Salsa > Why is Musicality So Hard/Rare to Find in Salsa?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by Big10, Jul 15, 2007.

  1. Sabor

    Sabor New Member

    can't read all that .. so this maybe repeated.. but from observation i noticed that most salsa dancers have just recently started dancing or just started by learning salsa.. so, absence of repertoire and experiences of other different dance styles coupled with arguably average talent would/may contribute to musicality deficiency..

    ofcourse, this is all hypothesis..
  2. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Originally Posted by Dancelf [​IMG]
    If you are asking about pre-planned versus choreography-on-the-fly, I'd say that no, you aren't mistaken; the dance is improvised. I can fly across the country, ask someone I've never met for a dance, lead some incredibly cheezy move that does everything exactly backwards, and the movement will be followed by a dancer completely unfamiliar with it.

    Improvised but built from a foundation of taught possibilities, I assume?"

    We all have some ability to "wing it", or improvise. Whether or not that ability is cultivated or stamped out depends on your environment.
    If you "make something up" on the spur of the moment, how will your partner react? Will it be labeled a mistake and will it elicit disapproving looks?
    If you and your partner are ok with things not working out all the time, you are on your way the being able to improvise.
    Never turned that way there before? Maybe it's a new variation. Do you have the presence of mind to pick an appropriate spot in the music to start dancing again if things have fallen apart?
    After taking Argentine Tango lessons for over two years, and having found the right teacher, I came to the conclusion that, if the follower concentrates on her axis, and other really basic things, and frees her mind to move in any direction at any time, she doesn't have to know a pattern to dance it if the leader can lead it.

    I haven't taken a WCS lesson in years, so I can't say for sure how it's being taught now a days. I do know that you can find the following at the web site of the Golden Stage Dance Teachers Association (GSDTA) the largest and longest running Dance Organization, when it comes to WEST COAST SWING.

    4. Musical Interpretation: important ingredient, even at Novice level.
    5. Both partners have the freedom to “play” as long as they do not interfere
    with their partner’s dance.
    6. Today’s definition includes: WCS is considered a 50/50 partnership dance.

    You can teach steps and patterns, or you can teach people that they can make up their own steps and patterns. Or, simply move to the music rather than step. Or not move at all if the music pauses.
    If you teach it, maybe they will learn.
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    What is WCS music?
    Just the thread for you to look at because it addresses not only "the original music", but how it has changed through time (although it's a fairly long thread).
    Bottom line is that there is no one kind of music that is West Coast Swing music.
  4. salsamale

    salsamale New Member

    Once, a very fun salsera asked me, "What are you doing?".

    My response, "I'm just fooling around."

    "Well stop fooling around, and do serious salsa moves."

    My response, "Ok." :)

    Thanks :).
  5. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Why didnt you tell her , that you had not been to any serious salsa classes, but had some booked for next week ;)
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Based on tangotime's post...

    Musicality is
    "a skill, that evades most, and takes many yrs to develop .

    The problem for its lack of appearance in the avearage dancer , is 2 fold-- many teachers are themselves, without the skill-- secondly, the majority are either unaware-- or-- dont care . Sad commentary , but true.

    Have been attempting ( and I use that word advisedly ) to create that in dancers for numerous yrs, sometimes with success-- but more often, not ."

    I totally agree with this. I dance WCS at a country place in a city. I am at the point now where I can only watch people do West Coast and find amusement in the lack of connection with the music. It's either that or n

    West Coast Swing is, in many of our opinions, one of the most difficult dances to learn. Looking for either men or women who are good enough to dance their patterns AND stay with the music AND react to changes in the music is quite a challenge.
    And it's not always the guys who are at fault. If the woman is not keeping up with the beat on her walks, or can't come out of her turns with the beat... Or rushes her steps when the music is slow...
    See previous post regarding the 50/50 partnership. A blast from the past, really, because Arthur Murray had a very similar sentiment in his books from the 40s and 50s.
    (I say God bless you to those of you who aspire to "be good enough" and have the energy to make the woman take every step when and where you want her to. Me, I'll be encouraging them to learn to listen and dance to the music. Guess who will be more popular? Hint - It won't be me.)
  7. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    I love the "improve" concepts and have studied them for a couple decades (and I still don't know much...)

    Great improvisation is almost always built on a foundation and/or structure that can be outlined. I could talk about music or dance, but a similar structure is our writing on this forum.

    We are all improvising on the fly as we respond in this thread. You say something, I respond. If my vocabulary is weak, I may use words that are general in nature rather than words which are sharp and precise. If my sentence structure is reasonable, you don't usually notice that fact, it just works for you.

    If I add commas! or punctuation. where it doesn't "belong"@ it makes it read to hard (and hard to read), even if my ideas strong are.

    Writing well requires a set of skills, including vocabulary, grammar, spelling (and more) and it doesn't hurt if I type well. All that in addition to being able to think clearly and communicate it with words that make sense to others.

    There are 20 ways to express a thought, but it all works within a framework that allows us to improvise (communicate) with each other.

    Same with dancing musically. A set of skills must come together or it looks like an train wreak about to happen. I need to also know the framework and have the communication skills to "talk" with my partner while dancing (without saying a word). Further more, I have to hear things in the music and respond just like you and I do in an interactive discussion. (On this board I can re-write things if the sentence structure is weak.)

    I could go on but I have work to do... The point is that great improvisation is generally the results of a strong foundation with a wide set of skills coming together in real time. We all do it everyday with our conversations, but we have talked for a couple decades or more (some of us many more).

    This is a great thread and I hope others are learning as much as I am.
  8. tj

    tj New Member

    Love the analogy!

    I'd say that we salser@s lack a lot of the foundation/rules on how to improvise when compared to WCS. Pretty much the closest that I can think of is how some instructors will generalize and say (On1) that the 1-2-3 is the Follow's time to style. And certainly giving a Follow the chance to improvise will catch the average Intermediate Follow off-guard.

    ...Like handing your partner a mic unexpectantly while in front of an audience.

    I certainly am! :)
  9. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Wow, a lot of interesting stuff in this thread.

    I would think adding very much follower hijacking to salsa would be counter to the roots of the dance? Latino culture is much more male dominated than American culture and salsa generally portrays the macho man/sexy woman image. So the idea of a woman signaling that she wanted extra beats to play would seem to me like a very American way of dancing? WCS is a very American dance and our culture at least tries for the 50/50 that can then show up in the dance.

    I think there are a lot of intermediate WCS dancers working on musicality. The advanced dancers are really quite polite with those learning. Once they see you have the basics solidly ingrained, they are very tolerant of putting patterns together that almost work great. It is just repetition and failure that makes it possible to put combinations of 6s, 8s and even extra steps to actually make it work. DanceElf gave some great comments a while back on predicting those changes in the music.

    Salsa is a ton of fun, but part of the fun is just playing sexy twister.
  10. quixotedlm

    quixotedlm New Member

    The only person I've known to actually teach followers how to hijack the lead to do her own styling or musical interpretation is a male latino teacher...
  11. tj

    tj New Member


    Edie was the first instructor that I saw teaching hijacking. (and a male instructor friend wasn't happy about it...)
  12. tj

    tj New Member

    Found this thread over in the Swing forum - dated 2004.

    And another from General Dance dated 2005.

    And of course, these two from this forum:
    #1 and #2.
  13. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Yea, Edie teaches that concept. I suspect she saw someone else do something similar and she made it hers over time. I'm going to ask her where it started and see what she says. When I find out I'll report back.

    But either way, hijacking is NOT the same as musicality or improve in my mind. It is one very specific technique of many, and it is like extremely hot chili peppers in cooking. A little goes a long way, but when done right, the flavor can be deliciously spicy. Too much and it can ruin the meal.

    The musicality we are discussing is part of the complete dance, from beginning to end.

    That same couple dancing the same song on two different nights will create a different dance. And change one of the partners, and it should be very different if they are truly excellent dancers.
  14. Catarina

    Catarina New Member

    One of my favorite moments was in the middle of a dance, while doing a few basics in a row, open position, holding only one hand with the lead, I was messing around with the footwork of the basic--not necessarily trying to be more intentional in dancing with musical interpretation, but trying to be creative--and it must have freaked the guy out! He asked if I wanted to do more shines or something! I promise I wasn't hijacking or ignoring cues to do something other than a basic...but it was obviously a new thing to do something other than the standard footwork in the basic.

    I'm really enjoying this thread, btw :)

    (send in the grammar police on this post...I think my entire post is essentially one runon sentence!)
  15. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Not in the way I normally think of things, no.

    In this example, there's no assumption of dance experience - I don't need her to have experienced the cheesy move before, or to have even experienced its more normal cousin. I don't require her to have learned any particular moves.

    But I do need lead/follow - that when my body signals to her "rotate your torso to the left at this rate of turn", that she responds. At the high level, she needs to have learned to do what she's told, but she doesn't need to have learned that she will be told the things I'm telling her.

    Better leaders than I am need less, because they can provide negative feedback quickly enough to guide the movement they want.

    My favorite example of this came many years back, when my favorite instructor asked me to lead him in a particular demonstration. In the course of it, he managed through the connection to communicate with me (a) precisely what he wanted, (b) which was NOT something I had learned he might want (c) without my catching how he had done it (I had to ask him later what had happened).

    A secondary example: a lot of really cool moves come about by accident - instead of leading the thing you intended, you get a little careless and lead something else by accident... and partner follows it. You'll usually recognize these by the amazed look you and your partner will share afterwards. If you are like me, you'll bust your head later trying to figure out how to do it on purpose.

    But what you'll often find later is that, even if you work out how the two leads are different, you'll often have a bear of a time getting followers who don't "know" the new thing to follow it (they tend to anticipate the familiar movement; there's little point in listening for a lead that never comes).
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    This is a perspective from Argentine Tango.
    When you talk about macho and maleness, for this guy with no latin roots, AT beats salsa hands down. (as I like to point out, John Wayne's hips barely moved when he walked)
    A skilled AT follower can greatly influence how the man moves, and he may end up asking himself, "Did she do that on purpose, or was she off balance?"
    If the man is open to it, he can just go along with what the woman is doing. At any point, after he realizes what's up, he can end it.
    It's more of a conversation than a "hijacking". She says this or that, and you either ignore what she said, or you respond, or, shall we say "play along".
    It takes most of us many years to figure out the nuances of male female relationships. AT has a rep as a dance for people who have been around the block a few times. (I don't think that applies to Nuevo)
    Accepting certain behaviors exhibited by someone of the opposite sex, even though you might not agree with them, and not insisting that " I am the Man. I am in control. Period. Always." Being confident enough to not take every little thing as a challenge to being in control is a sign of confidence.
    You know the one about the old bull and the young bull overlooking a bunch of cows?
    AT's idea of maleness and macho, I think, has something to do with the fact that Germans were part of the ethnic mix that created the dance. One of AT's main instruments, the bandoneon, came from Germany. The Germans are far from latin.

    Back to West Coast Swing...
    This article by Richard Powers is an interesting musing on "The Spirit of the West Coast" and WCS.
    I'm not sure I buy everything he's written (matter of fact, I know I don't), but it's interesting nonetheless.

    I wonder what he would say about salsa?
  17. tj

    tj New Member

    To clarify - it appears to me, that in WCS, hijacking is welcome and frequent. This quote from that website:

    So my use of the 'hijacking' term is within the context of comparing WCS and salsa. Not intending as to how hijacking is usually seen within salsa (which I do admit that I did go off on a tangent in response to Quix's comment).
  18. tj

    tj New Member

    Question - so do you adjust what you're doing depending on what she does in response to your original lead?

    1) You lead something, with a plan of doing something to a particular piece of the song.
    2) She reads your lead, interprets, and does something totally unexpected by you.
    3) You pick it up on the fly/continue the dance - no need to 'reset'.
  19. etp777

    etp777 Active Member

    Catarina, my teacher did this to me when we were out dancing in park (studio sponsored one night of Chicago Summer dance). We were doing a mambo, which is definitely not one of my strongest dances, and every time I did back half of basic, I'd take my three steps, and she'd do about five, and stay in place (while I was breaking back). She did severla different variations throughout the night, wasn't just doing same thing. It definitely did surprise the heck out of me at first, but I just went with it after the first time. Esp. becuase I could see that like you, she was just having fun, and that of course is the point. As long as I didn't think about it, didn't keep me from doing what I was doing, so i figure her (or any other follow), should go for it. Just a matter of whether I can keep up. ;)
  20. etp777

    etp777 Active Member

    TJ, that's a skill I learned early because I'm still learning on giving a clera lead. Obviously I'm not always as clear as I thought. :D So learned quickly to go with it (both in latin and ballroom stuff). Personally, at least from my point of view, think any lead should be able to do that, because it's only way to get through first learning phase without going crazy. Unless you're ONLy dancing with one partner, or only partners better than you, who can follow a less than clear leaad. Not that the cause is exactly the same, but the result is.

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