I’ve been having a few interesting discussions with Salsa dancers recently about chemistry on the dancefloor and the nature of connection.


Some of the questions that have arisen have provoked more than a little debate and led me to write this article, prompted by Garrio Coviéro’s recent post on Facebook and an article by Luke Davis for my group “Social Salsa Made Simple”


These four questions were my starting point:


  1. Is there a formula that would allow you to work out physically and subjectively who you would be most compatible with before you started dancing?


  1. Can you actually define “chemistry” and “connection” in terms of their specific ingredients?


  1. Do you want to? Or does that spoil the magic and mystery of the whole Salsa dancing experience?


  1. If you could nail down a “recipe” for chemistry or connection, would using it improve or dilute those precious dancefloor highs?


I have an understanding of basic neuroscience which has given me a unique perspective on social dance, and how our brain, body and nervous system actually function when we dance with a partner. Because of this, I teach Salsa in a different way to what’s found in most classes and private studios.


Firstly, I’m going to walk you through my own personal definitions because I think it’s really important to be clear on what we are specifically talking about. For example, I don’t think chemistry and connection are the same thing at all…


So here’s what I believe about connection:


“Connection is a skill. I recognise four types of connection – physical, technical, emotional and mental. These can be defined, taught, practiced and refined, although only a handful of teachers recognise and deliver this kind of coaching.”


Physical connection is all about the points of contact that literally connect lead and follow. The language of touch. The application of precise directional force on control points by the lead in order to communicate a specific request.


Technical or internal connection is to do with internal flow and body movement, correct pressure of foot into the floor, tension, resistance. This is massively enhanced when you have good body isolation, and core technique.


Emotional connection is how you feel – positive or negative – about the experience in the moment. Emotional connection to the music – is expressed through styling and movement quality – musicality – which in turn can resonate with your partner who may move sympathetically, enhance, or even echo your movements.

This also covers the emotional connection to your partner, noticing and responding to their physical presence and emotional state as well as their dancing,


Mental connection is to do with your ability to read what’s happening in the dance – the ability to predict and respond accordingly. Again the lead has to be able to gauge how the lady is likely to respond in order to accurately control the strength of the signal required to initiate her movement.


Followers need to be tuned in to this so they can deliver the correct footwork. Their brain is constantly searching for, and recognising patterns in order to work out what action to take. This is actually nothing to do with the dance…the reptilian brain doesn’t care about that. It’s only concern is moment-to-moment survival.


You may think there is little threat to survival on the Salsa dancefloor but the reptilian part of your brain wouldn’t agree. The random movement of other couples around the floor, changes of tempo in the music, alcohol in the bloodstream, inconsistencies in the lead, rough or jerky leads, traction of the floor surface, any injuries or aches and pains, balance…all these are being monitored constantly, and your brain coming up with minute adjustments to compensate and keep everything on an even keel.


While we are on the subject, a little word about the difference between prediction and anticipation. We all know that anticipating the lead is the cardinal sin of following. But surely prediction is the same thing…isn’t it?


In a word – no.


Prediction is involuntary – it’s subconsciously going on at brain level all the time. You won’t even realise it’s happening as you glide through multiple turns and spins without realising you’re even being led!


Anticipation is a conscious activity where the lady is attempting to recognise moves and “help” the lead. This is both a cause and symptom of disconnect.


This is what I believe about chemistry:


“Chemistry, on the other hand is more to do with all those other indefinables that make every human unique…it’s the part of dancing, relationships and life which never works according to rules and laws.”


Physical attraction, compatibility, rapport, sight, smell, sound, taste, all those subtle signals that float onto the radar of our senses and mingle with the music and prod at our emotions in ways we only partly understand.


I think you can have an enjoyable dance if chemistry OR connection is present without the other, but I also believe that great connection will hugely magnify any chemistry that exists.


In part two, I will be developing these themes more and delving a bit deeper into what really makes us tick on the dancefloor, and if we could or should seek to identify and reproduce that “recipe” more often.


If you would like to have your say in this conversation, I’d love to hear what you think! Just pop over, request to join the group, and I’ll let you in!