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Reviews & Articles

This is a collection of articles that I have come across at various times and in various places that I believe contains information that is valuable to us all. These were written by various people, but may have been edited slightly by me, while hopefully retaining the original thoughts and ideas. These articles express the views and opinions of the authors but generally tend to put into words more commonly held thoughts and beliefs that I have heard people express in regards the dance community. While I may not agree with all of the views expressed in every article, overall I think the views are worth sharing. If you know of, or have written, an article that you feel would be appropriate for this area, please send it my attention for consideration of inclusion herein.

SALSA 101: The Do's and Don'ts of the Dance World (For Beginners and Some Regulars)

By Maya

These basic rules of behavior in salsa clubs will help you and other patrons have a more enjoyable dance experience. It's amazing how many people are completely oblivious to their surroundings and need to be reminded to be considerate of others.

As you might have noticed salsa clubs can get very crowded, so:

  • DO NOT stand on the dance floor while people are dancing. Elbows and feet are flying all over the place. Do you want to get hit?
  • DO NOT hold or carry drinks on the dance floor for the above mentioned reasons. You may have to lick your drink off the floor.
  • DO NOT walk across the dance floor during a dance. (see above)
  • DO NOT block the "traffic lanes" when people are trying to get around you.
  • DO leave a space opened for people to pass.
  • DO take small steps while dancing. Taking big steps in order to learn is OK during lessons - not on the crowded dance floor. Regulars can tell you how many times they've been hurt. If you get hurt yourself "that'll teach you".
  • DO use club floor space OFF THE DANCE FLOOR to practice your moves (hallways, balconies etc.)
  • DO apologize to fellow dancers if you step on somebody. How can you not feel if you touch someone?!
  • DO wipe the sweat off your face before you kiss a friend hello.
  • DO wipe your sweaty hands before you ask someone for a dance.
  • DO try to find an empty space to dance instead of squeezing into someone else's.

In a nutshell, BE considerate to other salsanuts.


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BASIC DANCE ETIQUETTE

The key word in the phrase SOCIAL DANCING is SOCIAL.

You may have already witnessed environments that were uncomfortable due to someone's ignorance or lack of respect for simple etiquette guidelines.

We all need to strive to be ladies and gentlemen on the dance floor, as well as off the floor in the other areas of our lives.

Hopefully, in passing on this article, we all will recognize the importance of using some simple social graces in order to better everyone's experience, including our own.

Read the article, print in, save it and pass it on to each new person as they begin their journey into the world of social dancing.


APPROPRIATE THINGS TO DO

• It is appropriate and encouraged that women ask men to dance, as well as men asking women to dance. So ladies, if you want to dance with someone, just ask! What better way to ask someone to dance than with, "May I have this dance?", "Would you like to dance?" or "Will you dance with me?".

• You should always accept when someone asks you to dance unless one of the following applies: You are very tired, injured, or do not know the dance. Say something like "I'm sorry, I would love to dance with you, but I am very tired and need to sit one out. May I have the next one?" In this case, it is never appropriate to turn down one person only to accept or ask someone else during the same song. You are leaving the dance. Say something like, "I'm sorry, I would love to but I just had my last dance for the evening and am on my way out. May I have a few to make up for it next time?" Someone already asked you or you have promised this song/dance to another person. Say something like, "I'm sorry, I've promised this song to someone else. However, I would love to dance with you, May I have the next one?" You have danced with the person before and they make you very uncomfortable or are offensive.

• When dancing Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Two-Step, or another progressive dance, travel around the dance floor counter-clockwise which is known as the Line of Dance. If you are doing stationary patterns or a dance like swing, stay towards the center of the floor.

• Dance at your partner's level. The goal is to make your partner feel and look good, not to show off! Leads, focus on making your partner safe & comfortable. Follows are impressed with someone who does the basics really well, has a solid lead, and is considerate. They are not impressed with someone who tries to perform every advanced pattern possible in 2 minutes and yanks them through things they might not be ready for.

• Always apologize if you bump into someone or step on their feet (regardless of whose fault it was). This goes for your partner as well as other dancers on the floor.

• Thank your partner for the dance at the end of the song.

• Smile. Make eye contact. Say hello and introduce yourself. But do not stare or ogle.

• At the end of the dance, walk your partner off the floor, or to their next partner.

• If there is a live band, applaud the band at the end of each song.

• If you are dancing at a bar or lounge, please order at least one drink and tip the service staff. Bars and lounges are a business and need to make a profit. Support them and hopefully they will continue to offer dancing. Dancers are notoriously known for not drinking or just drinking water. At least order bottled water and tip generously.

• Share floor space with all dancers. Beginning and new dancers deserve just as much space on the dance floor as advanced dancers. However, all dancers, especially new dancers should make sure they find out any accepted conventions of a specific venue.


DO NOT DO THESE

• Do not block the flow of the dance. For example, leave room for couples to Foxtrot or Two-step in the outside lanes of the dance floor while you swing in the middle.

• Aerials are NEVER allowed on the social dance floor. They are inconsiderate and extremely dangerous to other dancers, your partner, and you. Save them for competitions and performances. Dips, drops, and tricks should also be done with caution. Only do them if you have plenty of room, there aren't other couples nearby, you know how to do them safely, and you have your partner's consent.

• Unless requested to do so by your partner, do not teach while dancing. Most people are annoyed when the person they are dancing with stops in the middle of the dance with, "let me show you how to do that," or "you are doing that wrong."

• If you smoke, NEVER smoke on the dance floor. Not only is it offensive to nonsmokers, it is dangerous.

• Do not bring your drink, of any kind, onto the dance floor. You cannot lead your partner with a drink in your hand and it could be spilled on others, or on the floor creating a hazardous situation or even dropped and broken. If you need some fluids, take a break on the sidelines.


HYGIENE AND COMFORT FOR ALL

Obviously, good hygiene is an extremely important part of social dancing, if you want to be SOCIAL, but there are also certain things you can do to help make yourself, and your dance partners more comfortable. Please consider the following:

• Body Cleanliness: Make sure you shower or bathe before participating in a dance class or event. If you've spent a long day at work, you should consider showering before going to class that evening.

• Oral Hygiene: Make your dentist and your dance partners happy, brush and use mouthwash! Also keep mints and/or gum handy.

• Clothing: Wear comfortable clothing, but remember to dress appropriately for the type of dance event. A dance party calls for more fashionable or formal clothing. An evening class would call for professional, upscale casual, or clubby clothing. Whereas more casual sporty clothes could be appropriate for an all-day intensive or weekend seminar. Unless you don't sweat, stay away from sleeveless tops. If you sweat a lot, you should consider bringing a change of clothes.

• Hair: If you have long hair, please anticipate how it will treat your partner while you are turning and spinning. A long pony-tail may whip your partner in the face. Long loosely-worn hair may also get into your partners face. Wearing hair in a bun or against your head is usually a good option.

• Perfume/Cologne: Is usually a great thing. Just don't overdo it. Some people are irritated or allergic to strong scents. Of course, most people are irritated by strong body odor, so don't forget the deodorant!

• Hands: In one evening, it's very typical for you to dance with a lot of people who've also danced with a lot of people. Wash your hands a few times throughout the evening. It's a must to wash your hands after you use the bathroom. A bottle of hand sanitizer may be a good thing to add to your dance bag. If your hands become damp during a dance, at the very least dry them off before the next dance.


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10 Tips for Men to Attract More Women to Dance with You

by Michele Wolpe

In keeping with the posted "19 Tips for Women to Attract More Men to Dance with You I offer "10 Tips for Men to Attract More Women to Dance with Them."

First of all, any list that has more than ten items is simply too long. So here's a simple list of ten ways men can attract more women to dance with them. The bottom line is that women who wish to dance are looking for a good overall dancer, a good lead, someone who is considerate and careful for their safety, as well as being well-groomed and appealing.

These ten tips detail how a man can best appeal to a woman dancer in these areas:

1. Learn to dance. Most women dancers prefer to dance with someone who is a good dancer. You don't need to have years of experience or know a million moves. But know the dance (whether salsa or ballroom) well enough to lead your partner with confidence and clarity. Most important is to have gotten the dance posture and leading techniques down, through lessons and coaching to the point where a woman will "read" that you are confident and relaxed. I've danced with people who have been dancing for years and still have terrible dance position, weak leads or otherwise are tentative or insecure. I've also danced with relatively new dancers who are solid and strong in leading a dance. I prefer a novice who leads well, to someone with a lot of moves who has terrible technique. Invest in an hour or two of private coaching and ask for feedback on your lead and posture. Then work to develop your skills.

2. Be a courteous dance partner. Invite a woman to dance by extending your hand and asking if she would like to dance. Escort her to the floor and throughout the dance focus on not only leading the dance, but connecting with your partner. Dancing is not about a lot of fancy moves. It is about connecting and moving to the music with your partner. A good dancer who never looks at or "clues in to" the woman he is dancing with is not one whom a woman will be excited to dance with. Even if your partner is not the best dancer, always be courteous. After the dance ends, escort your partner back to where she was when you invited her, or to the edge of the dance floor. Never just walk away or leave your partner in the middle of the dance floor. Say "thank you" after a dance, even if it was less than enjoyable.

3. Protect your partner. A leader's job is to lead the dance and part of leading is preventing collisions or other situations which could injure his partner or himself. Many salsa dancers ignore this role and spin or lead their partners into others, step on other dancers, or otherwise put themselves or others in a position of getting hurt. A leader should stop dancing or do what it takes to make sure that the woman he is dancing with does not get injured on the floor. No woman wants to dance with a man who ignores safety and creates situations which cause her injury or make her fear she will get hurt.

4. Seek to regularly improve your dancing. Once you have mastered the basics of leading and a few moves, work to increase your repertoire. It gets boring to dance with someone whose moves are predictable and never change. This applies to seasoned as well as beginning leaders. Some strong dancers stop taking classes and once a woman has danced with them a few times, their entire repertoire is known. By periodically learning a few new moves or steps a leader will keep experienced dancers intrigued and interested. I relish dancing with men who are never boring, because they always have something fresh they're trying on the floor.

5. Groom yourself. A man should be clean, neat and appropriately dressed for a woman to want to dance with him. Body odor can be a real problem for some men. Make sure to use deodorant and to have clean hair, hands, fingernails and the like. Brush your teeth and use breath freshener. Alcoholic or smokers' breath is a turn-off for women who like to dance. Hair should be neatly combed and a man should shave or trim his facial hair before dancing. After shave or cologne can be overpowering in a club, so avoid it for dancing. A lot of greasy hair products can also be off-putting. Clothes should be clean, fit well and be neatly pressed. Shoes should be polished. Natural fibers absorb moisture better than synthetics and feel better to the touch. If you sweat a lot, take extra shirts and change into them as needed. It's not fun to dance with someone who is soaking wet with sweat. Flashy jewelry, tank tops, sneakers, t-shirts are not usually appropriate dance apparel.

6. Learn to talk and dance at the same time. What a concept! Dancing is a social activity. If you are doing a dance that is slow enough to allow for some conversation, by all means talk to your partner. A running conversation may not be advisable while trying to dance with someone new, but introducing yourself and exchanging a few words, a compliment about dance ability, a question about where one likes to dance, etc., indicate that you have a personality. And if you see this person at a future time, it is that much easier to ask them to dance again. Women like good dancers but they like men with some personality too. The "silent dancer" who never speaks a word an be off-putting for many of us.

7. Smile. Dancing should be enjoyable. Too many dancers never smile or indicate they are enjoying themselves. A partner can feel positive (and negative) energy from you! A bit of smiling indicates you are having a good time. On the other hand, a fixed smile or staring at someone with a goofy grin on your face can be a total turnoff. Smile when the feeling moves you, when you catch your partner's eye, as it feels natural.

8. Dance with different types of dancers. Some men are extremely selective about whom they dance with. Others take pains to dance with many different women, of all sizes, shapes, ages and abilities. When I see a good, attractive dancer asking an older woman, or a less advanced dancer to dance I think more highly of him than of one who will only dance with the hottest, sexiest woman on the floor and who looks right through other women.

9. Don't try to dance to a dance you don't know. A lot of salsa dancers know no cha cha or rumba or ballroom dances. Some of them try to fudge it by asking a woman to dance to a cha cha and then doing salsa moves. Women want to dance with someone who knows the dance and can lead it . It's very frustrating to dance a cha cha with a man who has no clue how to dance cha cha. Either get some lessons in cha cha or sit out the dance, but don't put a woman through the frustration of dancing with you when you don't know what to do.

10. Do the asking. Some male dancers seem to be lazy or stuck up. They wait for women to ask them to dance instead of asking the women. While there's nothing wrong with taking a break while dancing and having a woman ask you to dance occasionally, the general etiquette calls for men to ask women to dance. Don't make it more complicated by playing "hard to get" and making women guess if you want to dance or not. Either ask women to dance if you wish to dance, or stay off and away from the dance floor so women can tell you aren't interested in dancing.


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A Guide for Women

By Dave Weston (Los Altos, California)
19 easy ways to attract more men to dance with you. What men look for when inviting women to dance.

At dances, men gravitate to women who are easily approachable. A woman doesn't have to be the best dancer, or the best looking, or the youngest and prettiest. Any woman can attract more invitations to dance merely by making herself more approachable. Here are 19 easy ways to do that.

I'm a man who dances often. Many of my regular dance partners tell me they want to dance more, but men don't ask them enough. I know these women are good dancers and attractive to men. So I've started talking with them about how men select women at dances. Here you will find the best of the techniques I have discovered.

A few weeks ago I attended a large dance of about 300 people. One women started the familiar lament about not getting enough dance invitations. So I briefly explained just three of the 19 techniques below. She didn't believe they would work. I told her, "Go try it. I'll sit here and time you."

She did. I timed her on my watch: 22 seconds later a handsome man asked her to dance.

When the song ended, she rushed over to me, almost breathless with excitement, saying she'd wanted to dance with that particular man, but was too shy to ask him.

Your mileage will vary - I make no guarantees of 22 seconds every time. But from experience with many of my dance partners, I know that these methods are certain to attract more dance invitations for any woman.

I'll start with how to dress for the dance. Your purpose is to be more attractive to men who dance, not just men in general. There's a huge difference: If you want just any male attention, simply wear something that displays your belly button or your cleavage or your legs - and you won't need to read any more of this. On the other hand, if you want men to invite you to dance, then you need to know what men who dance are looking for. Here are my four recommendations for what you should wear:

1. Wear a single layer top. Two layers of clothing slip and slide under a man's hand on your back. That makes it difficult to lead you. A man with dance training will know this consciously. Other men won't be able to say so, but they'll have a 'gut feel' about it. So do not wear a vest or jacket or an over-blouse. You will carry a sweater, because dance rooms are usually very cool, but you won't wear that while you dance.

2. Avoid bare shoulders or back. Yes, bare skin attracts attention from men. But after you've danced a little while, bare skin can feel damp and clammy to the man. Men who enjoy dancing prefer the feel of silk, rayon or cotton. Sleeveless is fine - and cool for you - but avoid dresses with open shoulders or back. (Unless at a very formal dance - where your purpose is to be seen more than to dance.)

3. Keep jewelry to a minimum. Long necklaces and big bracelets catch in clothing. Dangling earrings are distracting. Large rings can scratch a man's hand. Men are aware of this. Wearing loads of jewelry is like a sign saying, "Stay Away." So keep all your jewelry small and simple.

4. Shoes are your most important accessory for attracting men who dance. Men who dance will avoid women with the wrong shoes. Don't wear sandals of any kind, or any rubber-sole walking shoes. Don't wear ultra-high heels that have you teetering instead of dancing. Suitable shoes for dancing are flats, pumps or medium heels. They can be fancy - sparkles are fine. Just be certain that shoes are secure on your feet - not lose or floppy.

Now you're dressed for dancing and you're on the way to the party. Even as you arrive, there are ways to immediately make yourself more approachable to men. Here are four easy things you can do.

5. On your way in, say "Hi" to many men you pass. That's all, just "Hi" - as you walk in from the parking lot, as you stand in line to pay, as you walk to a table to put down your purse and sweater, as you get a drink from the bar, as you walk to the restroom and back. Just a "Hi", with a smile, to many men. Even other men - to whom you didn't say "Hi" - will notice you doing that. That's often all it takes for you to appear easily approachable to men, and for you to get lots of invitations to dance.

If you just say "hi", you will be highly unusual among women today - in a positive way. At public dances and parties the vast majority of women avoid looking directly at men. If you simply say, "Hi", and smile, you set yourself apart as a woman who is friendly to men. That's rare in today's social climate.

6. Circulate (walk slowly) around the edge of the dance area. Men who want to dance will stand near the dance floor. Simply say "Hi" to some of them, smile, and keep walking and circulating. The men who don't or won't dance will stay far from the floor, sitting at the sides, or congregating around the bar. Don't waste time circulating there.

7. Discover the 'traffic lanes'. As you circulate, look for where most dancers walk onto the dance floor. When the music changes, look for congestion, a 'traffic jam' of people in one or two areas. When you are ready to dance, you will come back to this area. Usually these traffic areas are the two front corners of the dance floor, but not always. Sometimes near the lobby or entrance doors. Sometimes next to the bar. When the song changes, determine the location for these entrance/exit 'lanes'. They won't be marked in any way - you must watch the flow of people between songs.

8. Stand apart from other women. A woman standing alone is - by far - most comfortable for men to approach. The quickest way to get more offers to dance is simply stand alone. Yes, I know, it is politically incorrect to ignore your 'sisters', but you must decide if you are there to socialize with other women, or to dance with men. Your choice. When two women stand together, men are reluctant to ask one of them to dance. If three or more women are standing together - very few men will approach. If a group of women is sitting down, then men conclude they prefer to be with other women, not to dance with men. Women sitting in groups get few invitations to dance. Men call groups of women "hen houses". We avoid going into hen houses - unless we already know you or find you extremely appealing. So, circulate by yourself, go to the bar by yourself, go to the restroom by yourself - and you will easily make yourself more approachable than most other women at the dance.

So, now you've circulated and said "hi" to a variety of men. You've already made yourself easily approachable. I bet that by now you've already had more invitations to dance than most other women at the party.

Still, there is more you can do to make yourself highly approachable. If you love to dance, then I want you to have lots of invitations from lots of men! So, here are six additional ways get many more invitations to dance.

9. Stand in the traffic lane area that you observed earlier. As the music changes, go stand right in this area. People will have to walk around you to get on or off the dance floor. That is exactly what you want to happen. Of course, you are standing alone. Men will see you as a woman who is in exactly the right place for an invitation to dance.

Few women know about this traffic lane area. Fewer have courage to stand there as people are moving on and off the floor. But this is exactly where men who are dancing will be. Those are the desirable men for you: They are far more likely to invite you to dance than any of the guys leaning against the bar.

10. Stand so your toes touch the edge of the dance floor. At most dances, there is a proper wood dance floor, surrounded by a carpeted area with the tables and chairs. If so, stand on edge of the carpet, with your toes touching the side of the wood dance floor. Literally, have your toes touching the edge of the wood. Not one foot away, not six inches away - but toes touching wood. This sends a non-verbal message to men that you are available to dance right now. That makes you easily approachable. However, don't stand on the wood floor. That signals you are waiting for a specific partner; that you reserved the next dance, and are waiting for him at that spot. So stay off the wood floor until you've actually been offered a dance.

11. Hold your arms at waist level. Keep your elbows bent so forearms are at your waistline - standard dancers' ready position. Gives body language signal that you are ready to dance.

Do not hold a drink or anything else in your hands. Do not fold your arms. Do not let your arms hang down at your sides. Never cross your palms in front of your skirt. Just hold your arms at waist level with hands relaxed, perhaps fingertips touching.

12. Sway gently to the music. Move your body slightly, but noticeably, to the feeling of the music. Not full dance movements, just enough to indicate you are ready to dance. Moving to the music is one of the easiest, non-verbal signals any woman can use to effortlessly attract more invitations to dance.

13. Look only at the dancers out on the floor. Look as if the dancers are the most wonderful sight you have ever seen. Let your eyes shine with delight and excitement - even if your stomach is in knots from feeling exposed and nervous. Look as if you love dancing and everything about it.

14. Do not, DO NOT, look at any men while you are standing ready to dance. Looking around makes you appear overly eager and desperate. Men tend to avoid such women. Instead, simply look out at the dancers already on the floor.

At this time, do not say "hi" to any passing men. Just stand patiently, and continue looking out at the dancers. Don't look around at the band, or at the decorations, or at your women friends at a table behind you. Just look out at the dancers and let your expression show you are enjoying what you see. This gives men a chance to look you over. And that will make it easier for men to approach you.

15. If a man approaches from the side, don't turn to look at him. A man with dance training will approach in front of a woman so she can see him coming. But not all men know this, and at a crowded party it often isn't possible. So expect some men to approach from the side. When that happens, DO NOT look at him. Turning to look sideways makes you appear desperate. Just keep looking ahead at the dancers on the floor. You want to give a man the chance to look you over. Only when he touches your arm or verbally asks, "Do you want to dance?", only then look, smile, and nod or say "Sure".

If you use even just a few of these 15 methods, you will attract more men to dance with you. In fact, you'll probably attract so many men that your women friends may not be so friendly after that evening. You're on your own to handle that situation.

What if you want to dance even more? Is it okay for a woman to ask men to dance? Yes, in these liberated times, that's perfectly fine. Almost any man will be delighted and complimented by any woman who asks him to dance. Men have been doing the asking all our lives. When a woman takes the risk of asking us, she immediately gets our respect and admiration.

If you ask men to dance, I recommend four ways to make it easier and more relaxed for you to do that. But first, you know that men sometimes get turned down when they ask a woman to dance. Men are used to being turned down by women. But women are not so comfortable being turned down by men: big fear of rejection. It happens. You need to be prepared for this fact. So, if you want to do the asking, here's how to make it much more relaxed and far less threatening for you:

16. Never ask a man to dance. That's right - never say to a man, "Would you like to dance?" or "May I have this dance?" If you ask, it puts him on the spot to answer instantly. He may be surprised that a woman asks, and may stumble and get embarrassed. No woman wants to risk causing that at a dance party. Plus asking is difficult for the woman, because there is that chance of being rejected. So never ask a man to dance! Instead...

17. Tell the man you want to dance with him. Simply say, "I want to dance with you." Just that, in exactly those words. Most women have a lot of experience telling men what they want. And men are used to hearing what women want. So when you tell a man what you want, both of you are in socially familiar territory.

Plus, in the right circumstances, many men enjoy providing for a "wanting woman". So to make yourself more attractive to men, simply tell them what you want.

Then it is up to the man to take action. The man might walk you out onto the dance floor right then. Or he might say, "Sure, later", and find you later on. Or he might say, "Maybe later", and not find you later, or ever. If that happens, you won't be terribly embarrassed and neither will he.

If you are still not getting enough invitations to dance, you can...

18. Tell several men at the same time. Do you want to instantly make yourself highly attractive to lots of men at any dance. It's this easy: Walk up to any small group of men you find attractive and say, "I want to dance with you ... and you ... and you, too!" Then prepare yourself for lots of fun. And be sure you are wearing comfortable shoes because you are going to be dancing non-stop!

Now, what if you really, really, want to dance with one certain man. Okay, here's the method to use that he won't be able to resist...

19. Add a touch to your words. Always use exactly the words, "I want to dance with you." Then - as you say that - touch the man you desire.

Your touch can be to place your hand gently on his arm, or use one finger tip to caress the top button of his shirt - as you look at him and smile and say, "I want to dance with you." I guarantee you will get a lot attention from that man!

So, now you know 19 easy ways to attract more men to dance with you. I've observed that a woman who is dancing is a happy woman. I'm certain that these suggestions will increase your dancing happiness.


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Tip on Leading

By Lisa King

editorial note from SalsaCrazy.com: This is a fantastic article on leading that every dancer, student and teacher should read. There are great truths revealed in this little piece. Read on, and share it with people! Congratulations to Lisa King, a local dance teacher who is passing on the real knowledge.

On a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Mr. Data has asked to be taught to dance. Dr. Crusher is doing Tap. Mr. Data, being an android, is able to watch her and do exactly what she is doing, learning in mirror image in real time. He then states that he now will be able to dance at the upcoming wedding. The woman tells him, no, you need to learn how to Waltz. Well, he struggles a bit because he just can't watch and copy, as the two partners roles are different. But, being an android, he catches on in a minute or two. He then makes a statement to the effect of "As I see it, I need to maneuver my partner around the dance floor, taking care not to bump into anyone or anything, dancing to the music, spontaneously choreographing a changing and pleasing series of moves, all the while maintaining light conversation." "Yes, that's it.", says his instructor. Mr. Data responds "My, this is difficult, isn't it."

The moral of the story: Leading is more than communicating the next move to the follower, it is a multifaceted role. And it is difficult. Most of this material is aimed at someone who has just recognized he needs to learn how to lead. There is more advanced stuff that will come in handy later. I have indicated those sections by following them with the notation: (Level #) where # is 2, 3 or 4, indicating the degree of difficulty. Please note that everything in this article is presented in stark black and white when in fact leading has rich shades of gray, especially the items in the 'V'. PHILOSOPHY' section.

I. BASICS

A. Lead clearly: Make your leads the bodily equivalent of perfect diction.

B. Don't be a Jerk. One of the biggest complaints about leaders is that the leads are jerks or jerky. Followers don't like this because it is both an ineffective way to communicate what you intend and it is uncomfortable. There is a continuum here: JERKY - OK - SMOOTH. Aim for SMOOTH, don't settle for OK. Why? I think that when she encounters SMOOTH (combined with other signs of expertise), she is much more likely to turn off her brain, surrender total control to you and just dance. Which allows you to turn off your brain and just dance. Doesn't get much better than that.

C. What is Jerky? What is smooth? An analogy: Consider swinging a golf club. Once you were past the rank beginner stage, you did this SMOOTH and precise. At the beginning and end of the swing, the club is motionless. The entire swing can be viewed as a continuous transition, starting at motionless, accelerating smoothly to the desired force then decelerating smoothly back to motionless. At no time during the swing do you do anything jerky. Before the swing, you decided what you were going to do and then did it. During the swing you were not thinking about something else. Once you started the swing, you did not change your intention and try to change the nature of the swing. Lead the same way.

D. Use the lightest effective lead. A lead is an indication, not a demand. Show her where you want her to go, don't push or pull her there. You decide what you want her to do, but her following ability determines whether she's going to do it or not. Don't force her. The better the follow, the lighter and briefer the lead can be. The poorer the follow, the stronger and longer your lead must be, but never so strong as to be more than an indication.

HOW NOT TO LEAD:

1) Deliver a lead.
2) Observe that she didn't go where you wanted her to,
3) Use whatever force and hold(s) necessary to shove her into position.

HOW TO LEAD:

1) Deliver a lead.
2) Observe that she didn't go where you wanted her to,
3) Unscramble the resulting mess, take her into a basic hold and start dancing again.

E. In general, you lead with your center, not your arms.

F. Your leading can not be better than the quality of your own dance frame.

G. Your leading can not be better than the quality of your follower's dance frame.

II. LEARNING TO LEAD

A. You can't learn to lead when your follower knows what is going to happen next. If during class you only get to do the move or pattern when the instructor tells you, you are learning the move/pattern, but not how to lead it. Its only when you are dancing, and she does not know what comes next, that you can learn to lead a move.

B. Take her by surprise. This is the single most important thing you can do to learn how to lead. During class or practice you are now free to dance how you wish, not under direct verbal control of an instructor. You have learned a new sequence and are ready to begin to learn to lead it. Well, your follower has learned this same sequence and is ready to launch right into it as soon as she recognizes it. Don't let her. Make her follow and you lead. How? Surprise her by changing the pattern. Vary the number of repetitions, eliminate moves, add moves. For example, imagine a pattern: Two basics, two inside turns, one basic, and one outside turn. These three moves can be done in any combination and any number of repetitions. By varying the pattern slightly, e.g. Doing one or three inside turns when she expects two, you will begin to learn to lead. If needed, she will begin to learn to follow.

C. Write it down. Everybody who does this comes up with their own shorthand, you will also.

D. Ask her for feedback and watch her facial expressions. Depending on the follower, the information will range from totally useless to priceless.

F. Work with good followers. This works both ways, as you become a better leader, the ladies will remember and want to dance or practice with you.

III. NAVIGATION

A. Look where you are going to send her before you send her there. Do not start a move unless there is room.

B. Look where you are sending her while you are sending her there. Others may have seen the same empty space you did.

C. Once you've sent her there, look around her. Protect her from Bozos.

D. Every collision your follower suffers is your fault. (Minor bumps on a crowed dance floor are almost unavoidable, and I'm not talking about those, I'm referring to the big collisions.) But, you protest, some total Bozo can come careening across the floor and smash into her while you were minding your own business. As leader, you are in control, therefore you are responsible. Leading means you need to be alert for these idiots, and to avoid them. If you can't avoid the crash, be a gentleman: position yourself to take the collision, not her. (Level 2)

E. Many women love to be expertly led through tightspots. (I call this 'threading the needle'). Don't even think about trying it. When you're good enough, you'll do it spontaneously. (Level 3)

IV. SPONTANEOUS CHOREOGRAPHY

A. Practice basics until they are hardwired. Gives you more time to think about other stuff like staying on the beat, not running into other people, and making conversation.

B. Learn (some) patterns until they are hardwired. Gives you a lot more time to think about other things like what you're going to lead next, how you want to hit the approaching break in the music, and if she is buying any of the stuff you're trying to impress her with. (Level 2)

C. Forget the patterns, know the moves individually and assemble spontaneously. This makes you more fun to dance with because you're not thinking, you're just dancing. (Level 3).

V. PHILOSOPHY

A. Leaders lead, followers follow. You will encounter followers who believe otherwise. There is nothing you can do about it. If you don't like it, don't dance with them again. If you enjoy it, you may find that passing the lead back and forth can be great fun, if the dancers are in perfect sync with each other, with the music and with the dance. (Level 4)

B. Don't teach unless she asks. She will be annoyed if you attempt to teach. Besides, how do you know it wasn't you who screwed up? Even if you're 100% sure that you're right and she's wrong, do not teach, it's rude, and followers do not like it.

In class, if you KNOW what you're doing and KNOW what she's doing wrong, approach the subject diplomatically, e.g. "That didn't feel quite right to me, did it seem OK to you?" If she thought it was OK, this is the end of your attempt to teach, no matter how bad she mangled the move. If she agrees that something was amiss, the safest thing to do is to ask an instructor to watch you two do the move and give you feedback.

At a dance, don't teach unless she asks.

C. If she can't follow it, it's because you can't lead it. This was a difficult concept for me to accept. I protested that if her frame collapsed or she got herself off balance or if she was anticipating instead of following, how could it be my fault that she wasn't doing what I was leading? It is the leader's job to assess the ability of the follower and lead accordingly. If she can't follow it, you've led something beyond her ability. You must learn to assess a followers ability in the first few seconds of a dance and respond accordingly. (Level 3)

D. Give her a second chance if she flubs a move. They hate it when you don't give them a second chance. Don't discuss it , just smile and set it up the same way and do it very soon after the first flubbed attempt. If she does a lot better on the second time, lead it a third time. Another reason to give her a second chance is that you may have been the one who blew it.

VI. HOW TO BE A MEMORABLE LEADER.

Things which will make them remember you well enough so that many months after you had one dance with them they recognize you and ask you dance:

A. Lead clear and smooth.

B. Dance to the music. This is a matter of degree, not an absolute. From less involved to more involved: 1. Be on the beat. 2. Begin moves on the 1 beat. 3. Transition when the music does, e.g., Hit the breaks, react to tempo changes, nail the last note of the song, etc. 4. Interpret the melody and/or lyrics with your spontaneous choreography. 5. Achieve that rare Zen state, where after the dance you will honestly be able to say "The music MADE me do it." Followers expect 1 and 2. Followers appreciate 3 and will seek you out. If you do 4, Followers will be all smiles, and will put you on their MUST DANCE WITH list. If you do 5, Followers will remember you forever and will join your fan club.

C. Make her look good out there. Have excellent basics. Lead stuff she can do. If she does something well, lead it some more. Don't pull her off balance. Don't run her into something.

D. If you can lead well enough to make her do anything, don't. If there is any showing off to do, let it be you showing her off, not you showing you off. Dance to her level, if you are better, occasionally challenging her, occasionally surprising her. It is not fun for her to be dragged through a lot of moves she doesn't know. You might be able to make her do 12 moves she's never seen before, but she'll like that 1/10th as much as expertly presenting her to the audience (real or imagined) through half a dozen moves she's done a zillion times. This is NOT a case of you 'Making her look good out there', in fact she will think it's just the opposite. (Level 3)

E. Surprise her. Perfect moves that make the follower do unexpected major changes of direction ("... and then we went sideways! Whheeeee...!" ) that are NOT turns or spins and are done SMOOTHLY.

F. Play. Louis Armstrong once replied when asked to define Jazz, "Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know." You're on your own here....

VII. MISC.

A. Wear watch on right hand. This prevents her hair from getting caught in the band when you screw up on a double turn lead and drag your wrist through her hair.

B. Put your keys in left pocket if you must carry them. There's nothing quite as anti-romantic as positioning your partner for a corte or dip or some other form of full contact and discovering that your keys are poking both of you.

C. Take out the trash. Just because somebody famous taught you the move doesn't mean it is worth using, or that is can be followed by anyone below the level of expert, or that it is fun, or that it looks good, etc.

D. Don't do neck wraps until you no longer need these notes. Then, still don't do them.

E. Smile.


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