The Lockdown Interviews! – Part 5
Welcome to The Lockdown Interviews where we grill and probe some of Salsa Buenas’ most popular Teachers/Guest Teachers, who are also some of the UK’s TOP teachers, about the lockdown.
How has it affected them? How have they been coping? What have they been up to? What do they think the future holds? All this and more! Their answers will inspire, surprise, shock and intrigue.
For this final interview we turn the spotlight back on ourselves and Mr Salsa Buena himself Shahid, Salsa Buenas main teacher owner and director is put under the spotlight. It’s only fair!
Note: If you are really struggling with lockdown and/or are seriously affected by any of the issues in this post, please seek professional guidance. Check out the infographic to the left/or at the bottom of this post of just some of the many professional and charitable organisations that can and will help. You are not alone.
SB: What were your first reactions/thoughts/fears when the 1st lockdown was announced?
Shahid: My fears, like many of the other promoters, started to kick in before the actual lockdown in the UK. In this business we all know just how much close contact partner dance classes and dancing can involve. The more the news filled up with headlines of a deadly disease spread by exactly this kind of contact, and the deaths around the world and the closer and closer to the UK it came. the more it became difficult to carry on with a clear conscience. Knowing your line of work can potentially put everyone that attends and whoever they go onto contact at serious risk. We did our final classes on Thursday the 12th March 2020. With no more classes due till Monday 16th. I decided to see how the news headlines went over the weekend before coming to a decision. Not good at all! So with an extremely heavy heart I announced on Sunday the 15th March 2020, a week before the official UK lockdown, that all Salsa Buena Classes and Events would be suspended immediately until further notice.
Everyone from our students, the venues, our guest teachers were 100% supportive and understanding.
I run and teach a lot of nights and as a result we have a lot of students and fans at our classes and events. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. My thoughts went to our students. I have been teaching a long time and if there is one thing I have realised it’s that people don’t attend classes just to learn to dance. Many come because they are dealing with personal issues, anything from just looking to make new friends and socialise, to overcoming and recovering from personal difficulties – bereavement, addiction, depression, stress, physical and mental health etc. For many people dance classes are a lifeline, a cure, or just a welcome distraction for all these kinds of things and more and without this lifeline I worried how people would cope. In my post announcing the suspension of classes and events I encouraged people to stay in touch with each other, form groups and keep a lookout for each other.
SB: How were the first few weeks for you emotionally and mentally?
Shahid: Initially I was fine, doing so many nights and so many hours, it was nice to have a break. But it eventually became tough, very tough. I did not realise till lockdown just how much of my own life revolved around my ‘work’. Being a bit of a workaholic, it was everything, my healer, my best friend, my social life, many of my friends, almost every aspect of my life was connected to teaching dance and running events. And now there was nothing!
I started to suffer from anxiety, which really surprised me. Over the past decade I’ve had and been trying to develop a more spiritual way of living, which helped me immensely to deal with difficult situations. Then just when you think you’re getting it sussed you’re put in a totally new and unexpected situation which tests you to the full and makes you realise you still have much to learn!
SB: As lockdown set in how did you cope and what have you been doing?
Shahid: Well on the plus side of having so much free time, it enabled me to really develop and work on all the holistic and spiritual practices I had already been doing but in a limited capacity due to work. I could now learn more and practice to a far far deeper level and understanding that I didn’t have time for before which helped me cope and address this gaping hole of anxiety due to lockdown that I didn’t expect.
I started reading even more spiritual books, doing longer and deeper meditations, lots of introspection. I restarted my practice of the Wim Hof Method which involves breathing technique and cold exposure (cold showers, ice baths etc). Lots of walks, working out – (dug out my old dumbbells and pumped up the swiss ball). Bought some fun workout apps for my VR headset.
Eventually I built up a routine. Morning was taken up with physical and mental/spiritual practices as described above. Afternoon would be DIY time – finally doing all those jobs around the flat that needed doing and improving. Evening would be learning something new, online courses that would also help with running the business once lockdown is over.
This would lead me into late evening where I could read or ‘Netflix and chill’ and I really do mean Netflix at least for the most part lol. 😉. Like a lot of people, I can’t begin to tell you how many books, boxsets, movies and documentaries I’ve gotten thru. And of course keeping in touch with friends, family, students, my lovely partner Lauren and seeing them when it was possible.
And once I’d gotten into that routine it was surprising just how quickly the days passed. I found myself wanting longer days to get more done. And that daily routine particularly with the exercise and spiritual practices etc eventually took care of the anxiety.
I was me again, but an even better me that was now coping well with this new and crazy situation. Since then and now into our third lockdown, I’m enjoying the time, peace and space it gives me and making the most of it – even more so now knowing the end is hopefully in sight and that this will all soon enough be a memory, a blip in our lives in the big scheme of things. I’m trying to make the most of this unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to really be able to kick back and smell the roses.
SB: Have you still been able to teach?
Shahid: Fortunately yes, although obviously in a much more limited capacity. The first lockdown in particular was a very tough time for a lot of people, and as mentioned above I was concerned for many of our students who for a myriad of reasons dancing and dance classes was anything from just being a great pastime to an important lifeline. One of the most important things was just to keep people connected and give them some kind of class/dance fix whether they were alone or had a partner. So in early April we did our first free online Zoom event. Classes, shines, line-ups , dance music and in between tracks some fun and games with quizzes and people were free to see each other over webcam interact with each other privately or publicly via the chat option. The first one was Saturday 4th April 2020 a few weeks into the first lockdown and the response was huge, people were very keen to reconnect, get their dancing/class fix and just to be able to see chat and connect with everyone else.
It went really well and people were asking for more so we did the following Sat as well then the following and the following each one keeping everyone connected, a weekly fix to catch up with everyone, dance, learn and have fun. We did one really special one where we gave everyone a chance to tell us more about themselves and their lives. A student journalist got wind of our Saturday events and published a lovely article about how it was helping people during lockdown. Eventually I ended up doing 15 weeks in a row of these free Saturday events running right till the end of July, we had run thru the entirety of the first lockdown!
I received many messages about what these weekly get togethers meant to people and how it helped them cope. It was a great feeling to still be able to do something to help.
I know all teachers are a bit biased when it comes to their students, but I could not be prouder of all of them, they pulled each other through, were there for each other, not just through the events but outside of them too with many of them having formed a Salsa Buena whatsapp group, regularly checking in on each other on a daily basis (and still do).
Since then when we had a temporary relaxation in the rules it enabled me to run outdoor classes in Bute Park and then when Gyms re-opened in the Sports Centre for fixed couples. We had our Salsa Buena Xmas Party online and more recently some online Valentines Classes on Feb 14th.
For teachers to still be able to teach in some capacity is a great feeling and a lifeline too, it cuts both ways!
And although not actually teaching, arranging these Lockdown interviews to also help keep people connected has been a very fulfilling process. I can’t thank all the teachers that were able to take part enough for being open, and allowing that connection that has inspired and helped others. We’ve had such great feedback.
SB: What do you recommend people can do to keep up their dancing skills and class fix?
Shahid: There’s lots of online classes now for solo and partners. And literally hundreds of free youtube videos of Classes, Shines, Styling, Musicality etc. Watch and practice them all. Dancing in the kitchen (or anywhere you can!) to music alone or with a partner. Practising the moves you do know and remember either with your partner or if you are alone try to shadow the steps from moves you know
SB: Have you taken on any new Hobbies, Pastimes, Skills or Courses?
Shahid: Yes indeed. I’ve given myself some pet projects from DIY work around the flat, sorting out the spare room to online courses and learning new software. I also finally decided to try and realise a lifelong ambition and learn to swim. My lovely partner Lauren (a qualified lifeguard!) was giving me lessons whilst gyms were open. And although it’s not a hobby/pastime/course etc I’ve finally decided I feel responsible enough (prob thanks to all that meditation etc lol) to own a pet. Never had one before but I finally feel in the right place – commitment and responsibility! Lol. I’ve been looking for a rescue cat (I love all animals and have always loved cats) and can’t wait for the right cat to choose me and settle him/her in.
SB: Do you have any advice for people struggling during this time?
Shahid: I think its important to have a routine, and one in particular that involves taking good care of your mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Be it meditation, yoga/pilates, dumbells, a work out to a youtube video, long walks and trying to get as much nature in where possible. Give yourself some pet projects be it something around your property or learning something new that you’ve always wanted to do. You’ll be surprised how much it focuses you and how quickly the day passes. Message and speak to/see people where and when possible/allowed. And if that’s not possible and you need extra help please don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. Whether its someone you know or a professional charitable organisation. We all have your back and will get you through this.
SB: What has lockdown taught you?
Shahid: In one word – Gratitude! I’ve always been grateful, I’m a very lucky guy to have one of the best jobs in the world and get to meet and teach some of the loveliest people and to make a successful living out of it. Lockdown has taught me even more gratitude.
When you’re in a unprecedented situation as the one we are all facing right now and have been facing, you really need to go deep into gratitude as one of the many tools to get through it. However bad things are they could be much worse. I’m waking up in the morning alive, conscious, in good health and have food on my plate that’s a lot to be thankful for! Truth is despite lockdown I wake up with far more than that, I can laugh at a funny joke, cry at a soppy movie, smell a rose, watch a beautiful sunset, gaze at a full moon, feel something on my skin, it’s truly a miracle. Sometimes we forget this and lose sight of gratitude the very thing that will help us through this. And helping those not so fortunate or struggling, in however big or small a way we can, giving something back, that’s also part of gratitude.
SB: Do you envisage any change in the future of Dance Classes and Events once this is over?
Shahid: Hopefully for the better! I do hope we remember this time and learn from it. I’d love to see a more cohesive dance and class scene, where we can all work together and support each other even more, from students and teachers alike.
I think live online classes eg using Zoom may well have a part to play in the future. Time will tell if the demand now is only because we are in lockdown. But I think the online option can work so well for people where doing it online from home is either more convenient or the only way to get to a class. Personally, as with our recent online classes and feedback I really love being able to reach so many more people not just all over the UK but the world!
I hope the powers that be, Governments etc learn from this too. Diseases that affect our immune system are relatively new, a result of our environment, how we live our lives, how we think, how we treat the planet each other and what we eat. Prevention is better than cure. Instead of creating more drugs to treat these problems and spending vast amounts of money and resources to handle future pandemics we can avoid it altogether by having policies that treat people and the environment better and encourage good sustainable food choices so that we don’t have any more pandemics and people are far stronger and better equipped mentally, physically and emotionally to deal with whatever the unpredictable future may hold. Dance Classes, Pilates, Yoga, Mindfulness etc are only a few of the proven tools out there that help us strengthen our immune system, improve our mental, physical and social well-being, and help us deal with difficult situations. We need to encourage more of these kinds of activities – investing more in people and mental health as well as sustainable food and environment. This way we can not only avoid future pandemics altogether we can have happier people and a better world.
SB: What do you think the first day back at a regular class/dance event will be like?
Shahid: One hell of a party!!!
Thank you Shahid for taking part and your open, honest and inspiring answers. ❤️. We look forward to more Salsa Buena Dance Classes & Events in Cardiff, Cowbridge & Beyond! You can catch all the Salsa Buena online classes and outdoor/indoor events (when allowed), as well as the ultimate full time return, details here:
Make sure you add yourself to our Facebook Page (link at bottom of this page) or check back on the Events section of this website regularly for more!