Is “Salsa Etiquette” just as important as “Salsa Technique?” How important is it to teach salsa students how to respect their partners; the dancers around them; and the dancers within the salsa community? In addition, can salsa students be taught “humility?” Is “Salsa Etiquette” something that can be taught or is this home-training in disguise?

Discussion Response: Mara Rodriguez – Dallas, TX

I strongly agree with the fact that salsa etiquette is just as important, if not more important than salsa technique. Personally, I would prefer for my partner to not execute a move to its fullest, in order to avoid giving a black eye to the couple dancing next to us. On the other hand, I have danced with partners which NO MATTER WHAT, they have to execute a move to perfection, even if it means knocking down the person next to you.

It is extremely crucial for instructors to incorporate the value of respect towards every individual in the salsa community, in their teaching. This will definitely promote a pleasant dancing environment; increase the quality of dancing, as well as avoiding negativity that can push beginners away from the scene. Plus, in my opinion, instructors are respected more when they respect and impart that onto their students and on the dance floor. Often times you hear of people visiting salsa venues in different cities in which they had a bad experience with lack of respect from other dancers. That experience doesn’t stay with that person alone. It’ll be on a salsa site the next morning and truthfully this isn’t fair for other dancers that are respectful.

Humility and Salsa Etiquette can certainly be taught, just as your parents taught you good qualities or bad ones. I feel that a lot of it has to do with your upbringing at home. If you were taught respect, you will carry that even when dancing or it facilitates it. However, if you are a selfish person… a SUPA’ STAR…. And it’s all about you 24/7…. You too can learn to be a humble dancer only if you desire. Impossible is Nothing -Adidas.

Mara Rodriguez ….just a dancer Dallas, Texas

Discussion Response: Azucena Perez – Austin, TX

I think it is very important to teach “salsa etiquette” to salsa students as best we (instructors) can. By “etiquette” I’m not only referring to the do’s and don’ts of social dancing but also to a sense of respect and knowledge of other styles of salsa dance different from the instructor’s. For that to happen the teacher should herself/himself be an example of a respectful salsa dancer who gives other dancers their place no matter what their ability.Often times I’ve seen instructors teach their male students to show off on the dance floor without much consideration for the lady they’ll be dancing with. Or vice versa, some ladies learn to style left and right without taking into account the lead and how important it is to stay within it at all times.

Can salsa students be taught “humility”? Students often times emulate what their teacher does on the dance floor. Clothes, gestures, styling technique, and attitude are some of the common characteristics students will “inherit” from their teacher. And this is true not only in the salsa world. Thus, I do believe instructors can be humble and by so doing teach humility to their students. Although there will always be students and instructors who will never be humble; a lot of it depends on the personality of both the instructor and the student.

Salsa instructors, if they want to build a good reputation would be wise to show respect for their dance partners, the dancers around them (this is especially important on the dance floor), and the dancers within the salsa community. Students are often turned off by instructors who exhibit big “ego” attitude and talk about other dancers as if they are second best.

Here in Austin, Texas there’s a little bit of everything, as I imagine everywhere else. I’m glad you raised the question of etiquette because it is a very important one.

Thank you for reading and keep up the great work!

I love your newsletter.

Azucena Perez Salsa/Mambo Dancer & Instructor

Discussion Response: Del Dominguez – Chicago, IL

This is a tough one…..I can remember a while back, I went to NYC and tried to take a class with Eddie Torres; ET was out but one of his dancers at the time, Eric, taught the class. This was the first instance I witnessed someone REALLY “instructing” how to ask a woman how to dance. I mean, it wasn’t really “in-depth” or anything, but he was very conscious to tell the guys in the class to be respectful of the females when asking to dance.

As far as teaching the etiquette of dancing….I have had the pleasure to teach a handful of classes, and in every instance, I ALWAYS tell the people to dance in THEIR LINE. In a perfect world, dancers would have control, but at every Congress…you STILL see people that have no clue what this really means. Too bad, so sad; As far as “Salsa Etiquette” is concerned, I think it can be taught along with the turn patterns and shines. In reality, what you are teaching is an awareness of space for yourself and your partner in relation to the people around you.

As far as humility? Pardon the…”expression”…but an A#* will be an A*# regardless of what I can show him as far as dancing goes. Quite a few men only REALLY want to know ENOUGH to try and impress ladies. The other guys who really want to be there, will humble themselves to learn and hopefully take the humility with them on the floor.

Also, ladies….ENOUGH with the excuse, “I can dance if I’m dancing with a good lead” Translation: I can dance if I’m manhandled into things I can’t do with Brute force. This wasn’t really apparent when I lived in NYC, but in Chicago..unfortunately this is still an issue. It’s a two-person dance; both the lead and the follow need to be respectful of the art of leading AND following.

– Del Dominguez

Discussion Response: Adrienne Kostreva – Chicago, IL

Interesting comments on instructors and when to become one and skills needed. I agree: patience, ability to communicate well, ability to dance the lead and the follow. Also important are an understanding of music and a sensitivity in knowing how quickly or how slowly students can absorb and execute new skills. I also agree that the best dancers aren’t necessarily the best instructors and vice versa. When you get both in one person, that’s cool. But, better to have an instructor who’s a very good dancer than a phenomenal dancer who hasn’t a clue as to how to instruct.

I would also add that a good instructor has to be able to get students, especially beginners and intermediates, over the twin humps of their self-consciousness over “mistakes” in the beginning and then through the stage of getting to the point of really hearing the music, using the skills learned and technique developed thus far in their dance experience, in order to be able to express the music freely.

As for dance floor etiquette, it’s a must. From day one in my classes, I emphasize “stay in your space!” and “small steps” and never stop repeating those prompts. I’ve had more than my own share of injuries inflicted on me by dancers who are all over the place, leaders who mistake the directive aspect of a lead for brute physicality and those who — no matter how crowded the floor is — assume that they are “entitled” to an eight foot square space. My nose has been broken by a beginner lead throwing his partner into a spin (nope, throwing her elbow into my face), lacerations on my insteps from big-back stepping dancers, a severed tendon in a foot with the result that I can’t bend one toe and a torn rotator tendon with surgery and tons of physical therapy as a result. My personal pet peeve is any fellow who doesn’t understand that you can’t hold the follower’s hand in a vise grip. We ladies don’t want our wrists “jacked” and one night four weeks ago I went home with thumb prints on the insides of my wrist.

I think that people bring their general attitudes onto the dance floor; e.g. if you’re rude in your vehicle and in your non-dance life, you’ll probably be inconsiderate on the dance floor in the same manner. All that seasoned dancers can do is coach, explain, and role model for beginners. Perhaps most disappointing are the excellent dancers who, even when the dance floor is a real crush, presume to take the same space that was available early in the dance evening. For shame..

Ciao, and keep up the good work, Adrienne

Discussion Response: JD Smith – Boston, MA

Yes, I do believe as you suggest that so called salsa etiquette is nothing more than an extension of “home training”. By that I mean the simple rules of courtesy that your parents should have stressed when you were just becoming socialized at an early age. Among these things would be treating others as you yourself would have others treat you. Certainly I have pet peeves on the dance floor, like when couples insist on dancing “BIG” when the floor is packed with dancers. I liken this to driving too fast when road conditions do not permit excessive speed, you become a hazard to yourself and others as well. Second from the top on my list are individuals who refuse a dance request rudely, either waving a person off dismissively or with a curt or impatient “No”.

Another is when a person accepts an invitation and passes the dance looking away or looking visibly bored or displeased with their partners skill level. Unsolicited instruction is another no no in my book. In short it’s just like mom and dad taught us; you shouldn’t intentionally go out of your way to make anyone feel slighted, embarrassed, or uncomfortable either by our actions or our speech. It all, in my opinion, boils down to the basic courtesies we depend on to make all of our interactions with others pleasant and at the very least civil.