Salsa > Dancing? Or Puppetmaster Pulling Strings?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by SalsaTO, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. SalsaTO

    SalsaTO New Member

    In many clubs I've seen leaders grabbing their followers' forearms for almost every possible move in salsa, from basic mambo or open position, through almost imaginable every turn pattern. And I know one follower who suffered a dislocated wrist from being over led in this way.

    The other thing I see is leaders simply standing on the spot, barely moving the body, let alone the feet while pulling and grabbing their partners through these patterns. While I have not yet seen this form of lead and follow on instruction videos yet, I have seen instructors "leading" their partners this way while social dancing.

    What ever happened to Cubano hips, fingers-to-fingers connection and actually sharing the work and play of a dance for a song?

    Is leading with a nandful of forearm dancing and making a connection with a partner and sharing a song, or is this a puppetmaster simply "pulling strings" to a beat for a desired effect with little involvement or connection?
  2. englezul

    englezul New Member

    I'm master of puppets
    I'm pulling your strings
    Twisting your mind
    Smashing your dreams
    Blinded by me you can't see a thing
    Just call my name and I'll hear you scream
    Master MASTER!


    This is not anything new. Ofcourse there's bad leaders too, I'm sure this is not a problem of 2006 alone. Everybody has different amounts of training, diferent regard for their parteners, a different vision when it comes to dancing, etc.

    Nothing. There's a ton of amazing dancers out there and couples who have an amazing time. I'm sure they'll be at the Mambo Tribe social this weekend.

    I think you're focusing on the negative here. It's true that I strongly believe there are a ton of dancerts that didn't go through the mandatory levels of training, but at the same time, I see and admire a lot of amazing local dancers who don't have that problem.
  3. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    A common old-school-dancer concern about contemporary dancers is the absence of sabor, of which SalsaTO, to me, expresses. I wholeheartedly concur, many of the dancers regarded as skilled are grouped under mechanical by older dancers, as well as representing the main focus of scrutiny by latino non-dancers. While non-dancers don’t have the technical knowledge to scrutinize the skills of a dancer, they do have the ability to identify flavor, and that, as a group, is absent from Salsa now-a-days.

    From a room filled with dancers, it is difficult to select a handful that does match SalsaTO’s criteria. I wouldn’t particularly label it a focus on the negative, rather an observation of reality. A tree fell, that isn’t a negative statement, but an observation of reality. That the others still stand does not disprove that one has fallen. Focusing on the negative would be stating that all dancers are alike, disregarding that many do fit under that eloquent, elegant and caring status. When the “negative” outweighs the “positive” then it is time to acknowledge and act, we can’t simply look away. A hands off approach, could cause the “negative” element to engulf the “positive”, and in due time the “negative” represents the “positive” simply because dancers aren’t knowledgeable of/and about the topic.
  4. Legato Bluesummers

    Legato Bluesummers New Member

    Yea! Another bash the leaders thread....

  5. englezul

    englezul New Member

    I hear about this lack of "sabor" and I really don't think it's the case. Absolutely not. I see alot of dancers who ooze sabor. Of course they are fewer in number when compared to all dancers, yet, that is always the case with any kind of activity. But a strict lack of sabor nowadays? I call BS on that.
  6. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I am envious of your experiences englezul. I live in NY City, where the mainstream salsa world believes sabor to truly abound, and I don't see what they see. I need to follow your foot steps because you are obviously blessed by actions which I’m denied. What I have seen is people mistake sabor with amount of patterns, shines and spins; basically skill and speed of. Please take me with you!!!! Don’t be mean, I won’t be a bother, I’ll just sit and absorb it all.

    Though, I must mention that from Cuban Pete to Fredy Rios... Even Albert Torres to David Melendez, they have been quoted and video tapped stating that Salsa lacks heart, that it lacks sabor. In NY City there is movement, although very small, gaining popularity away from the on2 style of dancing. The force behind it is both old and young dancers who believe salsa needs sabor. That it is danced without heart and soul, it is basically danced with mind and feet.

    I have been hard press to find one old school dancer (50s to 70s) who agrees that Salsa today is filled with oozing flavor. The one word that characterizes salsa pre 80s is Sabor. It was such focal attribute that it is a main and continuous subject in old songs and dancers. Even new songs speak of its lack... The norm then, is the exception today. But, to new comers they are mistaken.

    A mocking sentence that viejitos tell me about contemporary salserso is that they lack Salt. That no salsa is good without salt. Eso es Salsa, they say, con Salsa Y Pimienta! (That’s Salsa; with Salt and Pepper)

    Perception is the key, they lived a dance centralized and identified by sabor, today, the meaning of sabor escapes many dancers. My many pilgrimages have all been to the wrong places then… So, don’t forget to hook me up!

    I'd like to hear what TangoTime, when he has the time, as I believe him to be sole member that actually lived it and still is living the change on a daily basis, has to say about the status of flavor.
  7. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Hi guys, have been moving so am just catching up with topics.
    You have really touched a nerve when you dissect this one. Have been dancing as child, boy and man for close on 70 yrs ( phew ! need to sit down ) Seen a bunch of changes in all the genres, but probably none more than in our " beloved" Mambo / Salsa . It generates more controversy than all the genres combined !! Have thoughts on why-- and maybe I,m right- maybe not !
    First-- An essentially cuban rhythm " hijacked " by jazz musicians, many of p.r. origin, who re -wrote the musical intent in a form of update . And so the clash began and still goes on .

    From my vantage point, this what I see as I have travelled over the past 30 yrs.A definite paradigm shift in content and expression ( or the lack thereof ) The old school ( me included ) looked on in amazement at what the younger generation were doing to a some what perfected art form.
    Suddenly, overnite, everyone was an expert ( just ask them, they will tell you ! ) the " sabor " and alma y corazon vanished, like fog in a strong wind .Let me make it quite clear-- I am not against change, but you must prove to me that it is for the better. This is where it becomes very subjective. I do not think I,m stuck in a time warp, but I agree with B/S % 110 on his analogy.
    Someone made the comment- " well many teachers have different levels of learning " or words to that effect. This is wherein lay the problem. % 95 have little or no training in the art of dance and certainly have never been exposed to the finer points .
    Have seen more " bad " leads in this genre than all of the others I teach. It seems as though many think that the lady is a rag doll to be tossed around at his pleasure ( ask the ladies what they think, they will confirm same )
    You cannot acquire the attendant skills of good execution from some one who does not have them !-- And--- even if you do, being able to pass them on is a totally different matter .
    I look at some of the videos on the web, and time and again, its acrobatics galore.-passed of as social dancing .There is a saying in my profession-- " If you cant teach-- teach steps "
    There is very little evidence on general scale, that the true feeling of the dance is lost to the number of " tricks " one can include in 3 minutes flat !!

    The sadness of it all is this-- the dance in its basic form ( dont care which beat of the bar ) is in and of its self, if danced with all the necessary ingredients , pure magic .
    When I think of all the truly greats in mambo , they all had one thing in common-- they knew how to express music and they always danced to their partner, subjugating themselves to a minor role .P.S-- Funny, how you cannot teach a new dog old tricks !!
  8. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    Hmmm... you will have to be a bit more specific guys, when you say 'sabor'.

    Sure I know what it means in Spanish, but it is a bit tricky to identify while dancing.

    I've seen dancers from many places and I've danced with some - good or bad, teachers or students.

    What I call sabor lacks from many.

    To give a name that you all know, Albert Torres did have that what I call sabor. It was a pure pleasure to dance with him.

    The thing is, many Latino non-trained dancers claim they have sabor, since they are born etc... you know the speech. And I don't see it necessarily.

    Maybe they do have sabor when grooving to the beat, but it is just the same if they dance Salsa, reggaeton or merengue. And only if they dance ALONE.

    I fail to enjoy dancing with someone who does the side step (or cucharacha) for an entire song. No matter how much they groove.

    I don't need a thousand spins, but I cannot be satisfied with basic step either.

    I don't know if I have sabor (most probably I don't) but when I see it I enjoy watching it. Or dancing with that person.

    And I would say sabor is not only the individual "grooving" to the beat, but more the couple interracting with each other and expressing the music, going with its ups and downs.

    What do you think?
  9. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    I think the original post IS negative, because it focuses on the negative. It says "a tree fell" rather than "lets go plant some trees". The challenge for those who understand what they mean by sabor, and who can see it or its absence, is to try to share their perception with those whose eyes are not yet open. Lets have some posts to youtube videos of dancers with and without "Alma y Corazon"!

    In general people would rather learn about their own ignorance privately by being shown things that are beyond their knowledge, rather than simply being told how many ignorant people there are out there.

    So let's hear tales of the days when the forest was thicker and greener, and let's inspire people to go there.

    Before I was into salsa, and just danced at funk or soul or lounge clubs, there was the secret society of the groover. A groover could spot another groover on the dancefloor and there would be simple nods of recognition, a nod that said 'you are speaking my language'. If you are moved emotionally by music, by your partner, and your emotions move you, you have an authenticity that is beyond knowing technique, beyond having studied with famous teachers, beyond your claims to racial heritage. You are simply speaking your truth with your body. It cannot be wrong because it is you.
  10. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Would agree with some of your analysis-- however-- I think B/s was trying to make a point. I do not want to put words into his mouth, but I believe that he was implying,and correctly so, that most dancers either do not know-- or-- do not care. It begs the question-- if you see someone dancing and do not quite understand what is being transmitted-- ASK-- have had hundreds over the yrs stop me in my tracks and ask the proverbial q. In fact, that is how i developed my clientele in the hispanic community. ( and for those of you who do not know me , I am from the u.k. ) The "sabor " that is at the root of this discussion, is a very indefinable quality, that really needs to be explained thru example and words . Try describe a painting by rembrandt-- difficult ?-- of course, the nuances cannot be explained in pure dialogue ., but when we see it , even then we may not completely understand its context. So-- we ask those in the know to define them for us .

    The bottom line of all this, is this, like all art forms, it can become very subjective . I do not have any issue with anyone having a great time doing " their thing ". My objections lay with the ones who set themselves up as " experts " and pass on too much mis information .
    If any of you have visited as many countries and dance facillities , and listened to and watched what the interpretation of ANY given dance form was being taught, and being told what they had THOUGHT it was meant to be, only then can you begin to see why the translation of body language, lead, rhythmical expression, can become so incongruous with its original intent and style .
    As i have said in the past, the irony of this debate, is this, those who should take heed, probably never read these posts !!
  11. saludas

    saludas New Member

    Arm lead = bad dancing
  12. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    I would take it further and say "cannot SEE". That's why my point about those who can see it need to seek ways to inspire those who cannot. I may have gone off topic in my last post - I know when a dancer moves me, but I can't be sure that that is the same thing as the sabor we're discussing here. That's why the issue of authenticity came into my mind. Maybe that's the same thing as sabor, maybe not.

    At Uk Salsa Congress in Bognor Regis last September, there were a million hours of shows, with a berzillion spins by acts from Sweden, NYC, Milan, etc... But who really lit up the stage were a couple from PR who danced something that seemed relatively simple but had YES written all over it.

    aside: while googling for their names I came across this in support of UK style :)
  13. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i had a "first" experience on friday when i was dancing salsa at a latin night -- i think this was a reall feeling of that "sabor", and it was so magical, and both of us felt it.

    i was dancing with someone who goes to the same place for lessons that i do on thursday nite, where the salsa they play tends to be very very fast. but on friday nite, we found ourselves dancing to a delicious slow salsa. my leader uses only his fingertips to lead -- he actually keeps his palm quite open, so only the fingers touch no matter what we're doing. and because we are both used to the fast tempo, i'm able to get where i need to be more quickly than i used to, and then we would just sink into the dance with the extra time and feel the connection... really stretch it and "taste" it... then he'd do another cross-body figure of some kind where i'd whip past him... and then sink into that delicious gap again.

    it was such a fabulous feeling for both of us, the way you feel after a great meal. that must be "sabor". :)

    and i think we could only really have that shared experience because he could lead strongly but very delicately & sensitively, and because i was also able to move myself quickly without any pushing or pulling... no puppetwork in sight. :)
  14. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    A group of old schoolers joined me in a visit to the NY Salsa congress a couple of years back. We decided to watch the performances, low and behold, the only group they enjoyed was the Puerto Rican troupe who kept it simple but had that YES you speak about. They were screaming, clapping, telling people around them to watch true dancing in the making... That’s about all they enjoyed from the congress, well, and the bands.

    Your entire paragraph about authenticity is indeed Sabor. When you have it, you feel it in others, they don't have to dance, they don't have to move, you can feel it. It transforms to that emotional story depicted within your body, even if there isn’t a pattern, an “advanced” move, step, those emotions which your body speaks of, that's Sabor. The key also, is that these cats can tell the wanna-bes from the real thing, yet those that don’t have it, will refer to the wanna-bes as flavorful.

    In sports, in the US, that "it" factor translates to Sabor in dancing. If a person has this "it" factor, it doesn't matter what is done, the action will always be done with "it". And "it" is independent of skill. In fact those with Sabor attempt to differentiate Sabor from Skill. It is common to see people with Sabor point to their heart when asked how they can play or dance as they do. Example, Alex Rodriguez has much more potential than Derek Jeter, yet Jeter has that "it" factor that even when ARod hits 50 Homers with a 130 RBI, all anyone can talk about is how little ARod looks next to Jeter, all of it while Jeter hits 19 homers and 80 RBIs. Some call the action fruited by "it", clutch.

    Sabor is independent of movement, actions, words… however, it is visible through them all.

    I believe squirrel brought up the notion that the tell, tell sign of sabor is when doing couple work, and more than the basic. The extent of a person's repertoire, or lack there of while executing couple work is not indicative of Sabor. If we judge Sabor from technical ability, we are already speaking of a different essence. Boredom from someone’s abilities is not indicative of sabor, rather a person’s requirements to enjoy a dance.

    And yes, not all latinos have sabor, yet as a group, they can spot it as if a Hippo amongst chickens. Sabor in the latin world is part of daily living, and the reason they tend to disagree with many outtakes on Sabor.

    A video of someone with Sabor, well, our very own member Sabor had a video up somewhere. That’s Sabor in full display! He won’t be crowned the next coming of Fred Astaire, but Sabor, he surely give us all a bucket and still have mounds left.
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    I guess we should explain the literal translation---Flavor--. And i suppose the " flavor " of a dance, could mean different things to different people== or-- many things to one person. My personal opinion, is that it should imply and impart, the characteristics of its origin when put into the dance arena. We all seem to accept it musically-- but then we very often place our own shades of color to the mix. Therein lay the problem-- some of the " colors ", do not mix well with those already present .

    I can already hear the responses, as to how individual mixes, are what makes the musical "stew " enjoyable. Would agree to a greater or lesser extent, depending upon what those ingredients are .This form of disection can lead eventually into a very esoterical approach, which i believe is the wrong ave. to take .There are certain things that happen when i dance, that to some degree defy immediate explanation-- it just happens as I am sure the same is true for others.

    However, the healthy debate that exists, will hopefully shed some light on areas of conflict or confusion ( or could create more !! )
  16. englezul

    englezul New Member

    This is a very ellusive kind of assessment because if one doesn't feel 'sabor' in others it doesn't mean it isnt there. It's most likely an indication that one cannot emotionally relate to the couple/person he watches.

    Mind you what some will describe sabor is not what everybody has in mind when thinking about what great dancing should look like. So when saying yeah this guy is full of sabor and look how simple he dances is because he's probably highly energetic in the way he dances and you're feeding on it.

    When I think about sabor I think about hitting the notes, hitting the breaks, surfing the highs and lows, displaying attitude, building this character that is unique. You can be all smiles, or you can be intriguing, you can be a heart breaker, or you can be the friendliest person. As long as you're creating a character you're making art, and the person who watches you, and that who dances with you will find that enjoyable as long as you make them a part of your play. That to me means sabor. I've seen cubans, colombians, and puerto-ricans dance and although they really were into it, and everybody could notice that, to me that is not sabor, because their interpretation of the music is too simple, too little elegant and sophisticated. It doesn't show any kind of authentic understanding of the musical composition. It doesn't show any kind of vision, any kind of richness of imagination or add dimension to their personality. Let's be clear on a thing, letting loose doesn't mean sabor.
  17. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Indeed, I'd be the last person to say that Sabor isn't present in everyone, what isn't, is its visibility. Sabor is in all of us, we just have to learn to exude it.

    Energy != Sabor, for those VB programmers out there Energy <> Sabor. Energy and Sabor are not dependant on one another, but separate entities that can be mixed.

    I agree, Sabor is not indicative of skill, nor great dancing. All sabor is, is indicative of Sabor... indicative of itself. So, if to me great means sabor, then by all means then the person is dancing great, but if it isn't then no amount of sabor will make it great dancing. Yet, they will have sabor, independent of our judgement of their actions.

    Musicality != Sabor, musicality is not sabor. It is what happens behind musicality that indicates sabor. What it is an indication of not physical character, but what you call displaying attitude, hopefully is not that attitude no one wants to see.

    There are dancers out there who hit every accent, smile a bunch, put up a show, their attitude and the only sabor visible is comming from their cinnamon flavored chewing gum.

    That which you disregard as sabor is indeed sabor, however, you are adding skill to it to deem it so. Which means you are judging it, you disregard it not because it isn't present on to itself, but because you believe that aptitude of skill, or knowledge of music, all within themselves separate entities, are indicative of Sabor. What they are is musicality, not sabor. It's like recognizing that the meaning of a sentence is great, but denying its greatness because it is gramatically incorrect. Yet, calling a flawless meaningless sentence great in meaning because of its grammar.

    See sabor in its raw state, not its dilluted version, don't make it refined sugar then label it true form, because it looks better to a judging mind and a thousand variables. Sabor is something, not what is done with that something.

    There a number of things to differentiate sabor.
    Separate it from Skill, skill includes: Knowledge of music, musicality, technique, patterns, foot work, directionsl. Sabor is Sabor... musicality is musicality, technique is technique, patterns are patterns, so and so... all of which can be used with Sabor, not to make Sabor.

    You do understand it, it's visible in your posts, yet bais against its basic form is also projected...
  18. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    sounds a bit like sabor = god... everyone has their own arguable interpretation, and the experience is not definable in simple terms...
  19. Sabor

    Sabor New Member

    to each their own.. just be aware of how your partner likes it for that moment in time and try to provide it.. and then some..

    if u know what its about .. good for u.. keep taking it to the floor
  20. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    then, isn't it dependant on religion? just a rethorical question...

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