Salsa > Learning To Dance Salsa

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by IsaacAltman, Sep 29, 2003.

  1. IsaacAltman

    IsaacAltman Member

    The question of learning to dance Salsa and where should I go to learn, comes up a lot. So I thought I would address this. Certainly, beginners need to learn the basics. They need to learn the basics from an International Governing Body that has a uniform syllabus. The IGB should be recognized by other National and World bodies. Why is this important? The beginner will know that not only will the patterns be done all over the world but there will be some proven method of lead, follow, breakdown of steps, etc. that will give the beginner a chance to be able to dance with any partner and be able to lead or follow the basics. With so many unqualified so-called instructors out there, it is also important that the beginner seek out teachers who have been certified by some recognizable governing body in order to know that the teacher had to study and pass some sort of examination to be called a professional. Although this alone does not make the teacher competent, it does show that there was some minimum requirement met just like most other occupations are required to do. Just because you pass the Bar Examination, it does not make you a "good" lawyer. Once the student has spend time perfecting the basic standardized skills then choosing different styles and steps other than a standardization can be introduced as a supplement to their basic foundation.
  2. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    This is a wonderful idea and would eventually be very beneficial to the professional salsa community. To the social world it wouldn’t really make any impact. We all see, that dancers all have their philosophies and or ways of dancing, while the basic foot positioning, hand placement, lead generation, following technique should be the same, body positioning isn't by any means the same given the chosen dance venue, or person. I agree that there should be Standardize basics requirements for both syllabus as well as instructor requirements, so dancing salsa with anyone is as easy as speaking the same language even if a few details differ, but its application in the social world… This can only mean more politics to a world that can very well do with out the few it has.

    If I were to go to a Ballroom instructor to learn to dance in a social atmosphere, I already would be a step behind. The same applies if I went to social instructor to learn and eventually go into ballroom dancing.

    While all social instructors eventually come close to teaching the same, the dancing isn’t the same and the philosophies aren’t the same. And no matter how we all try to only teach technique, our students are all going to end up with the same philosophical ideas of how something should be done. At the same time why spend time following a syllabus and or other universal rules, when the average dancer could care less if he is toe-in or toe-out, his lead coming from his torso or his hands. Even less, he will dance about 99% of the time with local dancers. Social dancing is about being unique and more so enjoying the dance with out any care in the world of being anywhere near perfect. How can a professional instructor teach a student to just be when his world calls for perfection? The same as, how can a social instructor ask perfection from a student when he himself doesn’t care and even less isn’t prefect himself. And literally, a great deal of students only care to do a few spins, the basic, and be out there dancing. Remember that the regular social dancer Egotistically wants to be out there as soon as they can. Yes, there is a lot of need for better technique amongst social dancers, but in a world where everyone is different, everyone has their own way of enjoying music, there is no room for the same moves/rules/ nor syllabus, a fight for equality would only lead to separation. This is what makes the “imperfection” of social dancing a perfect mix. Lets remember that perfection, and qualified instructors are dependent on venue. Which says means are dependant on result.

    Right now, all social dance instructors teach the basic, x-body, philosophical placement of body position, a few local moves and some universal, when to be stronger on a lead and not weaker, how to be an ok follower and so on. Really, any strong leader or followers, can lead/follow just about every social move out there. No need for repertoire equality. Yes, the social student might be a step behind, if so he desires to continue his dancing to the next level, but the fact is that, many of us will never head that way. We can all dance with each other, while not to perfection…

    While, in my opinion, this idea wouldn’t be as helpful to the social world, I can see the tremendous help it could give to the professional world.
  3. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Disclaimer: I am not a salsa dancer, per se. I'm an all-around, lots of dances dancer, who does some salsa.

    That said, here's what I think about the two posts above. Both have some good points, depending on what my goals are.

    If I want to learn Mambo and one day enter a ballroom competition, I think the best way to go is with a formalized, sanctioned syllabus and a good ballroom teacher.

    If, on the other hand, I want to have a blast at the Samba Room Saturday night, I'd better be prepared to throw away most, if not all, of that ballroom stuff, and do some club salsa. Two related, but totally different types of dancing, and other than a few basics that boriken mentioned, the two don't readily translate one to one another.

    Still, I think that good quality dance training, no matter what the training, helps in good dancing, no matter what the dance. Things like posture, ability to spin or spot, body isolations and contractions, control, balance, and lots more things are skills that you can easily transfer from one dance to another. So dance training, in my mind, is all good. You CAN take that with you. Just leave the ballroom styling in the ballroom, if you want to do club salsa. And leave a lot of your club stuff behind, if you want to succeed in competitive ballroom dancing.

    Just my two cents worth. :) *shrug*
  4. joaoluissantos

    joaoluissantos New Member

    Hi, Everybody!

    I don't agree with any attempt of standartization of Salsa. The diversity of styles and movements in salsa is one of the things that make this dance so rich. Even in the way to lead you can find differences from teacher to teacher and I don't see a problem with that.

    For me salsa is about feelings, what you feel is what you dance, if we create a "correct way of dancing salsa" we are constraining our feelings and the evolution of salsa.

    I think that the idea of making a standard salsa has a lot to do with what was done with ballroom, but I don't see any advantage on that. Ballroom is Ballroom and Salsa is Salsa. For me, doing with salsa what was done with ballroom doesn't make sense and it's not needed.

    Diversity in salsa is positive and one of the things that you have in salsa that you don't have in other dances is space to create your own way of dancing it (or at least it's easier to do that).

    If we had 'rules' since from the beggining would salsa be so rich as it is today? With so many different styles and ways to dance it? Even in one specific style it's amazing the differences from couple to couple.

    It was said that some teachers don't have the skills to teach. That's truth, but I don't see it as a big problem because I don't believe it happens too much and when it happens I think people realize very fast if their theacher is a good teacher or not. Besides, I don't think that because of that that we should have 'bar examinations' in salsa.

    For me salsa is like walking, you just need someone that helps you to put you on your feet (and sometimes you don't need that)...the way you walk is up with you.

    João Santos
  5. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    I agree whole heartedly with João. Salsa is such a personal expression for me. As far as social dancing goes I see no reason to standardize it. I think it would lose some of its 'soul' if that happened.
  6. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Can I just say that I absolutely loved what you said!!!! :D
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    No offense intended and much respect to all you salseros and salseras out there! 8)

    I don't want to make any assumptions about you, so here's a question. Has any of you really tried ballroom-style dance, mambo or otherwise? Or checked out the moves on some of the American rhythm top-level compettitors? Check it out.

    I'm the first one to admit that the ballroom world can be a little white-bread and stuffy for my taste. But there's beauty, personal freedom, styling, technical excellence there. Sure, it's regimented, perhaps too regimented. But there's beauty there too.

    Ballroom and club dancing are two completely different animals. And to superimpose one on the other is ineffective and unnecessary.

    But both worlds have their value, and within their own context, excellence, freedom and beauty. Check it out. :D
  8. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Indeed the both have their beaty... It would be like comparing JLO, Janet Jackson, Haley Barry, and Carmen Electra. They are all atractive women, but each one of us will chose one over the other, just because of difference in taste. And while we might think they are all beautiful, there is no way that the one you chose, will be better looking that the one I chose according to my tastes... So, I've began to not compare, but couldn't help but to say, guys loosen up when you dance watching ballroom Latin competition on TV. I think of dancing latin ballroom like watching a wild animal in a zoo. While still beautiful and breath-taking to watch, their aura is never the same as when you see the animal out in the wild. Just opinion, to others is probably the other way around..
  9. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    That is a beautiful analogy, boriken! :D
  10. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    I second that! Awesome analogy :)
  11. brujo

    brujo New Member

    In cuban salsa, the woman keeps time with her steps so the man can improvise. In NY/LA, the man is responsible of dictating timing. In cuban salsa, contact points are hands, shoulders, back, stomach, knees and feet, any of these can be used to take inpulse. Cuban salsa is danced to a clockwise direction, NY/LA style is danced in a slotted manner similar to West Coast Swing. ( you can check out cuban salsa clips at Salsaville )

    A camel is a horse designed by a comittee. How can we guarantee that salsa, that is danced differently in Miami, LA and NY and Puerto Rico alone, can be homogeneous across the entire world?

    Detractors of Eddie Torres claim that he removed a great deal of Afro-Cuban styling and motions from salsa. To a smooth Afro-Cuban dancer, the intricate style of NY salsa + shines looks likes frankenstein showing off his ability to spin in circles. To a NY salsa dancer, the intricate hand combinations of Cuban salsa can be seen as painful pretzels.

    I love salsa. I love the way a song can be interpreted by the body in so many different ways by different people. It is my opinion that a beginner should flourish wherever they are planted. If you are in Miami, learn your Casino moves. If you move to LA, learn to dance LA style. And if you have a chance, travel and see how it is done everywhere else.

    I love adding tango footwork into my salsa, I like trying to sneak in a lindy circle here and there and see if anyone notices. If standarizing salsa means stripping the dance of all creativity and poetry, please leave me out of it.
  12. salsarhythms

    salsarhythms New Member

    I've never really made a blunt statement on this forum

    Probably won't do it again.

    But here goes:

    Standardizing salsa is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

    Yeah I know, you can argue all day with me about the "benefits"
    of standaridaztion and all that, but the bottom line is, that for me,
    Fernando Cruz, this would be a bad idea...

    Of course, my opinion is just that, mine. But man, if that was to
    ever happen (which I doubt it will) it will completely kill the life
    that it has.

    Salsa has become what it is because of it NOT being standardized.

    If you dance with someone that is not dancing your "style" then
    for crying out loud, adjust yourself!! It's not like it's rocket science!

    If you don't know how to adjust, then expose yourself to other
    styles or learn to improvise. Why in the world would we need
    a syllabus? I certainly don't want to lose that flavor, that spice,
    that "salsa" to a bunch of standard moves that must be done...

    Seriously, that just sucks!

    Salsa must be kept alive because of it's natural evolution and changing
    and its interpretation by the individual dancer, not some governing body
    that decides it...

    Yeah, I'm a bit tired of arguing which style is better than the other
    but you know what...I'd rather have that then the alternative that
    is being proposed.
  13. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Personally I was letting this thread "die"...which, to my mind, is where it belongs. But, as long as it is back, I have only one thing to say to you Fernando... AMEN!
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yup. I was letting it die, too. Too bad it didn't. :cry:
  15. IsaacAltman

    IsaacAltman Member

    Off Base

    When we talk about our passion, most of the time our logic is filled with emotions. Music is a good analogy of what I am talking about. Is learning to play piano (scales, etc.) via a standardization killing the art of piano playing? Of course not. Millions of kids and adults learn via a standard method, not just banging on the piano keys or watching someone else. Has this standardization killed the gifted self taught piano player? Not at all. Most of us just can't pick up a musical instrument and be self taught to the point we can play somewhat proficiently. Most people can't just watch or hear Salsa music and start dancing comfortably. I have a school full of cubans and latinos who can't hear the beat of Salsa music. Standardization of education never deterred or replaced the free thinking Genius. All it did was provide a way to have the masses educated. The analogies I read prior to this post sound good but are based on false premises.

    Ballroom dancing died many years ago. What revived it and kept it going over so many years was the Standardization by governing bodies and dance studios. When I started teaching in 1972 I taught Mambo (as well as other dances), but Mambo was not a mainstay in the clubs or general community. It was in the studios. The studios, kept it alive through standartization. Did this standardization ruin its popularity, or change the hard core self taught Mambo dancers? Of course not. The lack of new Mambo music killed the Mambo. As long as new Salsa music is produced then Salsa dancing will be on the front burner. Once that starts to subside and be replaced by something else (which is inevitable) it will again be the Standardization of NGB's like the WSF that will keep it alive and well until its second revival. You don't have far to look for your examples.(Swing and Hustle.)
  16. brujo

    brujo New Member

    The topic has come up before and has been discussed eloquently in toSalsa.

    You're not going to convince anyone that salsa needs standards. If you have a curriculum that works well for your school or your area, leave it at that, don't try to force it on the rest of the world. Please let this topic die.
  17. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    There is NOT one style of salsa.

    Even the basic step and basic turn are different between New York and LA Style.
  18. brujo

    brujo New Member

    Don't follow. How? I thought it was just the timing that was different. i.e. NY you step with your right forward on 5 ( or back with left on 1 ), on LA you step forward with the left on 1. How can the basic steps be different if it is both based on the son????
  19. IsaacAltman, I get the impression that you can't wait until salsa dies, so that it can be standardized and rescued by an organization such as the WSF.

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