Given that men are supposed to be the more logical thinkers of the two sexes, it does seem that many guys lose a grip on that logical approach when it comes to learning Salsa.
They focus doing doing doing more and more stuff rather than giving us ladies the experience we long for on the dance floor.
So here are my 10 principles that I adhere to when social dancing as a lead, and when teaching my own male students.
And I know from the feedback that it works:
The Stuff That Great Male Salsa Dancers Do That You Probably Don’t…
1. LET THE MUSIC LEAD THE DANCE
The best leads do not dance generically to counts.
They vary their moves according to song structure and mood of the song.
They will never ignore breaks or changes when the instruments flip their phrasing to the other side of the clave…they’ll change with it, or shortly after.
They will also be able to communicate their musicality to their partner so she can join in the fun.
2. KILL THE MOVES MONSTER WHILE IT’S A BABY
Most guys have a voracious appetite for learning moves, but the reality is that only a tiny proportion of what’s learned in class and on YouTube makes it to the dance floor.
So don’t get sucked into thinking that you need a vast repertoire of difficult turn patterns.
What you do need is to understand the ladies base footwork patterns…what foot she’s on, how and where her weight transfers – there are only a few – and once you can lead them in a handful of different ways, it’s a case of layering in more complex variations.
3. BE CLEVER, NOT COMPLICATED – SURPRISE BUT DON’T SHOCK
Us women love surprises. So when you lead a familiar move in an unfamiliar way, we like it. You’ll see a big smile.
However if you do something new too suddenly without giving us time to figure it out and respond, then we’ll go into panic mode…probably stiffening up and resisting your lead.
4. ADD YOUR BEST FLUFF TO THE SIMPLE STUFF
If you spend time watching the pros social dancing on YouTube, you’ll see that the mechanics of what they are leading is relatively simple.
What makes it look awesome is the fluff – slick hand changes, drop catches, hand throws, leader’s turns and spins – and how it’s all connected to what’s happening in the music.
5. VALUE CONNECTION OVER CONTENT
A social dance is a collaboration and a conversation.
But if you’re talking all the time you can’t possibly be listening to your partner.
So suppress the need to cram the dance full of back to back spins and turns.
Give us the chance to breathe, give us eye contact, let us have some space to do shines and play.
6. FOLLOWERS ARE PEOPLE NOT PUPPETS
Leading to the level of your partner is essential.
If you don’t have enough lower level content to last a whole song with a beginner/improver, then you need more lower level lessons yourself.
Forcing a lady through combinations she doesn’t know or can’t do will make your partner feel awful and ruin any chance of her developing good technique.
7. REMEMBERING ROUTINES ARE THE DEVIL’S WORK
We want to feel that you created the dance spontaneously for us – so if you crank out the same looped sequence of moves every time you dance with us, we’ll soon figure out that you don’t have an A game.
Plus the amount of linked moves your brain can remember and recall is limited – your brain is not designed to retain this kind of info that way, and relying on muscle memory makes the dance feel mechanical and robotic to a good follower.
Far better to learn how to dance spontaneously and create the dance in real time – that’s actual freestyle dancing.
8. DON’T COMPROMISE YOUR TECHNIQUE FOR HER LACK OF IT
This is as important as the last point…but hardly ever discussed.
If you dance with followers who feel heavy, who lack balance and footwork, or who are habitually back leading, initiating moves by themselves, or hanging on, it’s easy to start resorting to brute force and ignorance.
While it’s important to realise that every lady feels different and will require slight adjustments to your lead, those adjustments must not result in you sinking to her level.
Improve your technique – use more connection points, deliver the lead earlier, use more body shaping, make your own intentions clearer with better body language.
9. FUNDAMENTALS ARE FUN NOT FOOLISH
The fundamentals are the backbone of the dance.
Everything hangs off of them, and all the complex stuff is much easier when the fundamentals are good.
So get an MOT for your timing, frame, footwork and lead technique – you’ll be surprised how sloppy you become if you are doing a lot of social dancing.
And don’t be ashamed to drop a level in your classes so you can tidy up your technique.
10. TOO MANY TRICKS ARE FOR DICKS
Now don’t get me wrong…a perfectly timed dip at the end of the song led by someone you know, trust, and enjoy dancing with can feel amazing.
But dips and tricks led by a guy who doesn’t have enough skill in the fundamental techniques as well as rock solid balance, split second timing, and enough musicality to understand where that stuff belongs in a dance has no business leading tricks on busy social dance floors.
I need to know that you have the skill before I allow you to take control of my centre of gravity so don’t even think of doing it the first time we dance together.
Guys you have to earn your right to lead that stuff.
But take my 10 principles on board, put the ego to one side, and you’ll become the partner that every follower goes home thinking about…
© Shulagh Jacobs 2018