Leadership Lessons from Dance – Basics

I was teaching a Salsa private lesson recently and we were going over an intermediate move – a wrap. It’s when the lead turns the follow while holding both hands and at the end of the turn the lead wraps their arms around the follow as they transition from one move to another.

The move requires the lead to change their footwork to quickly get from one side of the follow to the other. The lead must reposition themself in order to clearly lead the follow into the next move.

My student was generally getting the move done however I noticed (among other things) that they* were taking additional unnecessary steps (aka working harder then they needed to). They were walking around the follow instead of pushing off one foot to propel them to where they needed to be – on the other side of the follow after the turn.

What I realized was that they were not pushing off on the 1st and 5th steps even in their basic so when they needed to push harder to execute the more complex move they didn’t have that foundation to rely on. So we literally went back to basics! I paused the wrap lesson and went over where the feet needed to be, what part of the foot needed to be used, and what distance the feet need to be in relation to the body while doing a basic step.

After that refresher (and a few drills) we went back to the wrap move and my student was now able to push harder off their foot and use the momentum of the push to stay close to their follow versus walking around them. The harder push also increased their stability and positioning to be able to be a stronger and more clear leader for their follow.

Leadership Lessons

It was a great reminder as a leader in everyday settings that sometimes it helps to be reminded of the foundation or the basics of what you are doing. Below are some of the ways I see parallels between this dance lesson and some everyday leadership lessons. Please share in the comments below the lessons you take away.

• Sometimes you may not have had the capacity to catch all the nuances of the basic step when you were first learning it because there is so much to focus on and such a large learning curve but once you have built up the muscle memory of doing something then return to a review of the basics you may pick up nuggets that help you hone your skill even more. This is why continued learning and yearly professional development conferences, summits, courses, seminars, and workshops are so successful.

• A good way to get a refresher on the basics is to teach someone else. It levels up your cognitive learning from knowing and understanding to applying and evaluating the learning (Bloom’s Taxonomy).

Your turn! What are your thoughts, reactions, take-a-ways, or other examples? I always seek to create dialogue so please comment below!

If you liked this blog post please comment and visit others in the series: Leadership Lessons from Dance

*Note: I use the terms “lead” and “follow” as all genders/gender expressions can assume either role at any point.

**Featured Image is @DancingShaunaSobers teaching a salsa class at Thursday Latin Nights hosted by Club Bantu – Austin,TX in September 2019. Photo credit: Zebadiah Badgett

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