How many social dances should I learn?
It depends on many factors, differs from individual to individual, and the way we prioritize the arguments are likely to change as we get less young. But the questions each one of us must answer, the discussion we must have with ourselves, are more or less the same. Let me remind us of some of them by telling my own story.
I am the type of person that prefers to be good at what really interests me instead of a hack in a thousand trades. In addition, I soon figured out that if I want to dance and socialize just a little with everyone present, it wouldn’t hurt to be one of the better dancers in the room. Being among the better half might be good enough for most people, I prefer to be even better.
I started Cuban Salsa by chance and became an instant salsaholic. My first goal was to dance salsa, later I learned that it was Cuban Salsa. No big surprise, more than 90% of Salsa dancers in Denmark dance Cuban Salsa. I had no prior experience from any type of dancing, and I was considered a hopeless case. Actually I was so challenged that I almost immediately signed up for classes at a second and a third dance school, and did 3-4 classes a week, mainly in order not to fall behind in any of them!
1 Good or less good
If you divide your time on learning and practicing several dances, you end up using very little time on any one of them. Just take the practical problems that would arise when practicing at home. I do that at least an hour a day, listing to Cuban Salsa music, practicing moves, combinations, shines and improvisations.
Should I devote some of this time to let us say Tango, Swing, Kizomba, Zouk? In your case, the list might look the opposite of mine. Would it rather take me nowhere than anywhere?
I have a dream of being much more music driven, when I dance. You don’t get far without listening and practicing to a hell of a lot of Cuban Timba music and in my case also to Bachata music as my secondary dance. Better listening and practicing to even more of the same than to do less on everything.
I am interested in social dancing. Social dancing tends to be more fun if you become one of the regulars and get to know people. If you also start to learn other social dances, you must find time to go to several completely different dance events, with different dance communities. What about some quality time?
2 Salsa and Bachata
I soon discovered, going social dancing, that approximately 20-25% of the time, the music changed to something called Bachata. Most often I first found out already on the dance floor. And because I want to dance as much as possible when I go social dancing, I decided it was a good idea also to learn to dance Bachata.
By chance I signed up for something just called Bachata, and it turned out to be some basic fusion sub-style that suited me well. Later I took many more classes and workshops in Bachata Sensual and I still do. To me this diversion, or having a second dance, makes sense. Salsa is relatively fast and dynamic. Bachata is slow and sensual. The music is different. I can use a lot of my salsa in my Bachata and vice versa.
Also I still only go to one and the same dance events, and the people I dance with in both social dances are mostly the same. I do go to additional Bachata only events, at the moment, to become better faster, but in the long run I am satisfied to dance Salsa 75% of the time and Bachate 25% of the time at the same events.
3 Cuban Salsa and Son
“Casino”, Cuban Salsa, is mainly developed from Cuban Son. It is considered the most elegant of the Cuban dances. It is very popular for Casino dancers also to learn Cuban Son, and many dancers even consider it a must, if you already dance Cuban Salsa. I would probably also preach that, had I been even younger than I am.
But I personally don’t like the Cuban Dandy atmosphere of Cuban Son. Nice to look at but it is not me. I don’t like the idea of dressing up with straw hats and fans and to use real dance shoes. I am much more of a casual street dancer, I would rather dance barefooted and as I am.
Also I find it confusing to learn a new, very similar dance, danced to some of the music I also use for Cuban Salsa, and to dance it contra tempo. It will only confuse my Cuban Salsa body memory, I believe and I am probably wrong. I prefer to use the often slower Son music to practice slow Cuban Salsa, to train new or difficult moves, or even to dance my Cuban Salsa with a lot of walks and Son attitude. But that is just me arguing with myself. You might decide otherwise.
4 Go try any dance
I have Cuban Salsa as my main dance and Bachata Sensual as my secondary dance. It suits me well. I don’t have time or room for more but especially Follows, and Leads much younger than me, might be capable of a different analysis. I do know that we have so many different fantastic dance styles out there but I, at least, find it necessary to prioritize and to focus.
I highly recommend to try as many dance styles as possible, for trying them out. Beginners level will do. You might run into a dance style you prefer from the one you already have as your main dance, you might discover that other dance communities are more to your liking or is better for you for practical reasons, like easier available.
Trying any additional dance style will most likely benefit your main dance. Reggaeton (I love it), Afro Beat (I love it), Ballet, Jazz, you name it. In addition to major social dances and to solo dances, we also have a host of minor social dances more or less learned on the spot as you dance it the first couple of times with a little help from your friends: Merenque, Bolero, Cha-Cha-Cha, just to name a few. They are not a diversion from your main effort but just some additional fun.
5 Fitness dance is a bargain
I take mostly Zumba and Latinmix fitness classes as extra training several times a week. It strengthens my dance body, improves my posture in front of the mirrors, and my musicality, my understanding of rhythms and changes in the music, can not but become better.
Fitness dance is by far the best bargain if you live in a major city with many Fitness centers. In Copenhagen, for one and the same subscription, I can go any hour, ten times a day, eight days a week. In addition I can join many other types of fitness teams from Yoga to biking and I can do machines. And unlike most dance schools, fitness centers have showers.