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You NEED to be OK with Dancing like an Idiot!

24 Apr

It is probably what holds us back most in life, not just in dancing but in everything we do.

That most irrational of fears, that is powerful enough to paralyze us in our actions and hold us back from achieving what we want. In reality, it’s unfounded and ridiculous. In practice, it’s crippling.

I am, of course, speaking about THE FEAR THAT EVERYBODY’S WATCHING!!!!

I feel like I’m being watched
Most people have felt this, if not when dancing then when doing something (virtually anything) in a public setting. The fear that everybody around is not only watching us but also judging us, is strong enough to stop us from attempting anything where there is a risk (real or merely conceived) of failure.

I’m not going to attempt to get into the psychology of it but if you’re reading this then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s the fear that stopped me, on my first night at a salsa club, from asking anyone other than my girlfriend to dance (until it was almost the last song of the night and I danced with a stranger for the last 30 seconds of a song… oh yeah, totally fearless!). It’s the fear that overcomes us the first time we ever sing karaoke and it’s the fear that forces many people to resort to “Dutch Courage” in social situations.

It is a futile fear that does a great disservice to the endeavors of mankind!
(Give me an Amen!)

Learning to dance like nobody’s watching
So, how in the name of all that is good and latin are we supposed to overcome this paralyzing fear and become the great salseros that we are destined to be??

Easier said than done, right!

Easier said than done, right!

We’ve all heard this a million times right! It’s one of those stupid motivational phrases that’s supposed to help us break free from the self-imposed chains that are our fears… blah, blah, blah! It’s usually followed by some equally nauseating sentences on a cutesy poster… just like this one…

I'm trying to control my gag reflex!

I’m trying to control my gag reflex!

Normally my response to things like this is best expressed by the following

However, for the purpose of this article I feel it serves a purpose. If we could learn to dance like nobody’s watching we could finally relax into the dance, free up our movements and really starting enjoying the intricacies of the music that moves us. We need that sense of freedom to dance well!

I’m certain that all you’re thinking right now is something along the lines of “But everyone IS watching me when I dance, waiting for me to mess up so they can point and laugh at my failure forcing me to run from the dance-floor, hiding my tears with my hands and later moving to a small, middle-of-nowhere town on a different continent so that I can begin my life anew, vowing to never make the near fatal mistake of dancing in public again”….that’s what you were thinking right!?

Well have no fear, fellow student of dance, for I once again have the solution needed by all of us socially awkward dancers.

Come closer… the secret to learning to dance like nobody’s watching… is to actually dance WHEN nobody’s watching!

The inspiration for this genius piece of advice came to me tonight when I put on some music and decided to practice some shine’s I had seen in a class this week.

So I danced… by myself… in my living room… in front of an audience of NONE! AND I LOOKED LIKE AN ABSOLUTE IDIOT! And that’s exactly what I needed.

When you are genuinely free from the anxiety of being judged by others you don’t care how much of an idiot you look like. You loosen up and the magic starts to happen!

You can practice moves you would never dream of attempting on the dance-floor for fear of making a mistake. You can listen to the music without the worry of having to lead or follow a partner and appreciate the way it changes. You can loosen up all those muscles that automatically tighten up when you’re in public.

This new, relaxed you can now practice the body isolations, shines, rumba or even just the basic steps while enjoying the music, reacting to it organically instead of moving like a clunky, rusted tin-man.

While writing this article I’ve actually stood up a few times, when a song I liked came on, and just danced to it; On1, On2, shines, assorted stupidness etc. I lost count of how many times I lost the beat (or my balance) but it doesn’t matter. NOBODY’S WATCHING!

It's good to dance like a crazy fool... at times!

It’s good to dance like a crazy fool… at times!

And here’s the beauty of dancing like and idiot when nobody’s watching. If you do it regularly enough you start getting better at what you practice and amazingly you’ll eventually be able to do it IN PUBLIC!

You’ll become more comfortable with yourself and how you move and that translates to confidence on the dance-floor. There ain’t nothin’ sexier than confidence.

My one caveat for this exercise is that you try and do it in front of a mirror so that you can make sure the movements you’re getting used to aren’t completely… ridiculous 😉

Get comfortable dancing with more freedom... just not too much!!

Get comfortable dancing with more freedom… just not too much!!

So here’s your homework: lock the door, put on a playlist of some of your favorite salsa songs (the funkier the better), find a few youtube videos of some of your favorite dancers for a little inspiration and just start moving. The music will let you know what you need to do!

Keep dancing folks!

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What Women Want… from a dance! (Tips to make you a better lead)

10 Feb

What do women want?

This question has stumped MAN-kind since the dawn of time and continues to frustrate the less-attractive sex on a daily basis.

Obviously, I’m not talking about knowing what women want from a potential mate in the dating-game… clearly I’ve already mastered that (hahahaha… excuse me, I couldn’t keep a straight face with that one!). No, today I want to talk about something far more pertinent to those men that spend their free time on the dance floor. I’m going to talk about what women want from a dance… not from a potential mate but from a lead!

“As if a MAN could answer that!!!”
… I can hear all you ladies screaming at your screens right now! You are right to doubt my opinion on this matter, I doubt it myself! So, with my gender-imposed shortcomings in mind I decided to take it upon myself and do something most men never do… “ask”.

R & D
I decided to write this article quite a while back so I began my research by asking a multitude of salsera friends of mine to tell me what, exactly, they most enjoyed from a dance/lead. For the sake of completeness I asked women from various different countries in Europe, Asia and North & South America who dance different styles of salsa socially and/or professionally. Basically, what that means is that I’ve ended up with information from a culturally diverse group or L.A., New York & Cuban social dancers, teachers and performers (the scientist in me wouldn’t have it any other way).

My eyes have been opened
I ended up getting a lot of different opinions but there were clearly quite a few common points that all of my sources brought up; some things I instinctively knew (after so long dancing, one would hope so); some things I needed a little reminder of and some things I had never even considered before. I imagine a lot of the gentlemen reading this will be in the same boat. In other words, I’m giving ya pure gold!

I’ve listed this cornucopia of knowledge with which I have been bestowed, below. Any points that were mentioned by multiple ladies appear near the start of the list with less commonly mentioned points following. Any commentary after the points is my own (influenced by what my sources wrote themselves).

So, without further ado, I present you with, quite possibly…

The most important tips that a salsa lead will ever need…

(you know, besides actually learning how to dance… which is kind of important too).

  • Show your partner you’re enjoying yourself
    There is nothing worse than dancing with someone who looks like they’re either bored out of their mind or terrified of making a mistake. Dancing is meant to be fun so feel it and show it. Smile and you’ll make your partner smile too.

    Letting your partner know you're having fun is one of the best things you can do as a lead.

    Letting your partner know you’re having fun is one of the best things you can do as a lead.

  • Show your partner that you’re dancing with her
    In a dance there is only the couple and the music and once you’ve asked someone for a dance you’ve basically committed to them for the entire song. Show your mutual connection with eye contact. You should only be focused on your partner when having a dance and not on whatever else is going on on the dance floor. Equally the dance is “not all about you” so don’t use your partner as prop to show off your moves.
  • Have a clear but NOT forceful lead
    You do not need to tear off a woman’s arms to get her to follow you. A good lead should be able to indicate clearly and painlessly which way you would like your partner to go. Timid leads (due to being afraid to touch your partner) and (sometimes) leading by the hips or the stomach are no good either. Also, don’t forget that if you use your thumbs to clamp down on your partners hands, she has the right to dig her nails into you in return. If you want an idea of what a good lead feels like, check out my article on the Cloudy Dancer.
  • Musicality
    This is by far the hardest concept to explain to those that don’t yet understand it. Be familiar with the music, appreciate the changes in tempo, start slow, get to know your partners style and build up into the dance, allow breaks for some shines and know when you need to up the ante or chill things out a little. I hate using this phrase but you need to learn to “Feel the Music” and translate it into your dancing.
  • KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid
    “A simple dance, danced well and on time is much better than a dance packed with moves that don’t work and end up off time”. Don’t dive straight into a dance by stringing together a unending combination of turn patterns and tricks without even listening to the song itself and exhausting your partner after just 3 minutes. Yes, use your tricks, but learn to enjoy the simpler aspects of dance.
  • Adjust to your partners level
    Just because you can do a certain move with certain people doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to follow you. It’s really disheartening and frustrating to a girl if she has a lot of trouble following you just because you’re trying to show off and don’t care if she can keep up. Start slow, adjust to her level and you can still have a great dance.
  • Don’t teach during a dance
    Following on from the last point, just because a girl can’t follow one of your moves doesn’t mean that you should stop right there in the middle of the song to show her what she’s doing wrong. It can be pretty humiliating. Finish the dance, have fun and maybe if she want’s to learn how to do it you can show her, off the dance floor.
  • Take care of your partner
    “Using me as a battering ram to clear yourself a space is NOT a good thing”. You are the lead and from the moment you lead a girl onto the floor to the moment you escort her off, you are in charge of her safety. Keep an eye out for potential collisions on the dance floor, don’t preform any dangerous moves, don’t tug roughly to lead. A good partner will of course keep an eye out for you too 😉

And that’s it. There were a few more points mentioned but these were the most common ones amongst the women I asked.

If you need anymore tips, check out my guide to salsa dance etiquette to get the ball rolling.

Men: Read them, learn them and most importantly, apply them and watch your salsa cred grow.

Ladies: What do you think? Is this what you want on the dance floor? Have I left anything out? I’d love to hear your opinions so let me know in the comments.

Keep dancing folks.

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What to do when you F&#K up while Dancing!

24 Nov
You’re never so good that you don’t mess up every now and then!

While perfection is a wonderful goal to aim at, helping us aim higher, it is “addictively” unattainable (an important point to keep clear at all times lest you drive yourself mad pursuing something you’ll never have).

However, even though you’ll never be perfect, with practice, you might get pretty damn close (like my ability to put off writing for this blog, I’m getting better but thankfully I haven’t perfected it). This applies to everything  from dance, to languages to professional air-hockey.

So, even if you consider yourself “hot shit”, YOU’RE GOING TO MESS UP SOONER OR LATER!!! How you deal with those little mishaps will play a pretty big role in how you approach your activities in the future.

Make a mistake… You suck… Quit!

If Bill Murray says so, it must be true!

If Bill Murray says so, it must be true!

When I used to teach salsa in Cali, I had one student in particular whom I had to “talk down from the ledge” of quitting salsa on more than a few occasions.

He had some major confidence issues but he was a dedicated student and learned well. His main problems stemmed from his lack of confidence; he was afraid to try new things on the dance floor (especially anything to do with body-movement) and whenever he made a mistake or a dance didn’t go well for him he would pretty much decide to NEVER dance again. On more than one occasion I got text messages from him at 2 or 3am announcing his resignation from the world of salsa, all due to a bad dance. I’m pretty sure I spent about 15% of our time together trying to convince him to get back out dancing and that everyone makes mistakes now and then.

For him, every mistake was a screaming symbol of his incompetence (which he wasn’t) and those beliefs really held him back. It was especially hard to see him like that because I could see both how much he wanted to improve and how much he was sabotaging himself.

Suffice is to say, this is not a good mentality to have when dancing. If everyone gave up when they made a mistake we’d have some pretty empty dance-floors!

It just looks so sad without people dancing on it.

It just looks so sad without people dancing on it.

Learning to laugh at yourself!

I remember one particularly eventful night of dancing in Cali. I was out with a big group of people and we decided to go somewhere different. The place had a huge dance floor, full of people. Near the end of the night the floor started to thin out and I invited my friend Francy out for a dance. 

Francy is a professional dancer and she was one of the few people I could dance LA style salsa with in Cali so we used to have a ball together whenever we got to dance. Now for those who don’t know, typical “social” Cali-style dancing is a pretty simple affair, lots of sabor (hopefully) but simple. So when two people start dancing something a little more involved than Cali style, the people nearby tend to notice. Especially when one of those people is white enough for everyone to safely assume that he’s not Colombian.

We were tearing it up. We had loads of space and the night was coming to an end so we pulled out all the stops. At one point I noticed that we had garnered the attention of quite a number of the people sitting at tables around the dance-floor. For some reason that really got my adrenaline flowing so I may have started throwing caution to the wind. I could hear the music nearing it’s final few beats so I decided to finish it all off with a dip. I thought it would look great as Francy (as a pro) was all about the show and would have struck a great pose at the end.

I heard the final beats, lead her into a cross body lead with turn and as she was turning realized that there were still a couple of beats left in the song… it threw me completely and what happened next involved various flailing arms and legs and a sudden drop in altitude accompanied by the sound “Rrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiip”!

As soon as I came to my senses I realized I was lying on top of Francy, sprawled out on the dance-floor with a decent crowd of people looking at us. I looked at her and she looked at me… and we both burst into laughter!

Seriously, in the milliseconds I had to process everything I decided that it would be far better to take what had happened in my stride and laugh it off together with one of my good friends, than to run off the floor crying and moaning about how awful a dancer I am.

We dusted ourselves off and skipped off the dance-floor together… at which point I realized that I had ripped a gigantic hole in the seat of my jeans when I did my belly flop. Oh well, at least it was the end of the night! (additional lesson to be learned: always wear dark solid color underwear when dancing… pink hearts on a white background tend to be a little to visible in the event of tears!!!)

Even if you mess up and it results in the dance equivalent of this pile-up... just dust yourself off and laugh (or run away quickly)

Even if you mess up and it results in the dance equivalent of this pile-up… just dust yourself off and laugh (or run away quickly)

Laugh it off

At the end of the day, laughing off our mishaps really is the best way to deal with them.

I’m notorious for obsessing over my shortcomings but I always make sure I don’t let that bad attitude get the best of me. If I did I certainly wouldn’t be dancing salsa or doing much else  for that matter.

So, the next time you make a mistake (which if you’re anything like me should be pretty soon) be it missing the beat in the music, forgetting a combination or doing a bellyflop on top of your partner, remember you have two options:

1. Give up right there and then because you’ve made a mistake and no one who has ever become great at salsa ever made any mistakes

OR

2. Laugh it off and get back to doing what you love

Keep dancing folks

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Welcome to the Latin Dance Community

1 Oct

Todays a big day folks.

No, it’s not my pancake day (unfortunatey 😦 ).

No, I haven’t figured out what women really want.

And, no, I am definitely not giving up Salsa to focus on my true love, Merengue.

Today, marks the birth of the Latin Dance Community.

Oooh yeah! We've got a snazzy logo too! Which proves we're legit!

Oooh yeah! We’ve got a snazzy logo too! Which proves we’re legit!

“The what now?” I hear you murmur confusedly as your eyes glaze over. Well, to put in the far more eloquent words of the website:

“Latin Dance Community (LDC) is a collaboration of writers from around the globe who are passionate about latin dance. Our mission is to serve as the leading online resource for the latin dance community by providing entertaining, educational, and informative articles on Salsa, Bachata, and Kizomba.”

Ok, ok so Kizomba may not be a latin dance but it certainly is making its way through latin dance scenes worldwide.

I’m a writer!!!!
Yes, you read right! Me, the Dancing Irishman, I’m officially a writer now (and not just the crazy, old, bearded man sitting at desk made of an old ironing-board supported by empty paint cans, cackling while I right inflammatory blog posts as I drink partially curdled milk from a skull-bowl… as most of you assumed I was. Right?)

I want to say a big thank you to my brother from another mother, Chilly for getting me involved in this little group of dance-literati. It’s a real honor for me to be working with all of them on this project.

To boldly go where no dance website has gone before
The LDC has some pretty modest goals:

  • keeping the world informed on current opinions in latin Dance
  • providing interviews with current dance innovators
  • world domination… making all you dancers happy 😉

So what are you waiting for?

Get your fine ass on over to Latin Dance Community and check out all the great articles we have to offer.

Oh and don’t forget, keep coming back here to The Dancing Irishman for my semi-regular updates on dance, language, nutrition, exercise and pictures of interesting cats.

Keep Dancing Folks.

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The Dancing Irishman in Barcelona

25 Sep
Just getting to know my new neighbourhood. That's just the local amphitheater, nothing special.

Just getting to know my new neighbourhood. That’s just the local ancient-Roman amphitheater, nothing special.

So… I live in Barcelona now!

Which means that in the last 4 years or so this is the fourth country I’ve “officially” lived in. After 4 years living and teaching in Japan I left in 2010, lived in Ireland for a year working at the Japanese embassy, moved to Colombia in 2011 working as a freelance translator, came back to Ireland via Cuba and the US at the end of 2013 and now, after all that, I am resident of one of Spain’s most famous cities.

I’m beginning to understand why my friends constantly tell me that they can never envision me settling down in one place. I’m not quite sure if I should be worried or not.

The Irish Diaspora
Since 2006/7 emigration out of Ireland (particularly of young people) has increased significantly; part of the great global economic depression. I was always secretly proud of the fact that I didn’t leave Ireland because I had to, because there was no work for me but because I wanted to experience life in other places. Hence my stays in Japan and Colombia.

This time is a little different
This time, I couldn’t find a job that I wanted to do. A job that I could actually see myself doing and importantly, enjoying, long-term. Anyone who has been following this blog will know from an article I posted a little over a year ago, when I left Colombia, that I left because I wanted to start thinking about what I wanted to do with my life.

Well, this year, living back home on the farm in the far south of Ireland, I had plenty of time to think. If we want to get all “touchy feely” about it, I wanted to do something that I loved. So I had a few options. The blog itself is actually a pretty decent window into the things that float my boat:

  • Dance: After all this blog isn’t called the “Administrating” Irishman. I do love dance and it is a huge part of my life. I’ve even taught dance before but it’s not what I see myself doing in the long term. I’m much happier working on my own dance and learning as much as I can fit in myself.
  • Languages: I’ve been working as a freelance Japanese translator for a few years now and while I enjoy the freedom it affords me, the work isn’t exactly regular. I may have “future” kids to think about and a “future” family to provide for so something a little more stable is called for. Also, my particular field of expertise, biosciences, while interesting, hardly makes for riveting translation.
  • Travel: I really don’t know how I could make a living just traveling the world. If you do, just drop me an email. That said, I think I’ve come to a point where I’m starting to want just one place to call home (other than my family home).
  • Fitness: I love researching fitness, putting it into practice and helping people get started in the gym or just exercising in general. That said, I don’t think I’d really make it as a personal trainer. I just don’t have the pecs for it.
  • Food: Now we’re getting somewhere. I do spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about food; cooking it, eating it, rolling around in it. However, while I considered becoming a chef in secondary school I pretty much turned against the idea when I realized I would probably be working social hours. That, and Gordon Ramsay in “Hell’s Kitchen” scared the crap out of me.
    Which leaves us with…. Drumroll please
  • …Nutrition: I love being able to improve my health through the food I eat, I love reading up on the latest research in nutrition and I really love helping people with their diets. It genuinely makes me feel fulfilled. Add to that the fact of the western world’s expanding waistline and it looks like it may be a rather lucrative little industry too 😉

Sooooo… I am about to start a Masters degree in Nutrition and Metabolism at the University of Barcelona & the University Rovira I Virgilli. Further education is going to be my first stepping stone towards the career I really want.

Why so far away, Irish?
Firstly, it’s cheaper than living and studying in Ireland. Significantly so.

Secondly, it allows me to indulge some of my other loves at the same time (we wouldn’t want to neglect those now would we?):

  • Salsa: Barcelona is well known in Europe for having a spectacular latin dance scene
  • Language: I get to do my Masters through Spanish and maybe learn a little Catalan too
  • Food: it’s just sooooo good here

Presenting… The Nutritioning Irisman!!!!
Hmmm, doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it? Maybe I’ll hold off changing the blog title.

In any case, I’m going to do my best to keep updating the blog and providing you with as much helpful and mildly humorous info as I can… just from Barcelona.

If you have any tips on the salsa scene here I’d be very happy to hear from you.

Keep dancing folks.

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Is it OK to refuse a dance?

19 Aug

This is the article I really didn’t want to write!

I’ve been putting it off for a while now but some recent dance happenings kind of gave me the final push to go through with it. So here it is… ugh!

I want to bring up a little, controversial topic that some people feel pretty strongly about:
“Is it ok to refuse a dance?”

In my experience from speaking to other dancers there are two main sides to this; either “Yes” or “No” (making it appear unrealistically black and white). Before you choose your camp (although many of you will have done so as soon as you read the title), give this article a little read.

I love dance!
I really do… and salsa has changed my life, unquestionably, for the better. So, nothing makes me happier than to promote dance, get new people dancing and to see them improving as dancers and enjoying all the benefits that this “hobby” (for want of a much better word) brings.

I get a buzz out of seeing someone new to salsa, after a few months, really coming into their own and tearing it up on the dance floor. I mean that both as someone who has taught salsa and as a member of the broader salsa community.
I’ve also said it many times before that newcomers to salsa need all the encouragement they can get and they NEED the opportunity to dance with more experienced dancers. That’s how we improve.

One of my personal favourite articles on this blog (I know, I’m so CONCEITED, right 😉 ) is “The Etiquette of Salsa” that covers, amongst other things, the manners of the dance floor and if my mother taught me anything, it’s that I should never wear navy with black… and that manners are important! Thanks mam!

In the article I wrote a section about refusing dances and I think the topic merits repeat here:

“DO NOT REFUSE A DANCE! (The Golden Rule)
I would prefer to say “NEVER refuse a dance” but I rarely use the word “never”, as life is full of exceptions. However, my sentiments on this point verge on those conveyed by the word “never”.

The reason; IT HURTS!

For those of you who are more experienced dancers, try to imagine how nervous you were when you first started dancing. For beginners, it takes a hell of a lot of courage to work up the nerve to ask someone out for a dance. Imagine yourself trying to work up all that courage and finally asking that person you’ve been wanting to dance with all night, only to get shot down. For guys, it ranks pretty close to castration (at least it did for me) and I’d imagine it feels worse for ladies who have the extra hurdle to get over, of not being the sex that normally requests a dance (which I personally believe shouldn’t be the case. I love it when a girl asks me out for a dance).

I remember the first time I was refused a dance all too well. I was in a salsa club in Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong on the second leg of my first salsa training expedition. I was pretty green but I knew a few moves so I decided do ask a dance of a girl I’d seen dancing really well earlier. I walked up to her, smiled and politely asked “Would you like to dance?” to which she responded, without so much as a smile to dull the blow, with “no”, followed by a halfhearted “maybe later”.

After recoiling from the initial shock of (what felt like) having my internal organs ripped out and stepped on in front of me, I picked up what was left of my testicles and scurried away to a dark corner to hide my shame. I did however recover and go on to have plenty more dances that night but I will never forget how I felt.

Beginning salseros need to be encouraged especially  by dancers with more experience. I will dance with anyone (I’ve even danced with men who want to practice their following. That usually gets a few odd looks) because I know how it feels to be refused a dance. I’ll even dance with someone who tells me before hand that they’re not the best dancer or that they’re only a beginner. I’ll just modify what I do to make sure they have as fun a dance as possible.

There are a few situations, however, where it’s ok to say “no”, for example if you don’t like dancing a particular style (like merengue for me), if your last dance was particularly vigorous and you want to take a breather, if you need to go to the restroom etc. You should always smile and explain the reason and tell the person that you will dance the next song with them instead. Be nice.

I try to imagine myself in the shoes of beginners and I try to encourage them with salsa as much as possible along with trying to help them avoid any of the “unpleasant” situations I’ve experienced in the past.”

Let's face it, no body wants this response!

Let’s face it, no body wants this response!

As you can see, at the time I was pretty damn adamant about never refusing a dance. Times, they be a changin’!

What’s happened to you, man?
I used to follow my “Don’t Refuse” policy, almost dogmatically. The problem with dogma is that it results in extremism, be it in religion, politics or professional hotdog eating. I’ve even written about the problems with dogma and the diets we choose to follow. Basically, dogma can make everything appear black and white when we live in a world with multiple shades of grey (maybe as many as fifty… or so I’ve been told).

My “refusal to refuse” has resulted in two things:

  1. I dance with a lot of beginners. Beginners feel comfortable approaching me for a dance, which I’m very happy about and I get to meet lots of new people. It’s fun!
  2. I dance with some people I genuinely dislike dancing with. I’m talking about people that genuinely suck the fun out of dancing and/or make me feel REALLY uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing… DANCE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!!!

The ways someone can make a dance “less than fun” are almost unlimited but I covered some of the main culprits a while back in an article titled “God Awful Dancers”. Which begs the question “Why would I knowingly ruin something that I love so much by dancing with someone I know I really don’t enjoy dancing with?”

Truth be told, I don’t have an answer.

I have some dance friends who refer to people who they dance with despite not wanting to do so as “Charity Dances” which I think is a down right mean term. They still dance with these people but don’t enjoy it. I also have friends that tell me that they flat out won’t dance with certain dancers for reasons including; dangerous/rough leads, dangerous/rough following or “inappropriate/ uncomfortable” behvaiour on the dance floor.

And you know what? Those are perfectly legitimate reasons. The problem is, at the moment, I can’t bring myself to say “No”.

But like I said, there are certain individuals I just don’t want to dance with. They actually suck the soul and enjoyment out of a dance and I end up feeling a little empty at the end. I avoid them at the start of a song and, this is going to sound awful, if I’m dancing and see them hovering on the edges of the dance floor nearby, waiting to strike when the song ends, I gradually dance my way over to the other side of the floor. I know, I’m a monster. But if they catch me and ask for a dance, I don’t say no!

Admit it, if you had someone like this waiting for you when a song ends, you'd move to the other side of the room too!

Admit it, if you had someone like this (female versions included) waiting for you when a song ends, you’d move to the other side of the room too!

There is no nice way of saying this…
I really don’t think there is a way to avoid dancing with someone without hurting their feelings.

You could say you: want to rest for this song/ don’t like this song/ are going to the restroom… but what if someone else you want to dance with asks you?

I’ve been told that if you say “No” a couple of times in succession, the person will just stop asking! It still means you have to say no.

What do you do?
I know I can’t be the only person in the dance community that feels conflicted about this. On the one hand I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings… on the other dancing with certain people  just does not feel good.

So, here’s what I’m asking, if you have any insights on the matter, leave a comment and share them. What do you think about refusing a dance? I’m genuinely curious and I think a lot of others are too. Keep it friendly though 😉

Keep Dancing Folks.

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The Salsa Congress Survival Guide

24 Jun

I can’t feel my legs!

Add to that a serious sleep deficit and a feeling of complete euphoria and it’s pretty obvious that I’ve just come back from one hell of a salsa congress.

This is pretty much how I feel the day after a congress! (just not as cute)

This is pretty much how I feel the day after a congress! (just not as cute)

The 9th Irish Salsa Congress (formerly and nostalgically “Salsa School”) was a roaring success and my thanks and respect go out to everyone who made it so. You did a spectacular job folks 😀 .

I had forgotten how much a congress can take out of you so I decided to write up this quick little survival guide made up of my observations, some of the things I did right and a LOT of the things I did wrong.

NAP!!!
Anyone who has gone to a salsa congress can tell you that you will work up a serious sleep deficit over the course of a few days. Add that to all the dancing and you will quickly wear yourself out.

Grab a nap whenever and wherever you can. An hour here and an hour there will go a long way to keeping your energy levels up for the long, late nights of dance mayhem.

Not a nap person? Neither am I but I learned through necessity at this last congress. Dancing through all the way to breakfast isn’t unusual at some congresses.

If you're not a natural napper, a sleep mask is a great help.

If you’re not a natural napper, a sleep mask is a great help.

Pace Yourself
It’s perfectly understandable to feel that you need to go to every class on the schedule to “get your money’s worth” at a congress. However, you’ll quickly wear yourself out that way. There is nothing wrong with skipping one here and there to have a little extra sleep or to grab a nap in the afternoon.

Do some research and prioritize
Before you go, find out what teachers are doing what workshops and ask around about what classes to do from people who’ve taken their classes before. Then prioritize the classes that you feel you’ll get the most from.

For example, this past weekend I focused mostly on Musicality and On2 classes; two areas that I feel I really need to work on.

Remember that some of the teachers may have come from quite far away so this is your opportunity to learn from some fantastic dance-instructors. Prioritize things that you may not be able to learn in your local salsa scene.

Eat well
This will vary at every congress and depends a lot on where you stay. If you have self-catering accommodation you can bring your own food and “cook”. I’ve also heard of other congresses where the only food some people eat all day is the breakfast buffet.

Either way, remember that if you eat healthy you’ll feel much more energetic and enthusiastic dancing. If you eat crap, you’ll feel crap and sluggish and no one wants to dance like that.

Bring healthy foods that are quick to prepare like fruit, instant oats, cottage cheese, protein shakes, eggs, ready-to-eat salad bowls and you’ll feel a lot lighter on the dance floor.

Healthy, Quick and Easy. Healthier food will keep you dancing longer!

Healthy, Quick and Easy. Healthier food will keep you dancing longer!

Make new friends
Congresses are a great chance to meet other dancers from other cities and even from other countries. You’ve all got one thing in common, dance, so take advantage and get chatting to people in the workshops during the day. It’ll probably get you more dances at night.

On top of that it’s great to get to know dancers in other cities; if you ever visit you’ll have a contact with info on the best places to dance and maybe even a couch to sleep on.

Dance with strangers
Don’t confuse this with “dance with strange people”!

As I mentioned above, congresses are your chance to dance with people who normally you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to dance with again. The more and varied dancers you dance with, the better you’ll become.

Play safe 😉
Again, in relation to the fact that you’ll be meeting lots of new people at the congress (some of whom you may never see again) and coupled with the sensual nature of latin dance… it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring a few packs of condoms with you… just in case 😉

Know Your Etiquette
If you’re new(ish) to salsa don’t forget to study my Guide to Salsa Etiquette. It’ll keep you from committing any of the faux pas that might otherwise cause some awkward moments on the dance floor.

Bring a SSK (Sasla Survival Kit)
I’ve covered these already in my guide to salsa etiquette but they’re so important that there’s no harm in mentioning them again.
I carry a courier-bag with me everywhere I go and in it I have my SSK:
  • Spare T-shirts
  • Chewing gum
  • Wet-wipes
  • Deoderant
  • Handkerchief
All guaranteed to keep you smelling nice even after hours of craziness on the dance floor.
Everything you need to stay fresh on the dance floor!

Everything you need to stay fresh on the dance floor!

Dress Well
This may seem irrelevant but you may end up getting more dances if you show a little fashion sense. We all know that salseros have “quirky” fashion styles so feel free to put in some extra effort at a congress. That goes for the workshops during the day too. Make a good impression there and you’ll have plenty of dance partners at night (I wasn’t aware of this but it actually turns out it’s a topic of conversation amongst the ladies at congresses)

If you're wearing something like this, don't expect too many dance offers!

If you’re wearing something like this, don’t expect too many dance offers!

Practice what you learn
All that amazing stuff you learn in the workshops is no good if you don’t put it into practice on the dance floor.

Record
If you’re anything like me you may not be able to remember new patterns or styling tips after an hours class. If that’s the case make sure you record the moves you’re taught in the workshops so you can go back and review them later.

You can also share videos with people who have done different workshops from you (another reason to not worry too much about missing classes here and there).

Hydrate
Carry a bottle of water with you. If you get dehydrated you’ll feel crappy, tired and grumpy. Who’d want to dance with someone like that?

Ask questions
If you’re at a workshop and something isn’t clear… ASK!!! More than likely you’re not the only one who’s a little confused. A good teacher will be happy to clarify any points.

Look after your Feet
You’re going to be on your feet pretty much all day so make sure you’re wearing comfortable dance shoes that will help you take the punishment. This goes for practice footwear at the workshops too.
Ladies, I know style is important but there are plenty of dance shoes out there that look great and go easy on your footsies. Ask other salseras what they wear. Make sure you break them in too. A congress is probably not the best place to field-test a brand-new pair of shoes that may end up causing you some serious foot pain.
Also, a good friend of mine swears by a 30 minute foot-bath with Epsom-salts after a hard night of dancing: give it a try. Look after your feet and they won’t let you down when it counts.

OK, so you may not be able to manage the flowers or the personal masseuse but taking care of your feet should still be a priority.

OK, so you may not be able to manage the flowers or the personal masseuse but taking care of your feet should still be a priority.

And most importantly, Have Fun!
Congresses are amazing. You make new friends, dance until the sun comes up, learn loads… it’s some of the best fun you can have with your clothes on (even though they probably won’t be on all the time 😉 ).
Keep Dancing Folks.

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Fiona Uyema

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