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Busting The Salsa Myths

Before I started to dance Salsa, I had so many ideas in my head as to what Salsa was all about and what I could expect. Of course most of these were completely inaccurate and even embarrassing at times.

After more than a decade spent on the dance-floor and in the DJ booth, I know a thing or two about Salsa and I’d love to bust a few Salsa myths here today. Perhaps you are just beginning on your journey to learn Salsa or you are more experienced and have some thoughts of your own to share with all the newbies out there. Read on for my lowdown (and please don’t laugh!)

I used to think…

…That Salsa is incredibly raunchy

Every time that someone raises an eyebrow when I mention that I dance Salsa and suggests that it might be a little too steamy for them, I almost want to give them a good whack around the head. Don’t you? Go on, admit it! Perhaps they are thinking back to the 90’s craze of sweaty grinding Lambada or confusing things with Dirty Dancing, or even Kizomba. It is not raunchy or X-rated. Nor is there any grinding going on. I’m not even going to go into the topic of  ‘hip wiggling’…

Photo: GrungeVoyage

…That you had to wear frilly Latin-style clothing,

Don’t be seen dead in kitschy Latin frills or lace, I’m warning you!  This is not flamenco,fancy dress nor some kind of cliched mickey take.  If you’re one of those people who likes to act the part, then be warned- you may just be laughed off of the dance-floor. Salsa is modern, dynamic and exciting and no-one dresses like that. Simply dress to look your best.

…That knowing more moves would instantly make you a better dancer

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you are a beginner Salsa dancer. Everyone just seems so brilliant and you feel like such a fool as you struggle to co-ordinate your unruly body. Anyone who can dance takes on superhero proportions for you, especially if they seem to know exactly what they are doing. Don’t fall into the trap and be impressed by crap. Once you have a few social Salsa dances under your belt you will realise that the ability to do millions of moves does not make you a great dancer.

You might know hundreds of turn patterns, shines, dips, rumba or whatever is your thing but if you don’t have a few key fundamentals down, you are missing the spot altogether. Get considerate, get musical, really connect with what you are doing and you will shine as a Salsa dancer.

…That I’d never become a good as the dancers that inspired me so much

“ It’s not fair. They are so brilliant and I’m not. I bet they’ve been dancing for eternity, but I ‘m just starting out.I don’t stand a chance. They’re probably cool Latinos that have been dancing since they were in the womb. In fact, I don’t stand a chance here. You know what, I may as well just change my shoes and head home..”

Do you know what? I was wrong. I was wrong to think that those fantastic dancers were in any way superior, had some kind of unfair advantage or that they were just born with natural talent. ANYONE can become an awesome Salsa dancer if they put their mind to it and it happens quicker than you think. There’s bound to be a learning curve of course where it feels like everything is so far out of reach. But I promise you that  it will happen if you want it. Better still, in Salsa dancing there is no elite, no special criteria or exam- it’s all about having some fun. So pull yourself out of that self pity! You are a beginner not a loser. And as they say, ‘everyone has to start off as a beginner’.

Photo: GnuckX

Photo: GnuckX

…That if my my partner & I make mistakes then it’s a big deal

If you make a mistake whilst you are on the Salsa dance-floor then you have failed. You really aren’t worthy of being danced with at all.Worst of all, everyone has just watched your horrible mistake and has rolled around laughing at your misfortune. Sound accurate? NO.

There isn’t really such a thing as a ‘mistake’ in Salsa (that term sounds so much like school!) The dance may not go the way that you or your partner planned, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, It could just be down to a poorly timed lead, or an ambiguous lead, or a little daydreaming or move anticipation, nerves or confusion. It’s fine. Just smile at your partner and continue to enjoy that dance.

…That if my partner and I make mistakes then it’s MY fault

Stop presuming that every other dancer is better than you and knows more than you. No one is immune to mistakes, even experienced dancers. Just smile and carry on dancing.

…That impressive- looking dancers can actually dance well and are a pleasure to dance with

Have you ever watched a dancer from the side of the dance-floor and really admired what they are doing? So much so that you head over to ask them to dance. Yet a few bars into the track you realise that they’re not ‘all that ’and you just can’t wait to get away? It’s happen to me more times than I can count.

Maybe their arms are rigid and their body feels like lead to lead or follow. Perhaps they have forgotten that they are dancing with a real-life partner and not a figment of their imagination. Maybe they are so off-beat that it is embarrassing and you can’t wait til the track ends. Maybe they just care about how they look to the rest of the room.

If you ask this type of person to dance, you’re going to be disappointed.

Just because they look good doesn’t mean that they are good. Period.

Photo: Anton Kudris

..That people who dance Salsa are all out ‘on the pull’

They’re not. Now on to the next point!

But seriously, the Salsa scene is often conveyed in the media as being utterly hot and steamy and a place where all anyone cares about is finding who they can get into bed with next. This is completely wrong! People who love Salsa are into Salsa. They want to dance, they want to hear the music,  feel the music and enjoy the fantastic friendly social scene that comes along with it.

Of course this is a social situation so people will be meeting new people, dating and sometimes even getting married eventually.  But this is not what the vast majority are there for- we are there to DANCE!

…That it would be ‘just a hobby’

There is something about Salsa for many people that takes it beyond being just a hobby right up there to passion level. You can’t help but see the positive effects of Salsa bleed right into your everyday life. You are fitter, slimmer,  more confident, have more friends, and you feel fantastic! Salsa changes the lives of many people who take it up, often on a whim. What will it do for you?

Sadly, there are so many myths about Salsa which do huge damage it’s image. You and I both know what Salsa is really like, don’t we? It’s not about raunchy dancing, frilly clothes, nor knowing endless numbers of moves. It doesn’t matter if you make ‘mistakes’and you don’t need to out on the pull. It’s much better than that. But you don’t need me to tell you that, do you?

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What do you wish you’d known about Salsa before you started to dance? Do you think that some of the things I’ve mentioned about are, in fact, true? Share all your thoughts all in the comments below.


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