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Editors Note: This is Adrian Buendia's first contribution to SalsaNewYork. His opinions are meant as a counterpoint to stimulate thought. Call it thinking from the flip side of the coin. As Adrian stated to me in an email "I do not wish to offend anybody, I am just looking to share my experience with others and
get some feedback.". 

-by Adrian J Buendia

It is a common practice among salsa dance instructors, to have the students
switch partners frequently during the class in order to get them used to
dancing with different partners.  As a beginner student I found this
practice, at least the way it is generally done,  counterproductive and

Every time I was learning a turn in any class I took, just when my partner
and I where beginning to "get it," the instructor would switch partners and I
would find myself right back at the beginning.  If my new partner was behind
in learning the turn, or her style or sense of rhythm was different from my
previous partner's, or my own, this would throw me off and render any
progress I made before of little use.  I needed time to synchronize with this
new person.

The instructor usually continued where he/she left off before the switch,
ignoring the conflict created by it.  Meanwhile, my new partner and I, now
more focused on adapting to each other's style and understanding of the turn
than on what the instructor was saying, would fall behind on the instruction
and eventually find ourselves pretty lost.

I tried taking an intermediate class, to see if dancing with a more advanced
partner would help, but I couldn't keep up, the pace was too fast for me.   I
went to several classes with 3 different instructors, all well known and
reputable, hoping to find one that would do it differently.  They all did it
the same way. 

I think that a better way for instructors to do the partner switch, is by
allowing the students to learn one complete turn with the same partner, and
then, when they start teaching a new turn, have them switch partners.  This
way the instructor is not adding one more difficulty to the already difficult
task of understanding and memorizing a turn.

Being able to dance with different partners is, obviously, important, but for
a man to adapt to a new partner's style, he must be able to lead her,
something he cannot do  when he is still learning the steps.   And for a
woman to adapt to a new partner, she must also be familiar with the steps, so
that she can understand what her partner is trying to do, and follow. 
Because of this, it seems to me that people who already know how to dance are
the ones who can  benefit the most from the experience of dancing with
different partners.  People who are trying to learn how to dance are,
instead, hindered by it, since they are, in practice, trying to learn two
things at the same time.

I personally think that the ideal way to learn how to dance is by practicing
with the same partner, this way the couple can quickly adapt to each other's
style, their level of ability will be matched, and their progress will be
even.  This frees their minds to focus entirely on learning the steps, and
they learn better. 

However, dance classes where one is not required to bring a partner, allow
many more people to participate, and  make it easier for the instructor to
run a full class, since it does not require continuity but, instead, it can
always accommodate new students of different levels and contain full
instruction on a variety of things.  That's why this type of class is more
desirable for students as well as instructors and, therefore, more popular.

I must add here that I am not a true beginner, and that I actually have an
advantage over the average beginner:  I was born and raised in Cuba, where I
learned the basic steps of Salsa dancing very early.  It is turns that I
never bothered to learn.  I am also a musician, and have played Salsa
professionally for years.  Understandably, I have no problem at all picking
up floor shines, basic steps, or anything that I can do without a partner.

I have stopped taking classes, and have been learning from videos instead,
with a friend.  Though videos are an effective tool to learn how to dance,
they are not nearly as motivating as being in a class.  Dancing is a social
activity, and being around other dancers is half the fun.

I welcome any feedback on the opinions that I have expressed here.  Feel free
to email me at:   AJB0580@AOL.COM



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