Body isolation is usually presented as the first step towards learning body movement in Salsa dance. Yet how many of us have watched even seasoned social dancers struggle and get increasingly frustrated when they just can’t make that body part behave and move correctly on cue

Those who have been lucky enough to have formal dance training from a young age will have grown up with the term and maybe not ever questioned it.

Like science, the minute dance methodology becomes dogma, it fails to progress.

And if these methods do not work with the untrained general population, rather than abandoning the goal, and the student, I’ve always believed that my teaching should be adapted to the people I have in front of me.

Ever tried moving just one or two toes whilst keeping the others still? This is a perfect example of what happens for many students when they attempt ribcage and shoulder isolations.

The ribcage or shoulder might move…but so does everything else, and not in a good way.

And this is my point:

For me, the problem with the term isolation is that it does not actually describe what is really happening in our bodies.

In body motion, nothing happens in isolation.

Muscles work in synergistic pairs to produce movement – some contract to create pull whilst others relax to allow the movement to happen. Still others stabilise or fixate various joints to prevent unwanted movement in other neighbouring areas.

Yep…isolation is actually COLLABORATION.

And this muscle teamwork can only happen when all team members play their part at the right time and to the right degree.

Unfortunately this is not the case in most adult human bodies. There are many reasons why movement is not harmonious and incorrect muscles are recruited  for the job – lack of use, injury, trauma, lifestyle habits, repressed emotions to name a few. But the net result is the same.

Neurologically, some muscles actually forget how to work. They literally switch off. Other muscles work too hard to pick up the slack and become overactive or tight.

So we have to find a way to switch these lazy, dormant muscles back on and re-educate them in their correct role. This isn’t a particularly difficult or long process, but does require a little specialist knowledge, along with frequent repetition to embed correct motor patterns in order to replace the old, incorrect ones.

As I have a lot of training and experience in these matters, I can quickly spot what needs to be done. The problem is that students come to me for dance coaching and not physical therapy.

So I had to find a way to integrate these strategies seamlessly into a lesson, and provide a way for students to practice at home without taking too much time, special effort or forward planning.

And it had to be enjoyable and feel as close to actual dancing as possible, and make an obvious and undeniable positive contribution to their progression as dancers.

This is because the average adult social dancer is a very different animal to those who chose dance at an early age and stuck with it through thick and thin.

Not better or worse – just different.

Different goals, different needs and different priorities.

Most have little appetite for the blood sweat and tears method of dance training.

But this doesn’t mean they should be automatically dismissed as “not serious”.

This is something I’m very clear on, and the main reason I designed my “Somatic Salsa” programme which is a body conditioning programme designed to address all the issues which typically prevent adult social dancers from mastering the dance skills they are struggling with.

I found that traditional exercise modalities all had their good points, but none ticked all the boxes in terms of addressing the lifestyle issues that held me back.

So I took influence from the bits that worked and came up with my own, and put it into little routines for different areas of the body and set it to music.

But it’s not a dance class per se – it occupies a space somewhere in between, so you can work on your strength and flexibility, your neuromuscular control, get rid of any unwanted tension, and improve your musicality all at the same time.

So when you do come to those pesky body isolation warm-ups that many teachers like to do, rather than shuffling awkwardly at the back, before long you’ll find that these movements become easy, as your muscles have learned to work together to produce the correct movement.

Team work makes the dream work, as they say.