Black Belt Salsa class creates lethal dancers

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Black Belt Salsa instructor Erin Sinberg shows Sebastian Gast some new moves during a class at Cocktails & Creations on Main Avenue.

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

Dance, like martial arts, is for many a lifelong journey. That’s the parallel professional dance instructor Edie Williams drew last year when she named her new dance instruction method Black Belt Salsa. It’s full-contact dancing, to be sure, but there’s nothing combative about it.

Here in Durango, Williams’ “Grasshopper” is Erin White Sinberg, Sinberg has been a Salsa aficionado for years, and was one of Williams first students last year. Think of it as a victimless pyramid scheme: you teach two friends, and they teach two friends.

“The idea is you learn not only how to dance but how to teach people how to dance,” Sinberg said.

Only the most accomplished students can become instructors. Students of Black Belt Salsa, like those in many martial arts disciplines, can measure their progress through belts. Newbies first earn a white belt before continuing on for orange, yellow, camo, green, purple and blue. From there, brown, red and black belts are reserved for instructors of varying accomplishment. In just more than a year, Black Belt Salsa schools have sprung up in 11 states and 12 foreign countries.

A year ago, Sinberg was a self-described “dance nerd” who was looking for a weekly Salsa fix. While Moe’s holds a weekly Salsa night every Thursday, she said as a working mother the midweek party just happens too late for her. She often went to Albuquerque or Denver on weekends to find the right crowd.

“That’s a long way to go to dance, and I knew there had to be people here like me,” she said.

Although Sinberg attended Williams’ first hands-on instruction workshops in Colorado Springs, she has not yet earned the first black belt. Currently, she’s certified as a red/brown belt, which still allows her to have two apprentices herself – Ed Ferrigan and Louvelle Zinser – and teach a class that averages about 20 dancers each week.

Sinberg’s classes meet weekly at Cocktails & Creations and beginners and intermediates are not separated during class (none has yet achieved the label of “expert”).

“Everybody learns in one room in one evening,” Sinberg said. “It makes the beginners better, they learn by vibration. It’s easier than people think.”

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