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I am currently a senior instructor and managing director for London’s specialist On2 Salsa School, TNT Dance. As such one of my responsibilities is to look at the Salsa scene, assess growth/decline, coming trends and put together a list of things that we can incorporate into our school to stay current, to continually add more value to our classes and further benefit our students.

In the past 20 years the internet and surrounding technologies/services has had a profound impact on the way information is shared and propagated. As such, information (of any kind) can now be delivered straight into your home.

This article was initially drafted five years ago and titled “The DVD Dancer” which I saw to be a growing phenomenon. However, with the proliferation of Salsa material on YouTube and online studios I see that physical sales are slowly going down and online learning is on the up. But what are the pros and cons of this way of learning?

This article shares my opinions on Home Schooled Salsa.

Disclaimer: The views here are my own and serve to provide food for thought. We all learn in different ways and you should ideally try as many methods of learning and find out what works best for you.

PROS

Accessibility – Online material can be ordered from your favourite instructor who may be time zones away. This gives you the opportunity to learn from your instructors who you may not be able to see in person. Accessibility is something that is truly amazing in this day and age. One of my favourite quotes from Donny Miller is “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice”.

Variation – Different Salsa scenes have their particular traits. There is generally a convergence of styles within a particular territory for example in London (as much as we have tried) foot-work is not favoured so therefore it is very hard to start a foot-work class. Partner-work is massively favoured. Going online means you can get a taste of something else which might not be available to you.

Financial – Learning Salsa can be quite costly as you will go to regular classes multiple times a week. If we take £10 a class for the sake of simplicity and students that take three classes a week we will have a total cost of £120 a month. The average price of a DVD or monthly online subscription is around £20 and this is something that you can watch over and over again.

Repetition – Repetition is one of the easiest ways to get information into your system. Most regular classes will vary from week to week as the material will be different as well as the explanations and metaphors. When you are learning online or from a DVD you will be getting the same explanation again and again which can help content to sink in.

CONS

Zero Correction – The number one problem is that you will receive no corrections. Even if you have a partner to work with you could both be doing things wrong and drilling in this content. This shows in dancers who are sort of doing the right move but don’t have the subtleties.

Isolation – I see a lot of couples learning lots at home and then when in a club just dancing with each other. They find that it is much harder to dance with other people as they have practised hours together and comfort is addictive. This has a massive negative effect on the dance experience as a whole.

Agility – This is very similar to the point about isolation in that when you learn at home you generally learn with a small subset of people. When you learn in classes you will generally have a much broader set of people at varying skill levels. Therefore in classes you will learn about adjustment and compromise. I have seen groups of people who can lead the most fascinating moves on their friends but barely able to lead a simple one on a random dancer.

Personality – When viewing material online you will miss one of the most important features of the dance in my opinion. That is the personality and philosophy of your instructors. Your instructors would have been around the scene for a while and in today’s global world will have travelled for dance and experienced a lot that they can share with you. This interaction with them is just as important (if not more so) than learning sequences of moves.

SUMMARY 

I think everyone has a preferred way of learning but it is my personal belief that online resources should be used very carefully in order to maximise your learning experience.

As such, I will always recommend that at the start of your journey please stick to open classes in order to understand the atmosphere, people and to get your basic techniques through personal attention and correction. Once you have a solid foundation you can then utilise online services for additional material, breadth and inspiration.

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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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