Social media’s influences on the dance scene
Question By User dwkfym
I used to be in an industry where performance pedigree and other concrete measures of product desirability existed. I left it around 2013 just when online marketing was getting big. Apparently, today, there are a ton of sub-par products that are very popular due to how it is presented on facebook, youtube, and instagram, etc. Same thing happens in the motorcycle world, another hobby I am heavily involved in. When I started, racing performance was what counted, and it trickled down to provide very good, good economical bang for buck products for people to use. Now we have really overpriced, brand name driven products instead. Basically, whatever product seems to present well visually. Seems that at least in some industries, social media’s importance in marketing has ruined a lot of things.
I’m beginning to think the same thing about latin dancing. I’m only in year 3 of dancing, but I was lucky enough to have all my mentors and advice givers–especially in this group– stress how important it is to work on the less tangible aspects of salsa in addition to fundamentals, so that is what I continue to focus on. You know, connection to partner, connection to music, communication, all that good stuff.
I haven’t been to a single drop in, or easily accessible class that talked about these things. All of the instructors just want to do cool patterns and be flashy. It trickles down very directly to dancers in the city. What people in my city, largely, value is how cool someone is, how great they look, and how much recognition someone gets. Its to a point where people who are better dancers don’t realize that XYZ instructor is actually a pretty crap partner dancer, regardless of his knowledge of his repertoire. All the new kids look up to this type of performance dancing and forego the partner aspect of it. I’ve shown up to socials and seen instructors wonder why follows want to dance with a relatively unknown n00b like me, over a ‘star’ like them, though it seems like some sort of ego self defense mechanism comes with an amicable solution in their minds. I imagine its something like ‘he isn’t part of a team or a school, so I bet girls like dancing with him because he only does easy shit’ (i’ve heard something like this before being said about someone else). And the many of the teachers I respect and have created the scene in my city are slowly fading away. I think they are tired of it all.
I think its because its that much more efficient for influential people in the scene to be visually impressive, because of social media. And I hate what that is doing to my city. I do my best to help newer follows see that there is so much more and you don’t have to try to be in the spotlight by dancing with as many of them as I can.
One measure of condolence is that regardless of where someone places emphasis, it seems that if they keep at it and continue to improve, people tend to arrive at the same place, where every aspect of dancing, including the outwardly visible, and the invisible aspects are highly practiced and enjoyed.
How is it with your scene? Sorry, I’m ranting more than anything else. And I haven’t been around long enough to know if this is cyclical, or maybe its something that has always been there but I am just now starting to notice. But I have traveled to other cities, where people in that city go ‘oh! people in the city you are from are so good!’ and had so. much. more. fun there just because the dancers there make an effort to be good at what I think is important in Salsa.
Most teachers just teaching moves and not connection to the music or good lead follow technique has been true since the dawn of time and has nothing to do with social media.
I’ve heard people blame the congresses for what you describe, not social media. I’ve heard Frankie Martinez doing workshops at a congress where he blames the congress for promoting this pattern-monkey style of dance. In my mind, though, it’s more about money. Dancing to the music is just hard. It’s easier to close your eyes and throw the woman’s arms around. Economically, the most profitable model is to herd as many people as possible though a low level curriculum. How many people want to spend a year learning the basic step? Check out Frankie Martinez, you may like him.
It’s always been about teaching things you can start using immediately, although you can do that to musicality as well…
At a certain level there is only so much you can teach someone that you have to differentiate yourself from everybody else’s patterns be it styling,arm/hand playing.
I wish there was one day of the congress dedicated to strictly musicality, connection, frame. I’ve learned more in those type of classes than others with a pattern that is not socially leadable and I will never use. Magna had a 3 hour BASICS class in San Antonio that focused on connection/frame/tension/posture etc., there was no pattern, but I got more from that than I did from other classes combined
Some teachers I go to just because I feel like learning a few moves, others because I want to be a better dancer. London is an interesting scene because there’s a fairly balanced split between the different styles of dancers. There’s a bit of an Adolfo/Milan style creeping in at the moment because a few of his dancers are pretty regular members of the scene, but that’s balanced out by Mario’s pure moves/technique approach and the more playful connection-oriented style caused by some eastern european influences.
Me, I just want to be smooth.
I feel like social media has been a good thing because salsa teachers are not good at marketing and design generally, their websites and adverts are awful on the whole.
I think, as others have said, that it’s easier to teach moves than music appreciation. Honestly, I think the standard class is a poor place to learn anything except moves, and that the classes are there for three things: — draw in new people with simplified basics and a few fancy moves — allow people to practice consistently in the social afterwards — create a sociable salsa community To learn anything meaningful, you have to private lessons and workshops, or do a lot of self-study. A good salsa dancer is on their own learning journey, and a weekly class can’t carry them to them end.
Understanding the music is hard. Doing the basics properly is hard. Trying to teach new people these advanced ideas is hard and will just scare people away from progressing further.
The issue is that many people have so little self-awareness or musical knowledge that they simply don’t know how much they are missing or how poor they are, and they want to be teachers because it sounds impressive.
This means that a lot of salsa classes are poor teachers leading poor students, but even good teachers can only teach so much to new people at the beginning so this will always be the case.
Just look after your own journey, and be glad that so many poor dancers are willing to pay money to teachers, classes and clubs as they are effectively subsidising your lessons. Find people that you like to dance with, and they’ll come back to you each time. Learn to dance well and have fun with poor dancers — because your dance might be the one that inspires them to really start to learn properly.