Monday, August 13, 2018

THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE DANCE GUIDE FOR RECREATIONAL PARTNER DANCING IN HAWAII

Experience the joy of dancing, share magical moments, embrace the music and embark on a voyage of discovery. 
Social club dancing is not the same as formal or international style ballroom dancing as each style has its own different set of unique virtues. With formal international ballroom elite dancers strive for precision and perfection in their movements. These dancers spend a lot of time working on their form and shaping as they strive to develop better lines. Social dancing on the other hand is more casual and informal, it is more of an intuitive dance. Although there is structure to social dancing just like international ballroom, social dancing welcomes musical interpretation, experimentation, imagination, improvisation and spontaneity.

The difference between a piano player or a studio musician and a great pianist is that one person is skilled at reading and playing notes (in a sense almost mechanical) while the other is an artist that plays with emotion and fully expresses himself or herself adding their own unique style into the mix. There is a similarity when it comes to social dancing, some will dance to steps whereas instead of just laying down steps, the great dancers dance with passion and sabor as they dance to the music.

Frankie Manning, the Ambassador of Lindy Hop shared his approach to dancing, "The music...fashioned my style of dancing." Recognized as a great salsa dancer by his peers, Frankie Martinez stated, "a good dancer is not learned; you only learn the basic steps and shines.  There is something in all of us that comes out through dancing that sets us apart from one other.  How we feel music and express it is unique to each one of us.  ....you need to be true to your feelings and of course practice makes perfect.....My way of dancing is a mix of basics and instincts applied to modern day music blending yesterday and today."

Jimi Hendrix, one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, didn't read music or study theory, yet his guitar sang like no other because he could hear the music in his head, and he played from his heart. Just as it inspired Jimi Hendrix and Frankie Manning, let the music be your guiding light. When asked about the secret to her success in writing music, multiple Grammy award winner and Gershwin Prize recipient Carole King said, "I try to get out of the way and let the process be guided by whatever is guiding me."



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Whats happening in town:

This Saturday Aug 18th. WCSwing, Hustle, Salsa, Bachata, Nite Club 2, Cha cha and more. 5:30 to 9:30 pm. HBDA's Aiea/Waimalu studio. Hosted by George V. Garcia. $5 cover.



New Event!

Salsa at Oahu Mexican Grill (host is Linda Melodia) has been CANCELLED INDEFINITELY.

NEW EVENT: 1st Saturday of the month: Noche Latina with DJ Cocoman at Kemoo Farms in Wahiawa. 9pm to 2 am.

Sept. 21st. Pure Nightclub. "Bachata Nights". $25 presale. Voz a Voz, Mark Gonzales and DJ Fee. This is a very special event and we welcome back Voz a Voz and Mark Gonzales from the mainland.


🎼 For other places to dance this weekClick on the page link which is set out to the right of this blog, or if you cannot view it then you may click here Other dancing places this week and see also, StarAdvertiser's weekly TGIF music and nightlife calendar on the internet. 

To contact us for the posting of upcoming dance events: partnerdancinghawaii@aol.com

For some of the Salsa/Bachata/Merenge special dance events that are happening this week, please visit: https://almalatinaproductions.com/  and https://www.facebook.com/AlohaRumberos/


                                     Enjoy this FABULOUS salsa dance by Nery Garcia!


🎷 West Coast Swing dances at the Palladium click on the page link which is set out to the right of this blog, or if you cannot view it then you may click here  "WCSwing dancing at the Palladium"




             

A beginning dancer learns and executes prescribed steps. An intermediate dancer has the steps down pat and is learning to sharpen their techniques as leaders will work on fine-tuning their leading skills so that all of their leads are crisp and clear, and done with conviction and confidence. The advanced dancer can lead any person regardless of their skill level as he knows how to adapt, he has mastered a multitude of techniques and can amalgamate many movements with ease. The use of syncopation techniques allows advanced dancers to play, and have fun with the rhythm. Instead of limiting the dance to the basic or prescribed steps, the advanced dancers, just like artists, will focus on expression and musical interpretation through improvisation. This is an enlightened way of dancing in its highest and purest form, in fact dancing this way looks very natural and is free flowing. Improvisation really can't be taught because it is not pattern based or choreographed, it is actually spontaneous and unique to each person and is emotion based. One will not be able to break down or analyze this dance because there it is random and instinctive, so just sit back and enjoy this awesome improvisational West Coast swing by champion dancer Michael Kielbasa and his dance partner Naomi.  



EDITORIAL COMMENT - SOCIAL DANCERS SHOULD TRY TO KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE, and YES, It is quite okay to not be 'correct' and the word 'perfect' does not exist. 

Some social dancers take this activity way too seriously. Instead of expecting their partners to be correct and precise and having the right steps, their FOCUS should be on just having fun, after all we all have other priorities, and 99.9% of us do not dance for a living. 

The consummate social dancer strives to make the dance a comfortable and pleasant one for all those whom they dance with, in fact all the dance skill in the world does not amount to a whole lot if you cannot dance to the comfort level and to the enjoyment of your respective partners. As you begin to dance with many others of varying skill sets you will soon realize that everyone dances differently, and that no two persons dance alike. This is why we must be flexible and learn to adapt when dancing with others, more so when the other person is not familiar with a particular dance style or is new to dancing and doesn't quite know what they are doing. Some dancers lack balance and body awareness, others lack basic recognition skills. The more experienced dancer should modify the way that they dance in order to make it a safe and enjoyable dance for the other person. Social dancing is not about what you can do, instead social dancing is about getting your various dance partners to feel comfortable first and foremost, this in turn will allow them to truly enjoy the dancing experience a lot more. Putting a sparkle in your partner's eyes and seeing them smile is one of the greatest gift that you can give others through dancing.


SOUND FAMILIAR? SOCIAL DANCING SITUATIONS THAT SOME NEW AND EXPERIENCED DANCERS MAY ENCOUNTER

 
1. You are relatively new to dancing and are trying your best to dance, however the lady that you are dancing with cuts you no slack, instead she is looking at other couples dancing nearby and is obviously bored.. what do you do?  Walk off the dance floor?.. Grin and bear it?  I don't think there is really an answer to this but I wouldn't fault any new leader from avoiding these types of dancers and finding more sociable and accommodating follows to dance with instead, after all everyone has to start at some point and many mistakes will be made along the way. Lady dancers that expect a certain level of expertise at the get go, or who will only dance with the advanced dancers will soon find that as new leaders gain experience and become more accomplished over time they do not forget those individuals who gave them a hard time when they were first learning how to dance. So for the new leaders who will experience the bulk of the rejections....grin and bear it and accept it as growing pains....and do not let anyone derail you from your dancing goals, eventually you will get there so long that you keep at it.

2. Lets say that you are not serious about dancing and  you just want to have some fun with your friends for an evening.... you may have taken a couple of dance lessons in the past but you never really pursued it, a stranger asks you for a dance and he immediately begins to comment about your dancing skills and suggests what you need to do in order to dance "the 'right way."  Later that evening you dance with another leader who does not make any comments but modifies how he dances so both of you can enjoy sharing a dance together. Which dancer would you look forward to dancing with again?  

Note to file: A good leader will adapt and accommodate in order to create a fun experience for everyone, regardless of their skill set.

3. You dance with a stranger and she misses a basic lead, do you think it didn't work because the she lacked the recognition skill or does it ever cross your mind that perhaps your lead wasn't as good as it should have been? 

4. You have taken dance lessons for over six months and finally have the courage to venture out to a dance club and try out what you have learned. You ask four ladies to dance and they dance with you once but thereafter all of them repeatedly decline your invitations. All is not lost as you eventually find someone else to dance with. The next time you go out dancing you spot this person but this time she and the four other ladies decline your invitation to dance. Is it time to walk away from dancing? Perhaps some do, but others who are more determined will take the rejections as a challenge to become a better leader and will dedicate more time to practicing instead of dancing as well as working on their techniques in order to communicate clearer leads  

Note to file: Would it give you comfort to know that the experienced and accomplished dancers are constantly practicing and working on fine tuning their techniques and leading skills in order that they may better communicate their leads. 



THERE WILL BE BUMPS IN THE ROAD FOR EVERY NEW DANCER, BUT IN THE END IT WILL BE WELL WORTH THE EFFORT. The above situations were brought to light because it could and may have happened to some people during their respective journeys. It also serves to point out the effect that certain types of conduct may have on dancers. Some dancers have given up on dancing because of the negativity that they experienced from others. The survivors accepted it as growing pains and took it with a grain of salt, they also realized that not everyone they dance with will be patient, or understanding. Unfortunately, there are confidence killers or buzzkills out there, not only here in the islands but in every dance city in America. When I was first learning how to dance an experienced dancer walked off the dance floor and left me there by myself. I also remember asking ladies to dance and getting several rejections in a row. There were many negative experiences and like most men just learning how to dance I asked myself if embarking on this journey was really worth it.  Needless to say I spent many months on the sidelines just watching others dance. It was educational because I realized the work that I would have to put in just to become conversant with dancing. It is definitely not easy being a leader especially when you don't know what to do on the dance floor or if you confuse your partners with less than clear leads. It isn't much fun however when you are not part of the activity so I continued to take classes and tried to dance with as many dancers that were willing to share the floor with me. No one likes being rejected and I am sure that many men have quit dancing before they even had a chance to smell the roses (and this would probably also explain why there are always more women then men dancers). Two of my male friends who took lessons and started dancing the same time as myself, quit out of frustration and never went back. One acquaintance just started recently and also quit, like any new dancer he had received some negative feedback from some of female students (when you take a dance class you usually have to switch and dance with a new partner every five minutes or so). In fact many leaders that I took dance classes with over the years seem to have given up. I give credit to those men that dance today because they persevered and found a way through the gauntlet, as it was not easy for them. My uneducated guess is that only about 10 to 15% of all male students that take beginning dance classes continue on with their dancing, while the others, for whatever reason will quit. For the majority of men that quit one does wonder if they had a better experience would they be dancing today?  Maybe so, and that is the sad part of it all. Perhaps if they were more determined and had more positive encounters they would have stayed the course. Unfortunately we will never know. Negative vibes is not only something that men leaders experience, because women have also encountered a few buzzkills and negative encounters during their journeys as well.

Leaders should avoid force feeding: Before I even began partner dancing, I was at a club watching others dance when I overhead a visitor to the islands say to her friends, "Who the heck does that guy think he is?"  When her friends asked her what had happened she said the leader disapproved of the way that she was dancing and corrected her by teaching her how to dance his way. As there were other ladies that he corrected on the dance floor that evening it was obvious that he was a 'fixer'. I suppose in his mind he may have thought that it was his civic duty to help others to the point of giving strangers a free dance lesson whether they liked it or not, but it was clearly obvious from her reaction that she was livid and upset. As this leader had shattered her confidence and tore her apart, she viewed his conduct as inappropriate, to put it mildly. This was my first introduction to the social aspects of dancing at clubs and one that left an indelible mark. What I got from this episode loud and clear was that it would suit leaders well if they were are able to 'go with the flow' when dancing with others who didn't know a particular dance style, or who lacked certain recognition skills. If this person was his regular dance partner and had asked him for some lessons then that would have been different however this was not the case at all as these ladies were total strangers.

OTHER WAR STORIES: A lady dancer mentioned that a leader once told her and used the word "wrong" repeatedly throughout their dance. She was a beginner at that time and the experience must have a been crushing blow to her. How can anyone enjoy that kind of dancing experience?

A novice lady dancer tried to suppress an experienced leader's musicality and told him that she did not like it when he syncopated with the kick ball change, not only is it a standard movement in the jitterbug, lindy and swing but any experienced dancer would be the first person to tell you that it is a goal of all of the better dancers to be able to play with the rhythm and to syncopate. A leader lectured a stranger because she failed to finish in her slot, even refusing to let her walk off the dance floor until he was finished with what he had to say. Another lady mentioned a leader corrected her so many times while dancing that she felt paralyzed and intimidated, it got to the point that she was afraid to even move!  Did any of these dancers have a fun and exciting dance experience? If your answer is yes, then think again. Sometimes in extreme cases there are certain dancers who will critique and criticize those that they don't even dance with by making comments like "Oh, so and so is not dancing the right way". Not only should these individuals be focusing on their own dancing techniques but this is precisely this kind of negativity or one way to dance type of mentality that casts a dark cloud on the entire social dance scene for others. Ironically, those that are known to criticize how others dance seem to take pride in berating or criticizing new dancers, they obviously enjoy "talking the talk" but most of them cannot "walk the walk". If you are one that hears the brunt of such criticisms take it with a grain of salt and let it go in one ear and out the other one. As you embark on your journey keep your distance from the negative dancers and find more positive and sociable dancers to connect with instead. Unfortunately there are many of these self anointed 'dance teachers' out there, beginning lady dancers have mentioned that around 80% of the men they dance will try to fix things while they are on the dance floor. Some will count out loud the timing of the footsteps for the ladies to follow with the hope that she will dance to prescribed steps. Others will complain about one's spinning technique when they fail to spin on a dime and will drift instead. A lady dancer new to a certain dance style twice told a leader that she didn't know the particular dance that he was trying to teach her, even though it was clear that she was struggling and could not keep up or follow he continued to force her to dance his way. Naturally ladies find these types of dancing experiences unsatisfying. This type of behavior is even viewed as controlling, irritating and to some, disrespectful. Unfortunately some dancers have a misguided focus when it comes to social dancing, or they take dancing too seriously. Rather than correct or point out faults in others they should focus instead on making their partners feel comfortable and  fashion a dance so that they can truly enjoy what should be a wonderful experience. The social dancer must be resilient and flexible when dancing with others new to the dance scene especially if that person doesn't know how to dance or doesn't know what they are doing. Social dancing is not always about following a particular style or being precise and correct, rather it is more about interaction, communication and more importantly adaption. Unfortunately you probably won't find any dance instructors that will teach their students how to adapt when dancing with others, instead they all teach prescribed steps and patterns. It therefore follows quite naturally that most dancers who have learned only one way to dance and who do not have enough social dancing experience operate under the belief that everyone must dance a certain way and therein lies the fiction.

Those that are sticklers for prescribed steps and who force others to dance to their way try to justify their behavior by saying that they are helping others. In reality however, they have no idea of the negative effects that this type conduct has on many of the new dancers who are already tip toeing on thin egg shells. Rather than help, they end up intimidating the new dancers and making them feel uncomfortable in the process. Sadly, this kind of behavior does chase some new dancers away from the dance scene, sometimes forever and that is the regrettable part. Unfortunately every city in America has some buzzkills, so the key for any beginner is to recognize that this trait does exist and to avoid these types of dancers.

We all dance socially to be comfortable and to have fun in our own skin, not to have a complete stranger take our confidence away and take all the wind out of our sails. Unfortunately there will always be a few dancers who take social dancing way too seriously and morph into this buzzkill zone. Some are just anti-social, unfortunately these people never seem to get it because they operate under the belief that their way of dancing is the right way and only way to dance, either that or they can't seem to tolerate what in their mind is less than perfect dancing, some are just myopic or are perfectionists and have tunnel vision (aka OCD dancers). In the words of West Coast swing guru Skippy Blair, "The only problem that exists in swing is when someone decides there is only one way to dance it. There is NEVER ONLY ONE WAY TO DO ANYTHING...." (emphasis supplied). A world renown and noted Argentine tango instructor here in town told his students that men like to "fix things" to be right, but when it comes to dancing they need to get rid of that attitude. What I gathered is that what he meant is that all dancers should learn to make the best of the situation, bearing in mind that not everyone in a dance club knows how to dance. When it comes to social dancing the word perfect does not exist, unfortunately those that catch the brunt of the negativity are always the untrained or entry level dancers. So if you are just beginning your journey develop a thick skin in order that you will not let others scare you away from the dance scene. Granted taking lessons will definitely help you to learn, but taking this step is up to each individual and is dependent upon his or her goals and their priorities.

ANOTHER REASON WHY DANCING SHOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO PRESCRIBED STEPS.  Unfortunately those that dance exclusively to prescribed steps and who expect their partners to dance the same way unknowingly do become prisoners of the dance (sometimes you can even hear them counting to themselves or to their partners). There is ACTUALLY much more to dancing then dancing this way. The problem is not how they dance because all beginners first learn any new dance by the use and application of basic and prescribed steps, but it is when they expect others to dance the same way. Most of these dancers operate under the belief that there is only one way to dance. In reality however the ultimate goal of the truly accomplished and elite dancers is to be able to be able to dance to the music and play with the rhythm. Learning prescribed steps is only the starting point and the means to the end when one learns to dance. It is by no means, nor was it ever meant to be the end result. If you have ever watched a Jack and Jill dance contest, or been to a salsa club, you will not see many prescribed steps with any of the elite dancers, what you will see instead is improvisation as they play with the timing of the music. These dancers have a firm grasp of the basics but they approach the dance from a musicality standpoint. Those who expect others to dance only to steps in reality do show their inflexibility because what these individuals fail to understand is that every individual has their own skill set, style, expression and musical interpretation that they bring to the dance floor. It is their joy and entitlement and it should be respected, in the real world of social dancing one should not expect all of their partners to know a standardized step or style, "...standardization doesn't function because each partner is different", See: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/ballroom.html).

In order to be an effective social dancer one must learn to 'connect' with their partners, and it is only through adaption that you will be able to accomplish this.  Adept social leaders and follows know how to make all of their dance partners feel amazing and have fun despite their skill level. The secret to their craft is that rather than take the "my way or the highway" approach to dancing they ascertain what their partners can and cannot do and will dance accordingly, modifying how they dance along the way. Humility, kindness, respect and consideration are the virtues of the consummate sociable dancer. Social dancing is being able to have a wonderful conversation with someone else on the dance floor. It is a dialogue not a lecture or a monologue and most definitely it is not about seeking perfection from everyone, or trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Social dancing at its finest is about inclusiveness and participation. Both men and women look forward to dancing with the consummate social dancers as they are fun and enjoyable to dance with. These dancers are the true ambassadors of social dancing and if you ever stopped to notice their dance cards are full for the evening. Ladies will approach and ask fun leaders for dances while popular follows rarely sit down as they are always on the dance floor dancing with a variety of leaders.

The key to social dancing is quite simple, so long as people you dance with are doing it safely enjoy what you can and dismiss any notion about what you feel is right or wrong. Do resist the urge to be a teacher to others if you are the more experienced dancer and as the wise owl would say, keep the so called 'helpful tips' and editorial comments to yourself. If you are one who cannot dance with someone unless they have a firm grasp of the basics, or are precise and perfect, then it would be wiser to bring your own exclusive dance partner to dance with instead. A majority of the dancers at clubs are there just to have fun for the evening, many are free-stylers and have never partner danced before. In fact it is very rare to find a dancer that knows all of the popular dance styles. More importantly, the last thing that anyone needs is for a stranger telling them that what they are doing is inadequate or wrong.

If we all tried to connect with our partners then dancing would definitely be much more pleasant and a fun experience for everyone. So don't be a buzzkill and rain on someone else's parade. Dancing is not much fun if your dance card is always empty or if no one cares to dance with you after having done so once before.

What is really important in social dancing is having the right dance attitude and mindset  and being able to 'share' a dance with those that you dance with. Naturally, skill and talent is appreciated but by itself it is definitely NOT EVERYTHING when it comes to social dancing.


Some salient TIPS from experienced lady dancers to beginning lady dancers (if you want to be popular)

1. Whether the Lead is a beginner or advanced, do your best to follow what the Lead gives you during the dance. If the Lead is doing moves you are unable to do, then say with a smile, "I'm more of a beginner," and he should realize that he needs to adapt accordingly.  When you are dancing with a stronger leader, and whenever in doubt as to what your leader is doing, continue to do your basic steps and never stop dancing, or moving your feet. Also follow the lead that you feel, and do not try to guess or move contrary to the lead.

2. Avoid leaning, clinging or hanging onto to your Lead as it restricts his movements. Keep relaxed shoulders and arms but present a frame in closed position.  Rest your hand on top (not behind) of the Lead's shoulder in order to feel the Lead's frame. If there is too much tension in your arms you will pull your leader off of his axis or balance. Make it a policy to hold the Lead's hand or fingers with flexibility, not being too stiff or too strong with your connection, the key is to maintain the connection.  If you dance with a stronger leader pay close attention to your hand connection and maintain it during the dance, letting it slip can be unsettling for leaders. Know when to give tone in your arms and when to relax them. 

3.  Your role as a Follower is to follow what the Lead offers you.  Being able to follow a weaker leader is also a mark of a good dancer. As long as there is no safety issue try your best, smile, and enjoy what you can, in fact you will not find dance compatibility with everyone that you dance with.

4.  Declining dances is your right but there may be consequences. It is your choice when you decide not to dance with someone, but if it is because they are relatively new, or you feel that they are not up to your level then when they become better dancers one day, do not be surprised if you are not on any of their dance lists. You may not remember them but they will surely remember you!  Ladies that are picky, and who will only dance with certain select dancers end up getting fewer dance invites over time, as all of the other up and coming leaders will have learned during their journeys which dancers to avoid asking for dances.

5. Refrain from back leads.  Back leading is when the Follow over-powers a Lead’s lead for any duration, basically she is dancing by herself. This is a common occurrence when more experienced Follows dance with inexperienced Leads and the lady says to herself, “I’ll show him how to do it.”).  Keep in mind the roles in social dance. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices and be more understanding when dancing with others who are less skilled. When one is social dancing she should not expect dance proficiency from every dancer. In fact it is extremely rare to find a social dancer who is proficient with all of the dance styles.

6. Whether you are in a class or dancing REFRAIN from criticizing or critiquing your Lead's dancing, or blame for a misstep, some men see it as belittling, for others, you can destroy their confidence. Most men don't care for dancing, so for those that do decide to test the waters, they feel exposed and are quite vulnerable when first learning to dance, accordingly, how others treat them has a big impact as to whether they will continue or not with this endeavor. Be a grumbler and complain about how men are dancing and soon you'll see all of them turn the other way the next time you are at a dance. Men and women go to clubs to dance, not to be told by strangers that what they are doing is inadequate or wrong. The single biggest secret to success in social dancing, or any kind of partner dancing for that matter, is to make your partner feel appreciated and as comfortable as much as possible, do that and you'll get more dance invitations, this applies to both men and women..

  "At no time should the girl criticize the man's dancing — unless she prefers dancing without a partner."  — Richard Kraus, Columbia University, 1965

7. Most ladies don't ask men for dances but if you decide to ask be sure that it is a dance that he knows, or you can ask him beforehand if he does a certain type of dance. You should also be aware that not all men will dance even if asked.

8. If you sweat a lot wear clothing that breathes (some men will bring a couple of shirts and change it during the night). Take breaks if you are soaking wet with perspiration.  If you are a follow and sweat a lot, you can still wear shoulder-less tops but at least bring a dance towel to wipe yourself down. No one likes to feel or touch another dancer's shirt, blouse or skin if it is soaking wet with perspiration..

                       
                             How to get asked to dance?  There is no magic pill, but if you
                                smile, look friendly, are pleasant and enjoyable to dance                                                                        with....you will be asked for repeated dances

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Comments from an accomplished lady dancer (who is a regular club dancer and a part time dance assistant/instructor): "I read your blog and it is the most fascinating and helpful information a dancer, beginner or otherwise, can and SHOULD read! Keep up the good work!"   Comments from a recent visitor to the islands "... I had the good fortune to discover your terrific blog.  I found it very extensive, very well written, very informative and right on target re all the key points of social partner dancing....congrats on such a great blog!"

       
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  • Dance Tips for Beginners and common dance mistakes.  Crash course for the novice dancer  - Ten tips in ten minutes for ten times better dancing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6srmTnDiRlI (discussion on posture, frame, connection, tone in the arms, walking properly and the hand connection). Here is another important video on how ladies should keep a 90 degree angle and avoid the dreaded "spaghetti arm" when doing an underarm turn  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG5SZ8lsneM . MUST WATCH videos for EVERY dancer. 
  • To learn to dance you must be determined, motivated and most importantly, patient. Learning to dance will not happen overnight, but learning small steps in order to get you there can happen overnight. Don't be too hard on yourself when first learning how to dance, progress does take time before things begin to sink in and your movements become and feel more natural and instinctive. Learning just a single movement may take weeks to develop for some new dancers. Learning to dance is no different from learning to speak a foreign language, if you don't know any words, or if you cannot remember the definitions, you cannot form a sentence, while those with a larger vocabulary are able to speak much more fluently than others. The key, therefore is to work on expanding your dance 'vocabulary', or dance IQ, one movement at a time and committing it to muscle memory. Once you learn enough basic dance movements, you will soon find yourself on the dance floor, and dancing with confidence, and without having to think about how to execute your movements. In fact if you have to think about how to execute a certain movement, it usually won't happen because the leader's movements have to be 'instinctive' once the music is on. 
  • Making mistakes is part of dancing and it does happens to everyone, but those who work to correct them are the ones that will see gain and improvement in their dancing. Follows that ignore their mistakes do not improve if they keep repeating and making the same mistakes over and over again. If you miss a clear lead, ask yourself, "What did I do wrong, or what should I have done to make it work?" Ladies that are eager to learn will even tell their leaders, "Please do it again!", naturally most leaders will kindly oblige. If you miss a complex lead and you are a beginner don't worry about it, the leader needs to tone down his leads. If you miss a basic lead or core movement however, try to make it a point to learn what you did wrong,even asking the leader to lead you again the next time you dance. I have seen some ladies who were new to partner dancing become amazing dancers in a little less than a year only because they took lessons regularly and they also gained real life experience by dancing once or twice a week with different and stronger leaders (this is the recipe for growth by the way). They also learned from their mistakes and were determined to get better at not missing leads. Anything is possible and attainable if you have the desire to learn and want to grow as a dancer. It all comes down to how much you love the dance, those that improve quickly and become proficient at dancing have a yearning for growth and knowledge. 
  • COMMON MISTAKES BY BEGINNERS (LADIES): One of the most important keys to dancing is for ladies to maintain the hand connection with their leaders at all times (unless the leader releases his connection). Unfortunately a common mistake with most beginning follows is the letting go of the leaders hand connection during the middle of a movement. When this happens the leader is stymied and powerless to continue with his leads. Naturally this can frustrating when it happens more than just a few times in a dance, this because the leader can no longer lead his follow. CONNECTION TEST:  If a lady can maintain the hand connection while doing a hammerlock, a two hand barrel roll, and the pretzel, then she has very good connections. If she lets go, she needs to make much more of a concerted effort to maintain the connection when dancing. This will come in time as the lady develops better recognition skills through class instruction and by studying some of the basic core movements in the dance. Another common mistake is when a follow quits doing the basic steps and stops dead in their tracks, this usually occurs when the leader does a spin, or a shine, and the follow doesn't know what to do. The golden rule in this situation, WHENEVER IN DOUBT AS TO WHAT THE LEADER IS DOING NEVER FREEZE OR STOP DANCING, INSTEAD CONTINUE WITH YOUR BASIC STEPS. This is one principle that beginners can learn just from watching what the advanced lady dancers do in these situations. 
  • When to relax and when to firm or add 'tone' your arms?  A follow's arms must have some tone in it when her leader is spinning her (i.e  frisbee spin, spot turns, etc.), leading her into swivels, or into the hustle diva walk, but for most of the other moves it must be softer and relaxed. Examples of the later is when the leader is doing a window or hair comb, one hand fold, hammerlock, two handed barrel roll, wrap, basket, straight jacket, sombrero, arm slide, pretzel, and bowtie. Arm pressure does varies throughout the dance depending on each particular lead so follows need to recognize when to relax, or when to firm or add tone to their arms. A leader cannot turn a follow if she has noodle or spaghetti arms, on the other hand If a lady's arm is too stiff, her elbows will lock up, this makes it very difficult for anyone to lead her into any movement. DANCE TIP:  If a leader gives tone to his arm, the lady should generally try to match it with the same amount of tone because a lead is forthcoming that requires a similar tone in her arms. If a leaders arms are relaxed then the lady's arm should 'generally' be relaxed as well. 
  • Tip for novice lady dancers. Always be aware. Ladies should not be clueless as their role in the dance is to "follow".  Follows should pay attention to what their leaders are doing, specifically they need to watch his hands. If the leader extends his hand out, the follow needs to make a connection with it. If not she will miss the lead and the dance flow is interrupted as an opportunity to follow a lead is lost. 
  • For novice leaders, you  may eventually realize that not everyone will dance with everybody. Most ladies expect a basic level of dance skill so if you get refused a lot, take it with a grain of salt and use the rejections as motivation to practice and to take more lessons if necessary in order to become a better leader. Ask any leader, they ALL experienced rejections, even experienced leaders get rejected from time to time. With beginning leaders usually it is their lack of technique and their inability to communicate intended leads that is the problem. An accomplished follow cannot dance and is confused if she does not receive clear directions from her leader, and no lady will want to dance with someone if his leads are too rough, or if he muscles his leads and is a safety concern to her.  Leaders cannot be indecisive or equivocal as dancing should not be a guessing game for their follows, instead all leads should be done with conviction and confidence as this is what the follows with dancing experience enjoy from their partners.  See more: http://gottadancerapid.com/2013/10/lead-follow/. Ladies also expect their leaders to be on the beat, so it is important to learn to listen and to dance to the music. If you get rejected a lot don't take it as dance snobbery, rather it is a natural phenomena that occurs and is part of the maturation process. If you are new to dancing you may consider dancing with those with similar skill levels as yourself as  you will get fewer rejections, and it will also put less stress on yourself. To develop good leading skills continue with your lessons, but more importantly practice your new leads at home, even by yourself, if you can't find someone who wants to practice. 
  •  Food for thought: A follow is only as good as her leader and conversely a leader is only as good as his follow. 
  • Concerns that lady dancers have - If you are a leader try to refrain from being an "arm only lead dancer" - these are leaders that do not move their feet and do not shift their weight while dancing, its as if their feet are stuck in cement. A quiet or non-existent lower body movement does not create any discern-able rhythmic flow for their partners, consequently it results in confusing their follows. Dancers become out of sync not only to the music but with each other when the other person does not feel their partner's rhythm, or weight shifts (its sort of like dancing with someone who is not on the beat). Developing rhythm starts first with paying attention and listening to the music, recognizing the underlying beat and using appropriate weight shifts and most importantly, moving your feet and weight shift to the beat
  • Establishing a rhythm requires placing your weight over the foot that is moving. I recall one of my salsa dance instructors telling the students that when you move your foot, feel as if you are grinding the ball of your foot into the ground, what he meant by that is that you need to put your weight into it as you step (also one should avoid stepping with a flat foot as it appears that the dancer is stomping instead). If you have taken any of his classes Stefan Kant, Director of Linda Melodia will tell his students that having good footwork and timing is EVERYTHING in the dance. This is SO TRUE because it DEFINES how a dancer moves. In most of the popular social dances one's weight is always over on the balls of their feet. In the west coast swing one's weight rolls through the feet. The  waltz also has a foot rolls with its up and down movements. This is why everyone should take dance classes when first beginning to dance, and periodically some refresher classes as having sound basics like having good footwork is essential for good dancing. DANCE MISTAKE: Many novice dancers have a tendency to 'step' or move their foot, but they fail to place their weight over that foot, as described below, this is called shuffling. 
  • Dancing is not 'shuffling your foot'. Shuffling occurs when a dancer will move their foot forward, back, or sideways but does not shift their weight over the foot that is moving. The better dancers shift their weight over their foot as it moves throughout the dance, most importantly this movement creates a rhythmic flow for their partners as they can feel their partner's weight shifts. So as you begin to dance, try your best to avoid shuffling your feet (or cheating), instead put your weight into every step that you take while using the balls of your foot for most of the social dances. As Stefan Kant said, good footwork is EVERYTHING in the dance!! These are sound basics that every dancer should learn before learning anything else. 
  • Leaders need to pay close attention his partner's ability when dancing. It is not easy when dancing with someone for the first time as you don't quite know their ability, athleticism, and recognition skills. Accordingly, toning it down, or revving it up are adjustments that are constantly made when dancing with others. This experience of adapting and adjusting is invaluable as it helps leaders to become better social dancers in the long run. Anyone can dance with their regular dance partner (because she is familiar with her partner's leads), but not all men can dance with total strangers and make them look good on the dance floor, accomplished leaders however, have this ability. When dancing with those whose balance is suspect, leaders should avoid speeding up or forcing a movement if his follow is not on time, even if it means that she will miss the beat, instead let her move comfortably and in her own time, as safety is paramount over anything else. Leaders also need to recognize when a situation, position, arm tension, or angles are not quite right for certain leads and when to ABANDON moves out of safety considerations. Over time the leader will begin to get a feel of whether something is possible or not based upon the tactile and sensory indications that he receives from his partners. There will be times when a follow is either not in the proper position (i.e. they may be too close to you or too far away from you), or their arms are too stiff for them to execute certain over the head moves. If this happens, never force a move on a lady as it may cause injury to her, or to yourself. Leaders must constantly make split second adjustments whenever dancing with strangers, if you sense that an intended movement is not possible, then the best course of conduct is to abandon the move and find something more suitable based upon what you think your partner can handle. Unfortunately, this art of adjusting is not taught by any of the dance instructors, so it is something that you will need to develop on your own as you begin to dance with many others. Because everyone has different recognition skills, not all leads are possible when dancing with others. This is another reason why one should steer away from,  or eventually wean ourselves away from pattern dancing. A dancer who only knows pattern dancing can become lost or flustered if he has to deviate from it, or if his partner is not able to follow his programmed leads.
  • Avoid being a bull in a china shop - Why slot recognition and spacing is so very important.  I am sure we have all had someone step on our foot during a dance, or your dance partner may have bumped into you so hard, that you actually lost your balance. There are generally several causes for this, one is when the dancers are not in sync, for example if one dancer doesn't quite know the basic steps and is dancing not with you, but against you (sort of like you only know how to dance salsa on 1 and your partner only knows how to dance on 2). Another is when the other person does not stay in their own slot and veers into your slot instead (i.e. slot recognition). Sometimes the other dancer just fails to keep the proper dance distance or spacing away from you while dancing. Unfortunately, slot awareness and spacing is not a familiar concept when one first learns to dance. Dancers need to keep a 'correct' distance away from one another during the course of a dance. If you are too far apart from your partner, someone would be pulled off of his or her axis and could fall down (while doing a spin for example), if however you are too close to your partner, someone may hit the other person in the face, collide into them, or step or trip, on their foot. 
  • Ladies must learn to follow and avoid back leading, or prolonged hijacking when dancing. 'Back leading' is when a Follow without waiting for, or contrary to, will interfere with the Lead's lead. She ignores what the leader is trying to do. Hijacking is when the Follow decides takes over the dance and dances by herself, when this 'takeover' is brief it is usually back leading, but when it lasts for a longer period of time it is called hijacking the dance. It can be three seconds, or it could be ten seconds, but for some leaders it feels like an eternity because it is not quite what he had expected, and he does not know what to do as the dance connection has been broken by his partner. It is the novice dancer that will usually back lead, probably because she is not aware of some of the basic movements in the dance, accordingly she will guess, as she feels a need to make something up instead. Some dancers who know all the basic movements will also back lead, because as was pointed out earlier by one of our lady dancers, they want to show the guy what they can do. Instead of sharing a dance, hijacking is perceived by some leaders as a form of self-indulgence. Both back leading and prolonged hijacking are considered bad dancing habits because it makes the follow difficult to dance with. Consequently, those that regularly takeover the dance from their leaders soon find themselves not being asked to dance as much as the other follows ,who understand the importance of the lead follow relationship in the dance. Unlike line dancing or free style dancing, partner dancing requires a connection at all times with your partner. The role of the leader is ....to lead, and the role of the follow....is to follow. 
  • For novice follows. It is a bit more complicated as to why leaders will ask certain ladies over others for dances, but just as ladies enjoy dancing with men who can lead them comfortably, Leaders also enjoy dancing with follows who know how to follow. Fun dancers also leave a good impression on leaders, so those that move well and are not afraid to smile if they are having fun are always being asked to dance. An added bonus is when they add styling elements and are expressive (but not overdone as to hijack the dance). Some will play with the rhythm, use shines and other syncopation techniques such as rushes, pauses and even body rolls. If you are being bypassed by many leaders there is usually a reason why that is. You could always ask a male confidant what he thinks you need to do to get more invites, sometimes it could be that a follow's balance is a bit suspect and leaders are afraid that she may fall down while dancing. Maybe you have a very strong death grip, or have stiff arms and just didn't realize it. Some follows have what is called 'heavy feet', this has nothing to do with one's weight or body type by the way, basically it is as if they are dancing with concrete shoes on because either they are too slow in moving their feet to the music, or they are dancing flat footed. Some feel as if they have 'heavy arms', these dancers take way too much effort on the part of leaders to turn or spin them because they are non-responsive, it is as if they expect the leader to help them to complete the intended movement for them instead. For leaders, dancing with excellent follows feels as if they are driving a nimble and responsive Ferrari with power steering on the Autobahn going 120 mph, while non-responsive follows feel like steering a truck with no power steering through a muddy bog at 5 mph. Quite obviously, it is not an easy task for any leader no matter how experienced he may be to dance with a non-responsive dancer, dancing should not be a struggle, or feel as if you are in a wrestling match. Although it may be a bit deflating to hear what you need to work on, you won't know what to work on, or what your deficiencies are,if you don't get any objective feedback from someone whose opinion you can trust. The elite dancers today were all novices at one time and many of them sat out dances, or were overlooked by others when they first began dancing. They got to where they are, however, because they identified their deficiencies and made a concerted effort to overcome them.
  • It also helps one to expand their dance vocabulary or dance IQ by learning different dancing styles. Its hard to dance to various types of music if you are a one trick pony and can only dance to once dance style. The additional benefit of learning other styles is that you can mix and match as many moves are interchangeable throughout the various dance styles.
  • Beginning leaders tip for closed position dancing:  Avoid a pronounced up and down movement with one's shoulders and arms when dancing (i.e. like shrugging one's shoulders or flapping your arms).  When in the closed position, a busy upper body movement collapses and destroys the leader's frame and this will throw the follows off.  For all the closed position dances the lead or momentum from the leader should come from a steady and solid frame and through his core body movement (i.e. tango, waltz, etc.). 
  • All dancers have different postures and curvatures in their spines, some of us are taller than others, some of us are heavier than others, etc., everyone is built differently. If you look at golfers, at his set up position Jordan Spieth stands more upright and has less knee flex than does Sergio Garcia who has more knee flex and more of a forward bend of his torso. In baseball, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout have different postures when they are in the batter's box. Albert Pujols has a more pronounced knee flex than does Mike Trout, who stands more upright. No one person is right and no one person is wrong (both of them are All Stars). The point is that we are all built differently and consequently we have different postures, similarly when it comes to social dancing there is no such thing as one dance posture for everyone. As long as you don't slouch and can keep your shoulders back you will be fine. Being comfortable (not stiff) and ready to move is the key. The one constant with all of these athletes is that they all have a knee flex and so should the dancer.  Although the old adage for dancing is to think tall and have a long neck this is not a blanket rule for all dances. The 'triangle' or rhythm posture for example is critical for most open position social dances. If a dancer's posture is too tall or upright like a soldier standing at attention for example, he or she will not be able to dance with any sort of flexibility because there is no flex in his knees. This leads to a minimalist of body movements and the dancer's feet will be shuffling around rather than being an integral part of  the dance.Their dance partners also have a hard time dancing and are confused because they don't feel their partner's weight shifts. To dance with rhythm with natural looking dance movements requires that the dancer's posture be comfortable, based upon his or her body type, this allows them to dance much more smoothly. The greatest lindy dancer in the world Frankie Manning had a very relaxed posture. All of the elite dancers have this rhythm posture which it is explained in more detail in the following video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LV5Mn5NEjRA. The instructor in this video states that you need to relax your knees, have a slight bend at your hip joint, and your upper body should be leaning forward just a bit (with a straight back and not one that is arched or hunched over). This forms your rhythm triangle or your dance posture. As the instructor says, "Too straight and only your feet will move which is 2% of your dancing and you will be missing out on the other 98%."  Posture for formal ballroom dancing on the other hand is a lot more different, with many of the formal ballroom dances like the waltz, rumba, foxtrot and tango, one should have an upright posture with a long neck and should be "thinking tall". Naturally formal ballroom is much different from  club dancing as one posture does not fit all dance styles. Posture really depends on the kind of dance that you are doing.
  • In Argentine tango the dancers are taught to master one movement per class and there are no patterns to copy. Curiously most of the other dances are taught by way of patterns. Instructors generally teach 3 to 4 movements in class and then tell their students to perform them in the exact sequence. The next week a new pattern is taught and this goes on and on resulting in little comprehension for the average dancer. Learning and mastering individual dance movements so that they became part of muscle memory will get you onto the dance floor must faster than pattern recognition. Another issue with teaching by patterns is that it is similar to teaching a student how to paint by painting by the numbers, athough the student ends up applying paint to canvas, it is at predetermined areas and he does not learn how to think or paint on his own. Similarly, this method of teaching does not stimulate the independent dance thought process that is required if one is to construct his own dance. Accordingly those that rely exclusively by dancing to patterns will find it difficult to create their own dance because they let someone else do the thinking and create the movement for them instead. Your options and alternatives are limited when you never learn to explore possibilities on your own and that is another concern or drawback if one limits his learning solely to pattern instruction. Discovery and freedom of dance expression occurs when we learn to think, envision and create the desired dance movements or connect the dots on our own. When one learns and masters individual movements there will come a time when the light goes on and the dancer will begin to 'see' how certain movements just seem to naturally fit or flow together with one another.This is when the leader will be able to fashion his own style of dancing. Through regular dancing and experimentation those that keep at it will gain this experience over time. A nationally known salsa instructor mentioned that leaders should know a minimum of sixteen moves in order to lead a follow during a dance. All of the better dancers continually practice and try to learn and master new movements. Individual movements once learned are never forgotten and it is this knowledge that will then allow the leader to eventually fashion his own dance and blend together movements that he likes.
  • Some dancers will dance to steps (you can even hear them at times counting steps). Usually they will also stick to a defined dance style, other dancers like the natural dancers will dance to the music, no one way is right or wrong, the main thing is that we are able to find a common groove and share a dance with whoever we are dancing with. Just as you cannot put a square peg into a round hole you will not find compatibility with everyone that you dance with. For example someone with the mindset of a modern jazz dancer would have a difficult time finding a groove with someone with the mindset of an exhibition international dancer because their approach to the dance are totally distinct and different. One improvises and interprets, whereas the other is looking for the execution of standard movements done to precision.  
  • Ladies asking guys to dance. There are generally two types of lady dancers at clubs, granted one of these is an extreme example. On one hand you have those that are patient (and they are the majority of the dancers) and on the other you have a few that are brazen and aggressive - using the shot gun approach they will canvas the room and ask practically everyone for a dance and often times more than once. Some aggressive dancers will even tug or drag a hesitant dancer onto the floor, yes, oh my. Some are disrespectful of other women and will ask a man to dance even when it is clear that he has a dance partner for the evening, or is with his spouse or significant other. Overly aggressive behavior should be avoided at all costs as it has caused friction and even led to cat fights in some clubs. The patient dancers on the other hand take a more sophisticated approach, they don't ask because they have developed subtle yet effective ways of letting leaders know that they are available for a dance. Saying hello and greeting a prospective leader with a friendly smile, this makes a wonderful impression by the way and it also lets the leader know that you may possibly be open for a dance sometime during the course of the evening. It is non-intrusive and refined and it does not compel the leader to dance immediately. Another effective way to get a dance could very well be learned from what ladies do and do not do when attending tango milongas. In tango clubs it is a taboo for a lady to ask a man to dance the Argentine tango. "Try not to verbally ask a man to dance...as a matter of fact the better the lead the less inclined he will dance...", excerpts from  http://closembracetango.com/thoughts/asking-a-man-to-dance (written by a tango dance instructor), accordingly those that are aggressive and constantly seek instant dance gratification like the gun blazers may soon find that this type of behavior eventually does backfire, this occurs when the tango leaders begin avoiding them. Another consequence of asking for an immediate dance is that it takes the leader's choice of dancing with someone else away. If a lady's overbearing conduct happens regularly and routinely it does become a source of frustration and even annoyance for leaders. As pointed out in this article there are other ways to get a dance without leaving your seat or been viewed as a problem dancer - the Cabeco or line of sight for example, is socially acceptable and the preferred way for ladies to get a tango dance. Those who have mastered the fine art of Cabeco, or are patient and gracious fare better in the long run. For other types of club dancing however, if a lady should still decide to ask men for dances they must also be prepared to handle rejections. Ladies who ask should not and cannot expect that every Leader will accept an invitation (just as when men do when asking ladies for dances). If despite the risks a lady decides to ask someone for a dance, she should key in on that person's body language and look for subtle signals to see if the Leader is receptive or shows an interest in dancing (again the use of the "Cabeco").  If there is a song that a Leader likes they will usually be looking around the room at the beginning of the song to find an available dancer who knows the particular dance style, this would be an opportune time to see if he makes eye contact with you (refrain from constantly staring at anyone unless you want to give them the heebie jeebies), if a leader is interested he will approach you, or you can ask him too. Bare in mind also that most men do not know all the dance styles that are out there and thus they will sit out certain songs whose dance styles they do not know. Asking a man to dance a style he does not know will surely lead to a denial so before asking someone to dance it helps to do some homework first. Also ladies who ask men to dance should at least know the basic beat or timing of the dance style (you don't have to be an advanced dancer to ask someone to dance with you), if you are a beginner, you could say, "I'm more of a beginner but would you care to dance with me?"  Ladies should also avoid asking leaders to teach them how to dance, leaders are there to dance and have fun, not to teach others how to dance (this is a big No-No by the way). Asking for an immediate dance more often than not does tend to put some leaders on the spot, as a result some may feel compelled or pushed into a dance especially if they are tired and want to take a break, or they do not like the song because they cannot hear or do not like the beat, or does not know the dance style. If a man feels compelled to dance under these conditions it can be a long three minutes and he may associate the dance with work and not fun. The approach that patient and considerate ladies take is to let a prospective leader know that she would be open to a dance with him sometime during the evening and at his discretion. For example they would say, "I would love to dance a salsa with you when, or if you have a chance" or "Could I be added to your dance card for a west coast swing dance?" When the right song comes along he may ask her, or if he does not then there is always another day (once again there should be not be any expectations if someone is not your regular dance partner). Most men would oblige and ask that person for a dance when approached in this manner. Patience is a virtue as the belles of the ball will attest to, and if you cannot handle a denial or if you take it personally then you should refrain from asking others for a dance. The fact is not everyone you ask will accept a dance invitation, this applies to both men and women.
  • In a funk?  There may come a time when ladies who know the dance get in a funk and feel something is missing and there is a yearning for more. Consider taking a styling class and learn fanciful adornments and musicality techniques. Or you could  consider joining a dance performance group, the transformation and growth for those who have gone this route is nothing short of dramatic and elevates their dance to a new level.
  • Leaders Tip: If you are having difficulty with leading a certain move then try practicing and doing the movement by doing the follow's footwork. This helps us to become much clearer with our leads as we learn where to best position ourselves and how to give a lead that is capable of being understood. 
  • The art of leading. There is a difference between dancing and good leading.  Anyone can learn patterns and It may only take a couple of months for a man to learn any new dance and its basic steps, but it may take much longer than that before he becomes proficient at leading other dancers with whom he has never danced with before. Not all dancers can lead, someone can dance for 5 years and be a capable dancer, but not be a good leader (ladies who dance with many dancers recognize who the good leaders are). If you find that you cannot dance with others, but can only dance with your dance partner because she is already familiar with what you are trying to do, then you need to brush up on your technique. Good leaders know how to communicate core leads to all their follows. Because they have good techniques and leading skills, they can dance with strangers of varying skill sets and lead them into comfort as if they had danced many times before. The feedback and experiences they obtained by dancing with others allow them to figure out which leads are 'user friendly' , this is called lead suitability, and leads used varies as they are based upon each particular person's skill set. This is precisely why leaders should dance with a variety of other dancers as it helps them to raise the bar for themselves and become much more versatile as leaders. Good leaders give clear and crisp leads with conviction and confidence so that there is no doubt in any follow's mind as to what she needs to do next, even if she should miss a lead she immediately senses and realizes it. When you see two complete strangers moving and dancing together as one in a dance, the leader has excellent partnering skills. Naturally the follow is doing her part in the dance too, but it is the leader that is responsible for lead suitability. Good leaders also will not confuse their follows, rather they are acutely aware and sensitive to their partners reactions and responses, and will adjust and modify their leads accordingly. They will even abandon certain leads if their partner is out of position, or lacks the recognition skills for a particular lead. A good leader is also creative as they recognize how certain moves flow nicely into other so that the transition is seamless. Not only is the resulting choreography soothing on the eyes but more importantly, the movements are tailored to the comfort level and ability of his partner. These leaders strive to make their follows look good, accentuating their dance strengths and avoiding their weaker points. If a lady struggles with someone's leads then she leaves the dance floor with a puzzled and confused look on her face. She is not at fault for that, rather the leader needs to work at developing better partnering skills and techniques, he must also learn to use friendlier leads. For example some leaders will use complex leads on beginners, or muddied leads on experienced dancers. Leaders do have a difficult and daunting task because they must create a dance that each follow is comfortable with and can enjoy the experience. Granted, It is definitely much easier to dance with your regular dance partner, but the real growth for any leader comes when he begins to dance with others. This ability to adapt to his partner's skill set and communicate clear, suitable and understandable leads is what separates a leader with good partnering skills, from someone else who may know the dance steps, or figures, but does not know how to 'share a dance' or communicate with others. Unfortunately, this aspect of social dancing is not taught in any dance class, so for those leaders new to dancing, try to be more cognizant of this concept after you have gained more dancing experience and are dancing with others. If you are a new leader and have a chance to watch an advanced dancer, you will see how they can lead complete strangers, even those who has never danced before and make them look glorious on the dance floor. Great leading skills is an art, it is dance communication at its finest.
  • When first learning to dance we are taught how and when to move our feet. We are drilled with the basic steps because it is the foundation or structure that we must learn before we can dance. A beginning dancer that ventures out for the first time to a salsa dance, or to a Jack and Jill West Coast Swing contest will be puzzled at first because the advanced dancers are not doing those steps or footwork that he was taught in class. What these dancers are doing is dancing to the music (so forget trying to figure it out because they are random and spontaneous movements), this is referred to as musicality and it is developed over time. As a dancer gains more experience, acquires knowledge, and becomes comfortable with the particular dance style, he will be able to experiment, play with the rhythm, and vary the pace The use of pauses, hesitations, rushes, body rolls, leg sweeps, rondes, foot shines and syncopation techniques are some of the tools that allow these advanced dancers to deviate from the basic dance steps. Advanced dancers retain the structure and integrity of any particular dance style but they add improvisational aspects to it. By learning to play with the rhythm and adding your own style and personality to the dance the dance becomes much more fun and interesting as it takes on another totally new dimension. "What is it in a non-technical sense that makes for a fabulous lead? It is not 'put the feet here shift the weight there' because there are some marvelous dancers whose footwork breaks every rule. It is not counting because during improvisations anything can happen and counting would get in the way". For more on what is a magical lead http://www.verytangostore.com/good-tango-leader.html.
  • Follows Tip:  Filling in the music - learn to vary your pace and know when to ratchet up or slow down or slightly delay your movement as the music calls for. Watch your timing and don't race or power through through every move (novices usually have one speed for everything). Moves that require more revolutions may have to be executed faster than those that require only one revolution. For example a frisbee spin or S turn would have to be executed much more faster than a simple inside roll in order to finish on the beat. For the later the lady will have to slow it down or stretch it out just a bit. Rushing a move and finishing before the beat can throw off the leader's timing. Better dancers will vary their speed as the music dictates, they know when to stretch it out and when to speed or to catch up. They will use the pauses to fill in the gaps and syncopation techniques to get back into it (or to just play and have fun). Elite dancers know how to fill in the gaps. I've seen some advanced lady salsa dancers take two quick steps like the "and 1 count" that you see in the hustle to get back on the beat. Listening to and filling in the music and being on the beat (or getting back on the beat)  is critical if one is to dance with the music.  
  • Develop a thorough understanding of where the weight on your feet should be for each step that you take (i.e ball or ball flat, etc.). Improper weight placement adversely affects the dance movement and it makes a person feel extremely dance heavy for their partners and can be physically draining for them. It can also cause your partners to miss the beat. It is not the leaders role in the dance to physically move the lady, rather she must know how and when to move as the dance calls for it. The cross body lead in the hustle for example requires that the lady move away from the leader or always step forward on the two and three counts if she does not and chooses to sit instead, the leader must struggle to move her and eventually he becomes exhausted dancing that way.  In general, for just about all of the popular dances like the salsa, hustle, cha cha, bachata, swings, and even the Nightclub 2 step, there is no weight settlement onto the heel at all as the dancer's weight needs to be on the balls of their feet, or in the active and ready to move position. Probably the only popular dance style that involves heel weighting is the American rumba (although the forward step in the social waltz is with a heel lead). Also one should be careful about not bouncing up and down, unless you are doing the jive,  east coast swing or samba. Bouncing for the other dances like WCSwing and salsa has the effect of throwing your partners off. Stomping or dancing flat footed with heavy feet should also be avoided in all of the dance styles.
  • The essence of social dancing is a non-verbal lead follow connection with your partner. This requires that each person do their part and contribute towards the dance. The follow needs to be sensitive and responsive to the feel and even the leader's body motion. She should not expect the leader to carry her. The leader has a hard enough role in the dance as he has to think about floor craft, lead suitability, blending, choreography, and musical interpretation. The follows role in the dance starts with keeping the beat and filling in the music, being responsive to and executing clear leads to the best of her ability. 
  • The importance of having good balance and footwork. One cannot dance with someone else if the other person is unstable and holds onto you for dear life. Some dancers have vice grips and do so because they lack balance control and use the other person for support. One should not cling onto their partners during the dance. Each dancer must be able to support their own weight and balance. This is a prerequisite for one's own safety and for the safety of his or her partner.
  • Be aware of your leads. Avoid pulling your partner off her center or axis which could cause her to lose her balance and become unsteady and even fall. Be particularly observant when leading her into a traveling turn, spot turn, or barrel roll (whenever your arm is circling over her head) making sure that she is centered, balanced and has completed her turn before bringing your hand down. If you are doing a Texas Tommy, or Straightjacket, avoid yanking your partner out of her spin, else she may stumble and fall down. Similarly, if a man is turning, the lady should not pull him off of his axis.
  • Some energetic follows will over rotate a spin or try to do multiple spins when in fact the leader is leading just one spin. If its a free spin then the follow may do multiple spins, but if there is still a hand connection during the spin the follow should feel and then go with the particular lead is. Over rotating a 'connected' spin is viewed by some leaders as a form of back leading.
  OTHER MATTERS
  • If you are a beginner and have not done a move before, refrain from doing it on the dance floor unless you know that you can do it safely. A leader who doesn't know what to do and how to do it could hurt someone. For example the one arm hammerlock fold behind the ladies back requires precise timing and proper technique (i.e. you cannot fold it above her belt line, etc.) and if not done properly it will hurt the lady's rotator's cuff thereby causing her great pain. I have seen ladies fall down at clubs because not only did they not know how to spin but their partners didn't know how to lead them. As much fun as dancing is, always think safety first. 
  • Once you know the basics of a dance style and have taken your share of lessons, you can also get some wonderful new insights and ideas simply from the internet. Many experienced leaders will tell you that in lieu of lessons, they now watch and study the dance from you tube.
  • LEADERS TIP: Learn the easier moves first and commit them to muscle memory before you take on the more complicated and difficult leads. If you start with the difficult leads first it can be frustrating if you dance with beginners as many of them will not be able to follow advanced leads. For example rather than jump into doing the two handed barrel roll which if not done right can pull a lady off of her axis, try the one arm barrel roll first until you develop the muscle memory needed to execute this move with confidence, or instead of doing the S turn, master the one arm hammerlock first which is part of this move. Similarly instead of doing the straight jacket, master the S turn first before you proceed with this rather complex lead. If you stick with the easy leads first, both you and your follow can learn the movements comfortably.  Later on as your dancing begins to develop over time you can revisit and learn the more complex leads. Its best to take things one step at a time, be patient and determined you will get there so long as you continuously work at it... before you run, learn to walk first, dancing is less stressful that way.
  • Just as Dancing with the Stars had a couple doing the Viennese waltz to a Billy Joel song, you can use various dance styles to dance to other genres. For example dancing bachata to pop rock or to disco music which is 4/4 time. Learn to mix and match dance styles to suit the changes in the music's tempo. When the dance floor is crowded you could switch from the space consuming cha cha to a more confined bachata. Tired of doing the merengue? Try doing the 3 count hustle to the music instead. If you don't know the west coast swing try doing the cha cha, it usually works. If you don't know the 3 count hustle, try the 4 count hustle, even the Bachata will also work....the possibilities are endless in terms of dance styles one can use. Naturally the more dances the leader knows, the less likely he will have to sit it out when the music is on.
  • DANCING WITH AN EXCLUSIVE PARTNER IN THE SHORT RUN HAS ITS BENEFITS, BUT IN THE LONG RUN IT MAY ALSO HAVE SOME DRAWBACKS. When first learning how to dance, having someone to practice with on a regular basis will help both dancers to learn any new dance faster, however over time it can also stifle their dance growth. As a leader you will not experience rejection if you dance exclusively with the same person all the time, however by not experiencing rejection you will ultimately end up not reaching your full dancing potential as a leader. Beginning leaders that dance with a variety of follows will experience rejections from time to time, but as painful as it may be for some, these rejections is objective feedback that tells the leader how good or bad, his partnering skills really are. Leaders that dance with other follows will also be exposed to various sensations, responses and reactions that differ from one dancer to the next, naturally whenever a follow cannot follow his leads it gives most leaders* a wake up call as he realizes that he needs to work on his techniques in order to improve upon and communicate his leads. *Note: Some leaders will blame the follows if they cannot follow his supposedly clear leads with the rationale being, his exclusive partner can follow him, so his leads must be good. The consummate leader on the other hand  will take this to heart and will work on his techniques and leads instead of blaming or finding fault in the other person. In reality if more than one person has difficulty following a person's leads then his technique is not as good as it should be, or that he thought it was. The feedback that one receives from his exclusive partner is never objective because his partner knows all of her leader's moves beforehand and can follow all of his leads, whereas strangers do not. An exclusive partner will usually compensate for her leader's mistake or lack of technical and leading skills by anticipating and completing the intended movement for him instead as if she is on auto pilot, strangers do not. Therefore dancing with the same person all the time does and can give the leader a false sense of security over time. Similarly, a follow who only dances with one leader all the time limits her growth and finds that she has a harder time dancing with others, as every leader leads, moves, and dances differently. She may think that she is a good follow because she always dances with the same partner and can follow him, but when she dances with other leaders and is confused and cannot follow their clear leads, it can be somewhat of a shock to her system to say the least. Follows that do not experience dancing with a variety of leaders, especially those that are stronger than her partner, will also eventually find that their learning curve tapering and flattening out over time and they are soon be bypassed by others that dance regularly with other leaders and gain more exposure as a consequence. If you ask any experienced leader they will be the first to tell you that ladies who regularly dance with a variety of proficient leaders have far more superior recognition skills than those that are not as exposed, or who dance exclusively with only one person. Dancing with a multitude of other dancers does expose one to different sensations, movements and experiences, whereas dancing with the same person all the time results in most cases of repeating the same moves over and over again, or being redundant. Its just like surfing, one who only surfs at one location all the time and at one wave height will not be as good or versatile as another surfer who surfs all over the island and is proficient at surfing on all different kinds of waves and at varying heights. Although it may be a daunting task for beginners at first, dancing with many other dancers has other intangible benefits, it is fun, challenging and exciting. It keeps one on their toes, both as a leader and as a follow as you can no longer dance as if you are on auto pilot or with blindfolds on. By stepping out of your comfort zone and through dancing with others, not only will you grow as a dancer but you will also make more friendships and meet more people this way....after all, this activity is called social dancing. 
  • If you practice partner doesn't do the move you 'think' you led, then you need to rethink and adjust, approach it as a challenge to yourself. If your lead is good and clear but your partner cannot execute the move, start with checking her frame. If her frame is solid then she should be able to follow any new lead. Also check her arm tension, is it too loose or too stiff for the move? (quite often most dancers arms are too stiff whenever they are unfamiliar with a new move). Don't be to quick to abandon new moves you are working on with your practice partner, it is all part of the learning process. All moves are do-able, its just that some take more time to learn, the more complex ones can take one or two months just to learn one new movement. Those that stick to it and work things out end up improving in the long run.
  • There may come a point in time for some dancers when you may feel that dancing just doesn't seem as exciting as it once was. This usually happens when the dance becomes too predictable and repetitive and you've hit a plateau. Generally its because you're dancing the same way over and over again and not doing anything different or new. If there comes a point in your journey that you feel as if your dance is not going anywhere then you need a challenge or a spark, something to make the dance more exciting once again. To rejuvenate or create a fresh dancing experience consider learning different dance styles. Check out different dance and music venues. You need to challenge yourself, if you only dance with the same person all the time then make it a point to get out of that comfort zone and experience dancing with a variety of different partners, especially the stronger dancers. If you seek knowledge, experience variety, and challenge yourself, you will never get bored with the dance.
Dance related articles: 

1. "19 Easy Ways to Attract More Men to Dance with You" discusses how to get a dance: http://www.salsacrazy.com/guideforwomen.  Here are excerpts, "Women sitting in groups get few invitations to dance."
2. You don't have to dance with everyone. "How to politely refuse a dance," see:  http://site.ekclothing.com/blog/?p=1501.  Here are some excuses that seem to work:  "I'm going to sit this one out, thank you," or "No thank you, not this time." These excuses are polite and more than sufficient.  Anyone who has asked others to dance before is aware that there will be rejections along the way. 
    a) If you are asked to dance but rather not for whatever reason, avoid steering the leader to someone sitting next to you and say, "Please dance with my friend" (unless you don't care if the leader doesn't ask you for another dance). Steering creates a socially awkward situation for both the leader and your friend. The leader may not wish to dance with your friend if she does not know the dance style or is an unsafe dancer, and it also puts your friend in an uneasy position if the leader doesn't ask her for a dance. Speaking for yourself and keeping your friends out of your dancing decisions are always the best course of conduct if you are passing on a dance invitation.  
     b)  At any dance or club there may come a time when you will encounter aggressive individuals that will repeatedly ask for dances. Not only men, but women are just as guilty of this kind of behavior. Ladies feel smothered because they would like to dance with other leaders. For leaders, this kind of behavior can be suffocating and becomes a source of annoyance when it interferes with their freedom of choice (especially since men have other ladies that they will usually also dance with during the evening). Unfortunately these individuals don't catch hints or refuse to acknowledge it and politely declining dances does not deter them from persisting. By trying to monopolize someone it prevents that person from dancing with others, consequently those that fall prey to these individuals soon find themselves unable to enjoy the dance experience. Dance sharks are bad for business as they chase people away from attending dances or from going to certain clubs. Rather than hide, run away or avoid going to a club because of them, one should be more firm, stand their ground and say, "Thank you I'd rather not," or "I would prefer if you ask someone else to dance instead."  No explanation is necessary. This usually works, after all no one can force you to dance with them, unfortunately they will usually go off and make life miserable for someone else instead. If they should continue to persist and harass you, don't be afraid to ask management, or the bouncer to intervene on your behalf and tell that person that you wish be left alone. Don't let anyone ruin your night out of fun, we all should be entitled to have the freedom to dance with whoever it is that we enjoy dancing with.
3. Why most men don't want to dance http://www.ballroomjoe.com/articles/whymendontdance.htm
4. Tough talk for a tough world - Overcoming the fears of social dancing:    http://www.salsanewyork.com/magazine/articles/overcoming_fear_of_social_dancing.htm
5. How to engage with your dance partners http://grapevine.dzouk.com/a-guide-to-engaging-with-your-partner/
Captivating video dances! Watching these videos will give you an idea of what each dance style looks like.
More incredible salsa dancing by Erika Caliente and her partner at the Pier. This dance is special and quite amazing to watch, it is full of energy and has a lot of SABOR! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lglvYOsKSR4.  Awesome salsa dancing from Montreal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrupxl67xDc

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