Salsa > Other Dances: do you CARE?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by africana, Aug 21, 2006.

  1. africana

    africana New Member

    Actually after some more thought, it occurs to me that the contemporary partnering style in Salsa seems more strongly influenced by Swing and the Hustle than strictly ballroom style per se.
    This is in terms of the overly-repeated basic steps, the current pattern-dancing focus, as well as the discrete or single-movement practice, where people dance with mostly hand and feet, no detailed isolations. Even when the dancers look smooth (not bouncy), their movement can still look discretized (i.e. only one or two body parts moving at a time), they are usually repetitive (no creativity), and highly irresponsive to dynamic variables (namely, the music), like in popular Swing and Hustle, due to the focus on copying popular moves.
    Also these dances are "linear", they actually look good with their intended swing/jazz music. But Salsa should not be that way, should not look the same because the music is different, non-linear

    And with the excessive use of patterns everyone looks pretty much the same.
    This is why a lot of salsa is said to look "robotic", same thing over and over, with little nuance or on-the-fly creativity

    Yeah watching swing dancers do salsa, it often looks like they're simply using salsa music as a metronome for executing swing moves
  2. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    I do not know whom you have been watching-- but linear ?-- have you ever seen frankie manning dance swing ?--- apparently not. If you want to see unbridled musical interpretation and non linear movement , you need to watch the cream of the swing world . danced latin hustle and taught it for yrs-- again not all linear .e.coast swing if danced properly has fairly constant rotation-- so -- where are you getting your info. from ?
  3. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Depends on the genre of swing tangotime... just as an example, WCS is linear whereas Lindy is anything but! ;)
  4. africana

    africana New Member

    from "empirical" observation & practice :p
    I'll accept that "linear" is an incomplete phrasing of what I'm trying to convey, but in terms of the music structure for Swing, the accompanying movements AND translation to salsa music, it's in the ballpark

    Anyone else watch salsa dancers with a known swing background?
  5. aimerrouge

    aimerrouge New Member

    There's one guy in particular here in my city. He's a great salsa dancer and says swing really helped his salsa.
  6. africana

    africana New Member

    Ahh you just helped me figure out more of what I'm trying to say!
    I remember when learning the Lindy it was challenging because of the stepping on the "&"s, and irregular "basic" step, that type of syncopation. So yes in a sense it's not as linear as other swing, but the music focus for it is relatively linear compared to salsa music:
    by that I mean the layers of sound used to dance popular swing is a lot shallower than what should be used for salsa. Ragtime/Swing/Jazz is very complex music, but salsa adds even more complexity by introducing the afro-cuban percussive elements, adding more layers of sound for dancers to use: both obvious AND (importantly) subtle layers

    So having "flavor" in dance simply means using both the obvious and subtle layers of sound. Most western dances (including popular salsa styles) focus on the obvious layers of sound, probably because it's easier for the masses to pick up
  7. africana

    africana New Member

    precisely because they tend to directly translate their moves and style to Salsa. Does he have great body isolations, that afro-cuban feel?

    I'm not saying it's "bad", just that it's incomplete to dance salsa like swing. But that's what most teachers have taught us, that's what is seen as normal/good
  8. aimerrouge

    aimerrouge New Member

    He actually has taken African dance classes and it shows in his dancing. I don't know what his dancing would look like minus his African dance experience.
  9. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Just don't forget that Lindy is the original swing.

    I can't really speak to this as I'm not all that well inormed about swing music but, as I recall from Damon, part of what makes jazz jazz is that the music doesn't get played in the typically linear manner of european musical forms.

    Well, I guess that depends on one's viewpoint. The original jazz music, to which Lindy was first danced, has very strong African roots (and no less so than mambo).

    While I don't disagree with this, I think you might be surprised by the subtle layers that some ballroom dancers are aware of and react to.
  10. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Hmmm, the more I think about this, the more I think it really all comes down to what one prioritizes in their salsa dancing.

    Case in point: two excellent salseras I have danced with here in San Diego. One from a close-embrace AT background and one from a more African dance background.

    They're both excellent dancers. Where the afro-cuban flavor is obvious in the second, she also dances with very big arm and leg motions, sometimes in excess of what floor conditions really allow for. The other salsera, in contrast, doesn't exhibit the same flavor, but matches and follows even the most subtle of a leader's weight shifts seemingly without effort.

    Is one style objectively "better" than the other? No, certainly not. But that doesn't mean that I don't have my own preference. :wink:
  11. africana

    africana New Member

    Cool I hope Damon can comment on the music (jazz) versus how it's used in Swing. Salsa borrows from the already complex swing/jazz muscianship, and then adds more complexity, that's what I meant ;)

    I have no doubt the "original" Lindy dance & the use of Jazz was more complicated than the Swing I see today, it was shaped by the African-american experience before it got took over by giant McSwing

    Also bear in mind that the development of "black" music & dance in the US versus the rest of the African diaspora has a lot of differences due to factors like level of assimilation of the slaves (shaped by how much of their culture/dance/music/religion they were allowed to retain)

    I'm not saying there's no complexity in Swing/ballroom, merely saying that the forms used to popularize Salsa as it is, are inadequate wrt the afro-cuban music/dance
  12. africana

    africana New Member

    It's not either-or, competence in following has little to do with flavor and vice versa. In your example it just sounds like both dancers were lacking in being complete dancers ;)
  13. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    I hope so but, unfortunately, we haven't seen him around in quite some time. (username: d nice if you want to try looking up some of his old posts on the subject)
  14. africana

    africana New Member

    gracias! I'm interested in how it evolved to what we have today

    This article from dnice is great!
    Even the slot we love so much in salsa is a swing-thing...;)

    wish I could find a music-theorist's comparison of the different music types, and also analysis of how it is used in the dances (Swing/Hustle & Salsa)
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Did I say w.c.s. ?-- dont think so, and by the way, was dancing and teaching w.c. ( and balboa ) in l.a.probably before you were out of k.g.. -- Why oh why do people assume that one does not know related dances in a given genre and make assumptions ? . One should always phrase the q. you may or may not be aware . My answer was quite specific .And w.c. does have some rotation with whips etc. The word ALL excludes everything in my book .
  16. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    tangotime, what you did say is:

    All I was thus trying to point out is that this statement, while true, is not equally applicable to all genres of swing. "The cream of the swing world" (your words) does include WCS after all, now doesn't it? ;)

    Seriously though, I wasn't trying to pick a fight with you nor to imply that you didn't know the differences involved. Rather, what I had in mind, or in this case who, are the many, many people who read the forums and don't have the same exposure and background. As such, I thought it important to differentiate that the non-linearity you were referencing was not equally descriptive of all swing genres (for example, the whips, etc., in WCS that you reference as rotational are still executed within the larger framework of a slotted -- and hence linear -- orienting structure).
  17. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Point taken,-- however, by the level of inquiry and conversation ( particularly aimed at afr. statement ) my response was to that comment directly , on the other hand, I sometimes wonder from many of the assertions on all of the dance sites ,how many have the extensive knowledge, as they seem to display in the subjects they choose to debate . I always try to bring some level of accuracy to a given subject , based on many yrs of background , and if someone has a different take, will be willing listen to their hypothosis, providing it has merit . Still am learning from things that appear from time to time , and as always, when possible try to illuminate .
  18. africana

    africana New Member

    i hope i never get to the place where i have to constantly remind people of my age or "my time" in a bid to suppress counterargument and blackmail others into blind acceptance of my opinions

    Will also point out that IMO nothing is more close-minded or "insular" than blindly applying one style or philosophy of dance to every single genre with the arrogant assumption that it's simply the best approach. As someone said in another thread (Kiwi I believe) it's just disrespectful to those other dnace cultures

    anyway, moving on....
  19. africana

    africana New Member

    Preference vs. Comfort Zones

    SD I gave some thought to your comments on personal preference, and I agree that each person's approach to salsa (or any other dance) has to do with not just preference but also comfort zones - includes past dance experience, culture, music preference, and most importantly how society (the dominant influences in dance) have conditioned us

    This affects everything from how we dress, to who we would choose to dance with, and is constantly changing. For instance, in some salsa scenes, it used to be all about the ballet dancers, and then the ballrom-trained dancers, the everybody else. There's a hierarchy based on popular taste. Today, it's more fashionable to be afro/NYrican, at least on the west coast (evidenced by the increased popularity of on2 dancing). So preferences have changed, comfort zones seem to have changed too

    A more personal example of preference versus comfort zone: besides the fact that I could knock out 5 people at a time with my long arms LOL I have always been wary of ladies' arm styling because it looked too European ("too white"), too fake for me. So for a while I completely eliminated it from my dancing, it just felt awkward, ungainly and even attention-seeking.

    I later realized that's because most of the popular arm styling is taken from western dance forms (Flamenco, ballroom, swing , ballet) and are geared toward performance, being seen, and being big (I'm "big" enough thank you lol!) and a lot of it just needs to be adapted to look natural in a social setting

    Fortunately I've watched some very talented, flavorful and versatile salseras (Like Ana Masacote, Griselle Ponce, Amanda Estilo) who manage to make arm styling look "organic" rather than the stiff and showy styling I see alot.

    So it's been requiring stepping out of my comfort zone to assimilate the concept of arm styling, and make it look right for me. That's a journey...right now my strategy is trying not to force it....

    Another anecdocte: a few weeks ago, a firend of mine who is an accomplished swing & salsa dancer (ECS & WCS, on1, on2) both following and leading, was watching me practicing some guaguanco. I consider her a really smooth, advanced follower, but she admitted that she feels uncomfortable or shy about really getting into afrocuban dance, that it looks "fake" on her...the cultural/comfort zone issue again. So I'm sure that's a factor in her preference for how she dances, and what she chooses to learn

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