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Fiery and footloose

Updated: 2012-12-12 10:37
By Gan Tian ( China Daily)

Fiery and footloose

Huo Yaofei joins a local group dancing salsa at a club in Cuba. Provided to China Daily

Huo Yaofei says it's passion, rather than technique, that has made him one of China's most sensational salsa dancers. Gan Tian reports.

Huo Yaofei is a star both inside and outside of the dance room of Beijing's Power House Gym.

Members ask for autographs and pose for photos with the 35-year-old before every class, because he's credited with bringing to Beijing Cuban salsa dancing, which has become hot in China in recent years.

Huo is the only Asian to win gold in the genre at the International Festival of Popular Dance of Cuba.

His classes aren't conventional - and he believes they shouldn't be.

Fiery and footloose


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Rather than teach techniques, he spins in the middle of the crowd and then rushes to the side to beat a giant wooden drum with his hands.

The class is more like a club where people party rather than study.

Huo got into salsa in 1999, as a Capital University of Physical Education and Sports student, where he took international ballroom dancing.

His teacher took him to Beijing's Salsa Cabana, where Huo was certain his "professional" moves would dazzle - but actually fizzled.

"There were many Latinos doing salsa," Huo recalls.

"I noticed their dancing wasn't for show but, rather, was spontaneous and natural."

He realized this is the soul of salsa.

"I'm most attracted to the spontaneity. I thought dancing was about presenting yourself, but it's actually organic."

He spent the following decades studying salsa, often picking up techniques from people he met in the clubs, many of whom were Latin American embassy employees or students.

Related: Salsa fever hits Chongqing

Huo became well-known for his salsa in the city, at a time when the dance was far from popular anywhere in the country. He started teaching it part time.

He taught freelance after graduation, unlike his classmates - most of whom landed full-time gigs as nurses or consultants.

"Chinese people still believed in iron rice bowls," he says, referring to stable jobs with regular pay.

"But I didn't want that. I wanted to teach salsa. Isn't that a decision that follows the dance's spirit? That is: Follow your gut and passions."

His bet paid off.

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