Salsa > In defence of patterns

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by don_svendo, Jun 12, 2004.

  1. don_svendo

    don_svendo New Member

    I've noticed that the term "pattern dancers" pops up in the forum every now and then. The term is usually pronounced with a certain amount of contempt, and seems to be used mainly to describe particularly unimaginative and untalented dancers, the unstated assumption being that "real dancers don't need patterns". (OK, I'm exaggerating a bit to provoke discussion. Of course, this is not meant as a personal attack on any of the forums posters!) Being a beginning leader, I must say that I find this attitude somewhat puzzling, and, to be honest, a bit snobbish (once again, this is not meant as an attack on any of the forum members). I just can't see how it would be possible to dance salsa without learning patterns, at least for leaders! Also, my guess is that most people that are labeled as "pattern dancers" are simply beginners. Please don't be too harsh with us! :(

    I like to think about patterns as "tried and tested things that work very well", a bit like standard harmonic progressions in music. After all, some moves just fit together very nicely, sometimes to the extent where a moves almost forces you to make a certain following move! I'm rather analytical-minded, so when learning a new pattern I try to pick out the individual ideas, but having the context of a pattern makes learning a lot easier. From this starting point, I might try to think of variations of the pattern, or use some of the ideas in other combinations, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I'll gladly use the patterns taught in class just as they are. After all, they work very well.

    So, pattern-haters and other dancers on the forum: what is the alternative to "pattern dancing"? How do you learn it? (Please don't answer "just dance a lot". Try to analyze your learning process in some more detail.) Is there anyone who claims not to use patterns??? In that case, please describe what you mean by "pattern". Is the forward basic a pattern? A cross-body lead? How about cross-body lead with hand-position xx while turning the the lady in direction yy, followed by some turn or untangling of the arms?

    This should be fun... :)
  2. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    Dancing consists of several elements, patterns, lead/follow/frame, musicality, improvisation/playfullness, body controll and possibly several more dependant on how you want to break it down.

    If you take away some of these elements the dance breaks down in more or less serious ways. Using myself as an example (I'm a lindy hopper btw), improvisation/playfulness has always been my weakest point. However, as a beginner I learned several patterns on my own, outside class, so I was a bit ahead in that department. I was also a decent lead and had musicality. For me that ment that I could combine the patterns to fit the music and execute them in a decent way. Very nice for beginner girls, not that exciting for experienced followers. Having this as a basis gave me confidence, and today I am able to break away from the patterns much more and improvise stuff.

    When people are giving the advice 'dance a lot', it's really very good advice. It's the best advice. Because with dancing comes confidence. And just as important, you learn something that is not declarative knowledge but procedural knowledge. That is knowledge you can't consciously access and describe, and that is understanding of how the music is put together and body controll/awareness and easy of movement. With this knowledge you can forsee what the music is going to do, and you can use your body to play around with it. What you can do, aside from dancing with others, is dance on your own at home, listen to a lot of dance music and learn solo routines. The latter to have a larger set of movement knowledge in your body.

    As far as I know, dancing, listening and time is the only way to learn this.
  3. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    I forget. Improvisation is not only about breaking away from the patterns. There can be improvisation withing the patterns too, in that certain parts can be slowed down or sped up, you can vary the amount of tension and you can prolonge/shorten the patterns to more or less beats than originally.

    I am a lead, not a follower. But I expect that the people who are labelede 'pattern dancers' are the dancers who lack both musiclaity and improvisation. That is just executes patterns without fitting them to the music in any way. I can't speak for Salsa music, when it comes to swing there are clear segments in the music. Some combinations of patterns fits much better with these segments than other combinations.
  4. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Heya don_svendo, thanks for bringing this up. I can’t speak for anyone else, but your definition…
    …does not match my use or meaning of a “pattern dancer.” Yes, I do use the term with a measure of contempt, but not at all for the reasons you describe…and I also agree that we all use patterns. Rather than refuting your definition though, let me just tell you what I mean when I say “pattern dancer” (especially since, if I recall correctly, I was the first one to use that term here on the DF).

    To me a pattern dancer is someone who gets so caught up in leading pattern after pattern that they neglect their partner. It doesn’t seem to matter if the next pattern in their “arsenal” is above the ability level of their partner; they try and force it anyway. So what if she can’t spin 8 times? That’s what the pattern is so, by G-d, that’s what they insist on leading. There are many pattern dancers whose ability and talent I am downright envious of…its just there mentality that bothers me, the prioritizing of the pattern over the partner. This is why "dance a lot" is actually pertinent advice -- although I agree with you that there's more to it than that. Dancing a lot, presumabely with a variety of partners, ideally helps teach you how to lead the people you are dancing with. Yes, you do lead them through patterns, but the key is to be leading them and not just the pattern.

    I actually have a lot more that I’d like to say on this but I’m falling asleep at the keyboard… :oops: I do hope, however, that this has helped clarify, at least in part.
  5. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    I think the term "pattern dancers" is actually used to describe experienced leaders who think they are good because they know lots of patterns but are actually missing two key points of salsa dancing: dance to the music, and lead the partner, not patterns.

    If the leader goes through the same set of (albeit impressive and difficult) patterns whether the song being played is "Descarga de la Luz" or "No Me Acostumbro", I'd call him a pattern dancer. If the leader always has to spin the partner 10 times followed by a dramatic dip whether or not she is comfortable with it, he's a pattern dancer.

    Yes, you are right that patterns are valuable learning tools for leaders. It would be very difficult to teach or learn salsa without them. But patterns are the means, not the end. They are not what salsa dancing is about. Salsa dancing, to me, is about musicality and connection: expressing the emotion of the song with the partner. It means every time you dance to a different song with a different partner, it is a new experience, a new journey of discovery.

    Yes, it's difficult for beginners to break away from patterns, and musicality is something you can only learn through experience -- you need to know enough moves first in order to be able to begin improvising, and you need to listen to lots of salsa music in order to develop the ability to respond to different moods of songs being played. However, I don't believe you need be a pattern dancer just because you are a beginner. You may only know a limited number of patterns, but you can do so much with them -- add cheeky shimmies, body waves and quick turns to your basic to play with funky songs, or have a smooth, close dance to sensual mid-tempo songs. Look at your partner, feel and respond to the way she moves, and enjoy the 3 minutes of the dance with her.

    As others have said, "just dance a lot" is good advice. By dancing a lot, you are exposed to a wide range of salsa songs, which helps you develop musicality, the ability to play with the music. You also learn to appreciate that every follower is different and develop ways to respond to that difference. The more dance experience you have, the easier it becomes to break away from taught patterns and focus more on the music and your partner.
  6. don_svendo

    don_svendo New Member

    Nice reply! Yeah, I agree; this is actually rather close to how I understood the expression as well. As I said, I exaggerated a bit in my first message. :wink:

    The reason for writing this was that some posts/threads on this forum had almost given me the impression that people here considered patterns to be a bad thing in themselves, which seemed absurd!

    Also, I must admit that I feared that I may myself be considered a "pattern dancer" since I sometimes feel that my dancing becomes, well, a bit repetetive. I'm also not that good at adjusting my dancing style to the music. :oops:

    Of course! I just wanted to force people to think a bit and give some more details. (I really liked your comments on different ways of varying patterns, for instance!) I think that it's probably easier to improve if you consciously focus on something rather than "just dance". Just a thought.

    This is definitely true for salsa music as well.
  7. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Pattern dancer? Just as others have said, to me such a dancer is one who just does moves governed by the 8 beat basic that they can recognize in the music. No musicality, responding to the music by dancing any differently, not paying attention to the partner whom you are dancing with... I feel it can apply to a person of any level, from beginner to advanced.

    One thing common with many dancers is that you know what moves to expect. If a leader does one move you know for sure what the next move will be. Quite often when certain moves are done you can expect a couple moves to follow that. However, if you can always expect the same from a person then it is just patterns, or sequences of moves being executed. It is not really dancing. I probably am guilty of this too, but still it isn't dancing.
  8. don_svendo

    don_svendo New Member

    OK. I'm glad to see that this is the intended meaning of the term, SDsalsaguy! (You should know, if you invented it... :wink: )
    Yeah, you may call those people whatever you want; they deserve it... :twisted:

    Amen to that, MacMoto! This is what I wanted to hear. :)
  9. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    I agree 100% with SD and MacMoto! Great breakdown.
  10. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    I agree with Youngsta, MacMoto and SD :lol:

    There is another question, which may or may not have been discussed in other threads, but the question is this: Who is 'responsible' for the pattern dancers? Is it the teachers, because they may not be giving the students tips on how to listen to the music/stressing that the pattern is a concept, a recipe and you ARE allowed to mix and match.

    Or, is it the students who, for whatever reason (and it could be linked to confidence) do not try and mix the patterns and/or listen to the music.

    As I have said before, there are times when you see certain dancers dancing 100 miles an hour IRRESPECTIVE of the song. I will use some non salsa songs to try and illustrate, as you said you are a beginner. It is like dancing to a Barry White/Lionel Richie song the same way and speed as you would to a song by Madonna or a rock band (goodness gracious me!! :shock: :lol: )
  11. don_svendo

    don_svendo New Member

    A bit of both, I suppose, but the teachers definitely need to give some tips about this. Incidentally, I've heard that there are dance courses around here that specifically focus on these aspects (not salsa, though). These courses are for the advanced dancers though, which sounds wrong if you ask me.
    Well, I actually listen more to salsa than pop music, but I understand your comparison quite clearly! :)
  12. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    Okay, I will speak in 'salsa' then :lol: it is like dancing to La India, Marc Anthony, Jerry Rivera the same way as you would to say Tito Puente/Celia Cruz, DLG, Spanish Harlem Orchestra etc :D
  13. don_svendo

    don_svendo New Member

    I'm not sure if I agree with this. Variation is probably better, but calling it "not really dancing" sounds a bit harsh. If the sequence is fairly short and used in harmony with the music and your partner's abilities, wouldn't this be OK?
  14. don_svendo

    don_svendo New Member

    *Shudder* :shock: :lol:
  15. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    :lol: Hence the term, usage and one of the definitions of 'Pattern Dancer' :wink:
  16. Pacion

    Pacion New Member

    Salsa & Sex

    In the above thread, on page 1 :wink: SD says:

    Pattern dancers don't listen/hear the music and therefore, variation in the music is not evident in their dancing and then that seduction/sensuality of which SD speaks :notworth: :wink: does not come through. :D
  17. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    If the sequence is short, and is done with harmony to the music, matches the partner's abilities, and both of you are enjoying it then sure...I don't see a problem with that. And if I'm dancing with a beginner I would probably expect to spend time repeating certain moves/sequences to familiarize the person to the moves to a certain extent.

    Talking of variation let's just take single left and right hand turns. How many ways are there of doing these and how many do you, or I, do? Add a cbl to that mix and as a beginner there are many ways of doing 3 moves, adding your personal flavor by the way your body moves.

    And speaking of responsibility. Everyone carries some responsibility. The teacher/coach/instructor to make the student aware that dancing is not just doing moves, but adding your personal style to these moves based on music and partner. The student to watch what others do and how a simple move done by different people can look almost like another move on the social dance floor, and to inculcate sabor into their dancing. Other dancers need to make each other aware about this. If a person starts talking to me about dancing and says oh you did that cool move and asks me to show it to them I say fine, but it's not the move that really matters....if a person is talking with me and starts saying that I'm this great long I've been dancing etc I bring up the idea that I'm a simple beginner. I'm still slowly incorporating a personal style and flavor into my dancing, being responsive to both partner and music.
  18. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Just to be clear I didn't invent the term, I just think I was the first one to introduce it to the DF. As I remember I was having a conversation about a particular dancer of this genre, out in one of the clubs, and one of the women I was with said, "yeah, he's a pattern dancer."

    As far as defining a "pattern dancer" the heart of the problem is prioritization. Prioritization of the "coolest new fancy double reverse hammerlock to reverse free spin dipty doo" over their partner, the music, the feeling, etc. It makes absolute sense to me that newer dancers have to spend much more time and energy paying attention to a pattern than do more advanced dancers but, presumably, the newer dancer is doing so in order to lead their partner.
  19. danceguy

    danceguy New Member

    Hey! I want to learn that move!!! :D 8) :lol:

    On a more serious note, as a beginner to club style Salsa I tend to run out of ideas rather first I had only a few moves that I could try out, most of which tended to be conprised of basic turns and simple patterns. Now I'm learning to do more of the same...but to let the music guide me to do it. Sometimes I just do the basic and move in circles...and now that I have a lot more moves at my disposal...I try things out...and see what works with a particular lady and what doesn't.

    One thing that has helped me is studying from many different teachers. Learn many different flavors...then use what you like and make it your own. It is very hard to break away from what little you know at first...but watch what the advanced people do...I've found many ways to add a little spice to basic turns and cross body lead. Don't be afraid to try things out if you've reached a good point of connection with your partner. If something doesn't work, don't force her to do something that you want her to do!

    Another piece of advice...don't use up everything you know right away. I tend to still do this a lot...but be patient...because if you use all that you know in the first minute of the song, you won't have anything left in reserve... :wink:


  20. Sabor

    Sabor New Member

    by all means .. one can do as many patterns as one wishes to their heart's content.. just do them to the music.. and put your flava into it.. otherwise one becomes nothing more than a non-rythmic dancing copy.. which has nothing to do with a dance of passion.. particularly salsa.. in my view.

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