Salsa dancing needs a new publicist. It is a beautiful dance…but in many communities and online forums it seems to be treated as an old, tired celebrity who has resorted to botox injections and implants in order to keep up with the younger, down to earth, and more fun Bachata’s and Kizomba’s of the world.
I admit that my first love is Bachata, but I’ve never been down on the Salsa community or viewed it negatively. Lets use a food analogy. Kizomba and Bachata should work together like mustard and ketchup on the great latin social dancing hot dog. But Salsa should be the bun holding it all together! You need all the ingredients to help create the perfect meal, and too much of one or the other can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Well, maybe that analogy wasn’t so awesome…but you get the point. So what’s up with all the Salsa hate? Below are four reasons why Salsa seems to be taking a publicity hit amongst the latin dance community.
“Too many snobs in Salsa”
If someone asked you the question, “Which event will contain more dance snobs, a Salsa Congress or a Bachata Congress?” I’d hazard to guess that most dancers would answer that a Salsa Congress would. We’ve heard this opinion before from several dancers. The perceived ‘snobby’ behavior seems to be the overwhelming factor as to why people get annoyed with the salsa community, but you rarely hear this term used to describe Bachata or Kizomba circles. Why? We don’t have a definitive answer, but perhaps it’s rooted in the difficulty of the dance (See next topic below for further explanation). In any case, Salsa definitely has its share of disillusioned dancers who leave the scene with a bitter taste in their mouth…or turn their dance energies to Bachata, Tango, Kizomba, etc. And, in my opinion, if you’re a ‘snob’ in one dance, its probably safe to say that you’ll act the same way when it comes to other dance styles. So perhaps there are “snobs” in these other scenes, but that behavior hasn’t surfaced…yet.
Salsa can be difficult to master. I think most dancers would agree that Salsa is an intricate dance, and the learning curve of getting from intermediate to advanced is much more steep than say, Bachata. I think hardcore Salsa dancers are more prone to dance with people who can challenge their skills rather than dance with someone who might not provide the same thrill. I don’t view this as a negative…just human nature. The better you get at something, the more you want to challenge yourself. It’s like learning a sport.
After learning the basics you then play with beginners who can help you develop your skills. After lots of practice you eventually reach an intermediate or advanced level…and your motivation decreases for playing with the beginners because you’ve conquered that level. I think Bachata is getting the reputation as more of the fun, ‘common man’s’ latin dance . There are definitely more ‘amateur’ teachers in Bachata simply because your friends, family, etc can show you the basic steps and most novice dancers with rhythm can pick it up fairly quickly. I think most would agree that Merengue is easy, and its probably rare that anyone would need to take a class for it. Bachata is a few steps up from Merengue on the hierarchy of dance difficulty, and I think Salsa is a step up from Bachata. I think the easier a dance is, the less inherent division you will have amongst dancers because (as an example) its not as difficult for a beginner to dance with pro.
I’ve always wondered if the people who consider Salsa too clicky don’t naturally get along better with individuals than group settings, or simply haven’t been in the scene long enough to establish any friendships.
“Lack of unity in the Salsa community”
There are seemingly tons of events billed as of Salsa/Latin Nights. How many flyers every week do you get with ‘Salsa’ or ‘Latin’ night on your Facebook page with a scantily clad girl on the front? It seems dancers are inundated with dance studios, instructors, DJ’s or restaurants promoting Salsa nights. Sure, the flyers may mention Bachata in the small print, but you don’t get many highlighting a social as Bachata night, and even fewer with Kizomba night.
All these events seem to cause a division…with the Salsa organizers as the root cause. There seem to be too many promoters having salsa events every weekend, with very few of them willing to bond with others to create a unified community. Yes, I understand that competition for patrons is good, and it keeps the community from getting stale…but having 4-5 different people in the same vicinity putting on events every weekend waters down the scene, in my opinion. Every weekend you can’t have, “The hottest Salsa event of the (fill in the blank of a particular season).” So, instead of having 150 people mixing and attending one event, you get 30 people attending five different events with their own ‘cliques’. Yes, the example is extreme but illustrates what can happen. I think dancers of all skill levels sense this on a weekly basis.
This reason seems more pertinent to Salsa DJ’s than for the music or dance itself. Sometimes getting stuck dancing to an 8-minute song is painful for those who aren’t hardcore salseros. I’ve heard females say that dancing to long Salsa songs can be brutal. The reasons being that it can be dull doing the same turn patterns over and over, or frightening if the guy has them doing crazy turns for long periods when they’re not skilled enough to do them.
Bachata music is massively popular and most songs are about four minutes long…so you get in, and you get out. This may be a reason people criticize salsa DJ’s because the public now has an alternative, “mainstream” (in the latin dance community) music genre that they can compare Salsa too. Sometimes a DJ will also play consecutive songs with no chance to either change partners or take a break, or they play a song that is extremely difficult to dance too depending upon skill level. I’ve always been an advocate that DJ’s should absolutely “play the hits” and songs that people know, and not just their favorites or “deep cuts” that no one has ever heard of.
What do you all think? We’d love to hear your opinions on the current state of the Salsa community.