Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The First Dance

One of my students (name withheld) is going out dancing next week. He’s a little anxious. “She” wants to “see him dance” …that one statement’s already cut our 6 ft 3 inch friend down to size. Our friend here has just completed his beginners’ level, whereas his friend is an Intermediate level salsera…

It’s a predicament many a first time “social” dancers’ experience, and a reminder for those who are not. So let’s just quickly put things into perspective………

Before the Dance:

Goes without saying ensure comfortable / appropriate clothing & footwear and take care of the hygiene factors (refer note on Dance Hygiene).

The Music:

The average Salsa track lasts for about 4 to 6 minutes. It’s only going to last for a couple of minutes, but it’s a challenge nonetheless and more than enough for your partner to pass judgments…If you want to ensure that your partner leaves satisfied after the dance, try and inculcate an approach towards the partner.

When you’re out on the floor with a partner, firstly try to connect with the music….get the flavor, the tempo of the song. Start out with a couple of basics….it will help you figure out how your partner moves. I always tell the men, “hold the lady confidently”…even if you are not, it makes the dance easier for both.

Not all songs have a standard tempo, see how you can play around with combinations depending on the tempo and the mood of the song. If a slow track is being played see if you can make it exciting by varying dancing speed without compromising on timing. If it’s a fast track then you have no other option but to literally think on your feet.

If you are familiar with the song, use it to your advantage by timing combinations/stops/shines/drops etc. to coincide with the music/ lyrics.

The Partner:

Smile and make eye contact with your partner. Remain focused on your partner while you are dancing. Be aware of how they are moving and how you can synchronize the moves and combinations.

Always dance at your partner’s level. The goal is for both individuals to have fun and to dance together and not outdo each other or show off how much better you are than your dancing partner.

Personal Space:

Be aware that not everyone is comfortable dancing close to someone that he or she might not know of. When leading, you should try to sense how much space your partner needs. Respect the space that she or he is comfortable with and dance within that distance.

The Dance:

Salsa is a pretty intense and complicated dance. You run the risk of getting tired too soon and also run out of combinations. One needs to pace the dance out, build the speed gradually. Start with basic moves and turn patterns, test the waters. Never try out complicated combinations – One, If you are not confident/ have just recently learned them, Two, if you are dancing with someone new.

The beauty of the dance is you can do the simplest of moves yet make it look different every time, there are 14 permutations and combinations (that I can think of) just for the simple spot turns !

The relatively complicated/ stylized combinations are to be used midway between the dance. If you intend on using dips and tricks in between, try to keep them relatively simple and leadable so that it’s easier to get back to the combinations with minimum recovery time.

If the track is long or if you are going to dance over a couple of songs with the same partner, it’s advisable to have some solo time as well. Use the various shines we practice in class, with dollops of styling. Again, your attitude and confidence is far more important than what you actually execute. Trying shines without ‘the’ attitude is like hearing a person speak with a fake snazzy accent without his grammar in place.

The idea is to be prepared, not over prepared. Do not try to memorize sequences and plan the entire dance out. It’s a social dance, relax and enjoy. It’s all that matters in the end……

Hope our friend does well at his first salsa-social. Will keep you posted :)