I love social dancing. I love the variety, I love the musicality, I love the connection. I love being challenged by new movements.
Every once in a while, it seems there arises some sort of new move that has managed to crawl its way out of the list-of-things-that-should-never-be-done onto the list of things-some-leads-absolutely-love. The good intentions are certainly there, but oh-my-gawd some of these moves just…
…The irony is, it’s not usually one person. Usually, there’s a wave of these people, all doing the same move. Frustration mounts, and eventually I see that one teacher who is deciding to teach this… abomination… everywhere they go. To people who really should not be given that power – or that idea.
Maybe it worked for that one couple in a routine. Maybe there’s that one particular instructor who somehow manages to do it without it being completely effin’ weird. However, most of these moves will go horribly, horribly wrong for 90% of the population when done in social dancing.
Anything where any part of you intentionally touches the follow’s face.
No. Just, no. Do you like random people coming up to you and touching your face? It’s social dancing. Your hands are dirty – maybe even sweaty – and I certainly don’t know who else they’ve touched. Yes, there are some very cool things that can be led by the chin. Yes, some couples have done moves like this and they can look cool. But, please think very, very hard before deciding it’s a good idea to touch your finger-parts to your follow’s face-part.
As for other body parts? Aside from your forehead, there’s almost no body part that is appropriate to touch to the follow’s face. There’s this move that recently went through one of the dance scenes which featured the lead rolling their face all over the follows, with the idea that the follow mimics the movement. News flash: it feels like you’re trying to kiss me – especially when your chin is trying to find my chin. It’s a bad idea to make follows fear for their lips during social dancing.
You are social dancing. Under no circumstances is it OK to lift someone you barely know (or even know well) into the air on a crowded dance floor. Nor flip them – willingly or unwillingly. It’s not the time. It’s not the place. Don’t do it.
If you happen to be on an abandoned dance floor at 2 a.m., sober, and with a sober partner who knows how to do lifts, have at ‘er. Otherwise, no. If this isn’t common sense, please, write me a message. I’ll be happy to explain further why people swinging through the air are a bad idea during social dancing.
Moves that Involve Your Groin.
Groin, crotch, private parts… you get the picture. Those parts should not touch your partner. Let’s keep it PG. If it’s a move that could accidentally result in Close Encounters of a Below-The-Belt Kind, pleasepleasepleaaaaase practice BEFORE hitting the social dance floor (I’m looking at you, thigh-to-thigh hip wiggles. You can be fun, but I don’t want to feel certain body parts on my thigh).
Also, leads, for the love of everything: tuck left.
Moves that Involve Weird Places on Your Partner’s Body
Weird, intentionally-done move where you grab the upper thigh with your hand? Always weird – except for that one guy that I met who could actually pull it off. I think that was actually more weird.
This also includes move where you lead the follow using your foot. I get it – cool concept. But… once again, only that one guy could pull this off. And even then, it was a surprise every single time.
Moves that Pretend Your Partner is an Object
There’s always that one guy determined to pretend I’m a guitar.
This can work in routines. If you’re with a good friend, it can be funny. If you don’t know the person and you start doing that? Honestly, I’m not comfy with you pretending that my butt is your bongo set.
But seriously, guys. Consider what you’re doing on the social dance floor. There are THOUSANDS of really cool things you can do. You do not require your partner’s face, your groin, airtime, or air guitar to make a dance interesting; you are interesting enough as is. 🙂
Yeah, I think teachers should go over this kind of stuff in class. Though maybe it’s those who don’t go to class that could hear it..?
Re: touching the face, Mafie Zouker is famous for doing that, I saw him teach it in his workshop..
I experienced a chin grab when in my 2nd or 3rd month of salsa or so – it was so, so alarming. When the lead tried to do it again, I had to stop and request him to never, ever touch my face because I felt so intruded upon. I understand now that they are meant to be leads – but NO. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with it.
Some leads also really like to get in your face, as in up close with noses almost touching – maybe while they are singing the lyrics, again – personal space violation.
By leading the follow using the leg, I take you mean grabbing the follower’s thigh with your thighs? Some teachers use this to lead inverted body roll, but it’s more difficult than using the hand. Using leg and thigh *contact* to lead, or as part of the lead is common enough, and very useful.
Regarding groin area… guys, use tight underwear and put it on the left side. From my experience as a leader, I can say it can considerably reduce awkwardness. From my limited experience as a follower, I can say that it’s very noticeable when everything is hanging loose.
In regards to thigh, I mean both. There is a world of difference between leading from the thigh and sticking your groin forward. It’s a very very important distinction that should be understood before social dancing. 🙂
Actually, just realized that no, at that part I was talking about a movement where the lead spins the follow, catches her thigh with his hand, and spins her back. Or the variation thereof where he does the same move but catches her with the foot. It’s popular in Salsa, mostly.
Oh, that does seem a bit weird, I don’t think I’ve seen that variation.
After some reflection, I realized I myself use the lead where I use both of my thighs to control the followers thigh occasionally. I think it’s fine.
The one I hate…that a lot of people do, sometimes gracfully…is that “push her head under your arm, or through your looped arms” in a turn pattern in salsa. It usually is done too low (and badly) and looks nearly obscene…
GREAT article!!! Will post on my page but needs to be seen by ALL dancers!!! I never stop harping on the fact that there SHOULD be a difference between PERFORMANCE and social dance which NO Salsa teachers seem to be differentiating today. They teach everyone to dance like a performer (no MATTER the skill level) with arms flailing and all the bad, inappropriate moves you mention. Thank you!
I would like to add dips and back bends! As someone with back issues, this happens ALL THE TIME and I have to stop the move. These should only be done with people that you are sure have NO BACK ISSUES.
Oh and those moves where the lead slides the feet of the follow out from under them and to the side! If you are not trained in this move or have poor core strength (like me) it can be dangerous.
You’ve hit the nail on the head. Every single point, accurate.
I’d like to add that leading by using the foot on the follows ankle or shin is another disastrous move. It hurts! Because leaders are sometimes in formal shoes and they are hard. Not to mention that they think it’s ok to try these fancy moves for the first time in the socials. Result: The poor follow is hobbling around the next morning.
Social dance steps should only be steps you can lead any of your partners through.Social dancing is like having a conversation, it should be hard or difficult to follow. I’ve been teacher of dance for 35 years and if I can’t lead the step with my average partner then it’s not a good social dance step and I’m a strong leader!
The problem is more and more people are taking classes and a lot of the teachers are inexperienced. Classes are not designed to teach leading and following just steps, so many man NEVER learn to lead! Most people just want to dance- NOT learn to dance. Two different things
Social dancing is like having a conversation, it shouldn’t be hard or difficult! The problem is a lot of people are taking classes now and classes are NOT designed to teach leading and following but steps! People want to dance and not learn to dance, two different things.
I’ve been a teacher of dance for more then 30 years and if I can’t lead the average dancer through a step, then it’s not a good social step and i’m a strong leader.
These days teacher are inexperienced and teach the steps they dance with there partners, so you learn with the people in your class and the fist time you dance with someone else it doesn’t work. Social steps are easy to dance and easy to lead because it should be about the relationship you’re having for however long the dance last.
This weekend I danced with a guy that liked to mix his salsa with some tango…which was confusing, but interesting nonetheless. I was having fun until he gave me a piggy back ride…it was not sexy or cool, just plain weird.
some things shud be kept undone
Hmm…Not sure if they were the original ones to do this, but Enah & Carolina did the “face roll” thing in one of their videos.
Personally I have none of these reservations; if I can follow it, I will. I’ve gotten some weird leads that turn out to be moves I love 🙂 But of course it’s a very personal thing. I know people who don’t like to be dipped even a little, and even if I can’t wrap my mind around why (it’s not an injury thing, they just don’t like it), it’s still their dance so it’s gotta be respected.