Teaching Some Salsa to Kids

I think the benefits of teaching kids to dance probably far outweighs the consequences as long as you don't sex it up too much. There's nothing to provocative in a basic, a spin, cross body lead, cumbia steps, and some other moves. As long as you aren't having the kids bend and snap or something I'm sure it is fine.

The benefits of learning to dance are numerous: learning to appreciate other cultures, developing physical capability (as in any sport), and learning to relate and treat the other sex appropriately, as well as work together and cooperate with lots of different partners. Also the kids can feel accomplished in learning a new skill and performing it in front of an audience (it is fun to have them do a simple routine for parents and friends as a culmination to the whole lesson). In my mind, the performance aspect distinguishes dance from many other learning disciplines. I say go for it...
Also I have heard the story from at least two or three really great dance teachers that when they started teaching they didn't know much about salsa and just loved it so much they started piecing together what little they knew and teaching it. Over time they became great (even professional) dancers by doing so. As long as you have some suckers to follow you, why not?
They are already many ideas and experiences shared there but I wanted to add my opinions and experiences too.
This year,one of my dancer friends has started to give salsa lessons for teeanagers in a charity association where also I give some other lessons and I joined his lessons too. First of all,I think dancing with each other improves them to learn how to communicate with each other(especially with the opposite sex) better and learning it in those ages is a great advantage. However,I can say we had thought if the salsa is a true decision because it's more systematic than some other dances and although our classes were so funny,sometimes we had problems with taking it serious(they had missed some lessons and making some arrangements for those was a problem for example). When they heard the word dance,a more casual imagination had been coming to their mind before they've met with salsa:)
Dancing with people from different ages is not a problem but I know some people don't want to dance with children unfortunately. I never mind dancing with neither children nor older people so I can never understand this:) I think one of the best advantages of dance is to bring different people together around one passion .
Providing some events for children to dance with different people and practice is a bit difficult because you know,the best way of it is to go to the latin dance nights for us but they aren't for children..
At the end of this semester,we were very proud because our students performed a great show,it was even much better than we expected;so we are absolutely sure about that teaching salsa to the teenagers was a good decision. Even just hearing from them they learned and liked salsa,and they want to go forward with dancing salsa is a great reason to agree on this idea. I'm sure some of them will be very good professional dancers in the future and begining to learn salsa in these ages is an advantage for them to succeed it.


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This semester I picked up a new class (year 10 history). Shortly afterwards (about a month ago), a group of girls from the class approached me and asked if I would teach them latin dancing. They wanted to perform a routine during the school's multicultural week on 'Americas Day' and wanted me to create one for them. Each year the teachers do a flash mob at mid-year exam time to assist in 'de-stressing' the kids. We go a bit over the top and have a lot of fun, but after the last one (yes, Uptown Funk :) ) two groups of girls approached me to help out with a dance group.

Typical kids :) the group of year 11s came up at the very end of term, before the two week non-teaching period wanting me to join them in a performance one and a half weeks into the new term. They wanted to book the gym every lunchtime and practice. Of course, sports coaches had already booked out the gym, and I explained to the girls that I was booked up every lunchtime in the new term coaching my sports teams, which anyone who knows me would have been expecting. The year 10 girls, however, were more realistic and organised. They agreed to be ready to go on the first day back, when I had an opening, and also stay after school.

So... we started off choosing music; they wanted something appealing to the students so that the performance would be supported. I played a selection of songs I thought might work and they decided on a version of Bailando. Two of the girls had a dance background and one of them, when I asked if they could hear in the music when to start stepping, could pick up the one without fail. It was awesome! After sitting watching for the first ten minutes, three other girls jumped up and decided they wanted to be part of it too. I made a very simple routine interspersed with constant basics and only about five variations (right hand turn, side step and so forth). They picked up the timing and idea of salsa so quickly! It was magical :) The three without a dance background are struggling with the movement and any steps where we step on the four and / or eight, but were enjoying and getting into it.

After two hour long lessons/practices only, they're going for it tomorrow. I won't be at school as I have a conference, but the girl who can pick up the one swears she knows just when to count them in, and I've roped in two other teachers to encourage them and jump in flash mob style. I'm so proud of the girls!

However, the best part, the absolute music to my ears, was at the end of the last practice, when one of the girls cried out "Hey! Let's start a salsa club at school! Miss'll teach us. Who can we bring in?" Two lessons and they already love and want to do salsa! Hey, I'll totally support it if they are truly keen to start the club. Yay salsa :).
Well, even better - I have been given a timetabled class for next year! It's vertically integrated, during co-curricular and sport time, so I can have students from all four of our year levels (9-12). Particularly exciting, I have already had four boys sign up for the class! I know my girls will be back.

Oh dear, I had better start learning to dance again :). I stopped attending classes well over a decade ago, and have been basically just social dancing, travelling and doing my own thing since then. Partly a workload that doesn't leave much time for lessons and partly a dearth of decent classes here. Recently, I've been putting more effort in learning more about the music and the artists (I feel like I should be paying Salsaseb for how much I've picked up from him over on Name that Tune :)). I'm going to have to find the time and motivation to go back to school and learn more about leading and rueda in particular in order to effectively instruct the class.


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I was concerned that the students would be shy about dancing, particularly as the only space free with a suitable floor surface for the class is in an open area. No! My girls are crazy! I'm leading some very simple shines, and I keep hearing behind me: "Woo!" "Wo!" "Woo!" "I'm cool!" "We should do this every day!" "Ao!"

My favorite comment:
"Why do I only count 123-567? What are you doing on 4 and 8?"
"Taking a break."


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I disagree. It is very easy to teach rueda. In an hour one can get people - even kids - doing al centro, la rosa, dame, ni pa ti ni pa mi, and basic modified guapea with a partner. Naturally there is no perfection and one takes liberties in what people to do in executing the moves, but this is usually for a quick intro lesson to get people to experience rueda. But it does show that it is entirely doable. because it is rueda doesn't make it off-limts.

Also in terms of lead and follow just count out 1,2 when people are in a circle and give either 1s/the 2s mardi gras beads to wear to distinguish them and make it easy for people not to get mixed up. Avoid using leader/follower, guys/girls. Just say "1s" do this and "2s" do that. That helps to get around the issue of having imbalances in male/females in a class when doing rueda. Also switch between being a 1 and a 2 yourself, leading by example.
I started doing this in today's class, and yes, the girls are already competently doing guapea and enchufla. They're still getting the hang of the body movement, and we haven't tried rueda to music yet, but they picked up the steps. It was seriously exciting to see! Our main issue is the girls can't remember who's a 1 and who's a 2, so I'm going to bring in fluro sports team vests from the gym next class :).

Favorite comment heard in class (while we were warming up with basics and shines):
"How does Miss move her arse like that?"


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They're still struggling a little completing the moves in time with the music, and some of the girls have to hurry to change to the next partner, but the improvements in body movement are noticeable! The girls are demonstrating impressive hip movement (it does help that a number do Indian dancing) and show an overall Latin flavor to their movement, which I am very excited about. Two or three are picking up rueda very competently.

Despite my best efforts at a musical education, they still just want to dance to 'Yo Vengo de Cuba' which has the greatest effect in getting their energy levels up, and 'Vivir Mi Vida'. They don't leave me with much choice! Some of them do quite like the Spanish Harlem Orchestra tracks I've popped in, though, and they don't mind 'Sonido Bestial'. I'm working on it... :)

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