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by Maya,

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Ok, ok, it's too rough, but I got your attention, right?  Don't know what I
mean? Read on.

The Salsa scene can be divided into two main groups (with minor subgroups):
The first group consists of the overwhelming majority of social dancers whose
main purpose of clubbing is something other than the art of dancing. The
second group is the salsa junkies who are at the clubs primarily for dancing
and improving their skills.

Both of the previous articles you have read on SalsaCrazy offering advice to
men and women on how to get asked to dance contain some great suggestions (if
you haven't read them you can find the Tips for men here, and the Tips for
women here).  However, from a practical perspective not all of the
suggestions make sense. For example, some of the tips may lead to this
situation: just imagine a woman saying "Hi" to every man she passes by,
smiling and standing in the "traffic lane" with arms at her waist.  She
stares only at the dancers, not talking or even standing close to other
women, and tells several men: "I want to dance with you, and you, and you…"
What do you think people, both men and women, will think of her…?

Oh sure, it would be wonderful if everybody would realize she is just being
friendly, or just hoping for a dance. But based on experience, it could be
safely assumed that she will probably be misunderstood by most men who will
delude themselves into thinking "she wants me!". Then they will most likely
offer more attention than she anticipated or wanted.  For that reason many
women avoid even eye contact with the guys.  Can you blame them for it?

As far as standing in  "the traffic lane" is concerned, at least, the
suggestion was not to hold a drink and place your toes on the EDGE of the
dance floor (do you really think men check where women's toes are in crowded
clubs?).  Anyone going to Cafe Cocomo, for example, knows how inconsiderate
it is for people to remain planted in passageways.   Even so, there are many
nights when you literally have to push your way through a hoard of

The part of the Women's Tips article, which discussed letting men "check you
out" is insulting but true.  The author himself admitted that men's main
focus is on attractive ladies.  Even advanced and choosy male salseros will
dance with beginners if they find them appealing.  The same may be true for
female salsa dancers but  to a lesser extent.  It seems that there are very
few highly motivated dancers out there. A salsa club's atmosphere is a social
scene first and foremost and we have to try at least not to take it

Easier said than done, you'll say.  I know how hard it is to swallow
rejection.  The first time it happened to me, I was crushed.  In fact, I was
convinced (still do) that as a rule you do not refuse a lady.  However, I
discovered that I had to give up many of my etiquette rules if I wanted to

I still think it's rude to chew gum while dancing or talking to a person; I
still think it's rude to invite somebody to dance with a head wave while
standing on the other side of the dance floor.  I still think it's rude to
saunter nonchalantly onto the dance floor and expect your chosen partner to
follow behind without so much as a backward glance from the leader.  I do
think it's nice to lead your partner by the hand and invite her to dance with
you.  Too old fashioned?  Maybe.  But I'm sure most ladies would agree with

One of the suggestions deserves a close look, however.  Don't ask a man to da
nce, - tell him you want to dance with him. Or better yet, take him by the
hand and lead him to the dance floor.  He'll be flabbergasted and will not
have a chance to refuse. It's worth a try.

So the suggestions you choose will depend on which group of dancers you want
to dance with.  Some suggestions, such as cleanliness, are a must for all. 
Other suggestions such as cultivating your ability to use a variety of dance
moves and giving your partner a clear lead, would not be very important if
your goal is "to score".  Don't forget though, this is a partner dance and
your partner's goal should match yours.  If you like the lady and want
contact with her, but she happens to be a salsa-nut without any ulterior
motives, both of you will be disappointed.  NOBODY IS AT FAULT HERE, folks. Please, do not get offended if you're rejected for a dance. 
However, there's another reason why some people would refuse to dance with
you: they are worried about how they look on the dance floor.  Even though
followers totally depend on their leaders, I did not hear women voicing these
concerns.  Men do not complain either, but it's a subject not to be mentioned
in the dance circles for obvious reasons.  It's insecurity about their
abilities to lead an inexperienced partner who will make THEM look bad.  They
falsely assume that a skilled follower will improve their image.  God forbid
you make a mistake with such a sensitive partner, you can almost feel his
anxiety.  Some dancers forget it's just a dance and put too much pressure on
themselves to perform flawlessly to preserve their shaky ego.  There's also
this desire to be seen with a well-known good dancer: if he/she is willing to
dance with you, others pay attention and want to try you too.  What should be
kept in mind, however, is that the audience watches your partner, not you,
but if you're truly good you'll get noticed no matter who you dance with and
if you're good with a beginner - even more so.

A lot has been said about salsa cliques.  Yes, they do exist and if you want
to be "in" you've got your work cut out for you. You have to learn to dance
well enough to attract the attention of the more advanced dancers. If you
abhor the idea of cliques in general, you can find good dancers with similar
views.  There's one common outcome though: the better you get, the more you
price yourself out of the dancing market, so to speak.  Just think of your
life before salsa. You were happy to shake to simple monotonous beats - no
skills required.  But once you tasted the spicy, steaming salsa hotpot,
there's no turning back. Your previous dance life will seem boring and
senseless.  As a beginner you were happy to dance with anybody, but as you
get better you will find that dancing with less skilled dancers is not much

I'm eternally grateful to those leaders who danced with me while I was
learning salsa. And that's the beauty of having many socialites: they'll
dance with you regardless of your skill level.  But as you progress, dancing
with beginners becomes more of a chore.  You want somebody who will challenge you, who will show you new moves, who will make it fun again. So your chance for more excitement becomes smaller and smaller and in the end you are limited to a small group of advanced dancers.

It must be noted that it's a different experience for men and women.  As
followers, ladies do not have any control in salsa, no opportunity to escape
a bad lead.  On the other hand, they have a chance to experience many
different styles and moves, learn from the leader and become flexible.  The
leaders, however, in exchange for their control, are stuck with what they
know.  They cannot learn from their partner and therefore must take lessons
or watch others in order to enrich their repertoire.

Both men and women want to dance with better dancers.  But for leaders it is
only a difference between a good follower and the inexperienced one.   Oh
sure, you want her to know how to respond to your lead, to have skills to do
it and be able to understand what you want, but as one professional dancer
put it:  with a good lead she doesn't have a choice but to follow.  After
all, the ultimate skill as a leader is to dance with a total beginner and
make her look good.  I've seen that done. The lady is the picture and the
leader is the frame, remember? Ok, that statement might not necessarily be
fair: everybody has a different lead that matches some followers' style
better than others'.  But in the worst-case scenario, men can always do their
own thing. As for the ladies, they do not have that option.  They must follow
the leader no matter what he does and if he himself doesn't know what he is
doing, how much fun is that for her?

Moreover, traditionally men are asking women to dance and if she is
considerate enough to dance with one beginner, many others quickly line up to
dance with her.  She ends up dancing out of courtesy to others but not having
fun herself.  She paid her money to go to clubs just like the guys. She is
there to have fun. So please, gentlemen, be understanding.  To a lesser
extent the same scenario applies to advanced male dancers, even though
dancing with beginner followers improves your lead, guys. 

On the other hand, what happens when "clique dancers" isolate themselves?
Sure, they are having fun dancing with each other.  But they also lose the
creativity and flexibility necessary to adapt to various styles and moves. 
The leaders learn only their head honcho's patterns and the followers begin
to anticipate every move.  Thus real spontaneity and communication between
partners is lost.  The clique becomes an incestuous cocoon wrapped in its own

A Dance Etiquette flyer from the Metronome Ballroom suggests that you do not
refuse a dance to anybody unless they're drunk.  Do you agree?  It's a
dilemma that will always be present in dance circles.  And everyone will have
to decide that for himself.

DIP (Dance In Peace)

Copyright © 2001 by [SalsaCrazy.Com]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/18/12 16:45:49 -0600.



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