Hierarchy among dancers

#1
I've been thinking about this one for a while. Has any of you ever notice this dynamic in your local salsa (or other dances) scene?

By this, I don't mean the 'clique' factor that we've talked about in other threads.

It's almost a 'pecking order'. Dancers of a certain proficiency level would prefer to dance with someone who is similar, if not the same. It's only natural. I think I've read an article that describes this preference in more detail at Edie Salsa Freak's site.

So in any given nights at a salsa club, we can generally observe that 'batches' of dancers (who may have started at similar time frames) dance together a bit more. Occasionally you get some that break out of this 'batches' mode.

As a follower, I've generally danced with leaders who knows what they are doing, as I don't enticipate any lead. From time to time I would be presented with really fancy/tricky leads that I struggled with. These guys generally do not ask me to dance again, even if I did manage to make progress at a later date.

First impression lasts......sometimes I wonder if I am guilty for doing the same thing to guys :oops: ?

I've felt this 'hierarchy' a bit more now since I've come back to Sydney. They are still guys out there in my local scene that won't dance with me, based on the first dance we did at least a year ago (some much longer). I mean, when I was in Sydney no body knows me from a bar of soap (and I am also not intimidate by them for the same reason), so it was open season :D ! This same thing happens every time I visit a different city.......that's why I enjoy travelling so much.

So, what do my DF family think about this issue? Any experiences to share? Is hierarchy neccessary? Positive? Negative? How do we rise above them?
 

Sagitta

Well-Known Member
#2
I know there is this tendency of using our first experiences with someone to guide our subsequent interactions with them. Just as we so often say that first impressions are important, so it often happens in dance. But we all have times when it's not as good and times when it is better. Whether it is as a beginner, or just having an off day. However, the question to each of us, as an individual, is, "Will that be how we want to be?" I personally, try to make sure that I am aware of this tendency, and to minimize it. If I have a really bad experience I might wait a couple weeks to ask the person for another dance, but I don't ban them completely from my list of potential partners. :)

And as for the hierarchy of dance I don't ascribe to it. I dance with all levels. It is said, "If you can dance well with a follower you know how to lead." And so I dance with beginners (though I'm still learning how to lead). I dance with those of my level, and I dance with those above mine. I actually enjoy the latter the most as the connection is always 100% on, and that makes it so much easier to dance!! :D And the amount I dance with the different groups depends on how I'm feeling that particular night, and who is there, and what the music is like. Sometimes it's more with people of my level, sometimes with those above my level, and sometimes more with those below me.
 
#3
Hmm, although I'm a newcomer to club style and the Salsa scene is quite small in my area - I'll share what I have observed.

Salsachinita - Its interesting that you list hierarchy and 'clique factor' as two different things, since I've noticed that they may be more related or perhaps even the same in some cases. :?

The cliques that I've mentioned before are comprised of dancers all at about the same level. One group has a few members that are from a local Ballroom school and they tend to dance exclusively with each other, and with more advanced dancers occasionally. Its very rare to see any of them dancing with a beginner or someone they don't know.

The more advanced folks tend to stick together as well, but that I totally understand as they want to dance with people who are at their level. And most of them dance with people of all levels, so are they really a clique or not? Hard to say.

Like Sagitta, I will dance with anyone, and my reasons for not dancing with a lady would be simple - do I enjoy dancing with her or not? Regardless of their dance experience, dancing with some ladies is like dancing with a wild bear...forget trying to lead them...it just isn't going to work for me! Or if someone is sloshing drunk and wobbly...well that's no fun either.

I like to dance with beginners especially if no one is asking them to dance...how else will they learn? I love to meet new people, matter of fact I'm more inclined to ask as a total stranger for a dance. I may be a bit shy, but I spent several years as a tour guide so meeting and greeting new people is something I'm very good at and enjoy doing.

Dancing with ladies 'at my level' is also fun, but I'm not sure what my level is...I still consider myself a beginner, just not a total greenhorn. And it is fun to dance with advanced salseras...especially one who is a really sensitive follower, you realize your mistakes really quickly with them. ;)

It is tough as a new lead in a club to get a lot of dances...most of the other guys I see who are beginners sit down all night and wait for ladies to ask them. I used to do that a while back...but now I get out there and ask...if I want to learn how to dance, I've got to get out there and do it!

I know that cliques, pecking orders and such are part of life, we see animals do it all the time...especially with cats and dogs. But as humans - aren't we advanced a bit more socially than that? Do people stay in groups out of fear, security, or just to be among like minded individuals? I've noticed that many people in life go absolutely nuts if they aren't around others all the time...I call it the "lemming principle." I wouldn't say its good or bad, rather sort of fascinating from a Psychological perspective.

I go out to dance as an individual...but I'm there as part of the dance community. I usually sit alone, but I would be more than happy to sit, dance or talk with anyone provided they are nice and friendly. So to sum it up, I guess some people need to be in the "inner sanctum", while others don't.

Hmm...I would say that best way to 'rise above' these groups/cliques as such are called, is to not allow yourself to be in one. :p
 
#4
scorpionguy said:
Its interesting that you list hierarchy and 'clique factor' as two different things, since I've noticed that they may be more related or perhaps even the same in some cases. :?
The two are inter-related alright. But I am trying to focus on a slightly different angle here, for this thread.

This 'hierarchy' I am refering to here happens beyond the cliques. It still happens after the cliques are broken down (temporarily or otherwise, for whatever reasons).

Sometimes I wonder if the level of ability, as Sagitta said, has everything to do with it, or could there be reasons other than discussed in 'clique' related threads?

I'm digging a bit deeper here....so plz bear with me, guys. Hope I don't sound like a raving lunatic :wink: !

'Cliques' are easy enough to break. But 'hierarchy' felt somehow trickier. Could it be that, as social animals, we humans cannot escape the inherent conditioning of naturally becoming part of the hierachy? (as opposed to 'cliques', which are formed generally by choice)

I am speaking from experience here. I have successfully worked my way into a few cliques. Now, I am facing my own placement in the hierachy. I am facing all the possibilities & limitations, and seaching/striving for my next break-through.

Can anyone relate to this.....? Am am making myself clear? Or am I over-reacting?
 

Sagitta

Well-Known Member
#5
Actually I know some groups/cliques where there are people of varying abilities. These cliques just so happen to break any hirearchical norms for insiders as the clique is stronger then hierarchy.

I think it is the nature of the human animal within the context of culture/society. If ranking is a common feature in daily life it also becomes a feature in dance. What do you think?
 
#6
Salsachinta - You're certainly not a raving lunatic (most likely a raving beauty) and you are definitely onto something here. I'm very eager to hear responses from the more advanced Salsa folks as my background is dance is very small.

If you agree, I believe I touched upon this a bit of what you are saying in my last (albeit long-winded) post. For instance, if you are a total beginner, you get a lot of "sympathy" dances...people will go out of their way to dance with you if they see you sitting there like a lost lil' puppy dog.

But - once you establish yourself as a regular - don't expect that to happen anymore!

This was my experience when I first was dancing both Ballroom and club Salsa. It still happens to some extent, but I have gone out of my way to become a regular and practice a lot on my own. Now it is up to me to start asking ladies to dance...in a sense this a "proving grounds."

So, in essence, my first time in the club scene was being at the bottom of this hierarchy. Many people show up once, then never come back. Some stay a while and then move on. I've stuck it out for the past few months, so I'm slowly climbing the hierarchical ladder...as is everyone else as well.

Is this more of what you were getting at? :p

Speaking of Salsa - its Sunday night and we have a live band playing at the local nightclub - so time to go get ready! :D
 
#7
Not really sure if first impressions are what matters. The first dance is always going to be a little awkward as both dancers are trying to find out the other person's level, lead, etc. Sometimes the really fancy patterns might just be an insecure leader trying to compensate for lack of connection or whatever.

I think the hierarchy basically boils down to comfort level. I feel like an idiot some times when I ask a more advanced dancer to dance. I know this fear is irrational and unfounded, but it prevents me from stopping to ask them to dance. I don't believe in cliques, and know people in all groups, but would rather dance with someone that I know I can have fun with dancing, instead of constantly worrying about looking like an idiot.

The beauty of congresses and conventions is that you don't really see that much of the clique-ness factor, and it doesn't really matter if you dance poorly with someone, as they will most likely forget about you at the end of the night.
 
#8
I think we need to take into account a little human psychology here. No one wants to look like or think they look foolish when they dance. I think it is kinda of like a artist being their own worst critic. You see yourself as a certain level dancer and feel you should stay within that level. Remember before you can consider all the clique and snob factors, you have to figure in the invidual choices and preferences a person has going on inside his or her head when they decide to ask someone to dance or accept the invitation.

Pat
 
#9
dragon3085 said:
it is kinda of like a artist being their own worst critic.
Definitely. I've experienced this time and again. Today, I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to confront some of my personal insecurities (salsa related, of course!). :shock: Gosh, was it a lesson :shock: !

:evil: This turns me into a not-good-company :evil: ! BAAAAAAD! :oops:

I think the most (seemingly) confident people can also be very insecure (not so deep down) underneath.

What are we all looking for.....? Approvals? Re-assurance? Where from? Others? Ourselves? Why?

I have a lot of growth to do yet :oops: .

(I am sorry , guys. Off topic again. It's late, I've just got in for a heavy day of salsa & thoughts :oops: )
 
#10
There is indeed a very clear hierarchal line in the world of salsa. Mainly created by our own fears. How many times have we not heard other dancers say, God, he/she is too good, I can’t dance with her until x,y,z? Rubbish, in my opinion. When I first started dancing I too would be scared off by the skill of a possible follower, but now, the only limit I put on myself when dancing is how much the possible follower enjoys the music.

I’m a loner when I go out, but pick and choose whom I will dance with regardless of pecking order. I don’t see that line that separates the best from the least skilled dancer. It has instead been replaced with a line of enjoyment. If you are very skilled but don’t enjoy the music, we will most likely see each other a 1000 times and I will never ask you to dance. Not because the person is a better dancer but because our styles either don’t match, or I don’t feel your energy to know that you are there to have a good time, but rather to step to salsa. That is my pecking order…
 
#11
brujo said:
The beauty of congresses and conventions is that you don't really see that much of the clique-ness factor, and it doesn't really matter if you dance poorly with someone, as they will most likely forget about you at the end of the night.
Really? That's re-assuring, Brujo. Thankyou for the suggestion. I've been thinking a bout attending but somehow chickened out each time :roll: .

So maybe it will be a positive thing to attend 8) !
 
#12
borikensalsero said:
I’m a loner when I go out, but pick and choose whom I will dance with regardless of pecking order. I don’t see that line that separates the best from the least skilled dancer. It has instead been replaced with a line of enjoyment.
Boriken :notworth: , thankyou! You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today!

(I'm a loner when I go out too, and I think I function best as one. It can be a scary thought, as I may not know how to function in the presence of another :( )
 
#13
Well, I had an interesting experience with all this last night. We had an early Salsa event with just a few people, and we had a really good time dancing for a couple hours. One of my best nights dancing ever. Finally, the live music arrived (an hour late)...and then the entire energy of the club changed in a matter of minutes...

The band was good...but they had quite a clique that came with them...and while they were amazing dancers...they were very unfriendly. Only danced with each other or people they knew, and pretty much ignored everyone else.

And while the music sounded good to me, the energy that the band gave off just didn't jive with what I enjoy about Salsa. One of the band members was actually a guy I had gone to college with years ago...and also one of the biggest egotisitcal jerks I have ever met. I should have known better when I found out he was in their group. :oops:

I know we've touched upon Psychology, fear, cultural background....but isn't Salsa really about breaking through these old world ideals and having everyone mix together, regardless of who or where they are from?

Sure, who isn't afraid of looking bad...but is this more important than having a good time?

Hmm....
 
#14
I can completely see a heirarchy in salsa dancing, one in which I've worked my way up. Through that time, I've not been aware of that happening. As I got better, I danced with the better, more experienced dancers, and less with the others.

Only recently did I become aware of that fact when another dancer came up and asked me to dance. As we were talking later, he disclosed that he was so afraid to ask me to dance and wouldn't until he knew he was good enough. I was blown away, and felt awful. I had turned into something that I didn't want to be.

I told him, to never be afraid to ask anyone to dance, you'll find that those who truely love to dance won't care if you have fancy moves or spins or whatever. Those people love to dance no matter how they do it.

When I dance with someone, I dance my heart out, whether it's with a more or less experienced dancer, and I have a blast. The stipulation for me is that dancing is they're motivation.

Since that incident, I have become more aware of my surroundings and danced with those dancers who truely love the dance. I did do the asking, but now those people at a lower heirarchical level are more willing to dance with me. And it's such a good thing to see those people shine also.
 
#16
passion said:
I had turned into something that I didn't want to be.
I can SO relate to this! Thankyou for sharing, Passion :D ! Good to have you with us.

I am doing exactly what you are doing, while still battling working up & out of my own placement :roll: . Not easy but I enjoy the challenge.
 
#17
scorpionguy said:
I know we've touched upon Psychology, fear, cultural background....but isn't Salsa really about breaking through these old world ideals and having everyone mix together, regardless of who or where they are from?
I wish........

scorpionguy said:
Sure, who isn't afraid of looking bad...but is this more important than having a good time?
I guess what I am trying to share here, is that I'm currently experiencing a whole new level of subtlties. It has nothing to do with one's dancing ability/level. It's not even about looking good/bad vs. having fun any more. I am far more interested in the intellectual/psychological challenges presented via salsa (as a medium).

My journey has only just begun.........

(Can anyone relate......? Or am I all alone here...?)
 
#18
salsachinita said:
I am far more interested in the intellectual/psychological challenges presented via salsa (as a medium).
I completely relate. It's just within this last month, where I've been trying to take my dancing to a different level... one that overcomes the actual dance and where it can take you emothionally and metaphysically.

My journey, too, has just begun and I'm antipicating all the wonderful things that can come out of it!

Keep me posted on how your journey goes!
 
#20
When I go out dancing the main thing of course is to have a good time.
But it is a give and take thing, so I dance with one or two newcommers or a less experienced person on purpose, and I do the asking.

They often say "but I'm not very good", but I politely drag them on anyway. I do this because I want to encourage people, I take it real easy with them, complement them when they do something right, try things again if they want, and we have a little fun. They always seem happy afterwards.

What I take is that some day maybe they will be my dream dance.

Give so you can take !
 

Dance Ads

Top