Smile Politely

Cinnamon Trammel can teach you to dance salsa, swing, country, and more

A large group of students surround Cinnamon Trammell after a dance class.
Cinnamon Trammell

As a competitive ballroom dancer myself, I grew up social dancing. For ballroom dancing, these are typically weekly held events at dance studios (Regent Ballroom in Savoy offers these type of events, often on Fridays). You show up, you put on your dance shoes, and you spend the evening dancing in a low-stress, casual environment; one dance is a waltz, the next may be a swing, the next a cha-cha. Champaign-Urbana hosts a number of similar events, devoted either entirely to tango, latin nights, or swing. While some people take a partner with them and dance exclusively together, most people take the opportunity to dance with other people, which is the best way to improve your lead and follow [the basis for partner dancing]. We are really lucky in this area to have such an active social dance scene.

If you have been thinking about trying out tango or salsa and bachata, Urbana Dance Company hosts a number of workshops. I personally find workshops to be less intimidating than other forms of lessons, and it’s a great way to try out a new dance and see if it’s for you. This weekend, they are hosting a two-day workshop on salsa and bachata taught by professional dancer Cinnamon Trammell.

Trammell is currently based out of Chicago, but comes down to Urbana every few months to host these workshops. I recently corresponded with Trammel to learn more about his own history with dancing as well as more about the workshop. Here’s what he had to say:

Cinnamon Trammell, a Black man in dress pants, a white shirt and vest, stands alongside students after a dance showcase. A banner behind them reads "Chi Town Dancesport Showcase." The students are holding up medals.
Cinnamon Trammell

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Smile Politely: Tell me a little bit about yourself: Where are you from? What’s your connection to Champaign-Urbana?

Cinnamon Trammell: I’m a ballroom dance instructor and studio owner. I am originally from New York. I was introduced to Urbana Dance Company by a student of mine. I have five businesses that are all dance related; I’m also a dance therapist as well as a talk therapist. So yes, dance is my full time job.

 SP: How did you get started dancing?

Trammell: I started dance when I was five years old. I did jazz, ballet, modern, lyrical, and hip hop. I was a professional ballroom dance competitor for 15 years and then retired from that and went on to this. [I started teaching on the] Latin circuit, and then the swing circuit, as well as country.

SP: How long have you been teaching? What styles do you teach?

Trammell: I’ve been teaching now for almost three decades. I teach everything from American style ballroom [Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, American Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero, Mambo], International style ballroom [Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, International Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble, Jive], country, swing, salsa, bachata, urban step… You name it, and I teach it.

SP: What do you like best about teaching and dancing?

Trammell: I like helping people achieve different goals that they didn’t believe they could achieve, and I love to dance because it’s a great physical exercise as well as a great mental exercise.

SP: What should people expect in your classes?

Trammell: You can expect to have fun and for there to be a lot of laughter. Plus, I simplify my teaching and I try to relate to each individual person whether I’m teaching a private lesson on the Web or I’m teaching a group lesson in-person.

A group of dancers dance salsa at Urbana Dance Company. The room is dark with red and pink lighting
The Urbana Dance Company on Facebook

SP: Tell me about your workshop at Urbana Dance Company- what will you be teaching, who is the class suited for?

Trammell: I kind of leave the classes up to the students but mostly I’ve been teaching salsa and bachata as well as theory of dance. This will be my fourth or fifth visit to the Urbana Dance Company — I usually come about every four months [to teach these workshops].

SP: If someone has maybe been thinking about taking a dance class, but they are a little nervous to take that first step, what advice would you give them?

Trammell: I would tell them to at least just go to watch a class, whether you participate or not, just watching the class sometimes is enough to help you make a decision.

SP: Final question: What’s your favorite place in Champaign-Urbana?

Trammell: I really haven’t got to see much of Urbana while I’m there. I’m usually always teaching. But, because it’s the summer time, maybe I might doing a little more sight-seeing.

Salsa and Bachata Workshops
The Urbana Dance Company
122 W Main St
June 24-25
2 to 5 p.m.
$16 per hour, $40 per day, or $60 both days
Registration not required

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