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conflict

During my time as a Salsa instructor in London I have worked with many students. Now that I am retired I write these articles to share my opinions and to help, guide or inspire dancers. While this article may not apply to you I will talk about the internal conflicts within Salsa dancers, so why not read on?

Internal Conflicts

Today information is more readily available and accessible than any time in human history. The internet and social media have produced more thoughts, opinions and information in the last two years than the previous ten; we are literally drowning in a sea of information. This is the normal speech that I give when talking to clients in my job as a Business Intelligence professional.

The internal conflicts arise in dancers who become overwhelmed with different and quite often contradictory information. As a street dance Salsa offer infinite variety and instructors differ massively from each other. Also in the technology age we have a host of armchair dancers voicing their opinion. It is great for the Salsa scene and we should celebrate our differences but over, unethical and aggressive marketing creates confusion for beginners and our next generation of dancers.

From my own personal experiences I know that internal conflicts can be frustrating. I will talk about some of the common causes and ways to resolve these conflicts.

Not Owning Personal Progression

As adults we have loads to think about in our lives; your career is picking up and demands your attention, you have kids who you want to raise well or a whole host of other things. As such we more often than not let our teachers take responsibility for our progression without questioning. However, you are unique in your internal ideology, physiology, passions and desires.

Students not owning their progression is a cause of conflict when they suddenly feel that what their teacher is saying does not make sense to you. You have seen or heard something else but the instructors are the ones you have relied on for all these years so they are not easy to let go; it is not easy because you have built your learning around the instructor, given dedication and also trust.

Tip: Take a nice step back, paint a picture of what you want and seek people to help you fill the gaps. Leverage what you have learned and asking questions on why as opposed to what.

Outsourcing Creativity

Creativity in dance is your personal expression in a moment; a point in time based on your feelings, your partner, the music and the environment. The first step towards creativity is to let yourself flourish through persistent and uninhibited experimentation. Unfortunately Salsa often teaches that creativity is captured through mimicking instructors as opposed to nurturing your own sense of self.

The ability to be spontaneously creative is much desired by dancers but there are so many conflicting messages on how to get there. I have been told many times from new dancers that learning shines, working on body movement or (my favourite) joining a performance course will arm you with the tools for creativity. The next time you are watching your favourite dancers ask yourself what do you like? Is it their technical ability or their individuality?

Tip: If you want to be more creative then look inside as opposed to outside. No amount of courses or boot camps will get you there. You might learn the most intricate patterns and regurgitate it on the dance floor but creativity comes from within.

Influenced by Marketing

There is no code of ethics or administrative body that oversees the Salsa scene so therefore the marketing in Salsa consists of over hyping, over selling, superlatives galore and down right lying.

Conflict happens when students go to multiple teachers and though your gut tells you to listen to the instructor that feels right the students go with the instructor that has the bigger reputation, has the loudest voice or the most aggressive marketing.

One of my personal failures as an instructor has been to see someone really trying to learn On2 and was stuck with the underlying rhythm. In London most instructors teach On2 with the 123 567 timing which did not work or make sense for her, I taught a syncopated basic with &23 &67 which made sense to her. I had her confidence and she asked me about the other instructors and why they differ to which I gave my normal line: “You have to try them all and figure out what makes sense to you”. She went with the instructor that had the loudest voice as in his words “has been teaching this for 10 years”; as such she became increasingly confused and has bred shaky foundations years afterwards.

Tip: Your gut instincts are normally right so ignore the marketing. If something does not feel right or not adding value then do not give in. Going with something that does not feel right will cause you a massive amount of grief and will hamper the learning experience and waste your time – your most valuable resource.

Summary

Being in conflicts can be painful and disheartening. I have seen many students become fed up and quit Salsa when there was no real need to. If you take responsibility for your own progress, creativity and not succumb to marketing hype but listening to your gut then inner conflicts will not cause you grief.

If you have been in this position I would love to hear from you. If you feel like you are in this situation and cannot seem to get out of it please send me an email and we can talk about it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it gave you some food for thought.

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Toan Hoang

Written by Toan Hoang

Toan Hoang has been dancing Salsa for more than 10 years and was the co-founder and managing director of TNT Dance in London; A dedicated and holistic Mambo school, that thrives on innovation, and hopes to develop and inspire the next generation of instructors and performers. www.tntdance.info

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