“Salsa dancing is a game. The game is not played by steps and figures, it is played by being a player”

salsa-philosopher-thinking-18893023Dance is an easy way to bring more enthusiasm into life. The funny thing is that you can read it and believe it or try it and know it. Believing is a good start. Today I’ll try to explain some of the magic of salsa dancing.

The term salsa has since the early 1970’s been used to label all types of latin music such as merengue, cumbia, chachacha, son montuno, bachata, just to mention a few. However, salsa is so much more.

Dancing to salsa music is something that unites people regardless of age, color, nationality, socioeconomic and cultural background. Where we are from, whatever we normally do, whatever we have done in the past, whatever personality we pretend to have does not matter.

Why? Because dancing salsa brings more enthusiasm into our life. Something fun to do, more friends and it feels great to do something you always get better at.

We go salsa dancing to meet others, to drop our guards, have fun and share that amazing feeling of being in the moment.

What does it mean to be in the moment? I can’t describe it without not being in the moment, but imagine this: Salsa dancing is a game. The game is not played by steps and figures, it is played by being a player. The game is about a journey that is taken by two. The settings are decided by the music (no need to know Spanish). Is it comedy? Is it cool action? Is it about being funky? Is it about being elegant? I like songs where I can feel like Bruce Lee or James Bond. You can even express how you really feel in this life. When the song is over – the game start again with a new song and a new partner. A night out dancing can be an amazing experience where you feel like a movie star.

Salsa dancing is an activity that increase our social wealth because it’s about having fun and being friendly to other humans. When you go out to dance salsa, it is completely normal that a complete stranger comes over to shake your hand, ask about your name and introduce you to his or her friends.

Multiple times world salsa champion Oliver Pineda from Australia at in San Juan, Puerto Rico 2005

7 or 8 times world salsa champion Oliver Pineda from Australia in San Juan, Puerto Rico 2005

When you enter a salsa nightclub anywhere in the world, strangers smile and are happy to see you. I have experienced the same in Norway, Turkey, Canada, USA,
China, Russia and ten other countries.

Salsa dancing is not about doing a good performance, it’s just about being a playful.

I started learning salsa dancing at the age of 30. My intention was to use it as a way to meet girls, and it really worked, but I got addicted for other reasons.

After just a few months of dancing I had more friends than I had ever had in my life. It made me more adventurous and open-minded. I became less worried about being nice to strangers in case they would not be nice back. I learned to stop keeping a certain mask and trust that most people are just as good inside as
myself.

Club Mayan 2002

Club Mayan, Los Angeles 2002

Although I knew only 3-4 moves in the beginning, the best dancers in the biggest club in Los Angeles would come to say hi to me, I became friends with the DJ’s, the musicians and everybody I met. After a few months I felt as if I had discovered a huge secret.

Our biggest fear is what other people think about us, but you don’t have to fear anybody that dances salsa. Salsa dancers don’t care about who you are supposed to be, you don’t have to be a Latin. What matters is that you are a human being with a smile on your face.

Club Flamingo, New York 2005

Club Flamingo, New York 2005

Ok, let’s get back to the reason I started writing now (I could write a book about what salsa means to me before I even get to the point haha!):

Salsa Dancing

I wanted to share my opinion of what actual salsa dancing is about!

Salsa is a couple dance where the couple create beautiful movements that matches the sound and feeling from the music. These movements become beautiful
because of the cooperation, not because of the figures we try to execute.

“Real salsa dancing” is different from salsa dancing in the salsa dance class. In the dance class, the man (lead) may be trying to memorize as many turn patterns
as possible, the lady (follower) may be trying to remember when and how to turn, how to use the hips and arms, etc.

After salsa class with Frankie Martinez, New York 2005

After salsa class with Frankie Martinez, New York 2005

However, on the dance floor, the dance becomes most successful when the lead is trying to give the follower a fun and nice experience instead of showing how many
different moves he is able to do. My point is: Don’t try to impress those who may be looking at you dancing. Instead, try to give your dance partner a great experience.

As a lead I like to think of myself as a thrill ride in a amusement park. I want to make the follower feel safe, that there is nothing to stress about, we are only having fun, so she can go ahead and use her whole body and enjoy the moment without worries.

This way of dancing has nothing to do with the level of your abilities, it’s just the concept of the dance – to be nice, enjoy the music and share the a piece of
present together.

World salsa champions Adrian y Anita and other friends, Barcelona 2011

World salsa champions Adrian y Anita and other friends, Barcelona 2011

If you are a learning to lead in a dance class you should not just try to remember a turn pattern and then move on to the next. Instead, try to understand what kind of experience your lead is giving the follower. Each leading technique gives the follower a unique experience of being in that body which is being lead by you.

If you are learning to follow in a dance class: Try to feel the movement that is initiated from the lead, allow it to happen to you and figure out how you can
amplify the expression to match your mood and the music while you still remain in control of your balance, the rhythm and position of your steps while being aware
where your dance partner is.

If you learn only steps and figures and nothing about playing, acting and pretending, you are missing out on all the fun! A game is not something you do – it’s something you play. A good reason to come to learn salsa from Impulso when I think about it!

(I learned about the game called salsa dancing from masters like Luis Vasquez, Tomas Guerrero, Mek from Poland, Oliver Pineda, Griselle Ponce and others).

It’s not about what each dancer can do. Regardless of level, salsa dancing is about what the dancers can do together and for each other to make the moment enjoyable – and it reaches way beyond the dance itself.

"The important thing isn't who dances the best it's who enjoys it the most" - Eddie Torres

“The important thing isn’t who dances the best it’s who enjoys it the most” – Eddie Torres

“Life is a musical, we are supposed to sing and dance in it, it’s not about getting to the end of it.” – A.W.

I am grateful to have discovered salsa dancing.

Author: Erik Roland

Author: Erik Roland

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