Why do I love dancing Salsa?
March 24, 2022•988 words
Why do I love dancing Salsa?
For oh so many reasons!
I will get into some reasons why below.
Note that I write from the perspective of primarily leading and having some minor experience following.
Furthermore, although I will be speaking of Salsa or dancing I really mean any of the music you would typically find at a salsa social. Including but not limited to Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Kizomba, Chachacha.
Some terms and their meanings should they become unclear.
- Social Dance event typically hosted by dance school owners to allow their students an opportunity to practice their newly learned skills and socialize.
- Leader Person in the dancing couple who attempts to lead the movements in the dance.
- Follower Person in the dancing couple who attempts to follow the implied movements of the leader.
- Move Basic salsa move, e.g. doing a single turn.
- Combination A combination of several moves, also known as a figure. Typically taught over the course of a salsa class.
To start off it's a social activity with fairly clear, simple norms. If you want to dance with someone; you ask them to dance. You don't even have to speak, you can just offer your hand and smile nicely. If the other party is so inclined you then dance for the duration of that song. After which you thank your partner for the dance and part ways. Or if you both feel that way you could dance another song or strike up a conversation. While the first resolution is the most common, all three are equally valid.
All of this made it rather accessible for someone like me, a little socially apprehensive, to take part in the community. Better yet the bar only becomes lower as you become part of the community.
One important thing I should like to emphasize for leaders and followers alike, is that while generally a follower is expected to accept a request as to not dissuade new leaders from learning, it is ultimately the follower's prerogative to accept or refuse.
Instant Social Depth
Even though there's a certain simplicity and maybe even shallowness to the social interactions, there is in my opinion a certain level of immediate deepened insight into the person you're dancing with, compared to if you were just having a conversation.
It starts right off the bat with needing to make physical contact to assume the dancing position with your partner.
But what's more you're also thrust into a vulnerable position. There's a certain level of insecurity you have to overcome to dance with someone, after all you are publicly demonstrating a skill, with a room full of others to be compared to.
Then once you're done dancing you have at least one hobby in common.
To me it's a great release, in several ways. For one it's just straight up physical exercise. While it isn't an Olympic sport, dancing from 22.00-03.00 will almost certainly leave your muscles aching all over the next time you wake. But on a less extreme level, weekly classes also represents regular exercise.
Besides this it's also my favourite creative release. This for there is so much more to the social dancing than the combinations of moves you've learned in class.
On a very straight forward level. Almost every combination of moves you learn can be deconstructed into its more basic component moves, which can in turn be restructured into entirely new combinations. You could even go so far as to deconstruct them further into the type of leads, leaving you to create new moves entirely!
However beyond this perhaps limitless pursuit of technical invention and mastery there are also two social aspects of creative release I would like to highlight that I value highly.
The first one I wish to share is achieving a mutual state of flow with your dance partner. I find the feeling difficult to describe but if I had to commit it to words I would say to me it is a deep state of unity with the other that amplifies a wide range of sentiments.
I personally have experienced it as if I was delivering a peak athletic performance when dancing with someone I know to be particularly proficient in the dance.
While in another situation I've found myself feeling a very homely kind of comfort. And yes it has served to heighten romantic passion as well.
I've heard it said that salsa is like a drug because it is addicting, but perhaps it is like a drug in more ways.
The second being expressing your personality or social appeal through dance.
In my case, despite my earlier babble about invention and mastery I have a preference for simple moves. That is to say, moves that are easier to lead or follow well. Allowing me to allocate focus to interacting with my partner in a mostly safe, thrilling manner. Doing things like making goofy faces or surprising my partner after they make a turn.
Truly entertaining others and myself in this way brings joy to my heart.
While I would describe the community as generally welcoming to newcomers while having an understanding, relaxed old guard what really caught my attention is something else entirely. Namely how diverse the community is.
While part of the local salsa community I've had the privilege of speaking, dancing and meeting with a very wide array of people. From a liberal soon to be PhD holding bisexual woman expat, to a local conservative gay man carpenter. It has truly been a wild, strange but nonetheless interesting ride as far as meeting people is concerned. And I hope to keep enjoying this experience.
The amazing thing being that in the face of this shared hobby, differences like this sometimes hardly matter. If you bring an open enough mind, there is a lot to experience.