Many beginner salsa students think that the core of salsa dancing is about knowing certain steps and figures. This may work in a dance class where everybody knows the steps and figures, but rules are different when you go out to dance in the clubs. The good news: To be able to dance with anybody, you just need to be aware of one simple principle.
The information in this post is part of our salsa dance teacher education program, but it can be useful for anybody. Learning core principles instead of focusing on remembering steps and dance figures can be a massive shortcut to your progression.
The principle that makes you able to dance salsa with a partner
To be able to dance salsa with anybody, you need to be aware of 3 simple types of connections:
1) Connection between your body and the partner – without it, the lead cannot make the follower move.
2) Connection between your body and the ground – without it, you cannot move as a human. Fish can move in water, birds can move in the the sky. We humans need the ground to move.
3) Connection between your body and the music – without it, you cannot dance to music.
It is very easy to teach students steps and figures, but if you forget to develop their connection skills, they will leave your studio with a false sense of knowing how to dance. It happened to myself in the beginning. I went to the clubs trying to do what I learned in class, but it simply did not work.
It is essential to make it a habit to establish the connections BEFORE starting to dance, and to keep them until the song is over. If for example one of the dancers start to look down and focus on their feet, he/she have probably lost connection to the partner. Make your students see that by focusing on the partner connection, they will automatically feel the rhythm and steps of the partner. To help our students remember, we tell them that once they have connected to their partner, this connection is what we call “us”, and the goal of the dance is to keep “us” active throughout the entire song. Once “us” is lost, the partner dancing becomes solo dancing.
The longer you wait before you teach your students about these connections, the longer it will take before you see them dancing in the clubs.
As a salsa dance teacher you must realize that your students have various abilities and challenges when it comes to these types of connection.
We have seen too many teachers lose their students because they make students believe that you must have rhythm to be able to learn. This is wrong.
Do not think that just because one person cannot connect to the music, he/she cannot become a great dancer! We know countless of examples of people who could not hear/feel the music in the beginning, but were amazing when it came to connecting to a partner. Some of our own teachers at our school came from this category and became great teachers.
To keep your students happy, you should as quickly as possible identify and give them positive feedback on their strength. It is not necessary to let a student become discouraged if he/she is struggling with one type of connection when he can keep developing in another area. Remember: people love progress and don’t like to be stuck in the mud for too long.
We recommend that you as a teacher incorporates the development of all 3 connections in each and every class – in addition to body awareness.
When a certain connection needs to be developed – this is where private dance lessons or special workshops become very valuable.
After your students have learned steps and figures, it takes time for the knowledge to mature. This process of maturing is about synchronizing all connections. Remember that every time you dance with a new person, you must adapt to a unique type of connection. Regardless of body size, one person may feel very light and reactive, while another may feel heavy and slow to react.
The connection between two dancers is unique because each dancer have unique ability to connect to the floor, to their body, to the music and to their partner. This is why social dancing is so much fun. Salsa dancing is so much fun because the music has amazing variability.
In the video on this page we demonstrate connections while we dance different styles of salsa: cuban style, LA style (On1) and New York style (On2).
No activity requires as many skills at once as dance. It is easy to make a long list of things that you can learn and develop as a dancer but to achieve effective learning/teaching we need to simplify and draw the big picture.
Did you like this article? We would love to hear your comments or questions! 🙂