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

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

  1. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Yes, but I was doing that anyway - because if the follower misses the lead, I have to be leading from where she is, not where she is supposed to be.

    Yes, of course. How smoothly the reset happens is primarily a function of how well what she does fits with the music. It's a lot easier to learn the mechanics of a movement than the musical context of it; so immediately after workshops you get followers tossing wrenches around with absolutely no regard for whether or not things fit. It's really frustrating. But so what? They put up with you when you were throwing your brand new double under-leg arm breaker into the mix every four or five beats.
  2. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    So simple, so obvious, and so overlooked! Well put, DE!

    I need to learn that move! Teach me!
  3. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    I believe we are close, but most of the time in salsa I view a hijack as a point where the lady actually stops the guys lead and takes over for 8-32 counts (or more), similar to a t-stance.

    If I'm reading it right, the WCS concept may be summarized as follows:
    • The lead starts the dance, providing a basic direction consistent with the music.
    • The follow starts in the direction but based on the music, may make a variation or addition to the leads direction.
    • The lead picks up where the follower finishes and moves the dance forward.
    The whole thing is a conversation, going roughly back and forth and both dancers "listen" to each other (through the dance) and each contributes to the conversation. For a time one may dominate the conversation, but overall the flow is moving back and forth, and the lead is setting the overall direction, but getting tons of input from his partner. At all times both partners are using the music and their partners responses as the guide to frame their part of the conversation.

    FWIW - This is how I view great social salsa dancing. The lead will start, but the overall dance should reflect the input from both partners and the music.

    We may have a minor terminology difference because I don't view the input from the follow as a hijack unless she stops my lead and basically solos. That is probably because I learned the term based on a specific application, which may be narrower than the common usage for the term in WCS.

    Please let me know if I'm missing something!
  4. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Hijacking now?

    I don't believe that hijacking is as common, or as acceptable, as you may have been lead to believe. There are two or three different schools of thought on leading, and each of those have a different attitude about how much of the dance is the follower's share.

    As for the follower shaping the dance, you've basically got two flavors: (a) those that disturb the connection, (b) those that do not.

    Almost nobody considers (b) to be hijacking. A simple example might be that the follower elects to dance a delayed double rhythm when the lead asked for standard double rhythm; or the follower uses a straight cross when the leader had indicated a normal triple.

    Slightly grayer area if the follower tweaks with the timing (&3-4 instead of 3&4), but still mostly considered OK.

    Also OK is a change that disturbs the connection, if the follower has communicated that it is coming through the connection. The most common of these is the follower asking for extended time to interpret the music. I usually hear these explained as "the follower can ask for time, but she better be ready to go".

    And then there is flat out hijacking, where the follower simply does something unexpected. When the follower puts her hand on the leaders back, and rotates him 180 degrees, you can be fairly confident that lead/follow has gone out the window.

    Note that in wcs, the connection not only communicates the lead, but also the amount of commitment behind it. Small changes can communicate that the follower is invited to take more initiative, or instead that her undivided attention is required.
  5. tj

    tj New Member

    I've got nothing to add atm, except that this is a great discussion. I'm learning a lot. :)
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Good reply, Dancelf.
    I hope people weren't mislead, and thought that people dance 50/50. Rather, that was the philosophy that was being espoused.
    I tell ya, I wish I danced WCS with someone who was good enough to pull off the 180 turn you describe. In Argentine Tango, I have danced with women who are skilled enough to pull off tango like things of that magnitude.
    Does it upset me/ would it upset me? No. I would therefore not use the term "hijack" because to me it is associated with something you aren't supposed to do.
    The few women I know that could, perhaps, do this, dance as though there isn't really a partnership. Rather, it seems that they INSIST on doing this or that.
    It's the difference between asking, letting someone know, and insisting.
    One thing followers should learn to do is gauge the reaction to the little things they try. Then you decide whether this partner would be open to more sharing.
    One other thing is your last statement about her undivided attention being required. I hope to have my partner's undivided attention the entire time she is dancing with me. She certainly has mine (avoided collisions, etc being the only exceptions). Neither of us should have to shout, because the other isn't paying attention. Dream world. I know.

    So, if you've asked for room to be creative, do your thing. But the goal should be to do your thing while "listening" to both the music and the lead.
    (Same thing happens in Argentine Tango where the women start doing embellishments (or forward ochos for that matter), and don't know when to stop. With the really good ones, you barely notice that they are doing them, but..)
  7. Catarina

    Catarina New Member

    I like that point about the level of commitment behind a cue/lead. It's obviously a mark of more advanced dancers, or those who will easily become advanced dancers. As a follow, it is easier to follow anything when it is led with confidence...including more freedom in expressing the music!
  8. dancin/dj

    dancin/dj Member

    i luv the first 2 westie video"s i know john lindo personally he really enjoy"s himself and is a good example and the other dude, of how to be a pro and yet have a really good time(of course also the ladies) im a westie also and a salsero(and 9 other dances) like some of people on dance forums. salsa is very cool, but i tell people all the time this dance(west coast) is the only dance that i know of the can rival or outdo salsa (only from my viewpoint) in terms of, west coast has it all sexy, playfull, intense, slow, hip hop stylying, fast, med , slow,fancy dips, and the music(sorry salsa only folk) the music is sooooooooooo versatile(jazz, hustle,blues, funk,hip hop, hindi, rock &roll and more)can be danced to west coast swing.and that folks translates into you can go anywhere in the world and dance west coast swing.something you cant do with salsa or c 2 step or a waltz etc.....any kind of situation musically speaking from about 70 percent of the worlds music... im not dissing salsa, but im like the guy who was on DRAGNET im sticking to the facts.........
  9. tj

    tj New Member

    Another thing that I think I'm seeing (when comparing salsa routines to WCS routines)...

    It appears that quite a lot of times, in WCS they're varying the speed, they'll 'achingly' draw out a move, and then speed it up at the end. Or vice versa.

    A lot of our salsa moves tend to be at one speed.
  10. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    A great deal depends on the speed of the music one is seeing WC danced to.

    If the more traditional slower speeds, than salsa will seem like warp speed ( even against what some of the w.c. higher tempi are done )
  11. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Yup to both. Actually, there are two variations on this that you will see. In some cases, the dancers are playing with the timing (stealing a bit of time from this beat to pay for that one). Other times, you may observe the dancers tweaking the sizing of the pattern; there's no rule that says that the steps that you take at the end of the pattern have to be in the same proportion as those at the beginning.

    I'm not sure whether salsa has an equivalent phenomenon to the advanced leader who has a thousand (warning: hyperbole) different ways to lead any "basic" pattern?
  12. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    A great deal of enjoyment in Salsa , is doing just that-- playing with rhythm-- that is what rhythmical interpretation is all about .

    Of course it takes yrs of practice, but one can see it in evidence . in the highly skilled performers . But -- that is true of all skilled dancers in all genres .
  13. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    It depends on the person. I view the 8 beat phrase as forming a structure, however I do weave into and out of it. And it does disturb some follows who want everything to be on a the basic... I both play with timing and tweak the sizing of patterns. Not enough, or as much as I want to, but am getting there.

    As for the basic...there are many basics which I use (cuban/line style...). So that is one variant....
    Forward first 4 beats 2. groove in place second 4 beats as one example of not a conventional basic.
    Then there is dancing faster and slower than the music e.g. half time/double time.

    This is only a start of course as I usually don't bother to analyze what I do. If it feels good then I am happy. That's all I ask for.

    Had a live band yesterday night and they played this one cha cha cha and I was dancing with C (Carrie?). We grooved and listened to the music and she complimented me. She said she could feel that I wan't just moving, but responding to the music - just like she wanted to as well. We really rocked and I was on a high after that, for quite a while... I didn't ask her to dance again that night as I wanted to cherish those couple minutes. Little cock/hen flirting like rumba (but not as good as I don't really know it) was included.
  14. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Yes, it does! This is an area that interests me right now, I've been meaning to actually try and count the ways to do a cross-body without a turn, and to do a single turn. A fun thing to do is to step on and-8, e.g

    (this is offa the ET2 so YMMV on 1)

    One way to get into this kind of playing is to learn the basic bongo part and then listen or watch youtube for how bongo players improvise. To the uninitiated they sound completely random, but you start to get a feel for what makes a good or a less-good strike. Then you can just play the bongos with your feet on the floor instead of your hands on the bongos, and you have a whole layer of musicality going on!
  15. thespina13

    thespina13 New Member

    I can't offer much in the way of comparison between what I've seen of WCS and what I've experienced with salsa, but one thing I have to comment on is two ideas that've already been brought up here, which are;

    1) complexity of salsa: yes, true. The rhythm is very multilayered, and just when you've mastered hearing the claave you suddenly are able to hear the bongo or the cowbell or something else which tosses you in a whol eother arena, and it does take quite awhile, if you haven't been raised on it, to feel comfortable climbing and descending the steps and layers of rhythm with perfect freedom. I think the key is to simplify, which is hard for many, because for some reason salseros and salseras feel somewhat inhibited showing their personalities through the simpler moves. You're not "good" until you can do all the "moves".

    2) which ties into "personality": Sexiness can be oppressive. Unless you naturally exude it (Sabor, I know... I can tell. It takes one to know one), it becomes this thing new and intermediate dancers "put on", and it limits the range of FUN you can have. In WCS I see a lot of play and a lot of freedom because "sexiness" isn't expected. So there has to be some kind of movement to encourage PLAY while learning salsa. We have a cuban couple here who are the most playful, energetic, loving people on earth. Oh lord, they're unstoppable. They jump and clap and yell and smile and just have THE best time on the floor, I've never seen anything like it! And they encourage their students to lighten up the same way... their group are some of the most funloving and interesting to dance with out of the entire community, as far as I'm concerned. It just takes the right kind of example.
  16. noobster

    noobster Member

    Exactly. And what they don't understand is that the way to be sexy as h3ll is to forget all about looking sexy.
  17. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Your point above is HUGE and I want to echo it and expand on it. (I added the red/bold to make it stand out...)

    Ninety-nine percent of what a musician plays on any given night is NOT random, or unrehearsed, even when they are improvising. Most heard others do something similar as they learned and they copied existing musicians in route to becoming strong themselves. As they mature, they find their own voices, but those come from the people they imitate on the way up, combined with their own experiences.

    If you record them multiple nights or hear them enough times live, you'll hear "their stuff", which often sounds totally original to the audience, even though all the other band members have hear it before. Many times, they will move things around, and no two performances are identical, but after a short time, you could pick out trumpet player A verses trumpet player B, just from their choices in their solos. As they mature, they accumulate huge sets of material, so they can go in different directions depending on their mood and the other musicians, but it's still primarily within their existing "bag of tricks."

    We all use this identical concept with these conversations. I may recombine my words to create a "new" sentence, but I'm not creating new words, even if the exact expression of my thoughts is "new" as I write this message. I may reorganize or clarify my thinking from writing, but these concepts are hardly new inside my head. These sentences are the product of my existing vocabulary, books, schooling and previous writings.

    How does this relate to dancing? The people out there improvising, being musical/sexy have practiced that concept for a while, learning movements that fit different feels, different partners, different situations. If I don't have some fundamental building blocks relating to the music, it's difficult to be musical. I may not formally know the musical terms, but if exposed to enough music, some people make good connections. (Side note: Personally, I think knowing more about the music makes it easier, but that is off topic for this discussion...)

    They may not have formally practiced being sexy or moving to the music. Some have learned it like they learned to walk or run, but they still practiced it at some point.

    Watch a little kid "dance" and at first, they are all over the place. (Still cute to watch.) Given enough time they start looking like the adults around them... If they start when they are four, and people around them are good dancers, everybody is amazed because at age ten (or less), they can be darned good (putting someone like me to shame).

    To summarize, it takes practice, formal or informal to be musical and there are quite a few building blocks required. Some people start salsa with many of the blocks already in place, some of us start farther back. However, the creative process is generally more real time combining than on the spot creativity. It’s still creative, but it’s not random or new to that performer/dancer.
  18. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Musicality is as much about the melody as the percussion, and WCS tends to be focused on the melody because the percussion (drums) are proving a simplier groove. Salsa dancers also have that option but less mature salsa dancers tend to focus on the moves. (There are plenty of exceptions...)

    The melody relates to the percussion, but it flows and can span multiple sets of clave/percussion measures. As a dancer, you are free to explore both the percussion and melody and the best do both. Long before we have mastered the multi-layered rich percussion, we can bring in musicality from the melody.
  19. salsamale

    salsamale New Member

    I often contemplate the meaning of musicality.

    When a salsero does shines, he can be musical by himself.
    When a salsera does shines, she can be musical by herself.
    When a salsero and salsera break off into shines, they can each be musical, individually.
    When a salsero and salsera partner, they can each be musical, individually, while holding hands, but if you squint your eyes to make everything slightly blurry, is the fuzzy image in front of you, musical?

    Salsa is not like the waltz. I don't dance ballroom, but the image I have of waltz is a couple paired as one, and together the pair move and make shapes to fit the music, and therefore be musical, together, as a pair. Separate the pair, and have each dancer dance alone, and the moves and shapes become incomplete. Waltzeros and waltzeras can't shine alone.

    Do WCS dancers do shines?
  20. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Musicality-- Rhythmical interpretation-- semantics--

    One can apply that , to any form of dance , partner , or solo, in any genre one cares to choose-- it does not belong exclusively to anyone or any genre .

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