In the Bay Area, where I am located, there is a rich partner dance scene with many choices. This isn’t true everywhere, so the first step, of course, is to see what’s happening in your area. You want to look beyond what is offered in classes and look for the social scene. If you can take a salsa class at your local dance studio but there is no place to go salsa dancing except in that same studio, then Salsa won’t help your social life nearly as much as it will in a place that is full of Salsa clubs.
Once you’ve determined what’s available in your area, you’ll want to look at the following criteria:
1) The music. You’ll enjoy any dance if you like the music, but if you love the music you’re much more likely to love the dance that goes with it.
2) Start with something easy. You can eliminate this one if you already know what dance you want. All of your friends are Salsa dancers, or you saw it and immediately thought “Wow! I want to do that!” If you are motivated by other factors, there is no reason to pick a dance just because it’s easy when your heart is set on a more challenging dance. But if you have no idea what dance to do, look for an easy dance like east coast swing, Cajun, or Meringue. Honing your basic dance skills in an easy dance will give you a head start if you feel inspired to learn a more difficult dance later. If dance is a challenging skill for you, you’ll be less frustrated and more likely to stay the course with an easy dance.
3) Check out the community. If you are a single woman, Ballroom is not a good choice because the custom is to come with a partner and dance mostly with one person. There are usually a lot of extra women, so you’ll be lucky if you get to dance at all. If you’re young, pick a dance that attracts young people. Make sure a good percentage of the crowd is close enough to your age to enable you to feel like you fit in. If you’re single, pick a community in which the custom is to dance with a variety of partners.
4) Make sure the dance has an attitude that fits your personality. Salsa and West Coast Swing are dignified, sophisticated dances. They exude an attitude of “I’m cool, I’m sexy, and I look good.” Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing have a free spirited, fun loving attitude. Some of the moves can feel silly and the attitude is “Whee! I’m having so much fun I don’t care how stupid I look!” I don’t mean to imply that Lindy is a stupid looking dance, but if you are overly concerned with your dignity, you’ll have difficulty giving yourself permission to let go and enjoy the dance.
If you have no idea how to figure any of this out, print this blog post and refer to it when you call around for dance lessons. Hopefully, your common sense will tell you if your teacher is knowledgeable or just wants to sells you a series of lessons that may not be right for you. This interview will also help you find a teacher whose personality you resonate with. Good luck and have fun!
By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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