Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Style to Call My Own

I'm watching a Jack and Jill contest at this pulsing club. The audience is circling the dance floor like vultures, rubbernecking to see around the people standing in the front. The woman next to me says "I love watching that guy." I understand; that lead is one of the best "dancers" in the room. Thinking I'll do her a favor and make the connection I reply, "I know him, do you want an introduction?" She says, "No thanks, I've danced with him before and I don't like his lead."

I wasn't surprised; I've seen this over and over. A great personal style doesn't make you a great lead. The best dancers have both, but while you are getting from startup to world-class, make your lead the priority.

Newer dancers are always searching for that great style. They want to look unique, and they believe the key to quality dancing is having a personal style that is their own, impressing women with their sexy moves. Your look may be impressive and women may want to watch, but that doesn't mean they want to dance with you.

Working your style is not always the best place to start. It is a consideration, but until you are well along in the intermediate/advanced stages, it's highly overrated. For men, you can have very little personal style, but be a great (or poor) lead. The quality of your lead isn't directly related to your how good you look as a dancer. If you focus on mastering your leading skills, your connections, and making your partner look great, you'll have so many dances that your personal style will naturally develop over time.

If you see early DVDs/videos from Super Mario, you'll see a guy who has a clunky style, but learned how to make women look great with a quality lead. He gets so many dances with excellent women that his personal style has evolved and he is coming into his own. He still isn't a Luis or Johnny Vasquez, but he didn't get so popular with the ladies because his body waves and sexy style wowed them. His style was about as vanilla as tap water with a slice of lemon.

He mastered his leading techniques, developed a very large pattern vocabulary, and learned to also pay attention to his partner and the music. Nobody would accuse him of a Cuban influence, and he's almost as unlikely as me. But he gives hope to millions of us guys, because he is an EXCELLENT lead and the women love him.

Before getting hung up on style, be sure your leading fundamentals are sound. That often requires getting some private lessons with a quality teacher, someone who will give you honest feedback and fine-tune your lead. Take some of your instruction from the best women in the area, as they will give you a perspective that is hard to find among the male instructors.

Style comes with time, and exposure to plenty of quality dancers. Stay focused on mastering your fundamentals for a while and check out my previous article on watching videos. Develop a great connection and a clear, quality lead, and you'll be dancing with the better ladies as your style matures over time.

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.
-Emo Philips

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero