In the ballroom world, we teach that you should either accept an invitation to dance, or choose to sit out the dance; invitations from complete strangers are both common and welcome. We also recommend changing partners with each dance.
I’d like to pose a question to Salsa club instructors: how do you socialize your students? That is, do you teach them any etiquette for extending and accepting offers to dance? I ask because I often find Salsa club dancers much less friendly than ballroom dancers, in that a stranger at a Salsa club is about ten times more likely to turn me down for a dance than stranger at a ballroom dance.
I now hesitate to ask “good” strangers to dance at Salsa clubs because there’s about a 1 in 2 chance that I’ll get shot down. This is a silly predicament since I’m reasonably attactive, dance Salsa well (I’ve been told this by Salsa club instructors–not my teachers–with whom I’ve danced socially), and am rarely turned down at ballroom dances.
I wonder if a bit of ballroom-style socialization might make Salsa clubs friendlier places in which to dance.”
“- Mr. Ballroom” – Mr. Ballroom
Dear Mr. Ballroom,
– Excellent question.
Most Salsa instructors do not “teach” social dance etiquette (except Black Belt Salsa Instructors, whom I TRAIN and DRILL with a VENGEANCE on the subject). The reason you may believe that Salsa dancers aren’t as “friendly” is because the Salsa nightclub atmosphere (“the Latin scene” so-to-speak) is highly influenced by the conservative Latin culture – “the old country” – which is still very much alive today, and yes, right here in the United States.
Let me define a typical, standard “The Old Country” way of life for a young woman: This is where she doesn’t leave mom and dad until she gets married, must be accompanied by big brother on dates till she’s 18 or 21, never looks a man in the eye, wears a shawl over her head, is an avid Catholic, is super shy, is expected to get married, have many children, stay home, take care of the house, never question… all that.
Many Latin women simply will not dance with people they don’t know. Period. They prefer dancing with people they know and are familiar with, that’s all. Once you frequent the clubs often enough, your face will become more and more familiar, as well as your dancing style. If they see your style as “too ballroom” they may shy away. Many street “partner” dancers don’t appreciate the tremendous amount of time, effort, and expense it takes to become an accomplished ballroom dancer.
I’ve danced with highly trained ballroom dancers at nightclubs, and have been not only been disappointed in their lead, but extremely intimidated and made to feel I wasn’t worth much. I did not have a good time. This prompted me to take Latin ballroom classes right away. I don’t like feeling that way on the dance floor. I go to have a good time and not get stressed out. To be honest, I would rather dance with a street dancer than a ballroom dancer 90% of the time, only because that is what I am “used” to. Don’t get me wrong, I love dancing with trained ballroom dancers, and some of them are absolutely phenominal street dancers. However, 90% of them either lack, or have too much of…. “something” and I just don’t know what it is. I really can’t put my finger on it. With too much training, the natural “sabor”, the fluid flowing tropical motion, is lost. The dance steps are “too” perfect, and the body movements are just “too” technical. I prefer a mistake now and then, but that’s just me.
Some ballroom dancers get so used to dancing with their dedicated partner, that when they go to a Latin nightclub, they literally* do not “know the ropes – street wise” and are throwing themselves in with the wolves. They may need to “tone it down” a bit and ease in slowly. You don’t see many competitive Latin ballroom dancers in nightclubs. In fact, it’s a rarity, and treat to watch them [with their dedicated partners] at the same time.
If you’re a competitive Latin ballroom dancer, and don’t want to get turned down, go often to Salsa* nightclubs, take a few classes from a professional STREET dancer, and loosen up a bit. Your style will start to mesh with the street style crowd, people will get used to seeing you around “the scene”, and believe it or not, you’ll be more “accepted”, and won’t get turned down as often.
– Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!
Edie The Salsa FREAK!! Website