Out to kick up a storm

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Funky Hot Latinas

‘Salsa Romantica’, the Ego Club, Picardy Place, tomorrow. Tickets 8 (6). Beginners’ salsa classes at 5pm, followed by DJs and cabaret until 11pm.

THEY were the queens of dance, the "leggy lovelies" who made Top of the Pops essen-tial viewing for every red- blooded male.

And when Pans People, Legs & Co and later Hot Gossip strutted their stuff in slinky outfits, big hair and several layers of lip gloss, there was barely a little girl in the land who didn’t wish that one day, just maybe, that could be her.

They cast their spell on the young Karen Hewitt-Reyes too. And as she watched, she dreamed of a day when she could perform just like Babs, Dee Dee and Flick in her very own troupe.

That dream finally comes true tomorrow when Karen, along with Latin dance champion Victoria Innes and hip-hop specialist Miya Gilritchie, launch themselves as the Funky Hot Latinas, a dance trio with several twists. And although their first public performance will last just five minutes and 30 seconds, they hope it will leave the audience calling for more.

"We are mixing a lot of dance styles in a way that is completely different and original," explains Karen, 35, from Leith, who, when she’s not dancing, works in marketing with an Edinburgh firm. "We’ll perform ballet, salsa, cha cha, merengue, hip-hop, street jazz and jive - all in just over five minutes."

They will showcase their packed routine at Salsa Romantica, the once-a-month salsa get-together at the Ego Club in Picardy Place. The fun kicks off early with beginners’ classes at 5pm followed by the chance to practise the necessary salsa kicks and twirls to DJs and Latin rhythms. The trio hope it will be the start of greater things, and there are plans to extend the routine so each dancer will be able to show off their particular talent, and the possibility of touring clubs and performing at national and inter-national dance conferences.

"We may even incorporate some male dancers - if we find any that are good enough!" laughs Karen.

Although it’s their first outing as a dance troupe, Karen, Victoria, 28, from Rosyth, and Miya, 25, of Corstor-phine, are no strangers to the world of dance, each rising to the top of their chosen genre. Karen is a former British Merengue Champion and has taught salsa and merengue for three years; dance studio owner Victoria is a former World Junior Latin Champion and more recently Scottish Profess-ional Ballroom and Latin champion, while Miya is an ex-NFL cheerleader who has performed and taught street jazz in the UK and New York and now teaches salsa across Scotland.

For Miya, Sunday’s performance will be small-scale to some she’s been involved in, yet no less thrilling. "I’m used to dancing in a large stadium in front of lots of American football fans, but sometimes it’s more daunting to be in front of a small crowd - in a big stadium, you can’t see their faces."

While she continues to run her Salsa With Miya adult dance classes and organise workshops for children in Edinburgh schools, she says there is nothing to beat the buzz of performing before an audience, some-thing each of them quickly realised when they met almost by chance.

"I was looking to improve my dance technique when I saw Victoria dance at a festival in Blackpool," recalls Karen. "I contacted her for lessons and we were soon talking about forming a dance troupe. We had been talking about how we needed someone who specialised in hip-hop when Miya contacted me through my website. She wanted to teach salsa and we thought she’d be ideal for our troupe."

While salsa and merengue play their part in their routine, Miya insists they are not solely a Latin dance act . . . although judging by the Edinburgh’s love affair with Latin rhythms, that would not be a problem - salsa dance nights, live Cuban and Latin American music and dance classes are now commonplace throughout the city.

Chiropractor Paul Homoky organises the monthly Salsa Romantica get-together at the Ego Club, and says the scene is thriving in Edinburgh.

"I started Salsa Romantica last July and now it’s known as Edinburgh’s premier salsa night. We get around 250 people on the night. A lot come because they love the dancing, others love the music."

Appearing alongside Karen, Victoria and Miya tomorrow will be Glasgow-based salsa experts Dr Salsa and Sandra D, who recently came joint first place in the Scottish Salsa Championships. Also performing will be The Combo Latino, who specialise in the Cuban dance form. Sunday’s event has been given a Valentine’s theme and everyone is being encouraged to wear something red, although it’s not obligatory.

Meanwhile, Karen, Victoria and Miya have been busy polishing their diverse routine at The Edge health club in Edinburgh Park, in time for tomorrow’s big launch. "This is the culmination of months of hard work," says Karen. "We think music lovers will be captivated by this unique fusion of dance styles."