Choosing a Partner
There was a time when I would go out to a Salsa night with the aim of dancing to every song and grabbing the next available dancer (or victim). At certain venues in London, this is still the case but in larger venues (or congresses) I am a bit more selective. You cannot dance with everyone and I want the best possible experience for myself and my partner.
In this article, I am going to state what I look for when deciding on which new dancers to dance with.
For me, this is the number one thing that I look for in my new prospective dance partner. Because of past injuries, I have developed a very (very) light leading style and do not have the physical ability to support my partner or help them balance. This is not just the spinning that I am referring to but all aspects of Salsa. I could very easily see from the basic steps how well balanced my partner is by looking at 1) how grounded the basic step is, a lot of followers shuffle across the floor as opposed to stepping into the ground and 2) how well connected is the lower and upper body, followers with a disconnect will find generally wobble a lot more after completing moves.
The second aspect that I look at is body control. I have often been in a situation where I am continually chasing my partner, ensuring her physical safety as well as making sure she has a great dance. For me Salsa is a release from the daily stress of work and therefore to be in a position where I am a servant to someone does not appeal. What I look for in my follower includes 1) how well they turn on the line, just for a simple cross body lead a lot of followers either under turn or overturn 2) core strength, as much as we isolate our body in Salsa we will still dance as a single person, having body parts drifting (arms, legs, head etc.) create an awkward and strange environment.
I see Salsa dancing as a movement or an expression of music. But in saying that very few people actually listen to the music beyond feeling the big breaks. When I dance with someone that does not listen to the music I feel that I may as well be in a practice session where we are just putting moves together randomly. Generally speaking by watching the basic step you can see if the follower is stepping robotically or if they are moving to the music. Also when given space and opportunity do they move with the music or pull out last week’s shine.
The final criterion is simple yet crucial “are they actually having fun because of the dance?”. It is a strange thing to say given that Salsa is a pastime for the majority of people; however, I do not believe that everyone is in Salsa for the dance. People are in Salsa for a variety of reasons: to get fit, to meet their social group, to learn a dance, to feel a sense of achievement with each passing shine, and to feel a sense of community. It is actually really easy to spot who loves Salsa for the dance.
Everyone on some level will pick and choose who they decide to dance with based on their individual needs. This is nothing to be ashamed of or feel bad about. It is all a matter of taste and making sure that you get what you need. For me, every person in Salsa is unique and has different requirements for a good time. Salsa is a partner dance and as such to get the most out of this requires that you choose the most appropriate partner. I would love to know what your personal criteria is? and whether or not you agree or disagree.