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  • Changing Instructors

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    "Dear Edie,
    I'm really glad you have decided to do a beginners page. I think it will be very helpful to us all.

    I have come to the point where I feel I need to start taking some private lessons, and want your advice on how to proceed.

    I have thought about my goals, and at this point, I want to: (1) clean up my basics; (2) learn all the "moves" that are thrown at me on the dance floor; (3) learn styling techniques; (4) expand my repertoire of potential partners. I don't think that I will ever be dance competition material, so learning ballroom technique is not a high priority to me.

    There are two issues that I was hoping you could advise me on. First, I am considering whether I should take from a male instructor or a woman. My first inclination is to take from a woman. I believe [she] will help me with the basics and styling. [female Instructor #1 and #2] are articulate and good, but seem to have different styles. [Female Instructor #1's] lessons are kind of expensive, but going all the way down to [female Instructor #2's] studio is a drawback as well.

    Two of my friends have suggested that I take from a [male Instructor] who knows the moves, will teach me moves he teaches his male students, and also provide an instant entry into the upper echelons of the Salsa scene. I don't know if I am ready for this however- I am a bit intimidated, and also, in the group classes I have taken with this man, I don't get the sense that he is as articulate as the women I mentioned.

    It would be helpful to know your opinion on the male vs. female instructor issue.

    Second, I was wondering if there is some kind of unwritten rule about changing instructors once you start privates with one. I had thought about taking a couple lessons from several different people in order to decide whose style works best for me. But I know that sometimes hard feelings can develop if you try to change instructors, and I don't want to create friction with anyone. What do you think?
    - Almost There..."

    Dear Almost There,
    If you are female beginner, taking privates from a man is excellent. But, if you are a female, at the intermediate and advanced levels, I would highly recommend taking privates from a woman. The opposite will hold true if you were a male asking this question.

    As a female, if you have not taken any privates yet, try both sexes. Take your first private from a man, to get the feeling of a good lead. You may have NEVER experienced a phenomenal lead, but oh, when you do, it's like you've just had incredible sex.

    Your second and third privates should be with a woman. As a woman, taking a private from a woman enables you to see and feel what it's like to actually be sexy. Believe it or not, for some of us, this is a very difficult, life-changing, brand new, experience.

    Taking a lesson from a woman who is sexy, and knows how to show it dancing is truly eye-opening. You'll learn a great deal about yourself - your inhibitions, your fears... you realize there is so much more about you, within you, that has been deeply clammed up inside and is yearning to GET OUT!.

    When I started my privates with females, posing, sticking my butt out, placing my hand gently on my hip "just so", touching parts of my body... at first, I just shook my head, and could not believe I was actually doing this to myself. But an amazing thing happened when I did. I ACTUALLY looked SEXY! I couldn't believe it. I thought to myself, "What a CONCEPT!" I would never, in a million years, have even THOUGHT about doing this alone in the bathroom! The thought would have never even crossed my mind if my instructor would not have shown me how!

    What man could possibly teach women how to be sexy?

    The only type of man who would be able to demonstrate this sex appeal is a female impersonator or cross-dresser. They know every trick in the book.* Here is an article on how to walk gracefully from a female impersonator's site. Amazingly enough, these men actually STUDY the Marilyn Monroe's of year's past. They work on moving, walking, sitting, and dressing like the female movie stars of the 40's and 50's. They work on presentation, grace, style, and beauty. They study fabrics, shoes, underwear, hair, nails, hip movement... every last detail. They go above and beyond. They are experts at female sex appeal. In fact, if you see a woman walk in the room, and then see a female impersonator walk in behind her, the female impersonator will actually look and walk sexier than the real woman.

    As women in this day and age, we can learn a great deal from them. In my own opinion, the majority of women today have forgotten how to be sexy like that. We've lost it. With the advent of "women's rights" and the feminist movement, we've basically stuck our sex appeal in the closet. Female Salsa instructors will bring this out for you.

    As a woman, you're going to feel real stupid and awkward at first, trying to move your hips and throw your head back, and doing the hand flares... all that. You'll even be surprised at how much you actually touch your body during the whole scene! It can be quite amusing between the two of you! You'll laugh, and basically feel and look like an idiot the first couple of times, but this is where you'll have to swallow your pride and just DO IT.

    When you take a lesson with a man, he will show you what he likes as far as how to "follow" his lead, and maybe a little footwork. However, be aware that you will inadvertently get "used" to him and his style and end up being disappointed with virtually every other man you dance with. Nobody will be able to compare to him in your eyes. You will feel let down and upset if he doesn't dance at least one song with you when you see him at a nightclub. But the truth is, that he has many, many female students, and does not necessarily want to dance with them when he's out clubbing. He needs to "show off" with his partner or whomever is "good" so he can continue to get more business.

    As a woman, it takes a female mentor, more importantly, a female dancer/performer to show us what pleases the audience - whether "the audience" is a large group of spectators, or a single man. The opposite holds true for a man needing instruction. We want to look sexy and appealing on the dance floor, but some of us just don't know how, and when we try, we basically look like idiots without the proper training and timing.

    I'm more guilty of this than anyone.

    When I first started my privates with females, I was so excited about all these fancy new "Styling things", that I wanted to do all of them AT ONCE!! So I tried them on the dance floor at a nightclub. Within five seconds, I had done 10 sexy things to my body. I would shimmy here, jiggle there, touch this, touch that... , I realized I was in OVERDRIVE when the guy I was dancing with stopped in mid motion, stared at me in complete amazement, looked at me like I was some sort of alien, wondering just what the hell I was doing to myself..."Loca" he must have thought... I realized I looked SO STUPID! I mean, talk about OVERKILL.

    He refused to dance with me anymore.

    So when you start learning all this stuff, STAY CALM!!! I know it's a thrill, but RELAX!!! CHILL!!!

    About "providing an instant entry into the upper echelons of the Salsa scene". Girlfriend, this is an "earned" thing. It just "happens", and it only happens to the best. Usually this happens to professional dancers who have had years and years of ballet, jazz, and ballroom training, or naturals - born dancers like the famous Vazquez brothers. You have GOT to be good.

    Regarding your question about the "unwritten rule about changing instructors once you start privates with one". If you want to get good, take privates from EVERYONE you can afford. The best instructors encourage this. They don't mind. However, in the class, never, never, NEVER, say, "Well so and so taught me this..", or "so and so taught me that..." bla, bla, bla. There is nothing that pisses off an instructor more. If you continue to talk about "so and so" the whole time, they will stop the lesson, and ask if you want to go back to "so and so", in a "don't let the door hit you in the ass" fashion. Just shut up, listen, and show respect to your instructor.

    Nobody needs to know anything about anyone else. (this, by the way, is THE #1 unwritten Latino rule about EVERYTHING IN LIFE... !!)

    Happy Dancing!
    - Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!
    www.SalsaFreak.com
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