Calling It Quits: Why Some Social Dancers Are Hanging Up Their Dance Shoes

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“I’m so bored.” “What happened to all of the good dancers?” “This isn’t as fun as it used to be.” “Maybe it’s time for me to take a break.”

Over the past several months I have heard all of the above from a few of the most experienced social dancers in my local Latin dance community. While there is always an expected amount of complaining that takes place on and around the social dance floor, it is almost shocking to hear these kinds of comments spoken by people who have been seriously involved in Latin dancing for years. As this kind of dissatisfied grumbling seems to be growing louder and louder, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at some of the current dynamics at work on the Latin social dance floor.
Wherever you happen to live, I think it is safe to say that the Latin dance community is a fairly fluid one. At any given time you are sure to find a mix of eager newcomers, savvy street dancers, people that just want to “have fun,” and seasoned “salsa elders” all doing their thing on the Latin dance floor.

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In most cities the “salsa elders” are the glue that hold the Latin dance community together and provide it with its heartbeat. In addition to being experienced dancers, these people invest their time, energy, and souls into growing their local Latin dance communities. They may not be the flashiest or most “studio–groomed” dancers in the room, but they are the folks that have been bitten by the Latin dancing bug and love nothing more than to pass that bug along to anyone they happen to meet.

So –why is it that some members of this seasoned, passionate group are now opting to bow out of the communities they helped to create? I would suggest that there are three main factors which may be prompting experienced dancers to call it quits:

  • 1) The rise of the “faux professional” dancer
  • 2) The emergence of dance class warfare
  • 3) The ever looming threat of sheer boredom.

The Rise of the “Faux Professional” Dancer:

When I first began dancing in early 2008 everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives on the Latin social dance floor. There wasn’t a lot of angst as to whether you were dancing “on 1” or “on 2” and few dancers paid excessive attention to the kind of music being played. People did not care what brand of dance shoes you were wearing and no one expected you to bust out into an elaborate Pachanga shine pattern when there was a break in the music.

Flashing forward seven years later, the Latin social dance floor experience has changed quite a bit. It’s still a lot of fun, but there is an undeniable level of tension and anxiety that was not present in the past. In my humble opinion, some of this anxiety has been created by what I call “faux professional” dancers.

Faux professional dancers seem to be everywhere you turn on the social dance floor these days. These dancers prefer to dance only with fellow dancers from their performance team or dance school, and only to certain kinds of music. They often have an intense desire to emulate current YouTube “Stars of Dance” and seem to find the local dance community to be lacking in the quality of dancer which they envision themselves to be.

The widespread emergence of the faux professionals has unfortunately caused some formerly enthusiastic social dancers to have more and more negative experiences on the Latin social dance floor. For example, female social dancers often encounter faux professional males who rudely thrust “1” or “2” fingers in their faces in place of extending a gentle hand to politely ask for a dance. Similarly, some of the experienced male Leads long in demand on the dance floor, are now regularly turned down when they ask faux professional ladies for a dance. While these experienced Leads’ moves might have satisfied “ordinary” female dancers in the past, these same moves are no longer challenging enough to satisfy the faux professional female dancer.

There is nothing wrong with taking one’s dancing seriously, but at its core, dancing is supposed to be an expression of joy. While it makes sense to be selective and narrowly focused when performing, this makes little sense on the social dance floor. When the social dance floor turns into a performance showcase, some experienced dancers begin to take their exit.

Dance Class Warfare:

tshirt sloganAt local community Latin dance events there seems to be a battle of the dance school T-shirts, with different dance teams or schools staking out specific parts of the dance floor. As someone who currently receives training from multiple instructors, this “dance class warfare” has brought a level of anxiety into my dance life that I never anticipated.

I have been accused of being disloyal by some of my oldest dance friends, and have been made to feel like a traitor for seeking to fulfill my personal dancing goals under the guidance of multiple instructors. While I have managed to move past this competitive tension, some of my friends have not. Some of my friends have chosen sides, while a few have chosen to “take a break” from dancing altogether.

With the prevalent, never-ending nature of social media, some of the rival dance camps take every opportunity to virtually poke each other in the eye, further contributing to division in a formerly tight knit dance community. Local dance teachers seem to take turns falling in and out of favor, with once popular teachers unable to attract enough students to fill a class.

For some long term dancers this kind of drama has ruined the dance community they used to love. It’s becoming more and more common to find experienced dancers who used to spend hours burning up the dance floor happily exchanging their dance shoes for tennis rackets, golf clubs, and bicycles.

Sheer Boredom:

The threat of boredom looms ominously over any activity someone has done for any significant length of time, particularly with essentially the same group of people. Even if you love Latin dancing with all of your heart, at times it becomes difficult to stave off the sense of boredom and repetition which eventually prompts some long term dancers to call it quits.

Even though I am a Latin dance freak, I must admit that from time to time I become bored while on the social dance floor. I become bored with my own “moves”, I become bored with the familiar patterns of various dance partners, and I become especially bored with the stale, recycled music played by some Latin DJs.

Rueda de casinoFor me, the surefire way to defeat any rising sense of boredom is to learn something new.  Even though I have been dancing for over seven years, I have never stopped taking dance lessons. When I began to feel stifled by linear dancing, I sought out lessons in Casino, Rueda de Casino, and Cuban Son. I can honestly say that this was one of the best decisions of my “dance life” as I became instantly stimulated by the new movements, music, and people that came into my life when I broadened my dance horizons.

When I look around at the long-term social dancers who are still actively involved in our local dance community, the vast majority of these are people who have learned to dance in multiple styles or timings. On the other hand, dancers who stopped learning new things have either faded away from the scene altogether, or simply make sporadic guest appearances from time to time at local dance events. The absence of the energy and experience brought by these long term dancers creates a void that can be felt throughout the entire local Latin dance community.

Summary:

salsa dance1A thriving Latin dance community requires a steady influx of enthusiastic newcomers intermixed with a stable core of passionate, experienced social dancers. While it is inevitable that some seasoned dancers will fade out of the Latin dance community for one reason or another over the years, their departure should be made on their own terms.

 

In order to preserve the joy and pure human connection that lies at the root of Latin social dancing we must do our best to keep experienced dancers actively involved in the Latin dance community. These people are the lifeblood of our community and we should not allow false showmanship, competition, or needless boredom to drive experienced dancers into an early retirement from the Latin social dance floor.

Have you ever left your latin dance community?

96 Comments

  • I could not agree more with this article. I love salsa, I love dancing, it is in my veins, my roots. I am so annoyed to go to so-called parties where the only thing that matters is to see who wins the competition “the largest number of spins during a song”. When I ask a lady for a dance, some of them ask: “what style are you doing?” All I can say is: “I don’t do styles, I simply enjoy the music and the rhythm”. I went to an event last Saturday at Blackpool Tower: music wasn’t really good and there was this feeling of we are here to show off and not to have a nice dance. Shame.

    • Cony says:

      In my case, I’m Colombian, I never took a single dance lesson. I’m from Cali, and salsa is a culture. Is our way to socialize. Is true, we have our own Cali style, but being away from home, in countries where salsa is not a culture a try to be flexible and get to know other styles. The point is …dancing here is not a way to have fun but to showing off, I never have a really really good time because of that … What boring situation.

    • Billy Gills says:

      Dancing, even (or especially?) social dancing, inevitably contains an element of exhibtionism. A dancer wants to improve in order to enhance his/her enjoyment, but also to gain the respect and admiration of other dancers, and onlookers. Dancing is, among other things, a skill. A serious dancer will want to develop this skill to the highest level possible. So of course there are many psychological issues involved in dancing. We all have a certain amount of ego, which will inevitably affect how we approach dancing and the dancing scene. A hot young dancer may very well let it get to his/her head. An excellent, older, more mature dancer, with a style that cannot be learned in any studio, who really feels the music, hopefully will be way beyond all that, and will be more down to earth.

      In the sixties, down South, I learned to dance the Shag and the Boogie Woogie to the rock and roll of the day. Boy did we think we were something! Later, in the 70s and early 80s, living in Ecuador, I learned how to dance Cumbia, and burned up the dance floor in la mitad del mundo. Moving to New York in the 80s, after a mind-blowing visit to SOBs one Monday night, I finally learned how to dance salsa, with the usual pros of the day: Eddie, Freddie, Delille, Jimmy, and Nidia. Tuesday nite at the Copa (on 57th St), Wednesday at the Maganet (downstairs at 50th St and 3rd Ave), Sundays at the Flamingo on West 20th, and once a month at Mambo Magic at the Latin Quarter on the Upper West Side. Then Jimmy began the first salsa “social” at dance Manhattan. The studios taught us well, up to a point, beyond which it was totally up to us to get into the clubs and develop our own style, to learn to feel the music, and to get the clave into our bloodstream, forever.

      Each club (and now each social) had its own particular geography of the dance floor. At the Copa I liked to hang out in the corner near the bar where the Bronx crowd danced their own unique style which I loved. At the Maganet, to the left of the dance floor, near the (charanga) band, was the Harlem crowd, dancing a wonderful swing style of salsa. At the front of the dance floor was the Catskills crowd, who were marvelous dancers to watch. To the right were the Boricua and Quisqueya crowd, who were smokin’ on the dance floor. And the socials always have their corner reserved for the hotshots.

      I repeat, dancing salsa is a skill, just like dancing tango is a skill. That is, to do it well requires an investment (sorry to sound like Wall Street) of many, many hours (years?), of classes, but mostly of just doing it, dancing in the clubs or socials, and in the long run, of money. Anyone who wants to learn to dance salsa (or tango) well has to realize what they’re getting into: years of work and practice, and more money than they probably imagine.

      Egos are usually kept under control by a simple fact: almost any place you go to dance, you will find people who dance much better than you do. So the reality is that humility is the rule, arrogance and inflated egos the exception, thank goodness.

      My favorite social these days, when I’m in New York (I have retired and moved back to Ecuador), is the one at Yamulee, held once a month, up in the Bronx. Love that uptown crowd!

      But I do dearly miss those Copa and Maganet days, or rather nights. Doors opened early for the dancers, with a free buffet for the early birds. And the club scene is very special. But time moves on, everything changes (except the clave), the salsa scene is always full of new faces, as old ones seem to disappear, at least for a while. It’s a cliche to say that NYC ain’t what it used to be.

      Here in Ecuador (Quito), the salsa dance scene is very vibrant, with a mix of mambo, caleño, casino, and timba. Sometimes you have to put up with the horrors of salsa choke or regaetón. And bachata (urbana, not guajira) is becoming more and more popular, what can I say.

      But salsa music (mambo, guaguancó, guaracha, son, pachanga, cha cha, guajira, charanga), and salsa dancing are here to stay. Enjoy!

    • Tom Boutell says:

      Try something else! Another Latin step is great, but what’s stopping you from checking out blues or swing or tango?

      Blues is especially mindblowing if you’re used to the strict lead/follow roles and patterns of salsa.

    • Annette Mayes says:

      I was at that salsa event at Blackpool too. You are right – the music wasn’t that good, bit boring in fact, and there were far too many poseurs there too, hogging a very overcrowded floor and showing absolutely no respect for others. Was very disappointed with what was a fairly expensive outing and we travelled a long way for it too!

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Thanks so much for your comments on my article, Felix. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your dance floor experiences!

  • Surfersalsero says:

    I saw that in 2000 or so. There is an element of human nature that underpins the described behaviors. I’ll admit that it is one of the reasons why I hardly go anymore. It has become far too competitive and uptight for some of us. We went for the love of the music and for the love dance… Not to out dance one another. Add into that snobbery and the disappointment is complete…

  • Just Keep Dancing says:

    Great article.

    As to why many experienced dancers are quitting social dancing, I would like to put some of the ownership back on the ‘experienced’ dancers.

    Many experience dancers are quitting for one simple reason; Snobbery. Thinking they are too good for the scene and the dancers who occupy said scene. Every culture and/or hobby has it fair share of snobs who isolate themselves.

    In many ways social dancing is like life / dating. It’s should be fun, but there a many elements that are not, but it’s all part of the scene. You can either buck up and continue dating (social dancing) or stay at home, get fat and watch Netflix.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      You make a very good point about the experienced dancers. I had not thought about it from that perspective. You’ve definitely given me something to think about. Thanks so much for your response!

  • Jennifer says:

    I think with more experience comes more knowledge of the personalities on the dance floor. I started dancing in 1999 in the Salsa scene and have seen the ups and downs. I think it’s a never ending circle. The more people you get to know and experience, the more you learn about those who are here to have fun and those who are to be a ‘presence’. No matter what, go out and enjoy for you. There will always be drama, you just have to decide if you want to be a part of it or if you want to just enjoy the music.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment Jennifer! You are the classic example of why I value experienced dancers. You have an opinion based on historical perspective, which I lack. I greatly appreciate your feedback!

  • Konstantin says:

    Finally some one has verbalized my thoughts! Agreed 100%

  • Demond Johnson says:

    Great article. Nails it for me. I used to love Latin dancing. I took classes but admittedly never practiced enough to be more than just an average dancer. I have other hobbies and interests and always felt that I’d miss a step and fall behind the other leads if I didn’t go dancing 4X per week. I often felt pressure and anxiety instead of just having fun. There seems to be an arrogance on the dance floor. It’s like your every move is being critiqued. Eventually I just stopped going. I felt like no one catered to the casual or beginner dancer. It’s like we were just in the way and didn’t count. Can’t blame the salsa community entirely however. A lot of it was my own self consciousness of not feeling good enough to be out there. But I would have been more comfortable had more experienced dancers extended a hand. Sigh.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Come back to the dance floor Demond! And thanks so much for your response!

    • LT says:

      Totally agree with Demond on this, here in London, there is nothing catered towards beginners within the community. I think we can all agree that you get better at dancing by doing lessons and then applying what you learn from these lessons by dancing. But dancing for a guy is extremely tough due to the expectation that there are only two states for men when it comes to dancing, someone who is a seasoned professional dancer (faux pro) and non-dancers.

      Only reason I’ve personally managed to survive as long as I have is because I’m a muscular, confident guy and girls like to hit on me in salsa clubs but the second we start dancing, then tend to lose interesting when I start dancing more traditional Cuban style salsa than the big flashy moves and spins that they expect to receive from a professional dancer.

      Funny thing is, I’ve danced in many European cities and have been across to Havana to dance and refine my basics. Never had any problems finding women who wanted to dance and have fun even with my non-perfected style.

      It’s getting to the point now where I’m considering leaving my own salsa scene and only dancing when I’m out of the country 🙁

  • Tony says:

    I agree with the Faux professionals idea of people sticking to their own group. I must say as of the last year and a half I have become quite comfortable sticking to my own group. Not because of my attitude thinking that I am a ‘faux professional’, but the simple and obvious fact that I have been turned down many times by women whom I ask to dance, then immediately dance with a person in their own group. I’ve been dancing for nearly 6 years now and I just couldn’t be bothered to ask anyone to dance as the inevitible answer of no just seems so hard to avoid.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment. Several male readers have said similar things about ladies saying “no” when they ask them to dance. I have to admit that I did not think about this before. I appreciate you sharing your perspective with me!

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Thanks so much for all of the thoughtful comments. I greatly appreciate your interest in this topic, and I really enjoy hearing all of the different points of view.

  • Lynda Bourgeois says:

    I have been a dancer since age 3. Latin dancing for 16yrs., where ever I travel. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Reno, London, South Carolina, Chicago, Vancouver,BC, Havana, Cuba, Mexico. I never get bored because I enjoy new venues and meeting all ages and ethnicity of dancers. I never say “No” when asked unless the male lead is drunk. I prefer intimate neighbor venues and clubs and outdoor events to the Big Grandios Salsa Festivals. Often I am the newbie in town and I see a Salsero that I think will enjoy my style too, I ask Him to dance. They will usually say yes, and I appreciate that as I am French, and a Rubia (blonde) so they are taking a chance on me. I love Latin Musica and Baile, I will always find the joy in dancing and hope I can continue till I’m 90. The “dance clicks” are sad because they are missing out on a greater experience to know different cultures, languages, and just having fun. You grow as a person when you step outside your “box”. Thanks for the article it got us talking to each other.

  • Avid Dancer says:

    Thanks so much for this article. All of it is so true. These are exactly the problems with Salsa scene today. Cliques, groups, loyalty issues, snobbery, belittling beginners, and so on. When I began dancing eight years back women were more easygoing and would tolerate my beginner style but nowadays even a beginner woman would turn me down because they want to show their loyalty to their team. I know many women and men join teams because they don’t want to be left out. That causes others to have hard time finding anyone to dance or socialize with. We should collectively discourage such bad behavior on the dance floor and encourage beginners to come easily onboard into this excellent socializing platform and derive the most fun out of it. Lastly it’s equal world now so women should also ask a guy for dance.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thank you for commenting on this article. I agree with everything you stated, and I especially agree that women should ask men to dance. I do it all the time!

  • Nick Dalton says:

    This is a great article! BTW…I miss our social dances 🙂 I would get bored with myself and step away from time to time as well. You hit the nail on the head with this article! Great read.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment, Nick! I miss dancing with you too. Let me know when you’re coming back to town, so that we can hit the dance floor! In the meantime, I hope that the salseras in Mexico know how lucky they are to have you! Take care, and be well!

  • James Russler says:

    I’m not a latin dancer (I’ve been dancing lindy hop for nearly 5 years), but this article highlights the exact same problems that have arisen in my local scene. What was once a welcoming, vibrant community has now become fractured and clique-ish, and because I’m not in any of the “in crowds”, I cannot even remember the last time I genuinely felt welcome at a social dance – whenever I do stick my head out and go for a dance, it almost feels like I’m invisible. What was once a pleasant crowd of people now appears to be polluted with grossly over-inflated egos. I genuinely love dancing, but I just feel little desire to socialise with such an unpleasant crowd of people. I really am at my wit’s end as to what to do.

  • Dance Through Life says:

    For me dancing is about relaxing, rejuvenating, switching off and playing.

    I’ve been dancing more than 15 years around and inside the London scenes, back when I started there were very few people making a living from dancing and there was this small club called la Finca that was always open, but to dance there you had to learn to dance in very tiny space because it was crowded when nothing else was on.

    Like many beginners a few elders danced with me to help me progress to become half competent, I probably would not have made it through lessons if it was not for them and thus it is my duty when dancing to dance with beginners and try and transfer the gift and fun of dancing to others, I guess it’s part of a social contract.

    And dancing with a beginner or someone with a different style can still be amazing, after all it’s the fun of dancing that’s important. The real currency of dances is nothing to do with ego or skills it is about smiles, connection, play !!

    Now the whole scene has got a lot bigger and more professional which is great and there is much more opportunities as media is reporting that millennial’s shift way from traditional pub and club scenes and seek experiences. All this is good and dancing is a gift that needs sharing, it’s far healthier for 20 somethings to be dancing than getting drunk etc. I would go so far to say dancing is good for society.

    Professionals obviously have to compete for business and they have to do whatever is appropriate to grow the scene, I would guess that having a large group of loyal people is critical to paying for venues and putting on events. However navigating these groups of loyal people can be a chore if the focus is on skills and styles and sometimes it’s easier to avoid them because I only have a few hours to dance on a Friday or Saturday night !!

    I’m not a teacher or in the business, although I have dabbled, I’m firmly a consumer so I leave the business up to professionals. Although I am an advocate of the benefits, I want everyone to share this beautiful thing that we have found.

    While I accept the long time dancers are glue, it’s actually the professionals and promoters that are the guardians, so I do have a personal request.

    I would like professionals to prioritise in this order:

    1) entertainment and fun
    2) inclusion and acceptance of people
    3) skills.

    Times I have swayed away from dancing have been when I am in relationships where the fragilities could not withstand the flirting play of dancing. As dancers we know this is at the surface only and does not threaten a partnership but relationships are complicated and often we all have deep seated fears in our hearts and minds that can get triggered.

    And right now I have taken a break from dancing for a while, not for a relationship but stupid politics of a small few, and we get that in every area of life. And while I love salsa, it is supporting part of my life, like most people it is one of a few things that I do and if it is becoming stressful I will take a break or dance in a different scene or to some different tunes.

    But I will be back so hasta la vista :-).

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks so much for your reply; I really enjoy hearing about dance experiences in other countries. You have made many important points, and I am so glad that you shared them in this forum. Thanks again for reading this article!

      • Andy says:

        Melissa, it’s a great question, keep asking them like this and exploring and I am sure the community will keep responding to you 🙂

        I am sure many promoters, teachers could do with the feedback the article has generated so many responses.

        Keep going you could make a big difference 🙂

  • Luis Canjura says:

    great articles specially the faux professionals, lately there are many and a lot of women. I have being dancing since I have memory , I would never get bored but the scene has changed a lot before it was a nice community and we new each other it was more about having fun and helping and caring for each other`.but around 87 people started to incorporate ballroom dancing moves and techniques to social dance and a lot of people like it and started to do it and here we are now and I see a lot of stress and anxiety on dancers , when in reality is a bout having fun and to communicate with your dancing partner and to have communal exorcism ,ja,ja,ja,ja.,Thank you for the articles ,well done

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment! I love hearing from someone who has danced as long as you have. Great perspective!

  • Steve Single says:

    Hi. Great article, and I am sure it has just scratched the surface. I have been dancing salsa for four years and before that it was six years of modern jive. I always wondered why the many familiar faces I have enjoyed meeting at dance venues have simply stayed for a while and then disappeared. It may well be some of the reasons you mention. I think I would get a bit bored after all these years and give up too, if it werent for the the following reasons:
    1. Ask new dancers for a dance and don’t judge what level they are. Afterall, we are all at different stages of our own dance journey. I will dance with anyone who likes to dance. If they turn me down, I prefer that they do that rather than dance with me and not enjoy themselves. Usually they don’t turn me down because they can see I am so happy to be dancing, at whatever level is appropriate.
    2. Try new dance styles, keep going to lessons. I get bored of my own moves after a while, and I know this. I need to keep stretching to keep seeing the fun.
    3. Try new dance venues. Dance promoters seem to take it personally when you don’t always go to your regular venues and try somewhere new. This is shortsighted. They don’t remember that while you are trying some other venue, someone from another venue is trying theirs. This cross fertilisation is what binds the community and makes it stay alive. If everyone just did their own venues the scene would stagnate and die.
    4. I try to Just remember to enjoy the dancing and the connection with my dance partners. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated then that.

  • Long time salsera says:

    I called it quits around 2004 after dedicating lots of time learning, performing and social dancing.The faux professionals bloomed after a whole bunch of schools were opening up and giving students chances to perform. After that evryone was pro. The clicks and the so called snobby picky dancer was always there from way back. People who took classes wanted to practice with people who were better in order to improve and also because it made u popular and look like a pro.
    That’s never going away. I think salsa venues of the good Ole days have faded away. There were many nice places to go dancing to in the past that were great. Those have disappeared bc frequent dancers don’t waste money purchasing alcohol. And the bars wouldn’t make business. End of venue.
    Too many instructors out there trying to make money teaching and can’t teach either. My advice try different dance genres and then come back to salsa. Avoid the Salsa Drama. Don’t let others get in your skin over dancing …:-)
    Ps I am satisfied dancing now a few times a year when back then it was 6 days a week if possible.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Excellent point about serious dancers not buying alcohol. This seemingly random fact has resulted in the demise of many of our local dance spots. Some people have tried to fill these gaps with studio socials, but these kinds of events don’t appeal to everyone. I don’t know what the solution is to this problem, but I’m so glad you raised it in your comment. Thanks so much for reading this article!

      • Lynda Bourgeois says:

        I am a dancer, and also have promoted Salsa Dances in Clubs. Alcohol is not conducive to good dancing, as with any sport. I have tried to convince the Club owners to offer other alcohol free beverages besides just soda, such as: Horchata, Tamerind, Fruit drinks, etc. They can also cover some of their costs by charging a small cover at the door.

        The reality is that people that dance often don’t drink a lot ( thank goodness). So if the Club owners were creative in offering other menu options that would keep those venues going. With the aggressive DUI stops and police, I never drink and drive, not even one. But I am more than happy to purchase an tasty non alcohol juice drink or Horchata.

      • Long time salsera says:

        Thank you for creating this article.

  • Disappointed Salsalera says:

    Great article and right on time. I am fairly new to the scene of salsa/Latin dancing. When I first got into dancing I used to go to the clubs often. However, I stopped going because I don’t like standing around. I go to dance, but I find that I don’t get asked to dance much even though I am a good enough dancer. I found that the dancers are cliquish. I take classes and the strangest thing is that even the dancers that I dance with in class that knows how well I dance don’t ask me to dance at the clubs. I know that I am a good enough dancer because in class these very dancers rush to dance with me because they know they can practice their new moves successfully when they dance with me. But at the clubs, these very dancers ignore you and rush to dance with certain dancers, and when you ask them to dance (which I don’t enjoy because I am a traditional female that believes that the male should do the asking) they turn you down with some lame excuse. I am speaking for many people I know that stay from social dancing. I find it amazing and disappointing that you would see this one woman on the dance floor for every dance. As soon as the song ends another lead asks her to dance while all these other women are standing around just looking and waiting for someone, anyone, to ask them to dance. Perhaps this is due to the “faux” dancer idea, however, l believe it is more so due to the cliques that are formed. Very disappointing.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences in this forum. From reading feedback from many of the male dancers, I would suggest that you try asking some men to dance the next time you go out. I have many female friends who are fabulous dancers but rarely get to dance because they always wait to be asked. I respect tradition, but a lot of the guys, especially the younger ones, expect to be asked to dance as much as they do the asking. For the most part, I find asking men to dance to be a painless experience. Most men seem flattered to be asked and I rarely get turned down. Just give it a try. Good luck, and happy dancing!

  • Nina says:

    I agree so much with this article and yes was part of the reason I stopped going to social dance parties. I was sick of the gossip on the poor technique and how only the students of the gossiper had perfect technique and quality and everyone else just didn’t know what they where doing and where crap. I was sick of the nice to your face but the minute you turn around you hear all this crap about this that or the other. The dance teacher warfare is very true. God forbid you take lessons with certain teachers or you’ll be labeled and cut down for even thinking that you could find better or go elsewhere. It’s appalling really.When I first started dancing, a guy I was dancing with for fun told me he couldn’t go out social dancing anymore with me because his coaches said it would ruin his connection with his partner he danced with for competition. I mean no wonder there are so many snobby dancers out there if this is the crap they’re taught. It’s a shame though because this mentality is everywhere and to the point you really can’t just go and have fun unless it’s like a club scene and not Latin/Ballroom scene.

  • Dance Baby Dance Like the World is Ending says:

    I love your article… I started in the salsa scene very young, been dancing for almost 15 years, even tho I never took any classes I traveled and spend lots of time with several schools, I saw and lived the change you are talking about and over the last few years almost felt like I did not belong in that scene anymore, I have never liked the endless spinning and show off style of dance, regardless I still try to go out dancing every once in while, been fortunate enough to have a small group of friends that still stick to the casino roots and ignore the faux professional dancer boom…. it has changed so much that I I’ve been told the way I dance is rare nowdays, which is odd because it is how it all started and is the way everybody was dancing 10 years ago…. anyways thanks for your article is very well put!

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment! I don’t know where you are located, but save me a dance if our paths ever cross!!

  • Lee says:

    Dancing is an innate joy of moving your body to the undulation of the music that calls you and makes you follow the rhythm. I spent my life in clubs dancing to everything salsa, cumbia, disco, rock and finally when I tired of those, belly dancing at Arab clubs. There was a time when Salsa was king and people got dressed to the nines to hit the floor and make those moves. It wasn’t just about doing turns which in and of itself is not salsa dancing. If you tire move on and let the new comers pick up the baton. The music you love will always live in you.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      “The music you love will always live in you.” I don’t know the last time I’ve heard a statement that I love so much. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jey says:

    Hi…..
    I am a male dancer and I’ve been dancing since 2007. As of the past few years, I have become very bored with social dancing, especially in NYC. I like your article and totally appreciate that someone has addressed this, however, the Faux Professionals are not crux of the problem, I would say that they probably contribute to only 10% of the problem. But moreso than not, they are the ones who keep social dance interesting. They are the ones that I look to, and look for, in order to determine if I am at the right social or not, so I disagree with your observation. And its not the beginners, because beginners can be fun. I say that 80% of the problem lies within the part of the community who has been dancing for more than 13 months, who still cannot find the count. Who continually get confused after 5..6.. 7ing a cross body lead and who still dont know that when i raise her right arm, i am leading you into a right turn. This is very basic dancing and there is an overwhelming amount of dancers about 80% (mostly 50% female , 30% male ), who have been dancing for 2, 3, 4, 5 years who still make very basic mistakes in latin partner dancing. And they are determined that they will not take a class to learn how to properly dance with a partner. Freestyle dancing doesnt need a class, and a natural born dancer does not need a class to find the rhythm. The rest of us should really consider a class or two to learn partner dancing.

    So, my point is, that there is an overwhelming amount of social dancers who should consider bowling instead of dancing. This would definitely bring back better dancers to social dancing and i would definitely have a better dance experience.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment. You raise some excellent points. I would agree that there are many people who seem to enjoy dancing enough to keep doing it, but not enough to master proper timing. I honestly believe this is a matter of people not listening to Latin music, except for when they are dancing. I am blown away by the number of people I know that would describe themselves as avid Latin dancers but don’t have a single Latin song in their I-tunes, or other music collection. If you don’t regularly listen to the music, I think you are doomed to being off-time on the dance floor. And — I would also agree that everyone, not just guys, benefit from taking a few lessons to master the basics. Thanks for reading the article; I appreciate it!

  • Russell says:

    Interesting article. Here is my perspective.
    I feel that the elements you’ve described are correct, but not new, not limited to the Latin dance scene & pretty much inevitable.
    I entered into the English Latin dance scene about 11 years ago having been learning in Sydney Australia for the previous 2 years.
    Dance school ‘cliques’ were rife down under, largely due to the fast growth the scene was seeing.
    Moving to England in ’04 I was delighted to join a much bigger & more mature dance scene, but was stunned by the stand-offishness (not sure that’s a word) of a large proportion of women who wouldn’t dance with an ‘unknown’, but would only stick to those people they danced with regularly.
    You’re right that many people dance for pure fun, but part of that fun for lots of people is looking good & it’s not surprising (but not necessarily right) that people narrow down their group of potential dance partners as they get better & better.
    One element contributing to the loss of experienced dancers in any genre which I think you’ve missed is procreation.
    I see the vast majority of people starting out their dance journey being between 18 – 25 (there may be a London bias here, but I think it’s probably a slight one). Give these people 2, 5 or even 10 years to hone their skills and most of them will get to the age where they start having children.
    My days of dancing several times a week, or even once a week went out the door when the baby bottles & nappies came in. Some may be ‘lucky’ enough to be able to juggle both, but for me, dancing quickly moved from priority number 1, down to about number 3 or 4.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still love to dance & when the opportunity arises for a night out, dancing is always my first choice, but I imagine this change in dancing habits is a common one.
    So, what’s the answer? The same as with any pastime / sport / field. Focus on those coming up through the scene & give them the best possible chance of taking over the reigns & becoming ‘old-timers’ themselves.
    ……rant over.

    • Big Rob says:

      Yes, Russell. This is a common problem & inevitable. I am from Dallas, TX. We have a regional dance called swingout and experiencing similar issues. When I read the article, I could easy change the dance style and location to my region. When I learned the dance years ago, I thought of myself as new skool, now I am old skool. It is a natural progression as each new generation thinks of themselves as old school, and the previous new skool is degraded to old school. I have been dancing swingout awhile and do find it boring, so I had to update to keep myself fresh. And yes, the new skool will be in the same boat as myself, old skool.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your reply. I identify with everything you said. Like you and Big Rob, (who commented on your comment), I’m old Skool as well. Sometimes I feel like I’m about 2 steps away from being the old lady on the dance floor. LOL. Thanks again for reading this article!

  • BoredSalsera says:

    I have to confess that I often say “No” to guys. I don’t think it’s something I need to apologize for. I am happy to meet new people and make new friends, but after nine years of dancing and five years ‘On 2’ I don’t think it’s my job to go out to teach new people or do the basic for a song that I love and would prefer not to dance to ‘On 1.’ Oftentimes in intimate settings I will say “Yes” to everyone, but I do it to for the community and not because it’s fun for me. In many other partner activities it’s acceptable for people of the same skill to play together, like tennis or golf. Being a good dancer is just that, a skill, it doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person and saying “No” isn’t about me thinking I’m better about anyone. It’s just that I don’t have a lot of time for dancing and when I do, I want to make sure I can get in as many dances with ‘On 2’ people as possible, most of whom are established partners. I have noticed that the less I dance, my skills are degenerating, so it’s important for me to find partners that can restart my muscle memory.

    Finally, I have no interest in being part of any cliques and am usually friendly to everyone. But I’m not under obligation to dance with everyone.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      You raise very valid points. Thanks for taking the time to read this article and for sharing your point of view. I’m sure that there are many people who agree with you.

  • Lynda Bourgeois says:

    @ James, I am also a Swing/ Lindy dancer and enjoy when I can find Big Band music. Thanks for your comments. I found it interesting that the cliquish syndrome is not limited to Latin Dancing. I don’t like exclusion, those small groups eventually bread contempt within themselves. I enjoy trying new venues and I am not part of any clique. Don’t give up dancing, keep it joyful and you will enjoy. I primarily dance in San Francisco, Reno, and Los Angeles, Inland Empire too!

    • James Russler says:

      We do have some international instructors coming in soon for some workshops. I’ve signed up and paid for them, but I still don’t know if I can even be bothered going. The only thing that is motivating me is the thought of that money going to waste. I’m hoping that these workshops will reignite something within me, but I get the sense that how I feel after these workshops may very well determine whether or not I hang up my shoes for good.

  • Lynda Bourgeois says:

    So well said, thanks for the post, across the Pond.

  • Marcus Taub says:

    Let’s make this simple for everyone. All We need is new music from the top bachata & salsa artist like Romeo Santos, Domenic Marte, Hector Acosta, Victor Manuel, Gilberto Santarosa, Marc Anthony, so we can find many more reasons to keep dancing. By the way great write up!

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment Marcus. Excellent point about the music! After all — the music is what matters. Dancing is simply our connection to it!

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    I am truly humbled by the widespread response to this article. All of the comments have given me so much to think about, and I enjoy hearing all of the different perspectives. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s dialogue like this that keeps our community strong!

  • Men's Perspective says:

    Lot of great perspectives from various comments. I totally agree that this is “equal world” and women should be more upfront with their intention to be asked for a dance. Salsa scene has unique opportunity to break old school ideas of men asking women for dance. Those are dinosaur era practices and women should go out and ask whosoever they want to dance with. They will also face a “no” but hey then everybody will understand what a “no” means and use it more cautiously and for genuine reasons. In some countries women are more outgoing and clearly give out signals to guys that they would definitely not turn-down a dance request. Across the globe there are innovative ways these problems have been solved and Salsa community has the opportunity to be the pioneer in innovating because it has become International language. Maybe give people wrist bands with color code to indicate if they are experienced or beginner or whether they are willing to dance with anybody or with only their own group. Also encourage more bands to play salsa in different languages because making it a latin-only thing makes the non-latins feel unwelcome. At the end please make Salsa scene a daily-neccessary-international phenomenon almost like Zumba.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment! I am a huge advocate for women asking men to dance. Because of job and family commitments my dance time is way more limited than it used to be. So — when I get the chance to dance I’m on a mission. I ask men to dance just as much as they ask me. While I haven’t received many hard “no” responses, I have certainly experienced long delays in getting some men to say “yes”. This is a humbling experience and as a result, I rarely say no when someone politely asks me to dance!

  • tiburonchino says:

    I can’t imagine Hip Hop dancers saying, “I’m so bored. What happened to all of the good dancers? Maybe it’s time for me to take a break.” They are busy dancing to the latest hit song. Hip Hop is a popular genre driven by musicians and music. Do social Hip Hop dancers wrestle over whether to stay or leave the Hip Hop community? I don’t think so.

    The so-called Latin dance community in North America is driven by instructors and dance schools. Most Hip Hop dancers are self-taught, learn from friends or videos. Most Latin dance beginners are taught they need lessons from a professional instructor, belong to a “community” if you want to have opportunities to dance and buy dance shoes. Meanwhile, the hip hop dancers are jamming in their basement with friends. The most knowledgeable Latin music DJs in North America play 50 year old LPs. Hip Hop music is about the here and now.

    A Latin dance movement or trend that follows instructors, congresses, and social is bound to be short lived. With the exception of a couple of songs (Marc Anthony’s Vivir Mi Vida?), the salsa music played in the US/Canada or Europe rarely reflects the music that is popular in Latin America right now; and in fact, if it did, they would be playing less salsa, because salsa music is not as popular as it was before. The Mexican music and dance, known as banda, generate more sales than salsa and bachata combined and are no less “Latin”, but are not generally included in what is known as “Latin” dance. Who decides what is “Latin” dance and what is not and how do they decide?

    But aren’t Hip Hop and Latin dancing are different? After all, Latin dancing is partner based. Well, the original mambo dancing, which is considered the precursor to salsa, was danced separated from your partner. And who says Hip Hop can’t be a partner based dance? Rock and Roll was originally a partner dance before tastes and trends influenced it.

    Salsa was widely popular in some places: Cubans dancing during the timba revolution in the 90’s, the caleños and Grupo Niche, Fania All Stars in NYC. But they didn’t take lessons, workshops or congresses. The music was played in the streets, in homes, and on the bus and they danced because they liked the songs; in the USA/ Canada and Europe, latin dancing seems more about self-actualization, finding your lost sensuality, building up your confidence, meeting people, but the music is secondary. Attendance at Salsa Congresses is high; attendance at Salsa concerts dismally low.

    Music is what inspires dancers. But dancing with a really great dancer is not going make you want to continue dancing. (Don’t get me wrong though, learning from a professional teacher if you don’t get grow up in a Latin music and dance environment, can be invaluable.)

    But if you weren’t really a fan of the music, latin dance will get old on you. (To keep Latin dancers, DJs are mixing cha-cha versions of Michael Jackson songs or bachata versions of Bob Marley songs.) Couple that with the fact the salsa music of today is not that good and these Latin dance communities try their hardest to exclude timba music from Cuba, then it is no wonder salsa dancers are leaving.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Awesome comment! Your point about the music is dead on, in my opinion. Even though I know that many people dislike it, I prefer Timba music above all others. Cuban musicians are constantly putting out new Timba and Cubaton music which keeps the Casino scene very fresh. While I love a lot of “traditional” salsa music, it seems like there’s not a lot of new music being played for linear dancing. Since I enjoy linear dancing just as much as Casino, when I am practicing at home I just use Timba for all of the styles of dance. Many DJs in my area are hesitant to play too much Timba, but I notice that things are starting to change a bit.

      You obviously know your stuff about music and the history of dance! I would encourage you to write an article about the contrast between the evolution of hip hop vs. salsa dancing in North America. Your insights are totally fascinating. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Ibrahim says:

    I’ve been dancing for almost 7 years myself in San Diego. We have some attitude, sure, but I feel lucky to say that a lot of our community doesn’t just because of the nature of our town. We’re a surfer town, a beach town, there is a laid-back vibe that is very nice and spreads to all aspects of life.

    Sure, we have some teams that never show up at certain clubs or socials. But more often than that we have people greeting everyone else regardless of team or teacher.

    I’ve had people tell me my “style” of bachata or salsa is too flashy or not traditional enough or just put me down. I smile, shrug, and keep dancing. Sometimes I’ll say “When the ladies start turning me down because of my style, I’ll stop or change!”

    My favorite line in your article is that dancing is an “expression of joy.” That really resonates with me and I love finding people that share joy with me on the dance floor.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment Ibrahim. Clearly, I need to add San Diego to my list of places to visit for dancing. Several dancers from my area are headed to San Diego next week to dance. Do you have any recommendations for local hotspots? Anyway — I digress. LOL. Thanks again for taking the time to read this article!

  • Barny Wong says:

    ‘I dance-turbate, therefore I am’

    This article points to the infiltration of dance-turbation in today’s social dance scene.

    dance-turbation: the ability to pimp out the dance in support of one’s egoic pursuits that simply papers over a (erred*) feeling of self- lacking.

    Commentary: To me, the essence of dance is to experience Connection- to self, to the other, and to the birthing of the dance and musical moment between. Like great Art that makes us see with new eyes, Dance makes us feel with new hearts.

    *We are already complete with the tools needed to navigate this world fully and properly.

  • Lynda Bourgeois says:

    I agree, it is always the music that motivates us to dance. Having said that, thank goodness we have Cubano Timba, Old School Fania Salsa and moderna Salsa in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles. Latin Orquestas from all parts of South America, Cuba, and Central America.

    I believe if you dance in many different venues you will see people from all over the world, different ethnicity, languages ( and dialects) styles of dance. We embrace Timba, Salsa, Bachatta, Cha cha cha, Cumbia. Many different age groups from 20 somethings to 75yrs old. Seasoned dancers that are smooth and fantastic. This conversation is about opening your mind, your hearts, your spirit. Dancing has so many attributes, I could never imagine giving it up because I’m bored. If you are bored with life … maybe you are boring. Please know I’m speaking in general terms, not insulting any one’s comments.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Lynda — you are truly blessed to live in such an awesome dance community! Two of my favorite instructors, Ryan and Sidney, are from San Francisco. I hope to travel there next year to take a few lessons with them and dance at some of the local spots. Thanks for your comments !

  • Deteriius says:

    I think balance is key.

    You have a lot of great points, but the opposite will also be a problem. I stopped dancing Lindy Hop in my community because it started to lack to competitive sprit that made awesome dancers; everything became about “having fun”. The honest truth is people experience joy in different ways, and if improving and being better than other people is what brings you joy- should you not do it?

    Completely honestly, the article sounds a little bitter; if “long-timers” stop dancing because of faux pros, thats their problem alone- a very passive aggressive problem.

    • Melissa West-Koistila says:

      Thanks for your comment. I get your point about the lack of competitiveness being a turn off for some people. This is an argument that I’ve heard quite a bit and there is some validity in it. For many people, the better you become at dancing, the more fun you have. As a studio trained dancer and member of a performance team myself — I get it. However, I was just trying to make the point that the social dance floor should be welcoming for everyone — not just for the “highly trained.” When I want to be “challenged” on the dance floor, I certainly know whom to ask for a dance. But I never say “no” to a beginner Lead who is kind enough to ask me to dance because I too can learn something from new dancers. I was not a good dancer when I first learned to dance, but luckily more experienced dancers were willing to help me out. I just think this is the kind of attitude that builds a strong community. Thanks for your comment. I enjoy hearing opposing points of view.

  • Guy Succes says:

    I know that this article is pertaining to salsa, but I also dance other styles such as kizomba. Most of everything said in this article can be found in other parties as well, there will always be competition when there are cliques, various levels of dancers, as well as an evolution of the dance and music.

  • Matt says:

    I started ballroom latin dancing in 2003, and did that for 5 years, then I took a break for 4 years to pursue other activities and I got a weight gain which took my confidence down.
    I came into the scene in 2012, but took minimal lessons as I also started rock climbing excessive , now 3 years after I am finally devoting this year to improve my salsa (lessons and practice) and adding to my bachata (love this dance) experience.
    I stopped asking most instructors or performers as they have this elitist attitude to others not in their circle.
    Beginners need to be there to change the scene, but I have a problem with them going into a social when they struggle with the basics which is hard to lead them.
    It does seem like some just wanted to show off and hate some of the couple that show up thinking that space for 3 couples belongs to just them.
    Learning different styles does eliminate the boredom of the same scene and assortment of moves.

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    Great point about Beginner dancers. I totally agree that one should at least have the basics down before venturing out onto the social dance floor. I know a dance teacher who believes that only men need to take dance lessons as women “just need to follow along”, but everyone could benefit from a few lessons. The exception of course being off you were fortunate to grow up dancing as part of your culture. Thanks for your comment!

  • Just Keep Dancing says:

    Interesting comments. Here are a few of my unpopular opinions:

    1) Men should ALWAYS ask women to dance.

    I don’t care that’s its 2015, be a MAN. You should have the courage to ask ANY woman to dance and the confidence to accept a “no” answer, without acting like your life’s value dropped because some random woman in a club said “no”. Asking women on dates, for phone numbers and to dance is a right of passage for any man. No excuses. Just do it.

    2) Nobody, woman or man, should say yes to everyone that asks them to dance. Dance with whomever you want. No obligations. See points about courage and confidence stated above.

    3) Social dancing is for everybody, including beginners who don’t know anything. If you only want perfect dances, join a pro team or take advance classes. Even if you are having a bad dance its only 4-5 minutes of your life. Man/Woman Up.

    Sincerely,
    Mr. Just Keep Dancing

    • Mr. Macho says:

      There you go Mr. Macho, men like you keep the women in their closet and you dictate all the terms for women. Women choose and they have the power to choose who they want to hangout with but they don’t show it because machos have set other rules for them out in the open. All I’m asking is women should be more explicit about their choices and not waste men’s time in playing hide-and-seek games. It’s women’s world too hence they should woman-up and go and seek explicitly instead of the machos setting the rules for them. If by man-up you mean men should fight it out then good luck to you in your ghetto south-of-the-border world.

  • Melissa West-Koistila says:

    LOVE YOUR COMMENT.

  • Lynda Bourgeois says:

    For those Ladies and Men that are traditional and think only the Men can do the asking. Here is what works for me. Often when traveling I am alone and don’t know anyone in the club. I watch to see a male dancer whose style will compliment mine. I then tell him that I like his style and would like to dance with him. I then go back my seat and wait for him to ask me. That way he knows in advance the answer is “Yes” and he can still take the lead in asking me. It works perfectly. After that first Man takes me on the floor, others will also have the courage to ask me, when they see I am skilled. It strikes me as funny, that even the “invitation” is a delicate dance.

  • Bob from Bath says:

    I must be very lucky. In 15 years of dancing Salsa, Ceroc and Modern Jive I have only been refused a dance once! It was always thought to be impolite to refuse a dance, so being selective must be a new thing in salsa circles. A dance only lasts for a few minutes, so grin and bear it. It will encourage the beginners.

  • Ruud van Oers says:

    I started out with LA-styl. quite, did Rueda, quit and then started with Cuban style. I went to various clubs. For some I went there once, for others I come there on a regular basis. With some female dancers I’ve danced only once, with others year after year. My message -> just try out what you like and stick to it!

  • Alon says:

    I started getting bored of salsa years ago. but pretty much for opposite reasons than described by this article 🙂

    I prefer to dance only with female dancers who are very technically strong, very musical, interesting and very aware of their dancing. And not just one’s that “come to dance salsa no-style”. after 15 years in salsa, dancing with beginners / generic dancers bores me. I prefer to just sit and listen to some good music in the socials.

    I also prefer to dance strictly LA-style and most of the time would say no to anyone offering me to dance on2. Just isn’t for me.

    Dancing level in my country has severely taken a blow in the last 5 years and that’s pretty much when I stopped dancing salsa, except in congresses where i make sure are mostly LA-style, Salsa Dura music and higher then average dancing skills by the locals.

    As for dancing in my own country, i did the switch 5 years ago to competitive latin ballroom and life is good again 🙂

  • ExDancer says:

    I used to love latin dancing and salsa in particular and used it as an outlet from the corporate world. But this article is spot on – I left the scene after observing the faux dancers being picky about who they danced with and turning up their noses if you couldn’t dance on 2. Dancing should be about enjoyment and socialising and making friends – we’re not all in competition. I went to a club here in Singapore a few months ago, on my own ( I do miss dancing terribly) but being an expat here and not having joined any classes, I spent 2 hours watching – not one soul approached me to dance…I took my shoes off and went home. The dancing scene is not what it used to be – more pretenders than real people. Very sad.

  • JMarie says:

    Great Article! I have been salsa/merengue/bachata dancing for about 8 years off and on in Dallas. However, I have been dancing in general since I was four of African, ballet, jazz, Tahitian, Hawaiian. Salsa dancing never gets bored for me because I love to try to incorporate these other styles into salsa dancing that gives it lots of flair! Based on that, I would get a lot of compliments on my dancing and be asked how/where did I learn that? I would smile and tell them I just been learning for about 2 years regardless what year it was…protection from those critical advanced/profressional dancers who somehow expect you to learn exactly what they have learn in class/studio. I always laugh inside when they admire my move but then try to correct me, lol! and pray they never ask me again! However, they are becoming a rampant group of folks and it’s sad to see that because I enjoy dancing local/street AND studio/class. I agree, a real good dancer, will have IT and dance to the music on beat. But considering there are so many people taking studio classes, these are the only people to dance with so you have to learn the studio class moves as well. I like both. What I don’t like is this expectation to know what style the lead is doing on the first round of dancing with someone. What happened to the 3 dances in the set? I consider myself a fairly good dancer, but I now I get anxiety when either a beginner or advance dancer asks me to dance. The beginner expects me to know the class moves as if that’s the only way to dance and then have the nerve to correct you! lol. The advance dancers pull out all their best moves which is great if I had an idea of your style and previously danced with you but stressful when I try to keep up and I look bad if I don’t! This is basic etiquette they need to bring back to the socials/venues/clubs. 3 dances per set. And men, don’t just leave me on the dance floor. Please escort me off. Sometimes, they are barely out of my arms and into someone else’s. already cheating! lol. Also, I hate dancing with instructors: PLEASE leave your instructions in the class! I am here to dance and have fun, not learn a lesson. Especially, when it’s from an instructor I don’t take classes from! Part of dancing is having a connection through the dance, not with the mouth, keep it shut. Some of the best dancers I know, correct you with the movement of their hand, the slow down of their pace, or just sticking to basic moves so we both can enjoy the dance and progress from there.

  • UsedToLoveSalsa says:

    This is a great article! I have always made it a rule that I never turn down anyone when they ask me to dance, including absolute beginners. They have to learn to dance somehow! I have also never left anyone in the middle of a dance, no matter how bad of a dancer they are.
    I used to love to dance salsa. I went 3 times a week for several years and then quit because I felt there was too much drama and too many cliques. It felt like I was back in high school. I finally came back a few months ago after a 6 year hiatus.During the last dance of the night, I was dancing with someone who seemed to have a very light touch (i.e., was not a strong lead) and I was having a difficult time following him. I laughed off a couple of stumbles and figured we would get through it. After a minute, he stopped in the middle of the dance floor, threw up both of his hands and said he was done and walked away. I was humiliated even though I knew I was not at fault. I may have been rusty from so many years away, but I can still dance well. I have never been back. That kind of snobbery in social dancing is ridiculous and turns off so many passionate, fun dancers.
    Thanks for writing this article. Maybe some dancers will read it and think twice about how they treat others on the dance floor.

  • MyTwoCents says:

    Thank you for writing the article, as well as sparking this discussion. I have been dancing for many years, and I love the music and the dance. It has provided a lot of joy for me and many others. I have definitely seen the social dance scene take a downhill turn, but fortunately, there are rays of hope.

    From what I have seen in the US, many of the issues in the Latin social dance scene have been caused by the proliferation of the cult-like dance team culture, which has been promoted by ego-driven, money-hungry “teachers/leaders”…as well as by the organizers of big dance events and competitions.

    Instead of creating mediocre-at-best “performers”, we need to teach developing dancers how to move their bodies with some degree of smoothness, as well as precision…while giving them time to assimilate the rhythm. We also need to start by building proper leading and following technique…instead of only focusing on choreographed patterns. Then, we can have a dance community filled with more people that are able to enjoy the music, and dance with anyone…instead of a divided, ego-based community.

    By the way, dance students also need to realize that they will not be able to pull off flashy moves right away, without investing time in learning the basics first. If there is only a demand for flashiness, without an appreciation for fundamentals, teachers will be forced to do whatever fills their pockets…which is sad, but also understandable. Unfortunately, many dancers and aspiring dancers do not understand how important it is to develop strong fundamentals, and that it takes some time and energy.

    I also agree that there are too many self-deluded long-time dancers out there, who need to get humble and take a lesson or two…but from a teacher who will focus on helping them to nail down their fundamentals…instead of someone who is only going to teach you another “pattern” or “routine”.

    One can dream… 🙂

  • David Sander says:

    Part of what is happening here is the difference between performance based dance culture and that of genuine social dance culture. A great social dancer wants to be able to dance with a broad number of people and give them all good dance experiences, so social dancers value experience and flexibility in a social lead who can get a lot out of a beginner and dance well with an intermediate or experienced follow.

    This activity is by nature very different from a performance oriented dancer who spends a lot of time practicing with their performance troupe. If that is their concentration, then they learn the habits of one or a few people and a single school of dance and they become less flexible and less experienced as partners when their training for hours on a choreographed performance makes them less flexible, less experienced, and even anti social in some of their dance habits. Good choreography is not leadership, its rather the antithesis of it, being a set piece dance. A good social lead interacts with and responds to any follow positively to assemble a dance routine on the spot that uses their best features.

    All of us were beginners at one time and we owe it to dancing to bear the current crop of beginners past their imagined left feet and on to being wonderful recreational dancers. If we don’t train new dancers, dance dies and its that simple. What beginners need more than anything is to be encouraged and motivated to continue until they get the time in to learn the happy lessons of social dancing. Any snob who is too demanding of their partners skills is actually making social dancing smaller.

    As an experienced lead, I occasionally find the best performance followers to be a bit difficult to lead them to a great dance. Their communication skills are not the best, they are used to the style and timing of their regular training leads, and its difficult for them to improvise on moves and connect a large variety of moves together gracefully that are outside of their choreographed experience.. So the social dancer needs to respect that he has a different standard of complex improvisation and in motivating self conscious new partners. Its like the recording I heard of a famous jazz player, when his open air music event was buzzed by a low flying plane, he signaled his group for a break in the music and lead them seamlessly into an improvised recital of the US Airforce Anthem before hundreds of delighted listeners.

  • FrustratedDancer says:

    This is a very well written article and one that I frequently repost in the hope that it will open the eyes of some people. The biggest problem in the OKC Latin dance community is dance class/studio warfare. When I joined the community almost six years ago this wasn’t much of a problem because there was one main studio in the area holding events. There were and still are a couple of other places that hold events and these three studio owners were always able to work in harmony and make sure events did not conflict with each other. They worked out a schedule that worked great for everyone and made it so all events could be attended without conflict upon another Salsa social. This changed a couple of years ago with the immergance of a new instructor. She seemed to attempt to work harmoniously at first but it soon became clear that she was all about making money. She bullied the other studios into raising their entry fees and now she constantly schedules events during other studios events which is forcing people to either choose one or the other, attempt to attend both or saying f— it and going to neither as to avoid drama and being ridiculed for “picking a side”. She always has a ready made excuse for doing this none of which are valid. She clearly wants to take over the scene and cares only about making money. It’s very sad because so many great dancers have completely stopped attending everything because of this drama and events are having their attendance hurt greatly because of people having to choose between two events happening in one night. She is killing the small dance community that we have. Some people have actually moved or are considering moving because of her. If we were a bigger community/city like Dallas or San Antonio it wouldn’t be much of a problem. They have so many dancers there that things like that don’t seem to cause much of a problem on the level of people attending.

  • Dave says:

    Salsa snobbery and ageism is rife on the salsa scene, to clicky by far, 😡

  • Steve says:

    I am a bit of a Salsa tragic. I simply love the music. I am a keen student and go out three to four times a week and attend workshops and lessons whenever possible. I am an OK intermediate dancer. Interestingly, I just got back from Saigon where they dance on 2, which was a challenge for me. The standard on the floor was also very high but night after night I would always get a few dances and the girls, often seriously good dancers, were great fun and helped me along when I got a bit out of my depth. How different back in my home town in Australia. Here, I can dance far better being familiar with the on one line style and Cuban that is commonly danced here. But getting a partner is so hard I have pretty well given up. I just dance on my own now – take no notice of anyone else on the floor and go for it. The fact is I am over fifty and I see that look of horror on a woman’s face when I ask her to dance. I am actually embarrassed that she is so embarrassed, so now I just don’t bother. It is a shame as I really don’t care who I dance with and often these same women rarely or ever get asked to dance. Even stranger, I actually see others trying to watch some of my moves and have had quite a few dancers ask me to take them through the steps or sequence. I should add that I don’t look ancient and am told that for my age I look ok. I am also meticulously turned out and very careful about hygiene etc.
    However, I think that the time is coming to hang up the dancing shoes and accept that dance will never be a social happening for me. After all, although I love the music and dance it isn’t the same without a partner, rather like life really.

  • Mick says:

    Hey Steve, get a grip!

    Any partner refusing to dance with you is the loser. And probably can’t dance salsa well.

    Immerse yourself in the dance again. Any worthy salsera will recognise the love and joyfully join you.

    A dance hero of mine is a bloke called Charles who delights the Sydney salsa scene well into his 60s. He is never without willing partners, and so much so that his charming wife has to reclaim him, assertively at times.

    Long live the golden-oldie salsa tragics!

  • Steve says:

    Thanks for the thought. I’m not done yet. Just signed up for a class at advanced level. And have been invited to join a group dance tour of Singapore and Bangkok.
    Looks like my future will be Salsa on 2 and in SE Asia.

  • namrin says:

    I have never really left. More like taking a few months break because I feel dull about my own dancing ability and also a few rejections from when asking for a dance. I think I have a thick skin but I have to say sometimes that damage my self esteem a little and I think that made oversupply women quit also.

    Another reason of ppl quitting is when they have a partner who don’t dance so they end this hobby to spend more time with their partner or their family.

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