Salsa > Women with "deathgrips" and/or "arms of steal

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by Marvellous, Dec 6, 2003.

  1. Marvellous

    Marvellous New Member

    The above is a quote from Phil Owl. I am interested in this problem/topic, so I started a new thread, since it was on the general peeve thread and I wanted to make sure the topic would get noticed.

    I have some observations and questions: First, I am aware that dancing must be difficult for some women, thus, they may need all of there brain power to think about and control their feet, so maybe they cannot pay attention to what they are doing with their hands and arms, BUT.....seriously.....

    I have women that come to my lessons or the club that nearly "Darth Vader" my hands to death. Every turn of every kind in the pattern they are gripping my 4 fingers like they want to crush them and/or twist them off. Super-beginners are excusable and I try to set them straight, right in the lesson. I don't know what others think of that, but 1) my teacher is quite vocal in encouraging that. I remember one day he was kind of pissed with some girl who just about broke his thumb, so he turned to the guys and asked whether anybody else didn't have a dislocated thumb from this chick, and a couple guys said, "Oh, yeah." The teacher was like, "well, tell her! I think my teacher has the right idea. If you don't nip this in the bud, you will have scenario two in the future. 2) I get the same kind of girl sometimes and I ask her how long she has been dancing, and she says a year or two years. I am like, blown away! Are we doing her a favor by not telling her and trying to help her??? If I have a habit that is that bad, I certainly want some woman or women to let me know!

    ARMS: same thing. Arms of steal can be forgiven in a newbie, but if you are the same after years and years, maybe you should give up and dance solo? I was at a big dance event once there was this woman who seemed intent on eating me alive. I wasn't interested in her, but I could tolerate her aggressive assault. The problem was, she continually asked me to dance. She was impossible to lead! With any kind of CBL turn she just about ripped my arms out and pulled me over; talk about abuse. She attacked me in a restaurant later, so I started talking about dance. I asked her how long she was dancing salsa and she said 10 years!!!! I just about fell off my chair! I thought she was a beginner!

    What is the deal with these two habits???

    Are some follows simply and utterly incurable for some reason or another?

    Is it merely that teachers and leads for months or years have just not had the balls to try to help/correct them?

    For me personally, I do not relish pointing such things out to a woman who has been dancing a long time, but if she is a beginner I have NO qualms! I am doing her a favor, because who is ever going to want to dance with her in the future??? Here is one of my "cool" tactics. I explain to woman and demonstrate up to 3 times what she should be doing, rather then crushing my extremities. If she still keeps doing the exact same thing, I say, "Okay, you be the man, and I will be you. Lead me into a simple right turn or CBL with left-inside-turn. I let her lead me twice with proper hand contact, and then ask her if it feels okay. Of course she says "yes". Then we do it again and I use her "Darth Vader" deathgrip and half-torque her fingers off of her hand. Then I ask her whether that felt good. VERY EFFECTIVE! I try to get her to realize that that is what she is doing to a guy for a few minutes at a time. Brutal, but some people don't seem to be able to learn any other way. The teacher tells them ten times per lesson, and leads like myself try to tell them, but to no avail. And if you think about it, it isn't so brutal. I am only crushing her fingers once. She is crushing mine dozens of times, and probably crushing the fingers of the others guys dozens of times.
  2. redhead

    redhead New Member

    No excuse for stiff arms, but women's former partnerships might explain it. Some guys have stronger lead - women have to almost match it or get hurt. Other leaders lead softer - followers need to adjust in order to not overpower. Followers generally have flexible arms if they change partners quite often.
    There's one girl I see often enough, she looks like a great follower to me. I've heard from many good leads that she's difficult to lead, though. They say she used to be much better a few years ago, but now she dances with her boyfriend 99% of the time. He has a really powerful lead, so she's used to it. They look good together, but have troubles dancing with other people...
  3. Marvellous

    Marvellous New Member

    Your point is reasonable; however, I believe that the women I am tallking about do not have past "partnerships". Partnerships are very rare where I come from, and those that do exist are usually between to people who are pretty good dancers. The women I am talking about have trouble getting a dance period, never mind a "partner".
  4. redhead

    redhead New Member

    I just thought I'de give her a chance in your eyes... :lol: I'm such a sweet person...:kissme: :lol:
    I think your way to explain proper following skills to ladies is GREAT, not brutal. Very fair. BUT if she doesn't get it even after that, I'm afraid there's not much more you can do.
  5. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    An approach that sometimes works is to match the other person's heavy grip with a light grip of your own. The heavier they get, the lighter you get.
  6. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Arms of steel:
    The heavier your partner's grip is the lighter you make yours. Okay, so your partner has an even harder time feeling you and makes his grip even heavier. Eventually there is abosultely no connection whatsoever!!

    Death grip:
    Tough problem to remedy. Want to know what my solution is to doing moves while dancing? I change my grip completely if the situation looks impossible. I will offer one finger or two to grip on which allows moves to be done a lot easier. I also will hold the top of my partner's palms/wrist!! I can lead lots of moves if I have such a hold. I'm sorry, but my wrists are not strong enough to withstand abuse. By the way I've found that this works also for the arms of steel problem. If your partner cannot reciprocate with the correct tension the wrist/on top of palm grip takes some of the responsibility away from the partner and gives you more control.

    Another solution to the death grip? Just dance the basics of the basics - nothing that will kill them.
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yep. Either there's no connection at all, in bad cases. Or, sometimes, they will unconsciously try to match your lightness. It's been known to happen. Some people just can't be helped, but it's at least worth a try. *shrug* :?
  8. David

    David New Member

    Death grip, arms of steel, and throw in a desire to lead themselves. There are a couple of women who I occassionally "dance" with who have this combination. I say "dance" because I genereally refer to those times as a wrestling match rather than a dance.

    Every now and then I'll (attempt to) do something unexpected to show them that they're anticipating. Two of my favourites are a move which has a spin in what seems the to be the wrong direction if you're not _following_, and a cross body variation with an 8 count walk in the middle (if there's room). It's interesting to note that the girls who DO follow looove both of these moves, especially the walk one, and those who need to be wrestled dislike both.

    I know a girl like that. Looks quite good, but is much harder to dance with now that she spends so much time dancing with this one guy. I see it as a back-slide, a de-skilling of the dancer.
  9. Sarah

    Sarah New Member

    Yes! There's no way a woman can feel and follow a subtle lead with a mass of tensed up muscle. So -counterintuitively- if you want your partner to relax you have to encourage her to actively seek your lead by making it small and light.

    It's true that the arms of steel thing can develop as a defensive reaction to an over strong lead - but getting into an arms race[1] helps noone.


    [1] If you'll all excuse the abysmal pun.
  10. SwinginAngel

    SwinginAngel New Member

    Re: Women with "deathgrips" and/or "arms of s

    I confess I did the death grip a few times when I was starting out :oops: but luckily my partners told me the first few times I did it and I was able to correct myself before it became a habit. Beginning leaders can do it also. My dad did it to me when he started learning to lead, thus I got to experience both sides of it. In their defense, I am sure they have no clue. I couldn't believe I was hurting my partner when they told me about it because it didn't feel like a strong grip to me but when my dad did it to me I understood. Of course he didn't understand and he refused to believe he was hurting me. :roll:
  11. redhead

    redhead New Member

    David, shame on you! Don't trick poor ladies! :lol:
    I still believe that followers should almost match leaders' strength, otherwise it may lead to shoulder injuries.
  12. Marvellous

    Marvellous New Member


    I am sorry, but regarding the above, which is the same thing many of you are saying, I know what you are saying, but it is utterly ridiculous. This is what I have tried DOZENS of time, obviously. Forgive me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that many of you are inferring that I respond to these women by trying to rip their arms off or crush the bones in their hands. I do lead them super-lightly, but to no avail. I try to use fingertips only, to escape bone damage, but they will actually grab at my hand to make sure they do as much damage as possible. The example I gave of giving them some of their own medicine, was not a reference to how I lead them. That would be in a lesson where I literally stop practicing our pattern and say, okay, we are going to do something here. These women are a lost cause. As someone said, the cannot feel/recognize anything. They are using a force of 10 and whether the guy uses a force of 6 or 1, it all goes unnoticed by them.
  13. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Not at all Marvellous!!! Nothing inferred about your leading skills at all!!!! We haven't danced with you so how can we evaluate them? We are all just sharing experiences that we have had, and strategies that we've employed in dealing with them. By doing this sometimes something comes up that we haven't thought about. I know that personally I've become a much better dancer from people sharing their insights.
  14. redhead

    redhead New Member

    Who said you have to hurt anyone? :shock:
    I don't think I've ever experienced leading by fingertips only. Wonder how it feels.
  15. Salsero_AT

    Salsero_AT New Member

    I do this quite often if my partner has light arms ... especially in casino where it is the most comfortable way because the hands turn in each other because you do not let them go often when you or your partner or both of you are turning. if you grab the other´s hand it can even hurt.
  16. Marvellous

    Marvellous New Member

    Okay, we can all relax. I just write and speak strongly in general. I appreciate the insights, it's just that these women peeve me so much and the idea of leading them more gently is simply a no go in my experience. They are utterly oblivious.....

    I don't know who brought up fingertips, me, or someone else. It is certainly not a habit of mine, or a preference, but I do know a woman who is an amazing salsa follow, and she just blows my mind. I can do ANYTHING with her, at any speed with 2-3 fingertips. Her compared to some of the women in my lessons is like comparing a Ferrari to a tank. It must be a character thing, rather than "training" or "teaching" because she comes from "nowhere"(rural Japan) and she is far better as a follow and a dancer period, than any teacher she had access to. Needless to say, if we are at a 4 hour dance, she never gets to sit down!
  17. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    Even among experienced dancers there are those ladies who have arms that are like limbs on an oak tree. What I wonder when they are taking lessons is if their instructors are stressing flexibility or if they have a way of handling this that I'm not familiar with.

    I did ask one of the men instructors what's the best way to handle a partner with stiff arms and was informed that the man should be sure that his arms are not tight as well.
  18. Marvellous

    Marvellous New Member

    Sorry, but I don't have much respect for that instructor. That's a pretty lame answer if you ask me. The women I have trouble with, so does my instructor. I know because I here him ragging on her. And I know that my instructor know what he's doing; he is not giving them too much stiffness.
    Everyone here keeps saying the same thing. The women we are talking about, I think, are unaware of what they are doing. Sure, a women who has some sensitivity to the whole connection thing is going to adjust here stiffness to the lead. However, we are talking about women who have no sensitivity and no awareness of what the lead is offering; arms like oak tress regardless of what the lead is doing.

    I suspect the problem is that nobody ever sets them straight. For example, I used to have a lead that was too strong. A couple of women in my lesson ragged on me and I got the hint/message. I didn't like it at the moment, but I thought if she's ragging on me, it must be a problem, and she certainly isn't going to want to dance with me outside of lessons(along with other women) so I better concentrate on changing it. I think I am going to start telling these women the same thing. Maybe I will tell them that it is a problem and tell them that I am doing them a favor by telling them, because nobody is going to be seeking them for dances for the rest of their lives if they don't correct the problem.
  19. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hmm. I hope I didn't offend you in any way. The advice to lighten in response to heaviness sounded dumb to me too. But since I have a great coach with years of teaching, performance and competitive experience, I decided to try it any way. I guess I was luckier than you -- my problem partner lightened up, after about eight to ten weeks of consistently applying the advice. But not everyone can be helped the subtle way. So, if you choose to, I guess there's no harm in giving feedback. I don't understand what possible cultural complications there may be, so perhaps someone else from Japan or at least Asia can give us some insight.

    In the US, giving unsolicited feedback on the dance floor, is a very touchy thing indeed, so if you were here, I'd say tread carefully. That's not necessarily true everywhere in the world, though. Hmm. I don't know. Then of course there's the option of not dancing with the problem lady, if she's annoying and/or hurting you too much for you to enjoy the dancing. *shrug* Thoughts, anyone?
  20. Marvellous

    Marvellous New Member

    I certainly wouldn't give advice on the dancefloor. I only consider doing it in lessons. Even then, people often don't take it well, but I think it is certainly better to do it in a lesson than on the dancefloor. My teacher actually encourages the men to tell the newer women what they need to be doing. The problem is women that aren't "new". I don't like to give feedback to them, because they don't take it well. I have noticed an interesting dynamic though. People mind less getting advice/feedback from someone that they feel is clearly better than them. Thus, beginner women don't seem to mind at all when I set them straight about what they are doing which is hideously wrong. What is more interesting though, is I have two women in my lesson who used to complain about my strong lead. I have never really wanted to say anything about their dancing, because from their characters I did not think it would be welcome. In fact. once I said something really minor to help one of them and I think she was upset. Interestingly, I have really been improving over the last month or two(I sort of reached another level in my development, seemingly suddenly), and I know that my lead can be really gently and soft if I want it to be(I still have to reserve my Clint Eastwood lead for the women who dance like wild broncos). Anyway, I have noticed that both of these women have changed their attitude toward me significantly. In lessons they actually seem to look to me for approval and solicit my feedback on how well they are pulling off the pattern. This makes me feel very good, because I take it as an indication that they feel I am qualified to know. If I think of myself as a man(lead), I certainly am not going to solicit feedback from some hopeless follow who has a whole list of bad habits, and I am certainly not going to welcome any feedback from her either, because I would see that as farcical. However, I do welcome and do solicit feedback from the really good women in my lesson. So. the bottom line is, I feel good/confident about my development because of this change in the way they seem to look up to me. Does this sound reasonable to anyone?

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