Picking A Good Salsa Dance Partner

For women, a how to guide for choosing a good salsa dance partner by observing the dance floor and knowing who not to dance with. Explains the importance of beginning dancers who want to learn to get a good, strong partner.

Dancing shoes are on. Dry-cleaned duds are in place, and you are prepared for the cover charge. You are heading out to a club to shake your thing where the dancing will be mostly salsa and partner-oriented, and you are heading out sans partner. Don't panic. Whether a novice or a near-professional, knowing what to watch for can keep your toes uninjured and your humiliation to a bare minimum.

In the Latin Dancing category, most of the types of dances (salsas, merengues and cumbias to name a few) require a pair of dancers: a lead, and a follow. Traditionally, the leads are the male members of the species, and the follows the female members. The key for each role to "pick" a good counterpart and have a great time on the dance floor is to observe, observe, observe. The following tips are for the females, the follows:

1. Is he a "Hot-Dogger?" These are the "pros" that flip their partners around, drop to their knees in the middle of a dance and spin their follows above their heads. These guys usually come with their own hot-dogging female follow to show off with, but if not, use your own discretion as to whether or not you are up to it. Novice dancers, especially, should beware of this sort of lead, even though it "looks really great." Chances are, you won't be a Ginger to his Fred Astaire.

2. Is he a "Personal Space Violator?" Salsa and merengue, to name a few, can be danced with the partners fairly close and cozy together. There is a fine line, however, between close dancing and lecherous behavior. Watch the lead on the dance floor with other females. Does he try to pull them in closer than you are comfortable with? Do the follows look disgusted or are they using the "push-em-away" sort of body language that includes keeping their arms too stiff to allow him to cozy up too close? If so, and you don't want to be fighting him off, pass on his invitation to shake it up.

3. How about those "Anywhere but Here" guys? Some of these guys may be great dancers and strong leads, but what are they looking at? They are out on the floor, spinning and twirling with another great dancer, and their eyes are darting around incessantly. They are probably checking out the other follows on the floor. Avoiding these guys is probably your best bet-- a barely-there partner fun dancing does not make. You need him to be focusing on the dance itself, not the surrounding area.

4. Are they "Bouncy-Boys?" A bouncy dancer may be concealing the fact that he doesn't really know what he's doing out there, or that he could have a very personal style that isn't too easy to follow. Hopping around isn't really an integral part of most partner-oriented Latin Dancing, and especially not salsa, so the question is, what is he really doing? It's up to you to determine whether or not you want to find out.

5. Is he a "Wimpy Lead?" Spaghetti arms, no turns or a too-predictable rountine are all signs of a wimpy lead. A good lead is a strong lead, because a strong lead will actually lead (hence the name) the other half of the partnership across the dance floor. Without direction that stems from calculated, strong movements in the frame and arms, a follow either gets completely lost, bored or becomes a lead herself. A good lead will also shake up the routine a bit to keep the follow (pardon the pun) on her toes. This is what fun, interesting dancing is all about. Novices, by the way, should not confuse a wimpy lead with an uncomplicated dancer that they can follow. They will have nothing to follow with this sort of lead.

Above all, try to remember that salsa is supposed to be fun, a way to meet new people and get your heart pumping to the music. Finding a good, strong partner who doesn't try to show off, respects your space, pays attention, has an easy-going style and is able to bear the weight of your arm while shaking it up makes dancing all the better, and isn't impossible. Using the above pieces of advice, you can soon be well on your way to finding one for the evening... at least for one fun-filled spin around the floor.

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