Festival workshops are useless if you are a social dancer...

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by Chris_Yannick, Dec 2, 2017.

  1. Tres Fort

    Tres Fort Son

    I always thought that workshops are just a distraction to keep normies away from afternoon socials
  2. MrR

    MrR Son Montuno


    Someone in this forum wrote, it is better to see those workshops as a part of the overall show, instead of actually thinking they are about learning anything. Doing that I understood my own experiences with them.

    I have no local access to decent teachers. For the first 18 months it was different, but after I moved I ended in hell. A place where it is more important "what" you dance, than "how" you dance.
    I went to my first festivals to actually learn something. What I found was more like a place of worship than a place of learning, including a lot of cult like behavior. (I sought knowledge, I found religion.)
    Sadly for many people taking one workshop after another really seems to be the core. Often times I met people at the workshops whom I wanted to dance with, but they said they'd better not go to the parties or they would not be able to take 8 workshops the next day. And in every workshop they get another piece of "what" and rarely a piece of "how". On all my festivals I learned more from having the possibility to dance with a broad variety of follows from all kinds of backgrounds and skill levels, than from repeating a teacher.
    Every dance is an opportunity to learn, if you just keep an open mind. But that means you actually have to take care ...
    But that explains why I am treated as superior dancer by many people who dance several times longer than me and are taking classes and workshops regularly.

    Recently I have been to a Zouk festival.
    I have to drive 2 hours to the closest Zouk classes, so festivals are my only realistic chance to learn anything.
    The workshops were great. All about technique and flexible moves. A lot of connection stuff, which is very important in Zouk. I had made up a lot of that stuff myself, so I have a good access to it but really needed to get a checkup by proficient dancers.
    At the last day I spoke with a girl who said she was disappointed not to have booked the advanced classes, as the workshops were boring, specially by the first teacher that morning, whom she didn't attend anymore. And many of her peers thought the same. (The number of students dropped by about 50% from Friday to Sunday.) It was all about touching each other and no moves.
    We wanted to train the move from before and despite her having no problems to get in touch, at first I corrected her frame. Instantly I could lead funny stuff through my body. She was baffled and asked: "Where did you learn this?" - "Oh, it was the core theme of that boring workshop you did not attend."
    At that day I had taught 5 follows, who thought they did not need that, this exact piece of technique. 3 of them had attended that class!

    1 hour just for learning how to hold each other. Including how the follow holds the lead.
    From the same teacher 3 workshops like that over the weekend.
    The people complained they did not learn anything and they didn't even listen to this simple piece of advice, but tried to use the move we did to study it.
    Of about 20 follows in that workshop 10-15 focused on the move and ignored the frame building part.

    Workshops are full of people who want to buy the easy way. Instead of learning "how" to dance, they want to buy "what" to dance. Pattern, solo pattern (shines), looking good pattern (styling) etc.
    At the end the one wins who is best at repeating the teacher.
    And then they are baffled about the strange overgrown Quasimodo I am, who doesn't do all that stuff anymore but has outstripped so many of them.

    Nowadays I have developed the habit to only go to relatively low workshops on festivals.
    Anything higher only with a training partner and as I don't have one right now I simply don't go there.
    I learn more when I actually can use the time to learn what we are doing instead of compensating for the failures of my partner. When the follow is over challenged by the move, I cannot lead it so I cannot learn it, unless it comes really easy for me. And after 3 or 4 like that in a row I have lost the threat and the workshop is wasted.
    On Solo workshops I have completely given up. I have not seen a single one (n ~ 50, mostly spectator mode), that was more than some kind of Zumba class with maybe catwalk or folklore elements. Workout for people who don't actually want to do a partner dance.

    /rant over
  3. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    1st para.. LOL !!

    2nd... welcome to my bandwagon

    Lastly; I wonder how many of the "teachers " giving advice, have any in depth dance training ? . And I don't mean being taught a couple of hors by another prof .
    Good post
    akdancer likes this.
  4. Al Israel

    Al Israel Tumbao

    Who taught the Zouk workshops?
    That reminds me of Lukasz Raz from Poland who teaches Sensual Improvisation classes. He focuses on how rather than what. Great workshops.
  5. Chris_Yannick

    Chris_Yannick Shine Officer


    Festival workshops are for people who want to buy their way into good dancing. Yet I never see most of the workshop participants at the actual parties where you are supposed to be using what was taught! So instead of social dancing, they attend more workshops. And the cycle repeats.

    Don't get me started on the non salsa workshops. It's like a sensual fiesta. Or a beginner fiesta. Just clowning around. Random people wanting to hook up.

    Coincidentally, the people who are best at repeating after the teacher are the ones who social dance regularly.

    As social dancers, we have repeated these moves so many times that it became ingrained in our muscle memory. Many of those same movements are used in the workshops for patterns.

    I would still take solo workshops, but if I can't see anything due to massive numbers of people, then it's equally as useless.
  6. Chris_Yannick

    Chris_Yannick Shine Officer

    Not sure how it is at big festivals, but in smaller ones, this is definitely the case as well. Lots of cliquey-ness among the locals (including those who are taxi dancers/helpers). and a holier than thou attitude. Just weird. It would have been more fun if more foreigners were in attendance. It seemed like everyone already knew each other and/or were locals.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  7. MrR

    MrR Son Montuno

    I only know him as "Jan from Berlin". (Highest body contact guru was Junior Cavalho.)
    But well, the German Zouk scene is a small colony with strong connections to Poland and the Netherlands.
    So a polish influence wouldn't surprise me.
  8. ctcmichael

    ctcmichael Changui

    I have always tried to attend most if not all workshops at festivals, but it’s mostly under the mindset of “I have a full pass, I should make my money’s worth.” But then again I only started dancing 3 years ago so I don’t think I should just go for a party pass just yet. The organisers should plan fewer but longer workshops - 1 hour simply isn’t long enough to let us to both learn and practice, especially when a lot of people will take multiple workshops each day. It would be interesting to see a festival where every workshops are 90 minutes long and taught by actual teachers rather than competition winners (unless it’s specifically for show-based workshops, but they need to hammer the point that it’s not for social dancing.
    Smejmoon and akdancer like this.
  9. akdancer

    akdancer Changui

    I've always been perplexed by the people whose body language so clearly reads "I am moving my body this way because somebody told me to do it while counting to eight," as opposed to ... you know, actually dancing. The workshops that OP described sound like the worst possible extension of that. If people want to do the rote zombie dancer thing that's cool, but when it's held up as something to aspire to...

    Looked for a "beating a dead horse" emoticon but couldn't find it!
    Offbeat, Chris_Yannick and granrey like this.
  10. Chris_Yannick

    Chris_Yannick Shine Officer

    There are social dancers and there are non social dancers. The workshop participants consists largely of non social dancers who are too afraid to dance socially, so they get stuck in this never ending workshop taking mindset. I know a bunch of people who keep taking lessons, attend workshops and then just sit in a corner when a party, never believing in their ability or having the courage to get up and dance with other people. Many teachers don't encourage their students to go out social dancing. I was encouraged since day 1.
    Offbeat likes this.
  11. vit

    vit El Sabroso de Conguero

    Well, it's still a kind of social dancing in somewhat organized way, one doesn't risk rejections, various kinds of abuse by partners, can practice stuff shown by instructor etc ...
    Interestingly, on kizomba and zouk workshops I've met some very interesting followers that never appeared on the parties. Maybe they felt more safe there, I don't know ...
  12. LarsM

    LarsM Nuevo Ritmo

    I don't know about zouk, but two of the best kizomba followers in my city (both primarily dance salsa) have stopped going to the kizomba rooms at festivals because they've had too many uncomfortable experiences with creepy/sleazy guys. Seems more prevalent than in salsa. Not to open a huge can of worms here...
    Smejmoon and vit like this.
  13. MrR

    MrR Son Montuno

    This is exactly the point.
    More than half of the dancers at the average festival are under the 3 years mark so far I see. And very many of the ones who dance longer never really became decent dancers but simply are around for longer.

    The only way to become a good social dancer is to dance socially. Not just with your home crew but with a lot of different people. (Not necessarily in an assembly line, half a dozen (dances with learning effect) per night are enough.)
    Good teaching is a very helpful support to increase or even enable the process, but real life experience is the excluding factor.
    But when teaching - taking classes after classes after classes - is blocking the transition to a good social dancer, the teaching itself has become worthless (for the goal to become a good social dancer).
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017 at 12:00 PM
    akdancer likes this.
  14. vit

    vit El Sabroso de Conguero

    Many people don't have a goal to become a (good) social dancers. Some want just to dance with his/her partner, some want just to dance solo, some want just to perform, some want just to compete, some want just to move instead of sitting the whole day at the office / behind the TV/computer .... All of that is perfectly valid
    wol, Aurel, HavanaCola and 1 other person like this.
  15. MrR

    MrR Son Montuno

    Yes, you are right.
    I wonder, what draws these people to the expensive festivals. Well, too different mindsets to understand it right now.

    But actually, the people whom I'd like to meet later to dance with usually are not the bad ones. If they were the bad ones, I'd not be attracted to dance with them. (Unless we had a good chemistry otherwise - and that usually simply does not happen if the girl is struggling too much with what we are trying to learn.)
    The ones in partner workshops who only do it for the classes itself usually show up as couples or in Rueda classes.
    The bad ones who are flooding the workshops to a large percentage actually are the ones going out to the dance floor to show off their newly bought skills on other occasions or at least at the beginning of the party (until like midnight). And many of them think of themselves as decent dancers because they took part in these classes. Filtering out these has been a core skill for increasing my festival happiness.
    It's quite harsh for a shy guy if you land 3 or 4 bad ones in a row and cannot build up "momentum" to simply ask on. Instead you have your shoulders twisted and your feet stomped while all you were doing is trying to control that randomly moving object to at least not kill any other people. The next day the girl that injured you the day before happily greets you and wants you as a partner for an advanced workshop. And surprisingly enough, many of them don't have a hard time finding partners.
  16. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    Agree with mostly what's been said. My very first congress was within a few weeks of getting into salsa. It was local congress and I signed up for workshops. I think I took only two. One was on musicality by Al silver Espinoza, about which I have written a few times before. Other I don't remember but had some tricks maybe. I was quick to figure out that the Congress workshops we're not for me and never signed up for congress workshops after that.

    I have roomed with people at festivals who are so focused on workshops and try to take as many, that they have little fuel left for social dancing. As Mr R wrote, they want to be at that 8am or 10am workshops next morning. Most come from places where it is not easy to take workshops regularly from good instructors or big names.

    Also agree that most people who are at congress (except the hard core ones who tend to become cliquey), the rest are less than three years experience. Nothing wrong with that. My most fun experiences at congresses were when I had less than three years under the belt. But at those congresses there was very strong social dancing orientation among the attendees, which I find absent now. It is my conjecture and I could be wrong, but if someone is not coming from a local scene with strong social dancing, then that generally at congresses the social dancing part is just one more thing to do. Among majority of the attendees I certainly find passion to social dance rather weak. You just have to look at how many show up at afternoon socials. Some congresses like Sibenik are exceptions.

    A lot of it is also the case of many of these dancers not being aware of what dancing really is. They move, they go to classes that teach them to move, but they don't know how to dance. They watch the shows, the performance teams, the celebrities and think that is dancing.

    I do think many people want to be good social dancers, but they don't know how. They are caught in this vortex where there is no one to enlighten them on how to become good social dancers.

    Where I first started dancing, it was a no no and looked down upon to dance with home crew at the festival event. The main message was always, dance with others. I don't see that message or attitude anymore. It is funny to see people fly hundreds and thousands of miles and cliquey dancing with the home crew. The most guilty were some of the so promoted 'social dancers' at the Berlin Congress.

    At most congresses you always find some really nice people who are also good to dance with. They more than make up for all the negatives.
    Chris_Yannick, MAMBO_CEC and LarsM like this.
  17. MrR

    MrR Son Montuno

    And that is the reason why I make the investment to sometimes visit the larger festivals. (From my perspective larger ones. Still not willed/able to pay net 1000+€ for one Weekend.)

    Too bad the day time social dancing is uncommon in Germany (and when offered barely used). And the marathons for non stop social dancing are rare.
  18. dav7802

    dav7802 Son

    For me it is a mixed bag. I like attending some workshops but not all of them and I like going to the afternoon socials but not staying the entire time.

    For workshops: It is great when there are visiting teachers that you can't normally take class from. I also use them to learn new moves/style that I can practice later. For example Eddie Torres was visiting for a mambo on2 monthly social and I had to go to the workshop in addition to the social (I had never taken a workshop with him before). He hasn't been out in LA for years. Although with the 20th yr LA Congress coming up, I am thinking he may come back.

    I had never taken a Pachanga class until last year and there wasn't anyone teaching it locally, so I had to go to Shani's last yr at the LA congress.

    John and Liz are always very detailed and are great teachers, so I try to attend theirs.

    I agree on the level of students. I remember a girl that keep re-positioning herself after each time the teacher stopped on a count to make sure we were all in the same place. It made trying to do the move hell and confusing for me. I stopped moving for her the second time she came around in the circle. Then on one of the crossbody moves I stopped her from coming across too soon in the count with my free arm. lol. The look she gave me was hilarious. To which I responded "Not yet" with a smile. Still makes me laugh today.

    I basically chalk it up to dancing with all skill levels on the dance floor. Some will get it and some will not. Plus it is normally only for 1 or 2 min and we rotate.
    akdancer and vit like this.
  19. Peason

    Peason Son

    The best workshop I ever took was one on percussion.
    3 months later I had conga standing in my living room.
    Another 2 months and I was taking lessons.
    Talking about an inspirational hour :)
    LarsM and Dissonant Harmony like this.
  20. Chris_Yannick

    Chris_Yannick Shine Officer

    Same here. If I am an unknown, I do need to put myself out there. Otherwise I'll get swallowed up in nether world - neither here nor there. Even though I believe I have the ability to hold my own with anyone, being overlooked as soon as you enter a room because you are not "home crew" does take its toll. But I agree that if you are a host dancer, you should probably dance with everyone if that is what you were brought to do.

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