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Dancing During Carnaval

The Importance of Shines & Footwork


Solo dancing is helpful for many reasons in Partner dance styles. 'Shines' are usually referred to patterns, steps & footwork beyond just the basic steps. 'Footwork' is generally means any kind of Footwork including basic steps & Shines.

Learning basics is one thing, but footwork & shines, suprisingly is an extremely important factor in learning partner-work & improving your whole self dance in general. This applies to all partner dance styles, including Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha, Bachata & yes even Kizomba.

Unfortunately allot of beginners & unexperienced dancers, or not well trained ones, tend to dismiss shines and think that they are a waste of time. They will never be used and should be for performing only! They also may believe that learning partner-work should be the main focus of on learning to dance. This just shows a lack of understanding of these dance styles. You actually need both!

In the cases for Salsa, Cha Cha, Mambo & Bachata dancing solo or shines are included in social dancing, its a huge part of the dance you don’t want to miss, and often the music in certain instances begs for it. Dancing solo is a great way of expressing and feeling the music, in contrast to dancing with a partner. As for Kizomba, it's a bit different in a social sense, but its still has many important factors to be considered as you will see below.


The saying goes, “if you can’t love yourself, how can you love another.”  This directly applies to partner dancing, any great dancer will say the same. “If you can dance by yourself ,you can’t dance great with another.”


Benefits from Shines & Footwork:

- Timing

- Musicality

- Control

- Expression

- Foot speed

- Weight shifting & Transfer

- Foot placement

- Styling

- Style

- Fluidity 

- Posture

- Mastering basic steps

- Body position & angles

- Acceleration & deceleration

- Directions Changes

- Sharp vs Smooth movements

- Move more easily

- Body Movement

- Muscle memory

- Grounding & Floor Pressure

- Solo dance technique 

- Turns, Pivots & Spins 

- Balance

- Confidence

- Learning Routines Faster

- The more you learn the faster you learn

- Help Dance Memory

- Finally having fun!


Most of these benefits above, you can’t learn from partner-work alone and only benefit your dancing a whole.


Dance is a language

Learning and understanding the components of dance styles is kind of like learning to write words, you can put these words together and make sentences. You need to master all the components also known as fundamentals. You get fundamentals in footwork & shines and also partner-work, which have their own components & fundamentals too. 

Once you make these building blocks muscle memory, through practice and repetition, your dancing will grow massively to the point you can express in a way that relates to the music, known as musicality. You do need a good chunk of above such as body movement, style, styling, flavour etc. 

Learning in Classes

Some people also think that things should happen “naturally”, from osmosis? Of course you can learn some of the basics, but its a bit like the difference between learning a language such as “English” at home without lessons, compared to learning through study at a Highs chool & University. The more education you have the more diverse and better you will be at that language.


Good dance teachers will usually put just as much effort into teaching shines & footwork and can explain the steps in huge detail. Which is the opposite to teachers who have no clue because some have missed this in their training - if they had any at all. Just look at the best Salsa Mambo Schools in New York, they spend just as much if not more time on shines than partner-work. They have produced amazing dancers over many decades.


Dancers who spend allot of time on shines or footwork have quite a few advantages; they can have a more fun with  social dancing because they have more tools in their tool kit. They can break away from their dance partner and freestyle with shines they have learnt and even create new ones of the fly. This allows them to express in ways that many don’t. Their body-movent is better, they can turn quicker when executing turn patterns that required them to turn, 'male or female'. They look better because of their own personal style, fluidity of movement, body movement, styling, musical interpretation and their technique, timing and speed. While social dancing it also adds more variety to the dance and there are sections in the music that can require solo dancing.

Shines During Social dancing

While social dancing or social dance practice, try disconnecting and try dancing solo for a while, but do allow a little space 1-3 metres perhaps depending on the space available, so you can both try some new shines.  You do need to allow at least 1 metre so you have space to move and no more than 3 -4 metres because you are still dancing together. Don't make the mistake of forgetting your dance partner! If you take quite allot of classes you will start to learn the best times to do shines, but its really open to interpretation.  We recommend having your go-to shines, as a backup incase your mind goes blank. This is likely to happen when you first start trying. But it will get easier and more fun!

Tips for the Men/Leads

When you go out social dancing and trying some shines, please pay special attention to  your dance partner. If she is  freaking-out or just sticks to basics, offer your hands to get back to partner-work pretty fast! Because your current dance partner maybe a beginner or hasn't learnt enough about shines yet. Please don't spend more than half the dance dancing solo either, remember this is a partner dance too!

Tips for the Ladies/Followers

Generally wait for the lead to let you go, because this is still a lead and follow dance. Rules can be broken here too, we suggest learning about these. While social dancing, your partner might let you go to do shines! Hopefully now you now won't panic because you have learnt enough shines. You can then solo dance with you dance partner and interact in a new and fun way. If you want to get back to partner-work you could offer your hands or just do basic steps.


In a Nutshell

So if you want to be a great partner-work dancer or even a well balanced dancer, you really do need shines & footwork!

We also recommend that if you get stagnant in your dance, focus back on yourself and learn Shines and work on some of the finer details and you will get some huge benefits. Do realise also you need partnerwork too, this article is written for those that don't really understand the benefits of shines. There's always something new to learn no matter your level..... let's get out and dance, learn, develop & have some fun!


Written by Reuben Watkins 2020

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