When I first started going to Salsa classes over ten years ago, I definitely had some preconceived ideas about what to expect. Some of these were proved entirely wrong back then, others I’ve worked out to be wrong over time, and still more have been completely smashed by my own experience of learning second time around.
I have realised, however, that many of these misconceptions still pervade amongst the general public, and possibly put people off the idea of learning, so it’s time to spill the beans on all of them!
1. You have to have been dancing since the age of three to be any good.
This was a belief I held most of my life, having been obsessed with ballet like many young girls and read over and over that if you weren’t in intensive training by the age of five, then you wouldn’t make it.
This belief was further fuelled by the friends who initially taught me, who had been through stage school and danced on the competitive Latin circuit.
When I committed to regular private lessons and daily practice, my improvement was so rapid, even my teacher, who had learnt as an adult himself was surprised.
2. You have to go with a partner.
No no no no no!! Salsa is way way way more fun when you go on your own. I danced with my husband before we finally went our separate ways, and it wasn’t until I started going to clubs as a single female that I realised what I’d been missing out on.
Even now, when I have friends that dance and know people in every club I go to, I love the fact that I can go on my own, dance with who I want when I want, ask the very best guys in the club for dances, perform the sexiest and most outrageous shines with whoever I want with no jealousy or repercussions.
3. Learning salsa is difficult and complicated and takes a long time.
I spent 4-5 years initially learning via the group method, which got me to a competent but technically messy level. I had a five year break, then when I started back had private lessons twice weekly for a year by which time I was ready to start teaching.
It does take time, but how long depends what you are prepared to commit to it. Some teachers make it complicated, but the best teachers will make it seem simpler.
4. Age matters
It doesn’t. Not one bit. I’ve danced with some older guys who lead beautifully and go out of their way to look after you and make you feel amazing when you dance with them. Their style is refined, their timing awesome, and they are perfect gentlemen.
5. The clubs are full of women and there aren’t enough men to go round.
This may be true in some clubs, especially those who don’t teach to a high standard. All clubs get the odd night where the normal balance goes AWOL and they end up short of either sex.
However, I believe that at the higher levels and in the the clubs that teach to a serious standard, this all evens out. The reason I think is that generally more women than men start learning (although since the advent of Strictly dancing is a much more cool thing for men to do). Men are often better at putting themselves first in life, which means they get less distracted by other stuff. They also see it as a technical challenge which drives them. For this reason fewer give up.
6. You have to be thin to be a good dancer
There are some top international teachers who are not slim by any standards. I’ve seen bigger men and women who move beautifully, spin like tops, and are incredibly light and fast on their feet. I’ve also seen skinny people who were as stiff as boards with terrible posture and awkward movement.
7. Some people will never be able to dance
I think anyone who has a genuine desire to dance and taps into an emotional connection with their reasons for dancing will make it happen as long as they get the right help.
I don’t buy into the idea that some people have “two left feet” or “no rhythm”. The human body is designed with all sorts of inbuilt rhythms…everything from breathing, to heartbeat, to sleep cycles and muscular contraction.
8. The best dancers are the best teachers
This is one of those 2+2=37 equations. It may seem logical, but the best dancers are usually the best because they’ve invested a disproportionate amount of time in honing their dancing, and as a result of that, probably haven’t sat for hours observing, analysing, and writing down all their realisations.
They probably haven’t compiled all their methods into a structured system that they’ve tested on hundreds of students and spent even more time refining.
They probably haven’t had hundreds of students…just enough to cover their essential living costs and finance their dancing tuition.
9. It’s harder for men to learn Salsa
Learning Salsa is an entirely different challenge for men than it is for women. Men have to put themselves on the line and get out of their comfort zone earlier and to a greater level than women do.
I’m not sure that it’s harder per se…the challenge of learning to lead is one of spatial awareness and muscle memory, then eventually one of creativity. For women it’s a challenge of technique mastery, postural strength and stability, and eventually style.
Men learn to command and create, women learn compliance and connection.
So those are the most common beliefs people have about learning Salsa…it’s no wonder that many don’t make it past these myths and through the door of their local club. Hopefully if you were put off by any of these, I’ve now set the record straight!