by Ana Gherasim
A bunch of us spent last weekend in Montreal, experiencing 3 days of amazing dancing at the Montreal Salsa Convention. To follow up on all my pre-congress advice, I thought I’d share with you a few of my tips on recovering from a salsa congress, retaining what you learned, and becoming a better dancer for it. Here goes.
If you’re anything like us and our students, odds are you just spent 4 days dancing between 6 and 10 hours per day and sleeping around 5 hours per night. That can take a toll on your body, so be extra-good to yourself for a few days:
Catch up on sleep. A good night’s rest is key to rebuilding your muscles and your brain. Try to get at least 8 hours per night for a week straight to reverse the effects of a weekend’s worth of sleep deprivation.
Give your feet a break. I like to give myself a thorough pedicure after a congress, but a nice Epsom salt soak works too, if pedicures aren’t your thing. Also: use a pumice stone or a foot scrub to get any dead skin off your soles, then follow it up with a good foot cream and give yourself a foot rub – or get someone to do it for you! Right now I’m loving the Jollification scrub cubes and their lotion bars.
Stretch your legs. If a congress had you dancing harder and longer than normal, stretching is all the more important. So warm up, then stretch your lower back, hips, hamstrings and calves. Follow this stretching guide by the fine folks at Give Me Ballroom, or try a yin yoga class!
Congress workshops are usually a whirlwind of dance instruction, a little bit of practice, a quick video at the end, then on to the next class. You don’t get a lot of time to digest what you’ve learned, and with so much information thrown at you, it can be hard to wade through and pick and choose what to focus on. Which is why most of your learning will usually come after the congress:
Review the workshop schedule. Think about the workshops you attended, and pick no more than 3 or 4 to focus on. Ask yourself: is this useful to me? Does this fit my style, or the style I want to have? Can I incorporate this in my dancing at this point in my development? Pick the ones that give you the most “yes” answers.
Review your videos. Once you decide what workshops to focus on, watch your videos (you do have videos, right?) and choose which elements you want to work on from those workshops. The fewer you work on at a time, the better chance you’ll retain them. Make a short list, and stick to it. If a move is cool, but too advanced for you right now, save it somewhere safe where you can pick it back up in a few months.
Practice, practice, practice. Incorporate the elements you want to learn into your regular practices. Mix them with elements you already know, and see how you can make them your own.
Accept the learning process. Some moves will feel natural (or close to it) as soon as you start learning them – this might be because they fit the way your body is used to moving. Others will feel all kinds of wrong, and you will struggle to get through them. Persevere in your practice! When you dance socially, do what feels natural. When you practice, work through the discomfort and awkwardness, until you’ve mastered the movement. Then, decide whether or not it’s for you.
Revisit old workshop videos. After a few years of congresses, you’ll probably have a sizeable stash of workshop videos somewhere on your computer. Whenever you’re feeling uninspired, go through them and see if you can dig up something new to learn. You might be surprised at what you will discover!