Very pretentious title in fact ... I know :-). As if i would know all about it :-). I don't know everything about this subject but let's say i'd like to share some thoughts about it, feel more than free to react.

Taking dance classes and going out

In my opinion the combination of both is the best way to learn. The classes will give you the input, the teachers will also coach you, give you some hints, correct where necessary. The parties are the test in 'real life'. For the leaders you'll get to dance with ladies who do not know what your next move will be (unlike in a class). For the followers you'll see you have only your skills (learned in class or not) to 'survive' because you will have no idea what these guys are up to :-).

Can't you learn without going out? Sure you'll learn. But it'll just go slower. Because going out means (hopefully :-)) practising, repeating, testing out new movements, new styling, new shines, new body movement. It means working on your basic musicality skills also because the songs will be always different. Where's the 1? When does the next accent fall? What's the mood of this song? Dancing salsa is improvising, so you'll have to get better at improvising, both leaders and followers.

Can you learn without taking classes? I think most people can't. Of course you can learn tons of things by just going to parties. But leaders for instance will feel after a while (in general) that they are always repeating the same moves, that they need new input. Followers will usually not learn the proper techniques by just going out. Of course some people just want to have the basics, just enough to go out every now and then and have fun. Nothing wrong with that of course. But probably even those people will feel the need of new input after a while. It's also that new input that keeps your motivation going. Otherwise after a while you start to loose interest, thinking that you have seen 'what there was to see'. And fact is that this is not true.

How long should i take classes before going out?

Someone people ask me 'how long will i take before i can dance?' They don't realize it's relatively impossible to answer that question as there is no such thing as a global and finished package of 'salsa skills'  ... What does it mean to say 'i can dance'? Or 'you can't' ;-). But of course, i understand what these people mean, they probably mean 'How long will it take before i'm able to dance at parties without being too ridiculous?' I generally answer by saying that they should go out as soon as possible (because of what i just wrote above) without caring too much of what other people may think or not think.

On the question 'How long will i have to learn?' the answer is easy: 'It never stops.' It doesn't necessarily mean that you'll have to take dance classes for life, it just means you can always improve. In some cases people like to stop taking classes after a while, go out for 6 months and then come back to classes for some time.

Festivals, boot camps or weekly classes?

Festivals or boot camps can be very interesting, you'll get a boost during a short lapse of time. You'll meet new teachers, dance with people you've never met. Festivals generally also offer a variety of workshops so you can target the things you want to work on and constitute your own program. On the other hand you have to know that your concentration and capacity of assimilation also has its limits. After three hours of dance classes you'll probably need a break before being able to go on. You will experience that after a festivals's weekend there's a lot of material that you loose. Because there is no rehearsal (unless you organise that with someone who was there too), because it was simply too much.

The same is true a bit for boot camps although boot camps are much shorter (3 hours, 4 hours generally).

Weekly classes have the benefit of offering continuity and a step by step program. You'll get to know people a bit better, they will become your dance partners at your local parties etcetera. Weekly classes are usually also cheaper than festivals or boot camps. Why go to festivals then? Well as i wrote festivals also have many great positive aspects, you just need to know how to 'use' them.

My conclusion in a couple of words ... Take it easy, take it with a smile and always enjoy it because learning to dance is for life :-). Find the right dance school, the right teacher, the right class, find in general the right environment where'll you'll feel good. Do not try to go to higher levels too soon. How is your body movement? How are your shines? How is your basic step? How is your musicality? Not so great yet? So then why do you want to move on to the next level? It'll be even harder to work on those basics in a higher level ... Make a program for yourself, a good schedule. Think of keeping yourself motivated (go to a festival every now and then or to a boot camp, get some new music or new shoes :-). Let's finish this text with that: download some music, listen to it, make it your 'own', get used to move on it ...

Feel free to disagree, react, comment etc.

Carl


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