Last week, I discussed some elements of the first connection in partner dancing, namely, connecting with the music. Today, we move on to the second connection: connecting with your partner.
In a similar way that some people dance to the count in their head rather than to the music, some salsa dancers will dance patterns and choreography irrespective of what their partner might be doing. For example, a follower might “turn herself” instead of allowing the leader to turn her. A leader might wave his arms around attempting to mimic a pattern in his head and become frustrated that the follower isn’t clairvoyantly dancing that particular pattern. In that case, the follower helplessly offers the excuse, “I haven’t learned that pattern yet,” responding not to the leader’s lead, but to the tacit expectation that the follower should correctly dance her part, independent of the lead (or lack thereof)!
So what does it mean to have a great connection with your partner? It starts by having a great connection with yourself. Your body should be moving as one unit, with all your muscles engaged and moving in concert. Arm and hand motion are deliberate and intentional, rather than waving randomly. Hips and shoulders are aligned for turns so that the upper and lower parts of your body turn together. Once YOU are engaged, you can begin to connect with your partner. Once again, extraneous hand and arm movements are kept to a minimum and always made with intention. Each partner exerts equal pressure on the other so that both partners feel exactly where their partner is at all times. In open position, the follower’s palms press against the leader’s knuckles. In closed position, there is an equal and opposite, push-and-pull tension in both partners’ arms at all times.
The result of maintaining full engagement with both your body and your partners is that you as a couple appear to move across the dance floor as one connected and coordinated unit. Each partner should feel “light” to the other partner, appearing to an observer as if it should take no effort whatsoever to either lead the follower or follow the leader. Simply put, great couples are almost perfectly in sync at all times – even when they’re dancing!