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salsa dance classes

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How can I feel less intimidated on the social dance floor?

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Last night, a student asked "What is the best thing to do to overcome intimidation when social dancing?"

If you've asked yourself that before, you are not alone.

When you're first getting started, social dancing is scary as h***. 

Dozens of people spin around looking totally effortless, on a dark, crowded, loud dance floor. 

You can barely hear yourself talk, let alone think. 

You may or may not know other people there and it seems too hectic to try to introduce yourself to strangers, let alone dance with them. 

Does this sound familiar? 

Let me tell you a story.

When I first started dancing, I was a freshman at College of Charleston and would beg my friends to go to Southend Brewery or Toucan Reef with me for the Latin nights.

I did not have any friends in the Latin dance scene, and I would hug the edges of the dance floor, silently hoping someone would ask me to dance but too nervous to ask someone myself. I knew the basic step and that was about it. I thought my ballet background would get me through, but besides keeping my balance during turns, it hindered more than helped me because I carried myself stiffly and was NOT used to having to follow. 

But I was hooked, and went as often as I could and occasionally someone would take pity on me and I would stumble through a merengue or Salsa, totally lost and totally thrilled and totally frustrated at myself but determined to "get it." 

Eventually, I made a friend in the Salsa scene. And then she introduced me to the ever fabulous and welcoming Yaenette Dixon, who took me under her wing and introduced me to more and more dancers. 

I started taking classes and training with a performance team, Estilo Seis, and practicing with other dancers. Then I went to my first Salsa congress.

I spent the weekend taking classes and social dancing and, like magic (or it seemed like it), things started to make more sense. Like the counting. The pause on 4 and 8. That you always went back to the basic. The nuances of footwork during turns and different steps. Body motion. How to step. 

A whole new world opened up to me.

The Salsa congress, plus learning, practicing and making Salsa friends transformed my dancing.

Social dancing stopped being so scary and frustrating. I knew people in the scene who I could dance with and, more importantly, I understood more about the dance itself. 

There were people I still felt too intimidated to dance with, but my confidence grew the more I learned and the more I practiced. 

There's a point with social dancing where you have to just Nike it and DO IT. Like jumping into cold water, you have to just brace yourself and dive in and eventually you'll get used to it and warm up. 

But the amount of time it takes to "get used to it," decreases the more you prepare, practice and learn outside of social dancing. The more you can take classes, work on your moves, and meet other dancers, the easier the transition will be onto the dance floor. 

So , based on my experience, I advise this:

-Learn and practice outside of social dancing.
-Introduce yourself to other dancers. It may feel like an awkward networking event at first, but don't be afraid to take the first step. [Bonus from taking classes: you'll meet other people in the same boat.] 
-Push yourself to just do it-- go out social dancing, ask someone to dance, and be ok with your dance not being perfect.


It's not necessarily easy, but the pay off is worth it. You will grow as a dancer and as a person.

I still get intimidated when I go to big events and feel too shy and nervous to dance with certain people.

But the more I learn, the more I practice, the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

It feels awkward to whip out your phone and ask to add someone on Facebook, but it helps to know you'll see a familiar face next time you go out. 

Dance, like life, is a work in progress, and always will be.

 I hope this helps you get out on the dance floor. If you're not a member of the Holy City Salsa Dance Fam on Facebook yet, join our group and use it to connect with other dancers and stay informed about what's going on in the community.

As always, happy dancing!

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It's Raining Men! Gentleman taking over Salsa and Bachata Classes

Image from CreativeCommons.Org   

Image from CreativeCommons.Org

 

For the last month or two at Holy City Salsa, there’s been an interesting phenomena in several of the group classes—more guys than girls.

            It’s surprising...how many times have you been at some sort of group dance class or event that’s been overflowing with women and only a handful of men? So what’s the deal? Why are men taking over the dance class game? And what are women missing out on by not taking classes?

            Here are a few theories and observations from personal experiences—comment below if you agree or disagree and let’s have a dialogue about this.

            The Learning Curve is Imbalanced

            Women/follows can go on the social dance floor, be led through moves and achieve a certain degree of competency without necessarily knowing much more than a few basics.  Though classes and lessons are important to learning finesse, style, and technique, most ladies can at least learn enough on the social dance floor to have a decent time at a dance event.  

            Men/leads can’t really learn by doing on the social dance floor. Or if they try, women/follows may start avoiding them because they will get tired of being improperly led through moves. For a man/lead to have a good time at a social dance event, he needs to be somewhat competent, and at least have a few moves he can lead in his arsenal.

           A lead said his enjoyment of dance events exponentially increased the more he learned. The more moves he knew, the more technique he had, the more fun dancing became for him. Follows are not expecting leads to come out of the gate being excellent dancers—there is definitely a learning curve on both ends, but follows often advance faster than leads, at least in the beginning.

            This makes women/follows feel like they don’t need to take dance classes on a regular basis—however, once women/follows plateau from just learning by social dancing, they tend to stay in a plateau, whereas leads who take classes regularly tend to advance past their plateaus. Think the tortoise and the hare.

            The Social Structure is Imbalanced

            Women may opt out of taking dance classes because they statistically spend more time on housework and childcare than men.  If a woman has to get dinner on the table, make sure the kids are taken care of, and get those extra loads of laundry in, she’s probably not going to spend her spare time taking dance classes. Women with kids, especially single moms, often have to arrange childcare when they are taking dance classes, so a one-hour dance class turns into an expensive and time-consuming process after setting up and paying for childcare.

        Men are also more likely than women to spend time on any given day participating in a leisure activity, such as dancing.

            The time of year may also affect whether or not women can attend classes—those with kids find more responsibilities heaped on them at the beginning and ending of the school year and around the holidays.

            Women also may have less disposable income than men. Women still earn 80 cents to every dollar that a man earns, and so it’s possible that women have less discretionary funds to spend on dance classes as well as less time. 

            The Dance Class Model is Imbalanced

             Social dance classes for partner work, like Salsa and Bachata, tend to focus on learning steps, patterns, and combos. Since the onus is on the lead to lead these combos, more attention is usually given to teach the lead’s technique and footwork. Though principles of following and styling are also taught, the elements of a class that would appeal to a lady are not necessarily the focus.

            Though it is always beneficial to practice a step over and over again, ladies/follows may grow bored with the repetitions needed for a lead to master a step. It’s up to the instructor to make sure that the ladies/follows always have something to work on and refine.

            Women may start out taking dance classes, but stop because they feel like they get the same experience from just social dancing if the instructor doesn’t take the time to work with the follows.

 

So what do you think? Do you think these observations and ideas are valid, or totally off the mark? What have you noticed happen in dance classes? Does it vary from community to community? Are you in a scene that’s overflowing with women? 

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