- 0.1 How to dance salsa – Basic salsa dance moves
- 1 How to learn to dance salsa
- 2 Steamy Salsa steps
- 3 The Zesty Salsa Dance Styles
- 4 Learning Salsa the Rhythmic Way
- 5 Salsa Tips and Tricks you need to know
- 6 Signing up for Salsa Classes
- 7 Make the Most Out of your Salsa Classes
Salsa is a couple dance that is relatively easy to learn. This Latin dance is generally easier to assimilate than cha-cha, kizomba or tango but requires a little more basics than merengue or bachata. It is an activity open to all public, there is no age to start learning salsa.
It is not necessary to know or have practiced another Cuban or Latin dance, or even to know how to dance. Just to progress to have a little motivation and practice a lot, but also a good teacher to teach you the basics and rhythm.
In this article, you will learn how to dance salsa even if you are a complete beginner with our 2 basic salsa dance moves. You will also get some tips to improve your ability to learn salsa as fast as possible.
How to dance salsa – Basic salsa dance moves
1# First lesson: Salsa basic step (fwd & back):
2# second lesson: The side basic dance step:
How to learn to dance salsa
This is not a method or “tips and tricks” but rather some points or steps needed to start dancing salsa and progress effectively in the long run.
These are valid for any type of salsa dance you want to master (Cuban salsa or casino or Puerto Rican salsa also called New York style or Los Angeles style). Some of these steps may also apply to other dances such as kizomba or bachata.
Listen to salsa music
Listening to music is paramount and many dancers tend to neglect it. This is the first step towards salsa and an excellent starting point to start the dance.
Listen to salsa at home, in your car, on a Latino night out on the track or with a drink. Soak up the rhythm and instruments of salsa.
Learn how to spot the tempo (the 8 beats) in the music and if you’re new, just learn to distinguish salsa from other music such as cha cha, bachata or merengue. In time you will go further with the differences a little more subtle as the music of Cuban salsa, Puerto Rican or Colombian salsa, or even further by distinguishing the salsaton, the rumba, the sound, the timba, the salsa romantica …
A lot of listening, a little reading and some courses or courses of musicality are essential to exercise your musical ear.
Understand salsa steps
There is no question of variations of the basic step (para ti / para mi sometimes called mambo, no rumba, openings…) but to know which foot corresponds to what time in the music (for the same time, it’s always the same foot).
Learning and understanding the basic step salsa is important whether you are a man or a woman. The steps are simple to remember but require a lot of practice to be integrated. A simple lesson or video may be enough for some to memorize, but hours and hours of practice are needed before your feet dance without asking for concentration.
It is only once this automation feet feet that you can pay attention to your arms, figures and salsa passes and guide or guide you.
Go out dancing in the evening
A couple dance requires a lot of practice. Are you or will you soon be enrolled in a weekly salsa dance class? All right, but it’s in salsa night that you practice enough to progress and meet dancers from different classes and levels.
The dance school or the teacher of your association can teach you how to dance salsa but it is only on the track that you will practice it and assimilate it.
Evenings and practices are in some ways the best school. So go out and dance as often as possible, even if you are a beginner and only have a few lessons behind you!
Dance on the beat
Once again music and rhythm should not be ignored. Learning a few passes is a good thing but do not get too complicated until you have learned the rhythm.
It is the synchronization of the steps of the dancer and the dancer with the music that makes the exchange possible during a dance.
The dancer can guide his partner and influence his movements without disturbing it only when this symbiosis of the two partners with the music is reached.
We see too many beginners salsa dancers who are not in rhythm and do not seem to be aware of it.
You have to pay a lot more attention to the music and your steps must be placed precisely on the right time.
Exchanging with your partner
If you dance regularly with the same people, whether in your class or at a higher level than yours, ask for feedback and advice from your partners.
These are the comments and exchanges with others that will allow you to identify the flaws and qualities of your dance. To do this, you must be ready to accept comments that are not always pleasant to hear.
However, it is a powerful progression tool that will allow you to understand why you can not guide or follow a movement or realize that you are too tense, too fast or not enough. With time you will also appreciate when you will be noticed your progress on these same defects.
Be careful that the dancer or dancer in front of you is not bothered by your questions.
Watch the couples dance
In the evening, when you are not dancing, watch the couples on the track.
You can also watch salsa videos on the net. This will allow you to see many different styles of dancers and dancers and over time, forge your own dance style.
You will have the opportunity to see movements that you like and try to reproduce them later. But be careful try to always respect the tempo and put the steps on the good times.
You will take a little more time to appreciate certain movements that will not attract you immediately and others will never please you! It is with practice and observation that you will find and adopt your own style.
Master the dance
At first you will focus on your steps and the tempo then, a little later, on your beginner salsa passes. Then come the style, the fluidity and perhaps more complex and technical passes and movements.
It is very important to set goals and specific points to work. You must understand the movements you are doing and avoid being too messy. Do not skip the steps too much and if you do, go back regularly to improve and consolidate your bases. Remember that the basics and your technique make you what you are as a dancer or dancer.
Internships and festivals are great ways to learn new things and perfect your dance and style.
Expand your horizon
Once comfortable dancing in the evening, try other branches in the salsa (casino rueda, Afro-Cuban, rumba, porto NY or LA style …) but also other dances like bachata and the kizomba that we find a lot in the evenings.
Do not lock yourself into a specific dance style. Expanding your horizon will allow you to progress in salsa and dance in general.
You will learn more about the subtleties and different types of guidance. Your dance can only be enriched with learning other styles. Remember that salsa is already a mix at the base!
Steamy Salsa steps
Salsa is an outlaw. It does not need to stay true to anyone root, because it has so many. Salsa can also branch out into many different styles and Salsa is without any strict rules. This allows learners to dance freely and just go with the fiery, pulsating rhythm.
Of course, even with the lack of a very strict set of guidelines, there are some basic steps every beginner must go through in order to learn to get the foundations of Salsa dancing.
Basic Salsa step
The basic salsa step across almost all salsa styles is a good starting point. The step goes like this: quick-quick-slow, and then do that twice over two 4-beat measures.
Now try it like this: step left-right-left-pause/tap and the right-left-right-pause/tap.
First, the break step happens on the same beat on each measure, allowing the partners to start a connection and give cues regarding the timing and size of steps. Second, the break step, to go for arm tension that leads to certain steps.
The beat on which the break step is done is what distinguishes the different Salsa styles from each other. Most moves are quick and fast and includes a lot of spins.
Basic Step On One (On1)
The basic step On1 is when the break happens on count 1. It is a common characteristic of the New York style salsa, although it could also be used with slight variations in other styles.
Counts 1,2 and 3: Lead dancer steps forward, replaces, then steps backward.
Counts 5,6 and 7: Dancers step backward, replace, and then step forward. The couple moves forward and backward as unit.
The step On1 is a part of many other steps that develops from this basic step. For example, the lead dancer may dance the On1 step while leading his partner to do an underarm turn.
Basic Step On Two (On2)
If the break steps occur on count 2 and 6, it is called On Two (On2). The step goes like this: The lead dancer starts with a side left on count 1 and a backward break on count 2.
Eddie Torres On2
Count 1: The lead dancer steps backward slightly on the left foot.
Count 2: Take a break step backward on the right foot.
Count 3 and 4: Left foot steps in-place, the dancer’s weight is transferred to the left foot.
Count 5: The lead dancer steps forward slightly using the right foot.
Count 6: Break forward with the left foot.
Count 7: Lead dancer steps in-place with the right foot.
Count 8: The weight is transferred onto the right foot. Repeat.
The Eddie Torres On2 goes something like this: Backward on left foot – break step backward on the right foot – in-place with left foot – weight transfer on left foot – forward step on right foot – break step forward on left foot – in-place with right foot – weight transfer on right foot.
This style is called Eddie Torres because it was popularized by salsa master teacher – Eddie Torres. He has produced easy to follow and clear instructional videos which made salsa accessible for New Yorkers. This style is widely popular as the “Night Club Style”
Regardless of the basic step dancers used the style engaged; turns are almost always the same. Spot Turn, Extension Turn, In-and-Out Turn, Cross Body Leard Turn, Reverse Cross Body Lead Turn, and Basket Turn are the most common. These are very easy to learn and even recreate to a more personalized step of your own once you’ve mastered the basics.
Customarily, Salsa is a partner dance, and usually danced with the dancers’ hand together. Dancers however sometimes use shines. Shines are like “Show-offs” or each dancer’s “moment to shine”, which involve fancy foot patterns and body movements, danced solo. Shines serve different functions, it is a good trick to cover up when the connection or the beat is lost because of a complicated move, or simply to catch their breath.
The Zesty Salsa Dance Styles
Many different characteristics make up a style. Different step patterns, different step timing, particular movements on the dance floor, dancers’ turns, attitudes, and dress codes among other distinctions identify the style of a dance. Sometimes, serval different characteristics from other styles give birth to a new style.
The presence or absence of a particular element does not necessarily define a particular style. For instance, many salsa style may be danced “On One” or “On Two”. These are some of the most common salsa styles.
Cuban Style (Casino salsa dance)
The Cuban style salsa, also called Casino Salsa, can be danced either on the down beat called “a tiempo” or the upbeat called “a contratiempo”. The Odd beats namely 1,3,5 and 7 are the down beats and the even one, 2,4,6 and 8 are the upbeats.
Los Angeles Style
In Cuban style rhythm, the strong beats are on beats 1 and 3. In the Los Angeles style is on beat one, done is a slot. The LA style salsa is heavily influenced by the Mambo and Swing. LA style puts the emphasis on sensuality, theatricality, some aerobics, and musicality.
The two most important element in the LA style salsa are the forward and backward basic and the cross body lead turn. In the pattern, the lead dancer steps forward on beat 1, steps to the right on beat 2 and 3 while turning 90 degrees counter-clockwise (or facing the opposite way). The follower, on the other hand, steps forward on beat 5 and 6, and turns on beat 7 and 8, while the lead dancer makes another 90-degree turn counter clockwise. After 8 counts, the leader and the follower should have exchanged positions.
New York Style Salsa
New York is known for many things – skyscrapers, pizza, cabs, and Salsa. After all, the term Salsa was coined in the Big Apple. New York Style Salsa places the emphasis on movement, elegance and unique body isolations. The focus of the dance movements is on control, timing, technique and precision. New York style dancers aim for flawless executions of tighty woven complex patterns.
In the New York style danced firmly On2.
On2 timing emphasizes the conga drums tumbao pattern and encourages the dancers to listen closely to the percussions of the music. It is said that the New York style salsa closely mirrors the Afro-Caribbean roots of the music.
Venezolana or Dominicana Style Salsa
Venezolana Style Salsa is the predominant style danced in Venezuela and Dominican. The style is characterized by the basic step which is the Cumbia step, danced on2 (1,2,3, pause). It also has expressed impulses as the sharp movement are carried out, turning and dancing in a circular trajectory. Since it is danced On2, there is a tap on beats 1 and 5 and the majority of the movements are done by scrolling instead of step by step.
Colombian Style Salsa
The Colombian style, also called Cali Style, is widely practiced in the city of Cali in Colombia, as well as the rest of the south and central America. Cali is known as the Capital de la Salsa or the Salsa Capital of the world due mostly to the non-stop music playing all over nightclubs in the city. The Cali-style salsa is intensely influenced by dances danced to the beat of Caribbean rhythms like Pachanga and Boogaloo.
In the Colombian style, the dancers dance side by side and mirror each other’s movements accurately. The break is on beat 3 and a spare beat is always used for a tap or other embellishments. Unlike the New York, LA or Cuban styles, the Colombian style does not implement cross body lead turns or dile que no.
Puerto Rican Style Salsa
The Puerto Rican Salsa can be danced On1 or On2. What differentiates Puerto Rican style from the New York style is that the lead dancer beaks forward on beat 2 instead of the follower. The basic step continues with 4 beats.
Casino Rueda Style Salsa
During the 50s, the Salsa Rueda or Rueda de Casino Salsa was developed in Havana by a group called Guaracheros de Regla This dance involves pairs from a circle or a Rueda (wheel), with the dance moves called out by one person, the caller, by using oral commands or hand gestures. Many of the moves include rapid switches between partners and swapping partners. This makes the dance very tricky to execute spectacular to watch.
There are two main types of Rueda de Casino: Cuban Rueda and Miami Style.
This style of salsa is the discotheque version of social dancing. Disco salsa is a “rattling mix” of all styles. It is informal and spirited. There are no rules and dancers can incorporate moves from all other styles as well as tricks, acrobats, and rock and roll elements.
Incorporating styling techniques into any one of the styles of salsa is very common. For both men and women, the incorporation of shines, foot and handwork, leg and arm work, different body movements and isolations, spins, shoulder shimmies, and rolls have become a huge trend is salsa dancing. Other dance styles like hip-hop, flamenco, jazz, ballroom, belly dancing, breakdancing, and pop and rocks, as well as other Afro Cuban styles, have all been included into the art of salsa styling.
Learning Salsa the Rhythmic Way
If you are new to Salsa dancing, learning can be a fun and exciting experience. Learners, however, need to be mindful of a few learning hazards to learning a new dance. One of these pitfalls is feeling the music.
If you are not a musician, then your ears not trained to understand, dissect, hear and follow the beat of the song. It could be quite difficult for the untrained ear to start “hearing” the beat, and even more difficult to start “feeling” it. So for those who are not musically trained or those predisposed to pop music, training you brain to hear the beat is crucial. Listening to salsa music regularly helps speed up the training process.
1. The Beat
The first step to understanding the rhythm of Salsa is to figure out the difference between pop and salsa music. Pop music typically has one drumming pattern, a beat which is relatively constant throughout the song. People are so accustomed to pop music that they think the drumming beat is the rhythm.
New salsa dancers find it difficult to learn salsa because their brains are trained to look for this drumming beat. But in salsa, there is no such beat. Salsa has many overlaying rhythms played at the same time.
To successfully learn salsa dance, you need to stop looking for that beat. There are modern apps to help you manipulate and isolate and understand the complex beats in Salsa music.
2. The Rhythm
As your skill level progresses and you become more advanced, your body will be able to automatically express and improvise based on the melody but as a beginner, it is very essential to dance only to the rhythm and not the melody. This means you have to be technical at first.
Dancing to the rhythm has to be automatic, like walking, and natural to you and this only happens with constant practice.
3. Maximum Exposure
Listening and dancing to real actual Salsa music, and doing it a lot, cannot be replaced by anything. This is the most practical, realistic, and fun way to get used to the Salsa beat.
4. The Shines
Pay attention to the shines. Shines are the fastest and best way for you to understand, hear, and isolate the rhythm so you can dance to it.
Salsa Tips and Tricks you need to know
Before the dance
Offensive odours emanating from your body, as well as halitosis, are frowned upon the dance floor, as well as in life. Simple things like a taking a bath, brushing your teeth, wearing a deodorant and a little bit of perfume or aftershave, and popping a breath mint before dancing will go a long way.
Many aficionados even avoid eating certain strong food days before the dance to ensure unholy smell comes out from them.
Salsa, just like other dances, is a physical activity. It is important that you dress accordingly. Consider all the factors before picking what to wear.
- You will be moving a lot so pick an outfit that you feel comfortable in and offer you protection. For ladies, a tube top might not be the best pick. Choose the dresses with sturdy straps and avoid the ones that you tie around your neck.
- You will be getting hot and sweaty from the dancing and from the increased room temperature caused by everyone’s body heat. Ladies need to dress for heat, sleeveless tops and strappy dresses are the best. Gentlemen should try wearing a cotton shirt under their dress shirt to help absorb the sweat and prevent wet underarms.
- You will be in close proximity to literally everyone. Ladies should avoid flashy accessories like chandelier earrings, statement necklaces, and big bracelets. Gentlemen should remove their tie clips and cufflinks. These can get caught in your partner’s clothing or injure someone.
- You will be on your feet most of the time. Wear comfortable shoes. At all costs, avoid tennis shoes, sneakers, and any rubber-soled footwear. These do not slide well on the hardwood floor and can injure your ankles or knees when you spin.
- Be respectable. Salsa is supposed to be sexy and baring a little skin is fine but showing way too much is not frowned upon by the salsa community.
During the Dance
Salsa is a partner dance. While is it customary for men to ask women, Salsa is more open and ladies are more than welcome to ask gentlemen to dance. Approach a potential partner who looks like they want to dance.
Read their body language. If they are standing by the floor, facing other dances, or swaying, that’s a good sign they want to dance. If they are standing by the bar, going to the restroom, or talking to someone, you might want to wait. If you get a yes, finish the dance first before walking off and do not forget to thank your partner for the dance. If you want to dance with them again, avoid asking back t back. You can always ask for a second dance later in the evening.
2. Asking For a dance
Salsa releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy and the Salsa community is generally a group of happy people who love to socialize. All you need to do is introduce yourself, offer your hand, ask “Would you like to dance?” politely, and smile. More often than not, they will say yes if you are nice. Avoid winking, interrupting their conversation, or grabbing a person when asking. If you are asked and you do not want to dance, it is completely okay to turn a request down. If you are rejected, do not take it too personally.
Try to dance with someone at your own level or at a level not too fat from yours. More advanced dancers should try to avoid complicated dance moves if your partner is a beginner and do not continue to do difficult patterns if your partner is not following along. Maintain eye contact with your partner to show interest.
On the Dance Floor
1. Try to stay on your personal floor space
Salsa is a slot dance. Travelling is considered rude and all your moves should occur in a linear manner along your slot. Respect other dancer’s space, try to keep off their toes and if you do bump or step on them, apologize and try not to do it again. Manners matter.
2. General Floor Guidelines
The dance floor is strictly for dancing, not for drinking or smoking or holding conversations. Do not spill anything on the hardwood floors as it causes a slipping hazard
3. Having Fun
Remember, there are no mistakes, do not pass blame or judgment. Do not give lessons on the dance floor. The important thing is to have fun.
If you are to salsa, always remember that everyone in there twirling and sashaying has been a beginner and has probably experienced the same jittery feeling. Salsa dancing is a rewarding experience if you set realistic expectations and follow these simple tips.
The jitters are normal and remember, that, too, shall pass.
Signing up for Salsa Classes
Salsa is a street dance. It’s spontaneous, it’s crazy, it’s fun, and most of all, unscripted and unrehearsed. However, different styles have different patterns. If you want to if you want to take your Salsa dancing to the next level; the next obvious step, is signing up for Salsa classes.
Salsa is practiced and loved widely around the world. Chances are, you’ll find several Salsa dance studios and sign up for classes. Just like choosing the perfect pair of shoes, finding the perfect studio and the signing up for the perfect classes are easier than you might think.
1. What you are looking for in your dance studio?
Are you training to become a professional Salsa dancer and compete in dance sport competitions? Are you trying to lose weight? Are you dancing for recreation and to gain more confidence? These questions are important for you to choose the studio and the class wisely.
2. Ask for feedback.
Dancers have usually attended more than one dance studio and class in their lives. Ask about their suggestions and advice.
Funny as this may seem, but the proximity of the studio play a big role in your classes. If the studio is within walking distance or just one ride away, you’ll have a better chance of making it to all your classes.
4. Take your pick of the classes.
Pick a class based on your skill level and depending on your dance goals. Pick a class or two first, instead of overwhelming yourself with every class available. Pick the ones you know can stick with and then tackle the others later. There’s no need to rush.
5. Class size.
Although Salsa is a social dance and it will be more fun with lots of new people, if you’re an absolute beginner, it may be better to choose classes with less than 15 participants so your instructor can pay close attention to you, correct your mistakes, and spend more time practicing with you. As your level progresses, you will require less attention, and then you can sign up for larger classes.
6. Go for a test drive.
Most studios offer free trial lessons. You should take advantage of those and get the vibe of the studio. If you’re not feeling it, don’t be afraid to switch. Salsa is all about feeling confident and comfortable. If you don’t feel either in the studio, it’s always a good idea to find another one.
Make the Most Out of your Salsa Classes
Salsa classes come in handy to become more fit, meet new friends, and learn a few sexy moves. Salsa classes will teach you different styles and help you improve your posture and technique. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your Salsa classes.
1. The early bird catches the worm
In this case, the early bird gets a good spot on the dancefloor. Coming to class early ensures you get the chance to warm up, stretch, and practice to ensure a safe workout.
2. Consistency is key
coming to your sessions regularly ensures you don’t miss any of the material. You are also given the advantage of transitioning from one lesson to another smoothly.
3. The only stupid questions are the ones left unasked
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, clarify, or ask for help if you are falling behind.
4. Practice makes almost perfect
While nothing in this world is perfect, practice makes you really good. Dancing relies on muscle memory and that is built through repetition. Maximum exposure is the secret to making your muscles remember what you learned. Practice, practice, practice wherever you can, whenever you can, and as much as you can.
5. Shut up and listen
Listening to Salsa music, helps you get accustomed to the salsa beat, helping you become more in tune and natural when dancing.
6. Keeping up with the teachers
Catch up with your teachers every now then, even if your classes are over. Salsa teachers are salsa enthusiasts and are most likely up to date on the latest salsa trends.
7. Be Mr. or Ms. Congeniality
Make friends with your classmates. The salsa community is a group of tight-knit, happy people, even if they don’t know each other personally. Salsa, after all, is a great way to meet new people.
8. Party on
Go to salsa parties and clubs as often as you can. Salsa is a social dance, best done with many other people. It’s a wonderful and fun way to make new friends, and observe many different techniques. Switching partners in these parties help you meet people with different skill levels and help you grow as a dancer.
Interested in other styles?