Dancing Salsa | Making the Connection
Some people just dance. Counting the music, learning the steps, and thinking about the history feels artificial to them. These are typically people who were reared on the music and connect to it naturally or those who just want to let loose. Ultimately, some of the main goals of salsa dancing are to
- connect with the music;
- connect with your partner;
- connect with the floor (e.g., not bumping into those around you, feeling your connection to the ground, etc.); and
- connect with yourself. It’s hard to connect to everything else when “you” are not fully present.
If you have these four connections down, you are off to a good start. Even if you don’t, have some fun and fake it until you make it.
Feeling the music is essential, but most of the very best dancers and musicians do not see learning about the music and feeling it as mutually exclusive. They do both. Some dance styles, especially ones with lighter leads and occasional breaks in contact between the partners, require a common interpretation of the music and movement. These styles have their own dialect, which is typically taught. One advantage of learning a specific dialect is that you can travel the world and have amazing connections with people who understand it.
Dancing Salsa | Etiquette and Tips
If you are looking to try Salsa dancing for the first time, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
- In a setting that consists of frequent salsa dancers, it is typical to dance with many people, several of whom you may not know. If the event is more of a community event, then this may not be as common.
- Generally, men ask women to dance. It’s not a rule; however.
- Usually, most people will dance a single song or maybe two together.
- Provided that you are well-groomed, practice good hygiene and ask politely, most dancers will extend a courtesy dance to you. That said, human nature and reasons vary widely, so if someone doesn’t accept your invitation, don’t take it personally.
- As a beginner, especially a lead, it might be slightly more difficult to get started. Until you feel more comfortable, maybe bring a dance partner with you. If you are by yourself, perhaps look for others who seem to be on the same level as you are. If you do happen to ask people who look like professional dancers, consider letting them know you are just beginning and maybe noting that you are only asking for a single dance. These are just suggestions. Again, human behavior is complex, and your best guide for navigating these types of interactions is your own discretion.
- Treat your partner with respect. The degree of physical contact you have with your partner depends first and foremost on both your levels of comfortableness and also on what is required to lead and follow the dance. To get an idea of what is commonly acceptable and what you might be comfortable with, observe people dancing before jumping in.
- Smile and make eye contact. If you are having fun, acknowledging your partners presence, and feeling safe with your partner, this will come more easily.
- What you wear for salsa will be dictated by the type of event you are attending, you and practicality. Here is some practical advice:
Flip-flops are almost always bad. They are difficult to control and to spin in.Tennis shoes might be acceptable, but if they have too much traction they can cause your feet to stick to the floor. When you are rotating or turning, this can cause undue strain on your knees. You also don’t want soles so slippery you slide off the dance floor.Women will often wear high-heels, special dance shoes or dance sneakers outdoors. Men will typically wear dress shoes with leather or smooth soles. Some dancers, men and women, prefer suede soles for indoor dancing. For men and woman, however, make sure you don’t wear your best shoes outdoors on the pavement. They will often get marked-up or torn.What clothes you wear depends on your style, but if you plan on dancing for a while, you are likely going to sweat. For this reason, dress so that your partner and you are not miserable. Avoid tank tops.
Finding Your Salsa Groove| Outdoor Salsa Venues in and near Westside Los Angeles
Los Angeles is notorious for its beautiful weather. Below is a list of outdoor venues where you can listen to pure salsa or an occasional salsa song in the midst of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz music. Where there is pure salsa music, there are almost always salsa dancers. Check the schedules and read about the bands to see what kind of music they play. Afro-Cuban music is the heart of salsa, but includes many genres. Latin jazz also spans a variety of music types.
3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Salsa Sundays, Deejay — mostly plays Salsa.
- Los AngelesCountyMuseum of Art (LACMA), Latin Sounds, Live Music
- The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, Westside Jazz Fest, Live Music
For event updates: https://www.facebook.com/wokcano.salsa
- Farmers Market at the Grove, free summe rmusic series, Live Music
Just looking for salsa events, inside or out, in SouthernCalifornia?
Looking for information about all outdoor concerts inLA?
Looking for general information about what is happening in LA?
Son Clave & the Clave Rhythm Stream: Introduction, Salsa & Merengue Society
Rebeca Mauleón, Salsa Guidebook for Piano & Ensemble, 1993
Howard Goodall, “How Music Works,” TV Episode
State of New Jersey, Department of State, New Jersey State Council on the Arts & National Endowment of Arts, “Salsa/Mambo History -Palladium Era-Golden Age of Dance,” Appeared on NJN Public Television
DJ Monntunno, “History of Salsa Music from Africa to New York,” Three-Part YouTube Series