At a pause during another exuberant day of dance classes at a Salsa congress a group of us were sitting on a restaurant hotel terrace. Alisson Rodriguez, a star, competitive dancer in Panama turned sideways as she was walking to squeeze between two dining chairs that were back to back.
Allison’s ribcage expanded, she lifted up both of her arms in a way that showed that she’d activated her lats as she chassé’d between the chairs. Her movement was so graceful, exact, that even this exceedingly mundane act of trying to squeeze through two chairs looked like a ballet choreography.
Thunder sounded in my head with realization: this young, star dancer always carries herself like a dancer. Her body is molded and her body memory is always in dance mode.
And, folks, after thunder there is always lightning:
Professional dancers carry themselves like dancers every second of the day, not just when they are dancing …. as should all people who dance.
It reminded me of one of the best compliments of my life.
In the winding, moorish, cobbled streets of old Seville, after months of taking hours of Flamenco classes on a daily basis, an Andalusian construction worker exclaimed “¡Qué lindo andar, tienes! ¡Qué arte!” (What a beautiful way of walking! What art!). Inside, I was pleased to know that my body had noticeably assimilated a dancers posture.
You started dancing. You are now a dancer. You breathe differently. You walk differently. You hear music differently. Your body feels great.
There’s no going back. There’s only going up from here!
So how can you speed up the learning curve?
Allow yourself to indulge in this great, positive, healthy obsession and understand that your mind and body have switched. You are now a dancer, so do what dancers do.
Stretch your ab muscles straight and against gravity at all times, not just during your dance class or social night. Relax your shoulders and keep your lats activated. Use long arms and keep your hands relaxed, but in a nice shape. Keep your neck long and tall. And listen to your body at all times. When you’ve been sitting at your desk don’t let your legs atrophy. When your neck starts to hurt, sit up. Your body is one of your prime conduits for the ultimate expression and pleasure of music. Take care of it!
1. Take Classes. Many.
Captain Obvious, Andrew Jorquera, is also Captain Damn Right.
Go to classes! Go five days a week!@cibra1
Take classes with different professors, too, in the same style.
2. YouTube: Yes and No.
Some people think that after a couple of months of classes that they have it down; that they can even replace classes with YouTube.
False. YouTube cannot explain to you why the angle of your hand is slightly off and that miniscule difference keeps sending the girl off twirling to Egypt. You’ll never understand from YouTube that you are going to break the man’s arm with all of the arm pressure you are giving him. Only a classroom and with a teacher with enough dancing hours can help you with that.
The probabilities that a beginner will take someone’s eye out are dramatically increased if you try to learn only from YouTube.
YouTube is wonderful, however, for beginners and advanced alike to catch styling and shines (solo footwork and bodywork).
Jeannette an all-around dancer and performer, for instance reveals how she got some of her styling:
I watched a lot of dance videos and studied some of my favorite dancers. I learned a lot of styling and common moves.@jeannettefiallo
3. Find One Style and Rock It… For a While
It’s so tempting to do them all at once! Salsa, Bachata Sensual, Kizomba, Swing, Tango, Ballroom, Casino, etc. But if you’re just beginning, try them all out, choose the one you like the most and concentrate on that one until you feel comfortable and confident…then try other styles.
If you spread yourself too thin from the beginning, trying to do too many at a time when you don’t even grasp the beat, you, quite frankly, end up being shite at all of them.
4. Eventually Try Other Styles
Becky, a great dancer that’s celebrated on social media notes that people have different goals with their dance. Some just want to dance socially, others want to perform and others want to teach. For those who want to improve their social dancing…they actually have to go out social dancing. She gives several tips in one breathe:
Go out to dance Bachata, Salsa, even Reggaetón and continue improving, including learning how to not get yourself in the position where you can get hurt. But don’t be afraid to explore: what to do and when. Listen to the music as often you can.@beckydeeve
She encourages dancers to learn other styles. Each style will translate into each other and aide you as a dancer overall. Your preferred dance will be bettered because you will have more tools.
5. Air Guitar. But for Dance.
How can you become more confident? Christian Tennant likes to shadow dance, yes, kind of like air guitar. If you do it to music, shadow dancing will boost your footwork and accuracy. Keep your teachers’ instructions in mind while you’re doing this.
“I’m a lot more comfortable, especially in the intermediate class, I can see the move once and I get it!”@seetennant
So put in the hours dancing by yourself …or you can just psyche yourself into it.
“I told a guy he danced awesome and he asked me ‘Well, why aren’t you out on the dancefloor?!’ I told him I just wasn’t good enough yet, to which he replied, ‘No. Think: ‘I’m the best dancer here.””
6. Guys: Build Your Super-Pattern and Practice3
Teddy has made impressive progress in the last three months. His trick has been to
“Take the most easily leadable mini-patterns from your class and build one ‘super-pattern’ that can get you through a song. Master that super pattern.”
Once he found his basic patterns, Teddy practiced it with various levels, especially with more experienced dancers, so he could iron it out and perfect it.
7. Get a Dance Partner
Teddy also found that having a “dance wife” that’s on his same level and is committed to practicing helped.
Focused practice on a regular, weekly basis with someone at a higher level saw him level-up quickly.
8. Memorize 5 – 10 Songs You Absolutely Love
If you look longingly at the pros dancing and wish that the rhythm fairy would also visit you, download at least 5 songs (if not more) you can’t get enough of in one genre and loop it, baby!@daliamediomundo
Listen to them in your car. On the bus. As you’re walking. In the shower. While you’re doing your housework. Any chance you get. And when you can, shadow-dance, like Christian advised!
You’ll find you will start understanding the beat, memorizing the build-ups (descarga), stops (“hits”) as well as the slow parts. This will take your understanding of music to a new level and it will allow you to appreciate other songs, not just your current faves.
SalsaSpots aims to invite more people to start dancing, to be the resource for visitors and increase the quality of the offerings to our dance community in Miami, Broward and West Palm Beach. We love everything about social dancing, so we’ve put together a dance calendar for Kizomba, Salsa, Bachata and Tango.
Read our dance stories here: Dalia – Andrew – Christian