What To Do When It Gets Crowded...
by Jeff Camilo

Jeff and I started dancing Salsa about the exact same time. We both took private lessons from Luis and Joby Vazquez in the beginning, and go back a long way... If there's one thing I have to say about this "New Yo-Rican" turned "Angelean", he's blunt, to-the-point, says what he thinks, and is an absolutely incredible Salsa dancer. Take it away Jeff! Love you!
- Edie

What to Do When It Gets Crowded...
by Jeff Camilo

When one walks through a crowded room there are times that one must turn sideways in order to squeeze between people or stop to let others pass by and occasionally beg someone’s pardon in order to pass by. When one is stuck in heavy traffic one takes every precaution not to run into anyone or be the cause of an accident. However, on the dance floor no one exercises this kind of discretion. One can only apologize so much for stepping and bumping into people before they become tired of it.

This is the type of behavior that is going on, on the dance floor, at most of the popular clubs. I have been both culprit and victim of the careless behavior when I began to dance Salsa. There is also scandalous conduct by some dancers that should cease and not be tolerated. Older couples are afraid to step out on the dance floor for fear of being injured. There is a time and place for those who want to perform and the crowed dance floor is not it. So, in order to keep Salsa safe and fun for all who enjoy it, dance with caution when the dance floor is crowded.

I remember when I began to dance Salsa, I was full of energy and eager to try out the new steps that I had just learned. The only problem with trying the new steps is that no one allowed me the room to dance. It is a difficult transition to go from dancing in a class type atmosphere, to dancing amongst the general population at a club. One reason is that the dance floor is shared by all the other dancers. These dancers are not the least bit interested in your new Salsa moves. A second reason is, one has to remember, along with the new steps, to know were everyone is at in order to avoid any collisions. Faced with these two obstacles, I tried do my thing and found that I couldn’t, so out of frustration, I began to claim my own space out on the dance floor. As a result of claiming my space, stepping on and bumping into people had become inevitable. After an entire song of stepping and bumping I would think ‘hey it is every man/woman for themselves’. I look back now and realize how wrong that was. I was taken aside by a friend, who suggested I be little more careful and considerate, ‘good dancers avoid stepping on and bumping into people’ he said.

The one thing that is not being taught in most of the Salsa classes is caution on the dance floor. Instructors are failing to inform there students that the floor gets crowed making many of those steps close to impossible. It wasn’t until I stepped on and severely injured a young lady, who by the way happened to be one of the most beautiful dancers in L.A., that I decide to change my ways. After all, dancing should not come at the expense of others being injured.

I have seen many people get injured on the dance floor. One incident in particular could have been very dangerous, I observed two couples, they were dancing back to back, then both men decided to dip their partners. Both men, without looking in the direction that they were about to dip to, dipped these women right into each other. OUCH! These unsuspecting ladies’ heads went crashing into each other. Both girls immediately left the dance floor. As the ladies were coming to their senses both men were blaming each other for not watching what they were doing.

Another incident that I can recall involved a heavy set gentleman, who actually stomped on a lady's foot with such force that she could barely walk off the dance floor. The worst part about it was the look he gave her, which pretty much said ‘hey babe you take your chances when you dance around me.’ Men are not the only ones guilty of not paying attention - the ladies have their fare share of blame to go around. One individual actually had his teeth knocked out by a lady who assumed she was in a ballet, she spun around and elbowed him right in the mouth. OUCH! It is getting so dangerous that one has to go out on the dance floor with protective gear.

The worst display I have ever seen, as a result of a crowded dance floor, was a fight that occurred on the dance floor. I would not have been surprised if both of these men went around marking their territory like a couple of dogs. This couple was on the dance floor first and they decided they were going to put on an exhibition for those who were sitting at the tables. They began dancing in away that cleared the dance floor somewhat. Along came another couple, who were not as good, and said ‘wow look at all this floor space.’ Feeling as though their territory was being invaded, the first couple gave warning by crowding the other. This warning was ignored which lead to a more drastic one which involved a deliberated kick. The second couple assumed it was an accident and verbally asked that they be careful. To reassure the couple that this was no accident they did it again, and this time they injured the lady. Feeling that things had gone far enough, the second male confronted the first and then threw a punch.

This is not the kind of club that I want to go to.

This sends a bad message to those who come there for the first time. People will go home wondering what kind of people frequent this club, people fighting over dance space. I remember going to a club were a fight started because one guy was looking a woman who was absolutely stunning. Needless to say I was not going to return to a club that had the type of clientele that would start a fight over nonsense. One of the saddest things I have ever witnessed was the eradication of older couples, who by the way are the ones who kept Salsa alive so that our younger generation could enjoy it. The lack of respect for these older couples troubles me. As a sign of respect we assist and whenever possible, give up our seats so that the elderly can be more comfortable. On the dance floor, I am ashamed to say, I have seen anything but respect. I have seen young couples bump the older ones just hard enough to get them to quit dancing and actually leave the club. It breaks my heart to see this and if it were me I would give them the room they deserve so that they can enjoy themselves. One wouldn’t want anyone to treat their mother or grandmother with such disrespect. So. if you see an older couple out on the dance floor give them a break and give them room so that they can enjoy themselves.

The biggest problem that I see happening ,with respect to crowded dance floor has to do with artistic expression vs. physical exhibition. Salsa is a dance of artistic expression. I heard Albert Torres say once ‘I like to tell a story when I dance’. When I see couples exhibiting only their physical abilities, I ask myself "Where is the story?" If one could give speech to physical exhibition it would be screaming ‘look at what I can do, look how strong I am, look how fast I am.’

If more people were to express themselves instead of exhibit themselves they wouldn’t need that much room to dance.

I believe that the physical exhibition is a sign of hard work and determination, and when you combine both the physical and the artistic you create a great performance which makes Salsa fun to watch. Many of the new dancers want to perform immediately after taking their first class, but performing should be left on the stage or whenever there is room to accommodate such a performance. Albert Torres told me ‘When you are out on the dance floor it is like dancing on a dime with nine cents left over." What that means is that you must share ninety percent of your space with others. Don’t invade someone else’s space unless you are invited to do so and don’t allow anyone to enter your space unless you are ready to give up that space. So keep this in mind the next time you are out on a crowded dance floor, have patience and be courteous to those around you especially the older couples. We all dance to have fun first.
Tags: crowded dance floors