Cuban Salsa: Practica is Number One
I call my Private Cuban Salsa Practica for my daily social workout. I train with one of several dance partners at all levels in parks and on public dance platform or in private homes. Your own Practica, where Lead and Follow decide date, time and place, the music, what and how to train, is to me social dancing at a higher level second to none. I call it Social Dance Fitness for body and soul. There is no better way to learn and develop as a dancer than to be in charge of your own learning process. You must own your own dance.
I want to promote the wonders of practicing on your own with a partner, I want to promote dance as an integral part of your daily life. To me dancing is first of all to practice on your own, and with a partner. “Socials” and “party” are far below the list. I arrive to my Practicas well-prepared with a strict agenda of what to train. I often take videos and upload them to private YouTube Channels, one for each Follow (she has the password). Video is a great tool for finding errors and problems in your dance.
The video below is a Special Edition Practica, because my dance partner, Mona, broke her right underarm while hiking in Greece a month ago. I am bringing her back to dance life with my “legendary” soft touch.
We have not prepared anything for this dance, we don’t train anything, we have just arrived to a small lake 10 km from the centre of Copenhagen. Mona is babysitting a Golden Retriever, Chilli, and is worried that Chilli will go crazy when we start to dance.
1. My dance
I believe in “Each Lead his own style”. Each Lead must find his own style, his own inner dancer, within a given dance tradition, a style that fits and serves him well everything considered. One of the wonders of social dancing is that each Lead can become a master of his own dance.
I prefer to dance like one long, easygoing, meditative flow. I am just a happy amateur with an average talent but I work hard to become better. I like a relatively loose format making the Follow walk as freely and natural as possible, no Lady styling needed. I like that both of us face forward most of the time, that we are always on the move and step forward except for a few contrasting exceptions when figures or moves have back-steps build-in.
I want to be music driven but I have my own definition of what it means. It is always nice if you can react, just a little, to things in the music, but only to the extent that you can do it together with your Follow. The most important is to “ride” the music with your Follow, to adapt to to phrase changes of the music (distinct groups of counts of eight), to have “happy feet” and that the feel of the music is noticeable in the way you dance.
I also believe in Cuban Salsa INTERNATIONAL. I am not a Latino, I am not a white “Afro”, I am a f-ing Scandinavian, and I am proud of it, and I want to be true to myself, to my background and to my culture. I want to dance with the same “style” I walk the streets, I run the trails and I swim the ocean. I want to dance exactly as I am in my daily life, and it is good enough for me to be fully upright, Classic European Dance Aesthetics, and not to look down to control the steps of my Follow as I do too often!
2. The “plight” of the Follow
It’s the Lead’s “dance”, the Lead’s “choreography” and that includes look and feel and attitude. The Follow must buy the full package. That’s exactly what Mona is doing. She helps the flow enormously by not stepping back, by not stopping up, by not backing out of the partner circle, by not hanging in the corners. And thank you for not ruining our dance with ridicules Lady Styling, touching hair and rocket arms! Just being natural is good enough for me. Mona is always on the move by default and happily present with one long smile. She always gives me feedback, is full of suggestions and ideas for how to improve our dance.
3. Video with errors
This Practica video is just “warming up”, bringing Mona’s broken arm back in shape, but it is pretty much my concept of a social dance: “Advanced Simplicity”. In a whole dance of more than 5 minutes, I only use two well-known moves, Bayamo Clásico and a Setenta variation culminating in Noventa. The rest is just endless combinations of basic figures, and a lot of small walks. I know, train and use more than a hundred excellent moves regularly, but there is only room for two in this dance!
4. Your dance?
Dear Leads and Follows, common dancers like me and Mona, next to us on the dance floor. Show us how you dance! When it is not a choreographed show, demo or presentation, when it is not something you have prepared or rehearsed? Show us your basic “bread and butter” dance, just happy improvised dancing…