Archive for January, 2011

Teaching on the Dance Floor

January 30, 2011

Unsolicited advice on the dance floor, no matter how well intended, can be awkward, especially if it comes from a stranger. And I’m sad to say, it’s usually from us men. I have watched guys try and give advice to women and it really comes across as condescending. I watched one guy spend at least twenty minutes with this one lady and it seemed like he was talking to her like a child. I really wanted to go up to him and tell him “Just dance with her for crying out loud.” As guys, there is a boost to our ego as we come across as the ones that are “In the know.” And from my days on the golf course, I found out that everyone had their own opinion on what to do. And frequently, I would get contradictory advice on the same day.

I’m even reluctant to teach someone a pattern when I’m out dancing socially, even if I have some sort of relationship with her. And then it’s only if she asks how to do a certain move. I have a few friends that will ask about certain moves I’ve learned other places. And I’m happy to work it out with her, especially if it’s a fun move. But it’s only after I’ve danced with her for a while and gotten to be friends with her. We’re trying to figure out a new pattern on move.

If we’re in class, then that’s a different story. I figure that we’re there to help each other out. I’ve had women tell me how my lead can be better and I’ve given advice to women on what would make the lead easier to give. But it’s more of a learning environment, rather than a social one. And if we’re in the practica after class, then that’s the place to work on new things and the patterns we learned in class. That’s our laboratory to experiment.

Partner dancing is always a co-operative venture. We’re out there to have fun. We’re out there to make each other look and feel good. We dance Socially for the social aspect. We go to class for the learning experience.

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Dancing with the Beginners

January 25, 2011

When I started out, I was so grateful for one of my friends. She was an amazing dancer and almost six feet tall in her heels. And she always said yes to a dance, even though I was just starting out and there were other guys waiting to dance with her. In those early days, I learned a lot from her. And I’m still learning a lot from her.

To walk up to a woman like her requires a lot of confidence. She’s tall, beautiful and very energetic with her styling. To a beginner who just learned the basics and a right turn, the flurry of hips and legs were an overwhelming tempest. Sitting watching her, I would think to myself “How on Earth do I dance with her?” As I soon learned, it was simply give the lead and get out of the way. To dance with her, I realized that I had to be the eye of the hurricane, the calm within the storm. The flurry of styling would dance around me and I emerge on the other side.

One thing that she always expected of me is a good lead. If I gave a good lead, she would go. If I gave a bad lead, she would just stop. Frequently I would hear “I don’t know what you want me to do. Try it again.” From these early dances, I learned that you’ve got to lead it like you mean it; make it clear to your partner what your intentions are, like any good conversation. My leads have gotten tremendously better because of her. She made me step up and not be shy about giving the lead. And that has lead to women saying that they really enjoy dancing with me.

Now I’m looking to pay it forward. Whenever I get to class early and the beginning class is short of guys, I’m more than happy to jump in. One of the biggest things I try to encourage is trust. Not only trust in their partners, but more importantly trust in themselves. They need to trust that Salsa will get easier with practice. They need to trust that their feet really know where they’re supposed to go. And if their feet get lost, we can just reset and start over again. When we’re learning we’re given an unlimited number of “do over’s.”

We need to remember what our one touch today can produce tomorrow.

Energy on the Dance Floor

January 25, 2011

Physicists are constantly searching for new particles, new energies and Grand Unified Theories. They are finding that in the greater scheme of the Universe how connected everything is to everything else. Energy binds matter together, matter contains and focuses energy. Physicists are finding at certain energy levels, matter vibrates in harmony.

The feminine has an energy of her own; deep, creative, confident, beautiful. Salsa brings out that energy, allows her to focus it. But there are some in today’s society, that expects her to keep it hidden, contained. It would be improper, unladylike, trashy to allow her to tap into that energy.

It takes some time for the new dancer to glimpse that energy. At first, she’s timid. She doesn’t realize how to make it her own. But, like the astronomer, we can discover it; coax it out. It takes patient, gentle searching to find it. But once she has that one moment of clarity, she becomes a changed woman. Nothing can take that strength from her.

For the ones who find that energy, it is a torrential river; passionate, exuberant. As a lead, there is no way to stop it, just with a little hope and a lot of patience, we can direct it, channel it. And as a lead, there is nothing better when we find that moment of harmony. The dance becomes both effortless and exhausting.

On the Dance Floor

January 19, 2011

On the occasion that I’m taking a break and I’m watching people dance, the people that I find myself gravitating to and really enjoying watching are the people who look like they’re having fun out on the dance floor. And those women are also the most fun to dance with.

I have one regular partner that treats the dance floor like her sandbox. Not only does she get flirty on the dance floor with her partner, but she plays with people within arm’s reach to her, even to the point of sitting on one guy’s lap that was sitting watching them dance. Mind you, she did not miss a beat and kept going with the guy she was dancing with.

Another one of my regular partners brings in a sassy attitude that spreads out into her styling. And when I give her a hand toss, she’ll let it hang for a beat or two with her wicked grin. It’s always satisfying to know when your partner is enjoying the dance.

On the other hand, I saw this one guy dancing with my teacher and through out the dance, he did not crack a smile the entire time. This completely boggled my mind. Here this guy is dancing with a beautiful woman and truly amazing, graceful dancer and he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying dancing with her. He seemed really wrapped up in himself. It completely turned me off about watching him dance. I really wanted to go up to him, grab him by his collar and say “Dude, do you know who you’re dancing with? Smile will ya!”

When I’m out on the dance floor, I dance better with a woman that’s giving me some good feed back and really looks like she’s having fun. I lead better, I move better, I feel better. And if that’s happening, then she feels it and she seems to have more fun. Now that’s a vicious circle I wouldn’t mind being in.

Fear on the dance floor

January 19, 2011

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain”

Litany against Fear – Dune Frank Herbert

A fearful Salsero has no place on the dance floor. Nor does he have the right to even claim the title of Salsero. It is never arrogance. It’s never a sense of Egotism. Just a sense of confidence. It is a calm serene confidence. A confidence that he can be gentle in is strength and strong in his kindness. A egoless confidence to be the giant on who’s shoulders greatness stands. He is the one from which beauty both enters and and stems from.

When I first started dancing, there were many women that I felt I had no business asking to dance. They were beautiful. They were sexy. They tore up the dance floor like nobody’s business. But it was a selfish, self-pitying attitude on my part. Why shouldn’t I give myself to these women? And as soon as I realized that I could ask these women to dance, it was sense of freedom.

The first time I danced with Salud in class, I was deer caught in the headlights of an on coming car. She is a beautiful, graceful and amazing dancer. She corrects, she teaches, but always gentle, always encouraging. And now, she’s one of my favorite dance partners.

If I lived in fear of these women, I would never have gotten to dance with some pretty amazing dancers – the petite firecracker, the one with the Epic Hips, the slinky one, my Bachatera, the one that’s so sweet I’m lucky that I don’t go into shock every time she says yes. Yes, these women make me dance well. They expect me to step up and push myself, but now instead of fear, I look in their eyes, their hips and take it as a challenge.

When I’m at the club and there’s a new dancer there smoking up the dance floor, hips flying I just turn to myself and say “I must not fear…” Then I go and ask her to dance.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

January 16, 2011

It was two years ago when I walked into my first Salsa class. And what a difference those two years have made.

I had never taken a dance class in my life before I walked into Sergio and Salud’s class that Monday night. Always feeling like the shy, quite geeky guy, there was some trepidation when, after the warm up, Sergio announced “Gentlemen walk up to any lady, if you don’t know her introduce yourself.” Not knowing what to expect, I found a partner. Let’s be very honest here, Bull in a China Shop didn’t even begin to describe how I felt. But with a lot of gentle patience, I managed to get the hang of Salsa. One of the most encouraging words a woman said to me was “Wow, you’re fun to dance with.” To this day any woman that says that gets a special place in my heart.

Two years later, my confidence level has soared. I can walk up to any woman in any club and ask her to dance. And if she happens to say no, I know it’s not the end of the world.  I have the confidence to go out to make her feel like the most beautiful woman on the dance floor.  One of the best feelings in the world is the knowledge that she trusts you on the dance floor. A woman that trusts you too look out for her will really open up and starts throwing the sexy, playful moves.

I know that  I still have a long road ahead of me before I’m anywhere near “He’s the most amazing dancer I’ve ever seen” comments, but looking back, I do see a long road behind me of the distance I’ve come. And I’m pretty lucky to have some amazing teachers and amazing dance partners to encourage me a long the way. It’s all about the mileage on the dance shoes.