There comes a point where people reach a sticking point in their Salsa learning and the improvements start to dry up.
It’s when this happens that some will seek out a private teacher for extra help and practice.
But before you do that, it’s worth understanding exactly why you stop making progress.
In my experience there are five main reasons why this happens:
Reason #1 – You Are Being Undermined By Your Beliefs
The main reason you fail to make the progress you desire has little to do with your actual capability or dance potential.
It has everything to do with your current core beliefs about yourself and the reasons why you’re not improving as far or as fast as you’d like.
The stories you tell yourself about your physical ability, time constraints, ability to practice on your own. Before you even started Salsa, what you told yourself and what other people told you was influencing your thoughts and the actions you took as a result of those thoughts.
For example, if you believe you need a partner in order to practice effectively, the likelihood of you practicing on your own with any real intent is low.
So my job as a coach is not only to analyse your dancing in order to give you the technical input you need to make changes, but also to analyse the state of your current beliefs and help you to change those that aren’t helping.
Reason #2 – You’re Not Doing What You Think You’re Doing
Without mirror or video feedback, it’s impossible to see what you look like.
Most likely what you see in your head when you dance is very different to what other people see.
Although Salsa and Bachata are social dances and not under the scrutiny of Strictly judges or the high aesthetic standards of Ballet, we still want to look good doing it.
Also, visual feedback is the quickest way for your brain and body learn how to correct and fine tune movements.
Reason #3 – Your Brain Can’t Join The Dots One Lesson To The Next
Your brain learns about movement and music in a very specific way.
It constantly compares current experience to prior experience, then files and organises new information based on differences and similarities.
It’s basically a pattern recognition machine.
There are unlimited combinations possible in Salsa with all the variations of turns, spins and funky hand changes…far too many for your brain to remember and recall each one individually.
Attempting to do this inevitably leads to overwhelm and feelings of inadequacy.
This is why learning different turn patterns and combinations as an end in themselves only has limited value, especially leads, who will find themselves getting bored with leading the same repeating loop of moves over and over again.
What your brain really needs is an underlying structure or system that your brain can use to group and classify all these variations.
Reason #4 – You’re Focusing On Moves Not Technique
Technique makes the moves look, feel, and work better.
Complex moves to fast music are not possible without excellent technique on the part of both lead and follower.
So devoting all your time to learning new moves and combinations without working on technique will not improve your dancing, and probably lead to more frustration as you wonder why you are struggling with something that others appear to do easily.
It’s especially unhelpful for a follower as you are supposed to be able to respond to anything that’s led without knowing in advance, but without good technique you will most likely freeze, panic and resist the lead as soon as you feel off balance or out of control.
The good news is there are only five areas of technique to work on, and only one requires a partner to practice them effectively:
Posture & Balance
Weight Transfer & Locomotion
Footwork & Timing
Intrinsic Body Motion & Style
Connection, Communication & Collaboration
Reason #5 – You’re Not Starting With The Music
A typical group Salsa class teaches a pre-choreographed routine to generic counts.
Then you get the chance to perform the routine to music 2 or 3 times in the middle and at the end of the class.
The problem with this is that to develop any kind of musicality, you need a lot of exposure to the music in order for your brain to figure out the rhythms and patterns within.
If you only dance to counts, your individual steps will be on time, but your styling, body movement and flow will have no connection to what you feel and hear within each individual song.
Salsa music has many instruments which play a complex variety of rhythms, giving it a unique structure and sound.
The best dancers have a highly developed brain “map” of these rhythms and where they are in the music which enables them to predict where the song is going to go next. This means they can move their bodies in a way that exactly matches the tune – performing footwork that picks out the clave or melody, anticipating and hitting breaks, varying their energy and tempo as the music changes.
Many teachers leave musicality until students reach an advanced level. But by that time the generic movement patterns are deeply embedded within your nervous system, and the time you need to spend immersing yourself in, learning about, and reconnecting your movements to the music is too great for most people to take on.
I believe musicality learning starts on Day 1 so your brain gets maximum opportunity to develop its map of the music and connect your movements to what’s going on in each individual track.
This is why I always include lots of opportunity to dance freestyle to different songs and learn about the different rhythms and instruments.
So now you have the top five reasons your Salsa dancing progress may have ground to a halt, maybe you can recognise which one specifically is holding you back.
Post a comment and let me know!