Can you learn from YouTube?

There’s a lot of resources on YouTube for dance. Hip-hop, as an example, has an abundance of videos. In the case of Salsa, there are less tutorials to pick from.

I believe this is to be expected as the techniques for dancing with a partner would be very hard to convey over a video.

Worse still, without an experienced instructor, any bad techniques learned that could injure a partner would go uncorrected.

Some resources, especially ones that explain musicality and the history behind Salsa I think are very valuable. Personally, I’d rather listen to a video or podcast in my own time.

I believe a majority of social dancers would be nonplussed if a Salsa class turned into a theory lecture.

A big part of Salsa, in my opinion, is the interaction between different dancers as well as its diverse and friendly social circle.

I appreciate the effort and time that has gone into these resources, and they probably provide a useful supplement for the addicted between events and help entice new beginners.

Overall though, learning Salsa by yourself, without other people? Doesn’t sound very fun at all.

How To Shimmy Responsibly

Does such a thing exist? Of course!

Here is my three step plan to shimmy responsibly:

Situational Awareness

Are you at a party? If so, this would be a recommended time to shimmy. If you’re not at a party, and are at a funeral or operating
heavy machinery then this would be an inopportune time to shimmy.

Military personnel and assassins trying to retain an element of stealth should
also refrain from unnecessary rhythmic movement of the shoulders. Unless you’re under deep cover at a salsa convention.

Check Yourself

Would likely injure yourself or others from spontaneous shoulder movement? If carrying a small child or getting an MRI this would be a bad time to shimmy.

Eye Contact

Whilst sweeping the immediate area before a shimmy, be careful not to engage in lingering eye contact with bouncers and members of law enforcement. Mostly because its weird.

This is the first part of a field manual I will be slowly compiling on the subject of shimmying responsibly.

By the year 2030 I will be planning a leather bound hardback edition and a download straight to your brain via your brain chip.

Making Mistakes

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” – Bob Ross

Sometimes you expect, or even need someone to do one thing and they end up doing the opposite.

At all levels of social dancing, it’s not uncommon for a lead to be misinterpreted or either dancer to miss a step.

Complete disaster? Is the immaculate choreography ruined?

Perhaps not, unless you’ve dropped someone on their head. Did you happen to dance with Stone Cold Steve Austin?

Steve Austin
The Bionic Redneck

What really matters is how you handle that mistake.

Your partner, onlookers and even your humble self will appreciate not making a scene.

It could even be the making of the routine, despite the perfectly sterile routines in our minds.

But isn’t it our minds who control the body? So maybe part of us wants to make that mistake. If the mistake is intentional, is it still a mistake?

When Herbie Hancock first played in Miles Davis’ string quartet he played a clanger, a wrong chord [clang!]. Miles paused, then played some improvised notes that made the chord right.

“I thought I had just, like … we had built a house of cards and I just destroyed them all, you know?.. It took me years to realize Miles didn’t judge my chord, I did.” – Herbie Hancock

The dance equivalent to improving a melody to for the chord would be a follower styling out the rest of that bar of music instead of stopping or apologizing.

I think this is not only an important attitude to have on the dancefloor, but in life.

Calamity and resolution is a story. Everything going well is also a story, but one where nothing was learned and no room for growth.

All movement is technically a dance move. Next time you trip just claim you were breakdancing.

Forgotten everything, standing oddly still? That’s just contemporary! Make sure to snatch at the air a bit and pull it into your chest.

My backup is always to shimmy responsibly.

What’s with all these new dance instructors, anyway?

It seems that every month I read another bio for a new dance couple that reads something like:

“We first started dancing [dance style] a year ago. We formed a connection instantly and picked up the style in record time. We now teach at [dance venue] every [week day]. To book tickets for [new couple] click here…”

On the one hand, I find these stories aspirational. It’s fantastic that within a year you can meet a fantastic dance partner, venue and paying students!

On the other, I see why people roll their eyes. How could you really learn anything within a year, good enough to teach?

What I really want to learn from these people is not the basics of [dance style] but how they managed to learn both the art of teaching and a new dance style within a year.

It’s the sort of scenario Tim Ferris would write about. He’d learn a dance style, raise the money to build a dance studio and promote it on a radio station he founded in Cuba.

Personally, as a random dude on the Internet, I believe people should be free to do what they want. As long as they’re humble and bringing in something fresh, maybe there is a lot to be learned from them.

I reserve a certain amount of cynicism, however. Teaching is hard. I’ve moonlighted in different disciplines, from time to time, and I’ve always felt it’s like herding cats.

But maybe with enough hard work, and sticking to one aspect of a style. Creating a slick, short class is achievable.

A lot of dancers may comment “well I’ve been dancing [number of years] and I wouldn’t feel comfortable teaching it”. There is a difference, however, of social dancing once a week and practicing every night for [amount of hours].

Maybe an amateur who commits to a goal, and strives for it every day is no longer an amateur? Maybe a professional is only a plastic professional until they’ve gained enough experience?

Either way I’d love to hear opinions from fresh faced greenhorns and old salts alike.

Always remember the following, however. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an excited new dance couple, established Salsa community lynch pin or just scouting for women at socials…

… always shimmy responsibly.

Newcastle Salsa Event Calendar

You may have noticed the addition of an events calendar on this blog.

It was my original intent, when creating this website, to show off all the different events that are going on. There’s often an abundance of events, classes and parties but little promotion.

Feel free to add it to your book-marks!

www.newcastlesalsa.club/calendar

No event is too small, and there is not favoritism or cost to list it. If you know about an event and it isn’t listed, please let me know!

Meanwhile,

Shimmy Responsibly!

Connection In Salsa

When we encounter another individual truly as a person, not as an object for use, we become fully human – Martin Buber

When we refer to the connection between two dancers; leader and follower, it’s a reference to both a physical and mental one.

The physical connection refers to the hold and hand position. Through this, a leader can suggest the rhythm and positioning. He can also signal what moves are coming next and lead the follower through his improvised choreography.

A person might have an incredible command of the English language, say maybe a London barrister.

But would that person be able to form a meaningful connection with a stranger? The same barrister might struggle to hold your interest long enough to progress past painful small talk.

For something so intangible, the connection between two dancers is something that you can see the absence or presence of fairly quickly.

I believe one of the main draws and strengths of partnered dancing is not just the aesthetic beauty, but also the therapeutic quality of connecting with other members of your community.

Some members you may have never encountered or spoke to otherwise, some might not even speak the same language.

Maybe making a more concerted effort to form a deeper connection with other people in our lives would make us not only better dancers, but better people as well.

Four Followers You’ve Danced With

The Sorry

Racked with guilt, this follower will usually start the dance by standing still looking you dead in the eyeballs before saying “sorry, I’m not very good”.

Sorry!

I often wonder what happened the last time they danced? I suspect it was in some kind of militant salsa boot-camp where they where berated daily by some kind of drill sergeant. 

Or maybe they are here utterly against their will? Who knows. But what ever it is, they are sorry about it.

The Dictator

With the strength and courage gained via one to many cosmos this follower will embark on a one-person coup d’état for control of the choreography.

She may proceed to bark commands:

Now, spin me!
Catch Me!

You smile, you ride it out. She says she came with her friend. You recognize her from your last dance.

Her friend shrugs meekly as she mouths:

Sorry!

The Poker Player

You ever danced with someone who looked like…

.. this?

I’m talking about this for the whole three minutes. You wonder if she’s bored, offended or maybe a robot sent from the future.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t done anything wrong, but I feel sorry anyway.

The Invisible Partner

Always hilarious, always available and there to balance any offsets in the man/woman ration during classes.

I solid, dependable dancer who follows every move. She disregards any mistake, sloppy lead and even contorts to overcome any limitations imposed by physics or human anatomy.

She never talks back, and never expects a drink.

Main drawback however, is she’s not much of a talker. Plus she can draw some odd looks at socials. Especially when you try to introduce her.