Archive for the ‘Salsa’ Category

Socrates

February 17, 2011

Socrates learned to dance when he was seventy because he felt that an essential part of himself had been neglected. ~Source Unknown

When I first decided to start up Salsa, I knew something in my soul was missing. I come from an artistic family; everybody had their outlet. I hadn’t played music in a long time and hadn’t found any inspiration to write either. But I didn’t want to be the artist struggling alone in the dark. I had enough of isolation with work, sitting in a cubicle on the phone all day troubleshooting people’s problems. As I would go out with “Drinking Buddy” I saw more isolation; sad lonely looking drunk old men. I saw the road I could very easily have headed down; isolated, depressed, alone – with all of the negative connotations that go along with it. Something essential had definitely had been neglected.

Growing up, music was always an important part in my house. I played music, my sister’s played music, dad always had music playing. And we were encouraged to listen to a wide variety of music. Good music was always good music, regardless of the style. I had started listening to artists like Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and Indigo Swing. The music was upbeat and joyous. I considered taking swing for a while.

Sometimes God works in mysterious ways, sometimes he whacks you upside the back of your head. I was doing a Google Search for dance lessons in L.A. and I found my current instructors had lessons on Monday nights between home and work so I figured that I’d give it a shot. As I had mention before, they were amazing. They turned a geeky, shy guy into a Salsero. The social interaction, artistry, the music and the masculinity got me hooked. That part of my soul hasn’t been neglected since.

Getting Inspired

February 11, 2011

One good thing about being able to appreciate other dances is that I can get inspired by other dances. I was browsing around and stumbled upon a Tango blog about maintaining a healthy Tango addiction. The blogger had a quote she got from one of her instructors.

“This is your community, these are your dancers, these are your options, so help each other become good dancers.” Luciana Valle

Tango Blog

It struck a point on exactly why I dance with the beginners. Mind you, I love dancing with the amazing dancers. I absolutely love dancing with my instructor and would never turn a dance down with her. But if I can encourage the beginners, make them feel comfortable dancing Salsa, make them feel good and help them get better, then that means that there will be more good dance partners out there for me to dance with.

One of he nicest feeling I had was the other day when I was helping out in the beginning class. They were teaching a 1 ½ turn to the right. I was dancing with one lady and all of a sudden, she just got it. She burst out in happiness and I could see the fire in her eye lighting up. Right there I could sense that she was going to become a Salsera.

As I’ve said before, Salsa, like any partner dance, is a cooperative endeavor. We need to help each other out. If we can get more people sticking with it, then the whole community benefits.

Monopolizing partners

February 9, 2011

Salsa falls into the category of Social Dancing. And I like to emphasize the Social part of it. As dancers, we get together and enjoy the time with each other. Some people just don’t seem to understand the social parts of it. There are guys that will take a girl out on the floor and take three or four dances in a row with the same lady. This seems to defeat the social aspects of dancing.

Now I understand if people come together as a couple and they want to dance together. But even then, they will frequently take a break and dance with other people. In fact, I’ve read that in earlier times, it would be considered a breach of etiquette for a husband and wife to dance together. It would be considered anti-social. The idea was that if a married couple wanted to spend time together, they wouldn’t have gone out to a social event. It would have been the equivalent of going to a dinner party and ignoring all the other guests and just talking among themselves. Yet these days, some guys think it is perfectly ok to ask a woman to dance and then hold on to her for three or four dances in a row, being blissfully unaware of other gentlemen who would like to dance with her.

When I see things like this, I don’t make a scene and I find other people to dance with, knowing that I would get a dance later on in the evening. There’s nothing wrong with getting more than one dance with your favorite partner. I’ve gotten multiple dances with the same partner in the same night. I just don’t dance with her two songs in a row. I give her a chance to take a break or dance with another lead.

Learning to steer

February 3, 2011

One of the most frustrating things about dancing in clubs, especially when things get crowded is people running into me or my partner when we’re trying to dance. Most of the time it’s just a bump or two and I just brush it off. But I’ve seen women get hurt out there when they get stepped on. For us guys it’s not quite as bad because we’re usually wearing a lot more shoe than the ladies, but I’ve been stepped on bad enough where I was limping off the dance floor. And I’ve seen ladies walk off the dance floor bleeding because they got stepped on by another woman in heels. Getting hurt is never pleasant.

My overriding rule is that regardless of whether we’re dancing with a professional dancer that has been dancing for years or a day one newbie, we always look out for our partners. Part of the job of being a lead is to pay attention of our surroundings and steer. As a golf teacher once taught me, you aim towards the holes and away from the hazards. And usually, the hazard is usually some guy dancing way too big for the dance floor trying to show off. There have been several times I’ve been dancing and had to either cut a woman’s back break short or redirect her away from someone else coming in behind her. Let me tell you, the ladies notice. I frequently have gotten a “nice catch” comment from the person I’m dancing with.

If a lead gets a reputation of looking out for his partner, then his partner will start trusting him. When she starts trusting the lead, then she can get creative and playful with her styling. And when that happens, then things start getting fun. With the right partner, we can get moving pretty fast and hard. But to get to that point, I’d better be ready to catch her every time.

Being a Regular

February 1, 2011

It is nice to go out and find new places to go and dance and it’s exciting to find new dance partners, but finding a place you can dance at regularly can make a world of difference.

I’ve found that I get more positive responses from people that I’ve danced with or at least seen me around the club. They know that I can dance well and know that I would look out for them. It’s not that I won’t dance with a woman that I haven’t seen, but my regular partners do get priority to other women. And I know what to expect from certain partners. I can be more aggressive with one partner; less so with another; each partner will have her own styling that I enjoy.

Being known by the staff is always nice too. I have a running joke with the front desk people at one club I go to. If there’s a new door man and he asks if I’m on the guest list, the lady behind the desk says “He’s always on the list.” But like any business, they like repeat business. So the club will look out for their regular customers. At the club I frequent, I’ve gotten on the guest list, even though I’ve missed the cut off time. Being friendly with the security personnel can make the night a bit more pleasant.

And another benefit of being a regular at a place that a lot of people don’t think about, you know where all the cool spots in the room.

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.

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.

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.