I first started dancing Salsa in 2001 because my neighbors took pity on me seeing that I was a hermit always tinkering in front of a computer. Since then, I have been dancing salsa almost every week in various venues around the Bay Area. The reason is simple – its very compelling, fun, a great social activity and gives me a workout! I have entered in salsa competitions, been in a dance troupe, attended many salsa venues, DJ to salsa music and enjoying every minute of it… I want you to do the same.
I have seen many folks who enter the world of salsa dancing only to drop out after a few tries. This is a shame since this dance will carry with you for the rest of your life and adds so much pleasure and inward satisfaction to your life that is hard for me to convey except for those salseros out there! I have my own reasons why this happens and it all boils down to not what is out there but YOUR own perception to this dance. I want you guys to get to the FUN-STAGE of salsa dancing before you drop out just to show you why others revel in it. Here are the reasons why beginners usually drop out.
1. You see others (good salsa dancers) having so much fun and you want to be in their shoes but you inwardly feel you can’t.
2. You have a group of friends that you look up to and don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of them.
3. You feel that you have two left feet.
4. You are a shy person and the thought of getting close or even touching others seem to scare you a bit.
5. Your classes go very well but you seem to have an abject fear of dancing in the after party.
If you look at this list, there is clearly one trend that always pops-up. It is your own fear and perception of the dance and no one else is to blame! So I urge all of you to CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING of this dance which brings me to the golden RULE number 1.
Drop all perceptions of the dance you have right now and start afresh. Say to yourself..I will do this and improve and get better just like I have done this on many other stuff in the past.
Thankfully, when I first started dancing, I had really SUPPORTIVE teachers who would tirelessly take their time to help and guide me through the class. The first steps towards becoming a good Salsa dancer – Teachers MATTER A LOT.
Find teachers who you like and you can work with and will always be there to offer sincere advice and help to you. If it means a drive of 50 miles to another town or city, then DO IT.
To me, the salsa music is an eclectic ensemble of musical instruments playing in harmony that you simply cannot hold back…you just have to dance. Listen to all the salsa music that you can, borrow from your friends, family or listen to it online. In this way, you are tuning your mind to the music and dance. An important point that comes from this is that you automatically start counting, this is the key to the fundamentals of salsa dancing. You know what I mean, 1, 2, 3 pause, 5, 6, 7 pause and then repeat.
Tune your mind to the beautiful and eclectic music of salsa and you will be automatically counting to the music which will rapidly improve your basic steps in the dance.
As a consequence of you going to the regular classes (and I mean taking regular classes), the combination of meeting great (supportive) people, the heartfelt salsa music will automatically result in you having FUN!
If you are not having FUN learning, doing classes, meeting people then something is amiss, you need to take a step back and see where you can change. The whole idea of dancing salsa is to have FUN!
I cannot emphasise how important Rule 4 is and you must try to get there. If you have reached Rule 4, you are on your way to becoming a salsa superstar! Trust me, to reach the FUN STAGE takes no time at all, all it requires is some patience and perseverance on your part. Some do it in a few weeks and others take a few months, it will depend on your personality, so be patient with yourself and give yourself plenty of time.
The remaining part of this self help guide for beginners at the FUN-STAGE is a very easy task for me since you are at a stage where you are having fun and your drive and passion alone will take you to greater heights. However, here are some additional instructions for you guys that want to get to superstardom as rapidly as possible. I have restructured this section with questions, since most of you that will end up here will have specific goals and interests in the realm of salsa dancing just like I did!
How often should I go salsa dancing, is 6 times a week a bit too much?
There is an addiction for salsa dancers when you hit this exciting FUN STAGE point and you should plan your week ahead and decide what kind of venues that you would like to attend. Follow your instincts and desires and just go with the flow.
How can I tell how well I am dancing?
This is a very important question and I will say a little here to help you gauge your ability and extend it even further. The measure of your ability is NOT DETERMINED by you but by others and in particular the followers or leaders who make comments about your dance. Make sure to listen to those comments, as this will be your ONLY FEEDBACK of your ability in this dance.
Should I stop going to classes and turn up for the dance only?
I discourage anyone including intermediate and advanced dancers just to simply show up at the dance party. By engaging yourself with the class and the students, you create a sense of friendliness towards them and you will be very much appreciated and welcomed always to the venue. Your sense of enjoyment will increase more so as you interact with many people at all levels.
I am already a good dancer and I don’t have to dance with beginners?
Unfortunately, there are many people who once they become good especially leaders, they tend to stick to their own group of people and dance with no one else. This is DETRIMENTAL towards your social status and you will not be appreciated by many people. You will inevitably find yourself stuck with a handful of people to dance with rather than reaching out to the many variety of dancers available in the party.
What are the social etiquettes of the dance?
Salsa dancing is all about dancing with another partner and the social etiquette of this dance has to be well understood by everyone. Here are some important factors covering the area of social etiquette.
1. While dancing
Do watch your space when you dance, do not encroach on other people’s space or take up space in a tightly filled dance floor. Be considerate to others. For leaders, it is absolutely important that you control the followers movement on the dance floor. If she hits someone accidently, believe it or not, it is your fault, you should have full control of her movements. For ladies, be very careful when you step back and lifting your feet especially if you have a tendency to take long strides as your high heels may hit someone.
2. Turning down an offer for a dance
It is very important to turn down an offer for a dance as graciously as possible. Do not be cold faced about it, just smile and graciously turn down the offer. Imagine yourself in the receiving end when you ask someone for a dance and what you would expect. Unless you are dead tired, its a hidden salsa rule that you should always dance with someone when asked no matter how good or bad they are.
3. Dressing for the occassion
Make sure to dress properly for the dance such as loose and comfortable clothes and shoes. However, make sure you look the part and especially for followers who are beginning, I suggest to wear something attractive that will grab the attention of good leaders. For leaders, good shoes that are not rubber soled but leather and a nice body fragrance.
The art of humility is an important trait that everyone can master but not always easy to practise. When we all become good at something, we tend to automatically elevate ourselves to a point where our ego can get in the way of further improvements. It is important to be humble about your skills and NEVER have any real intentions to show off your skills especially in front of beginners. Always appear to be accommodating and gracious with everyone. Dance with a range of dancers, young, old, short, tall and you will always find partners to dance with. This gives you a whole breadth of experience that dancing with one partner cannot do and also hones your skills including the all important social aspect.
Final notes, going from here…
So now you have become an intermediate dancer you ask yourself what lies ahead. The salsa dancing culture has a huge following around the world, and if you decide to go abroad, you can make great friends and have fun in the process. Some of the things you can consider…
1. Salsa Congress
There is an annual salsa congress that attracts people from all over the world and there is one coming up right in the Bay Area. The congress can run for several days and it’s an excellent way to attend workshops, learn new techniques, watch great sensational shows, enjoy live music and more.
2. Private Classes
This is an area of contention and something I can talk about. Many of you may feel that a one to one class will not benefit you and taking classes are sufficient and I tend to disagree. You will be very surprised by the ‘bad habits’ you have developed based on your own method of trying to master the dance yourself. It is here that a good teacher can highlight these points and effectively take your skill sets to a whole new level that could potentially take you years to master. I encourage everyone who can afford it to find a good private teacher and have a one to one session with them. You will be pleasantly surprised by the whole thing no matter how bad or good you are.
3. Salsa Venues
There are loads of salsa venues in and around the Bay Area and you will always find something going on each day of the week. I encourage everyone to try out the different venues so you can see the ones that are a good fit for you. Here are some very good ones that I personally visit on a regular basis.
Ferdouse Khaleque (brief background)
Ferdouse is an avid dancer and enjoys Salsa, Argentinian Tango and Flemenco along with many other interests. He currently works for Semibase, Inc (http://semibase.com) a web and mobile development company as a Solutions Architect where he translates business ideas to online solutions. His other passion includes art where he developed a FREE Android drawing app called Paintology. You can download the app from http://paintology.com/app and also see many of his artwork at http://ferdouse.com.
He can be contacted tel: (831) 234 7219