Kazakh dancer instructs salsa classes, finds her rhythm in Toronto

ASTANA – Aktobe-born and raised, Gulsaya Tuleu has been teaching, choreographing and performing lively and exciting salsa for years at Baila Society (BASo) in dynamic and multicultural Toronto. One of the most graceful dance forms, salsa inspires millions of people worldwide with the flexibility of its movements and energetic music.

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Gulsaya Tuleu

“Throughout my childhood, I performed and competed in belly dance, cultural dances and Latin ballroom. I won my first competition at the age of nine. When I was 16, I won a scholarship that allowed me to go abroad to the U.S. as an exchange student. I found opportunities to dance in musical productions and on sports dance teams during high school and after graduation, I attended Santa Monica College in Los Angeles with a double major in dance and business. This was when I was introduced to a wide range of dance styles such as contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, tap, African, Cuban and salsa. I first fell in love with salsa music when I took a beginner salsa class. This inspired me to audition for my first salsa performance class, where I performed LA-style salsa,” said Tuleu in an interview with The Astana Times.

During her second year, Tuleu sprained her ankle and could no longer continue dance training or the dream of becoming a professional dancer. This was devastating for the young woman and she decided to continue her studies at Baruch College in New York City.

“After graduating from college, I returned to my most intense passion – salsa. While in LA, I was introduced to the social dance aspect of salsa dancing which I loved the most. It was through social dancing that I met Ahtoy Juliana, the artistic director of BASo New York. Soon after our meeting, she invited me to join the dance company and the rest is history!” added Tuleu.

As a principal dancer with the world-renowned dance company, Tuleu was able to travel, teach and perform in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, Tokyo, Dubai, Istanbul and Vancouver.

15258949_212484445858961_250143671322673152_n“I came to Toronto in 2010 for a personal visit and was invited to be a guest instructor at a local dance school. A couple of years later, I came back to establish BASo Canada – the New York-style ‘on 2’ salsa school and performance dance company based in Toronto. I am happy to have made that decision, as I have met wonderful people these last few years doing what I love the most!” she noted.

“What inspires me to choreograph first and foremost is salsa music. Sometimes I would hear a specific song, fall in love with its beauty and already visualise a theme to it and create the choreography in my mind. My musical background since childhood has strongly contributed to my deep appreciation of the complexity of salsa songs. In my choreographies, I tend to accentuate the instrument beats that dominate over others or resonate with me the most. I choreograph ladies styling routines on my own and the process usually takes about 12 hours. For partner work pieces, I often turn to my colleagues in New York, especially to my dear friend and mentor Ahtoy Juliana from BASo NY. Most recently I collaborated with David Zepeda, a six-time Salsa World Champion, who helped us choreograph a routine that will be showcased in fall 2017,” she added.

15258743_201634066963067_1824427645492789248_nSalsa has many health advantages, as it improves balance, strength, flexibility and stamina. The dance also enables a person to instantly connect with others around the world and is also an amazing platform to build lifelong friendships. There are no language barriers, for on the dance floor everyone “speaks” the same language, said Tuleu.

“Dancing is my true passion, so it does not feel like work most of the time. It is immensely rewarding and inspiring to me on many levels to see lives transform. Aside from the artistic aspirations, that is what gives me perpetual impetus to work harder. Finally, salsa dancing brings a vibrant social life, which includes lots of traveling to salsa congresses, watching performances by other professionals and taking dance workshops. Being a student again is the best feeling, as it opens up unlimited possibilities, gives you a new perspective on everything you know and intensifies your passion for this dance. Growth in general is an essence of being alive,” she added.