I don’t dance salsa as much anymore. My body doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with it as much. Maybe because the movements are often sharper or faster than the zouk and kizomba I’ve been turning to more over the past few years. And those spins. Man those spins. Haha.
But the other night, I was at an event where the kizomba and bachata rooms upstairs hadn’t picked up yet. So I stayed downstairs, giving my first dance- salsa- a shot again. Let’s see how my body takes this after so many years of not doing this.
It’s funny how some things do just come back, because of muscle memory, because of the years of practise in the past. Sure, I stumbled on a few moves, and maybe my reflexes and spins weren’t as quick. But my body kind of found its way through the dance for me, without my having to think about it too much.
And while this was happening, little tips and tricks from all those years of lessons long ago started popping up in my head as well. Spotting, thighs together in spins and turns, safe arm styling choices, pushing off the floor, and even just how to be more efficient overall in the dancing.
This last one is something I really need these days, especially in a dance like salsa, because my energy levels can be low. But I still want to dance. So overexerting myself in the wrong way just leaves me tired and unable to enjoy a whole night of dancing. So I guess that was on my mind a lot, when when more beginner dancer asked me to the floor. I don’t say that as a criticism at all. I was actually quite relieved because I knew I wasn’t in a position to be dancing salsa with someone who was doing a whole bunch of tricks. But I braced myself, remembering that awhile back, when I had danced with this same lead before, he was struggling even with a basic step.
Surprisingly though, I realized his lead had gotten smoother He seemed to be using the floor more in his steps, and he seemed more comfortable with the moves compared to when I had danced with him in the past.
I was smiling at the thought of how far he had come. But when he started doing a few more complicated steps, involving traveling around me more, I could see the exhaustion in his face and body, like his dancing became too frantic. And I wondered if I should open my mouth and give him a little tip that I knew would change his dancing for the better.
But it’s such a no no in dance, right? To be that annoying one on the floor who tries to teach others during social dancing. Plus, here I was, not practised enough in my salsa anymore, so who was I to even say anything?
It’s a fine balance though, when you just know that the one piece of advice you give could make a big difference but you don’t want to upset the person you’re dancing with. But then I thought, you know, I don’t remember the people who annoyed me on the dance floor in that way. I remember the people who, in a very encouraging and helpful way, gave me small tips along my dancing journey that hugely improved my dancing.
I hoped to do the same for this guy, so I waited until he ran around me a few more times, just losing his connection to me and getting off timing. And then I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I started by telling him how his lead has changed so much since the last time we danced. I made sure he understood that I was really impressed. And he smiled. Thank goodness. That made me feel more comfortable in saying what i did next. And I made sure to say this next part carefully, and with consideration.
I asked if I could l give him a little suggestion. He said sure, tentatively. And I just said, “I think you’re making it harder on yourself than you need to, especially in moves where you are traveling more. Try taking smaller steps when you walk around me, try doing less, and see what happens.”
He looked at me as if I was crazy at first, but then we continued the dance, and he incorporated my suggestion. I was so happy because right away, the smaller steps made him lighter and freer in his movements. And I said, “That was such a huge difference. It felt so good. Did you feel it?”
And he said, “I felt it. But it felt like I wasn’t doing much at all.”
“Exactly!” I told him. “It shouldn’t be that much effort. Because now you have the space and the time to put effort into other things- styling, musicality, your partner.”
And he said, “Yeah, actually, I have been thinking lately that I get tired after each dance a lot. This makes more sense. Thanks.”
And just like that, both he and I were able to have another dance that flowed. Even though the next song was faster, the dance didn’t feel rushed. We both saved energy, and the dance felt more enjoyable.