Monday, August 29, 2016

THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE DANCE GUIDE FOR RECREATIONAL PARTNER DANCING IN HAWAII

Experience the joy of dancing, share magical moments, embrace the music and embark of a voyage of discovery. Its all about having fun with the music and the person you are dancing with, and once you learn to dance you will never stop. The difference between a great pianist and a piano player is that one is an artist that plays with passion and fully expresses himself or herself, and the other person is a musician that reads then play notes, this difference is similar when it comes to dancing as some will dance to steps whereas the great dancers will dance to the music. Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time and even though he didn't read music or study theory his guitar sang like no other because he could hear the music in his head and played from his heart. Just as it inspired Hendrix, let the music be your guiding light when you dance.  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."

Social club  or partner dancing is not the same as formal or international style ballroom dancing. Social dancing is informal and casual, it is an intuitive dance where personal artistry is an integral part of the dance, with formal ballroom there is more of an emphasis placed on methodology, lines, execution, form and shaping while performing standardized figures with precision and to perfection.

Although there is structure to partner dancing which is learned just like it is with formal ballroom dancing, the essence of the dance welcomes musical interpretation, experimentation, imagination, improvisation and spontaneity, thereby allowing the dancer to become one with the music. The possibilities are endless with social dancing as dancers will communicate, collaborate and seek new discoveries in the dance with each other. The music is not just an accompaniment but is the driving force that allows the dancers to express themselves and bring the dance to life. Social dancing is not a science rather it is an art form with the dance floor being your canvas, your feet the brush and the dance is your painting.  Although becoming proficient at partner dancing is gained through study and practice, one of the noted dancers in American history, Fred Astaire shared his dance secret, "Don't be a slave to steps or routines."

Frankie Manning, the Ambassador of Lindy Hop shared the following secret, "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 each other.  How we feel music and express it is unique to each one of us.  Therefore 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." "

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion." Martha Graham.

  
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When you connect to the music, use your instincts and let it all go your dance will look more natural and feel effortless, and this is when your dance will reveal itself. We all dance differently because of the way that we interpret the music and express ourselves, so don't let yourself become a prisoner of the dance, instead take control, experiment, play and have fun with it as it will set you free and lead to marvelous new movements and discoveries for you. When one learns to develop their own style it will be honest and unique and it will be your glory because only you will own it.

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Whats happening around town:

SPECIAL EVENT. Kevin Mau will be playing at the St. Louis Alumni Hall on Friday, Sept. 2nd from 7 pm to 10 pm. $10 cover.


For regular dances, click here: Other places to dance this week


Coming up!

For the latest daily forecasts of upcoming salsa events  see Fiesta Oahu and I love Hawaii

For Salsa/Bachata Dancing. For salsa and bachata, see: https://www.facebook.com/salsamorhawaii/
 "Salsa dance info" and "More salsa dance info" and "bachata dance info".  See also facebook page for Alma Latina Productions (Nancy Ortiz).

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"



                                   Dancing was not intended to be limited to prescribed steps. Enjoy this improv salsa dance  by world renown dancer Frankie Martinez and Simona Canneti. 

             

A beginning dancer learns prescribed steps. An intermediate dancer knows the
steps and is learning  to sharpen their techniques. The advanced dancer knows  techniques and they can amalgamate movements with ease, they do not limit themselves to  prescribed steps as their focus is on expression and musical interpretation through improvisation. Enjoy this expressive and improv west 
coast swing by champion dancer Michael Kielbasa and Naomi.  


EDITORIAL COMMENT - With social dancing the key is learning to adapt thereby making the dance comfortable and fun for those that you dance with.

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


 
1. You are just getting your feet wet in partner dancing and took a couple of lessons, you decide to venture out to a dance club but no one seems to want to dance with you. Do you tell yourself that you want no part of social dancing because it is full of cliquish people and snobs, or do you tell yourself that you can do it too if you put in more time and don't give up so soon?

2. You are relatively new to dancing and trying your earnest best to dance, the lady that you are dancing with cuts you no slack and is constantly looking at other couples dancing nearby, seems bored, doesn't smile, and rolls her eyes whenever you try a lead, do you apologize and walk her off the dance floor, or do you grin and bear it (the longest 3 minutes of your life) until the song is over?
  
3. Like most dancers that go to clubs intermittently you are not that serious about dancing and just want to have some fun for the evening.  You took couple of dance lessons in the past but never really pursued it. A stranger asks you for a dance and he immediately begins to comment about your dancing and what you need to do in order to dance what he considers to be the 'right way.'  Later that evening you dance with another leader who does not make any comments but modifies how he dances with you so the both of you can enjoy dancing together. Which dancer would you look forward to dancing with again?

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

5. A leader dances with a relative newcomer, when she misses basic leads she blames it first on her shoes then she  complains and tells her leader that he is doing something wrong in the dance when in reality she is the one who falls short in the dancing department, naturally the more experienced leader is stunned and dumbfounded, and since she took the first shot could he now point out her mistakes from A to Z, or should he just bite his lip, grin and bear it and hope that the song ends quickly?

6. You take dance lessons for about a year and are feeling a bit more confident with your dancing progress. You go to a club and ask four ladies to dance, they dance with you once but after that all of them repeatedly decline your invitations, but all is not lost as you finally find someone else to dance with, the next time you go out dancing you spot her but this time five ladies repeatedly decline your invitations. Is it time to walk away from dancing, or do you take the rejections as a challenge to become a better leader?  What if you take lessons for 2 years and end up with the same results?  Would it give you more comfort if experienced and accomplished dancers who have danced for many years tell you that they are constantly working on new movements and fine tuning their techniques?

7. After being regularly rejected at your dance outings you decide that instead of quitting you will put in more time, take more lessons, work on timing issues, sharpen your footwork and leading techniques, and work on transitioning weight shifts and developing a better rhythm, as a result of your renewed efforts you have become much better and are now dancing with confidence and conviction, you have also gained a lot of experience by dancing with a variety of dancers including the strong dancers, you then spot the same five ladies that rejected or shunned you in the past (see above), including the lady who used to roll her eyes when you danced with her, do you ask any one of them for a dance? Would you dance if one of them approached you for a dance? What if you are a better dancer than the snobby lady dancer that used to roll her eyes at you, and while dancing with her she misses a clear basic lead, or fumbles with following some fundamental core movements, do you say to yourself,  I'll show her", then give her the 'blitzkrieg' and dance way over her head?



I thought it necessary to bring these situations to light because it may happen for those who take up dancing and to point out the effect that certain types of conduct may have on dancers, some have given up dancing because of the negativity they have experienced from others, others accepted it as growing pains and took it with a grain of salt, others realize that not everyone they dance with will be patient and understanding, some dancers that you will meet are just not sociable. Unfortunately there are confidence killers or buzzkills out there, not only here in the islands but in every dance city in America. I remember 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, they 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.  I also remember spending many months on the sidelines watching others dance, it was educational because I realized the work that I would have to put in just to become somewhat conversant with dancing,  it wasn't much fun however when you are not part of the activity but like many of those that dance today, I too had to put in the time to learn partner dancing. 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, in fact many leaders that I remember taking dance classes over the years seem to have vanished from the dance scene, thus the men that dance today persevered and got through it all because of their love for the dance helped them to overcome these bumps in the road, but for all of the others that quit, one wonders if they had a better experience would they be dancing today?  Probably so and that is the sad part of it all. Perhaps if they were more determined they would have stayed, perhaps if they had more positive encounters they would have stayed, we will never know but negative vibes is not only something that men leaders experience because women have also encountered a few buzzkills during their journeys as well. 

WE DON'T TELL OTHER PARENTS HOW THEY SHOULD RAISE THEIR CHILDREN, NOR SHOULD  WE TELL OTHERS HOW THEY SHOULD BE DANCING....UNFORTUNATELY WE WILL ALWAYS ENCOUNTER A FEW THAT LIKE TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS, THEIR BUSINESS. All dancers need to be resilient and flexible if they will be dancing with other dancers. Social dancing is not about following a particular style rather it is about interaction, communication and most importantly adaption, unfortunately you won't find many dance instructors who will teach their students how to adapt when dancing with others, instead they teach prescribed steps, thus it follows quite naturally that most dancers who have learned only one way to dance think you must dance a certain way. In reality however, if someone does not dance the way that you do then try to dance with them by finding a groove and avoid thinking that you are dancing with someone in your dance class. Those who expect others to dance their way or only to steps show their inflexibility because they expect standardization and lack the capacity to deviate from it, and when they begin to comment or teach others how to dance it is as if they wear a cap with blinking lights that says, "Because I took lessons I am an expert in this dance and you are doing it wrong unless you dance MY WAY" (there is a certain air of smugness when people behave like that), what these individuals fail to understand is that social dancing is not like formal ballroom dancing, rather it is an art form that constantly changes and evolves and that every dancer has their own unique style, expression and musical interpretation that they bring to the floor, its like dancing in the rain, it is their joy and entitlement and it should be respected. In the real world of club dancing there is no standardized step and style, "...standardization doesn't function because each partner is different. You must modify your steps to adapt to each partner...and you develop your own personal style. Source: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/ballroom.html). Ladies will be the first to tell you that they enjoy dancing because it is fun and exciting, they also enjoy dancing with leaders who are attentive and make them feel comfortable, buzzkills fail on all these fronts, which explains their unpopularity.


As an example as to how important it is to be flexible and be able to adapt to how your partner is dancing a 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, instead he said leaders should go with what the lady is doing or giving them and proceed from there with the dance.Unfortunately there are many of these self anointed 'dance teachers' out there as beginning lady dancers have mentioned that around 80% of the men they dance with try to fix things by trying to clone them to dance their way, some will even count out loud the timing of the footsteps for the ladies to follow with the hope that she will dance to prescribed steps, naturally ladies find this type of behavior very controlling and irritating.On the other hand, there are ladies out there that will not dance with a leader if he  doesn't know or stick to standardized steps for a particular dance, naturally when this happens to new leaders, some end up quitting, or avoiding those lady dancers....yes there are lady buzzkills out there too.


War Stories - WARNING SOME DANCERS HAVE A CHILLING EFFECT ON OTHERS.  Many years ago before I even began partner dancing I was at a club watching others dance and 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 whom she had just danced with and whom she did not know corrected her on the dance floor and tried to teach her how to dance. 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 this lady's reaction that she was upset and viewed his conduct as totally inappropriate and even anti-social, instead of having fun and enjoying herself on the dance floor, this leader had shattered her confidence and tore her apart. 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 was that it would suit leaders well if they were are able to go with the flow when dancing with other dancers who didn't know a particular dance style. Maybe if she was his date or regular dance partner and asked him for some lessons, or if they were taking a dance class together it would have been different but that was not the case at all.


OTHER WAR STORIES - Unfortunately not all dancers are going to adapt to how their partner is dancing, in addition to those that like to impose their way of dancing on others, some just like to complain and be critical of others. 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 such an experience must have a been crushing blow to her, how can anyone enjoy that kind of dance 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 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. Naturally the leader was dumbfounded when he heard those comments.  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!  While dancing salsa a leader told a lady that she was dancing with too much rhythm, she was on the beat the whole time and wasn't wiggling or hopping up and down so his comments came as quite a surprise to her. Salsa, bachata and just about all of the other open position dances are all about establishing a rhythm with defined weight shifts and not imperceptible ones. Did any of these dancers have a fun and exciting dance experience? If your answer is yes, then think again.


THERE IS NO 'RIGHT WAY' TO DANCE WHEN DANCING SOCIALLY. What do buzzkills have in common?  They all take it upon themselves to chime in with their two cents if something in the dance isn't going their way. Some seem to constantly find one fault after another in other dancers and in extreme cases they will even critique or 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 it is myopic but it is precisely this kind of ballroom dance mentality that casts a dark cloud on the social dance scene. For obvious reasons ladies will cringe when a buzzkill approaches them for a dance, and men will avoid dancing with ladies who complain and grumble about their dancing. There are many other war stories out there and so long as some people do not know how to positively interact with others these unfortunate incidents will continue to occur and unfold.  In the social dance scene people need to get rid of that "my way or the highway" dance attitude and focus on making the dance fun for the other person.  Those that try to justify this kind of behavior by saying they are helping people have no idea of the negative effect that their conduct really has on others, instead of helping they make other dancers feel uncomfortable and sadly this kind of behavior does chase some new dancers away from the scene.. We dance socially to be comfortable and have fun in our own skin, not to have a stranger take our confidence away, or take the wind out of our sails, unfortunately there will always be some dancers who take social dancing too seriously or who are not sociable, as they just don't get it. 


ANOTHER REASON WHY DANCING SHOULD NOT BE LIMITED TO PRESCRIBED STEPS. There is a big difference between a social club dancing and exhibition dancing, or even ballroom dancing. Just as an example, exhibition dancers will spend a great deal of time and effort on form, lines and shaping, whereas for most social club dancers these terms are foreign to them. With formal ballroom dancing there are a strict set of rules to follow which is why it is most appealing to methodical people wanting to dance the 'right way' and strive for perfection, in fact improvisation is looked askance upon.  With social dancing, those that get caught up in steps end up ignoring the music, and because there is no connection to it they end up looking a bit stiff and disconnected, the dance appears flat and mechanical because it lacks sabor, it is like a painting but without any colors. http://www.dancespirit.com/uncategorized/musicality_matters_how_to_become_a_more_musical_dancer/

Unfortunately those that dance exclusively to prescribed steps unknowingly become prisoners of the dance, although they may know the movements you sense that there should be much more to dancing then just performing figures or movements, sometimes you can even see or hear them counting to themselves, the real problem with this is not how they dance (because all beginners will first learn any new dance by using prescribed steps) but when they tell others that it is the only way to dance and expect them to dance the same way. 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 meant to be the end result. On the other hand, dancers who approach the dance from a musicality standpoint realize that there is no right or wrong way to interpret a score and this explains why these dancers have flexible attitudes and are able to adapt when dancing with others, dancing to the music fulfills them as it is the guiding light, consequently they move well on the dance floor and their dance is like the aurora borealis as it has many vibrant and ever changing colors to it. Therefore if you find that dancing with someone with an exhibition or ballroom dance mentality (or is a stickler for prescribed steps) is not much fun to dance with, you probably would not be alone, club and social dancers (and especially the advanced and musical dancers) will tell you that it feels a bit stifling and confining, its sort of like being told that you must only dance by following the dots and in a certain sequence. Read, "The Art of Social Dancing" and why it is the opposite of dancesport or competitive ballroom dancing -  https://www.facebook.com/FrankEBlog/posts/443048932462716.

They say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, apparently so because the buzzkills are seldom new or beginning dancers although as ironic as it seems it does happen, but is usually those with a bit more experience (but not the advanced dancers) who are bent on a crusade to fix or standardize things, the root of the problem is their mindset and lack of versatility (or unwillingness to adapt), 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).


As further evidence that there is more than one way to dance to anything and what it is like to be musical when once dances, watch world renown dancer Frankie Martinez as he dances the salsa, it is fresh, creative and unique (his video is highlighted above), similarly if you watch west coast swing champion Michael Kielbasa's dance (whose video is also highlighted above) there are also very few prescribed swing steps. What both of them have in common is their unbridled expression of the music laced with wonderful improv aspects and musicality. One of the world's greatest dancers Fred Astaire said it best, "Don't be a slave to steps and routines."


WHAT DOES "SHARING A DANCE" WITH SOMEONE REALLY MEAN?  WHO ARE THE POPULAR DANCERS?  There is however a silver lining as you will also also encounter other dancers who have the proper mindset for club dancing, as it concerns leaders they know how to make their partners feel at ease and look like the belles of the ball regardless of their skill level, as it concerns follows they go with what the leader has to offer and do not complain or try to correct them. Although we avoid the buzzkills, we look forward to dancing with these other dancers as they make the dance fun and exciting, they bring a smile to our face during and after the dance is over, we enjoy dancing with them because they adjusted their way of dancing in order that they could share a dance with us, in fact this is why they are the true ambassadors of social dancing and if you ever stopped to notice. they are the most popular and sought after dancers. When it comes to social dancing, having the ability to adapt and interact with other dancers by finding a 'common groove' is much more relevant and meaningful than dancing to prescribed steps, dancing is after all having a conversation with someone else, it is a social activity that involves interplay and interaction, it is a dialogue not a monologue and most definitely it is not about yourself.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE BUZZKILLS. Social dancing is fun whenever you find the right people to dance with, so if you want to enjoy your new found dancing experience don't be afraid to ignore the 'eye rollers' or the 'my way or the highway' dancers as these individuals can dampen your spirits and derail you from where you want to go. Instead by finding supportive, positive and flexible dancers who can adapt you will experience the joy of dancing and will be dancing forever.  So for the new dancers you don't have to let someone who shows you no respect make you a prisoner of the dance, or more specifically to their dance style.  When you dance with the more versatile and consummate social dancers and especially the musical dancers you will eventually realize that there is really more than one way to dance to anything.


THOSE THAT LIKE TO  TALK THE TALK GENERALLY DO NOT WALK THE WALK. Sometimes the actions of a few does seem a bit bizarre, but you should take some comfort in knowing that those who are most vocal and quick to judge others are not certified dance instructors, nor are they the advanced or musical dancers (although in their mind they may truly believe that they hold the key to dance expertise). Those that can walk the walk do not care to talk the talk....they don't need to, in fact you will never see an advanced dancer telling a beginner how they should be dancing, and have you ever noticed that those who like to talk the talk do not usually walk the walk, and rather than let others enjoy dancing their own way they would rather hear themselves speak by imposing their will on others, but little do they realize that in the context of social dancing which is to be ourselves and dance for fun, no one really cares what they have to say.


WE CAN LEARN SOMETHING FROM THOSE THAT DANCE DIFFERENTLY FROM US. BE A CHEF, NOT A COOK. Cubism would not have touched the art world if Picasso was told that his style of painting was unacceptable, similarly new movements and discoveries in the dance should be welcomed and not muzzled or frowned upon, as with Picasso dancers who express themselves in unique and creative ways could someday pioneer a new dance style. When Buddy Schwimmer came up with and made the Night Club 2 step popular, there must have been initial resistance from the conventional dancers at the time because it was different, turn the clock forward and now it is a standard dance style that is taught in every dance school in the country. There is after all always something that we can learn when dancing with others, and rather than smother the flame, it should be within all of us to help keep the flames and passion going for everyone that we dance with, especially those just beginning their dance journeys.  


The key to social dancing is quite simple, as long as people you dance with are doing it safely, enjoy what you can and forget about what is right or wrong as this is not ballroom dancing, and most importantly unless you have something good to say, keep the editorial comments to yourself. If we all subscribed to this and learned how to adapt. then dancing would definitely be much more fun for everyone and more people would be dancing today. If for whatever reason you prefer to dance with someone who only knows prescribed steps then that is your choice and it is perfectly fine, but do not expect to change the way that others dance, not unless you want to be known as a buzzkill.


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." If the Lead is more of a beginner than you are or gets confused, do not teach him on the dance floor, rather than help you are destroying his confidence. If you are dancing with a stronger leader, 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 grip, 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 if they should 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 may remember you), also 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 leaders will have learned to avoid asking them for dances.

5. Do not  back lead.  Back leading is when the Follow over-powers a Lead’s lead for any duration, sort of like dancing by or leading 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 a majority of the dancers 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, NEVER, EVER criticize your Lead's dancing or blame for a misstep, men see it as belittling. Be a grumbler and complain about how a man is dancing and soon you'll see them turn the other way the next time you are at a dance, leaving you all alone with no one to dance with. 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.

  "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 with perspiration and should someone ask for a dance say you need time to cool off if you didn't bring a towel or a change of clothes..



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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 persistent, determined and motivated and If you love to dance then it is a labor of love. Once you learn the movements, no dance is that difficult, unfortunately learning the movements and committing it to muscle memory does take time as some of the more difficult movements can take weeks or even months before you can bring it to the dance floor with confidence, so if you want to get better at dancing one must take lessons,  practice regularly and dance as often as you can. Learning to dance is no different from learning to speak a foreign language, if you don't know any words or can't remember the definitions you cannot form a sentence while those with a larger vocabulary are able to speak more fluently and communicate with others, thus one of the keys is to work on expanding your dance 'vocabulary' or dance IQ, one movement at a time. 
  • If you get rejected, take it as a challenge and work harder to improve upon your technique and dancing skills. Enjoy your accomplishments but if you want to be the best that you can be then  continue to keep forging ahead because the learning never stops when it comes to the arts, those that love to dance are always seeking new discoveries and learning something new.
  • 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 significant gain and improvement in their dance. Follows who ignore their mistakes fall behind as they end up repeating and making those same mistakes over and over again, consequently there is no dance growth, so if you miss a clear lead, ask yourself, "What did I do wrong, or what should I have done to make it work?" Ladies who are eager to learn will even tell their leader, "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 with him as this is how you will improve and grow. 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, they also danced once or twice a week with different and stronger leaders and they learned from their mistakes each time they were introduced to a new lead or missed a clear lead. Anything is possible and attainable if you have the desire to learn and want to become better. Watch, study, practice, dance, and you can learn any new dance style. Once a person knows the basics and core movements of any dance, the biggest growth spurt comes from dancing regularly and with a variety of dancers.
  • 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 of course the leader releases his grip. Unfortunately a common mistake with most beginning follows, especially those that don't have enough partner dancing experience 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 it can be somewhat frustrating when it happens more than several times during a dance. CONNECTION TEST:  If a lady can maintain the hand connection while doing a hammerlock, two hand barrel roll. and pretzel without letting go of her leader's hand then she has very good connections, if she lets go when being led by others she needs to make more of a conscious effort to maintain the dance connection, this will come in time as the lady develops better recognition skills by taking classes and learning the core movements. Another common mistake made by many beginners is that they will quit doing the basic steps and stop dead in their tracks whenever the leader does a move (for example when he does a spin), the golden rule in this situation is as follows, WHENEVER IN DOUBT NEVER FREEZE OR STOP DANCING AND CONTINUE WITH YOUR STEPS. This is one principle that all beginners can learn from the advanced lady dancers. 
  • 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 the hustle diva walk for example, but for other moves it must be softer and relaxed, for example when the leader is doing a window or hair comb, one hand fold, hammerlock, wrap, basket, straight jacket, sombrero, arm slide, pretzel, and bowtie. Arm pressure varies throughout the dance depending on the particular lead, so follows need to recognize when to relax, and when to firm or tone their arms when dancing if they are to execute different leads (i.e. a leader cannot turn a follow if she has noodle or spaghetti arms). On the other extreme, If a lady's arm is too stiff her elbows will lock up which makes it difficult for anyone to lead her. DANCE TIP:  If a leader gives tone to his arm, the lady should always try to match it with tone because a lead is forthcoming that requires tone in her arms for her to be able to execute the move.
  • Tip for novice lady dancers. Always be aware. Ladies cannot 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 immediately make the 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 become a better leader. Ask any leader, they ALL experienced rejections, it is unfortunately a part of the growing pains when one is social dancing with strangers, even experienced leaders get rejected from time to time, its part of dancing life. An accomplished follow cannot dance and is confused if she does not receive clear directions or leads from her leader and no lady will dance with someone if his leads are too rough, he muscles his leads, or if he is a safety concern to her (she has to trust that he will not do something too wild that it may hurt her). Ladies also expect their leaders to be on the beat. Leaders must also avoid being 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/.  Everyone dances because of the excitement that dancing brings and the experienced dancers are no different in that regard, like beginners they also look forward to the thrill of dancing, as a result some of the more advanced dancers  may seem a bit more particular when accepting invitations from various leaders to dance with so if you are just beginning your journey and get rejected don't take it as dance snobbery, rather it is a natural phenomena that occurs when two people with similar dance vocabularies discover that they speak the same language or find a common ground. They are able to bring out the best from the other and this is why you will see many of them dancing together, so if you are new to dancing begin by dancing with someone with a similar skill level as you will put less stress on yourself and you'll also get fewer rejections, it also helps to build your confidence as you improve over time. Those that have good leading skills generally get fewer rejections so consider taking more lessons and having regular practice sessions with your practice partners if you want to jump start your learning curve, be patient as it can sometimes take years before one really learns to be comfortable and proficient at leading strangers. Food for thought: A follow is only as good as her leader and conversely a leader is only as good as his follow. 
  • Common concern that lady dancers have. Leaders who use arm leads only and who hardly move their lower body either because they don't shift their weight during the dance or they don't move their feet, this quiet lower body movement (or lack thereof) does not create any discern-able rhythmic flow for their partners and is a source of confusion for them. 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 if one of them 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. The hardest thing for any dancer is to dance with someone who cannot hear or keep the beat.
  • Establishing a rhythm requires  corresponding weight shifts. If there is no weight over the foot that is stepping, the dancer usually ends up shuffling or tapping his or her feet instead. I recall one of my salsa dance instructors telling the students that when you step, 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 tells 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 fact in most of the popular social dances one's weight is usually over on the balls of their foot (in west coast swing for example it rolls through the foot, the  waltz also has a roll 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 good footwork cannot be overlooked and should not be forgotten.
  • Leaders need to pay close attention his partner's ability to execute movements, granted it is not easy when dancing with someone for the first time as the leaders do not know their partner's ability, thus toning it down or revving it up are adjustments that are made during a dance.  Also leaders who like to dance by themselves like freestyling for an extended period of time also seem to be coming up short and missing the boat, it is partner dancing after all. Leaders should also avoid speeding up or forcing a movement if his follow is not on time or has suspect balance, even if it means she is missing the beat, leaders should allow their follows to do the movements in their own time, safety comes first when dancing with others. Leaders also need to recognize when a situation, position or angles are not quite right for certain leads and when to abandon a move for safety purposes, 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 as well as whether she has the recognition skills to execute certain leads. 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 as is often times the case with beginning dancers, their arms can be too stiff for them to execute certain over the head moves which generally requires relaxed arms, when this happens never force a move on a lady as it may cause injury to her or yourself. You need to make split second decisions whenever you dance with strangers and if this happens the best course of conduct is to abandon the move and find something more suitable based upon what you think they can handle, or wait until the situation is optimal to execute your intended lead. Because everyone's ability is different not all leads are possible when dancing with others and this is another reason why one should steer away or eventually wean ourselves away from pattern dancing because a leader who only knows patterns becomes lost or is flustered if he has to deviate from it if his follow is not able to follow certain leads.
  • I am sure we have all experienced a new dancer step on or bump our foot because he or she did not stay in their own slot and keep the proper distance when dancing, "Distance (from each other) controls EVERYTHING", these are words of wisdom from  Stefan Kant of Linda Melodia. This is so true, if you are too far apart from your partner someone will be pulled off of his or her axis while doing a barrel roll, or spin for example, or if you are too close to each other you may hit your partner in the face, collide into each other, or step or trip on your partner's foot.
  • Beginners Tip. If you are just learning to dance, find a support group and make dancing friends. It is hard to learn to dance and get better if you sit down all night long and watch others dance, or if cannot find anyone to dance with (which is why it always helps to bring a dancing partner friend when first learning how to dance). Developing confidence is one of the keys to our dance growth and it happens when you have someone to dance and practice with. You will not improve if you are also  afraid of making mistakes in front of others, or if you are worried about what others will say. Remember, making mistakes is the only way that we eventually learn how to dance, as we not only learn what not to do, but how to do it so that it works. 
  • Ladies must learn to follow and avoid backleadling or prolonged hijacking when dancing. 'Backleading' is when a Follow is executing steps without waiting for, or contrary to, or interfering with the Lead's lead, in essence 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 backleading but when it lasts for a longer period of time it is probably hijacking. 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. It is the novice dancer that will usually backlead probably because she is not aware of some of the basic movements in the dance, accordingly she will guess and she feels a need to make something up instead. Some dancers who know all the basic movements will also backlead 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 backleading and prolonged hijacking are considered bad dancing habits because it makes the Follow difficult to lead and dance with, consequently those that regularly takeover the dance from their leaders soon find themselves not being asked to dance as much as other Follows who understand the importance of the lead follow relationship in the dance. Unlike line dancing or free style dancing that you see at discos, partner dancing requires a connection at all times with your partner.
  • 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 enjoy dancing with follows who are floor craft aware, just as important is having good distance control and balance. 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 usually always being asked to dance, an added bonus is when they add styling elements and are expressive when they dance, some will play with the rhythm and use shines and other syncopation techniques such asg rushes, pauses, and even body rolls for example.  If you are being bypassed by many leaders there is usually a reason why that is so consider asking 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 the follow has a very strong vise grip and just doesn't know it, it may be a bit deflating to hear what you need to work on but 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 popular dancers today were all novices at one time and many of them sat out dances, they only got to where they are because they identified their deficiencies and worked hard to overcome them.
  • How does one develop good recognition skills?  First its study, then its practice, and then its more practice and finally its from dancing experience - Generally the better dancers have all taken dance lessons and continue to practice but most importantly they dance regularly and with a variety of dancers, those that struggle with their dancing or lack recognition skills usually have not taken enough lessons, or do not dance regularly enough, consequently they are not exposed to different and new movements. It also helps one to expand their dance vocabulary or dance IQ by learning different dance styles and not be a one trick pony. The additional benefit of learning other dance styles is that many moves are 'interchangeable" for example if you can do the Texas Tommy in WCSwing you can do it in the salsa, etc. Those that are determined to get better at dancing actually spend more time practicing than they do dancing.
  • 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 are heavier than others, etc. and  we are all 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 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 the same dance posture for everyone and as long as you don't slouch and keep your shoulders back you are 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 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, consequently 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. The greatest lindy dancer in the world Frankie Manning had a very relaxed posture, and you won't see salsa and swing dancers being rigid and upright when the dance. All the better dancers have this rhythm posture which it is explained in this 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 ballroom dances like the waltz, rumba, foxtrot and tango one has an upright posture and the dancers are "thinking tall", naturally these are much different dancing styles from what you see at clubs.
  • One can have all the moves in the world but it is HOW ONE MOVES that separates the better dancers. Those who have never seen the hula dance before are instantly drawn to it  because of the dancers fluid and natural looking body movements, social dancing can be just as expressive, flowing and beautiful. 
  • It is quite common for novice dancers to want to learn as many moves as possible, so quite naturally some new students become frustrated when they cannot follow their class instructor's 'pattern of the day'.  In reality trying to remember or follow the 'pattern of the day for most beginners is information overload.  Rather than try to remember a pattern and the individual movements in precise sequence, new leaders should direct their focus on mastering one simple move at a time and forget about remembering the sequence.  Food for thought: When one takes lessons he does not master all of the moves because of the time constraints, he is only introduced to it, so mastering a move that he likes will be up to him to practice on his own until it becomes part of muscle memory.  In Argentine tango the dancers are taught to master one movement per class and there are no patterns to copy, but curiously most of the other dances are taught by way of patterns as instructors will generally teach 3 to 4 movements in class and then tell their students to perform then in exact sequence, the next week a new pattern is taught and this goes on and on resulting in little comprehension for the average dancer who has not been able to retain much of what he had previously been taught.  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 dancing. Anther issue with teaching by patterns is that it is similar to teaching a student how to paint by painting by the numbers, although the student ends up applying paint to canvas it is at predetermined areas (including what colors to to place here and there on the canvas) so he does not learn how to think or paint on his own consequently this does not stimulate the independent dance thought process that is required if one is to become his own dancer, 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 is 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.
  • Recognize how your partner is dancing and make adjustments. 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 there will be times when you may not find compatibility with everyone you dance with, as an example a modern jazz dancer would have a difficult time finding a groove with an exhibition international waltz dancer because how they dance are totally distinct and different, one improvises and interprets whereas the other is a skilled perfectionist in standard movements, if they both cannot adapt and find a common ground the dance would be a struggle. As much as it is a nice goal to have to be able to dance with everyone, you may not find dance compatibility with everyone that you dance with.
  • Ladies asking guys to dance. There are generally two types of lady dancers at clubs, granted one of these is an extreme example but 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, at times evening tugging or dragging a hesitant dancer onto the floor, 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 a 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, and those that invite trouble and become a nuisance, or are a source of irritation to others could be asked to spend their money elsewhere (i.e. 86'd). 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 makes a wonderful impression, it also lets the leader know that you may possibly be open for a dance sometime during 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 can 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 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 someone the heebie jeebies) and if he is interested he will approach you. 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. Also ladies who ask men to dance should at least know the timing of the dance if they want the leader to be able to lead them, if she is a beginner or doesn't know how to dance she could say "I'm more of a beginner but would you care to dance with me?" Ladies should also avoid asking leaders who are strangers to teach them how to dance. 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, thus 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, thus if a lady feels a strong need to ask for a dance it would be more prudent on her part if she does not ask the leader for an immediate dance, the better course of action would be to let him know that she would be open to a dance sometime during the evening and at his discretion. For example, "I would love to dance a rumba with you when or if you have a chance" or "Could I be added to your dance card for a swing?"  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), but 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 and those of all skill levels.
  • 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 consider joining a 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 from a follow's perspective and learn her footwork, this helps us to become much clearer with our leads, especially with the more complex ones - we learn where to best position ourselves and how to give a lead that is capable of being understood. It really does work. Sometimes no matter how clear a lead is, certain follows who lack the dance knowledge or experience may not be familiar with what to do, this is when the leader needs to tone it down and keep it simple.
  • Why it is so difficult to be a leader. 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. Good leaders will interact positively with all of their follows (or strive to anyways) and they have the ability to dance with strangers because they have sharpened their techniques over time. Because of the feedback and experiences that they obtained  by dancing with others they learn which leads are 'user friendly' for dancers of the various skill levels and are able to effectively communicate their leads to anyone that they dance with, this is called lead suitability. Good leaders also give clear leads with conviction 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 realizes it. When you see two complete strangers moving and dancing together as one in a dance then the leader has good partnering skills, naturally the follow is doing her part in the dance too, but the leader is responsible for lead suitability. Good leaders will not confuse their dancers rather they are acutely aware of their partners reactions and responses, and will adjust and modify their leads according their skill level, even abandoning them if his partner is out of position, lacks the recognition skills, or is struggling while trying to follow. A good leader is also creative and has a good ear for the music, they recognize how certain moves flow nicely into other ones and will blend them so that the transition is seamless, the resulting choreography is soothing on the eyes. They will hit or articulate on the breaks as it creates a nice dramatic effect in the dance and they strive to make their follows look good, accentuating their dance strengths and avoiding their weaker points. Consummate leaders aim to make the dancing fun and exciting for their partners and ladies enjoy dancing with attentive leaders who can make the dance entertaining for them. If a lady struggles with someone's leads, she leaves the dance floor with a puzzled look on her face either feeling confused or frustrated and she is not at fault for that, rather her leader needs to work at developing better partnering skills and he must also learn to use friendlier leads. For example some leaders will use complex leads on beginners or muddied leads on experienced dancers and the follows have no clue what the leader wants her to do, instead of partner dancing it appears that they are in an awkward wrestling match or a guessing game as the dance flow slows and even comes to a halt. Granted leaders do have a difficult and daunting task because they must create a dance that each follow is comfortable with and one in which they can enjoy the experience. The dance is a constant 'work in progress' but those that stick with it and dance with strangers eventually do become better at leading.   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 who may know the dance steps or figures but does not know how to "share a dance" with someone and make it fun and enjoyable for them. 
  • 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  a Jack and Jill WCSwing contest will be puzzled at first because the advanced dancers are not doing those steps or footwork that they were 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 or she will be able to experiment, play with the rhythm and vary the pace - the use of pauses, hesitations, rushes, body rolls, leg sweeps or rondes, foot shines and syncopation techniques are some of the tools that allow these advanced dancers to deviate from the basic dance steps. One will not be able to experience dancing freedom by only following the dots, counting steps, or performing standard figures, the advanced dancers retain the structure and integrity of any particular dance style but they add improv 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 and it takes on another 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 faster than a simple inside roll 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 catch up, they use the pauses to fill in the gaps and syncopation techniques to get back in it (or to just play and have fun), they fill in all 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.  
  • If you find that you cannot dance with others but only with someone who took the same dance class with you, or only with your dance partner because they are the only ones that are familiar with what you are trying to do and can follow you, then you may probably have to brush up on your technique. Good follows are able to follow clear leads, even if when dancing with someone for the first time. Leaders with good technique and partnering skills are able to dance with total strangers of varying skill sets and lead them in comfort as if they had danced before, in fact this is precisely why leaders at some point in their journey should dance with many other follows as possible if they want to raise the bar for themselves. 
  • 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 is physically draining for them, it can also cause them to miss the beat. It is not the leaders role in the dance to physically move the lady, she must know how and when to move as the dance calls for it or when the leader invites her. A follow also cannot 'sitdown' during the dance when she needs to be moving to the beat. The crossbody 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 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, sometimes even sight of leads, she should not expect the leader to carry her, after all he has a hard enough role in the dance to begin with, he has to think about floor craft, lead suitability, blending and choreography or 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 any kind of dance. Each dancer must be able to support their own weight and balance during the dance, it is a prerequisite for one's own safety and for the safety of his or her partner, unfortunately dancing may not be for everyone.
  • 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 or spin before you bring 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 as there is usually something coming up that the leader has in mind, taking over a lead, or affecting the timing by over rotating a lead is also a form of back leading.
  OTHER MATTERS
  • If you are a beginning leader and have not done a move before refrain from doing it the first time 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 his partner which is why it helps to have a practice partner.  For example, the one arm 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 cuff by her  shoulder causing her great pain - do that once and the lady will never dance with you again. Leaders must always think safety first. 
  • If 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 from youtube. 
  • LEADERS TIP: Learn the easier moves first and commit them to muscle memory before you take on the more complicated and difficult leads, besides if you start with the difficult leads it will be very frustrating and if you are dancing with beginners many of them will not be able to follow it. 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, and instead of doing the S turn master the one arm hammerlock first (which is part of the move). Similarly instead of doing the straightjacket, master the S turn first before you proceed with this rather complex lead (which if not done right can hurt a lady's rotator cuff).  So stick with easy leads that both you and your follow can do comfortably at first and then proceed from there once you develop the foundation and as your dancing begins to develop over time. You will know when it is time to revisit and learn the more complex leads because at that point in time the once complex moves no longer seem that difficult to execute. 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 (i.e. for example dancing bachata to pop rock or to disco music when it 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.
  • Why you should eventually try and dance with many other dancers.  Anyone can lead their regular partner but not everyone can lead complete strangers with ease and to their comfort level. Granted you don't get rejections and it is easier, 'safer' and less intimidating when you dance with the same person all the time, and in fact most beginning dancers have learned the basic dance steps and standard moves much more quickly when they had a partner to practice with, but there will eventually come a point in time that men should begin dancing with others if they want to develop better partnering skills and techniques as learning how to lead others is much different from dancing with the same person all of the time, granted leaders who dance with a variety of follows will be exposed to rejections but these rejections give the leader an objective feedback as to how good (or bad) his partnering skills really are. Leaders who dance with others are also exposed to various sensations, responses and reactions that differ from one dancer to the next, and it is this information that gives him an objective feedback as to what he needs to do to better communicate a lead, thus sharpening up his leading skills. For example 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 their exclusive partner is not 'objective' since his partner knows all of her leader's moves and what movement he intends to lead, strangers do not. An exclusive partner may also compensate for the leader's mistake or lack of technical leading skills by anticipating and completing the intended movement for him almost as if she is dancing on auto pilot, strangers do not.  An accomplished leader has the ability to lead any follow because he has good partnering skills, their leads are clear and understandable for each and every person that they dance with thus it comes as no surprise that those who they dance with are able to follow them. It is only by dancing with others will leaders gain this experience and become better at leading because classes alone do not cover these subtle nuances in the dance, nor can it take the place of dance experience. Similarly a follow who only dances with one leader all the time also limits her growth and has a harder time dancing with others as every leader leads, moves and dances differently. She may also have developed some bad habits by dancing with the same partner and doesn't realize it until she dances with other leaders and either is confused or cannot follow their clear leads because of her lack of dancing exposure with different leaders. They have become so accustomed to one person's dance style that they have not really learned how to follow others, some may even develop bad habits by anticipating, or even backleading (not all leaders like it). Follows that do not experience dancing with a variety of leaders eventually find that their learning curve will also taper and flatten out after a certain point in time and they will soon be bypassed by the other lady dancers that dance regularly with other leaders. In the long run, ladies that dance with a variety of partners become more versatile and develop better recognition skills especially when they dance with leaders that are stronger than their partners. Having a variety of partners to dance with and expanding one's comfort zone has other intangible benefits as well, although it may be a daunting task for beginning dancers it is fun, challenging, and exciting and it keeps one on their toes both as a leader and as a follow as one must focus and pay particular close attention to what you are doing in the dance (i.e. you can no longer dance as if you are on auto pilot). You will also make more friendships and meet more people that way, that is why they call this activity 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 feel that dancing just doesn't seem as challenging and exciting as it once was. Basically you've hit a plateau and have flattened out, you feel like you are in a rut and it happens when the dance becomes too predictable and repetitive, generally its because you're dancing the same way over and over again, not doing anything different or new with your dance partners. If there comes a point in your journey that you feel as if your dance is not going anywhere then you need a challenge, a spark, something to make the dance more exciting once again. You need to break the regimen and take your dance to another level, to rejuvenate, or create a fresh dancing experience consider learning new moves with your partner, take classes together, learn new dance styles, try mixing styles together creating your own fusion dance. Check out different dance venues together. You need to challenge yourself. Rather than exclusively dance with the same person all the time, dance with a variety of different, even stronger dancers. If your partner does not share the same passion for dancing and does not care to practice and improve, or learn new dances with you, then consider finding other dancing partners. The right practice partner will help you to grow, the wrong one can hold you back. When one continuously learns new techniques, new dance styles, and experiences different movements and sensations by dancing with others, it helps the dancer to develop his skills much faster, it also makes the dance fun and exciting once again, in essence giving it perpetual life. Status quo and being content may help us to maintain what we know but it will not help us to grow and develop into better dancers, to improve we need to constantly seek knowledge, experience variety and challenge ourselves and having the right practice or a variety of dance partners will get you there faster. 
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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