Awkward Salsa Moments
February 19, 2014 1:05 PM   Subscribe

I just started taking a beginning salsa class. I really like it except that occasionally the moves include dips that I feel very awkward executing as a pretty tall, somewhat overweight woman. Any tips on how to deal with this?

We switch partners throughout the class, so I end up dancing with guys who range from shorter to much shorter than me (I think there is one guy in the class who is taller). I mean, obviously with the really short guys we can just kind of laugh it off when the teacher directs the guys to dip their partners really low down or occasionally has the girl kind of fall back into the guy who is supposed to catch her, but I feel like it has created some awkward moments with some of the guys who might semi-reasonably be expected to successfully dip me. Specifically there was one dude today who when the teacher directed us to dip said really loud and kind of self-consciously "WHAT WAS THAT HE WANTED US TO DO?? OH, I JUST DIDN'T UNDERSTAND! GUESS WE MISSED OUR CHANCE!!" (Which would have been kind of maybe a normal thing to say if this had just happened once, but seriously the teacher told us to do this move like five times in a row, to the point where it just felt pretty obvious that this guy was trying to make a show of not having understood or heard the teacher in order to avoid doing the move with me.)

I mean, I guess there is not much to do except to kind of laugh it off where I can, but I was wondering if anyone else has come up with any less awkward way of dealing with this sort of situation.
posted by thesnowyslaps to Education (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could always say something to the dude like "don't dip me please, I get dizzy!" and sidestep all the body awkwardness.
posted by phunniemee at 1:09 PM on February 19, 2014

I'm sorry, but I'm a little confused as to what it is you want. Do you want to avoid being dipped, do you want to become more comfortable with being dipped, or do you want to learn how to deal with the guys who seem to not want to dip you? (Because obviously that's not cool of them, if you want to be dipped.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

The third one, for the most part (how to deal with guys who don't want to). But being comfortable with being dipped would be potentially useful as well. Just anyone's prior experience dealing with this situation and how they handled it would be a good point of reference as well.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 1:27 PM on February 19, 2014

I'd be direct with the guys, assuming they are tall enough to do this, as in "This is a class, and I'd like to learn this move. Is there some problem with that?"

I'd also mention the problem guy to the teacher. Seriously, this is not optional for someone who wants to be in the class.
posted by bearwife at 1:33 PM on February 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

I took dance lessons from a very short professional dancer and he could still spin, dip, and catch any woman in the class, even us Amazons. I'm a pretty direct person so I'd probably try to call them out with something like "Let's try the dip on the next set! I know we can do it!" I'd also be tempted to bring it up with the teacher before the next class and see what advice they can give.

Learning to dance is awkward, and dancing with strangers is awkward, so some awkwardness is going to occur. Part of the lessons is getting over that. Again, this is something that the teacher might be able to address.
posted by muddgirl at 1:34 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depending on the teacher, I would probably speak to him/her before or after class about (a) your concern about being dipped, given your proportions; and (b) whether it would be possible to provide some additional instruction to male partners about how to successfully dip a female partner, especially one who is not diminutive.

Probably the guys are nervous about (a) hurting you; (b) hurting themselves; and (c) appearing unmanly. But if is a technique that can be learned, rather than some kind of show of strength, a lot of those fears can be allayed.
posted by girlpublisher at 1:37 PM on February 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

It sounds like there's a possible lack of instruction here. I was taught that the follow should support most of their own weight, but being able to do this depends on the lead's technique as well. I agree with girlpublisher to talk with the teacher to see about additional instruction for both partners. I'm kind of surprised the teacher hasn't already addressed this.
posted by FiveSecondRule at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

You should ask the dance instructor for tips on how to make the lead's job easier. Specifically, if you place your foot that's bearing the weight far back enough, the lead can dip as low as he wants, because you're bending at the knee and your weight is still (mostly) centered over your weight-bearing foot. I had no problem in college dancing with girls the same size as me (190 pounds) and I even had to do lifts up to my shoulder --- the trick was to get the girl to distribute weight and balance correctly.

Obviously this doesn't help you with the guy with a bad attitude who doesn't want to try, but if you know how to do it, your confidence might help you overcome the issue.
posted by Happydaz at 1:43 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Long time salsa dancer here....

It comes from the guy (and maybe you) not knowing how to execute a proper dip.

In a simple dip, the woman dips herself i.e. she is able to support her own body weight, and the man is there for 'frame' or balance. So you're standing on one leg, belly button pointed up but you could hold your position for 2-3s without a man's help.

More fancy dips rely on physics i.e. the dip and return is executed so quickly that momentum (and not the man's strength) returns the woman back to her position. Also the centre of gravity (of the couple) must never get too skewed or you will fall.

Few dips (close to the floor, held for a long time) may require more strength on behalf of the man, but again all he really does is balance her on a bent knee and then initiate the 'snap' back and the woman kind of does the rest.

It's hard to describe in words. Ask your instructor. If they're good, they will know exactly how to tell the man how to lead you.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:45 PM on February 19, 2014 [8 favorites]

Oh and don't take it personally if the guy doesn't immediately try a dip with you - most people ignorantly think dipping is a strength contest. It's his insecurity that is speaking, it doesn't reflect on you. I'm medium-small and some guys still don't want to dip me.

If you get a chance, go to a good salsa club and you will find guys there who will make you feel like air.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:50 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm reminded of my friend who dropped his partner, also a bit heavier, and didn't know what to do except run out of the hall and not come back. It's that kind of embarrassment you're dealing with, so you want to instill confidence in him. I would suggest that when it's time to dip, look your partner in the eye and say, "ready?" Then go.
posted by michaelh at 2:17 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I agree that you'd have to be quite a lot larger than your partner for this to be a real problem, I don't think technique is always taught well in a group class. Are you sure you're supporting yourself well enough?

I do sometimes choose not to do dips or equivalent with certain guys. That's either because they are a lot smaller than me, because I think their technique will hurt me or them or because I don't know the step well enough to be confident I can do my part safely. If they aren't confident that they can support you safely then you can't force them.

One choice is that you throw yourself into it anyway and force them into it, but you'll likely end up on the floor. Ending up on the floor a few times is probably quite good for you because you'll find out what your limits are, but it's a great way to break arms, wrists or injure backs or necks. What I tend to do is do a very safe version the first couple of times and ease into a version where I rely on them more.
posted by kadia_a at 2:41 PM on February 19, 2014

The impression I get from most follows is that in social dancing, follows tend to only do self-supported dips, with exceptions only made if dancing with someone they are familiar with and whose ability they trust. If the lead leads a dip, the follow does a dip that the follow is comfortable with.

I was wondering if anyone else has come up with any less awkward way of dealing with this sort of situation.

"I'll dip myself - you don't have to do anything except initiate it."

There is also lots of humor potential in that - that the two of you are pretending, or that women don't actually need men but women find it easier to let men think they're needed and oops, you just let that cat out of the bag. Lots of ways to break the ice with humor.
posted by anonymisc at 2:53 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

its totally the guys fault. thats the first thing you learn in a good salsa class. the guy is in charge of gently and safely dipping you. if you're at all injured or uncomfortable HE isn't doing something right. where does that leave you? not sure because a lot of newby dancers try to dip their partners in order to feel like more advanced dancers. i'd seriously say something to the instructor before the class and have him or her go over safe dipping. i have been dipped by so many bad dancers and have literally been injured for it that i will also tell the guy up front if i know he's one of those bad dancers who love to spin you or dip you to death, i'll tell him up front that i'd prefer not to be dipped or spinned like a dradle. the good ones will dip you beautifully and you will feel like a queen. this is one of the joys of being a new salsa dancer. enjoy. it gets better!
posted by dmbfan93 at 3:03 PM on February 19, 2014

(And if either of you is uncomfortable about trusting the other with the dip, just futz around together with dipping that you are less uncomfortable with. (Ok, you won't get anywhere with dancing if you're not able to challenge your comfort zone, but that's not what we're talking about here). If the teacher tries to fix you two directly, you can say you're not comfortable with this dip, and the teacher will either move on to another couple, or try to give you more information or a different approach that might better address your concerns. If it doesn't address your concerns, return to step one.)

Also - it's ok for it to be awkward. Dance class isn't dinner at Downton, you're there to learn, so spend your brain time on your learning more than how to handle the social failings of others in that environment. We-Missed-Our-Chance guy is making things unnecessarily awkward. But if he's making things awkward, well, no big deal. You're not there for that, keep your eye on the ball.
posted by anonymisc at 3:11 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I took salsa lessons for years and never did dips, so I'm a little confused as to why they're being introduced into an intro course.

In any event, I agree that the instructor needs to be instructing better. And you (and anyone in the class) should absolutely feel ok opting out of moves that are explained (or not-explained) in such a way that they leave either partner open to potential physical harm. If a guy doesn't want to dip you, that should be ok with both you and the instructor.

It, however, should absolutely also be ok for you to call over the instructor and say, "Hey, the physics here feel off -- how can I do this safely as a taller woman?" If the instructor doesn't give you step-by-step instructions and also practice the move with you until you get it, then I would really classify his instruction as "potentially dangerous" and opt out of any future "Likely to bash my head into the floor" moves in future classes.
posted by jaguar at 7:21 PM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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