To sweep your partner off their feet…
Have you ever had that heady feeling of having danced with someone who made you feel like you were the best salsa dancing version of yourself that ever existed? There are those dances that feel like perfect ephemeral relationships. They may be fleeting, but they leave you longing for more.
These perfect dance partners have a way of being proficient at what they do without being intimidating. The combination of their flair and approachability somehow makes you feel like you’re special. You can’t explain it, but you feel like your mostly average skills were somehow elevated while dancing with this person.
What is the secret that these Salsa Unicorns seem to know that we mere mortals don’t? What’s their secret sauce? Pun intended.
Salsa skills are of two types- hard skills and soft skills. Your hard skills are the obvious ones like timing and rhythm, lead or follow, spin technique, styling, musicality, speed, agility, versatility and repertoire. To build and enhance our hard skills, we go to classes, attend workshops, spend time practicing, follow and imitate all our favourite superstars on social media. We work hard on these. A good salsa dancer is no slouch!
The soft skills, like gold dust, are harder to acquire and aren’t talked about as much. I say that they are harder to acquire, because they require a level of self awareness that we don’t often commit to. These soft skills are the ones that separate the salsa unicorns from the chaff of decently-skilled-but-ho-hum dancers. Well, here are the Salsa Soft Skill commandments you want to follow!
Thou shalt not practice on the social floor!
First and foremost, social dancing is an interaction between two people. It’s inherently social and the best social dancers recognise that. Ideally, the practice of your technical skills should be left off the social floor. We don’t want to give our partners the feeling of being used as a prop for our practice.
However, if occasionally, you do want to practice something specific at a social, you could ask a friend to help you out for a few minutes. The willingness of your partner’s participation in your practice makes all the difference to the interaction.
Thou shalt honour and cherish thy dance partner, till the end of the song do you part!
A dance partnership requires commitment. For approximately five full minutes, you must be dedicated to this person you’re dancing with. Everything and everyone else must cease to exist as you dance. Don’t look for the person you want to dance with next! That’s cheating!
The best social dancers know how to respect their dance partners. They realise that one’s time is precious and when someone chooses to dance with them, they are choosing to invest their time in that dance. They also know that you can only form a connection with someone on the dance floor if they go all in! This connection they form with everyone is what makes dancing with them so magical.
Thou shalt observe thy dance partner to find out how they like dancing!
Listening is an underrated skill. The best social dancers realise that observing their dance partners and listening for cues is the gateway to having an amazing dance.
Here are some of the cues you could look for:
Where is my partner’s skill level at?
What’s their current mood?
Does my partner seem to enjoy challenging, complex turn patterns, or do they like dancing simple and clean steps?
Do they enjoy the freedom of open shines?
Does my partner value musicality and connection to the music above other things?
Do they like out of the box creativity or do they prefer a more traditional approach?
Do they seem to like eye contact and attention from their partner?
As you begin the dance, you could experiment with all of the above ideas and see what your partner is feeling like through the dance and meet them halfway in their expression!
Our salsa unicorns know that everyone wants to be heard on the dance floor and therefore, attempt to understand and speak their partner’s dance language.
Thou shalt show thy personality and participate in the conversation!
A conversation is a two way street. Anyone who dances with you wants to hear what you have to say as well. Your dance partners want to get to know you, your moods, feelings and preferences too! Allow them to get to know you and let your personality shine through.
Thou shalt work on thy technique!
You might have the right attitude, ambition, and a great spirit of sportsmanship, but if you can’t play the game, you won’t make the team! The foundational element that makes a good dancer is competence in certain basic hard skills. There’s no workaround for this. You just have to put in the time and effort to train yourself consistently!
Thou shalt smell pleasant and change thy soaked shirts/tops!
I’m mentioning this last, for it to have MAX impact! Please, please, always, always do this. Deodorant, mint and a fresh set of clothes go a long way in making you the darling of the dance floor!
And that’s it! Armed with these commandments, you’re now ready for social dancing greatness…go forth and conquer the dance floor!