Becoming a better Latin Social dancer
There are several factors to consider in order to become
a better "Latin Social dancer".
1) Timing! Timing! Timing!
Choose a timing and stick to it! The most popular timing for
Salsa dancing are Salsa (On1), Cuban (On1), Mambo (On2).
or Cumbia (On1 or On3).
2) Popular Latin Social Dance Styles:
New York Style, Cuban Style, LA Style, Miami Style or Rueda Style.
Most Latin Social dancers don't have a clear understanding of what
a dance style means to them. For example, as a new beginner student
we naturally mimic or clone the dance style of our dance instructors
either by choice or by the simple fact that we do not know any better.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, by definition the word
"a particular manner or technique by which something is done,
Most Latin dance teachers dance and teach in a style that is usually
unique to them, be it cultural or just plain and simple talent.
That being said, the main factor that many Latin Social dancers overlook
is that regardless of who you learn from and what style they dance/teach,
you eventually need to find "your way" and develop a
style, that is individual and unique to you.
3) MUSICal interpretation or "MUSICality" for the Latin Social dancer
Whether you call it MUSICal interpretation or MUSICality, as a Latin
Social dancer the key element to focus on is the word "MUSIC".
To have good MUSICality as a Social dancer, we must first know
what is the "MUSIC" we are dancing to. There are many different
types of Latin rhythms (too many to list) with each having a unique
and distinctive feel of its own and within itself. Therefore to interpret
the songs danced to for a Latin Social dancer, each song would present
a different and unique interpretation. When Social dancing we must think
of ourselves as a "locomotive", where we are the train and the music is
the tracks upon which we follow. If the train tracks change in a different
direction, so does the train. So, if the music or rhythm changes then so
should your dancing. Different songs with different rhythms should be
interpreted and danced differently, creating your own MUSICality or
4) Tools of interpretation for Latin Social dancing
Just like any other craft, the more tools you have the better to create.
for example, the more paint colors and brushes an artist has,
the more tools they can use to create a masterpiece.
For the Latin Social dancer the more "useful"
tools you have, the better to interpret with.
Here are some examples of tools to use for dance & interpretation:
a: Footwork -
Single time, half time, syncopated or double time steps.
b: Spins & turns -
single, double, multiple, 1/2 or 1/4 turns,
& combination turns, spotting & collecting.
c: Arm styling
(various) for women & men.
Natural, neutral or committed arm positions,
high, medium or low arm positions, sweeping arms,
transitional arms, cross traffic arms, comb and reverse
comb, Wrapped arms, peaks, ripples and
hand/wrist and finger details or hand shines.
d: Body movement -
(various body parts)
Body rolls, reverse body rolls.
Contra-body movement, concave, convex, convulse,
Pulses, shimmy, gyrations, rotations, figure eight,
meltdowns, head whip, freeze/pause, internal
energy control and perpetual motion.
e: Partnering -
(various couple patterns)
Connection, spacial awareness, lead & follow,
energy, prepping, execution, follow through,
floor generalship & navigation, pattern flow,
transitions, implied vs intentional lead,
call & response, command & control.
f: Etiquette -
(Proper Social dancing behavior & norms)
:Asking someone to dance politely & respectfully
:Turning someone down politely & respectfully
:Be mindful of your fellow dancers around you
:Leaders, remember that leading is not a right, it is
a privilege, so be a leader & take care of the ladies.
:Ladies, remember that partner dancing is just that,
dancing with your partner. "It's not all about you".
But it should be "mostly about you".
After a successful dance, say thank you for the dance
and kindly walk back in the direction you came from.
g: Putting it all together -
Sometimes regardless of your experience level,
talents, or the tools you possess, it is difficult to put it
all together on the dance floor. Good Latin Social
dancing is one of the most difficult ways to dance with
few mistakes or at a high success rate. Here is what you
are up against. Dancing with someone you've never danced
with before, on a floor you've never danced on before, to
a song you've never heard before. And you have
3:30min to 4:30min to put it all together. Yes, it's stressful,
but if successful it can be fun, rewarding and very addictive.
The more quality Latin Social dancing you do with as many
different people you can, the quicker you will become
comfortable, confident and a better Latin Social dancer.
If you have any questions or comments about what you've
just read. We would love to hear your thoughts.