ANNA LEV – SALSA FOR EVERYONE!
There are many people who inspire us in this journey called life. To me, such are usually either people who do what they love and love what they do, or people who so passionately help others, that they nearly forget themselves while at it. This woman is a combination of both! Anna Lev dances salsa, and while at it, does free YouTube tutorials to help us all with this art even at home.
I stumbled upon Anna’s videos a few months ago, as I was searching for tutorials on “side techniques for arms” in salsa (Yes, I do that… search for all kinds of tutorials on YouTube). As a consequence, one sleepless night I decided to write to her and asked her if I could do an interview with her on her passion for salsa. “Of course!” she answered with no hesitation. So, here we go with Anna Lev – a woman who has brought me joy and wisdom with her impeccable dance and cheerful presence!
Interview with Anna Lev
Dear Anna, please introduce yourself in a few sentences.
My name is Anna Lev, I live, work, love and teach in Russia, Ekaterinburg city.
Please tell us about your history as a dancer? What about as a salsa dancer?
Truly I don’t have such an outstanding dancing history which you probably expect to hear. When I was a child I danced ballroom dances for maybe 4 years, but it was really a long time ago. Then I gave it up and didn’t dance professionally anything for quite many years, just something every once in a while. I started to dance salsa in 2002 (at that moment I was 21) and still dance it. In 2002, salsa had just started in my city, and we had only one salsa school and very few people dancing.
But the story how I found that school and started salsa classes is funny. One day a guy told me that he had found a dance school where people dance salsa. He suggested to go to the class together and I agreed. I didn’t know anything about salsa at that moment, but I felt that it was it! Eventually, that guy never came to the class and I am where I am now, haha. So, I started and loved it from the first moment! It suited perfectly to my body and my temperament. There were very few people in my city dancing salsa back then, no really professional teachers, no salsa community, no parties as you see them now. But step by step we grew.
In 2006 I gave a birth to my daughter and stopped dancing for about a year and all that year I was missing salsa very much. I felt like I was starving! Then, in 2007 I started teaching. First Cuban style, then bachata, then New York style. From 2007, I was also co-owner of a dance school where I was teaching until I moved to Israel in 2014. During those years I was travelling, visiting many salsa congresses, learning from different dancers and styles, absorbing knowledge and getting inspired.
What does salsa mean to you?
It is a way to express who I really am, my inner essense and beauty.
What kind of salsa do you love most? Cuban, LA, Puerto Rican, Cali style…?
My preferable style is NY style, I also love Cuban and Puerto Rican. I have never tried Cali style and don’t really love LA style because I hear music differently. To me, LA style me doesn’t go with music.
What do you think are the key elements for being a great salsa dancer?
I think the more time you spend dancing and the more passion you have inside, the more result you will have. I had much passion, I had an opportunity to dance 4-8 hours a day, but I still can’t say I’m a great, great dancer. I have room to grow.
For me a great salsa dancer means the complex of things:
1) Great dancing technique — a ‘must have’ thing. This is the part you have to train hard and it will help you in both couple and solo dancing. It includes general choreography, spins, plasticity and controlling the body, arms and feet technique, and of course the technique of leading and following.
2) Great couple technique is a second ‘must have thing’. I can speak about it for a long time, as it’s my favorite topic. But briefly, if a dancer is great on the stage, doing incredible salsa solo shows, but terrible on the dance floor, he/she is not a great dancer indeed. Salsa is first and foremost a couple dance which every dancer can make look unique giving it his/her own style. But not the contrary. First you have to be a great leader or follower. And only after comes body movement, style, energy, musicality, knowing the roots of dance and music, shines.
Describing what a good couple technique means to me could take too much time. I always say that something that works with 95% of people is right. So, if 95% of your dances are successful, your partners understand you (and you understand them), the dance feels comfortable — it means you possess a good salsa technique (couple technique). It requires a lot of practice and patience. You should learn how to hear your partner with your body and interract with him using the same instrument.
3) A great dancer radiates energy while dancing. And people around feel it.
4) A great dancer has a good ear for music. I can say that everybody can reach it training and listening to a lot of music.
5) A good dancer could be good in some of the above, but not in everything.
Is dancing your full-time profession?
It was many years of my life, now not. I teach only one day a week and have a totally different job. And I enjoy it this way very much.
How much do you train and how?
I don’t train much nowadays (like i did before dancing 4-8 hours a day). I prepare a new choreography every week for my class. It takes time, but also makes me train and learn something new. Talking about salsa, that’s it. I also do contemporary dance classes twice a week, this dance style I really love and want to improve.
Do you think anyone can learn salsa? How much time and effort do you think it takes to become a great dancer? What is the key?
Anyone can learn salsa for sure. It depends on what level we are talking about, on the background of a person and on the time he/she is able to invest. It’s hard to say. It takes time for sure, on the one hand salsa is a very widely available dance, everyone can learn it and enjoy it. But on the other hand, to become a great dancer will take you not less than 10 000 hours. It’s a common rule for anything you learn and want to succeed in.
Do you have a dream as a salsa dancer? What is it?
I want to open my own online school and reach great success with it. I want to help many women to understand how to feel beautiful and free dancing, how to love yourself and how to show your inner essence without being shy or afraid to express yourself.
When and why did you begin with the YouTube tutorials?
I started my video blog when I moved to Israel. It was 2014. I found myself in a totally new environment, as regards to the culture and the way of thinking. No one knew me. I realized that I needed to do something to make people know me better. In January 2015, an idea of creating a blog on YouTube suddenly appeared in my mind. And the whole picture became clear. I decided to make short videos that people can watch fast without the feeling of losing time. My real goal was to make Israel fall in love with me, but I didn’t think about the rest of the world at that moment. Now my videos are watched in 210 countries and Israel is not even in the TOP 10.
What has it given you?
Oh it gave me a chance to watch myself through the camera, hahaha. And it made me learn many things on the way. But the most important thing that happened thanks to my blog is that I realized how much I have inside to give. How rich and blessed I am.
How much time do you put into your YouTube channel?
Truly not as much as I wished to. I have a normal life with a family, job and some other things to do. So, I don’t have much time to record videos every week, although I wish I did. Sometimes it happens once a month, sometimes even more rarely. I also don’t do anything to increase the quantity of subscribers or views. It goes as it goes. Now I started to talk to my followers personally asking them to tell be about their salsa stories. I hope it will help me to produce more quality content.
What is your aim as a YouTuber?
Before it was to conquer small Israel, now it is to conquer the world!
As I am now in Cali, I must also ask: have you ever been to Cali?
No, I have never been there. Yet!
… And here’s to all you dear readers, who want to practice your footwork and shines with the lovely Anna Lev!
Thank you so much, Anna, for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing with us a (big) piece of your life – SALSA!
Featured image: ©Anna Lev/Beauty Plus