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STOP Dancing with your Girlfriend (and why!)

25 Nov

Your girlfriend is the reason your salsa is so mediocre!

There… I’ve said it. Let the hate mail roll on in.

Or, be reasonable and hear me out. I’ll explain exactly why your significant other is hampering your salsa evolution and what you can do about it without having to break up and go through that whole “uncomfortable” period of trying to avoid the dance socials they regularly attend (you all know what I’m talking about).

First things first, let me appease the ladies and say that I could just as easily have titled this article “Stop Dancing with your Boyfriend/Spouse/Life-Partner” or some other gender neutral BS. I didn’t because my regular readers are well aware that I like a nice controversial title every now and then. It should suffice to say that I’m talking about all significant others or regular dance partners in this article.

Now that I’ve alienated half my readers, let’s move on.

Reasons we get into salsa
A pretty major reason people get into salsa is to meet someone of the opposite sex which I highlighted in this very scientifically referenced chart some time ago. It is by no means the main reason but it certainly plays a role in peoples decisions to start dancing. What often happens when someone joins the world of dance (be it Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Break or whatever) is that they might meet and start dating a fellow dancer. Another similar occurence might be that the non-dancing partner in a relationship might be encouraged to get into dancing and take a shine to it (as has been known to happen).

Either way, the end result is that beginning couples in the dance community often end up dancing together frequently (if not exclusively… although this is much rarer). I say beginning couples because this isn’t common in more experienced dancers who are generally more confident, whereas beginning dancers are often shy and naturally feel more secure dancing with someone they know and trust.

Getting all Lovey Dovey with your partner is great and all but a little bit of distance could do great things for your dancing!

Getting all Lovey Dovey with your partner is great and all but a little bit of distance could do great things for your dancing!

Too much coddling
Let me make something clear: dancing with your significant other is wonderful. You share a trust and connection that you share with no one else on the dance floor (hopefully) and that will show in your dance. However, if you dance exclusively or mostly with your partner you will not be able to benefit from that essential phase in becoming a good dancer, that is, dancing with different people.

I’ll speak from my perspective as a man and a lead as that’s what I know best (not that I know anything about being a woman… but… let’s just leave it). Anyway, when I first started dancing salsa in Japan, I did so with my girlfriend at the time. I was particularly shy about dancing and worried about making mistakes so I probably danced 90% of dances with my then girlfriend. I actually remember going to my first social in a big city and danced all but one song (or should I say the final 60 seconds of one song) with a random woman at the club. It took me that long to work up the courage.

Anyway, when we broke up, I naturally started dancing with many more different women (keep inappropriate comments to yourselves please). And in very little time I experienced a huge improvement in my salsa ability. So sudden was the change that after a 10 day “salsa vacation” around the Philippines and Hong Kong, in which I went social dancing virtually every night, my friends back in Japan told me it was like dancing with a completely different person.

Variety is the spice of life
People are different. We have different body shapes and sizes, different limb-length proportions, we move at different speeds, we have joints that move differently. On top of that, everyone learns dance in a slightly different way and has their own style. It’s actually rather beautiful because it means no two people will ever dance the same way.

What it also means is that even if you have mastered a certain move with one person (your significant other or a regular dance partner) it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll immediately be able to pull it off with someone else.

I regular extoll the benefits of practicing regularly with someone you feel comfortable with as it helps you to lock combinations and moves into your mental and muscle memory. However, you’ll have locked it into memory using only one partner who has a fixed body shape and dance style. It may not work for others. When I practice a move with my dance partner and then feel comfortable enough to try it on the dance floor I often find that there is a steep learning curve involved in adjusting it to other follows. I regularly mess it up at the beginning even though I might nail it every time with my partner. This is why dancing with others is ESSENTIAL.

Cut the cord
If you want to improve your dancing so you can dance well with everyone… well… you have to dance with everyone. Only then will you learn how to adapt your own style and combinations to other people. You’ll learn to dance with other body types and might find certain moves are better suited to taller partners or partners with shorter arms or more flexible dancers… that’s the amazing thing about dance, the sheer variety of different dancers out there.

I’m not telling you to stop dancing with your significant other or your regular dance partner when you go social dancing… that would be ridiculous. What I’m saying is that you need to venture out there and dance with other people. In dance classes, partners are rotated for a reason, so you can experience dancing with someone else. (Side note: I’ve actually been to classes where one couple stood off to the side of the main group so they didn’t have to switch partners… maybe they were both shy but I honestly thought it was riduculous).

Anyway, if you really want to improve your dance level it’s time to give your significant other a break and start dancing with other people. You’ll get better and I’m sure that your partner will appreciate it.

Keep Dancing Folks.

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What Makes a Great Dance Congress?: Dublin Fever Fest 2015

13 Oct

I danced so hard I caught a cold!

That’s exactly what happened to me a couple of weekends ago when I attended the 2nd Dublin Fever Fest, Ireland’s most recent Latin-dance congress and a show of how popular salsa and a whole spectrum of other dances have become in the Emerald Isle over the past few years.

How do you catch a cold from dancing? Well if you have to ask you’ve clearly never danced hard enough before 😛 . Continued heavy exercise can weaken your immune system and I’ve run myself down in the past after suddenly thinking it would be a good idea to go dancing every night for a week straight (I’m usually a 2 or 3 nights a week kind-of-guy). Fever Fest, however, was my first time catching a cold after only a weekend of dancing… well done Fever Fest.

Despite, running myself into the ground and catching a cold (which I still have by the way “sniff sniff”), I really had a blast at Dublin Fever Fest and I think it’s worth pointing out why; what made it special and maybe what could make it even better.

Size Matters!
Let’s be honest… it does! In the case of salsa congresses, they can be small local congresses with just one class at a time or they can be huge international congresses with thousands of attendees and multiple classes running simultaneously. They all have their own Pros and Cons.

Fever Fest is on the smaller side with about XXXX attendees in total and two classes at any one time. I have to admit that I really enjoy this type of “cozy” congress. By the end of the first day of workshops you get to dance and chat with a good portion of the attendees and knowing more people makes for much more enjoyable nights of social dancing.

One of the great advantages of smaller congresses is getting to know and dance with so many people in such a short time.

One of the great advantages of smaller congresses is getting to know and dance with so many people in such a short time.

Great International Teachers
Most people who go t congresses go for one of two reasons; to dance their asses off or to learn new skills from teachers they wouldn’t normally get the chance to learn from.

The line-up at Fever Fest was a great mix of mostly European teachers who, again due to the smaller size of the event, came together as a mini-family of “dance parents” who happily mingled during the event with their “dance kids”, the attendees.

While I usually don’t condone favoritism I have to mention one of the instructors in particular. The world famous Marco Ferigno, dance partner to the equally famous Karol Florez, gave a Master-class in Mambo Shines and it was simply… masterful. On top of being a simple astounding dancer, he also happened to be a very friendly, approachable and down-to-earth teacher. I was exhausted after an hour and a half of his rapid fire choreography, but happily so.

A great collection of talented and friendly teachers that really mixed with the festival goers.

A great collection of talented and friendly teachers and performers that really mixed with the festival goers.

A Class Act
While the actual teachers at a congress are vitally important, the type of classes they teach are just as important. Everyone is used to doing the good old staples like “LA Partnerwork” or “Ladies Styling” and these were duly represented at Fever Fest. However, they were supplemented with novel classes such as Boogaloo and Reggaeton. This is the kind of refreshing variety that makes a congress worth attending; classes that take us out of our comfort-zone and expose us to new styles and techniques that broaden our horizons as dancers.

It’s full of Dancing Irish People
While I may have the internet rights to call myself “The Dancing Irishman”, the dance-floor of Fever Fest was full of many more Dancing Irish People just as worthy of the title. Fair enough, the dance community in Ireland has a huge expat component but I really think that if you want to party with the Irish, there’s no better place to do it than on home-turf.

Great social dancing is a must at any congress and Fever Fest didn't disappoint.

Great social dancing is a must at any congress and Fever Fest didn’t disappoint.

Show me something new
Last but by no means least, I need to mention the performances at Fever Fest. For most people, the most important parts of a congress are the classes and the social dancing and while I feel mostly the same myself, I was definitely impressed with what I saw. To begin with the first performance of the weekend involved four stunningly beautiful women shaking their ample booties in what could only be described as some form of urban/latin/funk… that got me hooked. On top of that there was the usual mix of excellent performances by both professionals and student groups that one would expect at a congress but one in particular stood out. An original choreography by the MC of Fever Fest, Azael Salazar and Nadezda Antipenko simply blew me away. The contemporary piece that Azael described as being about the desire to be with someone you can’t be with literally left me with my jaw hanging. By far the highlight of all that was on show. One final good point about all the performances is that they didn’t outstay their welcome every night. They kept them short and sweet and they didn’t reduce the actual social dance time too much at all.

Quite possibly one of the best contemporary dance performances that I've ever seen.

Quite possibly one of the best contemporary dance performances that I’ve ever seen.

I’ll be back
All in all, Fever Fest impressed me, especially as a congress that is still in its infancy. Even though I don’t live in Ireland any more I can see myself making the trip to this great event on a yearly basis.

Great classes, great performances and a great dancing… what more could you ask for?

Keep dancing folks!

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The Secret Step Between Dance Class and the Dance Floor!

27 Aug

Phase 1: Collect Underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit

It’s that simple, right? You know where to start and you know where you want to end up! So getting from Phase 1 to Phase 3 should be a walk in the park…

…not without Phase 2, buddy.

You need to know “HOW”!
If you’re like me (and I’m not so odd that there’s no one out there that can relate) then the following scenario will be very familiar:

You go to dance class, excited and filled with the desire to learn

You learn the new pattern/technique and have it nailed by the end of class… Yippee!

You go out on the weekend dying to bust out your new move

You step out on the dance floor and suddenly your mind goes blank

How did it even start? Did I really go to that class? Are those my feet?

And yet another sweet move is thrown into the ever expanding “Could have been great” junk-pile in the dark recesses of your mind, never to be used again.

This is probably my most common face on the dance-floor!

This is probably my most common face on the dance-floor!

Stupid Brain
Truth be told, we can’t blame all of our “salsa” forgetfulness on our brains or on the dance class itself. It’s become my catchphrase at this point and it still holds true “You learn the moves in class but you learn to dance on the dance-floor”.

There is however an often forgotten or ignored step in between that most people should really consider incorporating into their salsa development…

Practice at Home!
I know from my own experience that I simply cannot remember a new move or technique after a single dance class. I just can’t. I need to practice that move until it becomes automatic, until muscle memory takes over and I no longer need to rely on my “stupid brain” to “think” about what I need to do next.

There is only one way to save a movement to muscle memory and that, my dancing friends, is repetition. The amount of repetition probably varies from person to person but I’d wager that very few individuals can memorize a move from the limited amount of times you repeat it in a dance class. To those of you who can, congratulations… I hate you!

So what’s to be done? It’s rather simple really: Find yourself a partner willing to join you and practice at home.

Home Sweet Home
There are a few advantages to practicing at home that you will not find anywhere else:

  • Home is comfortable and safe and no one else can see you making mistakes
  • You can practice at your own pace, not having to worry about keeping up with other people in a class
  • You can focus on the parts of a move that you find particularly tricky
  • You can dance like an absolute imbecile and no-one will ever know
  • You can review videos you’ve taken from class to help you work on your technique
  • You can play music you like at a pace your comfortable with (building from slower to faster)
  • You can eat a burger or a pizza or an ice-cream sundae while practicing (as long as you share with your partner)
  • You can wear whatever you want (or don’t want). Superman pijamas… Hell Yeah (once again, as long as your partner is cool with it)
If this makes you feel comfortable while dancing... go with it. I have a pair myself!

If this makes you feel comfortable while dancing… go with it. I have a pair myself!

The Importance of Comfort
I regularly talk about how important it is to get out of your comfort zone in order to improve (at anything). I firmly believe it to be true but I also know that to be able to get out of our comfort zone, it has to exist in the first place. What I mean is that we should practice a move until it becomes comfortable to us. Until it becomes incorporated into our muscle memory. The best way to do that is to practice in a controlled, comfortable safe, environment with someone we trust (your dance partner needs to be a friend or at least someone you feel comfortable with).

Once you’ve nailed a move through repetition with one partner, once you’re comfortable, then it’s time to take it onto the dance-floor and step out of that comfort zone and practice it “in the wild”.

That middle step, that “Phase 2” of practicing yourself and committing a movement to muscle memory is what will help take full advantage of what you learn in class and transfer it to the dance-floor.

Keep dancing folks!

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Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex

28 Jul

We’re going to talk about the evolution of the female dancer!

As titles go, it might seem like I’m really grabbing at straws with “Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex” but there’s a great back story to it and some interesting insight into the stages that make up the development of the most amazing social dancers you will ever have the pleasure of sharing a dance-floor with.

In the beginning, there was woman
So I’m sitting in a cafe in Barcelona with my buddy Tyler who I haven’t seen in almost 3 years, since my days back in Cali, Colombia. Tyler and I share a ridiculous amount in common. We both have backgrounds in martial arts which had led us to live in Asia for a time (Tyler in China and me in Japan), we both had decided that there was more to life than slaving away at a job we hated so we decided to travel instead and we both ended up in Cali, to do the same 2 things; learn Spanish and, more importantly, dance!

So, it was great to catch up with him after such a long time and hear the stories of his adventures over the past few years. After catching up, the conversation naturally turned to women (as has been known to happen when men are speaking with each other 😉 ). Tyler is what I would call a very spiritually evolved individual and he suddenly started talking about 3 different types of women he had met in his life, each one an evolution from the previous with the final, most evolved, most balanced form described by him as this “beautiful gorgeous feminine vortex“! I have no idea how he came up with the term. More than likely he just pulled it out of his a$$ right there and then… but it stuck with me.

So how does this relate to dance?
As Tyler was describing these 3 different types to me, my brain immediately started making the connection with salsa and I realized he was also describing a very interesting way of looking at different types of dancers. I’m going to do my best in this article to try and convey this concept to you, not because I believe everything fits into a neat definition (that idea actually annoys me) but because we, as humans, do like to put things into groups because it makes understanding concepts easier (and because I need to write an article before the end of the month 😀 )

Type 1
Type 1 is the earliest, most basic form of the female dancer. She is content with just leaving the man lead and following along. She has no real interest in doing shines or anything with too much flair. She may be technically very, very good (or not) but her main goal is to get through the dance in the most uneventful way possible. She doesn’t particularly feel any need to contribute to the creativity of the dance and so all dances with her might appear to be very, very similar. More than anything else, this type is defined by both a lack of self confidence and a lack of emotion while dancing.

Type 2
Type 2 is an evolution from Type 1. The easiest way to conceptualize this dancer is to imagine a high powered female executive. She is brimming with confidence and drive to achieve her goals. She has worked hard to achieve the level of skill she has attained and she wants people to know how good she really is. So much so that she might actually come off as aggressive or bossy on the dance floor. She’s not happy with the idea of a man leading her entirely in the dance and will often break away herself to do the shines she wants to do, the way she wants to do them. She want’s to dominate in the dance, to prove that she can do everything, at the expense of her partner. Once again, her dances are probably technically wonderful but they can probably make her partner feel like he was just an afterthought, a tool necessary to actually achieve the dance, but not an integral part of it.

Type 3
This is the final evolution of the female dancer. She has been through the other stages and learned a great deal from them. She is confident and aware of what she is capable of (which is a great deal) but she has tempered that confidence with the ability to allow herself to happily be led on the dance floor. That said, she contributes to the creativity of the dance with her energy, her shines, her flair and the connection she creates with her partner. This is what sets her apart from the other two types; the connection that she allows herself to become part of. She isn’t concerned with how she looks or what else is going on around her, she is there, in the moment, totally present. The dance is neither about her nor her partner. The dance is what they both create, together, with the music, in a continuous game of give and take that is unique every time you dance with her. After a dance with this evolved, balanced dancer both people walk way feeling that they gained something from the dance, from the connection that was momentarily created. This is the Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex!

There is nothing quite like a dance with a Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex.

There is nothing quite like a dance with a Beautiful Gorgeous Feminine Vortex.

 

It’s that good
I once wrote an article called “The Cloudy Dancer” that spoke more of the technical side of dancing with a wonderful dancer like a Type 3. However, in this article I’m getting more into the “why” regarding other factors and not just the actual skill level. Let’s be honest, just because someone is a wonderful “technical” dancer doesn’t mean you are going to fully enjoy a dance with them on the level I’m talking about here . The connection that is created is essential to reach the highest levels of dance pleasure and enjoyment. That connection is what creates unforgettable dance experiences.

No rush
With all that said I bet there are a few people, just starting out in the world of dance, thinking that none of this applies to them. I would say, “think again”. While technical ability has its part to play in creating a great dance, connection is what makes dances memorable and you don’t need to be the greatest dancer in the world to establish that connection. That said, time, practice and experience will feed themselves into the evolution of every dancer provided they don’t get bogged down in one of the other stages, meaning everyone has that potential for incredible dances on a technical and connection-based level.

What about the guys?
What about ’em? … Just kidding 😉 . Leads too, go through an evolution in their dancing. My buddy, Tyler has also put them into 3 groups but that’s for another article entirely (if I get round to it). Suffice it to say that the ultimate dance can be had when both partners have evolved to stage 3, where both are willing to be part of something more than the sum of their parts. Where the connection is real and both partners contribute and no-one dominates.

Now that sounds like a great dance to me.

Keep dancing folks.

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Dancing is just like Sex (and not in a good way!)

28 May

“Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire”

It’s funny that one of my favorite dance-related quotes should be written by a fellow Irishman, George Bernard Shaw.

Dancing is just like sex
We’ve all heard somebody say it at some time, in various guises;

you’ve got to take it slow at the start…
you need to discover what your partner likes…
you should change things up a bit to keep it interesting…
the best kind gets you all hot and sweaty…
the more you do it the better you get etc… 

I could go on… believe me!

We often want to focus and compare the agreeable facets of dance and sex. That’s perfectly natural, they’re both very enjoyable pass times so it’s easy to focus on the good.

It’s not all Pirouettes and Pillow-Talk
So, I’m going to be “That Guy” who has to focus on the negative. You know, the one who has to poke holes in everything.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to (intentionally) ruin dance or sex for anyone (fingers crossed!!!). You might actually find what I’m going to say to be pretty helpful.

Imagination Land
Ok, so for you to grasp this concept I’m going to need you to use your imagination and a little bit of memory. Once again, don’t worry, this is not going to turn into anything “NSFW”… unless you work in a convent (in which case it’s time to stop reading).

Imagine you’ve been seeing someone for a while. You’ve gone on a few dates, and had a great time. You’ve really enjoyed the conversations, laughed at each others jokes, maybe you’ve even gone dancing and had a blast. Things couldn’t be any better… or so you think.

You eventually take things to the next level, you know, because all the kids are doing it these days. You have sex… and it just isn’t good!!!

Sometimes it's just not good (someone should tell him to try it the other way around, though)

Sometimes it’s just not good (someone should tell him to try it the other way around, though)

What the hell just happened?!
You rack your brains. How can this be?

You know you’re good 😉 . You’ve had great sex before, many times. You felt a connection with the person and you’re attracted to them. What went wrong?

The Answer: Absolutely Nothing…
The simple truth is that sometimes we encounter people with whom we are just “Sexually Incompatible”. All that means is that despite all the signs pointing towards attraction and chemistry and what not… THE SEX JUST DOESN’T WORK!!!

It doesn’t matter how good you are… it doesn’t matter how good they are… nor how many times you’ve had amazing sex in the past… with other people. The sad truth of the matter is that you two were not meant to have great sex and no frequency of repetition seems to solve it (God loves a tryer though!)

Unfortunately, it's not always going to be like this

Unfortunately, it’s not always going to be like this

Now, let’s talk about dance
I’ll give you a specific example from my own life.

I did a group choreography once and had a great partner who was (and even more so now, is) an excellent dancer. We got on great, practiced really well together and when it came to performing on stage (in various venues), we really nailed the choreo.

However, when it comes to social dancing, it just doesn’t work for us. It’s very hard to describe but our dances feel (and look, I’d imagine) awkward. She’ll agree with me on this, completely. She’s a great dancer, I’m not awful and we both have great dances with other people… but when we dance together, it just doesn’t work. Be it salsa or bachata, it doesn’t matter… we’re “Dance Incompatible”. We’ve given ourselves plenty of chances to test it out too. No dice!

Is it disappointing? Yes! I’d love to be able to have great dances with all my friends. Is their anything I can do about it? Probably not. It’s just one of those things I need to accept as being outside of my influence. From experience, it doesn’t seem to be something I can practice my way around and get better. It’s something inexplicable, just like sexual chemistry (or lack thereof).

Sometimes, no matter how well you dance with others, there's always someone who it just doesn't quite work out with.

Sometimes, no matter how well you dance with others, there’s always someone who it just doesn’t quite work out with.

So there’s no hope?
This article was basically my (typically longwinded) way of saying:

“Sometimes we will meet people with whom we will never have a good dance… and that’s ok!”

It happens. It’s not the end of the world. Just accept it and stop worrying about it. It doesn’t mean you have to stop dancing with that person. Just stop being so hard on yourself because it’s not “great”. Not everyone you dance with will be your Cloudy Dancer.

Being “Dance Incompatible” with ONE person does not make you a bad dancer, just as being “sexually incompatible” with ONE person does not make you a bad lover (every man reading this is nodding his head in agreement right now).

Keep dancing folks!

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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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Have you been working-out lately? Because you look spectacular  🙂 If you liked this article go ahead and share it with your friends via the Facebook or Twitter buttons below and if you use Stumbleupon please give it a “Thumbs Up”I’d really appreciate it  😉

 

Fiona Uyema

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