Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Should Smile More

DSCF4338-Mambo_Dance-Tremestieri_Etneo-Sicilia...They look happy being there.
I thought I was better, but I've seen the evidence!

I need to smile more and maybe you do too. Even just a reasonable expression would sometimes be an upgrade for me.

I was at a club before the holidays and somebody caught me in 4 or 5 photos while shooting people in the club.

They posted the pictures to their Facebook album, and tagged me in one of the photos. Facebook sends me a message ("You've been tagged") and, wanting to remind myself of my incredibly handsome face (read: being vain), I checked it out, then looked through the rest of the album and found that I could be seen in a few other shots taken during the same dance.

Darn! In every one of the photos, I wasn't smiling. Not even close. The expression on my face was appropriate, but only for falling down a flight of stairs or fixing leaking plumbing around the house, rather than dancing with a beautiful follow to great music.

I was happy they didn't tag me in all the photos, or everybody else would see my "unhappy" mug for what appears to be the complete song. (OK... I didn't like my dancing lines either... but that's another article.)

Worse, I've danced with this follow before and we always have a great time. I look forward to our dances so it wasn't her, it was me. I'm sure I asked her to dance (since I often do that if we're in the same club), and I dance with her because we have a good time regularly. I'm embarrassed by my expression, or I would link to the photos...

Apparently my facial muscles missed the memo that I was having fun. If I'm looking unhappy with a repeat partner where I expect a great dance due to previous experiences, what the heck do I look like with others?

Seeing the photos was a rude awakening for me since I thought I was doing better. I decided I needed to make some changes and work on smiling more.

Maybe the few photos were the couple moments I let my guard down, but I suspect I'm just not as happy looking as I think.

Typical clown makeupA little too much.
How about you? Are you smiling enough?

In my classes I always tell people they need to smile. If you don't smile occasionally, most people assume it's because you hate the dance or your partner, not that you're worried about yourself. (Often my issue.)

Females should smile even more, but us guys shouldn't look like a prostate exam is in progress. There is a happy middle ground, and more smiling is better than less.

Everybody is a better dancer if they appear happy while doing it. But sometimes you do need to fake it. I've never believed in trying to only fake it on the floor. See if you can smile more off the floor, then it becomes easier and more genuine while dancing. That said, even a fake smile is better than a sincere murderous expression on the dance floor.

Now I'm working on it, no matter how I feel.

That said we don't need a clown face the whole song. Even an occasional silly grin would be an upgrade for me, so I'm also working on it outside of dancing. In the car, at the grocery store, dance classes (both taking classes and teaching) and even if I'm just by myself. (This makes others wonder what is wrong with me... which makes me laugh to myself.)

The irony for me is that I love dancing, so why doesn't my face reflect it? I can understand one photo where I look unhappy, but not 3 or 4 in the same dance. I need to grow and the same may apply to you.

Every time I see a mirror I'm working on "happying up", and looking like I'm having fun even if I'm not. If you see me and I'm not smiling, remind me by smiling to yourself or just slapping me in the face (gently).

Next time you see me, I'll be smiling more and I hope the same applies to you.

Let me know what you're doing to improve your dancing expressions.

He liked to like people, therefore people liked him.
--Mark Twain


  1. Having only followed you through your posts, I find it hard to believe in a facial expression unlike your posted avatar snap.

    Is there a different motivation perhaps when you're dancing at a club vs. dancing in a performance?

    Like you though, I've become more conscious recently about the very same thing. Thanks for vocalizing it.

  2. I've noticed how most of the girls that I really like dancing with smile a lot, and there are some that I don't like dancing with, simply because they don't smile or make eye contact and it makes me feel almost insulted. I'm sure its the same for them too and I try to remember to smile.

    But that's only part of the bigger picture of what you do with your whole face. How to use the eyes, overall expression, concentration, vocalisation movements - all have a powerful effect on the emotions created - great tools if used well.

    I guess even the face should be dancing too.


  3. DezertDiva: In my case I'm only social dancing these days, so I have no excuse not to smile. In a performance, smiling is part of the rehearsal (or should be), so I'd expect that to be a given.

  4. Joe: You have it right; our whole face should reflect we are happy to be dancing rather than typing at the computer. I guess I use "smiling" as the starting point for a positive expression.

  5. I have danced and seen you in the club. I am laughing as I read this article; you are much funnier in writing than you look. I think you are a great lead, may be you were just so pre-occupied about what to do with the next lead and trying to protect the followers not to get stepped on or kicked; therefore smiling is not your priority. I always smile when I am dancing, unless the guy has the following traits:

    • Bad lead, but I will still try to smile if the partner looks happy; don’t want to spoil his fun.
    • Strong body odor or bad breath. Double whammy goes on my black list.
    • Soaking wet is acceptable as long as no foul smell come with it.
    • Too many turns and non-stopping fancy lead. Not as if I don’t enjoy it, but it makes me feel like taking a final exam to show how much I have learned. I really have to focus and not to mess it up; after all I only have couple years of Salsa dancing experience. I can look very serious or start to laugh at the end of the song, because I made through it, hopefully didn’t make a fool of myself.

  6. Anonymous: Thanks for the kind words... Some others have thought I'm funnier looking than I write, but we'll leave that for now.

    Maybe I just had a bad song, but I realize that my partner won't know WHY I'm not looking happy. The last thing I want is my partner thinking my sour expression is because of them.

    Nobody has gun to my head saying, "Dance with this woman!" Usually I asked them. I feel I owe my partners a better expression.

    I suspect a few others should think about their expression too.

    Last night I danced in the same club again and I felt good about my progress. Of course, there were no photographers around to confirm/deny that feeling.

    I didn't look like a clown, but I certainly didn't look like the doctor just asked me to cough.

    I was thinking about being happy every dance last night. I want it to simply be my norm over time. Once I can't keep a decent expression, I should go home.

    Say hello when we're in the club. Obviously I don't know who you are from this posting. Hopefully my face will be plugged into my brain that night.

  7. Hi Don,
    Just been doing some solo practice at home using a video and I remembered your words. Wow, it make a huge difference smiling, really quite astonishingly so. Without changing anything else it transforms the appearance of the dance work.
    Gotta put that on the dance floor now.

  8. Part might be flow - I'm trying to think, but would likely say full attention demanding flow you'll not get smiles. Isn't it likely to have the need to have "salsa dancing capacity" to spare to be able to be smiling etc (naturally smiling, not pasting something on)?

    It may mirror your dancing to an extent of how much back and forth, or comedy or playfulness is in your dance? Is there a lot of surprise in the dancing for example. I wouldn't know beyond an assumption from reading your articles, and seeing there's a lot of thought, training and talent your way!

    Maybe there's mileage to the phrase "dancing in your head"? Maybe comedy, or surprise is a script or dialogue that is slightly orthogonal to the traditional musicality dialogue you'd have when being in keeping with a song?

  9. One of my favorite lady to dance with at the Granada (I've pointed her out.) not only smiles a lot, she's actually laughing too. She always seems to be having fun, even with me.

  10. Some of us do suffer from clown face.
    (I guess it's 'cause we like dancing so much.)

    Any remedies therefor would be much appreciated.
    Don't want to scare the good leads away.

  11. Wow...I am impressed by your self-reflection. You really take care of Every part of your body for a better salsa dancing. For me, dancing makes me smile automatically....I don't know why. I guess my whole body really feel happy when dancing :>


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero