Dancing With The Stars has helped spur interest in ballroom dancing, but for many who would like to follow in the footsteps of the stars, lessons are often too expensive, too far away and socially awkward in the extreme. But if your partner is a mobile device, none of these obstacles apply. Mobile apps could be the best thing to hit ballroom dancing since the hurdler's stretch. The better ones like LDF Hot Salsa (up to US$3 for iOS), Pocket Salsa (US$3 for iOS or US$2 for Android) and Learn Argentine Tango (up to US$13 for iOS) - offer solid, inexpensive tutorials. And thanks to the mobile format, you can see them when no one's watching or brush up on your steps immediately before you try to impress a date in public.
After a few swings around my living room, I found the Hot Salsa series especially effective. There are three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), with each anchored by a set of instructional videos featuring Christian Gutierrez and sometimes his partner, Liem Pham. The videos are adequate, if slightly less than professional quality. The audio is passable, the lighting is fair and the set is a living room, complete with fireplace. The video is framed from a point that was slightly too far at times for me to see Gutierrez's footwork clearly, although that problem was less bothersome when I tested the app on an iPad.
Aesthetics aside, the quality of the instruction was quite good. The 30 lessons featured in each app average roughly one minute each - just enough to cover one distinct movement. Gutierrez typically introduces a move by demonstrating and explaining it at full speed. He then offers a slower demonstration along with a more technically oriented discussion. The videos are bolstered by text explanations of each move, which I found helpful, if occasionally in dire need of proofreading. You can also add notes of your own to each lesson, which is a nice touch...... NYT