Salsa > Dancing with people and the dancing community...

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by etchuck, Jul 30, 2004.

  1. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    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
    Research Triangle Park in Durham, North Carolina

    [reposted from, which is a group listserver] .
  2. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    It is remarkable etchuck. And what I find amazing about it is that these comments have been from people of all levels and in all situations. When I dance with anyone I try to give it my all. I flirt, try to play with the music etc. I find it shameful when others don't - it happens more often with the advanced dancers, but I've also had it occur with beginners too - and find it difficult to dance with them.
  3. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    I understand. I'm not sure why people don't dance though I think the latest discussions on this put this letter I got into an interesting light. Also with my last couple of posts on the salsa congress occurring here, it's interesting to note the context of this note, considering I don't believe anyone in the salsa community here participates in this forum.

    Obviously I like to look at bigger-picture contexts, and the sentiments from this letter could easily apply to other dancing communities as well.

    I was interested in what was meant by "other dance communities" in this letter, citing South American salsa communities being very cliquish.

    I admit the salsa community here is not as big as the swing community here. I think that in general it's probably about 3-4 years behind where the swing community is in terms of popularity (though I'll say that is actually an improvement based on the fact the swing community has been organized here for a lot longer, and we have had only two on2 instructor groups here).

    I'm struck thinking about why this is the case: somehow there is the dual worlds of salsa... the ballroom "whiter" version and the club "Latino" version. The differences from on1 and on2 accentuate that difference even further. As someone who wants to reach across, it's going to take some time to find a hand to touch on the other side of that gap... but hopefully that will come sooner than later. The first step for me is to actually learn the steps and tell those folks to cross over...
  4. Vin

    Vin New Member

    Hi etchuck, I was planning on checking out montas tonight and if I like it tomorrow, if you are there just look for a latin guy who does not seem to know anybody, that will be me :twisted: .
    That article definitely gives me a good hope of what the evening will be like though.
  5. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    If I can be selfish, don't go on Saturday. ;)

    I have a dance that I'm DJing this Saturday, which is mostly a swing dance event, but I'm doing the ballroom section.

    I'm more likely to go to Montas on Sunday actually. 3pm-6pm Argentine Tango blitz lesson. Then 6-8pm salsa lesson... then dance until whenever.
  6. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Do you find you notice a difference between dancing with actual beginners, vs. experienced dancers of effectively beginner ability?
  7. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    Thanks etchuck! I liked the email/letter and particularly loved this bit

    It isn't about the moves or how many spins, it is about how you move it :wink: :banana:
  8. tj

    tj New Member

    I liked that too, Pacion.

    And also this bit:

    "it is socializing and encouragement, not ego building, which will compel people to stay in Salsa."
  9. Vin

    Vin New Member

    Yes I do, true beginner(follows) are generally happy with anything that is lead, whereas those experienced dancers who are still beginners in ability tend to want more and more advanced moves. Often times this happens to people who are impatient and want to learn how to do everything right away.
  10. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    This should be framed and put on the wall of every dance studio/class.
  11. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    I love what you said! It is true!
  12. Sonia in Aalborg

    Sonia in Aalborg New Member

    Hi etchuck! That was some post you put up there. :) I wish I could get EVERY salsero/a at my club to come read it! A question though, as a beginner-actually I'm between beginner and man's land- but how can I help a new lead get hooked on to salsa and enjoy himself. I always make it a point to ask new leads to dance with me but besides smiling and telling them they're getting better, I don't really know how to help them improve technically and reassure them that they're good enough so that they come again. We have a serious problem in Aalborg in that there aren't that many beginners esp guys, and the more advanced tend to dance among themselves. :evil: :evil: :x
  13. huey

    huey New Member

    As a Swing dance leader who has been dancing for one year, I think new leaders often have a tough time. Male leaders will tend to compare themselves with other men and feel inadequate, and then be impatient to be able to dance well, and become easily frustrated with their lack of progress. As a follower, if you talk to male leaders, they will probably start to relax and enjoy themselves more. And if you dance with them, there is a good chance they will ask you in future - so that is an incentive for followers. Also, as was suggested in the article posted by etchuck, dancing with less experienced partners is a good test of dancing ability (i.e. you have to follow well).

    Other suggestions for encouraging new leaders are:

    - Get the DJ or band to play some great music with a well-defined beat that is easy for beginners to dance to.

    - Encourage the leaders to go to different lessons and dances

    - Ask what sort of music they like, and do they do other dancing?

    - Talk to them and have a drink or coffee with them to show them they don't have to be a great dancer to be your friend.

    Hopefully the above will help take the pressure off them and help them enjoy themselves. And there is no substitute for that. 8) :D
  14. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    It's not to say that beginning/intermediate people have no responsibilities (according to how I interpret what Pilar and Roberto wrote). Unless you have a lot of training in technique (and know how to lead), you probably cannot tell them specifically how to improve theirs. But what you can give them is your feedback. Usually at the end of most dances, people will say thank you to the partner and leave the floor. You can do more than just say "thank you" and say something like, "hey, that really felt great dancing with you." Yeah, the words of encouragement help a lot too.

    Of course, it's a pain that your advanced dancers won't think about dancing with you. But I guess you can be aggressive and flat-out ask them once. Or come up with a nice line if any of them actually ask you to dance (suggested by one of our swing/salsa instructors):
    Guy: "Do you want to dance?"
    You: "I've been waiting for you to ask me all night... of course!"

    Well, I'm a pro-active person when it comes to these sorts of things. Print it out and show it to your club's owner (from the words of the owners of the salsa club here anyway). If he approves, then make enough copies to put on the tables of the club.
  15. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Since we DFers all seem to be in general agreement on the issue of "dancing with everyone", I thought I'd throw this in -- a recent thread on the Salsa-UK forum -- just to stir things up...

    Here are some comments from the "why should we dance with everyone" camp...

    What do you think?
  16. Lita_rulez

    Lita_rulez New Member

    Totaly relate to both comments here above.

    I do go out salsa dancing because I like it, because I am enjoying myself. Not because I know by the end of the evening I have made a difference in the evening of those 35 beginners I have danced with...

    However, I do not believe there is any contradiction between "enjoying yourself" as stated in those comments, and what every one has been saying here until now : one should dance with EVERYONE, not with ANYONE.

    It does not mean "only dance with beginners", it does not mean stop dancing more then 5 dances in any given week with people that are at/above your level. It means beeing a more advanced dancer does not entitle you to shrug off beginners. If they invite you, you should consider them just as you would for a more advanced dancer.

    Again, this does not mean you should always say yes when a beginner asks you to dance. There are advance dancers that you do not feel like dancing with. For sometimes no good reasonable, defendable reason. You just don't feel like it. Then you say it and don't dance. That's OK for crying out loud ! You are supposed to be here to enjoy yourself. If dancing right now with that person does not seem enjoyable to you, then don't. If your going to look bored all the while, your going to spoil the dance for them and for you, what good does it do...

    As such, you should consider a beginner in the same way. If you do not feel like dancing with one (wrong time, wrong setting, wrong mood, I don't know) than don't. But as for an advanced dancer, do be polite, and do try to invite them later on (all the more if it is a first for them inviting you).

    I believe what this thread means is "do not phase out beginners from the scene in front of you just because you are not one anymore. They do exist, they do want to dance, and they deserve your attention as well as any other dancer on the floor"

    The only distinction (in my opinion) beeing that since beginners are less likely to build up the guts to come and ask a more advance dancer, then the more advance dancer should move towards them and make them feel confortable by showing he/she is willing to dance with them exactly as with an advance dancer. That they DO belong to this litle universe, and are aknoledged as potential dance partners, not discarded as unworthy peasants.
  17. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    I agree, LITA!
  18. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    That's Raluca's problem! :wink: She gets too easily bored!! :) So now I cannot do el dos to el uno and back to el dos, el beso, combs, veils...with her. :cry:
  19. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    :) sure you can, Sagitta... :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
  20. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Great Post Lita! I was going to say something but you've got it all covered!

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