I Asked the Internet: Why Dance Salsa?
This is What I Found.
I was attracted to salsa dancing for a few reasons. First, I wanted to re-create the memory that I had of learning to dance in Guatemala. I will also admit that I fell for the glamour — it just seems sexy, and honestly, the dance gives off some serious cool vibes.
There’s a learning curve, but it seems that people who really want to learn salsa soon become hooked. And salsa enthusiasts are not afraid to share what they love most about the dance.
Express Your Passion
This one seems most obviously in-line with salsa’s reputation, so I’ll get it out of the way first. Salsa is just a passionate, sensual dance. Many articles I read by long-time dancers mentioned that they felt license to be more passionate and more directed by emotion when dancing salsa.
This makes sense to me. Salsa music and salsa dancing are highly emotional – the dance almost seems to feed off of this emotional energy – and for a lot of people, being in an atmosphere where drama and emotion are encouraged offers a lot of relief. Also, dance in general is uniquely suited to emotional expression because of its physical nature.
Let Romance In
A lot of people also mentioned that salsa brought romance into their lives. For many, a group salsa lesson can be almost like a blind date. At some of the classes I went to, for instance, both men and women felt comfortable coming alone or with a friend, and because it is a partner dance, there are many opportunities to dance with someone else.
For Jeffrey Platts, a dating mentor and coach for men, learning to dance salsa also taught him how to be more understanding and sensitive to women and more masculine at the same time. In his article, 11 Ways Salsa Dancing Made Me a Better Man, Platts writes about learning to find common ground with his dance partner. He says that “Salsa isn’t about forcing my desire on the woman. It’s a continual sensitivity of adjusting to where I want to go and where she is in the moment.”
Sounds pretty romantic to me!
Challenge Your Body, Challenge Your Brain
Maybe you’ve seen dancing with the stars — good-looking, athletic celebrities executing complicated leaps and twirls while wearing cool outfits. And you’ve probably been impressed by their skill level.
Salsa is challenging on a physical level, but because of all the different steps and the music, it is challenging on a mental level as well.
Richard Powers, professor and instructor at Stanford University’s dance division, claims that “social dancing requires split-second rapid-fire decision making, which makes your brain work harder and creates more connections.”
Basically, dancing makes you smarter, claims Professor Powers. Partner dances have been proven to provide even more cognitive benefits than physical activity, reading, or doing crossword puzzles four times a week can.
The key here is that following your partner forces you to make rapid-fire decisions to respond to their movements, which in turn causes the brain to create new neuro-pathways. This act of re-structuring the wiring of your brain helps you shape how your brain develops through neuroplasticity — it improves your brain’s functioning, and can even prevent dementia later on.
Liven Up Your Social Life
Ever get trapped in your apartment on a rainy Saturday night and wonder why you’re in your pajamas by 8 pm? You’re not alone. We can all be a little boring sometimes, especially when the bars have lost their luster and you’ve had a busy week.
It can be tempting to stay home and read a book on nights like these, but don’t forget — life is short! And the time to start building those neuro-pathways is now…
I don’t mean to get all cheesy on you, but there’s something humbling about learning something new with a group of strangers. You begin to appreciate each others’ victories, and laugh with one another. Even if you don’t get anyone’s name (but you probably will), you feel like you are part of a collective.
Don’t be afraid to listen to that old cliche and get outside your comfort zone. You’ll be amazed at the variety of people you’ll meet — young, old, enthusiastic, shy, and joyful.
It All Starts with the Music
And of course, last but not least, la música. I’m not convinced I’ve even really exhausted this list, although I think I may have gotten you interested. But there is one thing that I can’t forget to mention, and it really is the thing that makes salsa dancing possible.
If you’ve never really listened to it, I suggest checking out a Spotify salsa playlist and just letting it play for a while. It’s festive, upbeat, and addictive. You can also seek out the work of some of the more popular salsa musicians, like Marc Anthony, Celia Crúz, and Tito Puente.
Listening to the music will help get you in the mood to hit the dance floor, and hopefully also give you some familiarity with the rhythm so you’re not quite so confused that first time you do a basic step.
Get out and salsa!