Learning to Salsa Dance with Choco at Vancouver’s Exhale Studio

Turn up the heat on your relationship with salsa dance lessons from Choco, Latin dance instructor extraordinaire, at Vancouver's Exhale Studio

Exhale Studio’s salsa dance instructor, Choco, teaches intro and intermediate classes

Shake what your mama gave you with a little help from salsa dance instructor Choco at Vancouver’s Exhale Studio

It’s been about 10 years since my husband and I stepped foot in a dance class. When you’re newly in love you’ll do just about anything for the object of your affection.

Case in point: during our early years my husband willingly participated in Latin dance lessons (and even took me dancing at fabulous places like Toronto’s Babalúu) and I gobbled up countless facts about classic muscle car restoration.

Fast forward a decade – and possibly a wee bit of complacency in the obliging-your-partner-department – and here we are back at it again, halfway through the five-week Intro Salsa Dance classes at Exhale Studio in Yaletown.

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I’ve had to embrace a motorbike as our sole mode of transportation for the past year. Fair and square? I think we’ll call it even once we’ve completed the next level of classes (Intermediate Salsa Dance) and have had the chance to show off our moves somewhere in Latin America. But I digress.

Salsa Lessons with Choco at Exhale Studio

Our instructor, Choco, has more than 20 years’ salsa dance experience and has been teaching in Vancouver since the late 1990s.

His classes, led along with graceful partner Rachel, are fun and upbeat but have a serious undertone to them.

This man is determined to help us succeed and has all sorts of tricks up his sleeve, different from what we’d learned in previous classes, and they really work wonders.

First of all, he stresses the absolute necessity that, while on the dance floor, the man leads and the woman follows.

This sounds like a no-brainer if you’re familiar with dancing but I have a hard time following, and I’m not the only one.

Choco is so adamant about man-as-leader that he’s actually asked the men to put up their hand and tattle on their dance partner if she gives even the slightest effort to lead. 

To further establish who is doing the leading and who is doing the following, the women spend a large part of the first class with their eyes closed, while Choco gives only visual cues to the men as to which of the three basic steps – forward and back, side to side, and cross back behind – comes next.

Playing Musical Partners

Another teaching method, that initially had the entire class clinging to the partner they came with, turned out to be very helpful indeed. Everyone is lined up in couples and, minus one unobliging duo, rotates partners every few minutes for most of the class.

Not only is it useful learning to dance with partners of different sizes, but you’re less likely to bicker with someone you haven’t spent the last 5,000 days with and more likely to focus on the task at hand.

Switching partners also means getting to dance with the instructors at some point too – time for personal attention and a glimpse at what being really good will feel like.

Salsa Dance Adds Spice to Your Relationship

All joking aside, the fact that my husband has given up his Friday nights to take dance lessons with me has definitely added a new spark to our relationship.

It’s not only been a great way to end the work week, learn a new skill, meet new people, and get a little workout, but we’ve connected on a new level (following can be fun in small doses) and are having fun planning a trip to a place where we can bask in the sun by day and salsa dance by night. 


Catherine Roscoe Barr, BSc Neuroscience, is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and fitness professional. Before settling on the west coast she lived in Sydney, Toronto, Oregon, Montana, and practically everywhere in Alberta. She can be found jogging with her adorable dog, dining with her fabulous husband or voraciously reading anywhere comfy.