The Do’s and Don’ts Of What To Wear When Salsa Dancing
Every athlete wears clothing that facilitates performance in his or her sport. Wait! Am I implying that Salsa dancing is a sport? Well, let’s think about it for a minute. Ice Skating is graceful movement between partners that is set to music and it is considered a sport. Let’s change the scene: get rid of the cold wet stuff beneath your feet; throw in a Latin vibe at a faster tempo, and voila….Salsa! Okay…on to the clothing.
What Should I Wear for Salsa Dancing
What we choose to wear when dancing should be determined by two factors. Of course, we must give consideration to what’s fashionable. Who wants to dance with someone who looks like they just walked off the page of a 1950’s copy of a JC Penney’s catalog? Beyond dressing for the paparazzi, we need to think about function. What I mean by function is the clothing that will best support a safe and enjoyable dance. Let’s look at this from head to toe.
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Hair can be a problem. When a lady makes a quick turn it can whip her partner in the face. I’ve even been hair whipped by a woman beside me who was dancing with someone else. It’s not such a bad thing with freshly washed hair. On the other hand, add two hours of non-stop Salsa sweat to the mix and it’s….well…something to be avoided. Salsa would lose a level of elegance if all of its ladies were to sport a Michael Jordan hair style. Instead, ladies might want to consider a pony tail or pulling those lovely locks back in a way that you ladies know best. Notice that I didn’t suggest putting it up in a bun on top of your head. Doing so then creates an obstacle for your partner to constantly deal with during certain moves like a “comb-over.”
Another upside to keeping hair pulled back is that it is less distracting to the dance. When it hangs loose and falls in front of a Salsera’s face, she can miss her partner’s hand request because it blocks her view of his hand, or her hand is busy brushing it back from her eyes at the very moment he needs that hand to start the next move. Lastly on this note, some ladies learn how to whip their hair in a way that keeps it out of their eyes so that no method for pulling and holding it back is required. This is strategic and stylish.
Buttons: When the hair is loose, it also creates an opportunity for the guy’s shirt cuff button to get snagged in a lady’s hair. I finally figured out that I should roll’em up when wearing a long sleeved shirt. I hope the guys out there are taking that as a hint.
Hair Accessories: While we’re up here, let’s just mention that hair accessories should be minimized and very securely attached to reduce the chance it being brushed off or bumped out of place.
Shirt and Blouses
Guy’s Jackets: Gentlemen, while I realize that it may earn a few style points, wearing a jacket or shirt that is unbuttoned is unsanctioned. Those suave moves of yours sometime cause the loose garment to block the view of your hand request from the ladies’ eyes. As you know, that can knock a point or two off of your “Rico Suave” status. Recommendation: keep it buttoned up until after you get her off the dance floor.
Ladies Sweaters: Ladies, it has been observed that you too sometimes wear open jackets or sweaters. You may want to keep these zipped or buttoned so that during certain turns, a man’s hand does not go accidentally inside your clothes. It just looks a bit odd when a guy’s hand is under your clothing during Salsa: at least in the places where I dance.
Shirts: For the fellas out there who heard that women love to touch a sweaty man on the dance floor…they lied to you. If you dance hard enough to get soaked, then be a gentleman and do a quick change into a fresh shirt. The ladies will appreciate it. A squirt or two of “Axe” wouldn’t hurt either.
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Open Backs: While we’re still working the upper half of our attire, I’ve a word for our women. There are some rather enticing tops that are a pleasure to see but are best used to your advantage when you are not dancing. First off is the open backed blouse. Once you get sweaty after a few dances, and a guy subsequently brings you into a “closed position,” his hand prefers the touch of cotton over cold perspiration. (For the sake of literary honesty, 3.6% of the men surveyed did say they like the cold clammy feel of your wet shoulder blade. Yup, there are a few freaks in every crowd.)
Bat Wings: Next in line are the “bat wings” as I call them. These are the tops with extra fabric that extends from the wrist or elbow down to your waist. When you extend your arm, it creates a barrier of fabric below your bicep. This extra fabric can create a momentary barrier as your lead’s hand moves under your arm to your left shoulder blade. It’s easier to dance with you if you’re not in this style of top.
Strapless: Okay….one more on tops and I’m moving on. Strapless tops. Hummm….. let me just say that you look lovely. However, something is wrong when a guy needs your hand to hit the next move on beat and that hand is busy trying to prevent a wardrobe malfunction. And yes, those malfunctions do happen. We’re saving the video of those incidents for our upcoming release of “Salseras Gone Wild.”
As we descend from the head and torso, remember that the objective is to have a safe and enjoyable dance without unnecessary distractions. This brings us to the ever so important hands and wrists.
Rings, Watches, & Wrist Bling: I call these “scratchers”. Unless it’s a smooth wedding band, then it’s best to dance without them. They can hurt. It’s awkward when dancing and you need to grab your partner’s wrist and you get a hand full of bracelets. It moves from awkward to risky when a finger gets caught in a bracelet during a quick move. Not good.
Nails: Those lovely long luscious nails you have look hot in those magazine ads but when it comes to Salsa, they’re a distraction and possible hazard. Salsa dancing is heavily dependent on the hand connection with your partner. That connection should not gouge into his hand or scratch his neck during dance moves. Keeping them neatly trimmed to a length not much beyond the tip of your finger is best.
Earrings: It’s no fun to stop dancing and drop to the floor in search of the earring that was just bumped off during a dance. It’s recommended to wear an “earring back” to help secure it against falling out during a dance.
Glasses: For many, eye-glasses are a necessary part of life. They are not a necessary part of Salsa. It’s very easy for a pair of expensive and delicate frames to be knocked to the floor during a move. With lower lighting levels and a crowded floor they’ve a fair chance of being the next thing you replace. Contacts are better but not required. I guess you could also get an eyeglass chain to catch them if they fall.
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Skirts, Dresses, and Pants
Short Skirts & Dresses: If you have to keep pulling your dress down while you are dancing, then that may be a sign that it’s a tad bit too short. We understand why you may have selected that length so maybe you might want to try Daisy Dukes instead.
Cuffs: Men and women’s fashion includes pants with cuffs. This is mentioned because sometimes a lady’s heel can get caught in the cuff. With wider the pant legs, there is greater the risk of this happening. Hello skinny jeans.
Shorts: Wearing shorts is something women do very often in Salsa, especially during warmer months or when they’re particularly proud of what their momma gave them. Although this is purely a fashion choice, very few gentlemen will wear shorts to a Salsa event unless it is outdoors.
Every sport has its shoe, and this includes Salsa dancing. Function over fashion is the name of the game.
A Reasonable Heel: If your heels are too high for you easily keep your balance, then bringing them down is better than having them bring you down. Besides, a lower heel is better for your dance, your back, and your feet. Stilettos may look nice but they damage good dance floors and damage other dancers’ feet when you accidentally puncture them. Moreover, if you are already taller than most men are, why wear four inch heels? It just makes it a bit harder for turns when men need to reach way over your head for a turn. Try this link for a great selection of dance shoes.
Flip-flops: When I was a kid, they were called thongs, but you better not call them that now. I know they are super comfortable but flip flops have no place on the dance floor. Heels appear to have some odd instinct to target feet wearing flip-flops. Now if you have some kind of thing for pain, then help yourself. Just be current with your tetanus shot.
Leather Is In: We always recommend that people wear leather soled shoes. Rubber soles can slow your turns down. For guys this means that sneakers are not recommended. Once you are ready to commit to dancing regularly in venues with a real wood dance floor, then you may choose to buy dance shoes. Dance shoes have a suede bottom that really helps with turning. Bear in mind that dance shoes are not for wearing outside of a dance floor.
Since we’re talking about the Salsa Dress Code, let’s hit a few quick grooming items. Freshly pressed garments are always welcomed, but if your venue is not particularly upscale, then jeans and a t-shirt work fine.
Shower and deodorant…do we really need to go here? Okay, so you don’t have time to get home and freshen up before it’s time for you to do your thing at the dance studio or the club. At least take a shirt change with you.
Keep a toothbrush in your change bag in the trunk of your car…ok glove box for all that I care. Use some gum…floss….whatever. People do talk.
Hand lotion is great for keeping your hands from feeling like you’ve been laying bricks all day. Just be careful here because slippery hands are a huge no-no for Salsa dancing. Maintaining good contact with your partner’s hands is a must.
Perspiration Management: Some guys are thoughtful enough to keep the sweat wiped off of their face by keeping a small hand towel hanging from their back pocket while dancing. It’s not regional. I’ve seen it from New York to Los Angles, to Miami and various points between. Guys. Listen to me. It ain’t cute. It looks horrid. And I’m just the messenger. This is what I hear from women. Keep your sweat towel with your street shoes, or put a handkerchief in your pocket…whatever.
You won’t find a Salsa Dress Code posted on the wall in any Salsa venue, so it’s up to each individual to determine what’s appropriate for them. As you make that determination, there will always be a bit of a struggle between function and fashion when the quality of your dance is important to you. You can be cute AND get your dance on. When you shop and dress for Salsa, in addition to the cute factor, consider styles that will minimize distractions to your dance. Doing this will help you get more dances with partners of higher skill levels. Also remember, that if you ignore a few of these suggestions, the Salsa Fashion Police (SFP) won’t come and get you….until there are three complaints against you. Oh, before I forget, your local branch of the SFP is looking for volunteers. No background checks are required. Contact us today.
Talk Back: Tell us what your thoughts are on the Salsa Dress Code. We’d love to know where you agree or differ on these points. Besides, I’m sure that we’ve left something out that should be mentioned. Let us know in the comments below.