In Defence of the “Bah” Dancer…

An article has been circulating the salsa scene at the moment, which has me a little agitated.

“Why ‘Social’ Dancers are Killing Salsa”:

“People in the Bah! [“basic and happy”] cycle have achieved a certain rudimentary level of Salsa, they’ve made new friends and learned that they can enjoy themselves “dancing” without putting in too much effort… and that’s it. They remain in a state of perpetual mediocrity.

“If the number of Bah!-dancers reaches a certain critical mass, it creates a precedent for others to follow. What this means is that when people are exposed to large amounts of mediocre dancers they have no incentive to improve…” 

– The Dancing Irishman

To me this defies the foundation of Latin dance.

Why?

Salsa was borne out of an evolution of Afro-Caribbean beats and Latin rhythms.  It spread from countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Dominican Republic and became popular in New York around the 60s.  Salsa still remains an integral part of the culture in these countries.

Whenever I dance with Latinos, most of them have an innate sense of the music but generally don’t include complex turn patterns or tricks.  Most of my Latino friends have attained a certain level of ability and have no desire to improve.

To them, salsa is about feeling the music, having a drink, seeing friends and relaxing.  The music must have ‘sabor’ or flavour; regularly, I hear them say “no I won’t dance this song, it’s too dull”.

As beneficiaries of salsa-culture, it strikes me as absurd that people should be shamed for their disinterest in working towards professional salsa dancing.

Salsa has always been a social activity.  If you want to be elite, that’s your prerogative.  I’d argue that passing judgement on others, for not sharing the same approach, is far more detrimental to the salsa scene.

Every new dancer has the potential to be a great dancer, if they want to be.  But they will not want to join the salsa scene if the veterans are unaccommodating.  Sometimes we just need to take a step back and appreciate that others are not as obsessed with dancing as a ‘sport’ like some of us are (especially me!).

Finally, I’d like to point out that these “bah” dancers are the ones buying drinks and keeping venues open.  No drink sales means no salsa venue!

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Do you agree or disagree?  Have another dimension to the debate?  I’m always up for a chat and happy to hear more, please comment or hit me up: jill@sydneylatinscene.com.au.