My disclaimer. Now, let me be clear: joining a dance team is beneficial to your dancing. However, the question that was brought up to me was on how effective is joining a dance team to improve your social dancing. In this context, I have a different opinion on dance teams.I am not big into performing and choreography because my true passion in salsa dancing lies in social dancing (and music of course). Now, I'm not sure about everyone else, but the main reason I love learning salsa, watching salsa and being around salsa is because of the social dancing parts of salsa. I think it is because social dancing lets everyone have a unique flavor, style and chemistry in every different dance that feels more natural and is fun to watch.
Now, to answer the question - in general, YES. Dance teams do help with technique, teach you styling and work on your fundamentals at the same time as you are learning teamwork and choreography. However, it is only #3 or #4 in my list of things that you should be doing to get better in your social dancing. The #1 thing to do to improve your social dancing is.........wait for it.....wait.... for it..... there : go out social dancing more often. Sorry, no miracle cure or magical trick - we all have to go through salsa hell (I decided to make an entry in Wikipedia for this term).
I understand how beginners feel, I used to be one (or maybe I still am in some dancer's eyes). It sucks to go out to a club where there are just amazing dancers, and you just don't want to 'intervene' in the scene. You may think that you'll get better by having a partner to practice with in your alone time - and that is not necessarily true either. Dancing with a variety of people all the time will help you determine what you are specifically and consistently doing incorrect in your lead/follow/spin. That is the key word: consistency. We are always consistently doing something wrong and right. But the only way to find out what it is, is to test you ability in different situations. Just like science: keep an independent variable (you) and change the dependents (your partners). Putting yourself in different situations will teach you more about your ability than anything else. While I have been on different dance teams, I have to say that the most I've learned has come from going out more often, watching social dance videos online and throwing-myself-at-the-salsa-congress-dance-wolves. You end up learning from your mistakes more often than your successes.In a team, you are placed with a partner who will learn to compensate for your mistakes unintentionally due to both of you knowing the choreography. Therein lies the biggest problem with trying to become a great overall social dancer in a team environment. In social dancing, everything happens improvised (in some sense) and therefore it makes you work twice as hard just to perform any single action than in choreography. Additionally, you cannot develop your own style in a team because you must follow order to match the style of the choreographer as well as retain appearance in the performance with the rest of the dancers - unless the choreographer's style is the style you are willing to gain.
In conclusion (for my opinion), while joining a team is beneficial to your dancing in general especially when you have a great dancer as the director, it cannot compensate enough for getting most of your practice and learning from going out and social dancing. Now, some people will probably disagree but this has always been my experience that when I see a person improve - it has been by their own doing, not by the director's instruction.Your experiences are very much welcomed in the comments.