Name a dance and all too often it is associated with a particular generation, age or ethnic group.  In fact one of the hardest obstacles dancesport has to overcome is the association of a particular genre of music with a particular dance.  This continues to prevent one entire generation from even trying out a dance, since the music of that generation is often disdained by the next or misunderstood by the last.  Latin music and rhythms of old still remain popular and survive largely because their culture has ignored this American trend of looking for the new and discarding the old.  Attendance at a recent World Salsa Federation convention seems to confirm this view.  Students of all ages, sizes, manners and dress attended the event and were obviously excited to be there.  T-shirts extolling the many virtues of being salseros were in abundance, and the mood was light, with partners changing at the mere suggestion of trying out a step with someone new.  Participants included the young and old, amateurs and professionals, and all with a common goal of learning a few new steps and having a good time.

Beginning classes firmly establish the Salsa as a dance of turns.  There were right turns, left turns, lady’s turns and man’s turns.  Turns in front, turns behind, go across, and come back through.  It was dizzying for many, but the instructor, Angel, kept the pace, kept them moving, and most of all kept them happy.  This same instructor was careful to explain that even a dance as social and earthy as the Salsa had to be concerned about the “look”.  Natural, but looking good, not twisted; style was discussed, even in the beginning class, then demonstrated and explained.  All are told it will matter even more, later.  As the music comes back on even the newest of the beginners try to strike the same pose that the instructor showed just one time to make sure all got the point.  Steps were lost, timing forgotten for a few minutes, but all who tried the pose were satisfied that they now had the look.

Left to their own devices to practice the last step added to the class amalgamation, few couples leave the floor.  Music is playing and some continue to try those latest steps.  Others feel emboldened and ready to mix the moves, dips and even a drop or two that obviously were introduced in earlier sessions.  The result was mixed.  Some ran right through the material, others would obviously need more instruction before trying this stuff out in the real world, but all kept the enthusiasm and the excitement was refreshing.  Break time and they are off … to the bar, to the mall, to their room to rest for the evening’s activities.

Definitions are for dictionaries, but it did not take long at this event to be considered one of “those”.  “Those”, meaning one of those ballroom people.  It is true I was recognized immediately by one of those other ballroom people, but not for any lack of proper accent as many other gringos attended as well.  It was most likely because I was recognized from past ballroom events that I have attended.  Is it true ballroom dancers are snobs and salseros are fun loving, non-competitive and super friendly?  Are they aficionados of a current past time whereas ballroom dancers are followers of a gothic ritual?  Some of the salseros would certainly claim so.  It may well be true that any past time that hangs around long enough to gain traditions of excellence may also be around long enough to breed snobs.  That shouldn’t make it a requirement for the dancesport elite to become one.  Many ballroom dancers would do well to relax and just enjoy themselves as much as these people do.  After all it is just dancing.  Not rocket science, not brain surgery, not life and death.  This stuff is about fun, and few things in life are more fun than moving rhythmically with a partner to the beat of your choice, the melody of your dreams and music of your heart.  If you still consider Salsa, Country-Western, and/or the many variations of Swing novelty dances you might just be missing the best reason of all as to why the world will be a better place when everybody can dance.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 46

November 14, 2003

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