When I was teaching Salsa in Israel taking classes for dancing Salsa was an obvious necessity for any dancer. In the school I was working at, in order to finish the Salsa program, it takes about 6 months of two classes a week. And this only
Coming to Germany, recommending some dancers to take classes I started hearing something along the line of: “I just dance for the fun of it, I don’t want to properly learn the dance”, “I am not one for classes”, or the worst of the bunch: “I took a few classes, and I learn the rest from dancing”.
I am a big believer that dance is whatever it is for each person, and that’s ok. If you dance incorrectly but you smile and feel satisfied, it is not anyone’s place to judge whether you have to take classes or not. Heck, even most latinos dance simple and often incorrect, yet their smiles are as big as any professional dancer.
All is good and well but still, I’d like to give you my point of view – why do I think taking classes will lead you to a much more enjoyable experience. It will open a whole new world to you that you didn’t know even existed. So here are some good motivations for you:
Dancing with good fundamentals feels like a well-oiled machine
Couple dancing is a language. I’m not being figurative here. It is a language of the body. Salsa like any other dance is just another language that is pre-accepted between dancers. Dancing with a person that did not take classes feels like the equivalent of speaking to a new immigrant that didn’t bother taking language classes. It’s clunky, and neither can fully express himself. On the other hand, dancing with a person that knows what he/she is doing, feels like a well-oiled machine, everything just works, and it’s a communication bliss, just a perfect harmony.
Unfortunately, followers can kind of follow a good leader even when they didn’t take a lot of classes. The gifted ones might even feel that they are advanced. But let me tell you, any schooled dancer feels it well that your steps are incorrect. We feel the communication is clunky, and we deeply wish that it wasn’t.
I have not met in my entire career as a dancer and dance teacher a single gifted dancer that required no classes. Every single dancer that claimed “I can learn everything on the dance floor”, had fundamentals that required improvements.
Salsa (much like other dances) is a bit like Lego. With a few fundamental steps and rules you build bigger building blocks, and with these, you build a house. Clunky fundamentals lead to an unstable house. Most unschooled dancers, even though their flow is relatively good, should start classes either from the Beginner or Improver level in order to correct their fundamentals. (You can see the entire program here.)
If a full Beginner course sounds boring to you, private classes are a quick way to address the specific problems you have in
Dance as a gateway to expression
Dancing can be so much more than just a series of nice steps. It can be a gateway for expression. A good dance can be like writing a song, or painted art. It takes a while to get to the point where you put your soul into the dance. Taking many advanced classes with good teachers can help you get there. But more importantly, it is very hard to express yourself when the fundamentals are clunky. Expression requires a certain level of comfort and understanding of the dance. Only after you know how to “speak” the language of the dance, you can start “singing” the dance.
For me, this is one of the greatest gifts a dance can give you. Getting there does require a great deal of practice, and it’s an experience very few unschooled dancers will ever get to
Knowing the dance makes your partner happier
If you care for your partner – be a better dancer.
Let’s say, you didn’t take many classes, and there is this amazing dancer. Dancing with him or her looks like a great experience. You smile, you offer your hand for a dance and start dancing. If your partner is as advanced as it seemed he/she will immediately feel the dance is clunky.
An experienced dancer will have to face a dilemma now, he/she can do one of the three: Change nothing in his/her dance, enjoy a basic dance, or compensate for the lack of his/her partner skills.
If the dancer chooses to change nothing in his/her dance it means he/she dances well above your level and you will feel like you are incapable of coping with his/her dance level. The dance will be clunky and no one will enjoy it much.
The dancer can also choose to limit his/her dance to a very basic one, just enjoying the connection, the smile, and the music. While not the fulfilling experience that the dancer normally aspires to, both partners will at least enjoy and smile.
The third option is to try to dance as advanced as possible considering the partner’s limits while trying to invest a lot of effort into leading or following, compensating for the lack of his/her partner skills. This will give the less experienced dancer a great and fun challenge, but the advanced dancer will not be able to express himself/herself or dance the way he/she is capable of.
There is merit in dancing with beginners. It’s nice to give them a smile and the hope to dance well one day. That said, an advanced dancer usually truly enjoys only when he/she can dance to his/her full ability, and even more when his/her partner inspires him/her.
So if you want to make your partner happy – go take classes 😉
There is an entire culture behind the dance
You might not be aware of it just coming to parties, but there is a whole world behind each dance. Salsa Cubana has such a vast world that you could take years of classes and just scratch the surface.
Salsa is called Salsa because like the sauce it’s a mix of many genres, and each one has it’s own dance or influences on Salsa. Stuff like Son, Rumba, Reggaeton, Orishas and more…
Going to classes will open that world for you. You will start to hear the complexity of the music, you will start to understand that Salsa is not just a series of steps – it is the entire Cuban heritage in a dance. Delving into this world will enrich your dance beyond what I can put into words.
You can dance as amazing as these amazing dancers
A good teacher has experience in noticing the little faults that stop you from being this amazing dancer. He/she will point it out, and you will rapidly become better than you could imagined.
To sum it up, I would personally love it if all dancers invested time in becoming skillful dancers. With better dancers, I can enjoy the dance more. But more than that, I know that they can have a much more fulfilling dancing experience.
So, if you are one of these dancers that skipped classes I do hope you will reconsider taking classes. And if you live in Berlin, remember to check out La Candela’s classes.
The owner of La Candela. A Dancer and a certified teacher for Cuban dances for over 10 years. Studied under many Cuban teachers, including with Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba for a longer period of time.