Becoming a Salsero

Learning to dance Salsa !

About me

I remember the first time I saw a salsa performance. The dance was mesmerizing and I decided that becoming a Salsero would be my new goal.

Just getting started took a lot longer than planned but I still haven't regretted a single moment of learning to dance salsa. Why don't you join me and become a salsero / salsera as well?.

About this site

This is where I share my experiences and thoughts on dancing salsa.

If you have any questions or remarks please leave a comment or send an email to becomingasalsero@gmail.com.

Additional ways to contact me can be found on my contact page.

Arabian nights !

I am going to Marrakech ! ! !

So now you are probably sitting there thinking 'Good for you. But... who cares?' and you are entirely right to think so.

However, I have not been this excited in ages!

Not only am I going to a country I have never been to, I am going there for their first international salsa congress and they have a great line up of instructors. Or at least, they have lots of instructors that I like anyway.

Ok, that is it. I will not try to distract you anymore. However, if you happen to be there as well stop by to say "hi"

So how did I start dancing salsa?

As a kid I danced a lot.

My mom was an A level competition dancer in the Netherlands when she was younger and she thought that dancing was something everybody should learn. Maybe it is only because I have heard it so often but I agree.

Dancing is a great way to have fun, make friends and stay fit. It also teaches people how to interact with the opposite sex, something that a lot of people seem to have trouble with these days. It seems like that ability went out the window around the same time partner dancing did.

But I digress. Not only that, you are here reading this which means I am preaching to the choir again.

I can not remember when exactly my mom first taught me the basics of a Quickstep but it is one of my earlier memories. I can not have been much older than 5 or 6. Slowly I learned the basic steps of other dances like cha-cha-cha, rumba, waltz, etc before I was sent of to take classes. Again I can't quite remember when but it was probably around the time I turned 8 years old.

Even though I don't remember exactly when it was I do still remember the first timethat I got dropped off.

I was a shy kid and the thought of going into a class with other people, especially people I did not know, terrified me.

I tried to get out of it but it soon became clear that was not an option. I was going to have to go. Looking back now it was probably one of the best things that happened to me. I still stayed shy but at least I was not scared of meeting new people anymore.

For several years I would go dancing once a week, slowly making my way up through the levels. Bronze*, Silver, Silver*, Silver*, Silver*. No, that is not a mistakes. I actually have 3 Silver* certificates for both ballroom and Latin dancing and I have no idea why. I am sure there must have been a good reason, especially as I should have 4 or 5 of them. The others seem to have gotten lost though while moving.

At 12 I stopped dancing and started doing martial arts instead. For the next couple of years I did not dance at all. Then, when I was 17, Lambada became popular and I took 2 courses but somehow the dance virus was still gone. After the 2 courses I stopped dancing again.

Then again, martial arts have a lot in common with dancing. I just did not see that at the time. Perhaps I never really stopped dancing after all. At least not until I was about 26.

Fast forward about 14 years from when I was 17.

I was out to dinner with some friends. As it turned out that there would be salsa dancing there that night. I had no idea what Salsa was exactly. My only exposure to Latin dancing up until that point had been ballroom Latin.

As dinner was served 2 people walked onto the dance floor and the music started to play.

From the moment I saw them dance I could not take my eyes off of them anymore. I completely forgot about my dinner that had just been served. I was in awe and wished I had the amazing power that they had. To be able to walk into a room, get onto the dance floor, completely change the atmosphere and leave people speechless.

But more than that even, I wished that I was out there on that dance floor having as much fun as they were obviously having.

The next couple of days I spent trying to figure out what I could do to learn to dance salsa as well and I found that there are several ways. Taking lessons was the most obvious option and the one I instantly went for.

Unfortunately I had some startup problems and it took me a couple of years to finish my beginner's course.

The first time I started work got in the way. I was sent abroad for trainings and projects and was not at home enough to participate in the classes.

1 Year later I tried again. And again, work got in the way. This time not by making me travel abroad a lot but by actually moving me abroad. Trying to get settled in a new country where I did not speak the language was enough to distract me from dancing.

Another couple of years went by and I had finally settled down so I figured it was time for another try. It did not take me very long to realize that, aside from the basic step, I had forgotten everything I learned.

Unfortunately this time life interfered and once again I had to drop out of my class after a couple of weeks. Again.

Finally this year I started again and I had the same problem, I had forgotten everything I had learned aside from the basic step and a CBL.

I am not sure whether or not having started the beginner's course several times has helped me. At the moment I seem to be progressing faster than some people that started as the same time as me this year but then, I think I put more time into dancing than they do.

So that is how I got started. And now that I have made it past "beginner's hell" (it really felt like that for a while) I am thoroughly enjoying dancing again. Even the fact that I just hit a plateau does not phase me at all.

I know I'm internalizing things (see "Salsa is life") and I am having a lot of fun doing so.

What is your story?

Are you dancing salsa the right way?

One of the posts that I read on SalsaForums.com today got me thinking.

The poster states that he feels something is being lost in Salsa now that it is mainly taught in the dance studios. To quote him:

"But there is something that is being lost, and I have mentioned it before. True Salsa de pareja, not just hand guided turn patterns and close body proximity for a dip or some other trick."

He then challenges the instructors to teach their students to dance more than just flashy combinations. He challenges them to teach their students to dance in close proximity as well.

When I read that statement part of me immediately agreed with him. The first time I saw a couple dance salsa they did a lot of flashy routines but they also danced closed for another part of the song. That made me feel that he has got a point.

It seems like we have indeed lost a lot of our closeness while dancing. But it is not just with dancing. It seems that, as societies, we have also become more distant. At least physically. We had much more physical contact 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, then we have today. And much like we grew physically apart as individuals, the same seems to have happened to our dancing.

As most of the posters on SalsaForums.com seem to dance in the US and Europe we are more often exposed to LA an NYC salsa than other styles of salsa. So we see a lot more salsa being danced apart than in a close position.

This is probably the main reason that we feel salsa is being danced further apart nowadays.

So how did this happen? Of course I can only speculate but here is my opinion.

To me salsa is like a family. The different styles are different children born to the same parents. Like children they are all individuals but there is one very big difference between these kids. They all grew up in different places.

Some spent their childhood in Latin cultures while others grew up in the US. While they were growing up they were obviously influenced by their experiences and that is how they got to be where they are today. Different individuals even though they share the same basic principles that were handed down to them by their parents.

In my experience Cuban salsa is danced closer than LA. It is more relaxed and it is danced in closer proximity. Perhaps because the Cuban dancers seem to put more value on the connection with their partner.

LA on the other hand is high energy. It is more about excitement and it is danced further apart. The dancers often seem to be more like team members than like partners trying to create a connection. And if we look at the differences in culture that would make sense.

Cuba is more laid back than LA. LA's flashiness and the American goal oriented mindset obviously influenced the style. At the same time the Cuban style was influenced by the more laid back Cuban attitude. That definitely explains how they look so different.

But what does that have to do with dancing close or far apart?

Right before I read this thread on SalsaForums.com I was reading an entry in Jan's blog. As you probably have no idea who Jan is, she is an American who is currently in Europe for a couple of months.

In blog entry that I read she talks about 'that damn kissing business' in Europe and explains how it's completely foreign to her as she is from a "standoffish country".

I think she hits the heart of this discussion with that statement.

A dance is nothing more than the combination of it's the dancers. If you are used to a bit more physical distance then that will show in your dance. There will be more space between you and your partner. If fyou are used to a lot of physical contact then you will dance more close.

As Americans are more protective of their personal space than people from (some) other cultures it only makes sense that they grew to dance a bit further apart.

Does that mean that their version of salsa is not as good as a closer style? I do not think so. There are just different ways you can dance Salsa. And even though they share the same origin, they are not the same.

Maybe, rather than trying to change what the different styles have become we should treat them as different dances.

If you have danced both then you will probably agree with me when I say, they don't just look different. They feel completely different as well.

It could be that I have not been dancing long enough yet but unfortunately I can not explain how the difference in feeling. Then again, I have spoken to people that have danced both styles much longer and they too seem unable to explain. I'm not even sure whether that is relevant in regards to the original question.

So should we start enjoying the dances for what they are? Dance LA for instance for it's high energy and the buzz we get from that while dancing Cuban for it's intimacy and the connection with our partner?

Or should we try, like the original poster suggested, to bring closeness back.

I can see how both make sense and I do not have the answer. But I am very curious to know what you think so please feel free to comment or send me an email.

NY + Rueda = . . . disaster ?

Yesterday I randomly came Jan's blog.

She dances Salsa and is in Paris at the moment. As I know some people that live there as well I offered to ask for some club recommendations.

One of my friends quickly came back to me with a couple of clubs and I passed the list on.
All went well so far.

Today she wrote an entry about her night out yesterday. It tells the tale of a NY style dancer who ends up in an intermediate rueda class.

It sounds like it was even worse than the time I got thrown into an advanced On2 class.

Sorry Jan. I hope the other clubs will be more fun for you.

Salsa is life

As we all know, life is like a roller coaster.

There are highs and there are lows with moments of tranquility and amazing thrills in between.

Learning to dance salsa is just like that. There are highs and there are lows with moments of tranquility and amazing thrills in between.

Sometimes we think the stars are within our reach. At other times we feel like we will never learn to dance properly. What we often forget though is that all this time, during both the highs and the lows, we are making progress.

I'll be the first to admit that it often does not feel that way. The main reason for that is that change is often a very gradual process. It take place so slowly that we do not even notice it.

Let's look at it from another point of view first.
If you were to walk 100 meters on day 1 and the next day you would add 3 more meters you would not even notice the difference. Oh, for all of you not using the metric system, a meter is about 3 yards.

Now if you keep this up for a month you will have almost doubled the distance that you have walked on the first day. To you it will not feel like it has taken any more effort but you still walked twice as far. And unless you were walking along the same stretch of road all the time you probably will not even notice that you now walk further.

Dancing is no different. Sometimes we feel like we are not making any progress at all. We might have gone without learning anything new for a month. Or maybe we did learn things but we just can not seem to get them down at all.

But how we perceive things can be completely different from how they really are. Even though we feel that we have not learned anything we will have improved. Unconsciously, we will have been working on perfecting moves that we already know.

When we learn to dance we will soon enough learn to do a cross body lead, inside turn. After having danced for a while we can do this without thinking. However, that does not stop us from improving that simple move.

Consciously we stop paying attention to it. But several months down the line we will all of a sudden realize that we have 'found time' in the move and we start adding styling. Obviously there is no more time than there was the first time we danced it. We have just been perfecting the move over the last couple of months because we have done it so often.

This happens all the time. Even during our most frustrating moments we will be working on things that we already know. The moves we dance without having to give them any thought at all.

So enjoy the highs, enjoy the tranquility and enjoy the thrills as you would anyway. But also start enjoying the lows knowing that even though it may not feel that way, you are improving.

You are one of the world's best dancers !

Really you are!

I know that may sound hard to believe but you know what?
I am one of the world's best dancers as well !

Yes, I will be the first to admit it. That is even harder to believe.
After all, when you read this you will most likely have been dancing longer than I have. You know you are a much better dancer than I am and you don't think that you are that great.

So what makes me so arrogant?
How can I claim to be one of the world's best dancers?

Well, not to long ago I had an awful time on the dance floor.
Not only did I have a hard time finding the beat but when I did it slipped away again so quickly that I could not help but wonder if I had ever found it at all.

Aside from that I could barely remember how to do anything else than a cross body lead. I did managed to pull off a couple of turns but that was about it.

The lady I was dancing with was kind enough to say that she was having the same problem but I am sure that was because my lead was horrible that night as well.

To make things worse, we were the only couple dancing. There were no other couples for people to focus on. We could not hide between the other couples, trying to stay out of sight.

When the song ended we walked back to our table, pretty embarrassed, and we prepared ourself for criticism. We half expected people to be laughing at us. We had prepared our defenses though.

My excuses were going to range from 'I guess I am having an off day' and 'The sounds system is terrible, I could not make out half the music' to the even more ridiculous 'I must have eaten something wrong. I feel horrible'.

All in all it was one of those times that I would try to forget as quickly as possible.

And, as we expected, as soon as we had sat down people started to turn to us.
Except that, instead of criticizing us, they started complimenting us!

They told us how they had enjoyed watching the show and how great it was.
Some even asked us if we could recommend instructors.

For a second I was completely confused.

Were they being sarcastic? We were in the Netherlands after all and as dutch people tend to enjoy sarcasm it would not be unlikely at all.

But then it hit me. 99.9% Of the people you meet in your life will never have danced salsa. Actually, a large percentage of people you meet in your daily life will not even have seen a couple dancing salsa.

When you are on the floor and they see you do a cross body lead followed by a couple of spins they think you are a star. Like a popular dutch saying goes 'In the land of the blind the man with one eye is king'.

And this was the situation that night. We were the only couple in that bar that knew how to dance salsa. We looked amazing to the uninitiated.

So next time that have a bad day and you are wondering whether you are ever going to learn to dance at all, just keep this in mind.

You are already part of the 0.01% of people that know how to dance salsa. That alone makes you one of the world's best dancers!

Learn to dance salsa - part 2

This is the second article in a series of 4.

In Learn to dance salsa - part 1 I looked at learning salsa by taking lessons.

Today I will look at another way to learn salsa, namely by going to clubs.

So what are the advantages of going to clubs?

  • Usually clubs offer a free class before the party starts
  • There are a lot of great dancers in clubs and you can learn a lot just by watching and copying them
  • There will be a lot of different partners for you to dance with
  • You can dance as long as you want. Unlike in a organized course there is no time limit
Like with lessons the advantages sound pretty good.
Let's have a look at the disadvantages as well.
  • The free class is often at a low level. This is ok if you are just starting to learn dancing but you will quickly outgrow the class.
  • The dancers are at the club to have fun, not to teach you things. They most likely will not take the time to patiently talk you through each and every move
  • You won't have dance partners assigned to you like you would at a course
  • Most dancers will be at a much higher level than you are which can be very intimidating
  • The dance floor is often crowded which makes dancing harder, especially if you're still learning
As with learning to dance salsa by taking lessons, learning to dance salsa in a club is not an end all solution. There are both positive and negative points and you'll have to work out for yourself how important they are for you.

In Learn to dance salsa - part 3 I will look at the advantages and disadvantages of learning to dance salsa by watching videos.

Be a salsa star!

Why cameras are better than mirrors.


Whenever I am at a festival, congress or workshop I am always impressed with the amount of attention the stars there get.

Sometimes it seems like they have more cameras pointed at them than the average movie star. And for good reason. Their performance, whether it is a show or a demonstration of combinations that they taught earlier, is often amazing. Not capturing it means losing out on a chance to not only admire it but to learn from it as well.

But only using our cameras to tape the stars is such a waste of that wonderful technical invention. Why not use your camera all the time to tape yourself dancing instead? Or if not all the time than at least start using the camera when you practice at home.

Even more so than by looking in the mirror you will see things that you may never have been aware of. Don't get me wrong, I think mirrors are great. Especially the full size mirrors they have in studios. Unfortunately they have a downside. They don't come with a rewind button.

If your focusing on your arms when you look in the mirror you will not be able to see what happens with the rest of your body. If you look at your legs, same thing. You will never be able to see all of your body movements at the same time. Our vision just does not work that way.

What happens is that our eyes take lots of pictures. At the same time our mind processes all those pictures and turns them into a streaming movie. As it is though, our mind is also an editor.

While it is combining the images it gives most attention to what we were focusing on and starts cutting out irrelevant pictures. This means that a lot of pictures do not make the final cut and we miss out on the information that was in them.

Another downside is that looking in the mirror is distracting. When you are looking in the mirror, trying to spot what you may be doing wrong, you focus less on dancing. After all, you are already focused on looking in the mirror.

When you use a camera though, things are different. You can place the camera in a corner of the room, feel self conscious for a minute or 2 (ok, maybe that is just me) and then forget all about it. By the time you are done it will have recorded for as long as you had tape/disc space/memory and you have footage of yourself dancing. In my case 3o minutes of it.

30 Minutes that I can look at over and over again. If I think I missed something I can even rewind. 30 Minutes of myself dancing that I can use to correct myself. 30 Minutes of footage that I could even use to ask others for feedback if I was so inclined. Currently I do not see myself facing the YouTube critics just yet though so that will have to wait for now.

And last but not least, 30 minutes of video that I can store and watch again whenever I feel like it. In my opinion there is no better way to notice if. and how much, you have improved than by comparing 2 videos of yourself that were taken some time apart.

So let's quickly glance back and see what the advantages are of using a camera rather than mirrors:
  • You can see all parts of your body at any given time
  • You can pause or rewind to have another/closer look
  • You can focus on dancing instead of focusing on yourself
  • You can keep the recording and look back on it at a later date
Even if you do this only once a week you'll soon be able to correct any bad habits you might have.

So get your camera out now and start dancing. Before you know it you will be the star that is admired. Who knows, maybe at the next congress I will be there pointing my camera at you wishing I could dance like that.

Bachata **

Don Baarns at The Unlikely Salsero, wrote a post about bachata earlier this week in which he says:

"I'll go on record as saying bachata will share equal time with cha-cha-cha, and probably take the number two spot in many scenes over the next year."

That line took me by surprise. In Europe, or at least here in Germany, bachata is played a lot more than cha-cha-cha. There are definitely more people that can dance bachata than there are people that can dance cha-cha-cha.

Bachata is so popular that it has actually become a pet peeve of mine that workshops always seems to be in the smallest room at congresses. So far it has been one of the most popular classes, if not the most popular one, at the congresses that I have attended. The room was always too small for the number of dancers but everybody tried to squeeze in anyway.

I would expect that congress organizers would pick up on that and use a bigger room instead but that has not happened yet. Then again, they are organizing salsa congresses and not bachata congresses so maybe I should be more forgiving.

Don also mentions that "Many salsa dancers look down on bachata" in the US. This was something else that surprised me. I have yet to meet anybody here that does not like bachata. I am sure there must be some people that feel that way but our paths have not crossed yet. If there is a dance that is looked down upon than it would be merengue, not bachata.

Another thing that I found interesting is that Don mentions "and the hip/leg-kick stuff can look downright feminine if a lead is not careful. Not a look most guys want."
Maybe that is true, it is not something I have ever paid attention to.
However, when I read it the first thing that popped into my mind was 'who cares?!'.

Ok, looking feminine on the dance floor is definitely not one of my goals. And perhaps I will not be able to get the hip stuff down properly. And maybe that will even make me look feminine while dancing but, why would I worry about that?*

I am secure enough in my own masculinity not to worry about what other men think. If they have a problem with the way I look on the dance floor then I would feel bad for them but, it would be their problem. Not mine. And I specifically said 'other men' because whenever I am in the US I get the impression that only the men spend time worrying about things like this.

It is not just with dancing but in other areas of life as well. Let's take fashion for instance.

The last time I was in the US I apparently broke all the 'rules'. I went to a club wearing white jeans and a fitted shirt. While I received a lot of compliments about my outfit from girls that night all the guys had a go at me. Comments ranged from 'did you turn gay?' to 'a real men would never wear anything like that'. The last comment especially made me laugh as to me a 'real man' is a man that is confident enough not to have to worry about the opinion of other men.

But back to dancing.
When I am dancing with somebody there is only one thing that I worry about. I want to make sure that my partner is enjoying herself. Aside from that I won't worry about anything on the dance floor. Sure, if I were to dance a show then I would pay more attention to the way I look but social dancing is not a show, and it is not a competition. The only price to be won is the smile on your partner's face and she'll be too close to notice the hip movement.

In spite of the tricky hip movement though it seems that bachata is rapidly gaining in popularity in the US. Going by what Don wrote it has taken the dance floor by storm over the last 6 months and it looks like it will continue to do so. I hope he is right. I would much rather dance or watch bachata than merengue. Don for one is definitely not letting himself be held back and he is diving head first into learning bachata with some DVD's** made by Edie and Jorge**

And as always Don offers good advice.
Bachata is a sensual dance and can be danced very close. However, comfort levels differ and not all women will like to dance close. Paying attention to your parter is important. If she is uncomfortable then it is time to put some more distance between the 2 of you. Switching to an open position might the best idea.

In case you don't know any bachata yet but and want to start learning, here is a video explaining the basics ***





Today's disclaimers:

* I don't think Don is one of the people that is worried about this either.
** This is a sponsored link. However, I have seen the DVDs from 'the world's best leads' series and thought the quality was very good compared to other DVDs that I have seen.
*** There may be better videos on YouTube but this was the first one I found.

learn to dance salsa - part 1

I just realized that I've been writing for about half a year now but that I have never said what I think is the best way to learn.

Over the past couple of months I've met a lot of people that learned to dance salsa in different ways. The people I've met can be put into a couple of groups:

  1. People that learn to dance salsa by taking lessons
  2. People that learn to dance salsa by going to clubs
  3. People that learn to dance salsa by watching videos
  4. People that learn to dance salsa by doing all of the above

That is a very basic breakdown and there are a lot of subcategories but let's keep it simple for now.

Over the next couple of posts I will look at the these different groups. Today I'll start out with group 1 and then I will work my way down the list. In the last post I'll also give you my point of view and let you know what I think is the best way to learn.

So let's have a closer look at the first group.

People that learn to dance salsa by taking lessons.

What are the advantages of taking lessons?
  • You learn to dance the basic steps and once you know those you will keep learning new moves and patterns.
  • Because of the way courses are set up you will be pushed to improve with every class.
  • You have an instructor who can correct you when you make mistakes.
  • You can ask questions when something is not clear.
  • You learn about frame, tension, timing, how moves are lead, etc.
  • Everybody in the class is at the same level as you are so there is no need to feel self conscious.
  • It's easy to meet new people. Everybody is there for the same reason as you are, to learn to dance salsa

Sounds great doesn't it?
Unfortunately there are also some disadvantages.

  • Classes are usually only once per week so progress can be slow.
  • You need to have some discipline and practice at home or you will probably forget what you have learned.
  • Practicing at home is hard if you don't have a partner so you may have to find one.
  • Taking lessons can be expensive.
  • Courses are often aimed at the 'average' student. If you're learn quicker than the average student you might get bored. If you learn a bit more slowly than the average student you may feel lost from time to time.
As you can see you will have to take some bad with the good.
Next time I will look at learning to dance salsa by going to clubs and see what the advantages and disadvantages are there.

top 7 Salsa websites

Ok, so I'm a bit of a geek and spend a fair bit of time online.

Luckily there are a lot of salsa sites out on the net so being online does not mean having to go without salsa. Today I'll share my top 7 favourite salsa websites.* Or rather, my top 7 of information websites. I'm leaving out paid online classes, music sites, radio station etc. but will cover those another time.

Ok, enough rambling. My top 7 salsa websites for you:

1) Addicted2Salsa.com I love this website. They have great podcasts. It's amazing they don't charge for them. I also love their forum even though I don't really participate.

2) Salsaforums.com The name says it all. A great community although, just like before, I don't really participate. I love lurking there though.

3) Salsafreak.com Edie's website. I'm just mentioning this one but check all her other sites as well. The links are on this site.

4) The Unlikely Salsero Don is by far my favourite blogger. I don't think there's a single post of his that I don't like.

5) YouTube The ultimate collection of video clips. The only downside is that the quality is often poor.

6) Chrissie's Salsa Directory It's chaotic but has lots of links relating to salsa in Germany and Austria. As I live in Germany at the moment this one hit my top 7.

7) Ritmo Bello A site that I've only just discovered but has great content.`


* Disclaimer: This is my personal top 7 salsa websites. Your mileage my vary.
Also, I've found that there are a lot of great websites that don't show up on obvious google searches so if you know of any websites that you think should have been mentioned here feel free to leave a comment.

Plagiarism

Apparently I've been plagiarized.

Now part of me is all excited about that.
I mean, this was mainly meant to keep track of my own progress but, as with dancing salsa, I'm slowly starting to go from being shy to liking attention.

Now I would not have known this if wanderingsalsero hadn't blogged about it and I would have probably been perfectly happy if I had not known about it. Ignorance after all is bliss.

However, now that I do know about it I feel . . . used.
It's not that I feel my writing is great or that my content is great. However, it is my writing and my content. And if anybody wants to publish it on their site I feel they should at least link back.

Btw wanderingsalsero, thanks for the 'Ok' feedback. It's a higher rating than I would have given myself ;-)

Social dancing

In my last post I mentioned that I'm starting to get over my fear of social dancing. That's actually not quite true.
I realized last night that I have already gotten over my fear of social dancing.

It took me a while but the dance floor is no longer an intimidating place that makes me want to sit in a corner and hide.

Looking back it was ridiculous that I ever felt that way but then, most things we are scared of turn out to be silly after we have faced our fears.

So how did I get over my dance floor anxiety?
Well, it was actually pretty easy.

At one point I got really frustrated just sitting/standing while watching other people dance. As I was still afraid people would be bored dancing with me I decided to ask beginners to dance.
And when I say beginners I mean beginners. Girls that had just learned a basic step. These girls were delighted that anybody asked them to dance at all and had no idea if I did something wrong.

After getting comfortable dancing with absolute beginners I started asking people to dance that were slightly better and for the next couple of weeks I only danced with girls that were still below my level.

Then I stepped up a bit again.
I started asking people at my own level to dance and I realized something 'odd'.
It turned out that dancing with them was fun and not intimidating at all. And even though they were all used to dance with better dancers by now, none of them were bored.

Then a strange thing started to happen.
Girls were starting to ask me to dance.
And not just girls that I had danced with before but also some girls that I wouldn't ask yet as they were well above my level.

The first time it happened I experienced a pang of fear again. Here I was being asked to dance but one of the dancers I really admire. At first I wanted to make up an excuse and back out of it.
However when I was just a young boy (I think I was 10 at the time) I was taught that it is very rude to say 'no' when a lady asks you to dance (it's probably the only thing I remember from ballroom dancing). This early programming overcame my fear and we danced. Afterwards I thanked her telling her what a joy it was to dance with somebody that was so gracious and so easy to lead and her face lit up. That night I learned you can even make more experienced dancers feel good when, or in this case after, you dance with them.

Now I can dance comfortably (more or less comfortably anyway) with anybody.
If I feel a girl is a better dancer than me I will always tell her up front that I've only been dancing for about half a year but that's all. The paralyzing feeling that I used to have is completely gone.

Looking back it's all a bit frustrating.
I can now see myself improving and I realize that I could have improved so much more if only I had started sooner. I'm sure I would also have remembered a lot more of what I've been taught over the past couple of months as I would have repeated it more often while dancing.
On the other hand, it could be worse. I could still be sitting on the sidelines watching the other people have a great time.

The strangest thing

Just the other day I was at a workshop and the strangest thing happened.

We were talking a bit and one of the guys there said 'I really like how you dance'.
I was blown away and didn't know what to say.

Here I am just trying to get through a choreography and apparently I managed to impress somebody. I don't remember the last time I was so proud.

I know I'm far from a great dancer. I'm only just now starting to get over my fears of social dancing. But I guess I'm starting to do something right :-)

Then yesterday one of the girls I regularly dance with asked me to dance to her favourite song which made me feel even better.

It's things like this that happen just at the right time. I felt like I wasn't improving at all lately (although I can now see clear differences between myself and the new beginners) but these 2 things have rekindled my determination to learn to dance!