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Why Practice?

by on April 5th, 2014

Today I want to talk about how to get better at dancing.

There are usually two opposing trains of thought on this, so we’ll examine both.

First, you have the natural approach, i.e. just go out and do it. Leave caution to the winds, forget about the silly counting and stuff. After all, your boyfriend in Guatemala never counted when he danced with you, right?

Clad in frilly skirts and shiny shirts, they can be seen all over the world, if there is a dance night to be had.

"I just do it for fun, I’m not really serious about it" is an oft echoed sentiment.

"I just go out dancing and learn,” is another.

Then there are the scientific types, with turn patterns, shine combos and flow charts tattooed on their forearms, taking every class they can get their paws on.

These types can usually be found at any given congress on any given weekend, usually in the corner stressing about how smooth their salsa 360s aren't.

This approach can be anything from ridiculous to comical, if you are the more shall we say, "hippy," type of dancer.

It flies in the face of everything you fell in love with about salsa in the first place while you were on your peace core mission to El Salvador.

I understand both perspectives. Both have obvious weaknesses, as the hippies can be judgmental of the technicians overly cerebral approach, and the technicians complain bitterly every time you dance on 3 and a half.

However, in my experience, without some amount of personal practice you are never going to achieve your full potential.

Who, you might ask, needs to achieve full potential? Most of us are saying, "I'd be happy with oh say, 75%. After all, it's just dancing, it should be fun.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

That is until you are faced with someone who is either much better than you, or much worse than you. In either of these cases you will need every ounce of personal practice to survive.

A little practice goes a long way for both leads and follows, and I am mostly talking about time spent dancing alone, not with a partner.

This gives you a stronger feeling for your own body within the music, your own balance and expression. It can feel a bit silly for the beginner.

You are not even sure what to practice. Little by little, you get there though, and the high level dancers enjoy you more, and you have an easier time leading or following those beginners.

Most of us do want to get better, so let's break down my own personal recipe for dance success


It makes everything better. When you social dance, the sun shines brighter, you feel stronger in your body, and all of a sudden, there is more time to focus on your creativity, musicality, etc.

But isn't social dancing practice? Yes, sure. And let's be clear, without a lot of social dancing in your life, progress will be slow. You need to figure out which nights of the week you can survive with only four hours of sleep.

Get ready to explain to your fellow RNs or data analysts why your eyes have dark circles and why you spend so much time practicing "axle turns" in your socks in the break room.

But back to social dancing. Often, the problem is that when you do find time to go out, you are not always guaranteed to be able to dance with great dancers.

This can be particularly difficult for follows, since, let’s face it, you are kind of at the mercy of the leads, Also, what about the dancer who are better than you? They need you to improve, to have more balance, better timing, and more creativity.

I recommend something logical for your schedule, you don't have to go nuts. Two 20 minute sessions a week can make a world of difference.

Live long and prosper!

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