If you’re a Latin danceaholic, your first few experiences watching two people tear it up on the dance floor probably got you hooked. You might have been enticed by the sensuality, the rawness, the fun, the partner connection, the music, or simply how cool they looked…
While in many Latin countries, locals grow up with the music and culture, most any non-Latin Americans learned to dance outside their home, namely through formal classes. One of the biggest benefits of classes is feedback and practice with different people to prepare you for the social dance floor. Here’s the order of operation:
STEP #1 – Take group classes and/or privates to learn how to dance, and get feedback by trusted instructors.
STEP #2 – Go out to a social/practice session/club and put those moves into practice. Start to build a level of sensitivity to leading/following others. Adjust, revise, improve. Have fun and meet new people along the way.
While Step #1 alone doesn’t typically build great dancers, taking the time to learn basics builds a foundation for great dancing. And getting feedback is extremely valuable if you hope to improve. You’ll find that all levels, even world champions and experienced social dancers have coaches to help them become smoother "movers", more musical, clearer as a lead/follow.
Step #2 is the next essential part of a dancer’s progress to greatness. What you learn, must be put into practice. Mistakes will be made, and that’s okay. It’s part of the journey and every dancer will go through it (pretty much forever). This isn’t like Calculus homework. There isn’t “one” right answer. It’s about discovering your voice as a dancer, which is just as unique as you are. First and foremost, remember that Latin dances meant to be danced SOCIALLY. That’s the best part! You'll meet people, create new friendships, laugh, connect and feel a sense of freedom that you’ve never felt before. It takes time and practice to feel the essence of each dance style and to find your voice. There will be bumps along the way but the results will be worth it!
Here are 5 ways social dancing can help you becoming a better dancer.
Get yourself social dancing as soon as possible to gain inspiration of what’s to come. Being in an environment where there are others who enjoy dancing too can keep the fuelling your fire for dancing. Feel the vibe of the Latin dance culture and take full advantage of the social nature inherent in Latin dances. Watch, admire, absorb, and enjoy! Watching can be fun, but it’s even more fun to dance! #LetYourBodySpeak
(repost from 2014)
Many of us have been there before… when you’ve been dancing a while, it’s not uncommon to suddenly feel uninspired, unmotivated, almost empty inside. It sucks. Maybe you feel like you’ve plateaued, or you just don't enjoy it the way you used to . It feels like someone threw a bucket of water over the fire that has kept you dancing your heart out all these years. You feel lost because you can’t remember life without dance 😥… What happened? And what do I do now?
At this point there are a few common reactions:
In some ways these lapses can help us appreciate how much dance can make us feel happy. Frustrating at times, yes… but for the most part DANCE has fulfilled in ways that only it can. The music is awesome, meeting people is awesome, talking about dancing with other dancers is fun… and the social aspect of Latin dances takes it a step further and provides a whole other salsa life with new “non-salsa” friends at “non-English” clubs in the middle of the work/school week. Your non-dancer friends, family and co-workers just don’t understand how you can dance late on a work night… if they only knew how it was worth the fatigue!
If you’re feeling blue about this emptiness and think you want to get back into it, don’t despair. Here are some ways to help re-ignite your passion to dance. In reverse order…
#7) TAKE A BREAK
Sometimes, what we need is simply to step away… not forever, but maybe for a couple weeks, a month or so. Maybe your mind is telling you that you’re neglecting something else in your life that needs attention. Maybe the drama in your scene is distracting and brings you down (this is a whole other topic that I'll tackle in another blog). Maybe you're tired and your body need some rest. If dance is in your soul, you’ll crave it again. Unless within that time, you find a new passion (love, new hobby etc.). Not to worry though, dance is always there, and welcomes you back with open arms when you’re ready.
#6) WATCH VIDEOS
This is probably the easiest, fastest, cheapest way to find inspiration. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram (among others) are endless resources for finding inspiration. Top dancers around the world have footage of their performances, competitions, social dancing, rehearsals, and workshops. Having said that, there’s nothing like learning live, from a real live person who is qualified to give you feedback and explain the intention of movement that an untrained eye wouldn’t see in a video. WARNING – Do this in moderation as surfing YouTube/Facebook is highly addictive and extremely time consuming. You know this already, right? #justsaying
#5) REFRESH YOUR MUSIC PLAYLISTS 🎼
Music that "moves you" is what dancers need. When you hear a tune that touches your soul, it's tough to resist getting into it. How old is your playlist? If your music playlist has gone stale, so has one source of inspiration. The cool thing about dancers is that we like to share our favourite songs on social media. It can't get easier than that to find new music. So mix it up, find playlists through online music sources like Spotify or online radio stations. Keep you tried and true favourites, but give your playlist a facelift with new music. Not only do we need variety to keep things interesting, it's also great education to learn about the artists who feed our soul.
#4) TAKE CLASSES
If you feel like you've plateaued, please be advised that this is nearly impossible to accomplish in Latin dances. If you look at the sheer variety of styles in any one genre (salsa, for example), it would take several lifetimes to be a master at all of them. And when I say master, that means knowing everything there is to know. There’s simply an infinite amount you can learn to improve your technique, musicality, and artistry, especially because it’s continues to evolve. Liken Latin dances to the galaxy. There IS NO END. Are you getting the visual? Perhaps you’ve only been exposed to a small sample of what’s out there. Search for some variety, get educated about what else exists within the dance galaxy. Be curious. Investigate the dance world outside your immediate circle. There’s ALWAYS something new and exciting to learn.
#3) TAKE CLASSES IN OTHER DANCE FORMS
This can open up a whole other world of movement. In street dances like salsa, cha cha, bachata, or kizomba, there are many other genres that have been infused over the years – like hip hop, tango, ballet, modern, jazz etc. Venture out and learn new ways to move your body that you could infuse into your style. The process of re-inventing yourself is fun, exciting and keeps the wheels turning. Getting out of a rut means thinking differently. So open your mind, expose yourself to things that are out of your comfort zone.
#2) PERFORM OR COMPETE
If you haven’t tried performing or competing, let’s just say this is a whole other level of challenge beyond social dancing. What you’ll learn through preparing for a competition or performance is a combination of extreme growth, pain, elation, frustration, excitement, anxiety, self-satisfaction, fire.. oh… wait.. did I just say “fire”? Mission accomplished.
#1) TRAVEL TO A CONGRESS/FESTIVAL IN ANOTHER CITY… OR EVEN BETTER, ANOTHER COUNTRY ✈️
Sometimes a routine of the same ‘ol same ‘ol can get a bit tired… boring. I saved this one for last because this “cure” works almost every time, at least for me, and hopefully for you too! Travelling to a new city to experience their "scene", meeting new people, watching and dancing with local and regional superstars, has almost always opened my eyes to something new and fresh, and achieves the goal of re-igniting the passion in a big way. There's SOO much going on in the world right now, and it’s there for you to experience. There are zillions of congresses to choose from, so go to ones are recommended by your well-travelled instructor or fellow dancers. Make sure to get involved – take workshops, social dance with the locals and the headliners, watch the shows, do some sight-seeing if you can. You’ll come back a brand new dancer, full of life, and excited to get dancing again 😄 🙌🏼. Maybe you won't be so full of life the day you get back, but give it a few days to recover.
Friends, I hope at least one of these ideas could help the ball rolling. And as mentioned before, this happens to almost everyone at some time or another, and when you’ve been dancing for years, it’s likely to happen more than once. The nature of music & dance, and what it does to the soul is magnetic and has a way of attracting people back. Enjoy the journey back to dance heaven :)
Did I miss any tips? Comment below!
Caryl Cuizon, iFreeStyle.ca Co-founder
Latin Dance festivals have been around for more than 20 years now. In that time, they’ve grown from one festival every few months for the whole world, to 4-7 festivals every weekend in different cities around the world, at the same time. Our dance communities have exploded into an international network with dancers demanding more - it's a "buyer's market" with so many options out there. Festivals must meet or exceed those expectations in order thrive, or even just survive. Some events deliver on expectations, the great ones over-deliver, but unfortunately many have not yet delivered on some basic requirements. It takes time and experience to get it right, and every year is a learning experience. Let’s help our event organizers knock it out of the park to make our experiences awesome, and their event as successful as possible.
Make your guests happy and get some FREE promotion! While we know we can't make every dancer happy every time, here’s our "Top 10 ways to satisfy a dance festival crowd" to get you started 😀.
And let's not forget to take care of your locals. Often, out of town guests get treated better than the local community. Locals are valuable ambassadors, and without them, there would be no local community. Where possible, work with them, involve them, appreciate them. They’ll be more inclined to promote the event to friends. Locals are excited to experience some "fresh blood" at their local congress so give them reasons to help promote it. Guests who travel to your city also want to experience it – the food, the weather, the sights, and the dancers who make up the community. An event well-attended by the locals speaks volumes!
Kudos to promoters who put in the effort (blood, sweat and tears...literally) to organize festivals with the intention of giving their communities the opportunity to learn, be inspired and entertained by the best in the business, to meet new people and enjoy sharing that with other danceaholics. Great events are not made over night. Nail the basics and you're off to a great start!
How does your local dance festival rate? Did we miss anything? Please comment below!
QUESTION FOR THE READERS: Which festivals around the world over-deliver on these basics?
Caryl Cuizon, iFreeStyle.ca Co-founder
We’ve all heard the saying “the follower is at the mercy of the leader”, and to a great extent it’s true. We’re supposed to follow his choice of moves, how and when he wants to do it. And when feels good, it’s oh sooo good – it flows effortlessly, it’s musical, it’s playful and she can’t wait for the next dance. As followers, we seek those leaders who we connect with, who adapt to our skill level but can challenge us, those who share a similar groove, taste for musical style and enjoys interacting with us, not just dancing AT us. Every follower has her own special mix of traits that has her craving for more. It’s not necessarily about being the fanciest, it’s about creating an experience. Hopefully it’s a good experience, but sometimes it’s not 😬. Fellas, there’s some really basic things that will turn off a woman, so pay attention and steer clear of the “Top 8 Reasons She Hopes You Won’t Ask Her for a Second Dance”.
A huge thank you to all the ladies who contributed to this list :) Did we miss any? Comment below!
8 Reasons He Won't Ask You for a Second Dance
Caryl Cuizon, iFreeStyle.ca Co-founder
Ladies… so you think you had a super fun dance with a great dancer. But you wonder why he never asks you for a second dance. Most guys won’t tell you why, but here are some common reasons…
So girls, let's do a self-check every now and then, and make some adjustments as needed. Let your dancing speak for itself and make him want to come back for more! Happy dancing!
Thank you to all the men who shared their stories and opinions over the years! Let's make our dance experiences even better :)
Fellas, did we miss any? Comment below!
Related blogs:8 Reasons She Hopes You Won't Ask for a Second Dance
Caryl Cuizon, iFreeStyle.ca Co-founder.
(repost from 2014)
We live in the era of instant gratification.
We want to see results ASAP, right now… yesterday even.
We like challenge, but don't let your ego get in the way of your own growth. When it comes to dancing, it’s a bad idea to skip or rush through learning the fundamentals.
If you want to know why, READ ON. While the reasons can apply to dances in general, we’ll focus on the Latin street dances – salsa, bachata, cha cha.
5 REASONS WHY INVESTING TIME IN LEARNING THE BASICS IS A GOOD IDEA
The basic steps, timing, and technique in dance provide a foundation for EVERYTHING that you’re going to learn going forward. With great fundamentals, you’ll acquire knowledge and skills that can serve as “short cuts” to learning new things. You’ll ALREADY understand and can execute the most elementary skills like timing, lead and following technique, weight transfer so you can focus on what’s NEW.
Stay focused on the goal..."To be a better dancer". Be patient. LEARN YOUR BASICS. Practice your basics. Enjoy the rewards in the long term :) You and your partner will thank you for it!
Caryl Cuizon, iFreeStyle.ca co-founder.
Some of you were probably hoping that this wouldn’t be on the list of “HOW TO A BETTER DANCER”. Pero si, it’s definitely on the list. Some of the most admired Latin dancers in the world can throw down and burn the floor with funky, sexy, playful and always musical footwork (otherwise known as "shines" in salsa and cha cha). Needless to say, their talents go beyond just turn patterns. While partner connection is the essence of the Latin dances, evolution has brought other elements that allow for individual freedom of expression.
If you’re thinking “I hate shines!”, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to step up your game, have more fun, and become a more well-rounded dancer!
Coming from an urban dance background, “solo” dancing not only taught me HOW to move, but also WHEN to move, and have the confidence to go for it! So naturally, coming into the Latin dance scene, it wasn’t as scary to learn footwork. But for the millions of people whose first ever dance steps were to Acid (which I still love by the way) or some super slow salsa/cha cha/bachata, dancing on their own isn’t what they signed up for. And for as long as possible, they avoid doing it AT ALL COSTS. Eventually though, it creeps up on you... eventually you'll encounter some really awesome dancers who enjoy a balance of partner work AND time to shine on their own.
By the way "on your own" doesn't mean you forget about your partner! On the contrary, it's an opportunity to groove together without actually holding onto each other. You have both hands available, you can move around each other freely, you can play with hair, jackets, arms, legs, drops... when you can both connect to each other AND the music without a physical lead/follow, it can feel pretty awesome :)
TOP 5 REASONS PEOPLE AVOID SHINES
8 Ways Foot work/Shines (“solo dancing”) can help you improve your dancing
Caryl Cuizon, iFreeStyle.ca Co-founder.
This blog, originally posted back in November 2007, is dedicated to an iFreeStyle student and friend who, like many shy intermediate salsa, bachata and cha cha dancers wanted to know how to “crack the code” on how to get more dances… This one is for you! Enjoy my friend and I hope it helps!
If you’re SHY or NEW to the Latin dance community in your city, it may be scary to ask complete strangers to dance. You might be a beginner (stay tuned for more on that), or you may have been dancing for a while and you don’t understand why experienced dancers aren’t asking you to dance. We all have some insecurities and fears of rejection, but know this… rejection has happens to EVERYONE. The best of the best dancers out there were obviously NOT the best when they started. You’re not alone. And there’s ways to get out of the barren dance experience.
It’s partly a numbers game… The nature of partner dancing requires some sort of explicit or implicit invitation to dance. Many times in one night. Sometimes the answer is “yes”, sometime “no”, or sometimes “later”. We put ourselves out there and rejection is a real possibility. The frequency of this invitation also invites more opportunities for “no’s” and yeah, that might not sound very encouraging. If you want to be a dancing machine instead of a wallflower, prepare to put yourself out there. It’s going to take some courage and know-how to maneuver your way to success, but chances are good that results will come fairly quickly if you give these tips a try.
These 10 tips on HOW TO GET MORE DANCES (applies to both men and women :)
These tips are doable, right? Ultimately, pro-active people get more out of life. So don’t wait. Ask. Give some or all of these tips a shot and see how it goes. Take charge of your night and you may just kick yourself in the butt for allowing yourself so many dance-less nights… Go get’em. Have fun!
Caryl Cuizon, iFreeStyle.ca co-founder.
(originally posted 2007)
If you're considering learning to dance salsa, there's a lot of reasons to take the plunge and just do it! Salsa dancing is one of the most social dances in the world...it's a style of dance accessible by people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, professions. And if you think you can't dance, think again...!
Here's our TOP 10 reasons why people love to dance salsa...
Let the fun, experienced instructors at iFreeStyle.ca Latin Dance School take you on a salsa journey that you only wished you started sooner! We offer 6-week group lessons, drop-in classes, workshops, performance classes and private lessons.
Various authors including Caryl Cuizon, co-founder of iFreeStyle.ca Latin Dance Company.