For the past year I have been wanting to start a blog on the Southern California salsa scene, I have held off because I did not feel that there would be enough worthwhile articles to keep an audience engaged. Then it struck me. Bring in two other contributors and write from three different perspectives. Therefore I approached Ciara Junge (Co-director of The LA Influence Dance Company) and Matthew Richardson (social dancer).
We will have the perspectives of a dance team owner, a social dancer, and a DJ. Now I feel we can broach an issue from three different viewpoints, yet be able to speak intelligently on the other viewpoints. Ciara social dances and runs a very successful social (Get LAI’d social). Matthew practices with David Polon’s dance team. While I social dance, did my stint on a dance team, and co-host a few socials (Salsatopia and I Love Salsa Social).
-Thomas Medina (AMP Entertainment)
The first article will deal with the following question: What changes would you like to see in 2012?
I was really excited that this was going to be our first topic because boy do we need some resolutions!!! I find that the longer I’ve been dancing the more I notice things that I wish I could change. Fortunately I know I’m not the only one. Usually what I like to do after a night of dancing is to go out and eat with friends. Sure enough we start to discuss everything about the salsa scene. I know that change doesn’t happen over night but here are a few things that I would personally like to see and I feel that these would be a great start to the New Year.
The first thing on my list is that I would like to see some new bands. Don’t get me wrong, I love the current ones that we have now but sometime variety is a good thing. The band plays the music and the music drives the dancer. If they are awesome, then we will have another amazing band to choose from.
Next, I really wish there were more classes on the history of Latin music. Classes on the difference between salsa, bachata, son, rumba and mambo music. How did the music come to be? Who or how did the music start? Where did it start? As an instructor, students look to me for answers on things like what is the difference between different types of music and although I have done as much research as possible, I love sitting in a class room and being a student. I feel like I am able to be a much more effective teacher when I myself can relate to my students when explaining information.
“Et·i·quette noun \?e-ti-k?t, -?ket\: the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life./ The rules governing the proper way to behave” – Webster. The third thing on my list is that I would like to see more etiquette on and off the dance floor. So if this is the definition of etiquette then why do I see people bumping into other without an “excuse me.” Getting my foot stepped on without so much as an acknowledgement. It’s simple. Use “excuse me, please, thank you, would you like to and I’m so sorry I stepped on your foot, can I get you some ice?”. Lets treat people the way we would like to be treated and keep it classy people.
The last thing on my list is a big one for me. I would like people to have better attitudes towards beginner dancers. Last week I went to a club and I saw a man walk up to four different women and ask them to dance. They all looked him up and down and said no. He wasn’t rude, he didn’t smell, he was a beginner. When I asked him to dance he thanked me for asking him and told me that he had been discouraged all night and was about to leave. Later, I overheard a guy telling his buddy what “shitty dancer” the girl he was dancing with was. The point is that if we want to feel great while we are dancing we must treat others great first.
Hope this will inspire positive things for the New Year.
Most importantly, I look forward to seeing many new faces and the development of dancers that have been around. I am very excited to see more of the new class of dancers smiling and laughing and enjoying this dance. I want to see people from very young to their 80s and 90s moving their bodies to music which aids their health so much better than watching sports or dancing on TV. To see people living life and enjoying art and community is a precious gift of life. I look forward to hearing more stories of how we were restored by it so that afterwards we can return to caring for our families, working our jobs, serving others or studying and growing in knowledge.
On a more critical note, I would like to see that the art would return to dance: others have spoken on this (like David Polon my dance instructor), so I am not claiming it as an original idea.
The current trend in choreography has affected what I have to watch in performances in order to dance… and the dancing itself. I would like us to find our way through the current trend in “fusion-” styles or performances which is a misnomer because it is actually confusion. I have had people sit through a performance or competition and afterwards say to me, “WTF!”I will leave it to a dance professional to explain the difference between fusion and “medley” (is there such a term in dancing?). But I will say that I love to dance with people who bring a little funk, Hiphop, tango or other sabor/sentido to their salsa. When they become overwhelmed by their ballet or acrobatics (or one of the above flavors) on the dance floor, we all know the result whether we are followers, leaders or nearby dancers (unless we felt like crossing over to something not salsa).
There are a number of talented professionals with vision and an even greater number of social dancers who are growing their style despite the popular trends in dance being promoted so heavily through performances. I look forward to meeting many more new dancers and seeing others develop with a focus on fundamentals and musicality. I hope they will be smiling, laughing and learning about life through dance.
We can all dream and everyone always has an idea or three on how they would like to improve the salsa scene. So here is my wish list. I will focus my thoughts on the following areas: Orange County, Promotions, and Dancers.
My wish: Orange County get re-established as a significant place to dance.
Orange County should be an area that dancers enjoy and for which they would be willing to drive. OC needs a good mid-week event . Right now it is sorely lacking and is desperately needed. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday? Nada. A quality mid-week event could go a long way to re-establishing Orange County as a solid place for dancing and calling dancers from all over.
There is a strong need for another one or two quality weekend socials. Socials are blowing up and Orange County has helped lead the way. Now would be a good time to solidify OC’s standing as a great area for socials.
My wish: Promoters should get back to promoting.
Successful promoting takes more than spamming on Facebook, making an event on Facebook, or changing the time of a past event on Facebook. All of these are just lazy and can annoy your potential guests. Facebook should not be the only means of promotion.
It would also be great to see some true cross promotions. If people would realize that partnerships build a stronger community, then the dance events would have much more quality.
My outrageous wish for the year is a 3 Strikes and You’re Out rule. Three straight bombs and you should be banned from promoting for two years. A Salsa penalty box. This won’t happen, but please stop ruining good venues.
My biggest wish and the biggest change I would like to see: DEMAND MORE.
You are the consumer and the only way your voice can be heard is by where you spend your money. I constantly hear about how Club XYZ is so horrible, yet you still show up. If you continue to spend your money at the establishment, then there will be no reason for changes to be made. Stop putting up with the BS.
Start by politely informing someone involved about your concerns. Whether it is the floor, the sound system, or other condition. If changes are not made or even an attempt to rectify the situation, then look for an alternative spot. Clubs, promoters, socials, and DJs will really notice when no one shows up.
Also realize that if you are showing up to a spot that has no cover charge all the management cares about is the bar sales. All of your issues will be deemed unjustified. It is a business and they are there to make money. Yet this should not stop you from voicing your concerns. Again, in a polite way. Your voice and your money are both very powerful. Use them wisely.
These are my wishes. Can they be implemented? Sure. Will they? Hopefully a few, especially as it relates to the dancers. Let us know what you think. What are some of your wishes or changes you’d like to see in the Southern California salsa scene?
Next month’s blog: Is The Salsa Scene Dying?