In last week’s Lead, we looked at how the intention of our classes is not so much to learn the pattern perfectly from beginning to end. Rather, our intention is to convey ideas and applied skills that you can incorporate, according to the nature of the music and the skill of your partner, into your social dancing. The patterns which provide a context for these ideas and skills are often a challenge, to be sure. Memorizing a particular choreography presents a particular challenge unto itself over and above the specific dance skills it may encompass. Given all that, and given that I don’t necessarily expect everyone to master the pattern in one, or two, or even three lessons, this week, let’s take a closer look at how you might want to experience the lesson itself for maximal effect.
One of our students commented to me that the fun begins when they no longer have to think about, “what comes next” in a particular dance combination. That is a great insight! When I say a dancer must connect with the music, their partner, and the floor, you’ll notice I don’t include their brain! So one objective of the lesson is to begin to develop the so-called muscle memory that enables you to perform a set of basic skills grouped into a combination element without having to think about it. Almost every element connects from – and to – some other, more basic element, like a spot turn, travelling turn, hammerlock, cross-body lead, and the like. What this means is that you can build your own repertoire of variations that are the answer to the question, “What various things can I do after a hammerlock? Or a hand toss? Or a walkaround?” Or a whatever.
In any combination pattern that is the weekly theme, there are probably elements with which you might be more familiar, and elements that are relatively more novel or completely brand new. In this case, your attention and learning might focus more on the new elements to ensure you have the details, proper form, and timing of the particular element, more so than worrying about not getting the entire pattern down.
Finally, when learning any pattern or combination, keep an awareness of foundational skills: connection, frame, foot placement, relative body position, and the rest of the important details that we repeat each and every lesson. The more you can integrate these basic components of great dancing – especially into new skills and moves – the better dancer you will become, even without learning entire choreographies. Your personal development in dance transcends any one school or teacher – even one as enjoyable as Salsaholics Anonymous!