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Editor's Note:  Joe Wieder has been a part of the NY dance scene for as long as I can remember.  I use to see him at the Copa when I first started dancing myself.  A true gentleman dancer, I can think of few other people qualified to write about the topic of Partnering and Dance Floor Etiquette.   He was kind enough to allow us to re-publish this article on SalsaNewYork. 

Originally Published on Joe Weider's Site: http://quickscape.com/joe/articles/salsa.htm

Salsa Partnering & Dance Floor Etiquette

by Joe Wieder

Ladies ...

A successful salsa strategy toward dancing all night, apart from knowing how to dance, is to be seen dancing. Guys are generally a shy lot, but if they know you can and will dance, you'll be dancing all night.

So...Select a good dance club or studio.  A place with a wide range of ages works best. Some of those older guys can really dance!  Live music is rarely good dance music - most bands seem oblivious to what a good salsa tempo might be.

Wear something bright and colorful, and/or slinky and sexy - just be sure, whatever it is, it's noticeable!  Dance places can be dim as dusk, so make sure you don't blend into the shadows.  Arrive early and position yourself as close to the dance floor as possible.  Sit or stand near the dance floor, preferably where guys coming off the floor will see you first.  And, oh yeh, don't congregate with a group of women.   No guy is going to walk up to several women hanging together and risk that kind of rejection.

Smile till it hurts!  If you don't look like you're enjoying yourself, you probably won't be!  Don't be afraid to make eye contact.   Say, "Yes!" to the first dance offer, no matter who it is, and keep on saying it.  This is the most important rule!  Being picky is counter-productive, so lose the attitude!  If you're seen saying no, you'll be left with only the blind and the bold - a small, and not necessarily cute, minority.  The point of saying yes every time is to increase your chances of meeting talented, interesting dance partners. If you do this right, good dancers will soon monopolize your time anyway.  Ask good dancers to teach you something new! They'll usually be happy to oblige and will seek you out in the future.

Oh, and don't chew gum - or if you have to, do it with your mouth closed.

Guys ...

Some of the above and then...

Find a smiling gal who's near the dance floor and ask her to dance.  But for godsake, learn how to, first, and remember - smooth is as good or better than fancy! A couple of basic steps done correctly and on tempo is more fun for your partner than a dozen pretzel turns done badly with the timing all screwed up.

Avoid dancing roughly - like pulling your partner's arm out of its socket.  It's bad form.   Remember, you want to look good, and you can look really good if you make your partner look good.  Make eye contact - dancing is about communication.

Dance with all sorts of partners, it'll make you a better dancer, not to mention, it'll make you seem like a nice guy.

ALSO, if you haven't showered, shaved, or brushed your teeth for a while, it might be a good idea to do that first!  You don't want women to be pointing you out for the wrong reasons!

Dance Floor Etiquette ...

Yes, there are rules about dance floor rights and wrongs.  Here are some of them...

  • It's not cool to stand right ON the dance floor to socialize.  Even experienced dancers, who should know better, sometimes stand right on the dance floor talking, drinking, smoking.  Do what you like, but do it AWAY from the dance floor!
  • Speaking of which... be nice to fellow dancers and avoid bumping into them.  If it's crowded on the floor - and these days most floors are crowded, dance small.  Most important, try to remember, your partner is not disposable - don't toss her around like a bowling ball.
  • A hardwood dance floor should be treated with care.  Drinks and cigarettes on the dance floor are a NO NO! When you spill liquid on a hardwood floor, it becomes a hazardous wet spot.   Even when it dries, this spot is pretty much ruined for dancers the rest of the night because it becomes "tacky" and you can't slide across it.
  • If you are a beginning dancer, remember that everyone out there has probably experienced that same sweaty palm, stiff-as-a-board, jittery feeling.  It will pass.
  • If you or your partner screw up a step, get past the urge to argue about who's screwing up.   Remember - there are no mistakes!  It's ONLY dancing, and everyone's there to have fun.
  • If you're a woman who's not being asked to dance, try standing near the edge of the dance floor; smile, tap your foot, and look like you really NEED to dance to this song.  Make eye contact.   Dance with the first person who asks.  Once you get out there a couple of times with different partners, other potential partners will know you won't turn them down.  ALSO, don't be afraid to ask guys to dance.  It's cool!
  • Last point.  I don't mean to offend anyone, but if you want to look good dancing salsa, you should not take salsa dance lessons from a ballroom instructor unless they have a real clear idea of the differences.  Nothing looks dumber than a salsero/salsera doing affected hand and toe pointing poses like a theatrical ballet dancer.

One point that bears repeating, and can't be made strongly enough is:  DON'T dance in a way that's going to invite a problem or result in collisions with nearby couples.  All too often, I've seen dancers on a crowded floor with no consideration whatever for other dancers.  I think the problem is more of an "ego" thing than a lack of dance etiquette.  I've seen otherwise excellent dancers, who should know better, do stuff they shouldn't be doing simply because they get into their "performance" mode and suddenly they're leading with their elbows and their butts - their brains totally turned off.  They bump nearby dancers and swing their partners around to clear more space for themselves.  Short of physical confrontation, and sometimes it comes to that, there isn't a lot that can be done.  You can either bump back, or move.  The choice depends on the state of your own ego and the size of the offending dancer.

Lead with your brain, not your butt, and make the effort to be more aware and considerate of your dance environment.  Otherwise, some of us will need to sign up for karate classes to go with our salsa classes.

Joe Wieder

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