Salsa > "How long have you been dancing?"

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by africana, Apr 16, 2006.

  1. africana

    africana New Member

    I think I heard this question twice last night, and I wasn't even dancing at this party. I get it all the time, usually before or after a compliment. But it sounds more like a backhanded compliment. Anyone think so too?
    I think it assures the asker somehow. but i sorta find it annoying because

    (1) some qualities are intrinsic to a dancer, regardless of time or money spent on dancing
    (2) those aspects of my dancing that prompt such a question are often not at all things that I learned or picked up in a salsa class
    (3) I actually feel like it further intimidates newcomers from wanting to learn how to dance, because they start thinking it takes decades (haha) to dance satisfactorily. And it also excuses them from trying hard enough

    I mean 5 years is a long time, but I've been getting asked this question for all of those 5 years. I think years mainly add confidence, not necessarily skill unless one really makes the efort not to fall into a rut

    I'd like to know this: what does it prove asking/knowing how long someone has been dancing?
    And go ahead, answer the question" "How long have you been dancing?" lol
    (how does it make you feel? hah)
  2. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    The proper answer to this question is, "Since seven o'clock".

    (Assuming you made it in time for the group class. :D )
  3. africana

    africana New Member

    oh i see who's the smart-aleck know :p
  4. It's Wonderful

    It's Wonderful New Member

    Personally, I never ask as I don't think it means a whole lot. You can see how talented and skilled they are, who cares how long (or short) it took them to get that way? Sure, I have more respect for someone who's been dancing longer (i.e. decades), but it's not something I need to know on the casual social floor.

    And I've been dancing some form of dance for 8 years now, focusing on partner dance for the past 1 1/2 years (-ish). Aside from feeling slightly disrespected when people see how little I've done in partner dance, it doesn't bother me or affect how advanced I consider myself. But then maybe that's just a healthy ego? :lol:
  5. amo_dile_que_no

    amo_dile_que_no New Member

    I've been salsa dancing for about 15 months now. Before that it was country and some swing. Of course it's all salsa, all the time now (smiley goes here). I've been asked the question several times. I think it's asked for a couple of reasons. Some people are new to salsa and they see someone who they think is good (of course it's all relative) and they are curious how long it took to get to that level. It is frustrating when you're first learning and what really turns us on to salsa, besides the great music, is the dancing. People are naturally anxious to look and feel like they belong on the floor. I think it is a compliment and it's sincere.

    I think the other reason, that as fellow travelers on this road, we are just curious as to how long others have felt the passion that we feel for salsa. I think it is more out of a feeling of camaraderie. It's interesting to find sometimes that people we think must have been doing this forever have only been dancing to salsa for a few years. I remember the first time I saw my instructor at a dance, I was just blown away watching her. I thought this latina must have grown up dancing salsa. It turns out that she is actually of Czech descent and at the time had only been salsa dancing about 3 years. So I think it is human nature to wonder long you have been _____ (insert your passion here). It's just a way expressing our shared interests.

    I suppose, someone could use that as a put down. I have never experienced it, or maybe I was just to oblivious to notice. Lord knows there is a lot of pettiness and jealousy out there. I have read other's observations in this forum citing this unfortunate aspect of the salsa scene (or once again, is it just human nature). I've seen the same thing during my short time as a salsero. I'm not much interested in any kind of competition, I'm just interested in dancing. I have been having a fabulous time salsa dancing these last 15 months and can't wait until I start getting better.
  6. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Just trying to keep up my reputation. ;)
  7. icering

    icering New Member

    4 days...I working hard though.
  8. thespina13

    thespina13 New Member

    Less than a year. Or somewhere very close to it.

    I used to ask the question a LOT, because of what amo referred to. I was anxious to know the timeline I could expect for myself... I wanted to know that my suckitude was finite.

    Currently the question doesn't bother me, because I'm at a state right now where I know I could go much further, so the "about 11 months" thing accurately depicts my newness and humility. On the other hand, it also allows me a brief moment of personal gloating when a more advanced dancer asks me, and raises their eyebrows at me in surprise. Tee hee. I also like to be able to tell the girls that are just starting out the answer to their question, because I can see that same desperation in their faces that I had 11 months ago. Sometimes I can't believe I'm on the other side of that desperation now.

    At any rate, to get back on track, I think around here, the question is sincere. It might be different in other cities if there is a competitive atmosphere between dancers, however.
  9. PasoDancer

    PasoDancer New Member

    Nine months. Nine of the happiest months of my life. I'd trade very, very few things for these nine months. To think some people waste nine months on human gestation (kidding, don't shoot).

    I have always been a terrible athlete. People of all ages made fun of the way I played sports, ran, swam, or even LOOKED while "being athletic".

    Last week, when a lady who's been taking lessons about a month came up and lavisly complimented us on our dancing with all the hushed awe of someone meeting someone famous(literally- she had that starry-eyed, adoring look that made me feel like a really huge impostress), I went home and cried. All I could remember was people laughing out loud and ridiculing me for announcing that I'd started taking ballroom lessons. My face turned beet red, and I stammered my embarassed, humbled thanks to her, but I felt like a huge impostor. I was, afterall, "a dork"- and how could dorks enjoy and excel at ballroom dancing? I can't let myself think that I'm doing well, because if I accept that, then, when someone comes along and says that I'm doing poorly, it'll just knock my lincoln-log studio to pieces. I don't know what to think. I know that I'm having the best time in the world, and that matters far more than being good at it, and that I pale in comparison with countless others at the same studio, but wow- to have... someone look UP to ... ME... for something.... that's... well, that's scary.

    I just hope that it always stays this meaningful and this much fun, and that I never "forget" what it's like to be like this. I've lost over 75 pounds just by dancing nightly and changing my appetite, and now I'm not scared to spin or dip, or solo-turn for fear that I'll teeter off-balance and hurt myself or others... but I still feel like a "big person" (by ballroom dancer and Cosmo standards, I still am, but I'll take any improvement I can get happily), and I still carry all of the associated mental baggage with that, therefore lavish compliments really floor me. I'm scared to admit that I've improved any little bit, because then it might sound like I'm braggy. I'm just having a strangely hard time coming to terms with and accepting that finally, I'm happy, and I'm not so bad at being happy.
  10. Shooshoo

    Shooshoo New Member

    I think people ask it as a point to know when they could reach a certain level, but the point is that not all people reach that level.
    I used to think about this question until I've started to enjoy the dancing and not be frustrated that I can't dance and follow properly. I would say the first six months were just hell. Now I just try to enjoy it and make the best of it and I trust that I will get better with time.
  11. Shooshoo

    Shooshoo New Member

    But sometimes I wonder to those people who have been dancing for more than 5 years, do you get bored of it? Since I've been dancing for a little more than a year, I'm still enjoying it alot.

    (but I've played basketball for 13 years and not working out for 4 years, so I guess you don't get bored of it)
  12. Twilight_Elena

    Twilight_Elena Well-Known Member

    I know exactly what you mean, Paso. I was a dork all my life, and now I'm 3 months away from being a teacher and I still can't get used to people coming up to me and saying "Wow, you're so good!" I don't think I ever will. And heck, I don't wanna.

  13. amo_dile_que_no

    amo_dile_que_no New Member

    PasoDancer, I think many of us feel or have felt the same way. My whole life I have had difficulty accepting compliments. It just always embarassed me for some reason. I felt self-conscious and awkward. I didn't know what to say. But you don't have to say much. A simple, "Thank you. You're so kind." does the trick. I'm not completely cured yet. But I'm much better at it than I used to be. What made the difference for me was when I realized that by minimizing the giver's compliment I was rejecting their gift (the best kind, a free one). I was being impolite to them, rather than humble. As I said I'm still working on it, I occasionally suggest to some one who has the said they think I dance well that they may have had too much to drink (good naturedly of course). But I usually regret it even so.

    So enjoy the compliments in the spirit given and just think of it as one more way that dancing makes you feel great!
  14. BugBear

    BugBear New Member

    I even remember the exact day of my first lesson. March 2nd 2005. I remember it cos it is the day after my birthday. :) I had to make a decision that day - to buy myself a new T-shirt or to pay for the salsa lessons. To tell you to the trth I had cuompletely forgotten about that T-shirt until now :)
    I don't think that when people ask "How long have you been dancing" they do it with something bad in mind. I think it is more out of curiosity.
    As for the part of looking up to someone... A while ago one of the not so experienced ladies came up to me and asked me for a dance. When I held her hands for the first few steps I could feel that she was trembling. I felt really odd - it was like she was afraid of me. I'm so glad that by the end of the song I got her to calm down.
  15. saludas

    saludas New Member

    'Dance is a journey not a destination'....
  16. amo_dile_que_no

    amo_dile_que_no New Member

    Si, si!
  17. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Well, I've been dancing salsa for about 5 years and teaching for 1, and I finally decided that I do get bored of dancing with beginners... but there are still plenty of people I can dance with for pure pleasure - generally regular partners who I know well physically, I may have running (dance) jokes with them, or it might be just that they are at a level of confidence where they don't need a constant lead and support.

    It sounds like a terrible thing to say, and It's a U-turn on my attitude of the first 4 years of my dancing... maybe I'm just going through a low patch with the salsa thing.
  18. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    afri, I would take it as a compliment and no more (don't read too much into things!). Even if it's meant as something else, who cares?

    I think a lot of people ask to give themselves a goal to shoot for. Which may or may not be accurate for them, but it still gives them a ballpark. I mean, isn't it one of the first things that comes to mind when you see great dancers--"I wonder how long they've been dancing...?"
  19. alemana

    alemana New Member

    paso, loved your post. the truth is, the most engaging dancers to watch at ANY LEVEL are the ones enjoying what they do, visibly enjoying it. i will happily watch an engaged, excited beginner dancer with much more interest than a bored or disengaged nonbeginner.

    so clearly your joy is contagious.... congratulations. i hope you can remember this feeling and keep it with you.. i know i have to remind myself frequently to do that, because i can get very distracted and depressed by technique challenges.

    about the question itself - i am asked it more and more lately. i also think about it a lot myself, because the women in my little private styling class have all been dancing for differing lengths of time with VERY LITTLE correlation to their current ability level.

    when i was a beginner i asked that question totally out of SELF INTEREST - nothing to do with the person i was asking. i wanted to understand how long i may theoretically have to work before, as thespina put it, i could decrease my own massive suckitude.

    now that i'm not a beginner, i ask that question of people more advanced than me as a way of reminding myself that many of my 'idols' have been dancing two or three or four times as long as i have - so i should just chill out about my progress and recognize that i have a long way to go.

    when beginners ask *me* that question, then (inevitably) respond with disbelief, i am very honored and i always turn the discussion as quickly as i can back to them, asking them how long they have been dancing and reassuring them that they will be 'good' in no time.
  20. africana

    africana New Member

    yes yes! that's what I mean by intrinsic qualities, like personality or passionate expression, that aren't learned in a class

    I can just see the instructor going "ok class we are going to interprete this particular song as follows: step forward on the 1, hop around like a wasp-bitten bunny on counts 2, 3 and 4, slide back on the 5, and twirly around 180 deg like a drunken ballerina on 6, 7 and 8. that's it! Now we are feeling this song" :lol:

    Ok I exaggerate. But that's an example of silliness, goofiness and randomness that could come out when dancing, and that maybe others enjoy because it shows joy in the music/movement. It's may be fueled by dance experience and steps but it's just spontaneous fun

    the truth is most dancers will plateau in skill within 2-3 years. After that most people mainly dance for the enjoyment of the benefits (like moving to the music, getting chicks, excersice, etc), or they loose interest and quit.
    Also if within those few years certain qualities aren't present, they might well never be, because it's just not in their personality

    I tend to ask people where or how they learned to dance, seems more informational to know what influences them

    Anyway good comments guys, and paso I enjoyed reading your reply :)
    I guess the question feels good the first few years but just gets old sooner or later at least imo.

    My constant response to compliments or comments on my style is some like "I can't help myself, isn't this music just awesome?? you can't help but feel it!!", and I sincerely mean that. it redirects attention to the reason why I keep dancing with such passion: the music, and gets them to think about dancing to the music too

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