Dips are an intriguing component of dance for the dipper, the dippee and the spectator. They're a bit of an enigma; from an objective perspective the appeal is largely inexplicable. Devoid of context, a dip is simply a man lowering a woman back into body-contorting positions that require a generous level of trust, then returning her to the upright safety of solid ground. Taken in context with the mood, music and partnership, though, a dip adds dimension to any dance.
There’s no one right way to dip a lady. Dips are an integral part of many partner dances and each genre has its own interpretation that reflects its signature style. In a waltz, the dip will be graceful and elegant. In a tango it will be dramatic and in a swing it will be carefree. There’s an entire library of adaptations within each of the different forms of dance and execution can vary wildly from one dancer to the next. Skill level, comfort level and personal preference all impact the overall look and feel of a dip. Sometimes it’s small and subtle with little or no bend in the back; sometimes it’s deep and climaxes precariously close to the ground.
This particular photo tribute is dedicated to dips of the deep variety that are prevalent in salsa venues across DFW. The images, shot at the 2011 Dallas International Bachata Festival, captured local and visiting salseros and bachateros in the act of some serious deep dipping. Not sure what you’re looking at? Here’s a brief companion’s guide to aid in analyzing the photos:
What to look for when viewing the slideshow
- Connection and Partnership – Connection is the cornerstone of any partner dance. It’s the successful result of lead and follow working together to fulfill their respective duties, applying the right amount of give to the right amount of take at just the right time. It’s what allows the dancers in these images to move in unison without the benefit of verbal cues. It can be best summarized in the words of 90’s hip-hop artist Freak Nasty: “When I dip, you dip, we dip.” Without connection, when he dips, you drop, y’all fall.
- Trust – The men offer their partners a secure grip and deliberate positioning and request trust in return. The ladies respond with acquiescence. Moves like these wouldn’t get very far without a certain level of trust. A poorly led or poorly followed dip could result in serious injury, as could too much zeal, too much hesitation or not enough of the following…
- Skill and Control – These are not novice dips; they require a certain measure of skill and self-awareness. Both partners maintain control of their weight and balance at all times. The leader provides stability and support but he does not carry the entirety of the woman’s weight. She has to give enough control to the man so that he may lead her, but she also has to retain enough control to avoid crumpling to the ground like Raggedy Ann. The ladies featured in the gallery are finessing a delicate balance between control and letting go.
- Knees, Back and Neck – Faulty logic tells us that, in order to execute a dip, a woman need only lean back when led. Faulty because a.) not all dips involve a break in posture and b.) the deep dips in question involve three major breaks in posture. There’s a bend in the knee, an arch in the back and an elongated neck. Look at the pictures. Every single one contains these three elements.
- Faces – At first glance, the featured faces may appear somewhat expressionless. There is one indisputable smile. There are a couple of almost-smiles. Smiles are easy, they reveal joy and happiness. The rest require further inspection. The majority of the pictures contain at least one pair of closed eyes. Also note the lack of discernable tension in the facial muscles. The subjects seem at-ease and 100% tuned in to the music and the moment. They look blissful.
Here’s one final thought on the topic of dips - they’re a little old-fashioned, a nod to the days of yore. There is a definite leader and a definite follower. They showcase a man’s masculinity and a woman’s femininity in a way that the more modern dance moves can only aspire to match. Perhaps that’s where the dip’s charm lies.