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Two Salsa Dancing Posts from

Here are two interesting articles I found while surfing the web.  They come from SalseroWeb.Com, care of Webmaster German Acevedo.  Cool site, and worth visiting! These are interesting articles, but remember, they are written by people that are NOT in our area.  It offers some interesting perspectives and insights on salsa here, and in other places. While I don't necessarily agree with all of it, I wanted to post them here for people's viewing pleasure.

The First is about Dance Teams. The Second is about the Charity Dance.

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Gang o' Salsa - Dance Teams

Well, the fever pitch of getting ready for the West Coast Congress dies down, only to be replaced by preparations for the East Coast and Puerto Rico Congresses in July and August. Dance Team performances rate high on the list of activities, and though we all complain how long and boring the shows are, we pack the halls to the rafters to watch. We try to save seats for friends, steal other people's seats, fight over seats, and I personally watched while 2 feet away from me a woman had a 10-minute argument with a security guard about sitting up front on the floor. She pretended not to understand English to avoid having to move. (I don't know what eventually became of her: I think she got thrown out! Talk about dedication to watching those dance teams do their thing). All you team dancers, if you ever thought the public doesn't appreciate all your hard work, you ought to see the audience members will lie, cheat and steal just to have a good view of you onstage.

If you're new to Salsa, you may think there have always been dance teams, but it's actually a rather new trend. Salseros may be group-oriented as a community, and we like to party in groups, but our dance of choice is traditionally done with exactly two people, no more. When the first dance team started a few years back, I thought it was a pretty queer idea that would never catch on, but just look how well it's turned out: the past 5 or so years have been an explosion of groups forming, creating a whole new dimension to the Salsa culture. Basically, your town isn't even on the Salsa Map unless you have a dance team, and the level of your town's Salsa scene is based on the proficiency of your local team. What pressure!!

Dance Teams used to be quite exclusive: only the best dancers tried out for teams, and some very advanced street dancers didn't always get the coveted spots available. Now it seems every high level dancer you know is on some team or another, or indeed, "cheating" on their main team, getting a little action on the side by participating in more than one. Those people are dyed-in-the-wool Salsa Junkies for sure! They must have gotten bored by going to clubs and dancing their hearts out in pairs 5 nights a week, so now they spend an additional two to five nights a week in rehearsals for choreographed numbers, preparing for one performance or another.

What is the purpose of these dance orgies, anyway? You better believe it; they really have to work hard. Why would some dancers give so much of their time to rehearse, choose costumes and music, and be forced in to the unfamiliar territory of having to be choreographed into your moves, instead of getting to always choose what move is next, privilege of Salseros, or getting to just follow the guy's lead, privilege of Salseras? Why do they work their butts off? Community. It's the reason we go to clubs where all our friends are. We want to be part of a group, kind of a Salsa "Gang". Salsa Team members act kind of like a gang, too, most of the time in a good way. We go out together, give preference to dancing with each other, have our own private jokes (which is kind of like a gang jargon) and have our own moves that are from our routine (sort of our version of throwing a Gang hand sign), and feel secure to goof off on the floor, switch partners, show off a bit, all because we have a whole team of supporters with whom we have become intimate from intense nights of practice and arguing and celebrating spent together. Some dancers even pick fights together and beat up members of other teams, just like a real gang. This, obviously, is not cool, and will make clubs continue to close down to remove the "bad element" that they think the Salsa community is. When those clubs close down or kick us out or make Salseros feel unwelcome, you have the few bad seeds that fight with each other to thank for it. You can go kick their butts after you read this.

On the other hand, although this certainly doesn't excuse any rumored or real violence, remember that for all their bravado, some of the most famous and talented dancers winning competitions and leading dance teams these days are very Young Guns. (They have to be young, to be sufficiently flexible to contort themselves into the pretzel-y positions and death-defying stunts that make up a performance these days, the poor little things! I think they should all be seeing chiropractors). People of that age group, teens, barely legal, and 20's tend to need a group to back them up, and don't dream of just "being alone" when going out. Real confidence even when you're alone is usually something that comes with age. It's natural for them to feel a little insecure when alone, and like the Kings of the Salsa World when they're out with their team. A little compassion for the feelings of insecurity that are at the root of bullying goes a long way towards understanding the Gang Mentality. That goes for our community as well, I guess.

Salsa is something of an insecurity-producing activity. There's always someone judging you, even if you're just out trying to cut loose and have fun, someone in the room, you can rest assured, is gossiping about you or doesn't like your friends or your hair or your teeth or the way you follow or the way you lead. It's enough to give a dancer a major complex.

But what relief to be surrounded and nurtured by your ever-loving dance team members! A team gives us a built-in group of friends and dance partners with whom to raise Cain with all over town, backing each other up in any disagreements, and sharing all the private jokes that develop along the way. When a performance goes bad, they can all suffer together, not blame one or two members. When it goes well, it's every team dancer's victory. When the "lil' Homies" of Salsa, our younger community members, siblings, even our own kids look up to us and want to dance like the famous teams' dancers, we can school them in the finer aspects of the Salsa culture, rather than teaching them to be all the things SalsaWhore hates: homophobic, violent, gossipy, intolerant, snobby, or rude.

Hope all of our talented dance team members out there take it to heart, that we have an opportunity to offer the world an example of the best part of the Salsa community: The Community.


The Charity Dance - "Do I Have To?"

Yes, you do. We all know the phenomena of the Charity Dance. The Salsa Scene is a community, and as such, requires that we support, encourage, and help each other. No matter what skill level you're at, there is someone in the club who's at a lower level, who wants to dance with you, who aspires to dance like you. Dancing with people at a much lower level than yourself takes, well, patience. I know you don't always want to do it. But at the same time, there is someone at the club any given night who's been dancing a lot longer than you, and who might not prefer to dance with you except as a last resort. That person has long since passed your level and only wants to dance with people of equal or higher ability. But you expect them to give you a break and dance with you now and then, don't you? So the Salsawhore (ed: that's the name of the writer) hereby exhorts you to give what you get, and do one charity dance a night. Just one or two a night, mind you. More would be too painful. You don't have to devote your entire night life to helping newcomers, some of whom, I admit, dance as if they are suffering from a profound and intense state of psychosis. You'll get stuck with one of those now and then, but it's not going to kill your reputation, and when that novice becomes an expert you'll have a willing and able partner to add to your stable of possibilities.

A couple of guidelines for the beginners, though: Guys, you'll have a lot more success with advanced level ladies if you are someone they consider a friend. If you've never even spoken to the woman, why should she do you a favor? Don't just charge on over to the Queen of Salsa the minute she walks in the door-you know she doesn't want her first dance of the night to be with a beginner! Wait until she's been there for a few dances. Why not just talk to her a bit the first night you see her? I suggest you do what most guys in Salsa clubs seem to avoid and buy her a drink. Why are Salseros so cheap anyway? If you don't know whether she drinks, a bottle of water is always appreciated. You may want to only make her acquaintance the first time you meet her-make sure to remember her name. The next time you see her, she'll be likely to consider you a friend and dance a song with you. Most of all, be humble. If she shoots your ass down, there could be a million reasons-she's waiting for someone she really wants to dance with, she has a date, she's in a bad mood, feet hurt, already did her Charity Dance of the night, whatever. Don't get Macho about it and gossip to your friends about what a bitch she is-you'll regret it later when she won't ever speak to you again. If she does dance with you and gives you a few pointers about how to improve, take them gratefully and don't be a know-it-all. She knows what she's talking about: Isn't that the reason you wanted to dance with her in the first place, Clumsy?

The same rules apply for novice girls of any age who want to dance with Mr. Cool, except for the buying of the beverage-I think a Latin Guy who doesn't know you will feel (and act) weird if you offer to buy him a drink. I have a different and very important piece of advice for females: Beware the Wolf. If you are somewhat new to the Salsa Scene you are going to get noticed as Fresh Meat. And there is a certain type of man out there who preys on women like you. You'll spot him easily, and there's one in every crowd: he dances great, dresses nice, acts real suave and dances with you all night even though you suck. That guy's after more than dancing, and though you're welcome to get it on with him (the Salsawhore encourages sexual freedom and self-determination among Salseras-why do we have to watch "our reputations" when the guys never do? If you're over 18, know how to be safe, and not hurting anyone, go for it!), be aware that you'll probably see him pulling the same act on some other unsuspecting, succulent morsel next Saturday night. This type of man is good for 2 things only (one of them is dancing). Better to stay clear if you're the easily heartbroken type, and dance with him only once per night. You'll get used to distinguishing "Love at first Sight" from "Love of One Night".

For Old Timers Male and Female: Be kind. Remember that you know how to dance today because someone had the guts to risk looking stupid by dancing with you when you were new. If you love to dance (and if you don't, why the hell are you reading this), you owe a debt of gratitude to the people who turned you on to the World of Salsa. You got something priceless from this crowd, be prepared to continue giving it. Doesn't it feel good when there are 20 new dancers in the room, all of whom consider you their mentor, and a generous Veteran of Salsa? Why don't we all make it a point to be gracious, in the clubs and in life.

All in all, the Salsa Community has more potential now than ever: it can be a place to develop real friendships, to have meaningful interaction with others. It's where we have a sense of belonging that makes us feel like a Family. But like a family, some responsibility to help others comes with the benefits of being supported and nourished by the group. In a family you take care of the new babies until they're ready to contribute something to the group, right? So suck up your silly pride, advanced dancers (you're probably not as Red-Hot as you think you are anyway), and dance one or two songs with someone who is just learning. They will be really grateful, and you'll have made a long-term investment in the future of the Scene.

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