Whenever I meet someone new, the inevitable question of “what do you do for fun?” comes up. Usually, the first thing that I say is “I am a dancer, and that’s usually what I do with my nights.”

Usually, the first thing the person thinks of is one of these:

ballet             OR                     Seductive dance

When I finally get to “Salsa” and convince them that I do not actually spend my time eating tomato dip, I have the next task in front of me. While most people have at least some sort of idea what salsa is, most people have no clue what Zouk or West Coast Swing are.  Even dancers sometimes need help determining what exactly is what… so I’ve compiled a list of how I have described less widely known dances and their music for both non-dancers  and dancers alike when I don’t have access to Youtube. I’m skipping salsa and tango just because I’ve never had trouble explaining those dances; most people seem to know what it is.

Bachata:

So, take salsa. Now, slow down the music. Add more hips and less spins. You know that song by Usher? The one with the Spanish guy? Yeah, that’s Bachata music.  If there was actually a dance that was a vertical expression of horizontal desire, this is probably it.

Merengue:

Mix salsa and a marching band. Remove footwork, and just step on the regular beat. You’ll probably get sick of it pretty quickly.

Lindy Hop: 

Have you seen those old movies, with the poodle skirts, where the guys are throwing the girls around like crazy with lots of bouncing? Well, yeah, I guess kind of like what happens in Grease. No, girls do not wear heels. Picture a dance that your really hyper cousin would do. This would probably be it. Also, it’s a mandatory prerequisite that you know your 50’s fashion and hairstyles inside and out.

West Coast Swing:

No, not that kind of swing. No, there’s no bouncing. Ok… well, you can use Top 40’s music, and it’s similar in terms of how many steps are in West Coast and Lindy – the traditional swing – but West Coast looks more latin. It’s like smooth swing.

Brazilian Zouk:

No, not Zumba. You know that Rihanna song Te Amo? Yea, that’s Zouk music. Mix salsa with contemporary dancing. It’s more fluid than salsa, but has a lot of elements from contemporary dancing. And the girls toss their hair and do crazy bendy stuff. There’s a lot of bending.

Kizomba:

Also, not Zumba. Do you know Bachata? Yes. ok. Well, take Bachata and dance it to Zouk music (that Te Amo song, remember?), and make it even more similar to sex on the dance floor. It’s kind of like a Tango with hips.

Samba de Gafiera:

Give crack to a lindy hopper and throw in some tango-esque footwork. With me so far? Ok, good. Now, without losing the bounce, add some crazy hips. Now, speed up the average speed of a fast salsa song as much as you can. Yes, it is a different beat, but that’s the general idea.

Blues:

Cry. Now, make crying into a dance. Hold your partner close, let them help hold you up and sway side to side in a soothing motion. If you like the person, make it sexy crying.

Feel welcome to post other ways in which you’ve attempted to explain a dance to another person!

S.Q.