Over the years, growing as a social dancer in the local salsa scene in Malaysia, I see the same thing happening on a regular basis with beginners. Maybe when I started dancing all those years back, I was a bit more gung-ho and charge head on into the dance community that I don't realize it myself but in recent years, by sitting back and watching people dance, it's a different scene.
Beginners are just not coming out to dance enough and those that does, just huddle together like lost sheep hiding in a corner, watching others dance. So maybe this 10 tips can help the beginners grow as dancers. At the end of the day, fellow dancers on the dance floors can only guide you so far, to grow, it's all on you.
1. Dance more - There's plenty of social nights to attend on a weekly basis in Malaysia. I've even compiled a list so you know where to go. No excuse to say you don't know where to go to dance. There's also a list for events you can attend, what better way to dance more and know more people from the region. For a person to grow as a dancer, you need to come out and dance more, the more you dance, the more you can practice what you learn at the studio.
2. Dance often - Coming out to social parties is one thing, putting on your dance shoes and dance is another, dance as much as you can. Don't shy away when invited to dance. After all, practice makes perfect. Worry that the partner might perform moves you have not learn? Let the partner know what you have learn. There's nothing to be shy about by saying you've only had 1 lesson or 2. By knowing what level you are at, the partner would then know not to do certain moves you don't know.
3. Don't be shy - Seriously, don't be shy, if no one is asking you to dance, do it yourself. By shying away, you will end up not getting any dance for the night. Doesn't matter if all you know is just the basic mambo, social dancing is to enjoy yourself through the music. Dance more and you will start to grow. I know that's how I grow, I started attending socials from the 1st week of class and grab as many dance as I could even though I only know the basic steps and cross body leads.
4. Dance with as many people as you can - Try to make it a point each time you go social to dance with as many people as you can. One good thing about social dances is there are plenty of leads and followers around with all skill level. Why not dance with them so you can experience the different level and style that each dancers have? Scared? Start small then, make it a point to dance with at least 10 different partners and grow the number from there.
5. Apply what you learn - In class, instructors teaches you combinations, from the first day of class, you would have already started to pick up the basic combinations. Not sure what to do on the dance floor at social? Use what you learn in class. Even if it's just Basic x 2 - CBL - Left Turn - Right Turn. That's good enough to last you through the songs. It is not how many tricks you know, but how much you enjoy the song and dance that will affect how your partner feels.
6. Talk to fellow dancers - It's a social night. When you're taking a break from dancing, talk to other dancers that is also resting as well. The community is small, what better way to make friends and learn than to talk to one another. If you see a dancer pulling off a trick or move you like, talk to the dancer and find out how it is done. I still do that even now, we never stop learning and the dance community loves to share to help one another grow. You don't ask, you won't receive. It's as simple as that.
7. Communicate, don't complain! - It's a common whispers I hear on the dance floor, dancers complain because they don't enjoy dancing with this person or that person. Why not turn that around, stop complaining and start communicating. Even seasoned dancers want to improve, I know I do. Dance is a never ending lesson, we learn new things each time we hit the dance floor. A lead's move is confusing? Don't know what to do when you are guided into a particular move? Ask and you shall receive. I've learn over the years which dancers prefer to do shines, who loves combinations and tricks, and who prefers a firm lead or soft lead. And this can only be conveyed across when there's communication. After all, we are here to grow together as a community, not alienate one another because you don't like the way a person dance.
8. Listen to the music - It's not easy to hear latin songs in our local airwaves since it's not part of the language we uses. It's also hard to find any songs at the Record stores too but don't let that stop you, ask your friends in the community, get some songs from them, listen and let yourself immerse into the music. Spotify has an extensive list as well, not sure where to start? Here's my salsa playlist. Listen to the rhythm of the dance and you will start to enjoy the breaks and the nounces in the music.
9. Don't Stare at your Feet! - Your dance partner is in front of you, not at your feet. Beginners start to make mistakes when dancing by staring at the feet. Look up, look at the partner, have a conversation and before you know it, you are dancing and completing the song without much errors. You experience the dance by feeling it, not looking. It's also a great way to build your confidence in trusting yourself and your partner.
10. Relax and HAVE FUN! - The most important thing to remember. It's a social, not a competition. Dancing is meant to be fun, not something to get worked up about. Dancing is meant to help lower your blood pressure, not raise it, so don’t stress! Smile, enjoy the dance and be happy!
Well, that's what I personally learnt as a dancer even though I'm still a long way from being good. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying myself and have fun. If you think there's more tips that new dancers can learn from, add on to the list by commenting below and I'll add them in.