Do Ladies/Followers Need to Take Classes?

Ladies (Followers) often learn partner dancing, be it Salsa or other styles, simply by doing…they show up at a Social and get asked to dance by the guys (leaders), especially if they’re…well…cute! The guys show them the steps, the girl learns how to follow by experience (I love this awkward moment when you lead a beginner follower into a right turn and she rushes into a left turn, almost twisting her arm…) and…voilà…she can dance! Kinda…

So the question is: Can a lady learn Salsa by just going to Socials…or should she attend classes?

While guys/men/leaders HAVE to take classes to be able to lead and to develop a certain repertoire of moves, the issue certainly is not as clear cut for ladies/followers.

Of course, I’m a Salsa instructor, so my opinion on this issue is certainly a bit biased…but let me try to be as objective as I can…

You’ll probably not be surprised if I tell you that in my opinion, ladies should also take classes. I actually have a few female friends who learned dancing by doing…without ever attending a class…and they’re decent dancers! Still, I think they would have benefited A LOT from attending classes. Here’s why:

Bad Habits

Ladies that learn Salsa by just going to Socials tend to develop bad habits. Why? Because nobody ever corrects them! Commenting on your partner’s mistakes during a Social is a no-no…and honestly, a beginner leader wouldn’t even know what she did wrong or why a particular move isn’t working.

One reason why followers who learn Salsa dancing only by going to Socials is that beginner followers typically get asked to dance by beginner leaders…these guys don’t really know what they’re doing yet…so the girl tends to learn the wrong stuff from them.

Bad habits could be having a soft frame…the proverbial Spaghetti arms! Frame in the context of dancing is the combination of arms, shoulders and upper back. It’s hard to lead a follower that doesn’t give enough resistance and doesn’t offer a firm frame. Other bad habits could be having poor timing, squeezing the hands of the leader or the steps and moves just being somewhat right…but not exactly!

In contrast, during a class, I pay great attention to how my students are doing. If I see a bad habit creeping in, I weed it out right away, before it even becomes a bad habit.

Poor Timing

Ladies who learned Salsa dancing by just going to Socials often have poor timing. Salsa music is quite complicated, and then there is the infamous pause… many beginner dancers, leaders and followers alike, don’t dance on the beat of the music, or they dance to the wrong beat. A very common issue with ladies who never went to a class is that they cut the pause short…which means that they’ll be off the beat immediately. Also, in Salsa certain things have to be done at a certain time and to a certain count to dance properly. It’s hard to learn that in the heat of the moment of a Social.

Sloppy Steps and Moves

If a lady has never been explained how the different steps and moves in Salsa really work, she might not do them properly. She just kinda knows them….sorta. A common symptom of that is if a lady gets off the line. That’s usually because she doesn’t do the turns the way they’re supposed to be done. If she gets off the line, she might bounce into the neighboring couples, because the leader assumed she would dance along the line and reserved space for her on the dance floor accordingly.

Lacking Technique

For partner dancing, proper technique when following is quite important. A follower doesn’t have to remember moves like leaders do, but she has to have good following technique! The two areas where this matters the most for followers is having a solid frame and good spinning. I talked about the issues with a soft frame above, so let’s talk about spinning…probably the area where good technique matters the most for followers! Ladies who have never gone to a class can usually only do single turns…and as I keep saying to my students: single turns are for beginners! Double and multiple spins is where the real fun begins! The technique to do multiple spins properly has to be trained in a safe environment, like a dance studio with good floors and mirrors, and without music, with an observant instructor who can share tricks and exercises to practice. Only after going through this training will multiple spins start working on the dance floor.

Slow Learning Curve

While a follower can make some progress when only dancing at Socials, the learning curve can be quite slow. What the follower who learns like that is lacking is constructive criticism and targeted exercises. Criticizing a follower during Socials is frowned upon, for good reasons, so a follower might rarely ever hear what she’s doing wrong. Not so in a class: a good instructor will watch his students and point out if they’re doing something incorrectly.

Followers who never take classes also often reach a plateau, where they’re not making any progress anymore, regardless of how often they go dancing. This is when followers often lose interest in Salsa dancing altogether and disappear from the dancing scene! What a pity, but I’ve seen it all too often! What if that gal had just decided to take some classes to reach the next level?? Maybe she would still be dancing today!

So should Followers Take Classes?

Absolutely! Followers can benefit a great deal from proper instructions! They will get better faster and be asked to dance by the better leaders more often! So…what are you waiting for? TAKE CLASSES!

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