Social Teaching on the Salsa Dance Floor
People often get frustrated by those who think they are trying to help.
- Why you shouldn’t teach!
- When & where should you help and is it needed?
This applies to Bachata, Zouk & all other styles of partner dancing.
Social dancing includes Salsa parties, Balls, Congresses, Festivals & Salsa Club Nights, anywhere Salsa dancing is Social. Trying to teach or correct someone on the social dance floor is ‘always’ a bad idea, most people find this very annoying, off-putting & unwarranted, it's a quick way to get turned down for another dance.
It's considered bad etiquette to teach or correct people in a social environment, unless you do it off the side of the main dance floor and you have both agreed to work on something. If you teach in the ‘middle’ of the dance floor this is even worse! Because it’s no longer social dancing and stops the flow on the dance floor. If you can imagine watching everyone dancing, you can see the flow on the dance floor and everyone is having fun, but then... right in the middle of the dance floor are two people that have stopped. Its very easy to recognise they are social teaching or someone getting a lecture, this looks terrible from the outside and usually feels terrible on the inside.
The moment you walk on the dance floor you are ‘dancing’ and should be able to lead and follow without even saying a word. Yes even if you are an actual dance teacher! don't do it! This is why we have dance classes.
If someone is teaching you, and you really do not like it, or your dance partner is showing no consideration in some other way, then politely excuse yourself off the dance floor.
Practice is always recommended as well, finding a suitable partner to practice with is great, just remember social dancing aids with learning tremediously, but it's not a practice time as such.
Social dancing should be just that, having fun and enjoying that 3-4 minutes with your dance partner.
Correcting People in Classes
If you are a student or helper in a running class, avoid trying to teach, or correct your partner, this is even a worse place to try and do this, because you can end up with a partner who might feel stuck with you, and possibly want to avoid you.
Usually teachers will have an instruction phase, often swap partners around and then have a practice phase. The worse imaginable place to try and teach is in the instruction phase because you are robbing the student 'your current dance partner' from learning from the instructor. Unless your partner directly asks for feedback in the practice phase, 'Avoid Giving Any', also you might be able to help them later but only if they agree.
It’s better to just dance and let people make mistakes, making mistakes is okay because this is part of the learning process, it doesn't in any way have to be perfect either, people are not always there to be perfect, some are there just to have fun. People pick up & learn information in stages and that needs to be respected too.
Feedback or correction can often be taken as criticism or leave them with the feeling they can't get anything right or it could also just be negative or wrong information, this can cause people to give up dancing altogether and no one wants that! You need to look after your dance partner, give positive reinforcement & encouragement.
It's always better to get the instructor involved in helping, or we recommend taking a private lessons.
We are all learning this amazing dance no matter what your level is, remember to have fun with it, that’s after all, a good reason to dance. I'm sure we have or will experienced the above, it even happens at higher levels, take it with a 'grain of salt' if it happens to you.
The Leaders Role
The leads role is to support, encourage and help the follower feel safe. If something happens or goes wrong it is the fault of the lead and you need to lead better. Not focus on fixing the follower.
Guys remember to have fun & dance with beginners & keep it simple for them, remember they will be good in no time. A truly advanced leader will be able to dance with anyone at ‘any level’ and she will follow because he will be dancing to ‘her level’, not his own. We very much recommend doing shines, but if you notice your partner is just stuck there doing more than 3 or 4 basic steps, go back to partner-work.
Most of all remember to look out for your dance partner & have fun.
The Followers Role
The followers role is to follow your partner, even if he gets it wrong just go with the lead in what it's communicating. Sometimes it can be hard to let go and just follow, however following is ‘always’ better option than trying to fix your partners mistakes.
The lead is one of the hardest thing to learn in Salsa and take many many hours practice and you will be remembered when he gets really good. You can always focus on your styling & body-movement within the dance if its not challenging.
Remember to have fun and dance with new people including beginners, they don’t often stay beginners very long.
During classes only! Followers can try this to help. If you are a higher level than your partner or you are ahead of the guy in the class which is often the case, you can help a little with "back leading".
Back-leading is simply helping moving the guys hands as you go, but don't over do it, because once he gets the movement he needs to work on how to lead it properly (yes it usually backwards, movement before lead).
Overall, start by following, if he struggles add a little back-lead, this helps the guy get the pattern or movement, but once he starts to get it, turn off your back-lead and go into full following mode and see what happens.
Again if the lead isn't working at all, call on one of the teachers to help because turn patterns without a lead & follow, is meaningless, it’s like talking garbage.
Reasons Not to Teach
The reasons why we do it are different for all of us, most of us just want to share the love for the Music and Dance, I 100% agree that Social Dance is not the place for teaching, I often call it social teaching.
The Sad part is that 3 bad things develop from this;
1. Newer dancers get fed up (quickly) and never come back to Salsa
2. Dancers develop bad habits (quickly) when it comes to leading and following techniques
3. They never learn properly and deep down they know it (eventually they give up) or pretend that they don't care.
People are always asking us (teachers) to teach them at socials. I usually do teach on the side (the basics) and I then say; "Relax and have fun, if you want to learn properly and dance good, invest in classes with good instructors."
Emotions & Frustration
On occasion we have a newer dancer tell us that one of the intermediates gets frustrated with the beginners. While you are working on your dancing, be aware of what emotion that you may be projecting, beginning dancers tend to take it more personal. If you are frustrated with yourself, they may think it is them that you are frustrated with.
Let's face it, having lots of partners to dance with can be a lot of fun, especially come party-time. The more comfortable people are, the more often they will come. Everybody has fun.
The key here: Remember your roots.
A positive and fun environment where people can feel free to learn faster without criticism is always the best option.
People always learn faster this way and we are there to enjoy dancing, have fun & meet new people
Article written by from Reuben, a Professional Salsa Dance Teacher,
New Zealand Pro Champion & Director of ‘Salsa Latina’ in Christchurch New Zealand.
Paragraph “Reasons not to Teach"; Written by Alfonso, Salsa Teacher Dunedin/Peru.
The next article is also worth reading, which also reinforces some of this material.
How to get more out of Salsa Classes... read more here >