Friday, September 25, 2009

Casualties of Salsa

I've never really had a bad night of dancing except for one very HOT, very CROWDED night at one of my favorite venues in Seattle. The Bikram Salsa wouldn't have been bad by itself  but it was aggravated by the fact that in the first 5 (or maybe it was 6) songs that I danced, I got kicked, stepped on, butt bumped or elbowed once in each song. In the next dance, I hadn't even gotten halfway through it and I got stepped on twice in same cross body lead. [For those of you who do not dance salsa, this is equivalent to 8 beats of music which would be like getting stepped on twice in less than 8 seconds.]

Something SNAPPED...

I did something that I never thought I would do: I stopped dancing. I apologized to my dance partner and told him that I had to stop. I was just too mad to continue and I needed a breath of fresh (cool) air. I explained that it wasn't him and that I needed to just step out and off the dance floor. He was nice enough to walk out with me, I think I freaked him out a little bit (I mean I was freaked out by myself!) and kind enough to keep me company while I literally and figuratively cooled off.

The more experienced dancers will say, its the lead's responsibility to protect his partner - to keep her from being stepped on or from stepping on (or bumping, nudging, hair whipping, slapping) someone else.

I agree with that for the most part but EVERYONE should take some responsibility on a crowded dance floor.

Last night my left ankle fell victim to a few more heel kicks and stomps when it was already bruised from a man's heel the night before that. A casualty of the crowded salsa dance floor.

SO - here are some tips on not being the cause of casualties on a crowded dance floor and how to watch yourself so you don't become a casualty.

Oh yes, make no mistake:  it CAN be done, you can dance unscathed on a crowded dance floor!

There are many types of dancers but I highlight these specifically because on a crowded dance floor, these are the ones to really watch out for:

Dancing with the arm swinging, broad stepping, not-quite-sure-what-I'm-doing beginner
Leads - you know who I'm talking about here. This is the girl that hasn't really danced salsa before. Odds are she's here with some girl friends and may have had a drink or 2 (or more!). She's wearing heels that are quite lovely to look at but impossible to dance in and seems to think that taking large steps with her weight planted firmly on her heels is the best way to keep up with you. Oh, and she also thinks that having her hands out will help her dance better (not!).

If you find yourself dancing near this couple, try to position yourself on the lead side of the couple and move away from the follow, keep her in front of you and in your sights. Alternatively, if you're the "knight" kind of lead, you would step with your back facing this follow, so that you take the brunt of arms or legs flaying and earn the eternal gratitude of your own follow.

The Arms-are-all-over-the-place Casinero

Ah, yes! I love casino dancing and my experiences so far have been that they are actually one of the best dancers to be with on the packed dance floor. I think its because they're already moving around so they have a 360 view of the room and are better armed to keep you safe. BUT, there are some leads that just get so crazy into the dance that they forget there are other people around. Not only that, their enthusiasm is so infectious that their partner starts to follow suit. This couple is tough because they'll travel on the dance floor and not stay in one slot so you'll have to keep a constant watch on their movements. I would just steer clear of this couple and let others be your shield. If you find yourself dancing with one as a follow - then you're all set because other couples will be avoiding you.

Another tactic is to observe before you make your way out to the sea of dance. These are some things to watch for:

 The BIG Back Step - need I say more? This one is likely to trip you up so if you're dancing anywhere near, just make sure you're not too far away from your partner in case they get tripped up by that BIG back step. 

The BIG Cross Body - less is more but some people just want to "swing out" their partner on the cross-body. You can see it coming, make sure to stay out of the "line of fire" !

The Traveling Spinner - anytime a spin is initiated by a neighboring couple, pay attention!

The Clueless Bystander - these are the folks that are there mainly to watch but they also don't know that stepping out on the dance floor, drink in hand, just wandering around is just NOT a good idea. 

Finally, when in doubt, here's WHAT YOU CAN DO
1) STICK TO THE BASICS, there's something to be said for having a nice clean dance without all the fancy moves. Just chill to the music and enjoy the connection with your partner.
2) Closed position is your friend. Don't mistake this for the closed "I want you next to my body" embrace. I'm not encouraging that you invade your partner's space unless that's really what both of you want. In closed position, its easier to maneuver and abort a lead that's about to cause a casualty or be the victim of one.
3) Small steps: less is definitely more when its a crowded dance floor. Remember to keep your feet under your body.
4) Keep your arms and legs close to you whether you're turning, doing shines, etc.
5) Look before you extend: if you like to style your arms or sweep your legs, take a quick look before you go for it.
6) Weight forward! If you're wearing heels - there's very little reason that all your body weight should be on your heel - see 3 above.

And above all, be gracious. Apologize if you need to and don't forget that there are other people out there with you trying to have a great time dancing.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great list. It should be posted in all the dance places. Even though dance couple #1 is unique to the CB.