Learn to Salsa dance with Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!
The Colombian Flag Waving in London“Dear Edie,
Here in London it has to be said that Colombia rules ok! All the genuine Latino Salsa clubs are Colombian as are the majority of the people in these places. Now, my instructor is Colombian and he teaches us all these fancy moves which I usually try with success…except with Colombian girls! I never have trouble getting dances in Colombian clubs but I’m sure they think we’re Martians for just trying a few turns, it appears to really confuse them. I appreciate there are many different styles of Salsa but do all Colombians just go round and round and, side-to-side? Don’t get me wrong the Colombians I’ve met have been really nice folks but should I go with a different expectations compared to when I go to a club with a
latino/euro mix? Any tips on cultural sensitivity would be welcome!”
“- Culturally Sensitive” – Culturally SensitiveDear Culturally Sensitive,
The Salsa footwork style of Colombia is called “Cumbia”. This is where you step back on every other beat with alternating feet. It is very simple, and easy to learn. It is not blatantly wrong (especially to Colombians), but it can be very confusing trying to coordinate fancy moves if you learned the standard Salsa basic, which is where we step forward with our left foot, then place both feet [relatively] together, then step back with our right foot, then place both feet together. Most Colombians I’ve met are not into fancy moves AT ALL. They prefer just the feeling of the music with their partners – not the challenges of moves and tricks. They don’t consider that dancing “Salsa”.

It is VERY DIFFICULT for them to switch to standard style, once stuck in this “Cumbia” habit, especially if that’s what they were taught, grew up with, and consider “the correct way”.
I always say, When in Rome, do as the Romans.” Not everyone understands, nor believes that though. However, now that you’re a bit more educated on the subject, and you’re reading this, the responsibility is on YOU to switch styles for them when you end up with someone like this.

I have to do this on occasion as well. Sometimes I’ll end up with a guy dancing Cumbia style to a Salsa/Mambo, and I have no choice but to follow his Cumbia step throughout the entire song. I’ll follow it until the song is over, but if it really bothers me, I’ll usually ask to speak to him after the song, and explain/educate him on how “we dance here”. I then take him aside, out of people’s view (to avoid possibly embarrassing him), hold him by the hand, and walk him through the standard way of dancing Salsa in my town. I kindly tell him I’m showing him this for his own good, so that he will be able to dance successfully with many women at the clubs around here. 99.99% of the time, he is very thankful, smiling, and very appreciative. You may want to do the same with the women you dance with.

I don’t believe I am insulting him in any way by doing this. I am merely teaching him a new [dance] language – to where he can go back and forth depending on who he is communicating [dancing] with. Most people are thankful that I took the time out of my Salsa Fix night to help them “get along” with 99.9% of the dancers around them now.

I’m not patting myself on the back, but it’s the TRUTH!!!
NOT TOO MANY PEOPLE WILL DO THIS. Most will be thankful the song is over and hope they never get asked by that person again to dance.

Also, it bothers me that your Colombian instructor is teaching you moves that you can’t do with regular Colombian street dancers. I would ask him what the problem is. Ask HIM to dance with the Colombian women YOU’RE having problems with, and see if he gets the same challenges. If he dances beautifully with the Colombian women, then it’s your responsibility to understand and learn the technicalities of your turns and feet placement better. If he has the same problem with the women you’re dancing with, then I would question the instructor you’ve chosen. You see, if he’s thorough, he must be able to lead virtually “anyone” with ease, falling into their rigid style – instructors must be flexible and forgiving with untrained street dancers. Also, be aware, the instructor you choose should look good with ANYBODY they dance with – not just their regular partner. This can be very deceiving. In my and sections, I go over “How to Choose an Instructor” in great detail.

So to answer your question, if you end up with a partner that dances a different type of Salsa, you’re basically stuck till the end of the song. You’ve got to bloom where you’re planted my friend. Make the most of it.

Happy Dancing!
– Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!
Edie The Salsa FREAK!! Website