Typically in salsa dancing, the man is the leader of the dance and the woman is the one who follows. However, Carey Buck wanted to try something different so that she could dance with her wife.
Something funny happened in Carey Buck’s salsa performance class recently.
Instructor Shauna Belizéando asked one of the dancers in class to pick a guy to dance with and the dancer picked Carey.
Shauna quickly said, “I meant pick your leader!”
Carey Buck is leading the pack, literally, at Salsa in the Suburbs as part of a growing number of women who want to lead.
Typically in salsa dancing, the man is the leader of the dance and the woman is the one who follows. However, Buck wanted to try something different so that she could dance with her wife.
Buck, a small business owner, who lives in Chester County with her wife, Kathy, started taking lessons and knew right away that she was going to assume the leader role immediately once she and Kathy started dancing.
“There wasn’t much of a decision really,” Buck said. “She’s more of the how shall we say girly type so finger styling, shimmies and hair caresses are right up her alley. Me? Not so much. I knew that I would be taking on the guy role when dancing and I was fine with that.”
In class with Belizéando, she shouted, “I’m her guy,” Buck said.
Buck also said, none of the dancers at Salsa in the Suburbs have even batted an eye when it comes to her leading.
“I was actually a little nervous at first to be honest,” Buck said.
“But all of the followers have been awesome when dancing with me, they all seem extremely comfortable with no problems.”
The Beginner Salsa performance class, which Carey and Kathy participated in recently performed at The Reef nightclub in Philadelphia. Carey’s wife, Kathy, was ill and couldn’t make it and another follower in the class, Megan Smith jumped in and partnered Carey!
Another leader who is having no problems at all with her newfound knowledge is Miriam Leisman.
Leisman, who has been dancing at Salsa in the Suburbs since February of 2014, has also found a love for leading in group classes and participated in the Beginner Salsa Performance class as a leader this past August.
She started dancing at another studio four years ago when she was getting married and needed to learn a wedding dance. She and her husband, Daniel, signed up for lessons and at the first one, the instructor addressed Leisman’s husband saying he would be leading.
It struck a chord with Leisman, a math teacher from Narberth, but she kept quiet because she needed to get the lessons under her belt before her wedding.
However, she couldn’t stay quiet for long. In 2012, she asked to be allowed to learn to lead in group classes at the studio she was at (a different studio than Salsa in the Suburbs) and was rebuffed. She was feeling very discouraged by such pressure to stick to a traditional gender role.
The other aspects of the studio where she was taking lessons were great and it was a source of turmoil for Leisman to reconcile those experiences. That turmoil made Leisman scared to contact other studios to find out if they would have less of a problem with her learning to lead, she said.
“I left feeling like I was this strange, bizarre creature that wanted the rest of the world to bend to accommodate her weirdness,” Leisman said.
Thankfully, Leisman contacted founder and artistic director of Salsa in the Suburbs, Julie Berger, in February 2014 and was happily surprised that Berger playfully scoffed at her question.
“She made me feel like my question was ridiculous because OF COURSE I COULD LEARN TO LEAD!!!!”
Berger burst with joy at women who lead because it not only improves their dancing but in a case like Carey and Kathy’s it can spice up a relationship.
“My goal is to make salsa accessible to everyone! Salsa transcends so many things: age, ethnicity, socio-economic backgrounds. Why should traditional gender-roles be any different?” Berger said.
“If dancers learn one part first and then switch and learn the other part, they definitely become more empathetic towards the people they dance with once they understand the process the other person is going through. They also have a better understanding of the dance as a whole,” she added.
“Also, I love seeing women learn to lead one another, especially when it adds joy and fun to their relationship, just as any other male-female pair!”
A relationship that has definitely become more fun is student Zelma Maldonado and her girlfriend Jean Smolen.
Maldonado, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, started at Salsa in the Suburbs in September and has loved learning to lead.
“Leading is just awesome; it does require planning though,” Maldonado said.
As a follower, you just have to show up but as a leader, Maldonado cautioned, there is much more to it.
“As a lead you better have a plan or you’ll be doing the basic all night!”
All of these ladies have had simple wants and desires when it comes to learning to lead, whether it be, dancing with their wife or girlfriend, or just looking at dancing from a different perspective.
Leisman put it best when she said, “I don’t seek to be stronger or better than anyone else. I just want to have a good time in a room with a mix of dance partners.”
Written by: Christine Olley
More Salsa Class Photos – Can you find the women who lead?