Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by AguaDulce, Feb 24, 2010.
The Decay of Salsa Dancing in Los Angeles
One might want to add that as Joby 'Brava' Aranda points out in her comment, the mentioned problem (mediocre instruction) doesn't just apply to LA, but also to many other places around the world as well. So why do you mention just this article and not specifically ask for a discussion about mediocre instruction for example?
Hmmm... The article made me feel like to dance salsa you must first acquire a PhD in salsa. Anything less is unacceptable.
What happened to dancing because you enjoy the music and for fun?
Amongst the many reasons, one would be because, as the author points out, LA is known as the birthplace of a particular type of salsa and arguably a Mecca of salsa for various reasons.
Let me add that these issues may be generalizable and anyone is free to discuss the article or the issues raised in a more global sense. However, personally I feel LA holds some special significance in the salsa world.
Yah because "these days" mediocre instructors are a BIG problem compared to back in the good old days of Cuban pete etc, when there were ... uh... no instructors...
The negative tone of the article begs a rather obvious question - What does the author intend to do to improve the situation? The article is lacking in constructive suggestions.
You can dance however you like in a nightclub - the key to having fun dancing salsa is connecting well with your partner - that requires good instruction.
Here's an example - would you have fun when you go to a congress and 90% of the people you dance with, who are properly taught, have trouble leading you in even simple patterns - assuming you weren't taught the fundamentals properly? Even the simplest patterns feel 100x better when both you and your partner have a good grasp of the fundamentals and you're in "sync" - trust me I know this from personal experience. Unfortunately I can't convey how amazing dancing feels when you've had a high level of training - it's a misconception that it becomes more "serious" - it's actually more enjoyable.
These days I get asked constantly by virtually every girl all 3 nights of the week I go dancing to dance salsa, bachata, and cha cha. They love dancing with me because I make it truly enjoyable for them, we connect well, I'm playful with the music and am able to hit breaks accurately, my timing's never off (on1 and on2), I can switch between linear LA and NY and Cuban, all depending on the follower, the leads are smooth and feel good to my partner, and make good use of light and shade to make the dance feel more esoteric, etc etc, all because I've had good instruction. I hope this helps - ultimately however it's up to the individual as to how well they wish to learn to dance, but it's not cool when someone thinks they're getting proper instruction and they're not.
I haven't been around long enough to comment on whether there actually has been a decay, but assuming there has been I still can't buy the premise of the article. It takes too much of the responsibility away from the individual. Just like with any schooling, not everywhere you go will teach you everything you need to know and some places will teach you bad things. But the onus is on the individual to be intellectually curious and check their own knowledge from time to time. It is also the responsibility of the individual to research the quality of their instruction.
When I first took lessons out here (I had been dancing for 11 months by then) I went to the nearest instructor I could find...because I only had a bike, not because I was unconcerned with instruction quality. She just so happened to be a pretty good instructor, so I lucked out. There are only two other people that I have called my instructor since then. I have taken classes from more than two other people, but only those two influenced me to stay with them over any significant period of time.
At some point in their dance career, people need to evaluate and choose their instructors in a non-arbitrary fashion if they choose to take it seriously enough. I, for one, can't consider such a problem the fault of "mediocre instructors". All they're doing is trying to make money however they can like most everyone else does. If people thought critically and didn't consistently pay the instructors in question, the problem would subside.
A potential counter point could be that since there are so many mediocre instructors, a lot of people learn bad habits when they first start out (and therefore don't research instructor quality), so that brings down the level of the scene. True enough, but I think such an effect is temporary. I didn't have any real instructors back in St. Louis. My friends taught me and I watched people and I looked at stuff on Youtube, so of course I learned some bad habits. But I take this seriously enough to have sought instruction that fixed the problems down the line. I think ultimately the overall strength of a scene is dependent upon those who seek instruction (with or without prior research). People who are more casual about it generally won't reach as high of a level anyway (and there's nothing wrong with that as long as they have fun), so the key would be to increase the number of people actively seeking instruction who do their due diligence. Ideally, everyone would. In reality, that's of course not the case. But "don't hate the player, hate the game." If people can get paid by instructing whether they are good or not, they're going to do it and I'm not going to blame them.
Regarding the newcomers: name me a large salsa scene that isn't scary to newcomers. Large scenes tend to have a lot of really good dancers, and really good dancers are scary when you're new. Simple enough. Even to this day I'm thankful that I started out in a smaller scene and spent the majority of beginner's hell there (and I was STILL a little intimidated when I got here).
I respectfully disagree with the authors conclusion. In the "good old days" there were fewer clubs and less people dancing salsa in general.
On any given night there are more beginners in the scene than there were 5 years ago. There are more casual dancers having a great time, without worrying about how quickly the advance, but rather focused on the entertainment value.
In other words, huge sets of people go to the club for the social scene and overall that will lower the overall quality of the dancers in the room (but guess what: those people generally pay the bills and keep more clubs open...)
You also have more salsa clubs in LA now than the early days. The best dancers are now spread around and don't concentrate on one or two clubs each week.
In most LA clubs you will also find a subset of very seasoned dancers. (BTW - It takes years to become a well rounded dancer in any style.)
As for intermediate dancers becoming instructors, that may or may not be an issue, it depends on the instructor.
Many mature, great dancers are poor instructors. Most intermediate dancers are poor instructors. Most people are poor instructors.
Most dancers become instructors because people ask them to show what they are doing. That doesn't make them quality teachers, just because they can do it themselves.
There are amazing dancers in LA who are terrible teachers, but the beginning students are wowed by their dancing skills and don't realize how poorly they teach.
For an example: I'm an amazing talker. Anybody around me will shout, "YES, he is!!! Almost everybody would agree I'm an "advanced" talker and many on this board have similar skills.
But if you have a stroke, I can't teach you anything about talking. I can do it extremely well, but that doesn't mean I can teach it. I don't know how my mouth forms the sounds, or what I do breathing most of the time. (OK... I know a little based on some voice lessons I took 20 years ago...). I don't know how I put together sentences that make any sense.
Blaming the instructors on being "intermediate" dancers is a weak argument for the LA scene being where it is today.
Part of the reason LA was mecca because lots of things came together, but not just because we had good instructors. Most of today's great instructors were "just OK" instructors in those "good old days", but over the years they have become strong instructors.
There are other parts of the article we could discuss (the rest of the world growing), but that's a long discussion. Things never stay the same... Hollywood is not the only place to make great movies these days.
If you want some very interesting insights on this topic, read the book by Malcolm Gladwell titled "Outliers"
It's an excellent study of success and provides many insights that apply to this discussion.
It just sounded like the usual old-fellow's nostalgia.
Not everyone wants to be a dance star and spend months doing the salsa equivalent of 'wax-on-wax-off'. As for the salsa scene in LA deteriorating, my limited experience there has always been that the clubs are packed, the bands are great, and there are lots of newbies having a good time alongside the 'black-belts' (who are among the best in the world).
I imagine that the article "The Decay of Salsa" would have a different spin if the author had read the book "Outliers". It's a great book!
"Dancing with Dead People," "What Constitutes Being Creepy" and "The DECAY of Salsa Dancing in Los Angeles." I don't even want to know what this thread is about!!!
I'll have to start a new thread...Bachata Zombies, Salsa Parasites, etc.
There are about a dozen threads on salsaforums addressing the points of this article. The points are valid but who cares. If lesser gods can make money in LA with mediocre service and proper gods have to move to Italy: everybody wins.
LA folks keep a recession economy from falling off a cliff, Italians up their quality. Now that Italians are much better than they were, the top tier there will have to move again to make good money. Beijing? Shanghai?
The problem I have with the article is: where does it say that LA must have the best dancers or the best scene or the best clubs or the best anything. Its just a place. When the people who made the place what it once was move on then some other place takes over as the No.1.
P.S. I haven't read "Outliers" yet but I have read "Tipping Point" and "Blink".
P.S2: Chicago is at the breakout point for young dancers (16+) ready to dominate the on2 scene.
P.S3: San Francisco is very close to the breakout point to dominate the Cuban dance and music scene in the US (replacing Miami).
P.S4: Malcolm Gladwell's books are very fun to read but not very scientific. Michael Porter's studies on Competitive Advantage are far more comprehensive in understanding how these trends and excellence clusters develop, advance and decline.
Take our '92 US Olympic Basketball Team - the Dream Team - for example. First time U.S. pros could play, best in the world, coasted to gold. Fast forward to '04 when we get a wake up call that the world has caught up and we earn bronze. Everyone is their own worst critic and we responded in '08 with a gold again.
It's a rough analogy, but I think LA salsa can recapture it's pride (if it indeed has lost it) if it wanted to. When I watch vids of NY socials I see dancers wearing "on2" shirts. This baffles me because as far as I know on2 is the default there, but I realize it's a pride thing. When the day comes that the world is looking at a metro area other than LA as an on1 capital, LA will respond. I just think this day is far in the future because I find it hard to believe that (in terms of social dancing) a smaller scene can have on average better dancers than a larger scene. Perhaps the next mecca is a Shanghai or Guangzhou.
How interesting! I wonder if Miami is aware or agrees...
Personally, I just think that it is because the L.A. salsa scene is badazz/hardcore. L.A. salsaeros just aren't that into self promotion or schmoozing with the salsa world. L.A. has loads of badazz dancers. Most just don't give a rat's azz if everyone isn't talking about them. They are just out looking for there nightly salsa fix.
Personally, I think that's pretty cool.
I am proud that my daughter is a salsera angeleno.
It isn't hard to find a great instructor in L.A. There are just as many good ones as bad ones.
Steve... not remotely true... in LA for e.g. there was Steve Peck.. not only a one of the best dancers in the States, and also Jan Bryson ( she taught out of Virginias #1 nite club) , Doug and Don Rivera,. Rocki Mari etc.. In addition the hundreds of teachers who were in the " trenches " with little or no recognition.
The E. coast had its fair share, but C.P. always gets mentioned thru his Palladuium exposure, but he most certainly was not the only one around .
In addition , there were some great lady teachers who never get any "press ".. Ruth Silvey, Barbara Paul ,also on the W Coast, to name but 2 more.. both great teachers and stylists.
When you dance ANY partner dance there's 2 people involved.
If you "just want to have fun" dancing without learning good technique/fundamentals then you might be having a fantastic time but the person you're dancing with might be having a completly crap time because you're swing around on their arms, dancing off time, wading into people, crashing into your partner etc....
You don't have to "get all serious" just learn good fundamentals and everyone will be happy!
OK I shut up now and listen!
I agree with most of the article. Still there was and is a lot more Salsa going on than Miami. Miami has one of the weakest Salsa dancing scenes in America. No competing couples in any competitions, etc. But Miami has good weather.
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