“Ruining” salsa?

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#1
I’ve been having several conversations recently, with different people expressing concerns over what they perceive as elements which are contributing to the “ruining” of salsa. These concerns basically come down to trends that seem to counterindicate the historically social nature and dynamic of salsa (and all other such club/street dances).

One such issue is the current proliferation of salsa dance teams. Such groups tend (note: tend – there are certainly exceptions both at the group and individual level) to (A) be very cliquish when out at social dance venues, and (B) not understand that much of their performance material (which can certainly be fantastic!) does not belong on the social dance floor. For example, someone I know was hit on the top of the head by another woman’s heel – the result of some flip or another. How in G-d’s name, do any flips or other such tricks belong on a social dance floor???

Another such issue involves moves to standardize salsa. Don’t all such notions both ignore and violate both the historically social nature and dynamic of salsa? How does it make any sense to ask/be asked by “x” for a dance only to be told “ok, but I’m only a level 3/silver salsa dancer”??? Isn’t it the very national, regional, and individual variation between salsa dancers part of what makes it so rich?
 

DanceMentor

Administrator
#2
I attended the "World Salsa Championships" in Ft. Lauderdale this year run by Isaac Altman. He seems to be developing a syllabus and creating specific rules for different divisions. From my observations, there seems to be some people who feel creating a syllabus is counterproductive to creativity as well as allowing for interpretation. Others seem to think that unification can lead to more support for the Salsa community as a whole.

As to dance teams, I like the idea of having a team with people working together. The results are often spectacular. If members of the dance team act "clique-ish" then that's their loss, because fewer people will support them. I agree that some of the "performance material" needs to be reserved for appropriate times. Flips and similar tricks are definitely out of place. They are a danger to the perpetrator and nearby victims.
 

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#3
DanceMentor said:
I attended the "World Salsa Championships" in Ft. Lauderdale this year run by Isaac Altman. He seems to be developing a syllabus and creating specific rules for different divisions. From my observations, there seems to be some people who feel creating a syllabus is counterproductive to creativity as well as allowing for interpretation. Others seem to think that unification can lead to more support for the Salsa community as a whole.
How about things like the West Coast Salsa Congress, the single largest Salsa event in the world, and the very theme is "unity through salsa"? There are dancers from countries all over the world and throughout the U.S. with workshops provided at three different levels, on 3 different counts, and from almost as many styles as there are workshops. Doesn't this seem like more unity and coming together of the salsa community (if there can legitimately be said to be any such entity), then would be possible if everyone was working out of standardized syllabi?
 

Phil Owl

Well-Known Member
#4
You know, I think one thing that could ruin Salsa is what I've observed as a greatly increasing "crassness" or "trashiness" in some circles.

What I mean is this, whether in social or competition settings, seeing things like face-slapping (faked yes, but still, just really stupid and uncalled for), a$$ spanking and crotch grabbing on the part of some dancers, and possibly worse. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT??? :roll: :( :? :x

On Edie's Salsa Freak site, she has an excellent article called "Gutter Dancing" that addresses this. http://www.dancefreak.com/stories/gutter_dancing.htm
 

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#5
Phil Owl said:
You know, I think one thing that could ruin Salsa is what I've observed as a greatly increasing "crassness" or "trashiness" in some circles.

What I mean is this, whether in social or competition settings, seeing things like face-slapping (faked yes, but still, just really stupid and uncalled for), a$$ spanking and crotch grabbing on the part of some dancers, and possibly worse. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT??? :roll: :( :? :x

On Edie's Salsa Freak site, she has an excellent article called "Gutter Dancing" that addresses this. http://www.dancefreak.com/stories/gutter_dancing.htm
Good point Phil, and Edie's article is definately worth a read :!:
Its actually exactly the sensitivity to the sensual/sexual element that I was getting at with my response to your post about social dance types in the ballroom forum.
 
#6
There are several issues discussed here, so its best to go one at a time. First of all there are a lot of dance formation teams that have come about within the last year. The Salsa Congress has given them a venue to perform. I see nothing wrong with that. What I do see is Salsa becoming infiltrated with other music and during the performance to such a point that the Salsa is less than half the performance. The performance teams can't find enough Choreography of good Salsa so they theme it with the Matrix, Bugs Bunny, and anything they can think of. I think they should get back to Salsa more. Certainly I must agree with the moderator that there is a place and time for tricks, drops, and lifts. Again, I just think that good body rhythm, slick turn combinations, and solid dancing is not practiced enough so all these people can do to impress is their performance moves. There is a definite difference between social dancing, competitive dancing, and show dancing. Each has its venue.

As far as standardization of Salsa, I guess I can speak directly to that as I am the CEO of the World Salsa Federation, the organization who has the only Salsa standard worldwide that is accepted by the largest Amateur Athletic sport organization in the U.S. as the standard for the AAU Junior Olympic Games. Every Olympic sport has its standardization in order for the competitors to have an equal playing field. This is the same for Salsa whether you consider it a sport or not, it is as it has been recoginzed as one by the AAU which is a voting member of the United States Olympic Committee. Ask any kid that dances Salsa between the ages of 6-17 if they would like to compete in the Junior Olympic Games, and you will find out if standardization has merit. The Salsa world doesn't have unity! They fight amongst themselves worse than anyone. All-Star entertainment doesn't want anything to do with Albert Torres and Albert doesn't want anything to do with anyone except Albert Torres. All the styles don't like each other because they think their style is superior. Give me a break, Unity? Wake up!! The promoters care about the bottom line. Now I can't blame them for that, but if you believe the rest, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

Standardization will only open new doors. It has already. Studios throughout the world now have pro/am and am/am comps in the lower levels of Salsa. This brings more income to studios as beginners and intermediate dancers now can compete on an even playing field. Organizers now can have more competition entries, and the kids of the World can finally have what they dream about, a Gold Medal at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, and be able to stand where many other former Olympians stood, like Carl Lewis, Evander Hollyfield, and Evelyn Ashford, to name a few, all former AAU Junior Olympic Champions.

I could go on, but thats enough to absorb for now.
 

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#7
Hi Isaac, and thanks for the comprehensive response. Following your lead (sorry, couldn’t help myself :)) let me addresses each issue in turn. I agree with you wholeheartedly that there is nothing wrong with performance per se, be it a couple or a team. The problem, as I see it, stems from a lack of conceptual differentiation between social dancing and non-social dancing. (I also think you make an important distinction between competitive and performance dancing but, for the purposes of what is appropriate to a social venue, feel that the two can legitimately be conflated.)

I must, however, respectfully disagree with you regarding standardization. Certainly I do not begrudge any youngster the opportunity to achieve whatever heights they dedicate themselves to, I just happen to be of the opinion that salsa is not, and should not be, a sport. You are correct that whatever my opinion of this, it is recognized as such by the AAU and, within that context, I certainly recognize the potential need for standardized standards. As many young people as this may bring into salsa, however, I think that in the big picture this both excludes and alienates the far more numerous individuals who have been dancing salsa their entire lives without ever even seeing a dance video or instructor. I think that when you invalidate what such people do (and have been doing for as long as there’s been any such thing as the dance of salsa/mambo) you undermine the cultural, social, and artistic merits of the dance. As one acquaintance of mine says, “I grew up dancing salsa at my Mama’s knee back in New York. If you think I’m going to go tell her she doesn’t dance salsa because she doesn’t know what a hammerlock is, you’re frickin’ nuts.” It seems to me that there is a rather significant chasm between saying “here are the standards for ‘x’ competitive circuit” and saying “here’s the salsa syllabus.”

You are, of course, entirely correct in recognize a lack of unity in the salsa community but, as you point out, much of this is seen in the very disagreements about styles. How, aside from the aforementioned caveat regarding the AAU, is the WSF saying, “this is the standard” any different? Again, as far as the AAU is concerned is one thing, what about everything else?

I am, however, somewhat confused by one of your later comments. As you point out, much of the lack of salsa unity stems specifically from the fact that “promoters care about the bottom line.” True enough…(although there are some who seem to balance that with a genuine love of/for salsa). But if you are decrying such financial motivations as disingenuous and divisive motivation, then what’s so great about “studios throughout the world now have pro/am and am/am comps in the lower levels of Salsa. This brings more income to studios as beginners and intermediate dancers now can compete on an even playing field”? I see how this benefits the studios and organizers (financially), but how does this benefit the dance itself? Why not accept and even glorify the historically social dynamic of salsa rather then delimit its practice?

Again, just to be clear, my frame of reference is that salsa as competition is, in itself, something of a bastardization. And, as a final clarification, salsa competition certainly existed and exists separate from the WSF, and my sentiments on this matter are made in reference to the issue at large.
 

DanceMentor

Administrator
#8
It's 1 am so I won't be able to touch on each point as you two have done, but I wanted to make a comparison. When you look at...
Ballroom Tango vs. Argentine Tango
Ballroom Samba vs. the Samba of Brazil
Ballroom Swing vs. Retro Swing
...I think you will see many of the same issues:
1. Social Dancers of Argentine Tango often begrudge Ballroom dancers.
2. Social Swing Dancers would like the acrobats to go find somewhere to perform besides the social dance floor.
3. The Ballroom Samba syllabus has almost zero similarity to what you see in Rio.

I think it is possible to have a syllabus AND keep social salsa intact in its many varieties. Often a syllabus takes elements that are common to all styles (NY, LA, PR) and attempts to present the material in a way that can be learned on a national or international level. Some people will be more concerned with preserving and developing their own style. That's awesome! It will contribute to the continueddevelopment of Salsa. I don't think we really need to worry about losing the type of Salsa that your mother danced all her life or LA style or NY style. Just look at the Samba, Tango and Swing. I think people really care about preservation. It's the studios and syllabus makers that need to catch up.

What Isaac is doing may prove to really help Salsa by involving young people, getting Salsa into more studios and getting some press coverage. All I have to say it "Careful with that mike!". :wink: In other words, people are touchy already. You'll really have to be mindful of the needs of other dancers as you try to bring them together.
 

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#9
Good analogies DanceMentor! It just seems to me that the other forms you mention are more self aware of the discrepancies between their competitive and non-competitive forms. I don’t, for instance, know of any ballroom dancers who claim that what they do is Argentine Tango. As Isaac has aptly pointed out, there are appropriate venues for each…a ballroom couple, for instance, is likely to know better then to try one of their routines in a traditional tango bar. Similarly, they would only claim knowledge of ballroom tango, not “tango” at large…same for ballroom samba dancers, who do not claim some overarching, universal "samba" expertise...
 
#10
SDSalsaguy, your argument does'nt hold water. I started my professional career as a dancer and dance teacher in 1972. I was dancing and teaching Mambo back then as Salsa had not hit the U.S. I was going to underground Puerto Rican Clubs dancing Mambo about 3 nights a week. During the week I taught at a franchised school teaching Mambo as well as all the other Latin dances. Do you think the standardization of Mambo by the studios changed the roots of Mambo? Far from it. What killed Mambo was that the music was no longer being produced. Most latinos consider Mambo old. We can thank the franchised studios in keeping Mambo alive as they were the only ones that kept teaching it all these years until 2 generations later it has been revivied.(now called Salsa on 2). Don't give credit to the promoters or the latin people in keeping Salsa alive. What keeps Salsa alive is the Music and the Aritists who produce it. You can find examples of that in EVERY dance form. There will always be the die hards who want to preserve. I have no problem with that, but standardization spreads Salsa, not the opposite. I have brought more attention and people into Salsa through the Junior Olympic Games than any promoter. If you look at the history of the promoters prior to the WSF you will discover that they rarely had competitions, now they all do. They are all following the lead of the WSF because they do not want to be left behind. Its just a matter of time before you see the promoters adopting the standardization for their contests as well, as they do not want to be left out of the "Olympic" loop. Salsa is the Music, the dance, the art, and the sport. Learn to live with it because it is here to stay. I get hundreds of emails daily from Latin parents thanking me for giving their kids a venue. Its these kids that will continue the tradition, not you or I. Look at the big picture and you will see what I am saying is true. You have absolutely no evidence that standardization of this dance will destroy its roots. Its quite the opposite. More and more kids that compete will seek out its roots in order to dance more competitively. Frankly I am tired of the lame argument that you and others present. Take that writing skill you have and spread the word that Salsa in its many forms is great for everyone. With all due respect.
 
#11
Looks like we have a pretty good debate here!
That's great as long as we respect one another. I feel you both have provided good support for your well-thought arguments. Good job!
(just be careful we don't turn this into the Ninja forums).

I'm choosing to take the middle ground.
1) There is a place for standardization
2) There is a place for preservation of heritage and diversity of styles
3) Bug Bunny does not belong at a competition :lol:
4) We would all benefit the most by finding ways to include one another despite differences of style/dance interpretation.

Isaac, what you are doing is great as long as there is growth that includes more and more people, especially the existing leaders in the Salsa community. We should also note how wonderfully the Salsa Congresses have contributed to the spread of Salsa in the US and abroad.

Your point about the popularity of the music is a good one. :idea:

SDSalsaGuy, I totally agree that you don't have to know the hammerlock to be a great salsa dancer. In addition, the diversity of styles is a wonderful benefit. After all, IMHO Salsa is likely the #1 dance in America right now. :D
 

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#12
Isaac, as I have tried to point out, I am just speaking about my personal preference, and about the issues at large – not the WSF. As my original post specifies, I was referring to standardization altogether, such as, say, a local level standardization whereby almost every dancer in a club can be identified as a cookie cutter imprint of one of three teachers. Might this instruction assist with various technical skills? Of course. And that’s a great thing. But it also seems to come at the expense of individual artistry and interpretation; of sabor…this was the sentiment undergirding my initial post.

--Jonathan

P.S. Is the comment...
IsaacAltman said:
Frankly I am tired of the lame argument that you and others present.
really one that can be made...
IsaacAltman said:
With all due respect.
????
 
#13
Jonathan my argument is not with you personally. It just seems like the debate continues without really doing anything concrete to further Salsa. For me its all small talk unless we get things done. I respect your opinion, but strongly disagree. I guess I will leave it at that. Good Luck!
 
#14
Wow!

That's the first word that came into my mind...Wow!

Everyone has pointed out some really great points and I will not argue with a single one. But what I would like to say is this:

In a thread on this forum entitled "Swing vs Salza" :wink:, I stated a point that fits quite well here also.

It shouldn't be a "Them against Us" attitude. Simply because what's good for one is not necessarily good for the other.

I myself was born in Dominican Republic and raised in The Bronx. I was going to the clubs from age 14 and learned to dance just by me feeling the music. I really wasn't interested in competing or getting a medal, I was just there to dance.

I also have been practicing a form of martial art known as Aikido. Again, I do it because I enjoy it, and not for competing.

Is one better than the other? It's up to the individual to decide that. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's a big mistake to fall in love with your "product" and neglect your "target audience".

Depending on what your target audience is, then give them what they want. That's the only way to be successful.

Now, I must strongly disagree with something that was said by Isaac. In one of your comments you said that the latin people or the promoters should not be thanked for where Salsa is today.

I disagree so much with that statement because credit is not being given to the fact that had it not been for these "latin people", the dancers, and the promoters, there would be no artists!!

I personally love a style of latin music known as "Bachata". There are some artists in Bachata that are incredible in talent. However, without the backing of the people, chances are no one will hear of them.

Without the dancers, and the people, who will the artists and singers perform for? So let's give credit where credit is due. Because the bottom line is, if no one is there to listen to you, or to enjoy your form of artistic expression, then that's just as good as the Bachata singer.

Hope this helps and I hope I haven't offended anyone.
 
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#15
Well, Fernando, I must disagree with you. Music makes dancing and dancers. Without it we don't dance. Stop producing Salsa music and it will die out amongst the general population. Artists and their managers and promoters create the audience, not the other way around. Althought there are some that are dancing Mambo to Perez Prado music still, the general Latin population isn't. Take away the the music and the Salsa promoters will go broke.
 
#16
It's all about supply and demand.

If there is no demand, the supply will die down. I don't care how great your music is, if it does not appeal to the general public, it will not go anywhere.

I agree that the music is what makes us dance, and I somewhat agree with your statements in the last post, but again, without someone there to listen to and dance to the music, the artist will go broke.

Starving artists is not a cliche by accident. It's what happens when there is no public support.

Yes promoters can bring it in front of the public, but it's the general population that will ultimately dictate its fate.

From your statement, I can see that it really goes both ways, and that's like arguing the Chicken or the Egg...I just wanted to point out that there is defanitely another variable to the equation...

I personally see it from the point of view that it's the dancers or the fans that make the artist not the other way around. But again, your statements did bring up some very good points for me...
 
#17
I think SDsalsaguy is 99% on the mark.

I am very leery of any top-down attempt to "further salsa." I am primarily interested in salsa as a social, expressive, ritual activity, rather than as a formalized form of competition.
 
#18
HothouseSalsero said:
I think SDsalsaguy is 99% on the mark.

I am very leery of any top-down attempt to "further salsa." I am primarily interested in salsa as a social, expressive, ritual activity, rather than as a formalized form of competition.
Well said! I will second to that 8) !

Looks like someone is also reviving older threads (as yours truly used to do) :wink: !

-----sign: Cheerleader of Better-Late-Than-Never Club :lol:
 

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