It is very interesting to note that when you do go to a salsa congress, you'll notice that there is always one special corner , where all the good dancers stay at. I assume its probably for the marketability (they stay near the front door so everyone can see them dance, and hence - who knows, take their classes and buy their [expensive] DVDs..). Regardless, its one of those things that you aim for. Kind of like in Thanksgiving, when you were a kid and sat in the little kids table, and you desperately want to grow up so you can eat with the adults? Thats how I usually I felt going to those night events.
Now, from the time I took on this challenge, I never doubted David's when he said it would work - I had gone through the same scenario just going from my salsa basic on1, the issue was if I wanted to go through this whole ordeal one more time. Its kind of like getting braces for your teeth for like 2+ years - and then you get them off (no more making fun, acne, and issues).. and then 5 years later - your dentist tells you that you need to get braces again.. the horror.. especially if you are still going to the clubs trying to impress the girls you like while you are doing this...
I have changed as a dancer in many ways. Its not a mystical, or spiritual experience - but an experience nevertheless. I can tell you that I have become a different type of dancer. My dance style has changed - first because of circumstance, and now by choice. Now, its hard to tell you, how I have changed - so it will be up for everyone to judge how my style has changed from before. (Yes, I'll shoot some video someday... still looking for someone interested in shooting video for free..).
Some of the key things that I learned (and some re-learned):
Practice, Practice, and Understanding. I've said it before, and I'm saying it again because it KEEPS working for me. Juan Carlos always says, "if you practice later, you will only get good later..". Actually, one of the first articles I ever wrote was about practicing - so I just applied my own preaching. However, there is another side to this. Understanding. This is probably the way I learned salsa... I looked at steps, music, footwork, combos..etc and just thought about it, analyzed them and even applied simple common sense engineering (physics) principles to it. In understanding and becoming aware to what you are doing becomes a central part in understanding what you body needs to do, to make it do what you want it to do. Once you become aware of 'yourself', you become better at controlling every aspect of 'yourself' on the dance floor to any song and any dance partner.
On2 just fits better with music. I have gain better appreciation of salsa music. I have gotten a new 'sense' of listening to salsa songs that was not there before. It is something about the timing of the music, the rhythm and the instruments put together that just makes sense. It makes absolute sense to the point where you think about why you were ever dancing on1. Now, I still agree that dancing On1 is easier because you are literally stepping on the marked beat, but when you are trying to play with the REST of the instruments in the song. Basically, the way I look at it (or listen for that matter) is that, now I don't really have to pay attention to the main beat (cow bell, or the sort), but I can listen to any other instruments to tell me where I'm at. And because I'm paying attention to instruments that now have different pauses (melodies) and not just a constant beat (cow bell), I can then make my motions and steps fit better with the music. I can do some fast footwork on 5,6,7,8 and the do something slow on 1,2,3,4, and then maybe do something fast again on 5,6,7,8... On2 is seems like magic. Its makes every dance more entertaining..
On2 gives you more time to play. Its not a question about steps, but about math and timing. There is something to be said about the difference in where the pauses are held during the steps. Usually the pauses On1 are when you are in a neutral position (both feet are next to each other side by side on the 4 and 8). Additionally, On1, I step forward on 1, then 2 with my right, and then by count 3, my left leg (that was forward) has to have returned to the neutral position. So, 1 count to get that foot from out - to - in. On2 is different. My 1, is in place. My 2 is stepping forward. However, my foot does not have to return to this neutral position until count 5. Therefore, I have 3,4, and 5 to do whatever I want. This time where your feet are apart (outside the neutral position) is defined as hang-time (at least, I'll call it that) . Because of this hang-time, I have more time to play with the music because I can do more things when my feet are apart than when they are together. I can rotate my legs, or do a couple of taps, or longer body-rolls.. all because I have those extra seconds to play with the beat. Not only that - but I can combine the hang-times together. Because the 5 is in place, this means I have 6,7,8 to do anything I want (or spice up my cross-body lead) before actually pushing the girl for the pump (on 1) before finishing the cross body lead for 2,3. Trust me, there is more time to make every cross-body lead look different with different body motions, hand motions and footwork motions... lots of new possibilities... a whole new ball-game.
Dance Studios are like Libraries. Sometimes I ask people, for example who like basketball - how much would you pay to magically get all the skills and talents of Michael Jordan (1980s). That is how you should think about everything that you would like to get better at. I think of the key factors that helped me get much better at On2 was doing to the dance studio and paying $5 to use the floor for practicing for the entire day. I wasn't there for the entire day, but every day I went, and got a couple of hours in - made a difference. Some people might seem it might be a lot - but looking back at it now, and knowing how much better I feel about my dancing - its worth every penny and more.
Not only were they helpful because of the nice dance floor, having large mirrors, and having the space bigger than my mediocre-sized kitchen floor - its the atmosphere. It reminds me of the days when I used to go to college and hit the library - not because there were books I may need - but because the library itself and seeing people studying, just made you want to study as well. Seeing other people practice, dance and seeing my instructors there just gave me more motivation to stay there until late just working, and working and practicing.
Arrogance is a sin. I used to think that there was no reason to dance On2 (or learn it for that matter) since most of the clubs I frequent were only On1. I only saw people dancing on2 during congress, so I used to tell myself (well, thats only once a year). It is more than just a timing change. It changes the dancing experience. Its funny because a dancer told me I should just 'screw On1' and just do On2. (Of course, I can't do that...) but I have to say, do not be as stubborn as I was because of ignorance. It may be bliss, but you are selling yourself short. I used to be told that the best dancers dance On2 - and now I know why.
Now, I'll tell you that I am a little depressed. The program is over. I'm not saying I'm perfect On2, still working out final kinks... but reaching a goal is satisfying, but also a little depressing. It has been a while where I have been in a situation where I felt so determined to get something done that required to push my own limits. It felt like I had to fight a villain - specifically myself... The military folks say pain is just weakness leaving the body (*well, maybe a commercial I saw about the Marines). I can tell you that most of the time during the month, I was fighting against my brian trying to do what it was originally trained to do, and force it to change a naturalized skill. Its basically forcing my brain to learn to be ambidextrous with salsa. It is easy to loose weight, cut your hair, heal your injuries... but its harder to modify your mind and the way your brain connects to your body.
Now, with all that said - I have decided that with this accomplishment (I think with Serena's compliments, I must have passed - of course David Stein will probably be the final judge someday) - but I feel like I've gained momentum. And instead of just stopping, I will build on this momentum. I am still planning on going to the dance studio regularly, work on all the other stuff I need to fix (so that I can get more 'looks' from the ladies ;-) ).
Now, of course.. its really hard to put my whole experience into writing. Additionally, I do get criticism about the dancing, videos, website, and even of myself. It comes with the territory of putting oneself on the spot. But, one of the main reasons I do these articles (and the website) is because when I started dancing salsa in Ames, Iowa - there was nowhere we could go to get information about salsa (what do to in situations, advice, patterns, footwork...etc).
I truly believe artists build upon other artists. People can learn from others' experiences... and the easier we make this experience available to others, the more people can get up to speed faster in the salsa scene hopefully become part of a larger salsa community in order to innovate new moves, footwork, styles.. etc. Everyone should be given a chance to try dancing salsa. Few may be given a chance to change the world, but everyone, at any point, has the ability to change their life.