Spicing it up
• Photo gallery: Salsa dance fitness
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
Charlie Castro is not your typical dance instructor. The 39-year-old Kapahulu resident would seem more comfortable on a football field or basketball court. That's where he spent many years during his small-kid time, followed by serious team playing at Saint Louis High School.
Castro, of Salsa No Ka Oi, admits that he started doing salsa to meet girls. From his first steps on the dance floor, however, he was hooked on the dance. (It happens that getting the girl was an added bonus — he is now dating his dance partner, Amy Tomita.)
Not entirely a stranger to dance, Castro had taken hula for several years and was a breakdancer from about age 12 through 16. "But I had no partner dancing history or formal class at all," he explained.
"It wasn't easy for me to talk, and I was very shy. Salsa brought me out of my shell," he said. "I went to my first salsa class in 1999, and it felt great! I liked it right away because I was one of three guys and 22 ladies.
"I was in high demand for dancing," Castro said with a laugh.
Castro becomes animated when talking about salsa music, which resonates with him.
"Once I heard the music, I just started moving. The music made me want to dance and to learn."
By 2004 he was hooked, dancing every chance he could get. When his instructor announced a move to the Mainland, he asked Castro to step up and take over Salsa No Ka Oi.
One of the things Castro likes best about salsa is its simplicity.
He insists that anyone can dance salsa. "If you can walk, you can dance salsa," he said. "You're just walking to a beat."
Castro and Tomita have become nationally recognized experts in bachata, a Latin-based dance that Castro compares to hula because it is based on a side-to-side step, similar to the basic step in hula, the kaholo.
He describes the style he teaches as a hybrid of Cuban and Puerto Rican moves, with a West Coast influence.
The couple just returned from a trip to Dallas, where they taught advanced salsa and bachata classes at the Dallas Bachata Festival.
"Bachata is a Dominican dance, while salsa is Puerto Rican," Castro explained. "Bachata is a little more sensual. It's easy to learn and fun; it's just a side to side motion, but with a partner."
One major difference between salsa and bachata is that bachata can be danced to many types of music, such as hip-hop and reggae, as long as the tempo has four beats.
Castro teaches about five or six hours a week and dances an additional night just for fun.
As if that wasn't enough exercise, his day job often has him walking six or eight miles a day, delivering mail on foot throughout Makiki.
Three times a week, he goes to the gym to lift weights.
"I've always done that. That's just my thing," he explained.
Now salsa and bachata have earned their place as his primary passion.