Last Month’s Discussion Question:

Are salsa/mambo dancers in too much of a rush to become “Instructors?” How many years should an individual dance before trying to teach? What concepts should a salsa/mambo dancer be familiar with before they declare themselves an “Instructor?” Does salsa/mambo dancing need some form of accreditation?

Response 1: Amalia Maldonado– New York, NY

I love to dance. Period. I’ve been dancing since I was a child; however it wasn’t until after many years of dance competitions and performances that I became a dance instructor in 1995 in Los Angeles.

With that said, you may understand when I agree that too many salsa/mambo dancers do rush to become instructors. Why? My guess it’s the bottom line.

Of course the dance, like other dances, is based on a format, a foundation, the basic step and it becomes…shall I say…repetitive. And, because of this, some may see the ease of teaching the basics, with a trick or two, too tempting to pass and begin their own group or team, even begin a school in some cases.

There is so much more to teaching salsa/mambo than the basics. To name a few, there is the history, the people, the culture, the musicians, the music itself, the venues and the many different regions where this great music is danced, with some dancing On1 rather than On2, and visa versa.

So, the next question is, does a dancer need to invest years in the double digits to become a dance instructor? Oh, of course not! But, it would help for both parties (student & instructor alike), that the instructor has a least a few years of discipline under one or several established instructors before venturing in the world of educator or mentor. Unless the dancer/instructor is truly extraordinary, which I have seen happen only a few times.

And, as for accreditation…well, it sounds good on paper. I need to think about this a little longer. How do you accredit a dancer to become a dance instructor without homogenizing the dance when part of the beauty of the dance is the very differences from one style to the other or one region from the other?

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! By the way, if anyone wants to get in touch with me, please feel free to drop a line or two to my email address:

Save the next dance for me..Amalia

Response 2: Abbey Plotkin– New York, NY

My personal opinion about the above questions… People are in MUCH too big of a hurry to declare themselves mambo/salsa teachers these days. Everybody and their GRANDMOTHER is a so called instructor now. First of all, TEACHING is a specific, particular art or skill. JUST because a person is a fabulous dancer/performer does NOT automatically make them any kind of a teacher. And vice versa, one may not be the greatest dancer but be an excellent teacher. I don’t think there’s necessarily a certain time limit on how long one’s been dancing in order to teach. I believe that teaching itself is almost a natural ability for some people just as dancing itself comes naturally for some and not for others. ANYONE who is going to teach should at least have capabilities in leading AND following. All instructors should be able to teach both parts, as well as, have an ability to show styling for both men and women. I believe a good instructor needs to have the capability to impart his/her knowledge in an easy, understandable manner which ANY level dancer can comprehend. As far as accredation, it’s a tough question. On the one hand, it would be beneficial for certain reasons but WHO decides what moves are accredited? And a part of the beauty of salsa/mambo is that it came from the streets. To put TOO many restraints on it could ruin the natural beauty of the dance. It’s a double-edged sword.

Abbey Plotkin, founder/director The Mambo Mamas – 1993-2004

Response 3: Norberto Herrera – Raleigh, NC

In my humble opinion, an instructor should have some knowledge in the history, music, styles, timing and technique. A good instructor should:

Be patient (It’s vital)
Have “people’s skills”
Be approachable
Be encouraging
Be a good leader and/or follower
Be flexible w/ his teaching, or adapt to his student’s level and ability
Things to keep in mind when choosing an instructor.
A good dancer is not necessarily a good teacher.
Judge instructors by their students. (Students are the reflection of instruction)
A good instructor is not necessarily the one that can break down turn patterns. Anyone can show a dance, but few can teach you to dance.
Betto Herrera

Response 4: Crystal Moody – Houston, TX

I don’t think “everyone” is in a rush. There are some good instructors that don’t teach beyond the intermediate level. I cannot honestly say that the number of years, months, or days an instructor has been involved with Salsa/Mambo is indicative of whether they will be a good instructor. It would be a little remiss to think that someone that has been dancing for under a year could effectively teach. There is a vast amount information that cannot be grasped in such a short time.

Almost anyone can teach the basic. Almost anyone can walk through a move and have others mimic what they just saw. But this does not make you an instructor. An instructor needs to understand what they are teaching before they can effectively answer questions, contest resistance and overcome the difficulties that come along when instructing anything.

Although a license or certificate may not be neccessary, an instructor should be proficient in both Salsa and Mambo. A proficient insrtuctor is capable of executing moves effectively and transferring that execution into thier students. Being proficient in styling is a bonus.

Should individuals have to dance a certain number years before they are qualified to teach? Beats me. But the same concepts have to be instilled every time they teach, no matter the style of dance.

Come see us at the Texas Salsa Congress in March.