Social Dance Life #8: Don’t Be A Salsa Dancing Donkey

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Social Dance Life #8 is brought to you by a dancer from Australia named Mick.  He gives his opinions on dance etiquette and how you can avoid being a ‘salsa dancing donkey’.  

After enjoying a recent Latin Dance Community article which featured a list of a spot-on salsero’s thoughts, I began thinking of my own list. Many contributors bend over backwards to be reasonable, reassuring and politically embracing, but that’s not opinionated me. So here’s my ‘Are you a salsa-dancing donkey?’ list with a few hints along the way for a swift redemption.

1. If a song has partially played and the dancers are settled on a tight floor, don’t enter the race late and crowd everyone. Just wait until the next song.

2. When the song finishes, say thank you and leave promptly. The next song has started and partners need a quick transition. Salsa songs have distinct parts, including introductions, and we need to dance them.

3. Want to get to the other side of the dance floor? Under no circumstances barge through. Sneak cautiously around the edge. Social salsa is random, elbows scar, and stiletto heels pierce.

4. If you ever walk across a dance floor with a drink glass in your hand, even your mother will unfriend you on Facebook.

5. Are you an old man? The young lady dancing with you is being reminded of her grandfather. That’s her only thought.

6. You’re an amazing salsa dancer, right? Video yourself dancing socially. Watch it privately. Only the top 5% of the world’s salseros are amazing, and they are the first to get back to basics.

7. Did you realise that salsa is danced to complex music? Do you refuse to allow a musical break, guaguancó or descarga spoil a great linear turn-pattern? No need to answer the first question.

8. Is your latest amateur-dance competition result and stage performance rushed on to Facebook? Some might suggest that self worth comes from within.

9. That funky floppy top that billows from your elbow to your waist makes partner dancing impossible. Your lovely hair is the only flowing thing that leads admire.

10. Is the little black dress so short that you can only spare one hand for your partner? Rethink the wardrobe, you don’t want to catch a cold.

11. If you wish to chat with your besties, please leave the dance-floor edge so that salseros asking for a dance don’t get the death stare for interrupting a crucial conversation.

12. You can’t dance with me because you have just suffered an injury? Um, is that handsome dude, who just got a different answer, a doctor or a physio?

13. If you must have your smart phone in your face all night, don’t come.

14. Promoters. Please, if you call your event a Salsa something, salsa dancers will come. Don’t then play half bachata; that is a Latin event. Oddly, many salsa dancers like to dance salsa.

15. DJs, hello team. Many of you don’t dance, some do. To finish a song, dancers don’t fade, they like to dip or flourish. Just saying . . .

16. Bar owners of the world unite and understand that salsa dancers drink mostly water. Charge a door fee if you want a profit. Give your bar staff a water-chiller and the night off to dance.

17. People who can’t afford dance shoes but generously throw talcum powder all over the floor, take note. If I break my neck, I will seek yours.

18. And finally, a shout out to dance professionals who implore students to ask them for a social dance later as they never say no. Well, some may have been denied by you previously. Don’t confirm what was suspected all along . . .

No one really wants to be called a donkey. But those on the list, don’t despair. Donkeys look very cute, and the occasional one can even be trained.


  • David Sander says:

    I’m the creaky old man that all the young women dance with and probably don’t think about it. I run regularly, drill my steps and take dance lessons, so after many years I’m rated as one of the best dancers. I know the value of dancing with newbies because in a year or two they will be seriously fun to dance with.
    Recently a very stellar talented Latin dancer came to my city to teach, after the classes she sat at the social dance and chatted while I carefully waited over an hour for her to have a first dance with a chosen partner. When I gave up waiting and asked her to dance because I’m a Salsa social dancer, she joined me with a big smile and skillfully danced to all of my favorite combinations! It was also most welcome that evening to see the rest of the top leads finally get up out of the chairs and dance with her after my having a bit of courage to find and show her fun side.

  • Daniel says:

    I’ve been mauling over how to respond to this article for a while, but in my head, it keeps boiling down to one thing: Mick, don’t be such a jerk.

    1-2. You don’t get to tell people when and how they can start and stop dancing. Sometimes you get late to the song. Sometimes you want to actually talk to the person you just danced with (*gasp*). So long as you aren’t disturbing any, play on!

    3-4. Fine, I’ll give you that.

    5. Ageism. Classy.

    6. I agree.

    7. Yes, I agree. This is a problem…

    8. It’s not your place to judge people who are excited because they won a competition. They won! Let them be excited, for crying out loud.

    9-10. It’s not your place to police a person’s attire. Women can wear what they want and good leads know how to work around it.

    11. Learn to read that social cue that says “just because I’m near the dance floor does not mean I’m available to dance”. If someone doesn’t engage as you approach, they probably don’t want to engage.

    12. Ladies/follows are allowed to dance or not dance with whoever they choose for whatever reason they choose. The only wrong thing here is that they made a fake excuse. And if they’re making excuses it’s because they feel that a simple “no” will not be taken as an acceptable answer. Whose fault is that?

    13. Agree but disagree. Sometimes we hide behind our phones for security, or distraction. Sometimes people just don’t feel like dancing! And sometimes they don’t realise it before they get to the thing. Sometimes they just wanna hang out with friends. You don’t get to tell people they should come dancing. Ever. For any reason.

    14. A lot of salsa dancers like to dance bachata, oddly enough. A good DJ knows his crowd and caters to his crowd. Let them do their job.

    15. Don’t be so condescending towards DJs. Their job is to keep the energy up to keep the party alive, not give you time for your dramatic ending.

    16. You obviously don’t understand how salsa events and bars tend to work. Or maybe you do. I don’t know how events work in your town. But in mine, the promoters charge at the door. That’s how they make money. And the bar sells drinks. That’s how they make theirs. It’s polite to buy at least one drink when you dance to support the venue.

    17. Fine, I agree. A better argument is that the cost of all the talcum will add up. Save money, buy dance shoes.

    18. Again, anyone can say “no” to dancing with you for ANY reason! You are not entitled to dance with anyone!

    So to summarise, I go back to the beginning: Don’t be a jerk, Mick! We are not here to cater to your whims and etiquette is something that we impose on ourselves, not others. We do it to be polite towards others, not to have others be polite to us. I didn’t sense a single time throughout this entire article that you were saying “how can I be nicer to my fellow dancers” and not “how should other dancers be nicer to me”. People don’t owe you anything.

  • NJMark says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake, the author was suggesting “hints” not hard-and-fast laws. No one is going to be thrown out or banned for “violating,” them. And a lot of them are good ideas. (But I would delete #8 — if a friend does well in a competition and has a video clip, I’d like them to post it so we can see it. Just hold the phone or other device HORIZONTALLY when recording.)

    If you tell someone you’re “too tired” to accept a dance, then dance the next 8 (fast) songs, you’re announcing yourself as a jerk. Fact.

    Yes, people can wear what they want, but some attire is less conducive to dance than others, and some makes it damn near impossible. It’s not “policing” to note that.

    Likewise, people can certainly bury themselves in their phones, but they shouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t getting asked to dance as much as they’d like. “Body language” IS a factor.

  • Ohio Salsa says:

    I’m going to have to agree with Daniel….I cringe whenever someone explains to us mortal folks how things in a perfect world should be….Just dancing and getting out there was a big deal and to some extent still is for me…To know someone is getting irritated because I tried to squeeze in ? keep it to yourself………for some girls who may have been waiting all night for a decent dance……being present and in the moment with them means more than “am I following etiquette” …

  • Fabiano Cachon says:

    I just hope your example do not stimulate all other judgmental people to do their own lists of little petty rules. My friend, the whole problem with social salsa scene today is you, and you cant even see it. And the reason is simple: the parts of your rules that are relevant can be summarized by common sense maxims and people do not need your great authority to teach them. The other part of your rules are just worthless controversial opinions that can be discussed, denied, partially agreed, etc., bringing directly to the center of salsa scene a unnecessary climate of dispute, secession, disagreement, fight, and, at the best case-scenario: a climate of endless academic discussion that would make people reluctant and timid. Your whole project would have this sole effect: to make salsa dance floors hostile elitists environments where people are always afraid of breaking the rule of some self-entitled owner of common sense and etiquete. There is enough people like you judging others from your table. Please stay there. Don`t try to make your profession to “save” salsa scene. You are only speaking for yourself.

  • David Sander says:

    Thanks everyone for a discussion on the boundary between personal enjoyment of dance and what might be called political correctness. In a free society we require the enlightenment to not oppose others access to annoying free speech and free religion and the same personal discipline is required for dancers in the Latin Dance community to be welcoming and growing. At the same time we do not want to be political correctness extremists (Or Nazis).
    The idea here is that the rules serve us in maximizing happiness and the people who return for the next dance event. Congrats and enlightenment too all who stopped by!

  • I really like your article!! Dancing is one of the most common source or language of party and social life..

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