Salsa shows and basic dance technique – Drastically lacking or don’t we need it
Salsa is a funny old dance… We claim it to be purely social, but most dancers will participate in a show team at some point during their dancing career. While watching student teams perform we don’t expect them to be perfect, but should we be so forgiving to the professionals? After all, they are (usually) being paid to perform, so shouldn’t we be expecting the best?
There are many elements that make up a “good” show: music, costumes, choreography, salsa skills… But does basic dance technique figure in that list? Shouldn’t it? When it comes to those internationally famous artists, the answer is definitely yes! But what about the local pro teams? If you’re advertising yourself as a “pro” then the answer is going to be yes again!
Yet time and time again we see shows where the girls are doing the splits and lifts with flexed feet, unsynchronized couples during group performances, messy footwork just to finish a spin and sometimes even dancers with turned in feet while doing basic salsa steps! If they are claiming to be professional dancers, getting paid to perform, why shouldn’t dance technique be included in the price? It comes as standard in almost every other form of dance performance so why not salsa?
Basing themselves on the origins and history of salsa, many often argue that these techniques are unnecessary and don’t belong in salsa. But dance evolves and salsa shows are reaching levels previously unimaginable. All it takes is a few minor (albeit important) changes to details and a good show can become a great and polished one.
- Finishing All Lines
Focus is typically placed on arm styling and finishing off those lines, but leg lines are equally as important. This means that if a foot comes off the floor it should be turned out from the hip and pointed whether in a kick, a flick, a lift, the splits or an extension. Naturally there are exceptions to every rule and a flex foot or a heel can be done on purpose, but generally keep it sharp, keep it clean and keep it pointed.
A famous quote says “Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong”. If you are a performer of any kind and that isn’t your mantra, make it yours now! The music must be known inside out until every beat, every note, every break, every breath the musicians take is known. The same goes for the choreography. Every step, every prep, every spin, even every wink to the crowd or the partner. If it’s a couple show or a group show, it should be rehearsed until everyone is 100% certain of the exact timing of each move and can execute it simultaneously. A simpler but synchronized show will always look better than one that doesn’t match up. When a performer truly knows their show, they have more time to enjoy the actual performance and the audience will feel that energy.
- Master Your Tricks
Tricks and lifts are great extras that can be included in choreography but, before bringing them to the stage, it is imperative that they be fully mastered. Entry and exit to the tricks must be smooth and seamless. The trick itself should be confident and steady. There is nothing worse for a spectator to have to hold their breath because they are uncertain whether someone is about to fall on their face. The flyer has to have the required core strength and the base needs to be steady and strong. If either or both are lacking strength, it’s going to end up looking bad, or worse… Painful! And again, it’s got to be practiced until it can’t go wrong any more… 4 out of 5 tries ain’t bad, but what happens if try number 5 is on stage?
- But first, Master Your Basic!
Funny as it may sound, this is no laughing matter. If your basic isn’t perfect, your show won’t be either. In a basic step, feet should be facing forward or slightly turned out. No one is expected to walk like a ballerina (or a duck for that matter) but even a slight amount of turn out gives a dancer longer, leaner legs and more stability on the floor. Preps for spins should be balanced and centered or else they won’t work. It is highly unattractive to see performers fluff extra steps just to make the spin work.
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Once upon time, perhaps basic dance technique wasn’t required for salsa shows, but with the number of performers growing every year, competition for success is becoming harder and harder. Dance technique is what helps to make shows look cleaner, more professional and essentially what makes the difference. If you look at the bachata shows, dance technique is much more present and the shows appear to be of greater calibre. It’s time for salsa to step up its game and evolve into something a little more refined!
But we want to know what you think about this. Should we continue to support the mediocre shows because it’s always been that way or because “that’s just their style” or should we be demanding more? At the end of the day, we, the people, are ultimately the ones paying and therefore are the arbiters of what is acceptable and what is not. So how can we get organizers to bring better quality shows rather than letting them bring their friends? Maybe it’s time for us to let them know that we want more.