I first heard about the Sunderland practica in Villa Urquiza from a friend talking about amazingly elegant and clean dancers. Curious, I went to see what it was all about. I arrived in this large room with stripes marked on the floor trying not to feel totally out of my element but after 2 minutes felt welcome.
The practica starts in the same way each week, an hour of individual practice, walking and then ochos. Men on one side of the room and women on the other. Like any practice it took me a while to settle into it. Distracted, I wanted to dance, stretch more. “No” said one of the young assistants, ‘too much stretch is exaggerating your walk…”
Slowly, with each step I began to get into the zone, concentrating on different elements of my movement, my weight, how I would start, finish, how I felt, trying to remember the different feelings, just walking in time to the music. There was so much there walking by myself that the hour flew by, I found myself wanting to carry on when the dancing part started.
There was a mature elegant lady who with her assistant was supervising us girls whilst the boys were under the watchful eye of her husband. Both of them were so welcoming and friendly, they invited me to join the group of dancers left at the end for a spot of dinner. After I learnt that Carlitos Perez and his wife Rosa are teachers and dancers with a wealth of experience and they have been running the pratica at Sunderland for years, producing champions of the salon competitions but more importantly amazing social dancers who have beautiful smooth walks and rich turns. Yes I’m talking about the likes of Sebastian Jimenez & Maria Ines Bogado, Dante Sanchez & Ines Muzzopappa.
To open the first day of the advent calendar, here’s a picture of the practica at Sunderland, courtesy of Frank Seifart. Bottom right you can see Carlitos at work