Remarkable that there is so much recent discussion about people NOT dancing whether we're talking about experienced salsa dancers, novice salsa dancers, swing dancers, and perhaps ballroom (when a discussion gets started there). This could go under general discussion, and I wouldn't mind a pointer, but I'm keeping this in salsa because I wanted to share a letter that is also relevant to this discussion. I didn't write the letter, but it was sent out on our Latin dancers (meaning salsa) list-serve, so it is public domain for all it's worth (I think). Any changes in formatting are mine, but the message is theirs. --- Dear Salseros/as and Mamberos/as: The great success of the Mini-Salsa Congress @ Montas is proof that Salsa is alive and well in the Southeast and that we have the power of congregation. If your schedule forced you to miss the event (don't worry, it won't be the last), you can catch some pictures here and pictures/commentaries here and read some out-of-town participants' comments at the bottom of this e-mail [removed]. If you are a local dancer who participated in the event, we are very glad you joined us, as you played the very important role of helping us preserve the momentum of salsa dancing in North Carolina. While this event was a sure sign that the NC salsa community has been developing steadily and surely in the past few years, we know that we are still taking baby steps. We believe that in order for Salsa to continue growing in NC, each of us must make every effort to develop a strong and united community of salsa dancers. This will require the same ingredients that are used when a town tries to grow its tourism: It needs publicity, it needs events with dancers in mind, it needs helpful & friendly town's people at every level, and it needs easy access. We believe that salsa has a great chance of very long-term survival in NC; it will surely happen with a continued willingness of it's participants to share the beauty and artistry of their art with all who seek to learn it. Let's take advantage of this upward momentum in Salsa dancing in NC and avoid the mistakes other dance communities have made. If you don't know what we mean, simply do some internet searching or ask multi-faceted dancers what has been one of the main culprits of other shrinking dance communities. While researching this issue, I read that in a South American country, for example, people are highly selective about whom they choose to dance with during social dances: great dancers want to dance with other great dancers, which means that they overlook the presence of beginners. Even those who, as a result of much hard work, can be described as "competent" dancers may find themselves snubbed as well. This can be summed up as "Always dance with those who are better dancers than you are." Personally, we feel that this "dance ethic" is not helpful at all, and it is socializing and encouragement, not ego building, which will compel people to stay in Salsa. Beginners are going to dance with other beginners but they also need to be mentored by those who have been dancing longer; competent dancers become "great" when they experience and can adjust to a range of partners --beginners included. Think about this for a moment: Dancing with a new dancer forces you to be well versed in the basics and technique issues rather than merely knowing steps. Good dancers supposedly find it difficult to dance with new dancers because of the beginner's lack of skills. If you only seem to dance well with a good or better dancer, it would be an indication that your skill level is not quite what it should be, even if you consider yourself "a good dancer". You see, a really good dancer can lead and follow well, with someone at any level, not just with experts. A strong leader dancing with a new dancer can take a mis-step or hesitation by a follower and turn the mis-step into a new dance move and turn the hesitation into a sensual pause; as a result, the follower will never be aware of her mistakes and will always have fun. If a strong follower dances with a weak leader, she will always land or position herself in just the right place on the floor, perfectly balanced, adjusting her timing to fit the inadequacy of the poor leader, smiling and having fun even while having no clue as to what he is going to do next. Even though a great follower knows how to stay on the beat of the music, she will step off the music to stay with her partner who then thinks he is dancing much more competently than he really is. Dancing always with a better dancer, then, doesn't necessarily help you learn because the better partner is constantly compensating for your lack of skill, either leading you to do something that you never knew, or following your lead while decorating each step to make you look much better than you actually are. It is certainly easier and more pleasurable to dance with those who are already dancing well, but if this means ignoring beginners or dancers who are less skilled than oneself, then serious consequences will keep the Salsa community in North Carolina much smaller than in other cities. How can Experienced Dancers Help? The mark of an advanced dancer is the ability to dance with anyone, no matter what that person's skill level may be, and make the experience an enjoyable one for all. Revealing the joy of salsa dancing to a new person is one of the rewards of being an experienced dancer. The only way to learn, of course, is to practice, so try to dance with at least one new person at each dance. If every experienced dancer incorporates some of these skills into his/her dancing, we will help make each newcomer's first salsa dance experience much more enjoyable. Please be willing to answer questions about the routine or any aspect of the dance, and above all, help beginners have un. Just like them, you were a beginner at one point and that's what we're here for: To encourage and acknowledge the real efforts they are making, and to communicate acceptance and affirmation as much as possible. How can Instructors Help? Dancing well with beginners is a skill that should be taught and is separate from being able to dance well with other experienced dancers. Experienced dancers should be encouraged to make newcomers feel welcome into the salsa dance community and help them make speedy progress. Dancers should be encouraged to attend as many local social dances as possible to help achieve a good comfort level in a variety of settings. In closing, without a welcoming and integrated atmosphere, the NC salsa community will grow minimally at best; beginners will never move into competency or competent dancers ever become "great." Please find whatever style of instruction best matches your needs and regardless of your personal preference for instructors and/or venues, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE share your passion about Salsa with others. To the beginners, we say "Stick with it!" You will be amazed how much you learn and how much you improve over the course of just a few weeks. For better dancers, we ask you to recognize that there is always room for improvement and everyone can benefit from working on technique. We always welcome any comments that you might have so if you have suggestions on how we can better serve you, we'd be happy to hear them. Thank you for your attention and Happy Salsa Dancing! Pilar & Roberto Montas www.montaslounge.com Research Triangle Park in Durham, North Carolina [reposted from Latinfirstname.lastname@example.org, which is a group listserver] .