Silence or lack of leadership in salsa dancing community?

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by Offbeat, Oct 26, 2017.

  1. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    May be I am imagining but I think there is a distinct lack of leadership in salsa dancing community. Whether it is at international level or very local level. I am not advocating any structure but rather a lack of voice from those who could lend one. Of course I am narrowing it to dancing only. When I compare it to the other social dancing communities, which salsa dwarfs easily, it becomes even more glaring. Think for yourself, if there is any other blog or source that you visit for salsa dancing other than salsa forums. Including YouTube, which seems only for watching the videos of others dancing.

    Yes, there were some websites which did some interviews with the leading lights. Many salsa dancers look upto various so called salsa stars. But beyond teaching patterns or shines, what do they do? The professionals in other fields put a lot more effort in being influencers and providing thought leadership whether via blogs or other form of interactions. Isn’t it surprising that we don’t know of any regular blog from the known international stars.

    There was a time when the cities like SF, LA and NYC had local discussion sites where everyone (or most of the influential dancers) use to participate. After the ascent of FB, those sites went away or died of neglect.

    A few known names have at sometime contributed to discussion on the SF. But that has been far and few inbetween. In terms of collective wealth of knowledge and wisdon, SF is an amazing source. There very few other activities related sites that can match the breadth and depth of knowledge on the SF (Audio-Visual, Cars and Photography, are a few that come to mind). Yet I can bet the farm that the most stars, organizers and instructors in the salsa dancing world are probably not even aware of its existence. It can't be that hard to miss. When you go and search about some aspect of salsa dancing on Google, first few results are usually SF pages.

    I rarely seen any dialogue being fostered, whether at festivals or at local levels. Is it lack of intellectual curiosity or is the salsa dance world full of salsa prophets. This lack of leadership has side effects like a very poor instructors trading their crafts to mediocre level of dancing to lack of appreciation for live music.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
    Jag75, LarsM, tallpaul and 5 others like this.
  2. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    I have a feeling this could become an epic thread. Anyway, off the top of my head:

    Most people on the salsa scene who promote/teach/DJ/play in a group are really struggling. So speaking out about anything and running the risk of alienating anyone is a dangerous tactic.

    Also lack of intellectual curiosity may well be common throughout the scene. (No offence to anyone.)

    What I find apparent is that there is no ethos to the salsa scene. That is probably in common with other partner dance scenes, but it isn't the case in more music-based scenes (including what mambo and salsa were first time around).
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017

    MAMBO_CEC Sabor Ambassador

    Hi Offbeat, whilst I agree with you about the breadth and depth of knowledge on SF, most of the discussions now take place on Facebook. A lot of instructors have "mega" discussions with their friends and followers ,some of which are very heated and some of the comments would not be allowed on SF. People like Olu Olu (Friday Coffee Lounge)(Oli kongi), Jimmy Yoon, Tomas Guerrero, Toan Hoang, Lawerence Garcia, Salsa Lives, Richie Blondet, Nate Strager, La Epoca to name a few, all have interesting topics relating to the worldwide salsa/mambo scene.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
  4. Smejmoon

    Smejmoon El Sabroso de Conguero

    Facebook was already mentioned. Many discussions are there.
    But also offline. People just talk to each other.
    And for more depth I think one needs to learn Spanish. Many good convos have passed me, because of my rudimentary grasp and many knowledgeable people in salsa can not express themselves in English, but can in Spanish.
  5. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    This is something I disagree with. Other dance scenes do have ethos,
  6. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    Fair enough. I am not on the FB, so I wouldn't know. However salsa, is not my only hobby and I follow several other activities with interest. With or without FB, I don't see the type of vacuum I am talking about elwewhere. Unless all the intellectual curiosity has been sucked in by FB :) FB by its very nature is not designed for certain things. This is one of them. E.g. when I need a solution for my car problem, I can search and find them in car forums devoted to specific car models. My biggest surprise was when a master technician at one of the top dealerships referred me to the forums for an answer I was seeking. I can provide examples from other unrelated activities. But, I hope you get my point. I am trying to keep comparison with how things happen in other social dances out to not derail the discussions :)

    The amount of ignorance in salsa dancing community is quite surprising when compared to other similar social dances (i.e. average salser@s).There is only one and only way to gauge leadership - the state of the ship! It is not that there aren't very articulate people in salsa. I am not going to take names, because that could lead to flaming and stray the thread in unknown unrelated direction.

    Salsa is diffused in a sense that it has many fathers (or mothers). Its origins and development can be attributed to disparate regions. That decentralized nature certainly makes it challenging. But you can't deny that within its bubble it has a significant following. By following I am more specifically referring to the schooled dancers who invariably make up the international scene. An average salsa social dancer is far less passionate about it compared to others. We already have other thread about the dropout factor or longevity in salsa dancing. Compare longevity in salsa dancing to say something like running (an activity almost polar opposite). Of people who love running, how many you know that have given up :)
    Dissonant Harmony likes this.
  7. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    Yes people talk to each other because that kind of makes us human :) certainly not a substitute for what I am saying.

    Will have to disagree with Spanish. Lack of language should be less hindrance in a dance scene as spread out as salsa. I am not saying that in terms of things that bypass you but in terms of expression of knowledge by those who can.
  8. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    If there was indeed a leadership, vast number of dancers wouldn't feel that knowing/learning more patterns is a mark of better dancer :)
    Live2dance likes this.
  9. vit

    vit El Sabroso de Conguero

    Well, that's what teachers sell, so it is a kind of leadership, though probably not the best one ... again, not any different than elsewhere
    But it could be worse, like in kizomba ...
    Smejmoon likes this.
  10. vit

    vit El Sabroso de Conguero

    It's fine, just I suppose each of them has own discussion, so people are a kind of separated by the teacher in those discussions ... while on the dance floor, they have to dance with students of other teachers ... so some common discussion place like here is indeed nice, to see what's happening outside your bubble (if one isn't attending congresses, traveling etc)
    Smejmoon and Offbeat like this.
  11. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    Bankrupt leadership is not leadership :)

    Kizomba is younger and far smaller in comparison. But I still don't see level of pattern craziness. It is hard to say, but a few kizomba that are there seem still more passionate than average salser@s :). In my experience in all the festivals I have been to, the kizomba room is still going strong after the salsa room has closed down. You could argue it is less tiring to dance than salsa, but we are digressing.
    vit likes this.
  12. Chris_Yannick

    Chris_Yannick Shine Officer

    This is a very interesting topic. I think the reason the average salsa dancer is not even aware of these discussions is because there is very little need for them to engage in topics that we often see here on SF.

    Yes, there is a wealth of knowledge on SF, but very little of it will appeal to the average party/social goer. Just talk to local social dancers. Many have told me that they don't even listen to salsa music outside of dancing! And this is coming from many local teachers and advanced social dancers. For them, it's strictly a party thing or social activity. This was my case when I first started dancing since I wanted to meet people in person.

    Sure, people want to get better at their craft, but many feel that the only way to do that is by either 1) more social dancing or 2) taking classes. Youtube communities like Addicted2Salsa successfully made the crossover to online teaching, but it was mostly about watching videos and not interacting with others.

    Salsa is foremost a social activity, so it's no surprise to me that I don't see many active online discussions about it, much less any kind of leadership.

    Salsa doesn't have a strong competitive aspect either. So there isn't much need to look for leadership when you aren't risking anything. Heck, even video gaming has a huge competitive scene now and that's where you find leadership.

    Other than posting videos on youtube, I don't see knowledge sharing becoming a thing in salsa.

    FB has already been mentioned. I see discussions there from the "cool crowd" of known socialites and DJs and frankly I stay out of them because they are choke full of venom (swearing, ignorant statements, bashing of other styles/genres, name calling, people with obvious beefs...etc).

    I would not want to contribute to those discussions.

    Another reason I don't see salsa's online presence exploding any time soon is because dancing stars aren't created online, they are created on the dance floor. Contrast this to hobbies such as photography or poker, where many people gained notoriety online by sharing knowledge. Not only that, but you can actively improve your craft by being online. In photography, you can share photos and get instant fame. In poker, you gamble online and become famous. In communities where celebrities are born and bred online, you see a lot more mentoring and leadership because every lay person wants that to happen to them.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  13. vit

    vit El Sabroso de Conguero

    It mostly indeed starts with passionate dancers, and when it becomes bigger, unfortunately tend to water down. It was that way with all genres in my venue where I participated (in part of them from beginning or almost). There is however pattern craziness in kizomba as well - called french kizomba, urban kizz etc ... Alternatively, it doesn't become bigger and dies or remains limited to small number of dancers (like zouk and wcs here)

    Sellers (teachers in this case) indeed always want to offer something more than before or competition, and it's usually about quantity and not quality. Quality doesn't sell well, that's the problem

    Even many members here actually don't like quality ... looks too ballroomish ;)
    Dissonant Harmony likes this.
  14. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    I can't really say. My only experience is that I tried another partner dance and found that everything I hated about the salsa scene was present there as well (worst of all: instructors who blatantly don't like the music they dance to). My experience may well be atypical and/or doesn't preclude there being an ethos.
  15. Peason

    Peason Son

    Not even a ;) makes up for this statement.
    MAMBO_CEC likes this.
  16. MrR

    MrR Son Montuno

    As far as I see it, the Salsa scene is very conservative with a hierarchical top-down mentality in which it is only second to the ballroom scene.

    Some examples:
    - music
    Although the thread was about dancing, at least 2 people already wrote about the watering down of the music (in some kind).
    Actually the problem is vice versa - the notion that the dance has to follow a music style of the mid 20th century and adapting to modern music is discouraged. Somebody who actually is about dancing and developing the dance always is under attack by music fanatics, for whom the dance is only an appreciation of the music, while the dancers don't unite and simply say the necessary phrase: "SHUT UP!"
    Thanks to these music fanatics people for example are afraid to go to a DJ and tell him, that he is playing old people's music all the time. (Resulting in a gap between oldschool-Salsa-venue and Latin-party, filled by crappy DJs.)

    - teaching
    From day one the dance is taught as "this is how you dance it!". But in fact it is not taught how to dance, but what to dance. Pattern, footwork, technique to master these pattern, cool moves.
    In Zouk and WCS I was motivated to improvise in basic classes. In Salsa (and Bachata) the majority of the teachers I met never embraced improvising, playing etc. Some actually fought it!
    Improvising means developing the dance, your own approach to it, yourself.
    For really taking part in or at least understand a discussion - and not simply throw your vote for some fixed position - you have to have an own approach.
    Salsa has become a studio dance. While still sold as street/club style, the teaching mentality is the same one as ballroom dancing.

    - right and wrong
    Technique. Music. Pattern.
    There is a strong notion of "this is how it is done" and "not done like it should be done - WRONG!".
    People trying their own approaches, trying to develop the dance without already being at the top (and thus having authority) are shouted down, shunned or at least seen as strange.
    When I come to a new scene I am often greeted with animosity by the establishment - the alphas and their followers, the cool kids - for being and dancing different. Often times these are the only organized groups around, so the others, despite often times being the better developed dancers, have less of a vocal power.

    - show instead of dancing
    When salsa folks present dancing to each other it's all about show, all about being seen.
    Feeling the dance, the essence of social dancing, is of very low value. Thus everyone who has the wish to improve himself is driven in the partnerwork-technician corner, while the connection based dancers are mostly a low developed crowd at the base, disconnected from the developing of the dance. And well, it is easier to study technique from others than to develop it yourself. Insight into what you are doing isn't necessary for simply copying moves unless you are a candidate for the top 1%.

    - show star teaching
    The stars teach how to dance like the stars. At least they sell that - actually they do not really teach anything usually.
    But also when I hear interviews for example, they talk about their personal history and about the star life. What rarely gets a place is stuff that actually is useful for a social dancer to improve themselves. Glimpses of the deeper insights an internationally advanced dancer should have. Those are either kept secret or seen as of no importance. (Based on my own and read experience with these dancers it's the second more often than not.)

    - folklore
    Everywhere people connect salsa strongly to Latino culture. The dance itself is developed in the US, Spain etc. But anyway, everyone has to bow to those great dance cultures, which actually aren't really connected to our way of dancing anymore. So either you live as a heretic like me or you suppress the knowledge / live in a world of double thinking.
    The marketing as streetstyle, which the three primary styles danced around here definitively are not, is part of this.

    - patriarchy
    With this folklore often times comes a very patriarchal approach. Man says, woman does. So follows from the first second often times are excluded from the development process - no matter what politically correct people say. So the lead simply hands down what is given from above, without ever having a "discussion" about what he is doing there, as the follow has to follow. His actions never being questioned only few see a reason to reflect, what they are doing there (look at the discussion about bad leading that just took place). Have you ever wondered, that there are only very few women in this forum active? Probably because they were taught to/selected for being quiet very early on.

    And so on and so on ...

    Well, these dogmatic top down structures suppress critical thinking. Critical thinking is the one of the most dangerous things for dogmatic and hierarchical structures.
    For real discussions, developing a matter, it is necessary that the participants think about the matter deeply and critically. That they develop their own position but respect the position of others as valid - as long as it is a thing of taste and not of true/false statements with objective answers -, even if they themselves do not like their approach. It isn't actually necessary for everyone to understand everything - then no discussion would be necessary - but everyone must at least have a personal approach to the matter, or it simply is a deliverance of information. Simply more fed material. Mind patterns ...

    Salsa has a socially very powerful basis.
    With the decline of ballroom dancing in the western world since the 60s it has filled the void as a dance for people who want to do partner dancing as a party. For some time it has managed to constantly refresh itself but this phase seems to be over since quite some time. It's no sudden event but a process. But right now the Latin dance scene - including Bachata and Kizomba - has a monopoly.
    With the disconnect of Latino music from Salsa dancing this basis will fade. Right now in many cities world wide it is the only valid option for social party dancing but the second another player manages to establish it fades.

    In such an environment believers in a dogmatic position - i.e. the right music, the right style, the right anything - feel entitled to shout down anyone who is of different position. (I.e.: "you do not like the correct music, your position is worthless. You are worthless.") Not the one with the best thought ideas is the one valued, but the one enforcing the "right" ones.
    So heretics either move into their own, disclosed circles, where they are free of these dance religious and trolls, or they simply leave for good.

    And "leaders" in such an environment are selected for other qualities than their skill in improving the whole. So a reason for the "lack in leadership" is, that people are looking for a lead who tells them what to do and thus embracing narcissists and incompetent charismatics over developers.
    Groove On, Live2dance and vit like this.
  17. wol

    wol Sonero

    From my experiences:
    LindyHopers love their music and just worship live music :)
    Kizombies like their music a lot, but are devided between traditionalist and urban. They do not care for live music too much.
    Bachateros like remixes of popular songs. Modern latin bachata is OK, but dominican bachata is not, mostly because almost noone knows what to dance.
    Salseros in general do not care that much for the music, as long as it is danceable and most prefer romantica :( Bet there is small, vocal group, which almost worships hardcore salsa and knows everything about the music.. They offten have their own hardcore parties and frown upon "simple" salsa parties..
    Casineros in general like their music more than salseros, but there is no such strong "hardcore" group, like with salseros. They like timbaton a lot :D
    I wonder about WCS - I am not involved with it too much, bet I have never heard heated discussions about the music. I think they like everything danceable, but I might be wrong ...
  18. MrR

    MrR Son Montuno

    WCSers seem to be proud to not be bound to a special kind of music.

    Zoukies the same. As far as I understood Zouk is subject to very fast and drastic changes in music played and I have heard Kizomba, mind dumbing electronic noise and metal-ballads on the same party. The theme / emotions of the music are valued higher than it's origin.

    Tangueros are subject of a music battle that would make Yuca proud, with the "good" music being much older and nobody from the good old times available to interfere with their religion.
    vit and wol like this.
  19. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    The 3 sections above all come down to one single reason "Why " it is the way it is..

    My educated guess is this ; Many of those on the circuit have little or no in depth training in "teaching " Most are there on what we label as dance ability .

    The reason for their success is due largely to performance ( which for many equates to complete "knowledge ", about "dance ".. Are there exceptions ? probably, but I se little evidence from available sources.

    BR often gets bad press, but, something that those who decry the genre, need to know that , it takes multi years of training on the" how " to actually

    TEACH !!

    NB.. This (BR ) is not about dance style but learning ones craft. .From this , the ability to adapt prior knowledge to different genres as appropriate .
  20. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    It kinda is. Being a "swing" based genre the music /dance should reflect the dance, as is the same for salsa etc..
    vit likes this.

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