Salsa > Want a dance, not a lesson

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by dancedude314, Feb 16, 2007.

  1. dancedude314

    dancedude314 New Member

    Hi, dance forum, this is my first post. This recent episode at a club annoyed me so much, it prompted me to become a member to see what others thought.

    After having the pleasure of watching a lady dance very well, I asked her to dance. Now, I'm not the king of salsa or anything, but I've been taking group lessons (LA style) for almost a year, so I'm no klutz.

    After nothing more complicated than a turn and a CBL, she starts lecturing me on the "proper" way to turn and the "proper" way to do a CBL. As if that wasn't annoying enough, her directions seemed to contradict what my instructor has told me. For example, on the CBL, the lady at the club told me NOT to keep my right arm straight, and to use my right arm to execute it. This is completely backward from what I've learned. First of all, I've been told over and over to keep my right arm straight in order to prevent the lady from moving forward on the slow beat, and then to use my left arm to pull her forward as I step back. I couldn't resist saying to this lady, "that's not what my instructor told me"--a comment that she simply laughed off. When I turned her, she told me that, since she was a good dancer, I should let her do most of the turn on her own. (I was under the impression that I should make a circle motion over her head. When I did this, I felt a great deal of resistance in her arm throughout the whole motion.) She also claimed I moved my hips too much for a man (I generate hip movement from toe-heel steps).

    To make a long story short, she had so much instruction to give, I barely did anything but listen to her and do basics for the whole song. My instinct is that this was extremely rude on her part, but I was interested in what more experienced dancers had to say.

    I also wanted to know what people had to say about her comments, since, as annoying as she was, she may have had valuable information to give. The problem is, I don't know how to sort that information out, since, as I said, some of her comments contradicted those of my (highly qualified) instructor. For example, do I, as a man, have to worry about generating too much hip motion from toe-heel movements?
  2. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Hi, dancedude314! Welcome to DF!

    There are a lot threads on similar problems! Lots of us have had this experience and most of us hate it, too! It's especially tough, I think, at the kind of stage you are at, where you know some things but also know you have things to learn. So sometimes, it might be good advice, but being lectured on the dance floor is so unpleasant and so bad for confidence, the yuck factor of the experience far outweighs any possible benefit! All I can advise is not to ask her again. (If you search things like "teaching on the dance floor," you may find some of the other threads on this topic.)

    I do a lot more ballroom than salsa, so I'll let the experts weigh in on the specific advice you got. But as a follower, I will say that my favorite leads are not those who think in terms of "preventing" or making me do anything. A lead should be an invitation to move, but the movement in response is mine. IME, it's especially tricky to try to orchestrate a turn for a follower. Unless you are expert enough to be acutely aware of where her balance is at all times, any force you exert on her turn is more likely to pull or push her off balance than to help her. That's probably why you got some resistence; she may have felt nervous about being pulled off balance. It's very tough to learn to lead well in group classes and, unfortunately, sometimes you end up developing bad habits from leading ladies who don't know how to follow.
  3. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Hi dancedude!

    Two aspects, first: the particular technique. There are different schools of thought on how turns should be executed etc. Not everybody likes to dance with everybody, and there are many different preferred types of lead depending on the style and the level of the dancer. As you social dance, you will gel with some people and not with others. Even those whose follow doesn't quite work with your lead should be keen to dance with you some more in order to get to know one another physically.

    Second: the free advice. Lecturing is rude, and it sounds like she's talking crap anyway. Anyone who really was a good dancer would not have to tell you she was a good dancer. Of course, it's possible that your lead sucked, but we will overlook this for now :)

    If you have had all your classes with one instructor, maybe you should get to a couple of classes by others. Don't seek the "one true way" but just comply with each school's little details whilst at that school. This will give you a slightly wider picture as to what is out there and what works for you... you never know, you might suddenly recognize this woman's advice and be able to lead her easily from then on. But if I were you, I'd simply never ask her again, on personality grounds.
  4. quixotedlm

    quixotedlm New Member

    No doubt, instruction on the floor was inappropriate and rude.

    The specifics of what she seemed to have said might be valuable insight to learn. For a simple XBL with inside turn, it's possible lead the entire move with just your right arm leading her torso and not using left arm at all, or just using it for minimal guidance. Also, letting the follower do her own turns without providing any momentum to her (but merely augumenting her own balance) is how turns are generally done. 'You have too much hip motion' might be true, but that's not necessarily something you should care about now.

    The possibility of her being right on her teaching doesn't make it acceptable to teach on the floor. So go to another teacher and see what she thinks about your lead, but avoid asking her to dance just the same.
  5. Tanguera

    Tanguera New Member

    Welcome to DF Dancedude314! :)

    I perfectly agree with Quixotedlm. :)

    I think you are a true gentleman, maybe an other man would have laughed at her teaching on the dancefloor.

    Teaching on the dancefloor is really inappropriate, whatever being the dance.
  6. tj

    tj New Member

    Welcome to DF, dancedude!

    I agree with what the others said. Regardless of right/wrong, it's rude to give advice/lessons when it wasn't asked for.
  7. naturallove

    naturallove New Member


    Now, I will say (I'm a follower) that certain ones of my salsa buddies will let me know if I'm following something incorrectly to help me improve if we're dancing. Or if we're totally on the wrong beat, I'll give them the eye. But we've known each other for some time, and it's all in the spirit of fun. And we don't do it often. This woman did not know you and if she wants to tell you how to lead, guess what she should be doing? LEADING. If she had to tell you what a good dancer she was, she probably wasn't.

    The resistance in her arms seems to indicate a lot of backleading on her part--which is not good, IMO. I think she had her ideas about how much she should be turning herself and just went with that! One of my instructors talks about salsa being a conversation. You can either SHOUT AT A WOMAN TO TURN or be so casual about it that it's like 'you can turn if you want, whatever'. I think a good lead will come somewhere in the middle. It takes time to get to that place and dancing with and learning to adjust to different follows (and visa versa).

    As for a man moving his hips too much--I couldn't say without seeing you. I don't like when a man dances straight-legged, becuase the dance become uncomfortable and jerky for me. On the other hand, there is this guy on the scene that moves his hips waaaaay too much, but it does NOT come from his foot action. His hands also move like he's playing double dutch and I feel jerked and tossed around and hate dancing with him because of it.

    Lastly, I want to encourage you to keep learning and ignore folks who think they know everything. I have just started learning to lead and it's given me an immense respect for how tough it is on the other side. I thought I 'knew' how things should feel as a follower, but am having quite a tough time translating that into good leading. So while this particular follow might think she knows what to do, what we think is the 'correct' way may not be right at all.
  8. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Then welcome...anything to get another member of our community. ;-)

    I had a similar recent experience with cha cha cha. And after the fact I've now found out that this person actually knows less than I do!

    I say if she is lecturing, then dump her. That's what I did. I'm sorry, but if a lady does what she did to you I simply give them a choice to lead. If they decline I ask them to please try and follow however I lead and if that is not satisfactory we do not have to endure dancing until the end of the song.
  9. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    :notworth: Nice! :notworth:
  10. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Excuse me, I have to sit out now. Short phrase, easy to remember, great utility.
  11. englezul

    englezul New Member

    Buy one of those $5 pocket note pads, get a small pen too - small enough to fit in your pocket. A spacepen or something.

    Dance with her again, when she starts lecturing you say enthusiastically "All right!!! Free lesson, this is awesome!" take your pen and pad out and act like you're about to take notes. Owned.

    She'll get the message.
  12. dancedude314

    dancedude314 New Member

    Thank you all for your comments.

    As far as my turns go, I feel that I adjust my lead according to who I'm dancing with. With some followers, a slight hand motion is enough to execute a turn. But if the follower isn't responsive, I tend to compensate with a stronger lead. I suspect that the lady I danced with was used to leading her own turns. Thus, she may have a had a built-in notion of when and how to turn that conflicted with my own sense of the timing. Hence the resistance in her arm throughout the turn.

    Regarding the suggestion to visit other dance lesson venues: I'm a graduate student, and I'm already taking 6 hours of lessons a week at my school (2 salsa classes, a ballroom class, and a swing class, all with the same instructor). I can afford these lessons because of my status as a student, but to take lessons elsewhere would be a stretch on my budget, as well as my time. Of course, I also feel a large amount of loyalty to my instructor.
  13. Devil's Advocate

    Ditto on what everyone said about proper ettiquette. Putting ego aside, are you talking about a two hand CBL or in closed frame CBL?

    If it's a two hand hold and cross your right hand over your left on count 3 to keep her from going forward, that should be fine. I don't see anything wrong with that. It's not a lead for her to do anything. You just want to stop her on her track before you invite her over. The dominant message there is that you want her to stop from moving forward. But, 1% of the ladies will nitpick about that misleading her to turn.

    If you CBL is in closed dance frame, the straightness of your right arm would depending on your proximity to her. What's her problem.

    However, the way you phrased your statement about pulling her accross with your left hand raises questions with me. For the follower, it'll feel like you're pulling her down and off balance. Instead use the right arm to guide her across. I guess you could use the left arm but only towards the end of the CBL to get her to turn 180 degrees to face you. But with the body and arms position, that's not really necessary. She'll do that on her own. Know what I mean?

    As far as the turns are concern, she's shooting herself in the foot because she would not know if you want her to do a double turn or a single turn.

    I think you handled it well by just dancing the basic through the rest of the song. Who needs the stress. You're there to have fun not to be critized. Hope you didn't let that shoot down your confidence on your next dance with someone else.
  14. :uplaugh:
  15. When I first started at this studio, there was an instructor (a product of the 6 weeks training) that loves to correct you while you're dancing with her at a social -- be it your body position, your rise and fall, your hand position, your rotation or lack thereof, she'll backlead it while you're dancing with her. She's a very nice person and probably had good intentions, but it really bugged me. :evil: She'd miss my lead a lot of times because her attention is else where. So one time I just stopped and asked if she wants to lead because I don't mind learning to follow. She laughed it off and we finished the dance. But from then on, I'd try to avoid her.
  16. dancedude314

    dancedude314 New Member

    It's hard to exactly describe what I'm doing, since I'm used to doing it rather than saying it. In a two-hand CBL from open position, I actually pull a bit with my left arm at the beginning of the lead to bring her foot forward, but keep my right arm crossed over her body to keep her from moving forward on the slow beat. Now that I think of it, I do use my right arm to turn her around after this, with a small amount of guidance with my left.
  17. alemana

    alemana New Member

    Having been through all this:

    It's possible to disdain the breach of etiquette (which is what it is) and simultaneously try to learn from it.
  18. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    i'm rarely bothered by preachy sorts... everything seems like an opportunity to me, and i frequently ask for advice... am not trying to make every dancing experience the same, and i don't expect every dance partner to dance like everyone else... there are always idiocynracies. as the follower, i figure it's my job to kinda crawl under the skin of the guy and try to match him in order to make it work.

    if getting into him like that is repulsive, i avoid dancing with him. if i love the journey, he'll become a favorite partner of mine. if he thinks he's better than he is & has an arrogant edge & is not a gracious lead... i won't give him the time of day unless he's chasing me down.

    that pretty much sums it all up for me... the social aspect of dancing stays simple that way.
  19. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Welcome to DF dd314...

    (1) What a *****. If you don't already have a DND (do not dance) list, make one. Then write her name on the first page. On every line. I can never in my wildest dreams imagine telling a stranger that she moved her hips the wrong way. Ugh.

    (2) As far as keeping your right arm straight leading a closed CBL--don't. Don't know where your instructor is coming from. Maybe take a pic and let us see it or something. But yeah, pressure coming from your whole frame prevents her from moving forward too far, not a straight arm. [don't mistaken this to mean never straighten your arm... if you're reaching for her, fine, but don't use it in the way you described]

    (3) Two sides to the turn coin--she turns herself, for sure. But you should initiate the lead for it. You should circle your hand in a tight circle above the head, as you describe, with a bit of pressure.

    (4) Hips. Yes, you should move your hips. But, not like a lady. When you say you generate hip motion from "toe-heel" steps, I think you mean that you step on the ball of the foot, and the leg action causes your hip motion. Fine, but you don't want a LOT of hip motion as a man. (when you say "toe heel," I think you really mean "ball-flat", the more correct term used to describe the footwork--TH would mean your ankles are fully flexed, almost on your toes, and then you're lowering, as in step 3 of waltz, which I'm pretty sure you're not :wink: ).

    Bottom line: learn from people like this, but there's no rule that says you have to like her, dance with her, speak to her, or even look at her ever again.
  20. dancedude314

    dancedude314 New Member

    It was a two-handed CBL from open position. This is the one thing I'm very confident that I am doing correctly. My right arm isn't necessarily so straight as to lock the elbow, but it's certainly crossed in front of her body at the beginning.

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