Salsa Email: What is the best way to take salsa to the next level?
Dear Addicted2Salsa, Love your blog and podcast!
So I have a question for you: What is the best way to learn to salsa? I have been dancing salsa for several months now, and mostly Ive just been going to different clubs, and picking up moves from various salsa lessons. I feel like Ive learned the basics, and I know a few combos now, but I still feel pretty nervous about stepping onto the dance floor.
So what is the best way to take my salsa to the next level? Private lessons seem pretty pricey, but is that the best bet? Should I invest in salsa videos? Or is the best way to just keeping going out to the clubs?
Thanks for writing! I am Julie, the co-host, and had some ideas to share about the salsa learning process.I'm a big believer in moderation. Classes will provide your technique, knowledge of footwork and combos, and maybe correct errors you've developed (if the instructor gives personalized attention).
Social dancing trains your ear to the music, enables you to adapt to different followers/leaders, and expands your social network (so you can improve by dancing with better dancers). If you put in the effort, you can improve quite a bit social dancing…but it cannot be a passive process. You have to really listen to the beats of the music, and carefully observe dancers who are better than you to watch their combinations, footwork, technique, and style. If you do all of this, AND take group classes, you will improve. As with everything, frequency will improve you at a much faster rate, so going out four nights per week is better than two, and classes with different instructors helps to see different methods of teaching.
Another route is video. There are many dvd's, podcasts (ours :-) ), youtube.com is wonderful, etc. These help especially if you are a visual learner. A great idea would be to pick a combo from a video that you like and can learn easily, and watch it before going out dancing. Sidenote: if you have a practice partner, it is always best to try it out on her before experimenting at a club. If not, go for it anyway!
About private lessons
Think of this as a reality check, or a visit to the doctor. Some people benefit hugely from them, especially with a good instructor. For the most part, it is good for awareness of what you are doing right and what you are not, and how you can work on those things. It is really difficult to see yourself dance, so we dancers generally don't have a great idea of how we look, or if we are doing something wrong–unless somebody tells us, in which case, we're usually completely offended unless it is the instructor. It is worth the investment for a couple, now and then, but the wise words from one private will generally last you for a while as you continue working on the issues that have been brought to your attention.
Alternative to private lessons
They are indeed expensive, and if you can't do a private, then just video tape yourself. It is a humbling experience, but well worth it. You will improve milestones this way.In conclusion, a combination of the above will definitely make you a better dancer. All of us are different and find ourselves in different circumstances, so do what is right for you.
Try a couple things, and if they work, continue them. One thing I discovered was that going out social dancing and developing a social network was very motivating for me, and made salsa fun! If you are working under too much pressure (as I was in the beginning), you might be stunting your own growth. Really listen to the music, LOVE it, love the people you meet, and enjoy every minute.
Do this, and you will never get enough salsa dancing!
Julie Persaud, Addicted2Salsa Co-Host