One question I’ve heard often as a teacher is “when will I be good enough to go out dancing?”
We encourage our students to start going out very soon after they start taking classes. It’s a great way to get a feel for the different styles of dance, for the atmosphere of a salsa party, and for the music. It’s also an opportunity to practice, people-watch, and get to know some new dancers. But when it comes time for a new dancer to go out for the first time, hearts always seem to sink: will everyone there be better than me? Will I be the only beginner there? Do I know enough moves?
There seems to be a common misconception that you need to attain some level of proficiency before you’re allowed to show your face at a salsa party – and that’s simply not true. I often see people at salsa parties who are taking their very first steps into salsa that night, and having a great time learning the basic step.
In Ottawa, we’re very fortunate to have a friendly Latin dance community; even the best dancers in town remember their beginner days, when they faced the same insecurities encountered by beginners today. They will be happy to see new faces on the dance floor and will gladly dance with you!
Once you feel ready to go to your first salsa party, here is a quick and dirty guide to enjoying yourself and having a great night of dancing:
Bring a friend
Going out dancing on your own for the first time can be intimidating. Going dancing with a group alleviates that stress and gives you a safe haven if you ever feel overwhelmed. We often organize class outings, but don’t be shy to get your own group together!
Bring dance shoes
Most salsa socials require that you wear dance shoes or indoor shoes. This is mainly to protect their dance floors from outside elements and from being marked by rubber soles. If you do not have a pair of dance shoes, a pair of clean shoes with a non-rubber sole would work as well.
Show up early
Most salsa parties start with a one-hour class, which is often beginner-friendly. Taking this class not only gives you a chance to learn something new, it also means you’ll get to meet other dancers and break the ice during the class, which will make it easier to ask them for a dance (and more likely to have them ask you for a dance) later in the evening.
Don’t be shy
Guys, don’t be afraid to ask a girl to dance, even if you feel that she is a better dancer. As long as you are courteous and polite, chances are her next song will be yours. Ladies, don’t be afraid to ask guys to dance as well – it’s allowed!
Don’t be afraid to say no
If there is anyone you would rather not to dance with, or if you feel uncomfortable during a dance for any reason, don’t be afraid to break it off. Don’t let a bad dance ruin your night. As long as you are polite about it, no one will hold it against you.
Make new friends!
One of the best things about Ottawa’s salsa community is that it is close-knit: after a while, everyone gets to know one another, so you’re guaranteed to find some new pals!
Social dancing is about letting loose and having a good time moving to the music. Whatever you do, don’t forget to have fun!
One final rule:
If you ever see any of your teachers at any dance event, ask us for a dance!