sands, white clouds, and a delicious, frosty-white piña colada...

For those who may be in the area and wish to celebrate this special season with us at ZAMAS, check out our Noche Buena menu (served on Dec 24). Reservations are recommended (info@zamas.com). And in the interest of being PC:

Happy Chrismakwanzukkah to all.

Why you can still come to Mexico… and should

Some of you may know that I have been interning at Vanity Fair this semester. Last week at the office I was browsing through vanityfair.com and found an article on the Mexican drug wars entitled "The Terror." (http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/10/drug-wars-in-mexico-201010)

Uh-oh, I think, this won't be good. However I found Ed Vuillamy's article to be fair, interesting, and a huge relief. Yes, there are bad things happening in Mexico, and yes we need to do something about it. But Vuillamy makes it very clear that the drug wars mainly affect Northern Mexico, and that the U.S. plays a huge role in them by buying the drugs and supplying the drug lords with weapons. In fact, he paints Obama's administration as being very proactive in helping Mexico reverse the cycle it's in.

Reading Vuillamy's article got me to thinking about the interplay between tourism and violence. We all want to think of our tropical vacation as relaxing languorously on a beach somewhere and ingesting a margarita every now and then. We don't like to think about pickpockets and car thieves and kidnappings. But these things happen, and they happen everywhere. Can anyone honestly say they live in a crime-free town anymore, where children can stay out unattended on the streets until suppertime? I doubt it. Our world is a slightly harsher reality than we'd like to believe it is, and that applies no matter where we are on earth.

If you're looking for a reason not to come to Tulum, you'll find one. But I think you'll find hundreds more reasons why you should come to Mexico, and to Tulum especially. Sure, crime exists. But no one can change that. You can however learn to be a responsible and savvy traveler, a skill that will follow you throughout your travels and your life. And chew on this: I'm a 21 year old blonde college female-- if I can learn to be safe in New York City, then anyone can learn to be safe anywhere.

Chelsea's safe traveling tips:

Be alert, do not wear headphones or play on your phone

Keep your valuables in the safest place possible. This is usually not on your person, unless you absolutely must

Learn the exchange rate between your own currency and the currency of the country you are visiting. Don't be the person who spends $40 on a shot glass