Without doubt the most important part of becoming a good salsa dancer is to practice practice practice. Sure you can buy all the salsa dancing dvds, cds, books in the world and watch youtube videos and practice the salsa steps on your own at home. But regardless of all that you will still need to go out to salsa bars and practice your dancing skills, makes mistakes, and go through drills over and over again until it becomes natural to you.
Now to get the practice in, there are a few things you need to consider, practicing salsa with a partner would obviously mean you need to liase with other people, and doing so requires certain salsa social protocols which need to be observed. We will look at those.
1. Salsa Dancing Etiquette
Salsa dancing etiquette is especially important because in the salsa scene you will probably encounter the same people day in, day out. So it’s important to be cordial with all the dancers and ensure that you maintain good manners. After all everyone is out to have a good time and nobody wants to deal with rude people.
As in most cases, the onus is ususally on the guy (lead) to ask a female (follower) to dance, in some cases I (a guy) have been asked by ladies to dance, this is the exception, and not the norm. The most normal way to do this is simply to walk up to someone, introduce yourself and ask them if they’d like to dance. Now a lot of ladies will decline, do not take this personally, dancing is exhausting work and sometimes people need a break from dancing. There are a myriad of reasons why a woman might decline to dance, it’s not worth contemplating on them. The best thing a guy can do for himself in this case is not to take it personally, smile and ask someone else.
Often times, ladies whove declined initally have approached me later to dance with me.
Hint: You can increase the chance of getting a dance if you’re tactical and approach women who want to dance, women on the edge of the dancefloor and/or who are swaying to the music are likely to want to dance. On the flipside a woman whose holding a full glass of drink in her hand is unlikely to want to dance.
Ususally in salsa, dancing to one song is ususally the norm, sometimes it’s possible that your partner might want to cary on dancing, do not take this as an assumption, ask or tell from her body language/mannerisms whether she wants to carry on dancing or not.
At the end of the dance always thank your partner (this applies to both the leads and the followers), it’s important to be cordial at the very least so that you can dance with them later, but in the longer term in a smaller salsa community it’s important to create some rapport.
As the lead you are responsible for the direction of the dance, which moves are deployed, how you take up space on the dancefloor, and as always with great power comes great responsibility. You have to ensure that your dancer is safe and does not bump into other people. Or that other people don’t bump into your partner.A simply side step or cross body lead is all it takes to ensure that your partner is free from any flying elbows or bumps from other dancers. This is crucial for the enjoyment of the dance, and if you [as the lead] are wreckless at looking out for your partner, she may be reluctant to dance with you in future. Beginners should dance on the edge of the dancefloor until you become more experienced.
2. Salsa Dancing Competence
Salsa dancing competence is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. You don’t want to dance with people when you have no idea of what you’re doing. This is a surefire way of alienating other dancers and ruining your salsa experience as nobody will want to dance with you again.
However at the same time you will need to go out and learn by making mistakes and practicing until you get good.
The idea here is balance, stick to movies which you are familiar, and only try one unfamilair move per dance. And before trying out an unfamilair move in social dancing, make sure you have rehearsed that pattern or move hundreds of times (yes hundreds) by yourself so that you have the timing correct.
Also try and get the techniques for the unfamilair moves down by rehearsing in class with a partner as well.
3. Salsa dancing aesthetics
Hygiene is an important factor in salsa dancing, body odour is a big No-no, so make sure you a generous amount of deodrant on, and wear clothing that aren’t too constricting, which will make you sweat even more. If you are a big sweater you may want to bring an extra shirt and towel to change into if you get too drenched.
A lot of people have extremely sweaty hands, I’ve danced with a few ladies whoce had incredibly sweaty hands and it’s not a nice feeling, you should try and look at solutions to sort that out.
Secondly it’s important to realise that salsa is supposed to be FUN, if you want to be approached by other salsa dancers it helps to have a smile on and give the appearance of having fun. When you first go into a salsa club you may not feel that that way, so fake it til you make it. Hold your head up high, have a smile on your face and let the music and atmosphere absorb your body. Forget the stresses of the day, you’re at salsa! Nothing else matters.
A lot of your work will be done for you if you are at a salsa dancing bar where people know you or at least you are familair to a lot of people, as opposed to being a complete stranger in a salsa bar. It’s very easy to build familiarity with people if you exchange small talk with people around you and make an attempt to connect with people in salsa bars. That way you have people who you are on first name basis and can kick back and enjoy conversations with; inbetween dances. This is much easier to achieve if you stick to a few different salsa bars (as few as possible), rather than spreading yourself thin and wide and attending different classes and schools.