Why “Social” dancers are killing Salsa

22 Apr

Purely social dancers have started pissing me off.

Let’s get something straight: Salsa IS a social activity. Most people who take it up do so to get out more and to meet new people. That’s one of the reasons I dance myself and I consider myself a social dancer (just not in the sense that I’m writing about here). Long story short, Salsa needs to be enjoyed. Today, however, I’m gonna talk about a very different type of “Social” dancer!

There seems to be a natural progression amongst great salseros that goes a little something like this:

  • They begin Salsa without many expectations
  • They enjoy the new activity and the new social outlet
  • They improve and their improvement leads to greater enjoyment
  • Greater enjoyment leads to greater desire to improve…

    Great dancers continue to get better over time (in an ideal world of course)

    Great dancers continue to get better over time (in an ideal world of course, so in reality this never happens)

… and so continues the Salsa cycle!

This increased enjoyment and desire to improve is what leads to the development of the incredible dancers we get to watch in awe and admiration on dance floors around the world. These people are true Salsa addicts; the simple taste of what it feels like to dance beautifully drives them to strive for more and more intense highs… to strive for perfection.

However, there is another cycle that some people get caught in. This cycle is more simple that the first and goes a little like this:

  • They begin Salsa without many expectations
  • They enjoy the new activity and the new social outlet
  • They improve a little and their improvement leads to greater enjoyment
  • They become content with their basic Salsa level and see no need to improve

    Some dancers, however, get to a basic level and stay there

    Some dancers, however, get to a basic level and stay there

I call this the “Bah!” (Basic And Happy!) Cycle.

People in the Bah! cycle have achieved a certain rudimentary level of Salsa, they’ve made new friends and learned that they can enjoy themselves “dancing” without putting in too much effort… and that’s it. They remain in a state of perpetual mediocrity (or worse, perpetual awfulness), they never learn to understand or “feel” the music or the real passion that it brings but as long as they can continue going out dancing once or twice a week, they’re happy! Salsa is nothing more than a “social activity” for them.

Two Extremes
Obviously the two diagrams above are two extremes of the same scale. In reality, there is a huge amount of variation with the progression that individuals make. In reality the top graph is probably never achieved, it’s just there to illustrate a point. People don’t keep improving indefinitely but they don’t need to. Often people achieve a decent level and possibly continue to improve at a much slower rate over time, depending on circumstances and interest. These people fall into a broad category of what constitutes “good dancers”. Importantly, they are fun to dance with. Being good has nothing to do with technicality or turn patterns… it’s just dancing the basics WELL!

Bah!-dancers, on the other hand, have stopped improving at a low level. They may just barely be able to handle the basics, enough to get through a song in a haphazard, not-s0-pretty-to-look-at manner… and not much else. They don’t understand the concept of “feeling the passion of a song” and are generally, not fun to dance with.

Bah! does not mean Beginner
Now of course, I’m not referring to recent converts to the church of Salsa, that would be unfair. Improvement takes time and Salsa beginners need time and encouragement to help improve their level.

In a period of (let’s just randomly say) 12 months both men and women (especially women) can achieve a very decent level of Salsa. However, some don’t.

We all know Bah-dancers
They’re the ones who go to Salsa congress’ to get away for the weekend and have a blast but never actually learn anything new. They’re the ones that go to regular low-level Salsa classes and aren’t really pushed if they don’t pick up the intricacies of a new turn or a lead as long as they get to chat about how “tough” the class is with every new partner they dance with. They’re the ones who often spin out of control, or can’t maintain their balance on turns or can’t keep up with the rhythm but just laugh it off and never stop to think “Why is this happening?” or “Is their something I could do to fix this?”. Often they’re completely oblivious to the issues they NEED to improve.

They can be very difficult to dance with and in some cases even dangerous. I’ve nearly had my shoulder dislocated a couple of times from trying to keep someone (with years of dance “experience”) from spinning out of control and into other couples. They dance generically and don’t react to changes in the music/rhythm of a song, their dancing lacks life and soul.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black
My own Salsa skills leave a lot to be desired; I’m still not comfortable dancing On2 timing, I still have issues maintaining eye contact with my partner, I haven’t learned a new combination in “I don’t know how long”, my attempts at shines verge on the ridiculous… the list goes on and on and on (humiliatingly so). However, I’m aware of these shortcomings and my need to improve. I sometimes ask my dance partners (those that I’m close with) what areas I can work on or what they don’t like about how I dance. That self-awareness is very important to me and to my development. Bah!-dancers, on the other hand, don’t seem to care!

Bad to worse
Since I returned to Ireland last year after almost two and a half years away, I’ve had the chance to dance with (and see dancing) many people from the Salsa scene when I lived in Dublin 3 years ago. Many have improved incredibly and I noticed it from the first moment I danced with them or saw them dancing.

However, some, amazingly after almost 3 years, haven’t improved at all. In fact, some are worse dancers than what I remember. They are Bah! Basic And Happy!

So let them be Bah!
I’m all in favor of people doing what makes them happy. At the end of the day, if something makes you happy and doesn’t negatively affect you or others, then go for it.

However, the proliferation of Bah!-dancers has far reaching repercussions, well beyond the individual Bah!-dancers themselves.

Let me give you an international example. I moved to Cali, Colombia because I had heard it was the world capital of salsa and I wanted to learn all that I could from those famous Colombian dancers. I went and I was disappointed (but only on the technical level). Cali’s “Professional” dancers are, without a doubt, amongst the best in the world but the regular dancers that you meet in the clubs are a different story. The social activity of choice in Cali is Salsa. This means that everyone attains a certain basic level of Salsa that they can use when they go out socializing with friends, family and colleagues. Theynever feel the need to improve (generally for the rest of their lives) because most people dance at the same basic level. However, at least in Cali most people “feel” the rhythm of music much better than people in non-latin countries. This is, of course, a generalization but from two years of living in Cali, I feel it applies to a lot (obviously, not all) of people there.

So basically, a city known for its fine Salsa dancers has remained in a state of stasis (on the level of social dancing skill) since the Salsa boom in the 70’s. It’s still a great place to dance though 😀

This is why Bah!-dancers are detrimental to a Salsa scene. If the number of Bah!-dancers reaches a certain critical mass, it creates a precedent for others to follow. What this means is that when people are exposed to large amounts of mediocre dancers they have no incentive to improve as everyone is already dancing at the same low level and is relatively content doing so.

And just like a Bah!-dancer gets caught in a cycle of mediocrity, so too can an entire Salsa community. This is just not good for Salsa.

**Now the important thing to note about this is that it’s much more significant for smaller or developing Salsa scenes! Bah!-dancers are probably not even an issue for large, well-established scenes like New York or London where there is an abundance of good dancers.**

This “mediocrity” is a typical “stage” in the development process of any Salsa community but mediocre dancers SHOULD eventually give rise to better dancers, which in turn, encourage others to start improving too. This kind of Positive Feedback is essential for a Salsa community to flourish and grow. The perfect example of this is New York city; it attracts the finest dancers on Earth and because of this other dancers there are not only held to a higher standard but also rise to meet and exceed it. Some of the finest social dancing I have ever seen in my life was on the dance floors of the Big Apple.

This is why we need lots of great dancers in a Salsa community and why I recommend people dance with as many good dancers as possible. Great dancers inspire us, they make us want to be better, to try harder, to go that little extra that takes us away from the safety of mediocrity and down the hard path to greatness. More of us need to taste what it’s like to dance with a cloudy dancer to fuel our desire for greater things. By no means does that mean you need to become a “great” dancer yourself… not “bad” would be a great start for many.

Unfortunately, a surplus of Bah!-dancers reduces the relevance of great dancers. They can be ignored as outliers, on the sidelines of the Salsa community, not part of the main group, unreachable. Most of us still behave like sheep and stick with the herd mentality of “do as everyone else does”. If that’s the case and you’re surrounded by Bah!-dancers, how are you going to end up dancing?

You may think you're pretty damn awesome but you're just too content to notice you're not!

You may “think” you’re pretty damn awesome but you’re just too content to notice you’re not!

I’m a monster
This article is going to make me rather unpopular.

Despite our constant desire to hear it, the truth rarely makes us happy. It’s for exactly that reason that I’ve written this; If I don’t, no one else will and nothing will change.

The only solution to the Bah! Cycle is self-awareness. Awareness of one’s own need to improve. We can’t expect others to tell someone they’re a Bah!-dancer, it could be too easily taken as offensive. But then again, people go years without noticing. It’s a tough one to call. This is where constructive criticism from friends could come in handy.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to strive to be an “amazing dancer”. I’m too much of a realist to assume that’s even possible. I do feel, however, that a lot of individuals and even entire Salsa scenes could do well by setting there standards higher; from “Basic” to “Good”!

If this article has offended you, stop for a minute and think. Why have you been offended? Have I struck a personal chord? Have you realized something about yourself? Have you become self-aware? If so, do something about it!

Keep dancing folks.


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156 Responses to “Why “Social” dancers are killing Salsa”

  1. Cape Town Salsa April 22, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I totally agree about the vicious cycle that pulls the community downwards. We all need to keep learning in order for the scene to keep growing. We have the same situation in our scene and hope that more people return to class to learn technique and keep pushing their dancing. Lots of growth to go… Great post!!! Take care, Teddy aka soon to be former Bah! Dancer from Cape Town

    • The Dancing Irishman April 22, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      Hey Teddy,
      Thanks for the great comment. Onwards and upwards, that’s the way to do it.

  2. Henry April 22, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Very interesting article really enjoyed it everyone should always strive to improve in all aspects of everything they do if not then why bother?

  3. steve April 22, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    it is like many things in life, as long as you are putting your feet forward in the direction you want to go, and doing so with integrity and strength, you will never be mediocre. And we should all hold ourselves to a higher standard.

  4. Conor Zorba Rafferty April 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Great article Richie, very thought provoking. Bah!-dancers though, to be fair, make the whole scene possible in the first place. If they reach critical mass, ok time to intervene?

    • The Dancing Irishman April 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Thanks Conor
      I think a constant influx of beginners for “new Blood” while maintaining a constant base of great dancers for maintaining standards and motivation is what’s really essential. The optimal situation would be to bypass the stagnation of people into Bah! dancers by giving them incentive to improve beyond that. But yeah, as long as they don’t get to that critical mass (whatever percentage of the dance population that may be) things should be ok.

  5. Chilly April 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Reblogged this on Chillys Blog and commented:
    The BAH dancer is killing the social salsa scene as my fellow blogger the Dancing Irish man pointed out. Someone had to call it like they see it and he did just that. Thanks for having the balls!
    Now go over and have a look at who and what the BAH dancer is and feel free to comment.

  6. Chilly April 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Great article Richie. I think this one will definitely make you rather unpopular, but the truth has a way of doing that. You nailed the money on the head, you don’t need to be Amazing, you just need to be Good! Whether that is a good follow or a good lead with some sense of musicality and then you will have already surpassed Bah. The Bah dancers have not even gotten to this stage before they become complacent and actually think they have arrived.

    Though BaH dancers have the right to be BAH, they should also then accept they are definitely killing the social scene at the same time. Bah dancing inspires no-one and encourages no-one. What’s also interesting is that they will call you a snob & show off if you yourself try to be anything more than BAH or don’t ask them to dance 20 times in 1 night, but the truth is if they just followed (or lead for the guys) and worked on improving that 1 skill a little bit everytime they danced – they would be more than BAH. However, they totally believe they have ‘arrived’ and no more work is due on their part before getting to this basic level.

    Lets hope the state of mediocrity does not last long because the ‘outliers’ who should really be the norm will disappear soon enough and then the Salsa scene will curdle into a state of despair….

    • The Dancing Irishman April 22, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

      Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for writing this comment. I was beginning to feel weighed down by some of the comments and emails I got on Facebook. I really needed to read something like this.
      Gracias hermano!

  7. Steve April 22, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    Hi Richie !
    I think your analysis is quite flawed.
    Salsa is in TERMINAL decline in Dublin because there are so few venues left in the city to hold salsa nights.
    In previous years there were many large and fun venues which hosted salsa/latin nights. The Odeon bar was a massive venue with salsa upstairs and Brazilian downstairs. Pacinos used to be packed on Sat nights and of course The Westin Hotel was a flagship night on fridays for over 8 years. These nights were all fun nights and very attractive to non-salsa people who usually supported the bar.

    Sadly, none of these nights exist anymore.

    The reasons :
    -Salsa people refuse to support the venues bar….often bringing their own bottled water to save money
    – The Salsa scene is more and more cliquish with less and less public profile so younger people dont see it as cool anymore
    -Salsa promoters are too busy squabbling amongst themselves so no particular promoter can ensure a full house
    -Venue owners are not charity organisations….they have rent to pay and staff costs.so they cant afford to subsidize other peoples hobbies,

    Interestingly, The Garda Club is set to finish soon and I would be very surprised if they found another venue inside the city. Perhaps a church hall in a far off suburb….

    So you see, its not the bad dancing or the super wonderful dancing which is killing the salsa scene in Dublin…….


    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 4:31 am #

      Hey Steve
      I totally agree that Bah!-dancers are not the only reason for the decline of salsa (and I hope it doesn’t genuinely end up as a terminal decline).

      All the other reasons you give are totally valid too. In particular the internal squabbling amongst promoters is something I find completely ridiculous because nobody wins, neither the promoters nor the dancers.

      The Odeon was a big loss, interestingly because it was one of the highest quality dance nights around (from what I remember). The Westin and Pacino’s were more like latin nights which really is something very different from a salsa night.

      The cliquishness of salsa is also quite unfortunate and I’m curious to know if it may be a direct result of the large number of Bah! dancers, with certain good dancers in such a small minority that they tend to band together. It would be interesting to look into that in more detail.

      The problem with making salsa profitable for venue owners too, is huge and the loss of the Garda club is going to cause some serious changes for the scene in Dublin.

      Maybe change is what’s needed.

  8. Hazel John April 23, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    Hi Richie,
    Very Very Nice article Richie. You had wrote what my heart wanted to speak out.

    There is one more problem coming up for salsa is authenticity of the salsa being thought. I had traveled across few Asian countries, where i could find in name of salsa anything being taught.
    ” I enquired at place what style of salsa you teach and the answer i got was “bachata salsa” which i haven’t heard in my life time.

    There should something which has to stop these types of rubbish happening or else in name of salsa we will find some other stuffs happening in future.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 5:28 am #

      Bachata Salsa eh? That’s a first hahaha. I think that a lot of instructors come up with gimmicks to sell there classes. I’m all for the evolution of dance, it needs to evolve to survive but sometimes people go too far hahaha.

      Thanks for your comment

  9. Alice April 23, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    I think this is really sad – and in fact I have a feeling that what eventually put me off salsa dancing was people just like you.

    I love salsa music, I love the dance, I love the social aspect but I can’t stand the kind of Salsa scene where it’s all about trying to push yourself to some kind of ballroom perfection with as many complicated spins and footwork as you can fit into a 4 minute track rather than dance just being part of going out to enjoy the music and the company.

    I’d say that this from a couple of years ago is a much more accurate article on what’s wrong with the salsa scene: http://www.latinolife.co.uk/?q=node/464

    “The problem is, however, that the salsa scene stopped attracting many punters because of what developed into what Andy Wood calls the “tyranny” of salsa dancing. The atmosphere in the clubs became quite cliquey – a cross between an exercise class and speed dating. If you didn’t know your Cuban style from your New York style, you could pretty much be left on the sidelines. People, including Latinos, stopped enjoying it. And when the Latinos stopped going, it stopped being “cool””

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 7:17 am #

      Hi Alice
      I just read that article and it’s a great piece of writing. Some of the points made are solid. In particular, that piece you quoted
      ““The problem is, however, that the salsa scene stopped attracting many punters because of what developed into what Andy Wood calls the “tyranny” of salsa dancing. The atmosphere in the clubs became quite cliquey – a cross between an exercise class and speed dating.” is exactly what I’m talking about in my article. It’s because of people using salsa for something else, without caring about the music or the dance, that things have deteriorated.

      I think you may have misinterpreted what I was getting at because I never said anything like “push yourself to some kind of ballroom perfection with as many complicated spins and footwork as you can fit into a 4 minute track”. That is not what salsa is about at all. I have however become really annoyed with people with years of “experience” not being able to pull off a couple of simple turns. I generally keep my salsa simple and I always try to adapt to the level of my partner.

      I actually found the quote below to be particularly relevant too:
      “In Britain, there are a lot of teachers now who are not properly trained and have no real interest in the culture, language or music, but just want to make a quick buck, and this has brought down standards and devalued Salsa on every level”. It’s because of this distancing from the culture and music that standards have dropped here (and unfortunately the are lower in Ireland than in places like London). That’s why I did all I have done to bring myself closer to the heart of salsa: I lived for 2 years in Colombia, learning Spanish, learning about the music and how to appreciate it.

      Bah! dancers, don’t appreciate the music or the dance and this is what leads to problems.

      One other thing, your first comment: “what eventually put me off salsa dancing was people just like you”, was pretty offensive. You don’t know anything about me or how I interact with other dancers or how I participate in the salsa scene. Please, don’t be so hasty to make judgments.

      • Tall Paul April 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

        Hey Richie

        I must say that that Latino Life article is on the money for me, moreso than your own take on the “BAH” dancers to be honest. I’ve read that article before – I’m glad someone else quoted it on your blog, because I thought of it immediately as I was reading your blog. (Although to be fair, what you are complaining about may have a bit of overlap with what that article criticises).

        When you say that “social dancers are killing salsa”, I think it depends what you mean by “Salsa” and what you mean by “killing”.

        You quote Cali as an example of the phenomenon you are talking about – but yet somehow it’s pretty hard to believe that “Salsa has died in Cali”, whilst it retains its status as “World Salsa Capital”. As you know, Cali has good reason to hold that title – in terms of promotion of “Salsa” as a musical and cultural experience (in addition to the dancing). This sense of Salsa as a cultural experience comes in contrast to Salsa in the UK and Ireland, where it is a dance hobby like other hobbies (increasingly cut off from its musical and cultural roots). Perhaps this contrast is culturally inevitable, but it’s enough to give us pause for thought.

        So when you say “killing Salsa”, it sounds like you mean “frustrating for good dancers trying to get their dance fix”. I don’t have a problem with that, as I like to get my dance fix as much as the next guy, but it’s only one part of the picture. When performance improvement charts are the be-all-and-end-all (as you may have inadvertently suggested by your blog post), then Salsa becomes a hobby much like Golf – very satisfying for those who “take it seriously” (like yourself and myself), but mystifying and intimidating to outsiders.

        I’d say that Salsa is killed or rendered soulless by people who don’t care about the music – which in the UK and Ireland is many of the expert dancers as well as the “BAH” dancers (not to mention many promoters and DJs). If you disagree, then find some expert Salsa dancers you know, and ask them who their favourite Salsa bands are. Ask them what their favourite Salsa recordings are. Ask them how much they’d pay to see a good live Salsa band. (Salsa congresses here rarely feature live music, as the punters are generally uninterested and unwilling to pay for it).

        The kind of “BAH” dancers you’ve talked about (outside of Cali anyway) don’t care about the music any more than they care about the dance, so fair enough. But IMO, for Salsa dancing to thrive, it needs inclusivity, passion for the music, connection to its cultural heritage, and promoters who don’t publically squabble with each other – as much as it needs dancers to practice and improve more. (Maybe that’s some ammunition for your next blog post!)

        Take care!

      • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 8:20 am #

        Hey Paul
        This was a great comment and much needed on this thread. The whole point of the article was to get people thinking and discussing more, like on this comments thread here and I think in that respect it’s been hugely successful.
        “The kind of “BAH” dancers you’ve talked about (outside of Cali anyway) don’t care about the music any more than they care about the dance, “ This is what I consider to be a real Bah dancer, someone who really doesn’t care. A lot of people who have taken offense to this article do so on the premise that they themselves are Bah dancers but the very fact that they comment shows some level of concern/care that tells me they aren’t.

        On another note, I never said Cali was dead or dying in Cali. I used it as an example of a scene that hasn’t really evolved in the social dance sense. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it, the opposite is true.

        Thanks for the great comment.

    • steve April 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm #


      I think you may have missed the point Richie was making by a large margin – he is not talking about a desire to see us all as snobs or perfectionists, or to somehow take the hobby to rarefied professional heights- its the lack of the basic skill set required to be able “to dance”. To have the ability to create an enjoyable dance between a couple. If a girl cant do the basic step, follow most leads, be able to spin once (maybe twice) without falling off balance or find the 1, she does not have the basics, and is

      Are you one of these? If so,you might be the problem, not Richie, who has not settled to be a bad or mediocre lead.

    • Steve April 23, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

      Alice …you have nailed it bang on…..it was when the Latinos stopped going that salsa ceased to be cool !!!
      So many Latinos are totally aghast when they see the “euros” doing all their spins and turns. They take one look and never return……maybe they know something about latin dance that we could NEVER know !!!!

    • Marcia April 24, 2014 at 4:03 am #

      I agree Alice with you, I have been gradually distancing myself from the salsa scene precisely because of these debates. When I was growing up with my latino family we played salsa at family gatherings and had fun. No we did not dance like professionals but we had fun, we were not thinking about technique ortiming that is part of our culture. So who are these people now calling us “BaH” dancers? If you judged the scene in Cali as dissapointing, well maybe it is because their culture is different than the “salsa congress” culture. The author comes off as judgemental. I am not trying to single out the author in no way because unfortunately many people feel like he does too so he is just saying what I know others think but they won’t actually say it. In any case, I have performed, traveled, etc… and I encounter this attitude everywhere so my interest is not the same. The debates and drama are not even worth it.

  10. sister88 April 23, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    Unless… the reason the particular dancer maintains a ¨social¨ status is because what he/she is actually going to enjoy is the music of salsa – goes for live shows, hearing the newest tracks from the DJ – and just wants to enjoy the dancing of it at a regular level to keep partaking in the scene. Which means that this person is also keeping salsa alive, because salsa is music as well, and just as dancers can improve as dancers, salsa listeners can improve in their knowledge of the music and enjoyment of complex rhythms, instrumentations and arrangements of salsa which keeps this same music alive.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      A very solid point indeed. We need people to appreciate the music much more than they currently do (at least that’s the case here in Ireland). I’ll bet, however, that someone who has a better understanding and appreciation of the music can probably dance much better (a term which is open to interpretation) than a Bah! dancer who has trouble with the basics, timing, rhythm, basic steps etc..
      Thanks for the comment!

  11. Xenia April 23, 2014 at 6:59 am #

    hi from Madrid! there are many bah dancers here!… just learning the basics to go out and meet people… antoher fact is that most people in Madrid come looking for “SALSA” and they discover Kizomba and bachata,… mucho more easier to dance and they migrate to that… loosing any interest in so “complicated and hard to learn” SALSA.
    they get want they want al lower price…
    solution… in spain i see it very difficult.. spaniards don´t see the need to suffer if there´s an easiest way to flirt.

  12. Xenia April 23, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    and i have to tell… in madrid we have the same problem… about promoters and “non profitable salsa dancers” and there´s a little NY salsa dancers community that misses a place to dance.
    fortunately there are two people who had a good idea. to dance in the morning! but just one sunday each month. they looked for a place where we could dance for free.. in a local market… and now it has become the best place to dance ny in madrid… just one per month!!

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      Hi Xenia
      I love the idea of free dancing outside, it takes a lot of unnecessary politics out of the equation. Unfortunately here in Ireland with the weather we have, it’s not something we can do regularly.
      Also, people using salsa just for meeting people of the opposite sex annoys me too. Meeting new people is part of social salsa obviously but dancing salsa just to meet girls does nothing for the improvement of salsa.
      Thanks for the comment.

      • Xenia April 25, 2014 at 3:53 am #

        It´s a covert market!.. This winter in Madrid was awfull, raining and snowing… but in summer it´l lbe hard to dance under the sun..!!! someone organized last summer a salsa meeting but in a water park and it was fantastic…
        I hope we find a solution to the excesive number of bah dancers

  13. Renee April 23, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    Interestingly enough, before I started reading this article, I thought to myself, “I’m offended just by the title!” However, by the end, I have to say that you have proven your point, to me at least. I confess to being stuck in my salsa mediocrity. After reaching the end, the first tab I opened on my browser was class times at my local salsa studio. The fire has been lit. Thanks for the insights and inspiration!

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 7:42 am #

      Thank you so much for this comment Renee and thank you for reading and understanding the whole article.
      The title was intentionally misleading to get people to read it and I hope that more people like you, understand what I’m getting at.
      Take care and thanks again for this lovely comment.

  14. Dani April 23, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    You bring it on the point!!! Here in Austria it’s a desaster, I guess, we have at least over 80% Bah dancers and this makes for an organiser impossible to do anything… so many great artists want to come for workshops, but here the organiser always have to pay extra 😦 and finally organisers have no money anymore and then everything stops…
    but one thing encouraged me, that we are not alone and it’s the same in other places….

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      Hi Dani
      I haven’t traveled extensively in Europe but I figured this couldn’t just be an Irish phenomenon. I think it has a lot to do with small and developing salsa communities. But let’s remain hopeful that we can see improvement in our respective scenes in the future.
      Thanks for the comment.

  15. Terence April 23, 2014 at 7:37 am #


    I doubt from your post, that, you are a teacher. The reason ?.. you would come to realise that, the vast majority of ” dancers ” ,are quite happy with the skill level they wish to achieve . A very famous dance coach once wrote ” after teaching for1 year, I realised that, not everyone wanted to be a champion “..

    Point.. without this influx of people( beginners and satisfied ones ) into clubs/socials, there would NOT be any clubs open, or socials, left !.

    I do get your point, but its not pragmatic…

    And, its kinda ironic, that most latinos ,NEVER go beyond a basic level and havemore sabor, in many cases, than all of those ,who do strive to be in the so called ” elite ” strata

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      Actually, I did work as a teacher and I’m well aware that not everyone wants to be a champion (neither do I for that matter). However, I did ensure that my students danced their basics well. I thought only a few turns with a focus on getting the basics down, improving body movement (especially that latin sabor) and appreciation for changes in the music. I saw other schools that only tried to teach as much fancy turns and rapid footwork as possible and it resulted in poorer dancers.
      I just want people to dance nicely (not, as one Colombia friend put it, like “a gringo that has taken a weeks worth of salsa classes and thinks he knows all there is to know).
      I think it’s a fair enough desire!

      • infiniteWELLNESS April 23, 2014 at 10:21 am #

        Sure but once again that’s your desire and that’s “your” expectation, unfortunately having expectations of other people will only leave you disappointed, be happy with your own level and develop yourself and leave everybody else alone to enjoy themselves, make a fool of themselves and get lost in their own interpretation of dance; at the end of the day who cares as long as you are having fun. Maybe then you should hold parties exclusively for professionals and “people who dance nicely” and live in your box of an idealistic dance world. Stop critiquing others and just be responsible for yourself and if others ask then help!

  16. Anne April 23, 2014 at 7:44 am #

    I totally agree with Alice. What got me into salsa in the first place was the love for the music and the rythm and the fun. None of this spells out “do a perfect spin”. Now I do have that intrinsic motivation of getting better (I have my shines and on2s sorted out I think), but I really don’t mind people having a great time on the dance floor at whatever kind of level. Of course it shouldn’t go as far as harming other couples, but that’s not the majority you’re talking about here, as I understand.
    I really prefer to see happy faces that carry a fun vibe along a million times over selfconscient show-off dancing. You don’t like it? Don’t dance with those people who are “stuck”. You’re not happy with the evolvement of the salsa scene? Give a good example of how much fun it can be to play with the music instead of scrutinizing others. You know like in “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
    I often get the feeling that salsa dancers who have reached a certain level are eager to show off all their technique and carefully studied shines that they don’t even listen to the music anymore or react well to their dancing partner. They do the same programm on any kind of song. They don’t articulate the accents in their dancing. That’s just as “stuck”, only on an elaborate elevel. And that’s were the soul of salsa is really lost to me. Those “BAhs”, as you disrespectfully call them, at least they’re having fun without being pretentious. Just my two cents on the issue.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

      Hi Anne
      “I really prefer to see happy faces that carry a fun vibe along a million times over unselfconscious show-off dancing” I agree with this wholeheartedly. I’m not asking people to become show offs. I do feel, and this may be where the misunderstanding is coming from, that if the majority of dancers I dance with in a night (I don’t refuse dances) have trouble maintaining their basic or pulling off a simple turn, then I think you’ll agree that there’s a problem somewhere.
      Thanks for the comment.

    • Kelly Ann April 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

      Anne, this part of your post in particular resonated with me “You’re not happy with the evolvement of the salsa scene? Give a good example of how much fun it can be to play with the music instead of scrutinizing others. You know like in “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

      (That is some beautiful imagery and language right there!)

      I’m not one to actively or forcefully try to change someone else’s mind; I’m going to leave that up to them. However, I am able to shape my own perception of my own enjoyment of a dance. I am pretty nerdy and enjoy technique, musicality and nitty gritty details – however, I can concentrate on those things in my own body while still enjoying a dance with a “BAH” and both of us can still have a great time. Some may even notice the difference and subtleties and benefit from them or be inspired to learn more. Of course, there may be some dancers whose technique is sloppy and/or dangerous, but because my own technique is solid and I am mindful enough, I know how to keep myself and other dancers safe.

      That said, Dancing Irishman, I can understand some of your frustration. It’s clear that you’re dedicated to improving your dancing, and keeping scenes vibrant, which is important. For myself, I find that working with a partner or group of people outside of social dancing that have a similar knowledge base/skill level and desire for learning has been very helpful for me to get that “dance geek fix” and keep me learning more, and that when I go out social dancing, I change my expectations from primarily learning to connecting well and having fun with anyone I dance with. Although you might not know it, you may (you ARE) secretly inspiring BAHs to improve by showing improvement and dedication yourself.

      Thank you again for your thoughtful article. This is just more two cents! 🙂

      • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 8:02 am #

        Hey Kelly Ann
        You have really made some great points here. But you really nailed one of the main things I wanted to get across with this comment “you may (you ARE) secretly inspiring BAHs to improve by showing improvement and dedication yourself. ” That is the responsibility that we all have.
        Thanks for the comment.

  17. la cueva del gato April 23, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    your article pisses me off! What do you wanna do? Do an examination at the entrance of a salsa party to banish the people who don’t dance well enough? let everybody do what they want… I think you understand nothing to dance! The improvement graphic is also pretty ridiculous… The improvement is never linear… I would say there is an asymptotic behavior toward something one would call perfection for a professional dancer. But yet i want to ask: why does everything has to be a competition? People are happy with a mediocre level? They enjoy themselves? Well let them be the way they like as long as they enjoy!

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

      I think you may have misunderstood what I was getting at in the article. I wasn’t demanding that everyone try to become a professional, that would be ridiculous, but if I go into a club and 8 out of 10 people I dance with can’t follow basic rhythm or do a simple turn, then I think you’ll agree that there’s a problem somewhere.
      As for the graphs, they weren’t meant to be real, they were just there as a visualization aid.
      Thanks for the comment.

  18. Lucho Silva April 23, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    Excelente articulo. Tengo amigos colombianos y cubanos que no bailan NADA de salsa. NO SABEN, pero cuando estan fuera de sus paises, especialmente en paises NO latinoamericanos, se aprovechan de su procedencia ” soy cubano” soy colombiano” = bailo muy bien Salsa. Las personas no latinoamericanas piensan ” debe bailar bien” cuando en realidad no son ni siquiera BAH. Esto hace que sea el Tuerto, REY en tierra de los ciegos y no hace nada por mejorar. A mi me gusta mas el estilo colombiano, venezolano y ECUATORIANO ( especialmente de Guayaquil) para bailar que el de Los Angeles. Creo que en Europa aprenden este estilo LA que es muy MECANICO, hace pensar al estudiante de baile que ” DAR VUELTAS” es lo mas importante de la salsa, NO tienen “MOVIMIENTOS DE PIERNAS” si estan Sueltos unos segundos son unos ROBOTS. No se siente la musica.
    Excellent article. I have Colombians and Cubans friends who do not dance salsa NOTHING. They DO NOT KNOW how to dance, but when they are outside their countries, especially in NO Latin American countries, take advantage of their origin “I’m Cuban” I’m Colombian “= I dance very well Salsa. Not Latin American people think” they must dance well “when in fact they are not even BAH. This makes it “popeye, tHE KING in the land of the blind” and they do nothing to learn or improve. I like the Colombian, Venezuelan and Ecuadorean style (especially Guayaquil) to dance than Los Angeles. I think in Europe learn this last style, LA, than it is very MECHANIC, suggests students dance to “SWIVEL. SPIN” is the most important in salsa, they are NOT “MOVING LEGS” if left go to their partners for a few seconds, they are a ROBOTS. This style does not feel the music from the heart.

    Moscow – Russia F

  19. joe April 23, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    ok just read this article and find it rather interesting. reflecting back on words like improve, greatness, weak, self realisation, commitment, mediocrity, etc. firstly in the last two years i have not attended a single salsa class, so the little salsa i have been doing should give you an idea of my situation in the social scene aswell. coming from a performance background in sport this article has come across as a common problem yet my views differ to the situation above. reason for this i ask various questions concerning performance.

    so a few views that tickles my mind when reading this topic. most money in football is in uk/europe. the giants are brazil. australia swimming/ USA swimming put together probably populate to half the swimmers in the world. rugby probably not even known in some countries yet, but won twice by a country recognized by international sport only since 1994. (South Africa) Jamaica a small little island whose odds of winning any athletic event hold a few world records to there flag. play around with these numbers in sport and some of them make sense and some do not. by the way do you know Zimbabwe? well they too hold a few Olympic medals in swimming. so based on a few performance reviews there are other obstacles that need to be questioned.

    if South Africa for example has 100 dancers of which 5 are good-great simple math would be 5% success according to what YOU looking for in dancers. lets look at big apple as mentioned above e.g 1000 dancers and im not sure of how many are good-great. but simple math tells me there chances of good-great is much more in numbers. so naturally an individual as yourself would be more positive about a city like the big apple. another arising situation is the level of dancing in latin countries not being so great. i agree when you say there rythm and beats are good but come now they born with this. the reality is there greatness leaves there social surroundings and any form of professional is unlikely found in its roots of where they come from. so politically saying most of the first world countries benefits from this talent and are able to cater for this profession to be executed whence the number of great dancers within that country or city. another reason a dancer like yourself would speak wonders of these cities or countries.

    these situations can be taken into depth but i think what i would like to mention is that when i started dancing i did not miss a class yet i found myself at socials for almost six months into my course and still did not touch the social floor. call it fear or what you want but i attended every social in that six months. it was a pleasure watching these dancers on the floor and even though fear of the dance floor got to me it was still a pleasure being in that scene. i loved it and i think i loved it just as much as any “BAH” dancer out there.

    no matter how much you want people to improve the numbers game is what any discipline is more likely to find success in. so even before you consider talking about standard of dancing maybe we should rather look at our numbers first and in this respect our chance of greatness becomes more.

    bottomline i feel we need bah dancers just as much as any great dancer out there.

    “excuse the spelling and grammar.”

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 10:05 am #

      The “numbers game” is very true in that the higher the total population of “participants” the higher the total number of elite competitors.
      The only thing I would say is that I don’t want everyone to be elite level, I just want people to dance well; not like a professional, not with hundreds of combinations and turns, not with an ego… just well.

  20. HV April 23, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    I will expand my comment in a couple of weeks as I have only my mobile atm.

    I see your point, specially about dangerous people in the dance floor.

    However… I use to own a bar in Guatemala, contrary to your conclusions, what you call bah dancers, they were the only people that made it worthwhile for me to host salsa nights in the first place!

    Why? Because they are the ones that spent money on drinks, etc. We knew exactly who the more serious dancers were, we use to call them water drinkers, they never brought any money to the business.

    Besides most new blood were introduced to the scene by you “bah” dancers because newcomers saw all the fun you can have without feeling bad about not having a high level of dancing.

    Me? I am a bah dancer and proud!

    Good writing though, it does get people thinking.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 10:09 am #

      Thanks HV
      There are other issues to get into with salsa and the financial side of things (regarding promoters and venue owners) is incredibly important. To a certain extent, numbers become of the utmost importance but that doesn’t do much for the development which is what I’m getting at here.
      Very valid comment though, thank you.

    • Steve April 23, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

      Totally agree HV !! It was the water-sippers that killed off salsa in Dublin

  21. Hugo Lopez April 23, 2014 at 9:05 am #


    • Artemis April 24, 2014 at 10:30 am #

      Interesting did you say that Salsa is based on West Coast Swing? Do you have any reference on that? 🙂

      Art Emis

  22. Salsa_Samurai April 23, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Your writing is very thought-provoking and I absolutely agree with you. Although I dance and teach the cuban Casino style, I see the same phenomenon in this scene also.

    However, a fish rots from the head down. I think it not fair to except the average/beginner dancer to have self-awareness and need for improvement in a field which is almost unknown to them.

    Dance teachers have a HUGE responsibility in this.

    When we see a bad dancer from a salsa school, we may say: “bad dancer”. But when we see a lot of bad dancers from the same school, we tend to say: “bad teacher”. So true.

    Why is the teacher bad? His/her lack of knowledge? In many cases, yes, but not always.

    Worse: fear of losing students? Absolutely.

    It is hard for a teacher to find the right amount of challenge for the students – developing them without being too “tough”, awakening their desire to improve, giving sound basics to build on, but with fun factor. One in every 10 salsa teachers does this.

    The others walk the easy path (you know, the Dark side), teaching basic moves for years and years and going for the “salsa feeling”, producing your average social dancer.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      You’re very right when you say dance teachers have a huge responsibility. Unfortunately with money in the equation it becomes a numbers game and when numbers are high it’s very hard to give the attention needed to individual students.
      You’re also right when you say that a teacher shouldn’t be tough on a student. Tough isn’t the answer, encouragement is.

      • Boris April 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

        Unfortunately there is a trap for the teachers with this. I’ve seen a dance class start well, then over time (3-5 years) the majority of dancers stay Bah dancers but are the regulars.

        The teachers dumbed down their classes a bit to keep the majority happy/paying and handle new students since there were less and less good dancers to help out over all. Why? Well, the good dancers faded away over time because the classes were becoming boring and dancing wasn’t any fun and was often physically painful.

        Rinse… Repeat.

      • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 7:21 am #

        Yes, Yes, Yes
        You are actually after reading into what I was secretly getting at.
        Beautiful comment.

  23. Chris April 23, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    I’m only guessing but you like rather young (at least in comparison to my own age of 41) and I always find it interesting when younger dancers make points like this because I look back to a time when dancing salsa was absolutely nothing but a communal, social dance and then along came these “dancers” who destroyed the etiquette, turned something enjoyed by many into a cliquish, standoffish skill of a minute group of individuals that looked down on people. Whereas you say people should admire these dancers and use this as a precursor to improve their skills, I recall a time when onlookers admired watching people have pure fun and that’s what attracted many people to the salsa scene.

    What both Steve and Alice in earlier comments have posted is exactly what I have witnessed in my progression from as a DJ, to social dancer, to performer and now nightclub manager. There continues to be a net decline in dancers, music, performances and shows and this, in my opinion, has everything to do with those that run around proclaiming that THEY are “salseros” and THEY have some God-given higher state of salsa knowledge. Nothing to do with “BAH” dancers. I have to say that attitude is a major turnoff to getting more people to engage in dancing salsa. A great graph would be to show the decline in support that these individuals provide to the advancement of salsa which blows my mind due to the fact that most individuals I see nowadays dancing I believe come from white collar professions and should, at the very least, understand from a business perspective under how to make something flourish and grow.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      Hey Chris
      I definitely feel that “cliquism” should have no place in salsa as it can only cause harm and I also have very little respect for elitists and salsa snobs.
      You make a good point in pointing some of the blame at teachers and promoters, they definitely have a certain responsibility to uphold

  24. Patrik April 23, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Interesting read and I do agree on some levels, but in general I disagree with your conclusions that you, quite offensively, state that bah dancers ruin the salsa scene.

    In Stockholm we now have a thriving salsa scene and it has nothing to do with the amounts of pro, good or mediocre dancers. To begin with you have to realize the salsa scene is not one homogeneous group. We have number of different subcultures with different social rules. E.g. the hard core Cuban night club looks very different from the evening salsa school social, even though they sometimes mix. But they all contribute to the scene.

    As someone else stated, the reason a lot of regular salsa clubs have had to close down has to do with the fact that the now not so new breed of salseros, read not latinos, don’t drink enough. I’m not sure that applies to Dublin 😉 But instead we now see a lot of salsa schools hosting socials, normally with drop-in classes before the social. These socials draw a huge number of dancers and the combo with drop-in attracts a lot of beginners. We now have more salsa dancers in Stockholm then ever before. And yes a lot of people find Bachata and Kizomba easier to approach but they all add up to the scene, and they usually learn salsa eventually as well.

    And finally to address your concerns about mediocre dancers. When I started going out to the salsa clubs of yesteryears, some 18 years ago, the scene looked totaly different. It was filled with mediocre dancers. Mainly latinos and me, the only swede ;). And the focus was more on drinking and partying while dancing came second. That all changed when salsa got some media attention and salsa schools started to appear, about 12 years ago I think. Remember this is in Stockholm, might have been different in Dublin. All of a sudden we saw a lot of new people in the clubs but with much more focus on dancing. At the same time we were introduced to new styles, like LA and eventually On2. Before it had only been very basic Cuban style and some Colombian. And some of these new people evolved to great dancers and some not so great but all enjoyes it. And it’s not always the best dancer who enjoys it the most. My point is we have a lot more good dancers today than we have ever had but we will always have a mixed bag, and it’s quite alright that way. No one is forcing you to dance with someone else. But as a guy and a leader you have much more control of the dance than the girl/follower so you should be able to influence more. Hell, when I started dancing the Cuban ladies wouldn’t let me lead until I literally took command.

    In the end the growth of the salsa community depends much more on individuals promoting it through schools, concerts and venues than wether or not we have good or mediocre dancers. There’s room for everyone.

    And say hello from Stockholm to Abel if you see him 😉

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      Thanks for the comment Patrik. I absolutely agree that salsa will always be a mixed bag of abilities and that’s part of its beauty. The article I wrote was in response to a prevalence of “Bah” dancing that seems to have taken hold in Dublin, The only reason it’s of concern is the high numbers it has reached, If it was evenly mixed it wouldn’t bother anyone.
      I’m glad to hear that in Stockholm that you now have a good mix of dance styles. We need to work a little harder here in Dublin to even out the ratio over time 🙂

      • Miguel Gonzalez April 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

        I just wanted to say that even if I agree with some of you cuz of course it would be perfect if everyone would care for understanding the concept of technical salsa dancing, there are many good or bad dancers out there having the time of their lives out in the clubs cuz all the care about is having fun and I have to admit that some of this non technical or off beat dancers are sometimes amazingly natural talented. You have to remember that before technical salsa dancers, there were social dancers. On the other hand as a technical dancer, we get to loose the real purpose of dancing and that is mainly to have fun, that’s how we get to the point of criticizing others when we should just respect diversities. Other causes of these people to get frustrated an forget about learning is the lack of knowledge or the system some of the instructors have for teaching. Either they haven’t completely understood the concept or they teach very little every time. They wouldn’t explain to you the basics on a way that you can get a good foundation and that leads to bad learning or not learning at all, but you still have to pay for the class. I am leaving proof of that. I took classes from different instructors for more than eight months, after getting all frustrated abut it I decided to go on my own and look for information about technique over the internet and that’s the only way I got to understand technique. I understand and respect that some people just want to do things their way and I have to admit that when you are yourself you can come up with really good stuff, cuz that is how you get creative. Other thing we need to understand is that not everyone wants to be a pro or to be noticed. They just want to dance. Why don’t we just respect and get along, that would make the salsa scene stronger. By the way these “Bah” dancers are not the responsible for the salsa scene decay!


      • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

        “I decided to go on my own and look for information about technique over the internet and that’s the only way I got to understand technique” sounds like you made a conscious effort to improve and that’s really admirable especially of putting up with 8 months of poor teaching.
        You’re right too, when you say “the lack of knowledge or the system some of the instructors have for teaching. Either they haven’t completely understood the concept or they teach very little every time.” teachers have a certain (though not complete) responsibility for the development of their students.
        Thanks for the comment.

  25. Wilde April 23, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    This article reminds me of… me, years ago, so I decided to leave a comment 🙂
    Poor salsa killing Colombians… they never realised they should improve in order to be a “fun to dance with” dancers 🙂
    My friend, excuse my irony, but your analisys of great and Bah dancer’s development sounds like opinion of dancing authorithy that obviosly you are not 🙂
    It is not very clear to me what do you mean by good or great dancer, but let me add one more feature – the good dancer should be able to dance even with his grandmother who never learned how to dance. You should consider this and have fun even dancing with a “Bah” lady. I could understand a lady who complains because there are no good leading gentlemen, but since you are a man, you should be able to lead any lady. So instead of whining, learn how to lead. Instead of tormenting yourself with complex shines, learn a smooth basic step (unless you have some African blood in your veins or grew up in Latin America, you’ll most probably NEVER have a proper basic step).
    I wish you more fun in salsa dancing. Good luck and take care 🙂

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      That’s a VERY interesting point you make there. While I never said and never have considered myself to be a “dancing authority” I do have one thing I’m proud of: I (almost) never refuse a dance and I am constantly told by people who have really no technique that I am one of the few people they can enjoyably dance with. I’ve learned LA, NY, Colombian and Cuban and I mix my styles to adapt to everyone I dance with. Not many people do that.
      Thanks for the comment.

      • Wilde April 24, 2014 at 5:03 am #

        Good for you!
        My point is: if one can feel all the passion, this elixir for the soul that comes from the music, and if one can transfer this to his partner, creating beauty and harmony, it doesn’t mater if he/she makes intricate dancing patterns or just a basic step. It doesn’t matter if you dance with a beginner, “bah” or profi. Salsa is like a language and Cuban, Portorican, LA, NY, Colombian, Irish, German, etc., on 1, on 2, on 3, on 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 are just dialects, so if you know the language, you can communicate with the others. And you can help the others willing to learn. Not refusing a dance is good. Inviting beginners is even better. The only thing that is worse than horrible dancers is no dancers at all 🙂
        Once again I wish you more fun with this magic called salsa.
        And thanks for the article – the greatest moral of it IMHO is that: as human beings – it is always much better to constantly develop our abilities in what we do than be satisfied with mediocre results.
        The deeper you dig in salsa dancing, the more intense and hightened pleasure of it comes back to you 🙂

  26. bgalvan1 April 23, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Completely disagree!!!!!, this article just resonates what is the studio dance community and their views on the world as “everyone needs to improve” ….. This is what Eddie Torres stated as a problem in the mambo/salsa community that the “professional” dance studios have created an atmosphere of pressure, that you need to be technical and proficient to dance salsa in some respect to be considered good, and in the process…. you forget you’re supposed to have fun with dancing. He went on stating that he would have a hard time in today’s “salsa” world (he does not use the word salsa btw) where the technical pressures that you need to be on1, on2, or fall into technical categories for you to be considered good strip out the MOST important factor of the music and salsa…to HAVE FUN!!!!!. This is why “professionals/studio taught” who go to latin america are surprised when very few people dance the way they’ve come to know salsa.

    They assume that because its the birthplace of the music, EVERYONE can dance what I’ve learned and I will have tremendous fun.

    Were palladium dancers technical when they created the roots of salsa?… there was no one1, or on2…it was go out, enjoy the music and create/dance and add to it. If you transported back into time would you critique them and say they “don’t know how to dance?”. Its awesome that mambo, and then on1,on2, etc.. followed to give people more structure. But in that I see people get so wrapped up first about the “technical structures” that they forget the essence of just getting up, dancing and starting.

    You’ll always have the “studio dance” community who learned a certain way, come back and say you are doing it wrong, or your style is different, or students come and say you dance on1 and I only dance on2…. in that process you create an atmosphere that will degrade the learning curve. I personally think ballrooms that teach salsa are detrimental as their styles sway more to the “ESPN” style of dancing “The Salsa”…but that’s my opinion.

    Someone that truly loves dancing, truly loves the technical advancement of becoming better will never be stopped. But to sit and say “a surplus of Bah!-dancers reduces the relevance of great dancers, ” is probably the worst thing you could say and screams “studio dance pre-madonna” who feel superior because they go out and learn something and assume I’m better than you.

    Instead a surplus of blah dancers make those few that make the commitments to their styles and improve even greater!!!! WHILE everyone has fun in the process and the community as well as the music grows.

    Just because I have fun playing ping pong socially does not mean I want to improve… or that I have to. I like doing it socially with my friends and just having fun makes it interesting and lets me appreciate more actual professionals doing it. Should I stop playing outright because I am a “blah” ping pong player?

    Being latin amercian I grew up watching people and their basement style salsa, and continue today. Going to studios has made me better and I love getting better in the sense of my mambo or on1/2 skills…but that does not take away from the fun I have when I go dance with people in DR,PR or wherever and all they know is basement style salsa and want to get off their asses and have fun and listen to the music.

    Music and dancing are intertwined forever. Tito Puente knew this, and wanted his music to last forever so he got Eddie Torres, taught him music, notes, etc… to dance with his music and created mambo in the process.

    Music that has a band and dance last through generations. Look at bachata…it has it’s own ,music and is growing globally from ratty whore house bar music to its evolution today but maintains its root with the music. When I go to DR, should I be frustrated and say everyone sucks and should stop dancing because of the “blah dancers” despite the country being the birthplace of bachata?

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      Hey Brian
      I can see you feel strongly about this but I really think you’ve missed the point (you’ll disagree because I can tell you’re blood is boiling but I can’t change that).
      Anyway, I never mention anything in the article about ballroom style salsa or the superiority of On1 or On2 or how much better professional dancers are. I think you’ve just latched on to this article to vent on some (very relevant) grievances you have with the salsa world (I agree and share some of those grievances).

      BTW I removed the last part of your comment because I thought it was overly aggressive. You wouldn’t say that to someone in a civilized conversation (at least I hope not) so it has no place on my blog either.

      Thanks for the rest of the comment though.

  27. Pierre Henry April 23, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    There is actually a counter-argument that the “non-bah” dancers (as you would describe them) are killing the social dance scene.

    As the more advanced dancers start to drift in to teaching, they feel the need to address the perceived inadequacies of “bah” dancers by teaching them the “important” skills right from the beginning – skills like timing, musicality, expression, musical appreciation, spinning, performance, presentation etc

    This actually de-incentivizes people from making progress because they do not have the physical ability to do the things that they are being asked to do.

    Just taking timing as an example:-

    Contrary to “non-bah” dancers’ belief, most people actually do have a fairly good sense of timing.

    If you ask a person to stand still, listen to a simple salsa track and clap when they hear the “1”, they’ll probably get it right. Now, ask them to do the same thing while doing their basic mambo step and things start going downhill. Now, ask them to lead/follow a series of basic moves with a complete stranger and things get worse still.

    In a beginners/improvers class, you are essentially asking someone with probably little-to-no experience of dancing to perform a complex demonstration of physical co-ordination by dancing a sequence of unfamiliar moves with a series of strangers to an unfamiliar genre of music.

    Their sense of timing is not the problem. So all of the solo listening and clapping exercises are actually a complete waste of time because they are addressing a non-existent problem.

    If the teachers concentrate on teaching beginners to crawl before they can walk, walk before they can run and run before they can fly then the overall level of social dancing will increase.

    The most important skills for beginners to learn are leading and following – everything else is a distraction. Once they have learned how to move themselves and move with a partner you now have a basic foundation on which to start building on the other elements as described above.

    And, if you think that is going to happen in 6 months or even a year, just remember that the average beginner/improver salsa dancer does about 2 hours of classes per week which, taking holidays in to account, equates to probably less than 100 hours of group (not personal) tuition per year.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      You make an excellent point here Pierre. That focus on “too much, too soon” may exactly be why a lot of people come out of classes with a poor grasp of basics. When I used to teach I focused on the basics of getting a lead to lead well and a follow to follow well while maintaining the correct rhythm.
      I never said in my article that “lots of fancy turns and footwork” were what constitutes good. That’s not what good means. I was talking about people who have a poor grasp of basic salsa (whatever style that may be) and the proliferation of this level in a salsa community.
      On a final note, you really hit the nail on the head with this comment “concentrate on teaching beginners to crawl before they can walk, walk before they can run and run before they can fly then the overall level of social dancing will increase.” A lot of people should follow that advice.
      Thanks for the comment

      • Pierre Henry April 24, 2014 at 7:08 am #

        Yes, I definitely think that “too much too early” has become a problem with some of the newer, less experienced teachers. But also there is too much pressure on the social dance floor nowadays – pressure to style, to shine, to have excellent musicality. Many people are put off by this so they choose to stay in their “bah” bubble and have fun dancing with other “bah” dancers.

        If you have time, have a read of my article:-


      • The Dancing Irishman May 1, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

        Hey Pierre
        I just read your article. Yes, Yes, Yes that is a fantastic way to think and I can see how that would change someones concept of dancing straight away.
        Very well said.

  28. Yaenette April 23, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Here’s a question for Richie and other Salsa instructors:
    How does an instructor create/motivate people to become great dancers? As a new Salsa instructor who is constantly learning, I struggle with this daily. Any pointers would be great!
    Great article Richie!

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

      Thanks Yaenette
      That is the golden question that a lot of instructors need to be asking themselves.
      I’ll leave the floor open to experienced instructors for this one.

  29. Rick April 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    I wonder what kind of dancer am I? lol… Just like anything else you have to take the good with the bad. I like the term “Bah.” It is funny, I have always called them “Blockers.” Definition: People that are everywhere blocking potential relationships/friendships with the opposite sex with hopes of gaining a potential relationship/friendship they never attain.

    The main problems are the cliques and dating within the salsa community that has become the norm. Of course, it’s nobody’s business who is dating who, until someone starts dating the person you’re going out with. (which, happens all the time…lol) But, “Blockers” or “Bahs” also have a purpose.

    Actually, (1) Bah dancers are always there, always…(everywhere) most salseros only go to the places they practice or the ones they get paid at (they don’t like to visit other venues because they are not making any money by doing so…JS….
    (2) Bah dancers buy drinks (unlike most salseros who like free water). Bah dancers pay to get in (salseros want to get in for free because they know somebody).
    (3) Bah dancers become quick friends with non-salsa dancing newbies and even carpool and spend time together going from activity to activity. (Salseros: nah). lol
    (4) Bah dancers always know everything that is going on. That’s why they are always there. (“Salseros” are like, if it’s not happening in my studio I don’t know about it or I’m not going) Bahs or Blockers don’t care there is a performer visiting from Miami, California or Spain. They are wondering if the girl or guy from last week will be there. So they call them or send an invite on FB, lol.

    So, even though as much I as hate Bah dancers they are here for a purpose. Don’t forget Bah dancers are EVERYWHERE. They also perform a couple of routines, buy a company shirt and think they can dance. JS! Not all Bah dancers are bad. For some, the salsa life/scene is the only thing they have and some even think they can dance because they learned a couple moves in last week’s class and decide to go crazy on the dance floor (“thinking” they know what you are talking about but sadly they don’t, because they can’t dance.)…and some of them don’t really care about your blog and may never read it and go on with their lives. One more thing, Bah dancers are no better than Salseros and their cliques. Salseros are quick to say no to a dancer because they are not on the same level and only dance with people they go to practice with or perform with. I already wrote too much…long story short, don’t be mad, don’t get pissed, give Bah dancers a break and remember they were there before you…. I’ll see you on the dance floor 🙂

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

      Hey Rick
      This was a great comment, the kind of objection I like to read.
      After reading a lot of these comments I’ve become aware of the necessity of Bah! dancers (to a certain extent) haha.
      On another note, I have no time for elitists or snobs or people who refuse dances constantly (it’s my personal policy to (almost) never turn down a dance. The scene doesn’t need cliques.

      As for dating on the scene, I don’t have a lot of experience of it myself (I try to avoid the complications it can bring) but I think it would make for a great article.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  30. magickwords April 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Reblogged this on Tango Words and commented:
    Does this apply to tango too? Food for thought, perhaps…

    • Bailey April 24, 2014 at 9:40 am #

      Not just salsa and tango. There are BAH dancers in the lindyhop scene too.

  31. Bill April 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    The ‘BAH!’ dancers you’re talking about won’t ruin the salsa scene for the rest of you, the reason being that they (the Bah! dancers) are supporting it. Their participation ensures that there will be a venue for those dancers who want to improve their skill set.

    The vast majority of people are not inspired by great dancers. Consider this: If you’ve ever watched an Olympic event, did it inspire you to change your life around and become an expert in a brand new skill? Of course not. Otherwise the skating rinks would be packed every single day. By contrast, if you’ve been taken out by some friends to try a brand new sport of any kind and thoroughly enjoyed yourself, you’ll want more of the same. The application is that if you want to see a better dance standard at your club, get a series of group lessons started and make sure the instructor has a successful track record. People will enjoy it, they’ll talk about it and the dance standard will go up.

    In the meantime the rest of us will do the best we can to enjoy ourselves.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

      I agree when you say we shoule “do the best we can to enjoy ourselves”, that’s why we all dance salsa. For fun!

      I have to disagree with your Olympic analogy however; sure if I see an awesome gymnast I’ll be impressed but I won’t take up gymnastics (although I seriously would love to). However, if I already ice skate on an amateur level and I see an amazing ice-skating performance then I think I may just be inspired to push myself a little harder. I think you get what I’m saying here.
      Also, salsa is not about the individual, it’s a pair dance and this changes the dynamic in that it’s never going to about just one person.

      Thanks for the comment.

  32. Diana Rengifo April 23, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Hey Richie!
    Your post is kind of harsh, but I see perfectly your point. Being born and raised in Cali, sometimes I feel I’ve got a reputation to live up to, specially when I go to different cities.
    A few years back (around the time I started hanging out with the CS community here in Cali) I felt like my dancing skills were not enough, or maybe a little rusty. So I got up my lazy ass and did something about it. Just because I was born here and have some sort of preloaded ability to move my feet fast, doesn’t mean I’m a salsa dancing queen (maybe Francy is, but no me!)
    I’d like to think I’m not in the bah group anymore, but maybe you can let me know. Dancing with you was always a pleasure, and I was more than happy to do it everytime we met.
    Keep it up, you dancing Irish god. 😉

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

      Hey Diana,
      Long time no see. You’re the perfect answer to what I’m talking about in the article when you say this “I felt like my dancing skills were not enough, or maybe a little rusty. So I got up my lazy ass and did something about it.”.
      That’s all some people need, is to make a decision for themselves to do something.
      I miss our wild, hot and sweaty dances in Cali. I hope you’re doing well.
      Un besito.

  33. buenosairestangotrip April 23, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    So true. I notice the same thing in the local Argentine tango scene. People take lessons to get to a certain point and then stop. This is especially true with the women for whatever reason. Go to an intermediate or advance tango class in my area and there are bound to be at least twice as many men in the class. Then go out to a social dance and there are more women.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue was common to a lot of dance genres!

  34. Urbane Salsa April 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Excellent article. I especially enjoyed the ‘We all know bah dancers’ section. I think ‘bah’ dancers is going to catch on (the nickname.. hopefully not the trend!)

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

      Hah, if only I could make money every time someone says it hahaha 😀

  35. Gab April 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    I feel really sad for you. It’s very sad that you are shifting blame to your so-called “bah dancers” for the decline in popularity of salsa dancing in your area. I live in New York City, and I have lived and traveled extensibly to other US cities and Europe, and I always found that the level of dancing was directly related to the level of teachers in the area. I have been to small cities with a small scene with many GREAT social dancers, and I dance in New York City with many “bah dancers” (MANY!!!) Regardless, I had fun at EVERY social of nightclub that I go. I always appreciate every dance for what it is; whether I dance with a beginner, a professional, or a “bah dancer”, I always have fun. As long they dance mostly on beat, On1 or On2, I can find a way to enjoy the dance. There will always be people that feel content with dancing a certain level, and that’s perfectly fine. Some people want to learn the basics and have fun, simple. They don’t want to perform; they just want to dance so they do not feel like they need to take more classes. Perhaps you could be more pro-active and motivate other people to improve by first improving yourself. Perhaps you can show the “bah dancers” a more refined way of dancing (without being arrogant), and genuinely teach them musicality, timing and body movement. I find it that people want to improve because they want to dance like someone they have seen in person, they want to have fun and look like someone they saw dancing and liked.

    Now, if you are just complaining that people just will not take your class, then you should ask yourself why, instead of complaining that they are killing your salsa scene because they do not want to take class (yours?). If your really feel strongly about the modest level of dancing in your area, you should yourself improve and set an example how to dance in a more advanced way, while making it FUN!

    I have seen videos of Eddie Torres dancing and teaching 30 years ago, and the level of dancing was much lower than it is today. BUT I HAVE NEVER HEARD HIM COMPLAIN ABOUT THE LEVEL OF DANCING! He just danced. Period. Just danced.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

      Hi Gab,
      Surprise! Every blogger moderates their comments, it would be ridiculous not to do so. People tend to say very hurtful things in a very targeted manner so moderation is a necessity.

      You made a few points I’d like to expand on:
      “I find it that people want to improve because they want to dance like someone they have seen in person, they want to have fun and look like someone they saw dancing and liked.” & ” Perhaps you could be more pro-active and motivate other people to improve by first improving yourself.” This is exactly what I’m getting at in my article, the existence of a higher standard causes people to naturally “raise their game” so to speak. That’s why I’m saying that in a community of mostly very low level dancers, people don’t feel any motivation to improve.

      “They don’t want to perform; they just want to dance so they do not feel like they need to take more classes.” This is how I feel to a certain extent, I don’t want to perform or become a salsa legend (at least not at the moment) but I do feel people should genuinely get to a level where they don’t “need” to take more classes. However, the Bah! dancers I mention in my article don’t even get to this level and that’s the problem.

      “if you are just complaining that people just will not take your class”. I am neither an instructor (I used to be, in Colombia) nor a promoter so I have absolutely no financial gain to make from this. I do however have a certain pride in my local salsa scene and I want to see it continue to develop and flourish.

      Unfortunately I don’t think you really grasped what I was getting at in the article.

  36. Maria April 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    And the problem is? Not everbody cares to be pro! Also, You definatelh don’t understand the culture. Calling dancers in Cali “mediocre”? Check yourself, pal! Dancing is something natural and spontaneous among salsa countries. You don’t go to school to learn it. You learn it as you learn how to talk. If you care to watch, you would learn lots from those “mediocre” Cali dancers you so dislike. They have sabor, something you learn “en la calle” and no school will ever be able to teach. That’s why I like to see people in my country dancing in the streets. That kind of flavor is difficult to find and I would rather watch any of those “mediocre ” over 99 % of school dancers and professionals!

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      Totally agree with your opinion on sabor being learned on the streets (or on the floor) i.e. it comes with experience and comfort in dancing and unfortunately a lot of people (in non-latin countries) never pick it up.
      But I can assure you that just because some one is latino and has sabor doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll enjoy dancing with them. Two years of dancing “en la calle” in Cali has taught me that.

  37. Adalia April 23, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    This has been a topic I have been thinking on for some time and I thank you for your courage to go there…to pin point a contributing factor to the decline in the Salsa community.

    Personally, I am cool with the “BAH” dancers because, as some people have said, like any community, the salsa community attracts various types of people and levels of dance. In my opinion, what can kill any community is cliques, division, and competition.

    I am a seasoned dance instructor who has traveled to numerous places around the world and gone dancing. I am known by many friends as being fairly fearless about showing up to a salsa spot alone to dance in a new place. What I have seen over and over is that so many salsa spots are not welcoming to new comers. The people who go to classes together and see one another often dance together most of the night. As an instructor I can see where couples have danced together so often that they know patterns which I think breeds laziness. It also creates a false impression that these people are great dancers when actually they are mediocre but have the advantage of knowing the same patterns.

    The etiquette of leaders asking followers to dance is lost in most salsa communities.Guys don’t ask ladies they don’t know to dance. I have sat for an hour before a guy has asked me to dance and then he is all shocked that I know what I am doing. For a less seasoned dancer this can discouraging. It is my opinion that dancing across levels helps to develop stronger dancers.

    I think cliquishness, snobbishness, competition, and lack of etiquette create a community that becomes increasingly insular and eventually doesn’t grow. I think lots of this can be traced back to the instructor and the atmosphere they create in their classes and what skills they teach beyond flashy turns and flare. I consider myself a purist when it comes to the Latin dances. I don’t like the choreographed look and feel of ballroom focused salsa but this seems to be THE STANDARD for assessing an excellent dancer. It is important to become skilled as a dancer and I think as instructors we need to think about what that looks like.

    At the heart of it, Latin dance and its music are art forms that allow us to express ourselves. Any atmosphere that makes that difficult to achieve diminishes love of the art.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

      Hi Adalia
      You written a great comment here and this line here really struck a cord with me: “cliquishness, snobbishness, competition, and lack of etiquette create a community that becomes increasingly insular and eventually doesn’t grow”. I couldn’t agree more. Exclusiveness in the salsa scene is detrimental and totally takes away from the sense of community that salsa could otherwise foster.

      Thanks for you comment!

  38. Cliff April 23, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    In response to my band being dissed from Salsa on the Square in Cincinnati this year: “I always look for Azucar Tumbao particularly when I’m taking someone who has expressed an interest in salsa. I like it because it’s something different and creative. Although fun to watch, the regular salsa crowd can appear cliquey and intimidating to someone new. Salsa in Cincinnati seems to be fading recently. When you guys play, I see a great mixture of new and regular salsa dancers. And you guys are just outright good musicians.”

    The best thing that could possibly happen to the salsa scene is a massive influx of BAH dancers. This COULD very well produce a paid gig situation for really good dancers (something I’ve always felt was warranted). As it stands, the scene has become quite repulsive and people will look elsewhere. From an award-winning salsa dancer: “I’ve started dancing at Annie’s on Saturdays. The crowd is friendly and EVERYONE will dance with me. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere and i feel much more comfortable there than I ever have with the salsa crowd.”

    People who don’t have real lives with jobs and kids and responsibility can excel at something like salsa dancing. It’s unfortunate that some they think this makes them better than other people, and even more unfortunate they choose to convey such a ridiculous air about a dance and culture, the core purposes and origins of which they rarely even have knowledge of, much less understand.

    Between the BAH dancer and the expert, you’ve missed the demographic of the guy looking to impress the girl and get her dizzy enough to bang her. 😉

    • The Dancing Irishman April 23, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      Hilarious last comment hahaha, great way to end the message. Those guys are definitely part of the demographic haha for better or worse.
      Thanks for the comment!

  39. Rimas April 23, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Hello there. I am your definition of BAH. Shocking that someone can admit that, right?

    I have been attending salsa lessons for ~ 6 months and then have started purely dancing at parties for another 6 months. Afterwards ~ 9 months break of practically no salsa due to purely time constraints – University and a part time job is not easy.
    I have started dancing once again the next summer after the break little by little and even thought of taking classes again, but there were NO guy salsa teachers at my town. Can you imagine that? A capital of a country and no guy is decent enough to teach advanced level salsa. Don’t get me wrong, there is a salsa scene here with plenty of social parties, which is great. There is a salsa school ran by two energetic salsa sisters, but while they can train the girls pretty well, guys are not that well trained.

    What would you do in my place? Quit dancing? Hell no. I continue going to lots of social parties, took up kizomba classes and just have fun while dancing. I listen exclusively to salsa and kizomba music and have my life flowing with it, having my body and soul following the rhythm and melody of this music. 4 years now that I am dancing now and I am pretty happy. No partner has complained after a dance as well.

    Is that bad? Well, the scene is not growing at an amazing tempo, but at least I get to have some fun and pass it to the ladies. Is it wrong for an intermediate girl to dance with a guy who has a smaller arsenal of moves but always makes sure that the partner has fun dancing and is never off-beat?

    I do watch a ton of clips of social dancing and try to learn from them. I have a small blog as well. But I am still your BAH. Do I hurt the local scene? Up to you to decide, I guess.

  40. Jose April 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    By what i read you are talking about studio dancers?

    • The Dancing Irishman May 1, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

      Hi Jose,
      No, I’m not specifically talking about studio dancers (which is a term I’m not particularly comfortable using). I’m thinking of Salsa in general.

  41. Jonathan April 23, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    Its the same thing in the swing scene and that’s the reason why i moved from Quebec city to Montreal. I think its more the teachers and school’s job to give that feeling that being a good dancer is so much better then a bah dancer. In example if a teacer only offers level 1 and 2 classes and then just do that on and on and on, it makes student think they don’t need to get better then level 2. Getting people for level 1 is easy, keeping the students till level 6, that’s hard. So sometimes schools (but mostly independent teacher) prefer not working on the high level and only do beginner class and that is BAD. Thinking its easier doing level 1 and 2 classes is real for short term money, but for the long term you need to keep your student as long as possible and make them good dancers, then money will come by it self. And the on the dance floor every bah dancers will look at your students and say “shit i want to know how to dance like that!”

    That’s my opinion 🙂

    Lindy Hop dancer, teacher and choreographer

    • The Dancing Irishman May 1, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

      Hey Jonathan
      I’ll definitely agree that investing in only low level classes (beginners/improvers) is not good future planning. It may make money short term but it’s not “investing” in the future.
      Thanks for the comment.

  42. Blues Daddy April 23, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    While I can’t speak to the Salsa scene, I can assure you that this is a problem felt in other social dances, for sure. Particularly the local blues dance scenes around here seem full of BAH dancers, and I can say for certain that it negatively affects my enjoyment of the venues, and my skill as a dancer. The longer I dance local, the more stale and uninspired my dancing becomes — it’s damn near impossible to stay motivated and inspired when there is no one to inspire you and share those experiences! I find myself spending all my cash travelling nowadays to get my dance fix among the more motivated crowds.

    And that doesn’t mean I have anything against inexperienced dancers. Beginner and intermediate dancers can still be very fun and inspiring to dance with. Their love of the dance and music show through, and you can feel it in their connection. The problem with BAH dancers is they have nothing interesting or new to say in their dance.

    I also want to tackle this super negative all-encompassing dance snob title that gets placed on experienced dancers. We are there pushing ourselves because it’s our passion. It’s what we love; It’s how we connect and communicate. We naturally will be drawn to dancing with higher level dancers in general, because we crave that feeling of creating beautiful dance with someone. That’s not to say it’s not possible to have a beautiful dance with less experienced dancers, but it’s certainly legitimate and reasonable for us to pick and choose when and with whom we dance. While I encourage experienced dancers to seek out less experienced people from time to time to promote the scene and make sure people are enjoying themselves, I also want to empower people to say “NO” when they DON’T want to dance for whatever reason. You don’t need a reason. Saying no to a dance is so ladened with shaming, and THAT is equally detrimental to the health of a scene.

    • The Dancing Irishman May 1, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

      Hey Blues Daddy
      I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that this is not unique to Salsa so it’s interesting to hear about other disciplines.
      I have to admit that I hate the title “Dance Snob” too. It really is ridiculous (especially since my own level is nowhere near good enough to be considered snobby 😀 ). Apparently writing this article has mad me one though, go figure.
      The issue of “Saying No” is a big one which I think I want to touch on in the future, I’ll just wait a while before writing another controversial piece.
      Thanks for the comment.

  43. Filip April 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    Hi Richy, I found your writing interesting, controversial, which is good but I must admit that I disagree with you. In London or Madrid or any other capital you will find technically better dancers in the clubs since as you know pros in Cali do not have time, energy and sometimes money to go out and show the skills as they practice 5 hours a day to prepare themselves for the show. Therefore in the clubs you will see “normal” bah dancing people who wants to have fun as in Tin Tin Deo for example. Well having experience in dancing as the first gringo in the biggest salsa carnival in the world in 2010, salsodromo in Ferria de Cali I saw hundreds of spectacular dancers and I have learned something. As I was aware to be one of the worse dancers that day I understood that it is not about the ambition to be better it is about having fun and connect with people, without worrying about technique. It is the smile, feel in hands and hips and singing a song lyrics that makes the dance unforgettable, the rest does not matter. I have a feeling that you forgot about the essence of salsa spending too much time “abroad” in the left brain world. Come and feel again:) You are always welcome in the city of smiles. Everything is perfect as it is, especially salsa, it does not need to be improved, nor competed, especially when you want to hang out with friends and dance with couple of pretty girls and exchange positive energy. Just be happy. Hugs!

    • The Dancing Irishman May 1, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

      “it does not need to be improved, nor competed, especially when you want to hang out with friends and dance with couple of pretty girls and exchange positive energy” haha 😀 I do miss Cali a lot Filip, more than I’m willing to admit to myself at times.
      I hope you’re well and that I’ll see you again sometime, somewhere on the dance floor.
      Thanks for the comment.

  44. carlos cinta April 23, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    i dont think ur article makes u unpopular… i just think it shows the ignorance (IN TERMS OF LACK OF KNOWING/ TRULY UNDERSTANDING) the difference between street dancers and studio dancers. street dancers dont mix with studio dancers. never have …. never will…. u dont see the “latino crowd” going to these dance festivals or taking weekly classes. if u do, its for other reasons than to improve their dance skills. and this is the reason why salseros (based on the target audience of this article) and “studio dancers”….NOT ALL…. BUT U KNOW THE ONES IM TALKING ABOUT…. that take dance too serious, this is why they suck the enjoyment out of my job. I REPEAT… THE ONES THAT TAKE SOCIAL DANCING AS SERIOUS AS FINAL EXAMS AT MEDICAL SCHOOL. (emphasis on SOCIAL DANCING)… street and studio are 2 different worlds. we need to keep in mind that many PERFORMERS are trying to teach how to SOCIAL DANCE…. those are also 2 different worlds. so social dancers are learning performance caliber moves in all these classes… and this is the standard that teachers set…many of these classes ARE NOT geared toward social dancing …. they are geared towards PERFORMING. blame goes to the teachers…. blame goes to the dancers. one last time…PERFORMERS are trying to teach how to SOCIAL DANCE…. it doesn’t work like that….the result is what u are complaining about on the dance floor. many dancers have no foundation. they know numbers and steps but lack “understanding”….BUT FEW TEACHERS TEACH HOW TO UNDERSTAND LET ALONE UNDERSTAND THEMSELVES… its the lil things that bind it all together. so many students are given “the big pieces of wood and bricks and drywall to build the house”… but over look that its all the nuts and bolts and screws and glue that keep it all together. THE LIL THINGS! sounds like ur frustrated with the “studio dancers”…. but they are just doing what they have been shown in classes. we will leave the “street” dancers alone cuz thats a different story. they do it for enjoyment and fun. so to them, i assume their “level” is irrelevant to them…”levels” only matters to “studio dancers”. so u can’t expect a street dancer to care about technique. so about u living in cali and dancing with the locals and not enjoying it is invalid in my opinion. its a generalization. its like expecting all “black people to be good at basketball”…. all “dominicans to be great bachata dancers”…..”all puerto ricans to be great at salsa dancing” etc, etc…… the real world doesn’t work like that.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 8:10 am #

      This comment shows a really great understanding for a major issue that I want to write about very soon, differences between dancers, and you’ve articulated it really well.
      One little thing I’ll add on about what you said about Cali: is this, Caleños have a tendency to tell everyone they’re great dancers (that’s one of the things I love about the people in Cali 🙂 )
      Thanks for the comment.

  45. Zain April 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    Thanks, Irishman, for a provocative post that has prompted a surprisingly (by Internet standards) articulate and useful conversation. (And thanks also for coining the great term “bah dancer”!) I don’t agree with everything in the original post, but I do share the general sentiment. The overall level of dance has decreased in most places over the past few years, and it seems that too few people have the motivation, incentive, training, and patience to get to a solid intermediate stage of salsa skill, such that they might not only enjoy the dance more themselves, but also create a more enjoyable experience for people dancing with and around them.

    One factor that hasn’t yet been addressed in this thread is the role that salsa troupes are playing in the bah dancer phenomenon. These days it seems that any beginning dancer will promptly be invited to join some dance troupe’s amateur/training team, provided he/she has a couple of nights a week and a hundred bucks a month to spare. Three months later, without yet being able to dance a serviceable cross-body lead socially, he/she will be placed on stage at some congress, dancing a scarcely watchable recycled routine in front of a few hundred people of comparable dance skill (plus assorted family members), and will emerge from that experience with little incentive to improve his/her social dancing, because he/she is already a performing dancer with congress experience! To me, this is the worst form of bah dancer: basic, happy, and doing all manner of strange, semi-choreographed styling on the social dance floor…

    • The Dancing Irishman May 1, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      Hey Zain
      You know, I actually had this exact conversation with a friend a few days ago. Performance groups are not all they are made out to be. While I think it’s fine if someone wants to join a group for the new experience (I’ve done a couple in my time) the skills in general don’t translate into real life salsa. Unfortunately the ego-boost that goes with them makes people think otherwise.
      Thanks for the great comment.

  46. Fernando April 23, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    With all respect why is there so much emphasis on social dancers on how they salsa ? I love and respect all the hard work each pro dancer does for a great show, workshops etc. Let everyone have fun and enjoy the music we love. This is a bah dancer for over 10 yrs by choice I have taken classes been to lots of socials and have danced with pro dancers. Can’t we all just coexist if not lets solve it on the dance floor. Pro dancers vs Bah dancers. Peace love and salsa =)

    • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 8:05 am #

      “Pro dancers vs Bah dancers” hahaha let’s hope it never comes down to that 🙂

  47. Fernando April 23, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    Adding to my previous comment the number 1 thing is attitude in dance be humble encourage and smile. To be honest no matter how good you think you are someone is better than you. Enjoy the music because nothing is forever in this world.

    • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 8:04 am #

      “be humble encourage and smile.”
      That’s exactly how it’s done Fernando. More people should apply this to their dancing.
      Great comment.

  48. caveman87 April 23, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Great write-up! My wife and I have been teaching Salsa dancing almost 15 years and we’ve produced a good number of bah dancers – and great dancers as well (of course). The million dollar question is… what can we put in their drink to fix them?

    • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 7:59 am #

      Hey Luis
      Indeed that is the million dollar question and the whole point of this article is to get people discussing exactly that. I’m glad you picked up on that 🙂
      Thanks for the comment.

  49. Edie, The Salsa FREAK!! April 23, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    To the Author, you need to show a little respect for this artform. The word Salsa, as referred to in a dance is capitalized “Salsa”. The word salsa, when referred to as the sauce is not capitalized.

    I agree with this article and will reference / mail out the URL worldwide.
    omg… I could not agree with you more. I REALLY see this evidenced everywhere I go.

    Thank you for this excellent article!!! Kudos!
    – Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!

    • The Dancing Irishman April 25, 2014 at 7:57 am #

      Thanks Edie
      I’ll be including the capital “S” in Salsa when I edit the article this weekend.
      Thanks for the support.

  50. social dancer April 23, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    I get it but social dancers don’t choose to move forward. not everyone is focused on developing themselves to be some superstar dancer. social dancers are happy because they don’t need to force themselves to the commitment that other professionals do. If you think that salsa social dancers are “killing” Salsa; I think you need to reconsider the title of your article. If you don’t like social dancers then maybe all the pros should get together and have a professional level salsa venues/events without those who apparently ruin the mood for you all. Let the people dance is what I say, needless of their skill level. if they’re shit, smile and walk away and go dance with the person that YOU know dances well…besides, don’t you all know each other anyway?

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