The Benefits of Good Salsa Turn Technique
In the fast-paced world we live in, we want everything immediately and too often this spills over into how we learn, leading us to glaze over the fundamentals and not reach our salsa dancing potential.
The problem is that there’s a misconception with fundamentals. People get antsy when they work on basics, they want to progress faster, “I’m ready to move on!” they say. But when you move on so quickly, not nurturing the foundation you’re building, you hit an upper limit, a ceiling.
You can’t improve any more, because you forgot the toolbox that can take you there. You ran out of yarn to knit the scarf. You forgot your hammer and nails you need to build the house. You never learned to pivot well, so your single turns are inconsistent, your double turns, even less so, and your triples, impossible. On top of that, your inside and outside turns will be shaky at best. You’ve done all you can with what you have, and you have no choice but to go back to the store and get the materials you need.
Turn technique is a huge part of becoming an intermediate salsa dancer. Think about it. In a given night of dancing, you’re doing hundreds of turns (and some nut jobs might even break 1000). If your turns are off balance and you’re unable to control yourself, you’re holding yourself back from a world of possibilities, connection, and fun with your partners.
Most teachers don’t cover the nitty-gritty details on turning and that saddens us, because if you’re unaware of your problem you can’t fix it. However, when you do become aware of a problem, you can fix it and it can change your world in 15 minutes. Let’s talk about what’s slowing down your progress and holding you back from more amazing dances.
But first, let’s get one thing clear
Turn Technique Isn’t Just For Women
Turn technique isn’t a female thing, it’s an everyone thing. It’s for all salsa dancers, leads and follows.
If you don’t want to face one direction an entire dance, you need turn technique. If you want to look sharp while maintaining a smooth, controlled and flowing connection with your partner, you need turn technique.
Understanding Why Turn Technique is So Important
These techniques are being asked of you every time you go social dancing, perform or compete. They are staples and therefore should be your best. Every time you do something, every step you take, every move you make, you’re creating a habit. Are you creating the habits you need to improve your dancing?
Here’s a shortlist of how technique makes your salsa life better:
- Good technique is liberating – technical knowledge opens the doors to more move variations and options for expressing yourself. If you learn the basics you can develop quicker.
- Good technique creates a foundation for growth – if you have strong fundamental technique you become much more coachable by teachers and mentors
- Good technique reduces the effort needed to do a move
- Good technique reduces the chance of injury
Let’s dig a little deeper.
1) Turn Technique Allows You To Unlock your Potential and Expand Your Dancing
Patrick and Scarlet have a saying:
“Everything is basic, so basics are everything”
Strip away all the fancy arm-work you’re doing and the follower is always doing basic techniques and steps, whether it be a copa, an inside or outside turn, or a cross body lead. Your footwork and technique are set, and your hand-hold variations and arm work are the interchangeable layer on top. They are what make the basics appear advanced.
Good turn technique is your foundation and liberating force. It paves the way for unlimited variations and massively expands your potential.
2) Turn Technique Makes You Coachable
A dancer without a solid understanding of fundamental techniques, is less versatile and slower to learn. When you have a working knowledge of technique you’re in a much better position to absorb and utilize teachings from an instructor or mentor.
For example, if you go to a private lesson with your instructor or your favourite pro at a salsa congress, and you don’t have solid fundamental techniques, there are two likely scenarios:
- The pro spends the hour teaching you fundamentals, or
- The pro won’t teach you the fundamentals (because many skip over them) and you won’t be able to absorb or execute much of what you were taught, because you lack the tools and understanding to do so.
The decision to embrace technique is yours and will greatly affect how you progress along your journey.
3) Turn Technique Makes Your Life WAY Easier
When you know exactly what is required to execute a movement, you can cut out everything else.
Eliminating the unnecessary allows you to focus on what’s important and nail it. You spend less energy doing your movements and more time enjoying them. With this new excess energy, you feel lighter and less stressed. You’re now able to focus on your partner, truly enjoy the moment and the wonderful sounds around you.
Technique simplifies everything, empowering you with the kind of confidence that makes your every move crisp, smooth and impressive to watch.
4) Turn Technique Keeps You Healthy
Proper turn technique doesn’t just give you a strong foundation and make your life easier, it also allows you to dance longer.
Every time you walk up the stairs, bend over to pick something up or dance the night away you’re putting stress on your body. Just like a river slowly carves out the rock in a canyon, the more you dance, the more you wear down your body. Good technique and body positioning reduce the amount of stress you put on your bones and soft tissues, minimizing your chance of injury.
The skills you learn from turning also directly transfer to other areas of life. Bracing your spine and using muscle tension to remain stable help you turn and also help with tasks like lifting a box off the floor safely, climb stairs properly or going from sitting to standing. We often don’t think of how these daily tasks wear down our joints, but they do, if we’re not moving properly.
Don’t let poor technique wear you down. Improve your body awareness and dance all the way to your grave.
Wrapping It Up
An understanding of turn technique gives you, your teachers, coaches and choreographers more tools to work with. It makes your execution more consistent, gives you the knowledge to react to your partner in a split second and enables you to figure out what’s going wrong when you’re having trouble with a certain move.
When you open yourself up to absorbing technique, you’re foundation becomes stronger, your capabilities expand, everything becomes easier and you’re able to dance for a lifetime.
There’s a lot of joy that can be found in technique.
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