Rafael BritoBy Mr. Rafael Brito

Throughout the years salsa dancing has grown tremendously. The revolution of this dance has enabled many to learn it and look at dance clubs with a new perspective. Those who could not dance salsa and now are able to do so have another tool under their belt that allows them to socialize in the dance club scene. We must thank those that have dedicated so much time of their lives to teaching salsa either on1 or on2. From New York to Los Angeles, from Latin America to Europe, salsa dancing is well known around the world. Due to those salsa advocates, salsa dancing is becoming larger than ever. Unfortunately, there are big flaws in many of today’s salsa instructors.

The word teacher or instructor carries a lot of weight. Being a good salsa dancer does not necessarily make a good salsa instructor and vice-versa. Teaching of any kind requires having knowledge of the subject, patience, flexibility, respect and most of all professionalism. Being a public school teacher and a graduate school student of education helps me to identify a good instructor when I see one. The purpose of this article is not to offend any salsa instructors, instead, it is to make salsa instructors evaluate themselves and become better teachers.

For the most part, most of the salsa instructors of today seem to be knowledgeable about the topic. But, at times, they lack the other tools necessary to be a good instructor. If you want to teach, you have to possess patience. I have noticed that some salsa instructors lack this virtue. After showing a student how to do shines (Solo steps) for two or three times, their inability to be patient shows. Their tone of voice alters, most of the time they get loud, their body language changes making students frustrated and embarrassed in front of their classmates. How can the students learn when you have an instructor with increasing frustration constantly saying, “Come on papa why don’t you get it right?” First of all, why not call a student by his/her name. Believe it or not, a little thing like this can discourage a student from returning to your salsa class. It is an advantage for an instructor to interact positively with students.

A teacher must be flexible. This includes facing the possibility of not finishing a lesson due to pupils not mastering the steps soon enough during a class section. It is not about how many floor shines or turn patterns you teach in one lesson; it is about how much the students learn during a class.

Now, where is the professionalism in some of today’s salsa instructors? At times, I have questioned instructors in a very polite way regarding their teaching methods and I have been offended in response. As a teacher/instructor you have to be open to criticism. Do you want to be viewed as a professional salsa instructor? So behave like one. Please understand that your students know more about you than what you know about them. Most people research a salsa class and his/her instructor prior to enrolment. So when people take your classes show them that you are what you indicated in your web page. You never know if a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher is in your class. Highly educated people can easily determine who is a good instructor. Why students do not get a receipt after paying for a salsa class? I have attended salsa classes where upon paying the $15.00 fee I do not get a receipt.

A friend of mine told me about the frustration he obtained from his salsa classes. He explained to me that for six months he has attended a salsa class and feels that he does not know how to dance salsa. He communicated to me that his instructor only taught him how to do shines. I understood my friend’s dissatisfaction and suggested that he seeks another instructor. I wonder if my friend’s salsa instructor did not have any knowledge of pedagogy or was he just teaching only shines on purpose. As a teacher, I can easily compare my friend’s experience with an English class. Imagine taking an English course for the first time ever and all you learn are verbs and not how to conjugate them. How would you be able to put sentences together and hold a conversation with others? It is hard to dance salsa when your salsa instructor only teaches you shines. Could it be that some salsa instructors are willing to retain students at a certain level of dancing in order to make profit?

Where is the integrity and morals of some of today’s salsa instructors? Please treat everybody with respect and refrain from utilizing mediocre language in your classes. All it might take for your career as a salsa instructor to perish is for one student to start making negative comments about your classes. Make classes fun and if your are going to pressure a student for not learning fast enough do so in a friendly way. Some instructors seem not to be aware that a lot of students just want to learn the basics. For some people, salsa dancing is just a pastime that they want to enjoy when learning it. Furthermore, the last thing anybody wants after having a long day at the office is to attend a salsa class and come out of it with more stress than he/she already has from the daily life routine. I wonder if there could ever be an institution that can set rules and regulations and oversee salsa instructors to assure that they are performing a good job. Maybe if this occurs many people including myself can pursue the learning of salsa dancing.