Salsa: Signals

I remember when my friends were concerned when I said that I thought I saw signals from strangers and my surrounding. My thinking was considered abnormal or imaginary even though I was just observing the world. That was schizophrenic because no one was really giving me signs. I was reading into “them” (things in this world) too much because my brain was broken.

Now I am learning how to read real signals from my dance partner. Non-verbal communication is what makes a salsa dance magical. Two people in close proximity move with beats of songs. I am a woman so I take on the role of a follower. As a follower, I need to learn to read my leading partner’s indicating gestures, his raising of right or left hand or both, his body turning, and his hand pressing the back of my shoulder. Based on these gestures, I know what he has in mind and what to do. We dance together with absolutely no words.

But good dancers, I believe, do more than just giving and reading signs. That’s just the basics, making sure the steps are technically correct. Trust comes to mind. I have no idea what’s going to be the next step ahead of time. But whatever he leads, I follow. There is also a feeling of synchronization. At the right moment, we both make our steps at the same time. We have the same sense of rhythm. The hardest part for me is probably the balance of force. I am fairly relaxed when I dance. But there is a need to hold my own frame and exert the right amount of force or pressure on him so he knows that I am here, so that the two us are feeling connected together.

Leading and following aside, both dancers are equally critical and need to do their part or the dance just falls apart. Some men are more nature at leading than others. Their signals are more clear through their bodies, frames, and contacts with proper force. However, practice makes perfect. I always feel better the more I try it. Two people do get to know each better if they spend more time moving together with the one goal of making a beautiful dance together!

A Chinese phrase comes to mind: 默契 (mòqì) which Google Translate explains as tacit understanding. The Chinese phrase sounds more beautiful to me than the translation. I would say two people have mòqì when they feel that they are on the same page (about something or everything) and it seems that they can read each other’s mind. They usually finish each other’s sentences, for example.

After six classes and a few hours of practicing, I felt pretty good about my ability to pick up basic salsa steps, at least technically so far. Then I went to a Body Isolation class and totally bummed. I was not able to move my head, shoulders, or hip in isolation. Ha!

To create a beautiful dance can be a life long pursuit! I can’t wait to learn more.



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