Having recently helped a level 1 class with Tracie and Daniel, it was interesting to see how many of the leads had questions in regards to becoming better dancers and if they’re ready for social dancing. I remember a few years ago when I had started level 1 and how impossible it seemed to go out and dance the night away. Hopefully, with a few of these helpful tips, you’ll be out practicing your moves in no time!
Get Out There:
The best way to learn is by doing and while class time is great, you really need to social dance to get better. For level 1-2′s, I’d suggest going to the TDS Sunday Socials as they are so casual and that the majority of people on Sundays are beginners. You can also get to see some of the more advanced dancers, which is always great as if you only do a couple of dances, you’ll get really inspired.
Whether it’s a TDS social or Plaza, I highly recommend doing the beginner class. One reason for this is that you can always ask someone who’s even less experienced than you are to do the lesson. You’ll look like a pro in their eyes and you’ll have a blast learning the basics and a few moves to add to your arsenal.
Dont’ Expect, Suggest:
I always tell both men and women to ask people to dance. When I first started, I always mentioned to my partners that I was new to salsa, but would love to dance with them. I found my Follows were very polite when dealing with my bad dance skills. I think most of us realize that within 3-6 months, those dancers who aren’t so great will become the next top stars, so being polite is key because you never know.
Dance Floor Etiquette:
As a lead, always take small steps and protect your partners. This means don’t guide them into other dancers and try to space yourselves out from other dancers. I’ve literally had people start dancing right in front of my partner and I, thus making it difficult to dance for everyone involved.
Another tip is to be polite at all times. Apologize if you bump into someone and be respectful if someone refuses a dance… you never know if they’re tired, dizzy or just not feeling well. I’ve seen some people take dance refusals really poorly and you’d be surprised about how that kind of thing will stick with you for ages.
Start Small, Aim for Smooth Transitions:
When I first started, my buddy Mike and I would say ‘Tonight, I’m aiming for 5 dances’. This helped give us a goal and be courageous enough to ask a few girls to dance. After you have X number of dances you can relax and soak up the ambiance.
The key to salsa isn’t about many moves, it’s all about transitions. So make sure that when you go from one move to the next, to be smooth in your body movements and confident in your hand/body guidance. I remember practicing on my own for 20-30 minutes a night just to smooth out my transitions.
One of the reasons I really stuck with dancing was due to my friend Mike. We met in level 1 and have been encouraging each other to go out to the clubs for years. Not only do you go out more often, but you learn quicker from friendly competition.
Know someone from class that you gel with? Ask them to start going to the clubs with you. You will see how quickly you’ll get better together because you’re used to dancing with each other. Before you know it, you’ll be tearing up the dance floors.
While there are countless other tips to follow, you’ll soon find that this strange and somewhat scary world of Salsa will become your happy place. Be polite and get out there as much as you can! Speaking of which, be sure to check TDS this Saturday for our annual Holiday Party! With 3 performances, beginner and intermediate lessons, you’ll have an amazing time!
Be warned though, our Holiday themed parties are usually packed so be sure to get there early! Last year’s Valentines’ Party had people lined up down the street! Get there early and be prepared for an amazing night!
I wish I could be there, but am in San Francisco, visiting my parents for the Holidays! Be sure to post video on Facebook and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the dance floor!
Stay Shining Salseros!
Sorry it’s been a little while since my last blog, but seeing the new TDS site and now you know why. With much effort, patience and love Sharon, Evan and I have launched the new TDS site! I’m really happy with the final result, and hope that you like it both aesthetically and functionally.
Onto the subject at hand… Last week at our outing, I found that while the energy/vibe was really great; many etiquette rules were being broken. In order for all of us to have great outings and more importantly safe outings, we need to follow these simple, common sense guides to keep our salsa from going sour.
A small list of things I noticed that made me a sad panda:
People walking through the dance floor, not around it
Seriously, this is not only super dangerous for the people dancing, but if you’re walking through dancers, you’re going to get hurt.
Massive moves on crowded floors
Unless you’re quite experienced and can pull off big moves in tiny space, then keep them to a minimum when the dance floor gets packed. If you find that you and your partner are taking up a lot of space, here are a few suggestions:
-take smaller steps (seems simple, but many people don’t do this!)
-when you break-back, dont fully extend your arms. I always try to keep my arms around the 90 degree mark to keep the moves tight and small
-if you’re dancing with someone who takes massive steps, do moves that don’t require much travelling OR, leaders keep your frames a bit stronger, so she gets the hint that she has to stay within the boundries you set
Polite People Dance Most
Always be polite about asking someone to dance. There’s nothing worse than someone who’s pushy or a little on the creepy side. All it takes is a simple, ‘Would you like to dance?’ If the person refuses, don’t be upset as chances are they need to rest or a little tired. On that note, please try to only refuse a dance when you’re tired, need to use the washroom or feel that the person asking is being rude.
Don’t Just Stand There
One of my biggest pet peeves are people who stand on the dance floor. I find that this is worse than people who walk through the floor as they are becoming a permanent fixture getting into everyone’s line of dance. Speaking of which…
Stay On Line
On a few occasions I had different Salseros do moves that led their women onto my line of dance, forcing a dangerous course-correction. Not only can serious injuries occur, but you throw all of the hard work of becoming a precise and great lead out the window. Did I mention that it drives me insane? There’s nothing worse than having to end a dance early because the guy beside you launched his partner into your line and onto your partner’s foot!
Always Give Your Partner One Song
So let’s say that the lovely person you’ve asked to dance is way below your level and not really staying on time. The best and coolest thing you can do is to try to follow/lead them as well as possible for one whole song. We were all there at one time and you’d be surprised at how quickly someone can go from novice to advanced!
Sadie Had it Right
Some nights I’ll see ladies sit at the side of the dance floor and wait to be asked. I say, wait no longer ladies as us Gents love love love to be asked to dance! Not only will you get to dance more but you’ll make a guy’s night!
So while I saw a fair amount of Salsa No-No’s, I did have a wonderful time last outing and was so happy to see many new Salsero/as out on the floor! Hopefully, with these thoughts as a bit of guidance, your next salsa outing will be a bit more civil and much more fun!
Stay Shining Salseros!
One of the most difficult things for leader is to master the whole idea of turn-patterns and combos. While it only gets more complex as you advance, it’s advised to understand how to approach your move arsenal and execute them with as few errors as possible. While one could write a whole book on the subject, here are a few tips for turn-pattern mastery.
Rock, Paper, Scissors :
One of the most potent bits of advise given to me by my teacher was to approach executing moves by understanding which handhold you’ll be in when you’re at your transition points ( the end points of your previously executed move). Once you recognize the hand-hold you can randomly choose any move from your arsenal that begins with that hand-hold. Like ‘Rock, Paper Scissors’, if you see the hand-hold will be a ‘left-to-left’ hold, you can then play any move that lands in that position.
An example would be you could either do a ‘Rainbow/Titanic’, a funky ‘In & Out’ or possibly a ‘Double Comb/Sombrero’
Here are the common holds:
Open, Closed, Left-to-Left, Right-to-Right, Right Chain Hold, Left Chain Hold
How do you get started?
Make a list of all of the moves that you know (I do this in Excel, but any text editor is fine). Make a column for each type of hand-hold, so all Right-to-Right moves will be in column A, all left-to-left moves will be in column B, etc.
With the list complete, start dancing a move and randomly pick moves from one column. When you come to a move that ends in another hand-hold, randomly pick a move from the appropriate column. Keep doing this over and over again and keep in mind all of the random patterns you can make from your list. You’ll be surprised at how many combinations you can make with even only a few moves!
Increase Your Arsenal
Here’s one thing that all good dancers do: scour the interweb for interesting new moves. While the ‘Palm Drop’ was boss in level 2, everyone does it so why not check out cool variations that will set you apart from everyone else? There are literally hundreds of sources online which give free lessons for new moves. Trust me, it’s awesome to hear a lady ‘ooh’ when you pull off a simple, yet unique move.
Outing / Club Lessons
Another great way to learn new moves is by checking out the TDS (and other) club outings. There’s always a lesson at the beginning and they always try to throw in moves that aren’t taught in your regular classes. A lot of my cool moves have come from hitting up the outing lessons and from teachers who have their own style.
Free Style…Your Style
Whether you’re a rocker, r&b or even have ballet you can throw in moves from other dance styles to mix it up. You wouldn’t believe how cool it is to see someone who throw in some pop’n'lock moves or even some rockNroll kicks in their shines. While your school teaches you certain fundamental rules, by all means throw in your personal style as a regular right turn can seem like an entirely new move when you put a different vibe on it. Don’t have any previous dance moves? Check out your favourite music videos on YouTube, I’m sure you’ll see something that you can transpose.
Make-Over Your Combos
Every time you learn a new combo from class, outings or online; revert back to your ‘Salsa Matrix’ document with the moves in different columns. Take some time to see how you can mix up your current combos by randomly throwing in new moves.
When In Doubt, Steal Moves!
Sometimes when I’m feeling like my moves are stale, I’ll head down to a salsa club and watch all different kinds of leaders to see what they’re doing right and wrong. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a move that you can use (don’t forget it in between those bottles of Coronas). Don’t rip other leaders’ styles completely, but a move here and there is quite cool.
While difficult, being a combo/turn-pattern master should be a fun and adventurous process!
Feel the Music
On a final note, one thing for sure is to realize that you don’t have to do a million moves for every song!!! I can’t stress enough that your dancing should reflect the song. There’s no need for 5 whirlwind Coca Colas in a romantic-style song. Keep your moves subtle during the soft parts and amp it up a bit during the choruses. If you need any sort of validation if you’re doing it right all you have to do is look at your dance partner. If she’s smiling, you’re doing it right!
Stay Shining Salseros!