As you might expect, I approach teaching my Foundation and Repertoire classes in opposite ways. And yet, there are inherent similarities that align, once you notice them. Let me explain.
Foundation class, as many of my students know, focuses on a set of basic salsa moves and dance skills that should become second-nature for everyone. Of course we work on the basic step—for new dancers, simply getting the rhythm, and for more experienced dancers, concentrating on details like foot placement, weight shifting, holding one’s own frame and so forth. We work on spot turns, travelling turns, hammerlocks, escapes, partner frame, and all the rest. In the mixed-level class, I work to ensure that there’s something for everyone so that each of us can continuously improve our skill, precision, form, and most of all, fun and joyfulness in the dance. My intention is that our more-than-beginner students will pay close attention to concentrate on one detail at each class, and then mindfully include that detail in the practice pattern. Over time, they will inevitably find (as I did myself over the years) that focused concentration on each detail improves one’s overall dance skill, form, and enjoyment. The idea behind learning the pattern at this level is not so much to learn choreography or “standard moves,” but rather to have an opportunity to train the details in the context of a combination pattern that flows. Incorporate the details while dancing relatively simple patterns will help engrain those details so that they carry over to the social dance floor.
In Repertoire class, the teaching is sort of reversed. I introduce a choreography of, say, eight to twelve individual moves which is the learning challenge for the class. The first level of learning here is to “get” the combination to flow together, usually in two or three sections. Such learning is not only great training for the mind in remembering the choreography. It also enables you to take individual elements of the combination – for instance, a particular hand flip, or variation on hammerlock, Titanic, or Copa – and be able to incorporate them seamlessly as individual elements in your own social dancing. Incorporated into learning the particular choreography of the evening are, once again, the details—the small elements of timing, connection, lead signalling, follow reading, hand placement, and adapting to one’s partner that, over time, build one’s skill as an excellent dancer. So, the Repertoire class is more than building a repertoire of combinations to be reproduced at a social or in a club. My intention here is to concentrate on “the moves within the moves” that make all the difference in the world between repeating steps and truly flowing with the music.
This week, when you join one or both of our classes – and especially if you’ve been away for a while and are thinking of returning – my invitation to you is to pick one aspect or element from the lesson(s) and focus on building your skill, mindfully incorporating that element into your movements, so that the subtle improvement becomes part of who you are as a dancer. Over time, these elements add up, and you become amazing, as we all…
…see you on the dance floor!