A Focus On Dance Floor Etiquette For Salseros
by Mike Bello
During the Christmas holidays, I went to a local church to find the schedule for New Year’s Eve mass when I happened upon a pamphlet that should be mandatory for all social dancers, Salsa or otherwise.
It began with a story about a young woman about to cross a busy New York street.
She had the right-of-way and was taking her time crossing in front of a taxi.
As the cab driver nudged his taxi closer she said, without looking at him, “You touch me, and you’re dead meat.”
In another cab at the same intersection was Richard Brookhiser, a senior editor of National Review magazine, observing the above display of mutual rudeness.
This got him to think about courtesy.
Author of the George Washington biography, "Founding Father", Brookhiser remembered how the first president of the United States, by age 17, had carried a list of rules with him about civil behavior.
Once someone had shown young Washington the pamphlet entitled "110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation," he painstakingly copied every one into a little notebook.
Throughout his life, including the American Revolution and the eight years of his presidency, Washington carried those rules.
Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust (Rule 89), and Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience (Rule 110) are among those on that list.
It appears that, even two hundred years later, seemingly simple notions like respect, honesty, humilty - and even courtesy - still deserve a place in daily life.
What does the above have to do with Salsa?
Here’s a modern day example:
While dancing with Janette Valenzuela1 during the party at the Hollywood Palace that followed the premiere of the feature film Dance with Me, I was struck in the ribs with an elbow by the adjacent fellow dancing with Josie Neglia2.
When I looked in his direction he continued as if nothing occurred.
Now, I’ve been struck countless times in the past on the dance floor and can recognize when it is accidental or done intentionally.
I was sure that it was of the latter variety. This bothered me yet I continued dancing.
A moment later I was struck again, clearly malintended, with enough force as to knock me off balance!
Though definitely angry at this point, I kept myself in check as I looked over to see that although the same fellow did acknowledge me, he looked as if to say, “It's your own fault.”
When the tune we were dancing to was over, I approached him with my hand outstrectched to shake his hand.
As I began by saying that it was not necessary to become physical if he needed more space on the dance floor, he interrupted by nastily saying that I was wrong.
Now I was getting really exasperated and had to leave the dance floor before I completely lost my mind!
It became apparent to me that this particular and extreme situation, of course, went beyond the boundaries of incivility.
There are other, more benign, circumstances, though, that still do not take into consideration the community of fellow dancers on the same dance floor.
This amounts to thoughtlessness, carelessness or just plain rudeness.
Dancing to Salsa elicits so many emotions that it becomes very easy to lose oneself in the music and the rhythms.
While this is a pleasure within itself, we, as dancers, must always remember our surroundings.
With practice, this can be done without being discourteous or sacrificing enjoyment.
TO BE CONTINUED...
1. Co-founder of L.A.’s Salsa Brava dance company.
2. L.A. Based Salsa instructional video entrepeneur.